3/30/12

Bloggiesta! (in which I share my Goals for the weekend, and also one of my major Failings)

So I've already posted my very own first ever mini-challenge, and now, as Bloggiesta gets going (here's the starting line), I'm going to set to work on my blog.

My goals:

1. graze through the various mini-challenges, both the old (at There's a Book) and the new (at It's All About Books). I'm especially intrigued by the Pinterest Challenge, and especially determined to intelligently follow April's SEO advice.

2. Tidy my links

3. Expand my fairy tale retelling page to include retellings of myths; possibly create one or two new pages (ghosts and fantastical schools come to mind).

4. Write four reviews to have on hand, of 1 overdue library book, 2 ARCs that came out in March, and 1 ARC I've promised to pass on to a friend (waves to Doret), and finish a portmanteau post on fantasy cats. I checked to make sure that portmanteau was a suitable word, and although I'm stretching it a bit, I think I have a case: from wikipedia--in linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph (aka post) which represents two or more morphemes (aka book reviewlets).

5. Find the unfinished book that I lost somewhere in the house (I hope--surely I wouldn't have left it in the Boston Children's Museum which is where I was reading it last...). Sigh.

6. Add a few more reviews to Amazon and goodreads (I hate giving stars, so I don't to this much, but there are some books I know are five stars that I can cheerfully add)

7. Make sure that I've emailed the publishers who have sent me books that I've reviewed. I find this challenging, in much the same way I found it challenging to hand papers in on time in college. Sometimes all goes well--I write a cogent, pithy gem of a post saying how much I love a book, and am so happy to have loved it that I whisk the link off to the publisher tout suite. This has happened at least once.

But other times, I am utterly loathe to email off that link, knowing there are probably typos and egregious errors (possibly including the name of the author or the main character), and that even if there aren't, it's clear I didn't really love the book as much as they maybe hoped I would and so it's not a nice thing to send. So I wait a bit, to see if I catch the typos, and then maybe I remember a few days later to send the link, but no-one has commented on the review, which might make the publisher sad, and at any event by then I've lost the piece of paper that came with the book, and possibly passed the ARC on to my local librarian, and my email address book lists three different people for the publisher, and I dunno which of them is still there, and all is just a disaster. (I'm exaggerating a bit, but still). Of course, when I've accepted an email request, I at least have that email, which solves one problem.

8. Create a domestic atmosphere more conducive for reading and blogging by thoroughly cleaning the house (see Goal 5) and getting the garden completely ready for spring. Build stone retaining wall and put up stockade fence to keep loud neighbors from bothering me while I try to read and blog.

3/29/12

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, by Frank Cottrel Boyce, illustrated by Joe Berger (Candlewick, 2012, upper elementary/middle grade, 192 pages)

The Tootings (mother, father, Lucy, Jem, and the baby, little Harry) were a normal English family, with a normal English car. This all changed when Mr. Tooting lost his job...and the car that went with it. But when Mrs. Tooting brings home a derelict camper van, the Tooting family embarks on an adventure more fantastic than they could have dreamt.

Dad and Jem get the camper van running again, and supply Lucy with the black paint she needs to make her corner of it feel homey. And they set off to see the world. But first, they stop at a local salvage yard with an extraordinary past, and find a new engine for the van--one of incredible power, though it has to be started with a hand crank. When it gets going, it becomes clear that this new incarnation of the van has a mind of its own...and it can fly. Not only that, but it is a van on a mission!

Soon the Tooting family is zooming off to Paris, spending some quality time on the tip of the Eiffel tower,where the old engine is reunited with its original headlights. Next stop, Egypt...where the original wheels ended up. But Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as the van is now called, has attracted the attention of unscrupulous, fabulously wealthy bad guys! There is Danger! Brushes with Death! and finally, a daring escape....

It's lots of fun, made more so by the cheerful illustrations of Joe Berger (I especially liked the drawing of how everything fit into the camper van! The bad guys are over the top, but heck, if you can enjoy and accept a flying car searching for its missing pieces, what are a few implausible bad guys. The Tooting family are all nicely distinct people--fun and quirky and occasionally difficult.

In short, it's a fun, fast book that's both a lovely homage to the first book (which is more enjoyable than the movie!) and a fine read in its own right.

Note 1: it turns out that Chitty can do more than fly--we learn at the end of the book that she also has a Chronojuster, and it still works. So I almost counted this as a time travel book...but that really seems to be another story, which I hope is forthcoming.

Note 2: it's not mentioned in the text, and has no bearing on the Story, but the Tooting family happens to be multiracial--Mrs. Tooting is shown in the illustrations with dark skin, Mr. Tooting with white, and the kids fall in between. Yay! Another book for my multicultural sci fi/fantasy list.

3/28/12

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge--Make some pages!

Yay for every one who took part in this challenge! Here's the list of page-makers as of Sunday afternoon.

It's Bloggiesta time, a wild and whacky marathon of blog improvement. Whether it's simply writing posts for the future, or doing major revamps of your layout, Bloggiesta is the time to make your blog better! Bloggiesta runs from March 30, 31 & April 1, and it's not too late to sign up!

One of the most enjoyable parts of Bloggiesta is taking part in mini-challenges--I know that I myself have found tips and tricks that never occured to me taking part in these in the past. This year I'm hosting my own mini-challenge, and, since the organizers have asked for links to be sent to the main site in advance of the weekend, I'm posting it now (I'll be adding a link to the challenge site when it's up).

Here's my challenge--Make Pages!

Pages are simply permentent posts that contain whatever information you want--the titles of your pages generally appear at the top of a blog, beneath the header. Lots of bloggers use pages for information about themselves and their review policies, which is fine, and clears the sidebar nicely. If you haven't done this, it's an easy and useful thing to do.

But I'm challenging you to put pages to an even better use!

If you are like me, you feel sad that so many great reviews are languishing in the depths of your blog, unvisited and unappreciated. You can use a permanent page to index your reviews, which is fine; however, this might not actually draw that many new readers. Instead, or in addition, why not have themed pages?

I myself have several of these. I have permanent pages in which I've organized links to all my time travel reviews, my multicultural sci fi/fantasy reviews, my fairy tale retelling posts, and my reviews of historical fantasy. Because these pages have titles that are search engine friendly ("time travel books"), they bring many more visitors to my blog than searches for specific books. I've also noticed that many more visitors click on my pages than on my labels--labels will pull up a thematic group of posts, but it's hard to skim a large number of reviews presented in their entirety.

My Time Travel page is the fourth most visited part of my blog, and it is awfully pleasing to see visitors click on multiple review links. At the top and bottom of this example pulled from yesterday's blogcounter log are examples of regular visitors; in the middle is someone who came to my blog, saw the time travel page, and stayed for almost 42 minutes to click through a gratifying number of the links (the bright pink box is the Time Travel page, the white boxes are mostly specific reviews. You can click on them for yourself, if you are very curious!):





ip98-163-107-32.dc.dc.cox.net [Srv] [entrypoint  #16] /2010/01/cover-of-magic-under-glass.html Mar 27, 15:23:43[0:00:00] views: 1
rrcs-64-183-221-202.sw.biz.rr.com [Srv] [entrypoint  #1] / Mar 27, 15:17:00[0:41:58] views: 44
#1  / #1805  /2012/03/scary-school-by-derek-ghost.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #795  /2011/07/stones-of-green-knowe-by-lm-boston-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #64  /2008/09/timeslip-tuesday-ghosts-by-antonia.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #25  /2008/08/toms-midnight-garden.html #1  / #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #1129  /2011/05/websters-leap-by-eileen-dunlop-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #203  /2010/02/middle-window-by-elizabeth-goudge-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #100  /2010/02/old-magic-by-marianne-curley-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #1169  /2011/10/bassumtyte-treasure-by-jane-louise.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #1094  /2012/01/freedom-maze-by-delia-sherman-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #283  /2009/03/timeslip-tuesday-devils-arithmetic.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #1188  /2011/08/dark-mirror-by-mj-putney.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #76  /2009/10/magic-half-by-annie-barrows-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #568  /2010/03/puzzle-ring-by-kate-forsyth.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #232  /2010/08/frozen-in-time-by-ali-sparkes-for.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #565  /2009/01/house-of-arden-for-timeslip-tuesday.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #384  /2011/03/can-i-get-there-by-candlelight-by-jean.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #165  /2010/04/sixty-eight-rooms-by-marianne-malone.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #301  /2009/11/hotel-under-sand-by-kage-baker.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #739  /2011/08/hourglass-myra-mcentire-for-timeslip.html #4  /p/time-travel-books.html #75  /p/fairy-tale-retellings.html #523  /2011/04/my-unfair-godmother-by-janette-rallison.html #75  /p/fairy-tale-retellings.html
c-24-60-121-73.hsd1.ma.comcast.net [Srv] [entrypoint  #70] /2010/04/rules-of-attraction-by-simone-elkeles.html Mar 27, 15:12:59[0:00:00] views: 1













As a blog writer, this sort of visitor makes me feel like it's all worthwhile, and that I've created a Resource. As a blog reader, I'd love it if more people had thematic lists for me to peruse!

So here's how to make a page in blogger (you can have up to twenty):

click on new post
click on edit pages
click on new page
fill your new page with whatever you want it to have!
click publish

And here's how to do it in Wordpress:

Select the Administration > Pages > Add New option to begin writing a new Page.

The amount of information you put in your pages is of course up to you. I think the point is to make it easier for people to find books that interest them, and so whatever you think is useful should go into your list. Here's an example of a nice list at Ms Yingling Reads--the title of the page is "Adventure Books," and inside she's broken her list into various subcategories--outdoor adventures, spies, etc. She's also gone the extra step of short summaries.

So I challenge you--make a page! Make lots of pages! Use your labels as a starting point, perhaps. If you've reviewed lots of books about ghosts, or werewolves, or France, or hedgehogs--stick links to them all in a page on Sunday! Bring your old reviews out into the open again!

And just because challenges are more fun if there's a giveaway, anyone that makes a new page during Bloggiesta, and comes back to leave a link to it here (and I'll add all the links to this post) will be entered to win their choice of the following:

An ARC of Unbreak My Heart, by Melissa Walker (YA)

or

An ARC of Above, by Leah Bobet (YA)

Happy Bloggiesta! And many thanks to our hosts, Danielle of There's a Book, and Suey from It’s All About Books.

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