Challenge: A Change in my Twitter

For the last few years I have been setting myself yearly challenges for my blog, which I nearly achieve, but not always. One big area I want to improve on is to increase my blog and Twitter followers, increased blog page views, and better use of scheduling, hashtags etc.

Over the Christmas period I decided to mainly tweet about my Christmas themed book reviews from the last few years. I’ve not been blogging much over the last few months, but the stats have been chugging along nicely..no zero view Days!

Anyway I sat down on a Thursday in early January to auto schedule the next batch of 30 tweets and….blanked. I had several pages of draft tweets to choose from, but really couldn’t decide what to choose. I’ve been tweeting my Christmas stuff for the last two months, it’s no longer Christmas, so what should I do?

I chose to schedule nothing that day, though technically my engagement numbers would drop. Thursday afternoon I started looking at my overall stats, especially the pages that had low numbers over the last year or so. I noticed there were some themes, some of which tie into themes in the wider world. Therefore I’ve decided that I’m going to breakdown the year, and tweet reviews that seem to tie in. It’s not going to be prescriptive or anything – if I read a romance novel in September I’m not going to wait to next Feb to review it for instance, but this will help me have a soft guide as to what I should be tweeting about. I’m still struggling for January though.

Jan ;

Feb – Romance (For Valentine’s day, right? #Romance);

March/April (#SpringReads)

May – Comics and Graphic Novels (Free Comic Book Day is 1st Saturday in May, Star Wars Day is May 4th. #Comic #GraphicNovel) ;

June/July – Summer Reads (Cos it’s #Summer!);

August – Quilting (The FestivalOfQuilts is held in Birmingham each August. #Quilt #Sewing);

September – Gold Age Crime (Not only Agatha Christie, but Ngaio Marsh, Birmingham Library etc. #GoldenAge, then #Poirot #Marple, #Alleyn etc);

October – Spooky (in time for Halloween etc #Spooky);

November/December – Christmas (You know why! #Christmas)

 

Anyone else want to join me? Any suggestions for topics, especially around January?

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Book Review: Twisted Genius by Patricia Rice

 

All Ana Devlin has ever wanted was a home for her younger half-siblings. Now she has half a mansion plus half a fortune to go with it. But what good is sanctuary when her family insists on creating chaos and endangering lives in their relentless pursuit of justice? 

Bent on revenging old debts, Ana’s mother, Magda, is back in town, making a mockery of a powerful presidential candidate. Ana’s brother Nick has found a boyfriend—who nearly gets them both killed for blowing the whistle on a pharmaceutical company’s dangerous painkiller. Ana’s lover, Graham, is out to destroy a Russian hacker who dared attack his secret servers. Her sister Patra is breaking the news story of the century—connecting drug lords and politicians and dangerously wealthy industrialists. 

And Ana is the one who is in jeopardy. Can a family of geniuses really be worth the effort? 

From LibbraryThing as part of their Early Reviewers monthly batch.

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Book Review: The Heritage by DJ Presson

Nick and his sister Anne know well the cruel justice of King Charles I and the dangers of speaking out against the Crown. Burning with righteous passion for the cause of political and religious freedoms, hotheaded Nick fights against royalist forces with Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army while his talented sister, Anne, works with their father to print illegal pamphlets in a tiny shed hidden on Lord Owen’s land. The fruits of their rebellion are realized when they are witnesses to the historic trial and execution of the bloodthirsty monarch, but their hopeful outlook for peace in the Commonwealth and Anne’s wedding day is shattered by the tragic death of their five-year-old sister. The arrest of Lord Owen’s wicked son Rupert for the crime begins a chain of events that entwine their lives, leading to a night of violence that irrevocably seals their fates, and they must embark on a dangerous voyage across the sea to a new beginning in the English colony of Virginia. With brilliant descriptions and lyrical prose, novelist D J Presson conjures the vibrant world of 17th century England in her stunning new novel of love and heartbreak set against the drama of political rebellion.

From the Publishers via Netgalley.

It starts with Anne’s family print a broadsheet on their illegal press, and then Anne goes to 17th Century London, to deliver the papers to their customers for distribution. The first few chapters of the book therefore are used to demonstrate the fervent anti-Monarchy sentiment (focused on Charles I) swirling around the city immediately before Charles’ trial.   Interesting technique, with an appearance of John Milton the poet in an early chapter, but which could have got very heavy handed had it gone on much longer.

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Things to not say to a book blogger/Book worm

 

Source unknown – attribution anyone?

If you know a reader, especially if they’re a bookblogger as well, here’s a list of questions you should avoid asking them!

  • How much money do you make from reading and blogging? When are you going to give up your real job and do it full time?

haha, “nothing” and “never, can’t afford to”. This is done because I enjoy doing it, not because I think I could make a living out of it (though that would be nice, of course!)

  • It’s easy isn’t it? All you’re doing is reading and writing, surely?

Errm, no. It’s reading and writing, sure, but a post can take hours to write, from finding inspiration, through producing output that I hope and pray is interesting, through to promotion. Talking to other bloggers IRL. Reading other blogs and trying to write a decent comment. Going to events. Sourcing/creating images.

  • You get all your books for free now don’t you?

I get *some* books for free, but never (ok rarely) for the bigger hitting authors. There was a time when I had a glut of books but virtually all of them from authors I’d never heard of. Many were self-published and all were of variable quality.

  • Who reads your stuff anyway?

Believe it or not, people. Those who follow my blog because they’re interested in what I have to say or like the authors/genres I write about. And I do it primarily for me, so that I can look back and remember what I’ve read, what I’ve written

  • Recommend a book to me

No. What I like may not be what you like. Read my reviews and see if any of them sound the type of book you want to read.

  • Can you lend me a book? You know that book you lent me, well I lost it/gave it to someone else.

I’ve given up lending people books, as I’ve been burnt too many tomes with them not coming back. Even when I explicitly tell someone “I want this one back as I haven’t read it”. This person now gets to choose from the box in the corner and nothing else. I’ve also had someone else be at the top of the list to read a specific book (1 of 15 people), take it, “lose” it in their house, “find” it again, lend it to someone else (who’s not on the list), who promptly kept it for a year, then gave it back to the original reader, who promptly “lost” it again. Needless to say, this person doesn’t get lent books by anyone in the extended group

  • No, No, I don’t need a bookmark – oh that? I dog-eared the page so I wouldn’t lose my place.

Fer crying out loud – I offered a bookmark, use it. Or a bus ticket. Supermarket receipt. Anything, just anything but dog earing a page. That’s just rude

 

 

 

Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Received from the Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley.  This is the first book of Prowse’s that I’ve read, but it seems that there she has written others, such as My Husband’s Wife.

Anyway, in The Art of Hiding, Nina is watching her son Connor playing rugby for the prestigious Rugby Team at his expensive, private school. Both she and her two sons are waiting for her husband Finn to turn up to the game, but as usual it seems he is running late. Whilst his job pays for the big house and for both boys to go to their expensive school, Nina is disappointed that once again, Finn has not turned up to something he committed to do with his family.   Nina finds out that Finn hasn’t turned up because he has been killed in a car crash, driving too fast in the opposite direction he should have been going in to get to the match. It is then that everything begins to unravel.

The nice upper-middle class lifestyle that Nina has settled into was all a lie (one that she told herself, and that Finn fed her). The big house, with the pool, the nice food, the private school for both the boys – is no more. Finn has mortgaged the house to the hilt, but died with the business being £8 million in debt and bankrupt. The “yummy mummies” from the school soon desert her when they find she has no money, and are not willing to even put them up in the garage, never mind loan them any money.  The bailiffs are at the door (in perhaps the only  slightly unbelievable plot point, but used for a reason).

So left with 2 children, no house, no friends, virtually no money and no work experience, Nina is left with the only option of returning to the run down estate in her home town where a relative has her old house available to rent. There she returns with Connor and Declan, who are culture shocked about the people on the estate and in their new school. It is for Nina to try and get a job, only to find that she is fit for little – but it is a chance encounter that allows her to start getting income and some self confidence back. She also reconnects with her sister Tiggy, who tells her some home truths about how she treated both herself and those around her during the social isolation and perfect life wanted by Finn (Including the fact that it is only Tiggy and none of her other “posh” friends who have stuck around when Nina needed help).

There are a mix of emotions that have to be dealt with, including grief, disappointment, shock, having to deal with the feelings of her sons who are going through similar feelings, and having to not give up, even when she wants to, because of two boys.

The secondary characters are relatively well developed – Connor as the teenager is suitably bratty at his change in circumstances and Declan (being younger) is a little more adaptable. Tiggy isn’t always around, but shows Nina that she *used* to be able to do this stuff until she married Finn and she left herself give in. The tertiary characters, such as Vera from the launderette across the road, are barely sketched but that’s ok.

Overall this book shows that you can be happy, no matter the circumstances if you are true to yourself, and that money isn’t always everything. It was well written and not my usual fare, though I may well read another book by this author in the future.

 

About this author

Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

Book Review: The Devil in Beauty by Heidi Ashworth

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”

Julian “Trev” Silvester, the Marquis of Trevelin, once had everything a gentleman could want–fortune, good looks, and enough charm to seduce the beautiful young ladies of the ton.But after a duel with a jealous duke leaves him disfigured, Trev is ostracized by those who once celebrated him. Though his life is irrevocably changed, Trev is still loyal to his friends. When Willy Gilbert is accused of murder and Lady Vawdrey’s diamond necklace is stolen, he jumps at the chance to help them.

As the two cases merge, however, Trev finds an unlikely ally in Miss Desdemona Woodmansey. She’s the only young lady who doesn’t seem put off by his scar and the scandal of the duel. But as their investigation into the murder reveals just how treacherous the mask of polite society can be, both Trev and Desdemona are placed in grave danger. Trev has already lived through the disgrace of a scandal, but can he survive a murderer who will do anything to protect a sinister secret? 

From the publishers, via Netgalley.

I’m finally getting into some more challenging books, after a long time away, and this is certainly more challenging than many of my recent reads! The Devil In Beauty is a mystery set in London in 1811. Lord Trevelin (Trev) is disfigured and in social disgrace following a duel the previous year over a married woman. We get flashbacks regarding the time immediately surrounding the duel, and how Trev became disfigured and his expulsion from polite society. At the beginning of the book, his friend Willy Gilbert (disabled after a riding accident), has been carted off to Newgate Prison on the assumption that he has killed his younger brother Johnny.  Trev is tasked to find out the truth about the murder and get Willy out of prison, by the very people who have shunned him previously, and still shun him.

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Book Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning. 

When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.

But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. Well-versed in the importance of isolating the sick from the well, she withdraws her people inside the moat that surrounds her manor house and refuses entry even to her husband.

She makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs … until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat? 

From Atlantic Books via Netgalley.

It’s 1348 and news comes through Dorset that there is a sickness that has started in the small port of Melcombe and is spreading like wildfire. Since people become sick and turn black with seeping blood as they die, the sickness is nicknamed “The Black Death”.

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