Posts Categorized: Book Talk

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner Sisters

June 28, 2016 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner SistersThe Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
Published by Gallery Books on June 14th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 352
Source: complimentary review copy


What an incredibly researched historical novel! I felt completely immersed in the time period {1920s}! Vaudeville was at its height {kind of a prequel to tv show ‘America’s Got Talent’}.   When the novel opens we meet the Turners and learn how they’re  barely getting by. Dependent on Mr. Turner’s income, losing the source from a stupid mistake makes figuring out how to survive critical.

So what does the mom to four beautiful daughters do? She comes up with the idea to put her daughters on the stage as a vaudeville act in order to make enough money for the family to eat and pay rent. When the girls’ act becomes a hit their lives are forever changed.

What I loved

→The history and detail. Learning what vaudeville was {comedy, gymnastics, music, dancing} and wasn’t {burlesque} fascinated me and had me looking up old videos and photographs. There are even a few of the theaters that hosted vaudeville still open and operating today!

→The quotes at the beginning of each chapter from famous vaudeville players. “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~Will Rogers, actor, singer, comedian, and social commentator

→How the characters and theaters came to life through the descriptive passages “Even from inside the suitcase, I sensed the audience’s anticipation. They cheered for Nell’s cartwheels, but the volume rose when Gert entered with her handsprings. By the time I rolled out onto the proscenium, the audience was like a pack of hungry dogs, ready to devour any scraps of entertainment we threw them. Gert’s arm jiggles sent them into paroxysms, and the human rolling ball, with skirts flapping up as they spun, caused a wild round of boot stomping.”

→The humor! The dialogue between the four sisters was seamless and filled with funny moments!

→The breadth of topics approached from poverty and mental illness to racism and women’s rights, The Tumbling Turner Sisters touches on it all with skill and grace.

[Tweet “Learning how to survive and thrive in The Tumbling Turner Sisters”]

and the Not So Much

I would be remiss if I neglected to share a couple of things that frustrated me in reading this novel. For example ~

The mother. Granted her character was supposed to be a strong Italian woman, but she was a bit over the top for me. At times I wondered why she even had children. Her actions were so non-mothering! AND she took henpecking her husband to an entirely new level. Did women really act that way?

While not that big of a deal, I did have to flip back to the beginning of the chapters several times to see who was narrating. While normally I love multiple points of view in books, in The Tumbling Turner Sisters it was somewhat difficult to tell the sisters apart. Narrated from Winnie and Gert’s pov, the sisters’ characters were too similar to distinguish at times.

Caution. Some aspects were difficult to read though true to the time period. There is one passage in particular that uses cringe-worthy terminology. I appreciate that the author approached sensitive subjects head on but do want to warn you sections may make you uncomfortable.

Recommended for

Readers who loved Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Goodreads also recommends Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, but I think Juliette Fay’s novel is closer to a Karen White novel such as On Folly Beach. The laugh-out-loud humor and fleshed out characters are comparable.

Juliette Fay: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter

With many thanks to Wunderkind PR and Gallery Books, I’ve got a copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters to give away! Ends Monday, July 4th at 11:59 pm. U.S. entries only please.

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Sunday Serenade: Allison with The Book Wheel

June 5, 2016 Book Talk 9



Sunday Serenade was created as a way to feature innovative and creative book bloggers. Allison from The Book Wheel has a unique method of connecting authors and readers with her #30authors annual event. I love that Allison is inclusion-focused, dedicated to expanding a reader’s library of authors to read and follow. Allison is also one of the loveliest bloggers you could ever know, so willing to share her experiences and knowledge.

Hope you enjoy learning more about The Book Wheel as much as I enjoyed interviewing Allison!

You’ve accomplished so much with your blog: to begin with the creation and coordination of #30Authors, now in its 3rd year, and subsequently publishing an anthology. How did you come up with the idea for #30Authors? What’s been your favorite aspect of the feature? Least favorite? 
Thank you! #30Authors was something I came up with when Jenny Milchman asked me to figure out a way to connect readers, bloggers, and authors. I sent her a general idea of what I was thinking and she was 100% supportive, so off I went to plan the event. At the time, I thought no one would join and that the idea would go nowhere but the responses were overwhelmingly positive. After the first year, Adria Cimino from Velvet Morning Press approached me about taking the concept and turning it into an anthology, which was published last year. A few of the original contributors also wrote a story for the book, which was incredibly generous of them considering all of the author proceeds (including mine) go to charity.

As for my favorite and least favorite parts, it’s a tough one, so I’m going to cheat and give you two favorites. First is seeing the friendships that bloom between bloggers and the authors they host. When I pair people up, I’m basically playing matchmaker, so when they develop a relationship I get really excited. Second is seeing the successes of the authors who contribute. Most of the authors I pick are authors I have read and loved or that other bloggers have read and loved, so when those authors become great successes, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, book bloggers knew about them before the general public! I think that’s awesome. For example, in 2014 Andi at Estella’s Revenge recommended Cynthia Bond, who joined us and went on to become an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick. In 2015, Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves was raving about Bull Mountain, so I asked Brian Panowich to join in and he went on to become an Amazon Editors Pick last year.

My least favorite part is 6:30 am every single morning of the event. I know that sounds really bad but every morning for the entire month of September I wake up early, cross my fingers, and hope the blogger scheduled that day actually posts their review. 97% of the time they do and I can breathe a sigh of relief but the other 3% leaves me pestering another blogger to please, please, please double up at the last minute. Luckily, the pros of the event far outweigh the cons and my day is usually great by 7 am!

One thing I was not aware of is that you and the authors in the anthology donate the proceeds – how cool is that! Makes me love the event more, if that’s even possible! I must admit, though, that the 6:30 am wake up call would not be a favorite of mine either!

Recently you highlighted a sponsored post with Buick for its’ Audiobooks integration. Can you tell us about that experience? Do you plan to continue working with sponsorships; what are the benefits and pitfalls?  

You know, that whole experience was so surreal. When I first got an email from Buick asking me if I was interested in heading out with a guest to Big Sur, California to check out their new integration with, I assumed it was spam. I even called up a few authors who used to be reporters to pick their brains. After a bit of digging, I learned that it was, in fact, legit and said yes. Even so, I was nervous when my husband I showed up at the airport because part of me was still convinced it was a ruse. Thankfully, they let us on the plane!

The trip itself was incredible. When we got to the airport, we had a 2016 Buick Regal GS waiting for us, along with a copy of All the Light We Cannot See, which was the book we were listening to for the trip. I was expecting 100 people looming around a large conference room, chatting about cars, but it was only 10-12 of us at the Ventana Inn, including guests. So we spent our days sightseeing (while listening to, of course) and getting to know each other. I met some really great people there – two of whom are joining in #30Authors this year.

As for the future, I’m open to working with other brands, although I don’t actively pursue it. I know that my experience with Buick was atypical and I can’t expect that type of treatment all of the time (although one can hope), but I really enjoyed working with a company that’s outside of my wheelhouse. I don’t blog about cars – at all – and it was fun to branch out.

[Tweet “Blogger/author collaborations & unique blogging experiences with @thebookwheel “]

It sounds like a surreal experience, but one I imagine has left you with a wonderful impression of both and Buick! Dare I ask what kind of car you drive ;-D

Allison, you also have ads strategically placed on your site. How long have you worked with ad agencies and affiliates? Are you pleased with the results? What advice would you give to other book bloggers about branching into ad and affiliate marketing?

I love that you think the ads are strategic because it’s really quite random! I’ve worked with ads and affiliates since 2013’ish and I’m pleased with the results. Until recently, the ads were fairly inconsistent and while I can’t remember ever approaching an advertiser myself, I’ve developed relationships with some great agencies who keep me on their list. I’m certainly not paying my rent with the income, but it does help me buy a few books.

As for advice, I’d like to start off with this: monetizing is tricky business. When it comes to monetizing your book blog, there are people who are for it and people who are vehemently against it. Even so, ads and affiliate links are more common now, so there’s not as much backlash as there used to be. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s really hard to make any real money from affiliate links….

It’s sad that there has been a backlash in certain aspects of book blogging. I hate that you’ve had to experience the backlash and especially appreciate your willingness to be candid about monetization given the negativity. I’ve gone back and forth myself with ads/affiliate marketing but found I wasn’t even making enough to buy a few books, much less cover blogging expenses. That’s awesome you’ve been able to see a slight profit from it!

What is next for Allison and The Book Wheel?

I have no idea! The past few months have been crazy. I started a new job in public policy and hired a personal trainer to get back into shape and while I love both, my time management skills are severely lacking. #30Authors is coming up this September, so that’s my priority right now. A few bloggers have offered to help out this year and I think I may have to learn to relinquish a bit of control and let them. The event is growing and I can only do so much!

As for The Book Wheel, some days I’m ready to throw in the towel and other days I’m thinking about my next steps. I’ve taken a live and let live approach to The Book Wheel the past year or so and am quite enjoying it. I would like to start reading ARC’s again (the last one I read was a year ago) and pick up the pace on my political books, but I have no sense of urgency about it. I guess now that I think about it, my next step is to figure out a next step!

Any advice you have for book bloggers who want to expand their focus? Such as branching into sponsored posts, creating unique features as you did with #30authors or moving into lifestyle/politics/etc into their blog?

You do you. The book blogging world can be as harsh as it is rewarding but at the end of the day, you have to live with what you’re putting out there in the world. If you want to work with authors, then come up with a way to work with them. If you’re passionate about something other than reading, then incorporate that into your blog (Tara at Running n Reading/It’s Tara Leigh is a great example of this). It’s important to remember that your blog is your blog, and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, so do what makes you happy. And if you’re not quite sure you are ready take the leap, pick up You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and get ready.

Allison you’ve been a wealth of information! Reminding us to focus on doing what makes us happy is a key point.  Isn’t that why so many of us got into blogging to begin with?!?

To learn more about The Book Wheel and Allison, visit her website; connect on Twitter or Facebook and follow along on Pinterest.




May In Review

June 1, 2016 Book Talk 4

May in Review


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .”also known as the month I am glad is over!

If you missed my icky graphic post on why I believe May was no fun then you’ll want to read We Interrupt Our Regularly-Scheduled Program to Bring You This Important Announcement

That important announcement really messed with my blogging mojo, amongst everything else. . .but, whew! it’s over.  Not a lot of reading nor blogging done in May, but over Memorial Day weekend I was able to read all 4 of M. J. Arlidge’s Detective Helen Grace series! I feel drunk on reading – ever have that feeling?!?

Books Read in May

books read in may


The Helen Grace series by M.J. Arlidge including:

My review for Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel will be up tomorrow while The Doll’s House and Liar Liar will be reviewed on June 7th {release day in the U.S. for Liar Liar}

Also read

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. ~ J.D. Salinger

On the Blog

Spotlight on Laura Barnett: Authors Who Have Influenced My Work

Sunday Serenade with Aloi from Guiltless Reading

Armchair BEA Giveaway ~ Congratulations Autumn for being randomly selected winner

Armchair BEA: Aesthetics for Books and Blogs

Armchair BEA: Introductions

June Books I Can’t Wait to Read


Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman



Wishing you and your family a most wonderful June!



Sunday Serenade with Aloi from Guiltless Reading

May 15, 2016 Book Talk 8

guiltless reading


I’m thrilled to bring you Aloi of Guiltless Reading for Sunday Serenade. Aloi is tireless in her dedication to getting the Nobels into everyone’s hands, sharing incredible tips and resources and being a great blogging friend to many, including me! Truly, Aloi is a sweetheart and champion of books. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much I did!

You’ve got several resources and activities on your site for both the reader and the blogger. Can you share a bit about Read the Nobels, Author Reader Connect, Travel the World in Books and all the additional extras you share?  

When you list everything out like that, it seems like such a lot! All these “resources” pretty much evolved out of my own interests, which to say the least, are eclectic and numerous. I get inspired by so many things that my blog seems to go off on many tangents. But since book bloggers and authors come by the blog, it was only natural that everything revolved around reading, literature, and anything even remotely bookish.

Bookmark Monday has been around since 2009. I simply started posting pics of my bookmarks or anything fun, creative, or quirky that I came across online. I later decided to make it a meme since I know that a lot of readers love bookmarks too! Despite it not having too many participants at any given time, bookmarks fascinate me too much for me to put an end to this meme. I also enjoy graphic design so when I get the urge to make something … be careful, I’ll put up a free printable bookmarks.

Author Reader Connect had its beginnings in 2013 but I only gave its name in 2016. Now I’m trying to more actively promote it. Basically, it’s a self-organizing book list that both book bloggers and authors can access — authors can offer up a book for review or a book blogger can get contact info of authors to request a book to review. Years ago I was getting so many requests from authors, the pressure was on and I didn’t know what to do. (In retrospect, I just had a hard time saying “no.” I was on crazy one-review-a-week sked as I barely turned anyone down. Obviously all this fizzled out. I couldn’t sustain that level of reading and reviewing.) Hopefully this resource gets some more love!

Read the Nobels is another very old idea — 2007ish. At the time, reading award-winning literature like the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Newbery, etc. was a thing. I dedicate the idea of the blog to Gabriel Garcia Marquez who I was surprised to learn is a Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. Since there was no blog specifically for reading Nobel Prize-winning literature, I decided to start one. It’s a perpetual challenge so it has people coming and going. I’m pretty dang proud that despite a small following, it attracts very keen, focused readers. And when I read others’ reviews, it only inspires me to seek out more Nobels! (my TBR for Nobels alone is pretty ridiculous). As a side project,  I started creating Nobel wallpapers because I couldn’t find any existing to feature. Besides, I get to pick who to feature that way!

Travel the World in Books wasn’t my brainchild (yo, special shout out to my awesome co-hosts Mom’s Small Victories, I’m Lost in Books, Savvy Working Girl and Fictional 100)! In practice, I had always been attracted to stories set all over the world, written by authors from different countries, and exploring other cultures. I have a wunderlust in reading (and life, if I had the money!). It was only a matter of time that I discovered this particular reading challenge (yet another perpetual one – do you see a pattern here?). I joined the challenge in 2014, even hosting a mini challenge (with full tutorial) that encouraged people to create their Google Book Map to keep track of their reads. I loved the whole experience, particularly interacting with such an eager group of readers   … and I was over-the-top excited when the hosts invited me to co-host! It’s great to be part of a project with some wonderful people. It adds a more personal and fun dimension to the reading experience.

I can see where the Author Reader Connect would be immensely helpful – especially for newer bloggers and authors. The ability or rather lack thereof, to say ‘no’ is something I think us readers are all cursed with! I know I have such a hard time saying no, especially after I read a pitch then I’m a goner for sure!

On your site there are strategically placed ads and affiliate relationships featured as well. How long have you worked with ad agencies and affiliates? Are you pleased with the results? What advice would you give to other book bloggers about branching into ads and affiliate marketing?

Ok, this is a no-holds barred admission: I have a love-hate relationship with monetizing. There are a few book-focused bloggers out there who have delved into this rather laden topic. One particular post is by Ashley of NoseGraze (read Making Money from your blog – it’s nothing to be ashamed about)  which got me thinking about this whole dilemma of book bloggers being treated differently from other niche bloggers (say, lifestyle blogger). The post challenges the “norm” of book bloggers practically “working for free” promoting books.

I can’t remember when I first started dabbling with affiliate marketing, it’s been on and off because the payback is so small that it is disheartening. I’ve contemplated not monetizing at all, then I swing to the opposite. Despite being in the blogging scene for such a long time, I am in limbo at the moment and it’s a little embarrassing to admit it since I probably should’ve figured this out early, right? This recent slew of sign-ups with affiliates (only products or services I personally like, use, or willingly buy) is an experiment-of-sorts to see if I can meet this simple goal: make enough to cover the cost of a domain name, hosting and internet fees for a year.

To be totally honest about it, given my current setup, I can’t even cover my basics. That’s why I am still on a free platform, I haven’t bought my own domain and I pretty much do things by myself. The few dollars here and there usually covers a book giveaway or a new blog theme. Definitely cannot quit the day job!

So why do I still do it? I’m hoping that if I stick to this for a full  year, I may just make my goal. If I don’t try it, I’ll never know if I can actually do it. I’m sorry to disappoint every book blogger out there who hopes to makes truckloads of money reviewing books they love! If there is anyone out in book blogging also struggling with this, or if anyone out there has advice for me, I’d love to chat.I’m obviously the worst person to give advice on this topic. Although, one thing is clear to me: you have to be very clear about the goals for your blog.

[Tweet “Discussing Book blogging, monetizing and time management with @guiltlessreader”]

Ashley’s post is one I go back to often – she’s right. We are basically unpaid marketers for publishers and authors. I’ve struggled with that as I am on a self-hosted WordPress site and I do pay for my domain. I’ve also vacillated between having ads and not running ads. I’d love to talk with you more about this topic! Anyone else want to chime in on the topic please do so!

Time management. Such a huge topic. How do you find the time to read, blog and ‘live this thing called life?’ {sorry, just had to throw in a Prince reference}!

I just go for it. I love to read so I make the time for it, even if it’s little pockets of time in my week. The same goes for blogging — I enjoy it so I make the time for it. Obviously I have obligations like everyone else so those always are top priority. I think what helps me is that I don’t overthink things and I never overschedule myself if I can help it. Also if things don’t go over as planned, I don’t dwell on it. Somehow it all works out. There is no magic formula — if work and family take up more time, something else just has to give, so sorry, reading and blogging. Or, I just go to bed later, once in a while. 🙂 (Sidenote: Aww, I know we’re all going to miss Prince!)

That’s fantastic you work at not over scheduling yourself! It’s something I struggle with always! You make a great point, though, about loving to read and blog, so you make time for it. That comes through in your blog. I’ve also been so impressed at your dedication to the blogging community. Your passion for reading and blogging are admirable!

What advice would you give to a blogger who wants to expand their focus as you did with starting Read the Nobels and Author Blogger Connect?

Wow, Stacy, you make me sound like I have this grand plan! My blog in its present form came about pretty serendipitously. I guess what I’d suggest is if you have an interest, or are itching to do something, pursue it in the way that makes sense to you. If it works out, you’ll reap the rewards. If it doesn’t, at the least you learned something. So either way, take the risk and enjoy the ride!

Wait, don’t you have a grand plan Aloi? I swear I read that somewhere “Aloi’s Grand Plan” 😉

Thank you Aloi for your candidness and time and being willing to talk monetization! I’ve long admired your blog, and I’m so thankful to be getting to know you better!

Friends, you can find Aloi at  Guiltless Reading  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |

If you’re new to Guiltless Reading, check out the fantastic free digital wallpaper Aloi shares here!



Armchair BEA: Aesthetics for Books and Blogs

May 12, 2016 Armchair BEA, Book Talk 12

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads


Today’s topic is all about image – book covers and blog sites.

First, let me ask – how often do YOU judge a book by the cover?

Book Covers

I’ll admit I’m a book snob when it comes to the covers. If the cover doesn’t interest me then rarely will I pick up the book to see if the inside interests me. For that reason I hardly ever give self-published books a look. I feel like if an author spends inordinate amounts of time writing a book then the cover should reflect the dedication and love that went into writing the book – does that make sense? and like I mentioned in the beginning – I know I’m a book snob – I confess. I admit. 😉 I admire those who can pick up any book and read it, regardless of the cover.

Here’s a couple of self-published books that I think got it right {and for that reason, I read both, and enjoyed each immensely!} Layton Green’s The Summoner and Timothy Ashby’s Devil’s Den.


Blog Branding

A couple of years ago I redesigned my blog to the look I have today. I’ve gone through countless tweaks and overhauls throughout the 7 years I’ve been blogging. This design has stuck around longer than any other. As I have eclectic book tastes and go in spells of liking one genre more than another, the nameless books in the header suit my blog and me. For awhile I was super-into historical fiction but this year I’m leaning more towards mystery/thriller/almost-horror. I went through a spell of young adult and while I still love Libba Bray and Jennifer Donnelly, I’m back into literary fiction. Eclectic/schizophrenic tastes, right?

The muted colors and white space are all deliberate as is the hopefully, dark-enough and large-enough to read font. I have problems reading too-light font and overly-bright colors give me eye strain. My desire is to make The Novel Life as readable and enjoyable as possible. With that said, I’m always open to suggestions – LOVE suggestions and how I can improve upon the design.

I’ve been looking at changing the theme to a more magazine-type although keeping the same images and colors. Both The Book Wheel and Parchment Girl have themes that I’ve been eyeing for awhile. I like that you can see multiple posts all on the same page and then click on the one you want to read. My problem is I haven’t quite had time lately to figure out how to get it all designed. . .I’d love to know your thoughts! Keep everything the same or change to a magazine-type?

Any other recommendations? Please do critique!

Happy ABEA week my friends! and BEA week to all those enjoying Chicago 🙂