Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Bingo & Audiobook Challenges

Great Imaginations is hosting a fantastic reading challenge every season- book bingo!
I decided to play along with summer (why not?) and so I'm tracking my progress at the end of each summer month.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - "Set on an Island" (aka England)
Beautiful Creatures - "Featuring an Animal Companion" (Boo)
Gone Girl - "Strong Sibling Relationship" (Nick & Go)
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - "A summer release" (publishing June 2009)
Deep Blue - "Blue Cover"

2014 Audiobook Challenge

My goal is to reach Binge Listener (20-30 audiobooks this year)

In February

In March

In April

In May

In June

NONE in July

In August

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tools4Wisdom Calendar Planner & Goals Journal Review

I'm a Virgo. 
And that means I'm a plan-ahead, make-lists kind of woman.

Blogging, balancing a business, making book and product reviews...these things require planning to keep them from becoming overwhelming.

I tried keeping track of blog post scheduling and whatnot via a journal, but I found I needed the ability to look forward by a month, to get a holistic view of what to do.
So I was interested to try the new Tools4Wisdom Planner.

It's a spiral bound notebook with goal-working worksheets and an extensive calendar for looking ahead.

This was the highest-quality page in the journal- thick glossy paper with embossed lettering.

There are a lot of guidelines for setting goals and focusing your energy on things.
To be honest, most of these I found sweet but not helpful- I don't need encouragement on my goals. I need time. And more money. The 'going for it' has never been a problem for me.

There's also a lot of room with the worksheets to brainstorm stuff out. I imagine this would be excellent for a recent graduate!

Each month has space for reflection of goals met or unmet, and more prompts to define short term goals. The approach is definitely focusing energy on the most effective methods of achieving long-term goals, via short-term goal posts. 
I definitely agree with the methodology there.

And my favorite part- the calendar! It started in July 2014, and went through December 2015. That's my kind of looking ahead!

And now the bad: 
Mine arrived with this nasty, mysterious smudged crap on the back. It's kind of sticky, brown, and gross. I don't know what happened here, but it gave me a bad impression of their packaging.

The print quality was definitely mass-produced. I'm not going to insult the company by saying they made these at Kinko's, but as a professional in marketing (who works heavily in catalog) I've been exposed to a lot of printing, binding, and paper choice. And this comes off as low-budget.
It's also entirely in black and white, which is less engaging. Especially considering the product preview shows it in color.

That being said, the value of this planner is definitely in the personal-assistant, life-coach prompts and exercises. And in the combination of goal-defining note areas and calendar month layout with enough space to jot ideas in each day space.

You can find them on Amazon, here and here.
And here it is in action...with music!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Local Flavor Swap Recap!

Sorry for the delay in posting this....but check out the awesome I got from Ginny at Gin's Book Notes! She's a book nerd and graphic artist who designs (among other things) book covers.

She lives in a small town close to...the Peanut Capital of the World! Da da DUM!

Timing-wise, this is perfect. I just finished my cleanse last week, and I had to reintroduce foods back in, one at a time. You bet your keester peanuts were first on my list.

I love this Holiday Entertaining with Peanuts recipe booklet. I never thought about how many dishes you can make with peanuts. I can't wait to try making Peanut Brittle!
(as for the cupcake totally rivals the PNW's cupcake trend)

Mmmm....fried peanuts (which I've never tried)

Playing cards...they are REALLY proud of their claim to fame. 

This is from a local syrup maker shop. I can't wait to try it, especially over some grilled roast.

Huzzah for local, raw honey! These bee hives are in Landmark Park, which it apparently a working farmstead/park. How cool is that?! If I ever get to Dothan, I am totally there.

It's got a blade on one side, and an odd fork contraption on the other...which I just bet has something to do with shelling peanuts.

An assortment of postcards and brochures from Dothan and thereabouts. In addition to their historic opera house, they have a mural festival which looks neat, a botanical gardens, sporting events, Toadlick music festival, etc.

These two are my favorites. On the left is a guide to the restaurants of the region- touting the best dishes. Alabama, you better not close any restaurants before I come visit. Some of them sound awesome!

On the right is the Boll Weevil monument. That's right, it's a statue of a goddess, holding a hideous, destructive insect that wiped out the original cotton crop of the area, thus allowing them to convert to peanuts...and the rest is history. All this taking place in Coffee County. What's not to love?

This is genius- the downtown area is encircled by one road. So if you get lost, get on that circle and eventually you'll find the place you were going to. Why aren't all towns built like this?!

In with the peanut goodies- golden peanut pins! 
Seriously, I love how proud that area is of their staple crop. What a fun, community-building heritage to have. 

Thank you so much, Ginny, for opening my eyes to Dothan and it's charms. To be honest, I didn't know Alabama could be this fun! I'm putting it on my map of places to visit (Oooo! Maybe for the Peanut Festival!)
Gin's Book Notes

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: Deep Blue

Synopsis according to GoodReads:

"Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence."

Deep Blue is a middle-grade mermaid novel. I found myself disappointed in the lack of character development and the obnoxious shallowness of the characters BUT it's a middle-grade novel. I don't read many of those, so maybe that was a case of me expecting too much? Probably.

On the bonus points side, Jennifer Donnelly has created a very richly imagined world. The physics don't necessarily work, but the concept of cultures, terms, dress and diversity in this world shows a lot of forethought. This is a big plus, as both a bridge between a fictional world and our modern one, and because it distracted me from the worst of my boredom while reading it.

I think you'll like this if you enjoy mermaid stories, middle grade novels, very quick reads, teenagers, and very pretty imagined worlds.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear Companies that Keep Trying to Take Advantage of Bloggers...

If you ask me to write a post, and don't offer:
a) a free product that I'm allowed to gives a 100% honest review
b) paid compensation in exchange for this post (which I will also disclose)
c) anything of value at all in exchange for it

I will not indulge you.

Because of the time required to create, and then promote, a quality post, non-hobby or monetized bloggers view blogging as a side business. 

To give you an idea, most bloggers I know spend 1-3 hours on writing the post, an additional hour on creating and editing images, another hour or so if they photographed those images as well (and then had to brand them, color-correct them, etc), then about two hours total of regular stumping of their post on social media (this is assuming the post is on-brand with their blog, and that they have room in their schedule). 

That is, in short, valuable time, energy, and focus spent on a company that doesn't actually value our time, energy, and focus. It's a bad investment.

But if you continue to persist in emailing me with your great startup pitch and expectation that I'll be a free employee for you, I will start sending you requests to promote my blog and social media channels, just because I think it'd be fun. 

Bloggers- don't let companies take advantage of you. There are plenty out there who will give you free product or monetary compensation - you don't need to waste your time with people who don't value you.