2017 Blogger Resolutions

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Many of these are based on resolutions from previous years, which I have had mixed results in achieving.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers
  • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 12000)
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100)
  • Read and review 60 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks.
  • Post at least twice a week
  • Mamet use of sharing with Facebook groups as appropriate.
  • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.
  • Take part in twitter chats such as #Blogtacular #bookbloggers etc
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate.
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!
  • Look to do more non book related posts – get out into Birmingham more and write about stuff! This includes stuff at the museums etc.
  • do more posts about sewing, my cross stitch and quilting in particular. I’m not putting numbers on this.
  • Comment more on other people’s blogs – I’m not going to put a number on this as it’ll be a nightmare to track. Just “do more”.
  • Release more books via Bookcrossing. I still have half a crate left over from the closure of a couple of OBCZs and the bookcrossing UK meetup in Birmingham in September 2016
  • Reorganise my bookshelves (Haven’t been done in two years – about time they’re done!)

State of the Union 2016 address – Resolution updates.

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done at the end of the year. Following are the resolutions I set at the beginning of the year.  As you can tell, I didn’t do as well as I hoped! There was a lull in the second half of the year, which meant that I hardly read, never mind blogged, so that took a large dent in my stats.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers [I still got new followers, taking me up to 773]
  • Double annual page hits to this blog (to 12000) [considering the drop off in the amount of content I was producing, page views remained steady, at a same as last year’s stats]
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100) [i went some way to this, in getting to 690]
  • Read and review 75 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks. [i did a much better ratio of paper to ebooks, but didn’t hit the 75 mark, coming in at under 60 books.]
  • Post every other day [as I mentioned above there was a period I didn’t blog for several weeks, so missed this goal]
  • Make better use of hashtags on twitter [the increase in followers on twitter is due in part putting out other content than my own, as well as making use of tags]
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.  [Yes, this was done, especially by About and Review Policies]
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate. [the death of my laptop late the year has meant that I haven’t used the spreadsheets that I used to use for tracking scheduling. However, what’s wrong with a simply diary?]
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!  [I did run out of subjects that I inspired to produce a post for, but I’ve found some more and will be posting some new content in the new year!]
  • Pay better attention to sites like Problogger and Hubspot for social media and blogging tips to see how I can achieve some of my goals [I did follow some additional sites in looking at producing content etc, but I don’t think I made best use of them. I certainly tried to comment more on other people’s blogs – not all of them about books, and attended several blogging events. I even managed to go to this year’s Bookcrossing event where I got some of my mojo back in terms of reading and releasing books – look out for more on this in the new year – I hope! ]

So, did you have any goals, and how did you do? Feel free to comment or link to your update post!

Sunday Salon: Yearly reading goals


In looking to wind the year down, it’s time to reflect back on some of the reading subjects that tend to crop up most years, and I’ve found this question floating round the internet:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?

For a long time I didnt track how many books I read, or even which books I read – the horror, right? Then, several years ago, I was listening to a couple of bookish friends compare notes as to how many books they had read, what were their top 10 etc – how could I list a top 10 when I didnt even remember what I’d read that year?!

Therefore in 2011 (had to go off and check there!) I started making use of Goodreads and their reading challenge facility. 2011 – 2014 I challenged myself to read at least 95 books, and each year read more than that. However, by 2014 I had realised that the challenge was no longer fun to be reading that number of books, and that by the end of each year I was finding myself reading short and light books simply to get the numbers up – and the reviews could be light on detail too!  (And I still dont produce top 10 lists!).

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash

Therefore in 2015, I plonked for something more realistic: 60 books, with the very real chance of reading more. And I did – I read 64. 2016 was the same level of 60, which I may or may not meet. It’s meant that I’m not trawling Amazon for the freebie romances to boost my numbers. I’m reading the hardback books that have been on my shelves, unread and unloved, for years. Some of the books I’ve been reading are longer, genres I’ve not tried before (YA books and the SummerReads books from Quercus are examples) and a better mix of paper and ebooks. So whilst my numbers arent high, they have meant that I think my reading is more rounded as a result, and I will probably do the same again next year.

So I put the same question to you now:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?




VIP Event at Rush Hair, Birmingham

rush-front-of-houseThis is a bit late in being posted up, for which I apologise, but on the evening of  Thursday 24th November, Rush Hair on Corporation Street in Birmingham threw their doors open for a bloggers event.  Under new Management, and with the roadworks on Corporation Street having finally been completed, this was an ideal time to invite some potential new clients to have a look around.

I arrived straighrush-christmas-cakest from work, and therefore was operating on an empty stomach. I was immediately welcomed in, my name checked off the list, a glass of bubbly put into my hands and a pass (which I got to keep afterwards) with my name, twitter id and blog name on it (other events people – please take note!).  We were kept topped up with bubbles and there were plenty of snacks around the place.

The salon is relatively small and all on one level, but judicious use of clean white walls and mirrors on the main back wall helps make it look bigger.rush-main-salon rush-mirrors


There is also the basin area – an area that is traditionally ugly, but here is tucked in a seperate room, made to be dark and a little nest-like with products nicely laid Rush Hair Braiding rush-braiding out.

On the night there were a number of people doing dry hair makeovers, including braiding and use of the GHD straigners (something I went through, to the shock and awe of the head stylist).  I didnt take photos of myself, but I know people did, so look out for images elsewhere around the web!


rush-hair-productsRush Shampoo Area









Scheduled for a number of hours, we all seemed to leave en masse at around 8pm, most of us with goodie bags in hand and some with a stack of business cards from other bloggers. Rush Hair Goody Bag

In Summary:

Rush Hair salon is well placed to get the newly invigorated traffic coming along Corporation Street now that access has been sorted out. It is bright and open and appears to be bigger than it really is due to judicious use of mirrors.  A 90 minute session (on an empty stomach) with no wet treatments or cuts makes it difficult to judge washing, cutting or blowdry capabilities, however my straightening did last until the following Tuesday. It could have lasted longer had my hair not needed a wash.

I have oddly challenging hair and I am in the process of going shorter – it took over 10 years of same cut, and 5 years with the same stylist before I had enough trust him to do a restyle. Let’s just say it takes me a while to change things!  In the immediate future, I would consider going in for a straighten, and possibly a blowdry.

From the blogger event, it was also not possible to judge the likely target audience – there were a lot of (much younger than me)  lifestyle and fashion bloggers, and it’ll be interesting to see the age range attracted to the salon – the staff seemed to be fairly young, which can help with keeping the energy levels up high and styles on trend.



The Act of Reading

Recently I wrote a post about producing content, and one of the tricks was to have one or more “buckets” of prompts for when content dries up.  In reviewing one of these buckets, I found a number of prompts that I think work well together.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?Birmingham and Midlands Institute Library

Generally it’s the bedroom and, occasionally, the bathroom!

Bookmark or a random piece of paper?

I have a stock of bookmarks on my bookshelf, but still tend to use the same bookmark over and over until it falls apart or I lose it. It’s rare therefore that I simply dont have a bookmark on me – at which point I will use a random piece of paper – usually a receipt or a train ticket. I haven’t – gasp – turned down a corner in years.

Can you stop reading anytime you want or do you have to stop at a certain page, chapter, part, ect.?

I tend to stop at the end of a chapter, unless time or opportunity runs out on me (e.g. the train is pulling into the station and it’s 8 more pages to the end of the chapter). I can’t stop in the middle of  a paragraph, so finish at the end of the paragraph or the page, which ever is neater.

Reading at home or everywhere?

I read everywhere. I am notorious for it, and sometimes get told off for reading instead of eating my dinner! Since I frequently eat out on my own, I favour restaurants that afford me the luxury of being a solo diner without giving me much grief. One of the cues to not being disturbed is to have a book on hand, though this doesn’t always work – I’ve had one guy try and start a conversation every time I looked up from my book (I left quite quickly once it became clear he wasn’t taking the hint); I’ve had a guy try and pick me up in an otherwise empty pub as I was sitting there minding my own business (I started talking Greek to him – he soon left!),

Do you eat or drink while reading?

As per the above, I do read in restaurants, and therefore can have food with me. I tend to favour ebooks at this point – simply because they are easier to read when using both hands to deal with my food. I tend not to read whilst eating at home – I generally have the TV on instead

Can you read while listening to music/watching TV?

Music yes, Spoken word (including TV and radio) not really – I can’t have two sets of words crowding my brain at the same time – one wins over the over. I can have the TV on in the other room whilst reading, as I don’t like being in silence too long

One book at a time, or several at once?

I usually have two on the go at the same time – an ebook and a paperback. Ebook is usually in the handbag and the paperbook is occasionally thrust into the handbag, otherwise is on the bedside table.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Normally in my head – it’s generally only when I’m reading to my nieces and nephews that it gets said out loud.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Oh yeah – I’ve been known to read the last page long before I’ve got even part way through. I think it’s because I read a lot of crime novels, and I simply want to know who I need to pay attention to as I’m reading the book. I dont feel it takes away from the process of reading and the journey taken to get to the end.

Breaking the spine or keeping it new?

I’m not too precious on this – I will pick up second hand books where the spine has been broken, and if I have a paperback, I will break the spine if I find it will make reading that bit easier. However, I don’t do it on every book, especially if there’s no reason to.

Do you write in books?

Not for a long time! I went through a phase in my teens when I did (it was also encouraged, briefly, at school) but apart from that, no.


So feel free to copy and answer these questions on your own blog – leave a link below so we can see how you answer!  If you dont have a blog, or only want to answer a few questions, leave something in the comments

What I do when I run out of content……

I’ve found myself in the strange position of not having many books to review at the moment.  This has made me look at the other content I could or should (or should not) be publishing.  I always have a number of draft posts sitting in the background in one shape or form.  These can consist of:

Partially Written Posts

These are normally review posts that simply need to be finished off and scheduled.

I currently have a whole series of near-completed Montalbano posts lying around in this state and just need to finish them off.

I have posts that I know I only produce once every three months or so. These are stubbed, and built up over the months, so that when it comes time to publish, all the heavy lifting has already been done.  Having them scheduled also allows me to schedule other newly minted posts around them.

Fun at the time, now less so

I had several posts that I thought would be fun to fill in at the time I saw them, and seemed to be a self contained post, so I created a draft post and started working on them. However, as part of taking a serious look at what to take forward, I’ve decided that I wont be able to do a decent job of them, so have deleted them.

Prompt bucketsLenses Old Documents

Several posts that I use to store prompts and that I occasionally raid to get inspiration.

I’ve deleted one post as in going down the questions, I realised that I was never going to be able to answer them in anyway that would be fun or interesting, so got rid of it.

I was about to delete another post – this one about arts and crafts, but I’ve decided that perhaps I should work on at least a couple (or a variation thereof). I haven’t written much about my craft stuff, which does take up a good percentage of my life, so I should do better in sharing.  I’ve already started one post and think I have stuff for a couple more so they now fall into the “Partially Written Posts” bucket (above).

I have a list of book related prompts, that I really look to cull or write something for them. I do need to have the “mojo” for a post though, so sometimes it can be difficult to find the right vein of inspiration to make an interesting or useful post.  This one really needs an overhaul – it would be a shame to get rid of the lot.

In total

I have about 20 posts in one shape or another, a handful of which will never be published in the form they are in. I also think I need to start looking for some more inspiration from around the internet, either in ideas or images, to make this a better blog!

So how about you: what do you do when you’re stuck for content? Do you actively look for inspiration (if so, where?) or do you just wait for the next thing to come along?


It’s August so it must be Christmas

So, it’s mid August and therefore the middle of summer (at least here in the northern hemisphere). That means there are two states of mind that co-exist in the bloggersphere: First, there’s a general apathy going around and it’s not just with the book bloggers. I follow several bloggers in other niches, more than one of whom has voiced a dissatisfaction with blogging in general and their niche in particular. Specifically it is the ones that have been doing blogging for a number of years: there is a loss of impetus, and a loss of interest about what’s on offer/new/the spin they can put on things. It’s certainly something I’ve been feeling, as I believe it’s one of the reasons behind my recent lack of reading and reviewing (as mentioned in my reading update earlier in the week).
The second, perhaps opposing state of mind is: it’s 4.5 months to Christmas. This affects bloggers in different ways, depending on the niche. For crafters, there’s a case for “Christmas in July” which is when they start creating stuff ahead of the holiday period (and for the Yanks, it really means “Thanksgiving in July”). So: cue knitting, stitching, card making, scrapbooking and general craftiness in the summer months in readiness for the winter holiday season. (The item opposite is an example of the crafty things from Sandy’s Crafty Creations). The TV shows on the relevant channels start going haywire with offers for the winter months.    Thankfully the Festival Of Quilts up at the NEC at the beginning of August wasn’t primed for Christmas themes, but it could have been!  I haven’t done any cross stitch for months, and generally don’t make anything to give away. I am currently working on a quilt top, using some old fabric I picked up in the early 1990s (does anyone remember the pink themed Laura Ashley quilt fabric?!).

For book bloggers, now is the time for the front lists to start being filled for the Christmas lists, e.g. Christmas themed romances, the books being prepped to get on the “Super Thursday” lists (which happens early October) and the requests for front list bloggers to consider scheduling their slots between now and the end of the year. In fact I got my first Christmas themed galley yesterday!  At the moment I have no other themed books for the rest of the year, and am currently not planning on any other themes this year – the mood I’ve been in this year means it’s not really worth planning as I wont keep to it!

For lifestyle and household design bloggers (once the “return to school” run has finished) it’ll be a case of how to decorate the house for autumn/Thanksgiving/Christmas.  Being European, Thanksgiving is not a huge influence, and where I live does not exactly go for Halloween, so there is no pressure for Trick or Treating, or decorating the non-existent porch in carved pumpkins. The biggest thing for us here is Christmas, and after decorating my parents’ house last year, I was in no mood to do it all again in my own place, so I don’t actually remember even putting the tree up. I’ve not brought new decorations in several years – some of my decorations date back to when I had my first flat in the early 1990s, and so I might be on the look out to start collecting something new.  I’ve previously picked up small pieces in the Birmingham German Market, but have been disillusioned with this for several years now, and don’t venture in at all during the 6 weeks or so that it’s on. With the current building works going on around the old Central Library, there will have to be some changes as to what’s situated where, and I’ve found out that it now goes on even longer this year than before! woe! I have a number of themed magazines going back over the last few years, making suggestions as to how to decorate the house.  I might actually go back through some of these magazines to see what the mentioned companies are producing now, otherwise I might just hit ebay. (ETA: I’ve just been reminded that IKEA has opened one of it’s smaller stores in Dale End, Birmingham. I may have to visit).

For the food bloggers, some will get excited by the influx of the winter foods (something I might get excited about). The pumpkins and squashes, the thick hearty soups, an excuse to go into carb coma with all the root veg and the bread based stuffings. The magazines will soon start telling us how to cook the perfect Christmas cake (hint: buy it). On the other hand – there’s what to have for the festive meals, how many versions of potatoes to cook this year, and worst of all – the Christmas meal out with friends/social group/work.  With my main social group it can be hard to find places that cater for those of us who have specific dietary needs –  vegetarians, specific allergies/intolerance such as gluten, general fussy eaters – never mind choosing a date that suits most people!

So dear constant reader: how are you doing during these fine summer months? Hit a block in your blogging routine? what are you doing to break it? What are you thinking about with regards to the rest of the year (inside or outside your niche)?