Category: the canon talks

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?

POPSUGAR 2017 READING CHALLENGE

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 MODERN MRS. DARCY READING CHALLENGE

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

 

THE 2017 DEBUT AUTHOR CHALLENGE

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:

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE READING CHALLENGE 2017

crr2017icon

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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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.

Serial

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
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September 7, 2016

Scared of the Sequel?

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
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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
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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
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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
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April 3, 2016

4 Books to Cure Your Downton Abbey Blues

downton

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
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March 23, 2016

5 More Authors To Follow on Twitter

 

I don’t know about you, but if I need a quick pick-me-up or to catch up on the latest news, I turn to Twitter. Here are a few more authors you should add to your Twitter feed for the best book news, jokes, fan art and updates.

Rainbow Rowell

RR

Follow her for hilarious, occasionally random tweets about life and all things books.

Susan Dennard

SD

Follow her for all things Truthwitch!

Leigh Bardugo

LB

Follow her for an inside look at author life and all news on Crooked Kingdom!

Amie Kaufman

AK

Follow her for writing/career advicetour updates, all things Illuminae and some great travel photos!

J.K. Rowling

JR

You should already be following her.

Meg Cabot

MC

Follow her for sneak peeks, tour photos, updates and all things Princess Diaries!

Posted March 23, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments
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February 21, 2016

Love-a-Thon Challenge| Invitation to Tea

Loveathon 2016

 

When I saw this challenge on the Love-a-Thon schedule, I knew it was perfect for me! Sitting down to share a cup of coffee or tea with my friends is the best way to catch up. I wanted to modify the original challenge a bit. Instead of a singular person, I wanted to talk about the different authors I would invite to my tea party!

Tea Party

J.K. Rowling // I saw a lot of questionnaires saying they’d love to sit down with J.K. Rowling for tea (including me!). I think this shows what a huge impact she’s had on many of us and our reading styles. Harry Potter is one favorite stories and I’m falling for the her latest series with Cormoran Strike.

Sarah J. Maas // The author who has made many of us remember why we love fairy tales. Her Throne of Glass series blew me away, and I can’t WAIT for A Court of Mist and Fury!

Ernest Hemingway // The master of short, sweet and to-the-point prose that’s made a huge impact on American literature would be fascinating to sit down and talk with.

J.R.R. Tolkien // Admit it – asking Tolkien about his inspirations behind LOTR and the writing process would be amazing.

Margaret Mitchell // Gone With the Wind was a turning point for me. Getting the chance to pick Mitchell’s brain? Yes, please!

George R.R. Martin // The reigning king of fantasy always presents such a relaxed presence. It feels like he would be so approachable.

Marissa Meyer // I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain this one… #TheLunarChronicles

What authors would you invite to the tea party?

 

Posted February 21, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 10 Comments
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February 20, 2016

Love-a-Thon Challenge | Bingo

It’s #LoveAThon time again, and I couldn’t be more excited! Love the BINGO card. I’ll update my process as we go through the weekend. Want to join? Grab a card here.

 

Love-A-Thon Bingo

Visit 5 new blogs:

  1. Amber Morrison, the Blonde Writer
  2. Angela’s Library
  3. Confessions of Carlisa
  4. Hopeful Reads
  5. 500 Books

Join a Twitter chat

I joined Saturday night’s chat! Thanks so much for hosting, Cee!

Participate in a challenge

My author tea party post goes live at 1pm PT!

Find 3 new Instagram accounts

  1. @alexaysantiago
  2. @amzech18
  3. @zyxcee
  4. @thesundaymorningcoffee

Leave comments

My favorite part of Love-A-Thon! I left comments on blogs before I realized we had to track this. 🙂

 

Color hunt:

Posted February 20, 2016 by Ellen in the canon talks / 4 Comments
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