Category: the canon talks

January 1, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges



I can’t believe it’s 2018. It’s like I blinked, and an entire year went by. But boy, what a year!

I’ll admit, I lost my reading mojo in 2017. I didn’t quite meet the goals I’d set for myself, so instead, I’m making a few changes, especially when it comes to reading challenges. In 2018, I’m trimming it down to find my groove again. Check out the challenges I’ve set for the new year!


2018 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

  • Runs January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018 (books read prior to 1/1/2018 do not count towards the challenge). You can join anytime you want, though the sign up linky will close Nov. 15, 2018. 
  • The goal is to read as many Contemporary Romance books as you’d like. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. You can move up a level as often as you’d like but no moving down. Remember, the idea is to challenge yourself.
  • Books that qualify for this challenge can be young adult, new adult, or adult. Books can be M/F, M/M, or F/F. Books must be a work of fiction (sorry, nonfiction does not qualify for this challenge).
  • Romances with the following elements do not qualify for this reading challenge: paranormal, historical, time-travel, fantasy, science fiction, or mystery/suspense/thriller.
  • Books can be any format (print, ebook, audio).
  • Novellas that are 100 pages in length (give or take), as well as full-length novels, will count for this reading challenge.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • Use the hashtag #ContRom2018 when posting your reviews/updates/re-caps/monthly topics on social media.
  • To join this challenge, grab the 2018 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge button below and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. This will be your “update post” when doing the monthly link up.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookLikes, etc., so as long as you have a dedicated shelf for the 2018 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge (your designated “update post” for the monthly link up) and your profile is not private. The point of linking up is to have a place where people can see what you’re reading

3rd base – 11-15 books

  1. Show Me by Abigail Strom
  2. Unconditionally by Erin Lyon
  3. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guilloy
  4. Dirty Charmer by Emma Chase
  5. Paradise by Judith McNaught
  6. Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas
  7. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  8. Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie
  9. Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl
  10. Hard and Fast by Erin McCarthy
  11. It’s a Fugly Life by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
  12. Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
  13. Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts
follow my progress here!

2018 Debut Author Reading Challenge

Challenge Objectives:

  • To introduce readers to this year’s wonderful group of debut authors.
  • To challenge readers to read 12 or more (or less! It’s up to you!) middle grade, young adult, and new adult debuts this year.

Challenge Rules:

  • You must post your thoughts on each debut book you read in order for it to count towards the challenge. You can post anywhere: your blog, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. If you can link it up, it counts!
  • You can join the challenge whenever you want.
  • The debuts must have a publishing date in 2018 and must have been read between January 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019 (this extra month allows readers adequate time to read December debuts) in order to count.
  • Each review gives you an entry into the bi-annual (two times a year) debut book giveaways (you will get to choose the book you win). Make sure you post the links to my bi-annual link-ups. I will post these link-ups on the first day of January and July.
  • This challenge is open internationally, as are the bi-annual debut book giveaways (provided Book Depository ships to you).
  • I don’t care what language you write your reviews in, I just need to know which book you have reviewed so I can verify your entry. When you post your link in the Linky, please include the book title in English.
  • Use the hashtag #DebutAuthorChallenge so we can all see what everyone’s up to!

Read the rest of the rules on The Artsy Reader Girl here.

I love the idea of meeting new/debut authors, but in the past, I’ve struggled to get my hands on a copy of the book in time to read it. This year, I’m aiming to read one debut a month by giving myself a few weeks to find the book before the review is scheduled.

  1. The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
  2. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
  3. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
  4. Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves
  5. A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
  6. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
  7. The Girl King by Mimi Yu
  8. Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge
  9. Everless by Sara Holland
  10. Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood
  11. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
  12. People Like Us by Dana Mele
follow my progress here!

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge

Complete the 40 book prompts to widen your reading scope in 2018! Download the printable or save the graphic.

I’m planning to finish the 40 prompts by the end of the year. If I do, I’ll add the 10 advanced prompts into my blog calendar!

  1. Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh
  3. Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
  5. Cursed by Thomas Enger
  6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  7. Into the Woods by Tana French
  8. Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
  9. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  10. Dark in Death by J.D. Robb
  11. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
  12. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  13. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
  14. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  15. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  16. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
  17. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  18. The Deal by Elle Kennedy
  19. The Hunter by John Lescroart
  20. The Green Mile by Stephen King
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
  22. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
  23. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  24. Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
  25. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  26. The Martian by Andy Weir
  27. Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie
  28. Origin in Death by J.D. Robb
  29. The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield
  30. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  31. South and West by Joan Didion
  32. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
  33. Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  34. Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
  35. The Run of His Life: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin
  36. Renegades by Marissa Meyer
  37. Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert
  38. The Appeal by John Grisham
  39. This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
  40. Dubliners by James Joyce

follow my progress here.

Posted January 1, 2018 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

March 22, 2017

If We Were Having Coffee | 2017 Update

if we were having coffee


Oh, hey there.

I know it’s been a while, and first, I’m so sorry to drop off the face of the (bookish) planet like that! It wasn’t my intention – I actually had my editorial calendar filled out for the first three months of the year. But you know how good intentions go…

Image result for right gif

Anyway. A lot happened in the first few months of the year. First:


After 10 months of wedding planning – aka debating about colors, cake flavors, and outfits, oh my! – it finally arrived, and it couldn’t have been more beautiful. The weather cooperated (we had our fingers crossed the outside venue would work out!) and everything was perfect.


I got a new job!

Yep. In February. So in the midst of the wedding planning madness, I made the leap and transferred to a new company because, ya know, one can’t have enough stress. Luckily, my new managers were understanding and found a way for me to be off for the wedding and honeymoon.

So, to put it simply:

I haven’t had nearly enough time to sleep, let alone read. Fortunately, I got to sneak in reads on my lunch break and when waiting for the wedding coordinator (brides and grooms – get a wedding coordinator. I am not kidding. She saved my sanity). Be on the lookout for these book reviews:

  • Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  • Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
  • Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader
  • Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
  • The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

annnnd a bunch of other books I need to write reviews on from a while ago.

Image result for guilty gif

So stay tuned, stick around, and chime in. I’d love to hear from you.

Posted March 22, 2017 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

January 7, 2017

Start Your Engines | 2017 Reading Challenges

If we’re going to be honest, I failed MISERABLY during last year’s reading challenges. A combination of burnout, work, and plain, simple stress knocked me down. I tried to do too much on the blog and when I was trying to figure out everything in my personal life, my reading seriously suffered.

But this year, I’m taking it easy. This year, I’m going to fall back in love with reading. Join me?


Created to help readers find more books outside their go-to genres, the PopSugar reading challenges have been on my mind for a long time, but I’ve never caught them at the beginning. Learn more about the 2017 challenge here and join the fun with #popsugarreadingchallenge!

Honestly, I was initially tempted to sign up for the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, including the advanced section. Luckily, the rational side of my brain spoke up. I plan to read as much as I can of the first section of the list and then go from there.

I plan to pick the books for this challenge month-by-month to make it a little more fun. For January, I’m starting out with:

Carnival of SoulsThe Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)



The 2017 Reading Challenge


The ultimate create-your-own reading challenge, the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge has two different book lists to inspire your 2017 reading: reading for growth and reading for fun. Sign up here and follow along with #MMDreading.

Following my goal to find a little more fun both in books and life in 2017, I’m taking the reading for fun challenge. I’m hoping to read 12 books for this challenge, one a month.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge. Get more out of your reading life in 2017 with this choose-your-own-bookish-adventure challenge!

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)The Hook Up (Game On, #1)Big Little LiesThe Time Traveler's WifeOn Writing: A Memoir of the CraftJust Imagine



I fell in love with the Debut Author Challenge last year for one reason: I found so many new authors to love! The Debut Author Challenge introduces readers to new YA or new adult authors from around the globe. Sign up here and follow along with #2017DebAuthC!


I am challenging myself to read at least 10 of the 13 debuts I’ve picked out for 2017.

Shimmer and BurnSong of the CurrentToward a Secret SkyDaughter of the Pirate KingTo Catch a KillerWintersongCaraval (Caraval, #1)HeartstoneFrostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

No cover yet:



Another of my favorite reading challenges, the Contemporary Romance reading challenge is for contemporary romance only – historical, sci-fi, paranormal, and romantic suspense does not count for this challenge. Since this challenge was how I discovered some new favorite contemporary romance authors last year, I can’t wait for this year’s reading! Join the fun here and follow along with #ContRom2017

I challenge myself to read a majority of new-to-me authors in this year’s challenge. I think I will go for the 3rd base level – 11-15 books.

Runaway Groom (I Do, I Don't)Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Strong Signal (Cyberlove, #1)A Better Man (Sunshine Creek Vineyard, #1)Paige in ProgressSeven Day Fiancé (Love and Games, #2)


*post layout inspired by the beautiful challenge post over BookMark Lit!

Posted January 7, 2017 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments
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November 28, 2016

A brief hiatus

It’s that time of year again! Yes, the time of jingle bells, cheers, and cocktails, but also shorter days and longer to-do lists. In order to keep up with the holiday madness this year, I’m going to take a brief break from blogging.

Don’t worry – I’ll still be around. There’s a massive list of behind-the-scenes blog tasks that I’ve wanted to take care of ever since I moved from Blogger, and reviews that are waiting to be written! Leave me a comment or get in touch on Twitter! I’ll be posting sneak peeks of my #TBTBSanta gifts there!

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and a little extra sprinkling of joy to you all. I’ll see you after the holidays!

Image result for elf gif

Posted November 28, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

September 20, 2016

My Five Go-To Podcasts

Top Ten Tuesday

love podcasts. I listen to them at night, on my commute, on my way to work. I’m a huge fan. I fell in love with radio during my internship and, combined with my addiction to reading, podcasts are perfect for me.

I prefer podcasts about things I know little about. These are the top five that grab me in with the story and to get the ability to learn about things I know nothing about? I’m in.


Unless you’ve been living in Antarctica, the International Space Station, or under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Serial, “a story told week by week”. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to Sarah Koenig’s work yet or just haven’t gotten around to it, it’s time. Koenig’s narrative is powerful and engaging, and their storytelling method is quickly becoming my favorite. Season 1 is my favorite.

Savage Lovecast

Note: This one’s not for the faint of heart.

Lost in love and not sure what to do? Dan Savage, America’s go-to for love and sex advice, is the guy to ask. Nothing is too weird, too gross, too outlandish to run by this guy. His podcast reminds us to keep it in perspective, and, if needed, to DTMF already.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

There is so much more to history than we learned in high school history class. Holly and Tracy break down the forgotten, the weird, the obscure, and the momentous into bite-sized 30 minute episodes that are perfect for your commute or daily workout.

Stuff You Should Know

From internet of things to lighthouses, the guys at Stuff You Should Know, Josh and Chuck, aren’t afraid to delve in. Plenty of information mixed in with the odd tangent makes for fascinating listening.

Daily Power Nap

Some days, you just need a nap. This is my go-to for days I can’t stay awake. Take you lunch break, head to the car, pop in your headphones, and take a load off.

Posted September 20, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks, top ten tuesday / 0 Comments

September 7, 2016

Scared of the Sequel?


I have an irrational fear. It’s one that’s evolved over the years, to the point where M just rolls his eyes and decides (probably wisely) not to comment.

I’m scared of sequels.

Let me explain.

Sequels fall into one of three categories:

  1. Great continuations of a story I loved
  2. The second chance of a book I didn’t really like but thought deserved another try, or
  3. A lacking next installment that ruins the entire story line.

Unfortunately, so many sequels that I’ve read have fallen into the third category and destroyed stories that I loved. More often than not, I can’t return to the original story because I can’t shake the bad taste of the last one.

I picked up Maas’ A Court of Mists and Fury, ready to fall back into Feyre and Tamlin’s world, but the  beginnings of a love triangle scared me off. I loved their relationship as it was – why do we have to throw a love triangle into the mix? (Yes, I’ll finish the book, I promise.)

So, as the years go on, I’ve become a little more apprehensive…okay, scared, of the sequel. Some feel like they’re created simply because the authors can’t let go of the story. In others, the author feels disengaged, writing the sequel simply because they feel like they have to/their contract stipulates it/whatever reason.

It’s the stories that have a clear arc that make good sequels and series. You know what I mean – when the author has clearly laid out that there’s going to be more than one book (i.e., Harry Potter’s seven years of school, seven books) or each installment has a certain purpose (like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings).

Admittedly, most of the time I pick up the sequel and read on. Also admittedly, most of these stories are quite stellar. But after crossing one too many bad/passionless sequels, I’ve found myself longing for more authors to finish their story and move on to another instead of creating a (seemingly) never-ending series.

What do you think? Am I wrong about sequels? What sequels do you love?

Posted September 7, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

May 18, 2016

How to Spring Clean Your Blog

spring clean your blog

I can feel it in the air: the dark days of winter are long gone with the dog days of summer yet to arrive, leaving each spring morning scented with flowers. Every year, I get the urge to clean.

Spring cleaning can be a daunting task – without lists and advice, its hard to know where to start! When it comes to blogs, it’s more than switching out your air filters or touching up paint. Here’s my top tricks to leave your blog feeling spick and span after the winter months!

Update the archives

Let’s be honest: when was the last time you updated your archives? If you’re on the ball, it was probably yesterday. If you’re like me…well…

Having a clean, organized blog helps readers find content they’re looking for, and occasionally content they aren’t. Make it easy for them to get pulled into your site by cleaning and updating that archive page.

Organize your email

Email can be either a really handy tool or a giant pain in the ass. It all depends on one thing: how you organize it!

Set up folders for recurring blog subjects – such as Author Contact, Review Requests, Blog Tours – and create rules so emails for each topic go into the correct folder. It will help keep everything organized (so you can find that author or sponsor email quickly!) and achieve that gloriously elusive inbox zero.

Tag images

Experts tend to be split on the subject of SEO, but tagging your images with your keywords is a great practice to get into. It helps you rank in search results (again, experts are split) and maybe someone will stumble across your review while looking for a silly gif!

Clean out the drafts

If I’m being honest, I have far too many posts hanging out in my drafts folder. Horrible. It leaves my dashboard cluttered and makes me feel honestly a little unmotivated when I see that number hanging out at the top of the screen.

Go through the drafts folder and decide which posts to move forward with, which to schedule, and which to delete. Be decisive.

Revisit your blog calendar

At the beginning of the year, I make a blog calendar with general themes that I want to follow, features to start, and challenges to complete. Are you still interested in those topics, features? Maybe a different direction, or spread out the posts a little more.

Do that one thing

We’ve all got one thing sitting on our blog to-do lists to try. A new color palette, an add-on, updating social profiles, whatever it is, take the plunge. Do it. It’ll feel great to get it off your plate.

What are your top blog spring cleaning tips? Let me know!

Posted May 18, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

April 10, 2016

My Top Blogging Resources

When I first started blogging, I had no idea that amount of resources I come to depend on. At the time, I thought it would be sitting down, writing what was in my head, and hitting publish.


Well, as it turns out, that’s not quite how it works. Blogging needs information, support, graphics, gifs, oh my! Each blogger has their personal favorites, ones that fit their blogging styles best. Here are the resources I’ve fallen in love with over the past few years.


  1. Canva – Need a graphic, quickly? Canva’s free tools are outstanding! I use them for both the blog and at work to make quick, free social graphics and blog headers. Need something a little more intricate? They’ve got add-ons at a dollar each.
  2. Bootstrap Bay’s Free Stock Photo List – Trust me. This will come in handy. Just make sure to check the guidelines for crediting images.
  3. Hootsuite – As much as I’d love to hang out on social media all day talking about books, it’s not exactly feasible. Hootsuite is the best scheduling tool I’ve found. Their free scheduler is exactly what I need, but if you’re looking for more analytics and stats, check out one of the paid options.
  4. Expresso – Wonder how clear your writing is? Expresso analyzes your text for weak verbs, filler words, and other grammar problems bloggers want to avoid.
  5. Hemingway App – Write short and sweet like Hemingway, with color codes highlighting problems areas in your text.
  6. Google Drive – A day where I can work on the blog from my laptop feels few and far between lately. Google Drive is the perfect place to store blog ideas, posts, and my reading calendar.
  7. Pinterest – Share your posts and find others! Beware – Pinterest can steal your time away if you’re not careful!
  8. Reddit – Short on content ideas? Find out what’s popular, trending, or just talked about on Reddit. I especially love the book site.


What are your favorite blogging resources! Let me know!

Posted April 10, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments

April 6, 2016

Top Book Blogger Tips

book blogger tips


When I first started blogging, I thought all there was to be a book blogger was writing a review, posting it online, and that was that. Years later, after a few great highs, the occasional blogging slump, and extraordinary learning experiences, here’s my top tips:

Write about what you love.

It’s an oldie but a goodie for a good reason: writing about what you’re passionate about makes for great reading!

If you love mystery, write about mystery. If you tend to lean more towards romance, YA, whatever, focus your passion there. Don’t just write about a topic because everyone else is. Instead, take a trending topic and put your own spin on it to make it yours.

Make it a habit.

As any writer, blogger, or person who puts pen to paper/fingers to keyboard on a regular basis will say, writing is hard. Some days the words flow, creating brilliant thoughts and gorgeous phrases. Other days, that cursor blinks at you in challenge on that white page.

Set aside a time of day to devote to blog tasks, whether it’s answering emails, writing posts, editing…whatever needs to be done. Adding blog maintenance to your routine will make it easy to keep up.

Be social.

The book blogosphere is incredibly active on social media (especially Twitter), and incredibly kind and welcoming. Join a book chat or just reach out.

Create a review policy.

The review policy is key to a successful book blog. Creating a page on your blog devoted to your rules, practices and mission will help authors and publishers working to promote their work know if you’re the right fit for them, and if so, how to start a conversation.

Schedule your posts, but don’t get too attached.

I create a blog schedule every month to keep myself on track and remind of important dates (blog tours, scheduled posts, etc), but life can shake things up and make it hard to stick to it. A calendar is a great organizational tool, but don’t let it stress you out.


What are your favorite blog tips? I’d love to hear what works for you!

Posted April 6, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 1 Comment

April 3, 2016

4 Books to Cure Your Downton Abbey Blues


Life without the Crawleys just isn’t the same.

Downton Abbey‘s final season was bittersweet – the drama met the high standard set by the show’s previous seasons, but saying goodbye to the family and staff at Downton…well, I’m just not quite ready to let go yet. Feeling the same? Here’s five books to cure your Downton hangover.

Sense and Sensibility


The Classic: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

With drama, betrayal, and romance, Austen’s classic is the perfect fix.




Austenland (Austenland, #1)


The Chick Lit: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live out Jane Austen’s story? Jane Hayes gets more than she bargained for when she signs up for a trip to a resort catering to every Austen fan.



The Typewriter Girl


The Historical Fiction: The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee

If you loved Sybil Crawley, you’ll adore Betsey’s journey to make her way in the world.




The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)

The Funny Romance: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

One of my all-time favorites, Willig’s debut is funny, clever, and romantic. It may not be the same historical era, but the family dynamics will keep you laughing.

Posted April 3, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments