Thursday, July 29, 2010

There's Nothing Worse Than...

...having a problem you can't fix. That's right, this is another installment of Vicki's Technological Woes.

Remember my post about backing up things because my external hard drive died? And my plan was to purchase another external drive to back everything up on? Well, it's been forever (3 months) but I finally did it.

Or, my dad did it for me.

Tuesday I got an early birthday present: a 2TB (2 TRILLION byte) external hard drive with automatic backup software. It's black and shiny and quiet and not too big and I love it! Or...well, I would love it if I could get the darn thing to work.

I plugged it in Tuesday night into my USB hub and about 15 seconds later I get the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) and my computer restarts. I go ahead and let it boot up, wait as all my start-up programs get started...and the BSOD comes up again and restarts - all before I can see the name of the error.

Rinse and repeat two more times.

The last time, though, I FINALLY get a glance at the error name:
Bad Pool Header
Okay! Now I know what to look for! I unplug the hard drive, let everything boot up, open Firefox, pop up Google and get to searching.

A few of the sites tell me it's a problem with my Registry, which is essentially the go-to guide for how a computer runs, and that if I purchase a Registry Cleaner software, it'll fix my problem. Luckily, I already have a free program that cleans my Registry (CCleaner is awesome), so I go to it. I clean the registry, plug in the drive and...

Bad Pool Header

Okay... Well, when I ran my anti-virus diagnostics program, it said I had low memory...and sometimes when I leave my laptop on for long periods of time (remember, Windows XP), like a week, it gets the BSOD from lack of memory...

So on the next restart, I go into my laptop settings and enable the slow-start Memory Test, which pretty much slows everything down, but should ensure a safer start. I also figure I should connect the drive directly to my laptop, instead of through the hub.


The auto-run software installs, I get through a back-up of my laptop in about an hour, and I figure now's the time to back-up my old hard drive. I "safely remove" the new drive and plug it back into the USB hub...

Bad Pool Header

Okay...maybe it doesn't like receiving the new drive except at boot-up? The computer restarts (with the drive plugged into the hub) and crashes again. I unplug the drive, and head back to Google.

This time I find sources that say the Bad Pool Header is specifically a driver error. Drivers are the software that hardware requires to tell the computer how to use it. So, that installation CD that came with your printer? In addition to the programs it had you install, it also gave your computer its driver information, essentially telling it how to run the printer. Or any other hardware you might want to tack on (web cams, wireless components, disk drives, external hard drives).

My external hard drives are both plug-n-play—they have the driver information in an auto-play format, so as soon as they're plugged in, they install the driver info automatically. But...apparently something isn't gelling, and the computer isn't liking the hard drive's driver.

Most of the advice is to uninstall the problem driver(s) and then reinstall it, since the old version was probably corrupted. But...I've done that about 5 times now and the computer still crashes every time the new hard drive is plugged in.

Another solution I thought might work was plugging the hard drive directly into the laptop again. My USB hub is old and (probably) isn't USB 2.0 compatible, which is what the new hard drive requires. So I've booted it a few times with it hooked directly in...and still only get crashes.

By now, you're probably all thinking it's something faulty with the new hard drive. works on my sister's computer just fine. Plugged it in, denied installing the software, copied everything from my old external drive onto it (with 1.7TB freespace still available), still works great.

So now I've come down to the decision of resetting my laptop—wiping everything and starting over with the factory CDs, then re-installing all my programs and transferring all my documents over from the new hard drive. Quick and easy, right? Well, not quick, actually, since it'll take many hours and many restarts to get all the Windows Updates taken care of, then a few more to install my programs and printers and...

And what if it doesn't work? And all my documents are still stuck on my external hard drive?

This problem has haunted me every hour since Tuesday night. I seriously worked on it all day yesterday (one of the only perks about being unemployed) but with nothing to show for it. I just can't fix the problem. Sure, I can erase everything and start at the top, crossing my fingers and hoping it'll be okay, but I'll never know exactly what went wrong. I wouldn't have fixed it.

On the bright side, at least I'm getting all this frustration out before my birthday.

Monday, July 26, 2010


by Sandra Marks

Cheri Tyne is the queen of Grant's View High school. She's head cheerleader, on her way to being valedictorian, and her boyfriend, Nick, is thinking about proposing. Or so she's heard. She's just got a few more things to check off her list, and she'll be a shoo-in for Harvard. Next up, sponsoring a new student.

Joelle Rainer just moved in from Alaska and is signed up for the sponsoring program. She's reluctant at first, but when she sees her sponsor, she immediately reconsiders. The girl is gorgeous, kind, funny, smart, and someone she feels safe around.

The two become fast friends, and as time goes on they get closer and closer. Now they're drawing all the wrong sort of attention. Joelle's parents try to set her up with her neighbor. Nick is getting suspicious, and Cheri's not sure what to tell him. Or even what to tell herself.

With the prom approaching, what will the two decide? Can they make themselves and their parents happy, or will they have to choose one or the other?

Eh, probably not.

I found a couple postings of this Summer Break Reading Challenge, where people had to use random generators to make a book cover and then write a synopsis for it. Even though I was late in finding and participating, I figured there wasn't any harm in participating. It looked fun.

Making the cover was a lot of fun (I really lucked out on that picture)...writing the synopsis for the book was hard! Considering Realistic-YA is NOT my forte, I had a hard time figuring out what to write. I mean, there's a girl in a swimsuit (or underwear...) dangling a cherry from her finger to someone shorter or sitting down (hence the angle). Oookay, other than being bizarrely similar to the Twilight cover, that doesn't give me much.

My other idea was Cheri sponsoring a child genius who made her life a living hell. And, given my choice, I would rather read about that. Honestly, I'm not much into romance, and I'd prefer reading about YA dysfunctional friendships than serious relationships (straight or otherwise).

So, if you saw this cover in a bookstore, would you pick it up? What would you think the story was about? Can you come up with a better storyline?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox
In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren

In the past two weeks I've...

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixThe Tough Guide to FantasylandHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ~ J.K. Rowling
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland ~ Diane Wynne Jones
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince ~ J.K. Rowling
From Goodwill

City of Bones (Book & Audio) ~ Cassandra Clare
City of Ashes (Book & Audio) ~ Cassandra Clare
City of Glass (Book & Audio) ~ Cassandra Clare
Eragon (Audiobook) ~ Christopher Paolini
The Will of the Empress (Audiobook) ~ Tamora Pierce
From My Library

HungerTrickster's Girl
Hunger (e-ARC) ~ Jackie Morse Kessler
Trickster's Girl (e-ARC) ~ Hilari Bell
From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley
(My First ARCs!!!)

And Won
What the DickensThe Hearts of HorsesA Matter of MagicSea Change
What The Dickens ~ Gregory Maguire
The Hearts of Horses ~ Molly Gloss
From Kate at A Reader's Ramblings
A Matter of Magic ~ Patricia C. Wrede
From Heather at Buried in Books
Sea Change ~ Aimee Friedman
& A Handmade Bamboo Beach Mat
From Chick Lit Teens

Friday, July 23, 2010

Northanger Abbey Chapters 1-9 #NARead

I'm taking part in a read-along group hosted at Reading with Tequila. For the next few weeks we'll be taking a few chapters each week and blogging/chatting about them. This first week was just the first 9 chapters (about 50 pages), so there's still time to sign up and join us, if you're interested.

~ Northanger Abbey ~
by Jane Austen
Chapters 1 - 9

Catherine Morland is a heroine. You know, one of those unfortunate girls who have to deal with awful families, are locked up in castles, or have to overcome deadly plots, but manage to power through it all and fall madly in love with an extraordinary boy? Only problem is her family is lovingly ordinary. Oh, and she lives nowhere near a castle. And she doesn't seem to have anyone plotting against her. And none of the boys around town seem to be anything extraordinary.

And, what's more, Catherine is lacking the heroine's mind and skill. She's never attended to animals or plants, music evades her interest, lessons come at a normal speed, drawing is merely doodling, and she has never once known something inherently.

But all that could should will change when family friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen invite Catherine along on a trip to Bath. Surely this is the adventure she's been waiting for. These two will soon prove to be wicked, and she'll be locked up and finding her handsome hero in no time!

Or they could be two very agreeable people who bear the girl no ill will and have in mind her best interests.

Drat. Well, if her companions are set on being agreeable, she'll just have to find a dreadful situation to overcome. Surely there should be plenty of those in Bath! Shouldn't there?

Here's the storyline so far:

Catherine and Mrs. Allen know no one in Bath, and are thus extremely uncomfortable at the social balls they attend. After a few of these unfortunate experiences, Catherine is introduced to a handsome, humorous, good-natured young man named Mr. Tilney. After a delightful conversation and a parting of ways, she is eager to meet him again.

However, at the next ball-type-thing he is nowhere to be seen. Mrs. Allen despairs that they are once again friendless in this city. Luckily an old acquaintance, Mrs. Thorpe, surfaces and (re)introduces herself and her daughters. The eldest, Isabella, realizes that Catherine is the sister of her brother's best friend, and the two are soon inseparable. They share a love for the Gothic (especially Udolpho), and, of course, for twittering on about prospective boys, especially the elusive (and that much more appealing) Mr. Tilney.

When both their brothers (James Morland and John Thorpe) make a surprise visit, the duo quickly becomes a quartet, each paired off with the other's sibling. Catherine is pleased to finally have someone to fill the role Mr. Tilney had vacated (both as an interest and a dance partner), until Mr. Tilney makes his return! Now she's stuck running around with John, who is becoming less and less agreeable, when she would most like to become more closely acquainted with the mysterious and charming Mr. Tilney.

What is a heroine to do!?*

I'm finding the whole novel rather enjoyable so far. Heh, I've even started adopting the language style—I usually find it hard not to. Though it's much more slowly paced than the books I've just come off of, I can't help but enjoy Austen's sophisticated snarky humor.

She expertly describes the two brothers, John and James, as complete asses, without actually coming right out and saying it. And trust me, they are asses. The way they talk about women to women is just...bitch-slap worthy: "'[John] is as good-natured a fellow as ever lived; a little of a rattle; but that will recommend him to your sex I believe...'" Ugh! Makes me want to toss the book across the room on the off-chance that he might feel it.

I think what makes reading this the most enjoyable is drawing parallels to other literature. Northanger Abbey is a satire or parody of the Gothic novel, after all. I haven't read The Mysteries of Udolpho, which is what they most constantly refer to, but there are a few more modern books I'm finding particularly fitting. Twilight happens to be one of them.

I can see my follower list dwindling now... But just think about it for a second. A heroine (Bella) is thrust into an uncomfortable environment (boring old Forks/a supernatural war), and manages (dramatically) to cope the best she can. Suddenly, this mysterious boy (Edward) appears and she knows there's something different about him, something dangerous. Still, despite the danger, she pursues him. He reveals his secret (vampire), it is revealed that she possesses a unique skill (mental blockage), and they fall irrevocably in love with each other. Together they must defeat the villains (James, Victoria, the Volturi) who seek their destruction.

According to Wikipedia:
Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, monks, nuns, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, angels, fallen angels, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew and the Devil himself.
So, see where I'm coming from? It's actually almost too easy to compare Northanger Abbey with Nightlight, the Harvard Lampoon parody of Twilight. At least, so far. We'll see how much further the comparison goes. In the meantime, I'm finding it pretty hilarious drawing comparisons between Bella and Catherine.

Next up, chapters 10-15!

* This recap was originally as long as the entire post is now. But I figured most people interested in this post were or would soon be reading the book themselves, so I annotated it immensely.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (4)

Book Blogger Hop
Tell us about the book(s) you are currently reading!

Well, alright then.

For the first time in a long time, I'm actually reading two books at the moment:

Northanger Abbey
~ Northanger Abbey ~
by Jane Austen

I'll be reading this one for a while, actually. See, I'm taking part in a read-along group (hosted at Reading with Tequila) and we're taking a few chapters each week and blogging/chatting about them. This first week was just the first 9 chapters (about 50 pages), so there's still time to sign up and join us.

Catherine Morland pictures herself a heroine, but is finding it quite difficult to play the part. She's not all that skilled, no one is acting villainous toward her, and she can't even find a dashing young man to fall hopelessly in love with. The book is actually a sort of parody of gothic novels, so I'm finding it quite humorous. Especially if I think of it in terms of Bella of Twilight...or perhaps more appropriately, the parody book, Nightlight.

City of Bones
~ City of Bones ~
by Cassandra Clare

Okay, so I'm not even a full chapter in yet. Forgive me, but I felt I needed a break after the reading binge I forced upon myself with the Young Wizards series. Still, I am intrigued at the premise, if not a little miffed that the demon's been snuffed out before I can get to know him. Yes, I'm a demon sympathizer, but what do you expect when you've been writing about one for nearly 5 years?

When Clary Fray heads out to a nightclub, the last thing she suspects she'll do is witness a murder. Much less a murder of a demon by three teens covered in strange tattoos calling themselves Shadowhunters.

Feel free to post a link to your own blog in the comments,
and be sure to check out other blog-hoppers at Crazy-for-Books' blog!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wonder-No-More Wednesday (3)

Wonder-No-More Wednesday Rules:

1. Answer every question to the best of your ability.
No one or two-word responses. Take some time with your replies.

 2. Each question must at least be acknowledged.
If you're uncomfortable providing a truthful response,
at least thank the commenter for their curiosity.

3. If there are no questions, provide a question of your own.
What're you reading? How was your day? What'd you do this weekend?
And then, of course, respond to it.
There's no reason you can't indulge your readers' curiosity.

This Meme may be copied on your own pages, but please link it back to me and my blog.
Thank you!

Julianne of Café Pearl asks:
My reviews read like James Joyce! Is that a bad thing?
~ Hmmm. Not having read anything of his, I'm not quite sure. However, since I have heard of Ulysses, I'd say he's at least notable.
    Plus, from what I've read on Wiki, "Each chapter [of Ulysses] employs its own literary style, and parodies a specific episode in Homer's Odyssey. Furthermore, each chapter is associated with a specific colour, art or science, and bodily organ. This combination of kaleidoscopic writing with an extreme formal schematic structure renders the book a major contribution to the development of 20th-century modernist literature."
    So, no, I'd say it isn't a bad thing at all!

And since that was the only question asked this week, I'm going to have to ask my readers a question.

What is the purpose of Blog Buttons? Should I make one?
~ I've been pondering this for some time, seeing them on various blogs I visit, but I've never actually figured out what they're for... A little help?

And That's A Wrap!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Write Like...!?!

If you haven't heard about this amazing site, you should kick yourself for not being more on the ball. Okay, fine, I'll clue you in. I Write Like... uses some sort of algorithm to compare your writing style to that of other authors, then tells you who you compare to.

I apparently follow a blog written by J.R.R. Tolkien/Robert Louis Stevenson/Arthur C. Clarke. Who knew?

Different pieces usually turn up different authors, so it's far too easy to be flattered by the variety of (successful) results.

Anyway, here's who I write like:

My Demonic Rambling snippet got

 David Foster Wallace

My (unpolished) werewolf story received

Stephen King

AND my story Nothing Personal yielded...


Well, here's hoping that I have a very lucrative writing career

Who do you write like?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mars Magic

Finally! The moment you've been waiting for! The latest installment of the Young Wizards series! There shouldn't be any spoilers below EXCEPT details concerning who is still alive at the beginning. If you've followed the series so far, these shouldn't come as any surprise to you. If, however, you are one or two books behind, it might take away some of the suspense.

And so, without further adieu...

A Wizard of Mars
~A Wizard of Mars~
Young Wizards Series
Book 9
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Earth has always had an interesting relationship with the red planet. Be it dreams of exploration and colonization, or nightmares of giant space-invaders, Mars seems to have always held a special (and frightening) place in our minds.

And we're not alone. Other species in our galaxy have felt this strange connection to Mars as well. But even their science is at a loss. Looks like it's up to wizards to find some answers.

Problem is, wizards have been looking for answers for over 200 years! And still nothing has surfaced to shed any enlightenment on the situation. Well, until now.

Nita, Kit and a few familiar faces are assigned to the Mars study team when a strange item is uncovered. Kit's been a little over-enthusiastic about Mars lately, and so wastes no time in doing a little...independent study. When the artifact suddenly releases a strange wizardry, it's up to Kit and his buddies to set things right before other, non-wizardly eyes see things they shouldn't.

Meanwhile, Nita's got some problems of her own. Dairine's been fired up ever since Roshaun vanished, traveling to Wellakh every chance she can, and it's starting to worry Nita and her dad. Then there's the training she's doing to try and hone her oracular powers, which is going just swimmingly, thank you very much. Oh, and Kit's constant trips to Mars are beginning to verge on obsessive, making Nita wonder if there's something more going on up there.

Sometimes it's a pain to be right.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (3)

Book Blogger Hop
Right this instant,
what book(s) are you DYING to get your hands on?
(past, present or future)

Hmm, that's a good question.

I'm actually not in the middle of any series with cliffhangers...
but I suppose there are a few titles that I'm eager for.

~ Personal Demons ~
by Lisa Desrochers

Now, it may be that I'm a sucker for awesome-looking covers. Or it may be that I've been on a bit of a demon streak ever since I started planning my own book. All I know is that if this has even half of the intrigue that it promises, it's going to be one hell (heh, no preferences here) of a read.

Check out Lisa's Blog for sneak peaks and updates.
~ Raised By Wolves ~
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

It should be no secret that I'm a werewolf fan, so how on earth could I not want this book? Granted, I don't think the main character is a werewolf, herself, but I can put that aside so long as she's strong and well-rounded, which I've heard she is.

Check out the author's LiveJournal for more information.
~ Mistwood ~
by Leah Cypess

Another one that's out already, but darn my schedule, I can't work it in. Two things I can't resist: shapeshifters and kick-ass heroines. Granted, Isabel doesn't know if she's either one of these yet, but I think I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. I can't wait to see if she ranks as high as Daine (Tamora Pierce) or Mercy (Patricia Briggs).

Check out Leah's site for more info.
~ Harry Potter Encyclopedia ~
by J. K. Rowling

Jokingly named The Scottish Book, I don't think there's any Potter Fan on the planet who wouldn't rush to stores for what very well may be the final piece of the Potter Collection. Though I haven't heard any more progress about it for some time, I still think and dream about it every so often.

Keep your eyes trained on Rowling's website for any new updates.

~ 10th Young Wizards Book ~
by Diane Duane

I know I haven't yet posted my review of #9, A Wizard of Mars (it should be up today or tomorrow), but I must say I'm eagerly awaiting #10. There was a mystery started at the end of #8, and it was not addressed at all in #9, so I'm hoping (and trusting) Duane doesn't leave us hanging through another book before tackling it.

Feel free to post a link to your own blog in the comments,
and be sure to check out other blog-hoppers at Crazy-for-Books' blog!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wonder-No-More Wednesday (2)

Wonder-No-More Wednesday Rules:

1. Answer every question to the best of your ability.
No one or two-word responses. Take some time with your replies.

 2. Each question must at least be acknowledged.
If you're uncomfortable providing a truthful response,
at least thank the commenter for their curiosity.

3. If there are no questions, provide a question of your own.
What're you reading? How was your day? What'd you do this weekend?
And then, of course, respond to it.
There's no reason you can't indulge your readers' curiosity.

This Meme may be copied on your own pages, but please link it back to me and my blog.
Thank you!

Ariel of Must Love Books asks:
Have you ever read anything by Kim Harrison?
~ No. I've seen her various books and series at the bookstores a lot. And I believe I even heard her speak at the local Powell's when her last book came out earlier this year. But I haven't yet taken the plunge and dived into her (slightly daunting) series. She is on my list, though.

And since that was the only question asked this week, I'll go ahead and provide one of my own:

How many unread books do you own?
~ Well, let's see... 102 fiction books, 16 non-fiction. I'd give an excuse, but really I can't come up with one. Though, I will say that I wouldn't be able to own NEARLY that many extra books if they were all in hardcover. *wink*

And That's A Wrap!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wizard's Holiday puts Wizards At War

Here is the last duo of installments of the Young Wizards series. Only the latest release left to go after this. There shouldn't be any spoilers below EXCEPT details concerning who is still alive (and possibly narrating) at the beginning of each book.

If you still haven't finished any previous book and you DON'T want to know who's still alive and who isn't, DO NOT READ ON!

And so, without further adieu...

Wizard's Holiday
~Wizard's Holiday~
Young Wizards Series
Book 7
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Nita's ready for a vacation. A real vacation this time. Not something forced on her by her parents or The Powers That Be. At least Spring Break has arrived. Two whole weeks off from school, with nothing but voluntary wizardry to take up her time. Still, even that might be nice to get away from...

Good thing Dairine has done her research. Apparently there's a sort of Wizard Exchange-Program in place so that wizards can witness other species' techniques of wizardry without having to deal with the Lone Power.

Nita and Kit jump at the chance, and soon enough they're in the opposite arm of the galaxy, on the planet of Alaalu. White, sandy beaches, hardly any storms, a barter economy, no garbage, an absence of death and pain, flying's a paradise!

Meanwhile, Dairine and her dad get to host three alien exchanges: Filif, a walking, talking Christmas tree with a love for brightly colored clothes; Sker'ret, a giant, purple centipede with an unending hunger for any matter; and Roshaun, a humanoid prince with an attitude that sends Dairine up the wall.

But, whether in the paradise of Alaalu or in the chaos of home, when wizardry's involved, nothing's ever as it seems.

I found this book utterly enjoyable. Nita and Kit trade off narrating half of the book, and Dairine takes the other. On the one hand, you're glad for Nita and Kit to finally get some time off, but at the same time you wish that there was a little excitement. That's where Dairine's group comes in, giving us a bit of the chaos and mayhem we've come to expect. It has a healthy balance of humor and philosophy—not an easy balance to make.

I absolutely loved the new wizards. Sure, Nita, Kit and Dairine have carried us through six books just fine, and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but Dairine's three visitors really steal the show. Dinner is especially fun. I mean, just imagine telling a sentient alien tree that here it is a normal custom to eat plants. Or try explaining to a walking garbage disposal which items in a kitchen are food, and which aren't.

Possibly the most surprising feat, to which I have to compliment the author on, is that for the first time I can recall, I've liked the Lone Power. Yes, He/She/It is back. Why wouldn't It be? I won't go into too much detail, but I found the encounter with It extremely enjoyable. Maybe it's me falling for the proverbial 'Bad Boy', but to take Evil and create a character from it, that is truly something to applaud.

This book poses some fascinating philosophical questions by the end. About death and entropy, happiness and change. It's definitely a great topic for book clubs, or even to discuss with friends and family. If anyone has read this book and would like to start a discussion, let me know and I'll make a post specifically for it. As it is, however, I don't want to give too much away.

If I had any complaint, it would be about the resolution to Dairine's conflict. There's all this build-up, and then it just kind of...happens, just like that. No fireworks. No explanation. Just poof, okay, let's go. So much for that.

Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 Hours

Wizards at War
~Wizards at War~
Young Wizards Series
Book 8
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

If Dairine's computer's incessant chanting of 'Uh-oh' are any indication, there's about to be trouble.

When Tom and Carl ask to come over, Nita, Kit, Dairine and their guests hope it's just a normal house call. Maybe a little debrief of why there were suddenly no higher-ranking wizards around last week (during the events of Wizard's Holiday)? But surely nothing earth-shattering after all the work they just went through, right?


A malevolent blackness is pushing the universe apart, warping older wizards' perceptions, and tearing the very fabric of wizardry. Soon no adult wizard will remember their wizardry and shortly after that, wizardry itself will fail to function. It's up to the young wizards of Earth and other planets to both protect their homes and battle the incoming threat.

But Nita, Kit and company have news of a secret weapon that not only will drive back this darkness, but may set the Lone Power back a few notches, permanently. Only problem is they have no idea what it is or where it is.

It'll be a war for the history books, alright. That is, if there's any society left afterward...

If you were waiting for something to happen this series, wait no longer. This book seems to be what all the others were leading up to. It draws on and references every single other book in the series, and it does so masterfully.

I continued to love the characters. Not only do our alien friends return for more fleshing out, but a few older acquaintances show up for an encore. Histories, families, specialties and personalities are all built upon to delight even the most obscure fandom. Yes, even the one for the Lone Power.

This book is looooong. As such, its pacing is set at a chapterly stride. Each chapter provides an easy stopping point for you to breathe and re-group. Not saying that you won't want to continue reading at all, but I did find it a little difficult to read it all in one go. Simply put, there is a lot of information to pack in here and occasional (or frequent) breaks are helpful to aid digestion.

Once again, the narration is split between Nita, Kit and Dairine, though this time it seems more equally distributed. However, the narration isn't always obvious as there are a lot of other characters, environments and action to focus on. The 3rd-person limited tinges on 3rd-person omniscient at times, but not obviously or irritatingly so.

With so many narrators, so many locations, and the added effect that the narrators split up a lot in the middle, the plot can seem a little non-linear. It reminds me a little of The Two Towers in that respect, when it switches between the two hobbits and Aragorn's group (and Frodo's, if you're thinking about the movie). If you aren't reading it all at once, or if you start to get confused, perhaps taking notes on each narrator's journey might be best, instead of cataloging the entire plot linearly.

I assure you, if you've hung through the series this far, you are in for quite a treat.

Approximate Reading Time: 7.5 hours

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Wizard's Dilemma makes A Wizard Alone

Here again are the next two installments of the Young Wizards series. It's extremely difficult to keep spoilers out of the summaries and reviews, but I will do my best. Though, again, as far as who's still alive in each book...

If you still haven't finished any previous book and you DON'T want to know who's still alive and who isn't, DO NOT READ ON!

Also, if the 4th book was any indication, the series has made the transition from MG to YA. Starting in the next books, the situations are going to get more intense and a little less MG-friendly. Then again, if your MG reader has been keeping pace (and made it through book 4 without any gags), I don't think these are too far out of range. Language and 'adult content' are still within an 'advanced' MG reader's grasp, but some of the magical theory and relationships (the characters have moved into highschool) might negate their interest.

But, without further adieu...

The Wizard's Dilemma
~The Wizard's Dilemma~
Young Wizards Series
Book 5
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Nita's having some problems.

First, she's started high school, and while she's still considered brainy, her subjects aren't coming as easily to her as they used to. She's starting to feel kinda inadequate next to Kit, who, though a year younger, is still breezing through everything.

Going along with that, she's not quite sure what to do about Kit. Their partnership is hitting some rough water, and she can't understand how he can insist on being so...wrong! It's affecting their friendship and their wizardry, and she's not quite sure which is worse.

Finally, there's her mom. She's sick. Real sick. Sick enough that the doctors aren't too hopeful. But Nita knows things doctors don't, and can do things they can't. Most of all, Nita knows exactly Who's fault this is.

Now it's personal.

But with so much doubt in herself, Kit being uncooperative, and her mom's life at stake, can Nita find a cure in time? Or might she have to make a deal with that One she's devoted her life to fighting?

I cried a LOT in this book. When Nita's mom first gets sick. When they first visit the hospital. When Dairine breaks down. When Nita breaks down. And more. Just the thought of losing my own that... I'm warning you, there is a lot of realistic emotional distress here, for realistic reasons, and if your family or friends have experienced anything similar, it might hit even harder.

I found this book a lot more engaging than the last. Nita and Kit are back in the forefront of things. In fact, Kit gets his own share of narration, like Dairine did in High Wizardry. Though Nita is still in charge of the main plot, having Kit's side of things helps not only soften the blow of Nita's despair but also provides more insight into our co-main character which we have been so sorely lacking before now.

It's been really easy for me to forget how young these characters really are. I think in book one Nita was 12 and Kit was 11; here, Nita is 14 and Kit is 13. This is the first time I found them acting their ages consistently throughout the book. Yes, they're both dealing with magical responsibilities and situations well above a 'normal' teenager, but their internal and personal struggles finally feel real. Not to say the other books lacked for it, but it definitely set this one apart in a good way.

As far as complexity goes, this installment has its fair share of advanced content. Nita's attempt to help her mom requires experience and practice in a field she hasn't yet acquired, so she's sent to train in 'practice universes', where the natural or physical laws aren't quite as solid as in our universe. Tom and Carl get into some technobabble when trying to explain these, but Nita manages to translate things well enough for the reader. It's complex, but engaging at the same time.

If you managed to make it through book 4, this one is definitely worth the struggle. It's longer, and you might have to take a couple breaks to dry your eyes (luckily, I had the audiobook going through the tears), but you're compelled through it, even from the first page where Nita and her mom are engaged in a completely relatable conversation. If you care about the characters, which by this point it's practically impossible not to be, you'll read this book with a fervor.

Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 Hours

A Wizard Alone
~A Wizard Alone~
Young Wizards Series
Book 6
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

It's been a few months since the events in the last book, and Nita's still not fully recovered. I mean, when you've been through what she has, who could blame her?

Kit certainly doesn't. But life must go on, and a wizard's work is never done. Kit's been asked by Tom and Carl if he can look into another wizard's Ordeal. Normally it's not wise to interfere with the initial test, but Darryl's case is far from normal.

First off, he's been on Ordeal for over three months now. Usually combating the Lone Power is either won or lost in a matter of days. What in the world could be taking three months to accomplish?

But Kit soon finds that Darryl's problem doesn't necessarily lie in this world, and the world it does reside in, one shaped and twisted by autism, isn't easily traversed alone. And if he's not careful, he might just end up trapped there. Alone.

I found this one a little less compelling than the last, if only because there was more of a mystery about things rather than a straight-forward action-packed mission. Nita and Kit are both unsure of themselves, of what they're doing and then how to do it. There's a lot of probing and research involved rather than running in with guns blazing, which is understandable.

Kit takes the forefront of the plot this time around. With he and Nita again being split up for the majority of the time, the divided narration is a useful tool. Kit provides the majority of the action (though, it's more of a hunt than a chase), while Nita takes the more subtle inner feelings side of things. Of course, as the plot speeds up, both characters have their fair share of action.

Complexity-wise, the story and techobabble aren't very hard at all. The most complex idea has to be autism, which is presented and described in a way that's extremely easy to grasp. We're shown how Darryl thinks, how he processes things, what life is like to him, but at the same time we're given some facts about it so that we understand not to generalize the condition. In a field with so many questions and not very many answers, this book handles the subject with tact and respect, while interweaving creativity and art.

Ultimately, this book may not be the speediest roller coaster of the series, but it's certainly a compelling ride. Action-wise, it does drag, but your interest is more focused on the characters and the mysteries they try to work through. And even though the setting for the books is fantasy, what continually sets them apart is that the characters realistically work through a lot of real life issues. It's comforting, in a way, to learn that there's no magic spell for mending a bruised pride or a broken heart. It puts us on common ground with these heroes. And if we're alike in that way, what else might we be capable of?

Approximate Reading Time: 4.5 hours

Jumping The Gun

I think people are getting a little confused. Well, to be more precise, other people seem to be getting confused, then doing things to make ME confused.

If you haven't seen or heard about it already, I'm talking about Maggie Stiefvater's Linger, sequel to her other werewolf novel, Shiver. If you check Amazon or, really, any online retailer, they list the novel as being 'Available for Pre-Order' with the release date of 'July 20, 2010'. But it seems that someone decided to jump the gun, for if you walk into any Borders store it's sitting on the shelf, ready for purchase.

The 'official' release date has been moved up to the 13th, though I assume this applies mainly to online sellers. Maggie seems to be taking the news in stride, though I read somewhere that she had a release party and other publication-related events scheduled leading up to the 20th. Good for fans, not so good for publicity.

So, are the DO NOT OPEN UNTIL __ labels only for Harry Potter books? Are people simply misreading memos? Are these people being fired? Is this a huge problem for publishers/authors, or are fans simply getting an early treat? I know when movies are released a day (or two) early, there are major lawsuits involved—should book releases be treated any differently?

Should I just shut up and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth? What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (2)

Oi! What am I doing?!
Didn't I learn anything from the LAST time?!
Well, we'll see how it goes this time...
So here goes...
Book Blogger Hop
Tell us about some of your
Favorite Authors 

Why They Are Your Favorites!

Well, okay then.

~ Tamora Pierce ~
She introduced me to a world of strong, kick-butt heroines:
Alanna conquered my heart with her fiery passion
Daine won it with sheer magical awesomeness
Kel earned it with her determiniation
Sandry spun it a comfy nest
Tris showed it a soulmate
Daja won its admiration
and Alianne tricked it outright, but it loves her nonetheless.

~ Patricia Briggs ~
She was my introduction to Urban Fantasy (and werewolves) that rocked. After a horrible experience with Twilight, I was pretty desperate; surely someone had to know how vampires and werewolves were supposed to be! I got more than I bargained for when my dad got me Briggs' books. Not only was this paranormal society fantastically crafted, but it was presented through the eyes of another kick-butt heroine! And not only is the main character amazing, but practically every 'secondary' character is developed enough to lead a story! I have to admit, I'm a little tempted to go looking for a Ben of my own...

~ Diane Duane ~
Coming off of a Harry Potter buzz, and slightly forlorn at the diminishing prospect of receiving a letter from Hogwarts, Duane's Young Wizard series offered me a readily available alternative. Why wait for a silly piece of parchment to tell you there was magic when it's already so accessible in the world around us? Her world is not only whimsical and awe-inspiring, but calculated and real enough for those of us less open-minded. Needless to say, I don't feel at all foolish walking around with these 'kids' books.

~ Eoin Colfer ~
Having first found him through his Artemis Fowl series, I loved and laughed with his quirky characters. Then I found and bought his unrelated book, The Wish List, and found it surprisingly insightful and complex, with the main characters relatable and driving the plot. Finally, with his update to the Hitchhiker's series, I was once again taken by his characters to an extent even Adams hadn't managed. Colfer's books are driven by characters, pure and simple, and it's an amazing ride every time.

~ J.K. Rowling ~
I really don't have much to say about Rowling that hasn't already been said. She created a world that captured my imagination for the better part of 10 years. In the down-times between books I found fellow fans and made lifelong friends. These friends and I continued our adventures within her world long after the books were done. I thank her for her unending contribution to my life and the lives of so many others.

Feel free to post a link to your own blog in the comments,
and be sure to check out other blog-hoppers at Crazy-for-Books' blog!

In semi-related news, I'll be trying my hardest to read the last 4 Young Wizards books this weekend.
Continued reviews should be up shortly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

High Wizardry takes A Wizard Abroad

Continuing along, here are the next two installments of the Young Wizards series. There shouldn't be any spoilers below EXCEPT details on who is still alive at the beginning of each book.

I mean, it's a Middle Grade/Young Adult series, so you can kinda, sorta think about likeliness of killing off main characters...but at the same time, not everyone can come up against The Lone Power and survive...

So, if you still haven't finished the first or second book and you DON'T want to know who's still alive and who isn't, DO NOT READ ON!

Well, have I taken up enough space? Everyone out who wants to be? I think so.

High Wizardry
~High Wizardry~
Young Wizards Series
Book 3
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Nita's younger sister, Dairine, can be a bit of a know-it-all brat sometimes. But at least she doesn't know about wizardry.

Well, until their summer trip (in Deep Wizardry) when she saw Nita transform from whale to human right before her eyes. Now she sees the power and she'll go mad unless she can have it too. Understandable, since I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to perform magic.

She starts poking around Nita's stuff, getting more and more intrusive (much to Nita's annoyance), and eventually finds the Wizard's Oath page in her manual. Without a second thought, she reads it aloud, but when nothing happens she's just about ready to give up.

Well, if she can't have magic, the new computer might be the next best thing. Or it might just be the answer she was looking for. Sure enough, she starts off on a journey across the galaxy and beyond, all in the hopes of fighting and beating Darth Vader. Be careful what you wish for.

The younger the wizard, the greater their power. The greater their power, the more they can do against the Lone Power. And He doesn't like that one bit.

For a third book, and a noticeably shorter installment, this sure had a LOT packed into it. It had Dairine's main story, it had Nita and Kit's story chasing after her, it had battles, it had Creation, it had 'Heaven', it had philosophy, it had space ports, it had aliens, it had...more that I won't get into... Frankly, I found the amount of material a bit daunting for one book.

I have to admit, I did not like Dairine at all during my first time reading this. I was intensely loyal to Nita and felt Dairine was a huge threat to Nita's continuing to be a/the main character. Perhaps it was because I'm an older sister, myself. Sure, younger wizards are stronger, but that's no reason to throw Nita aside! I was honestly getting really anxious about it, even to the point I thought Nita might get killed off to make room for Dairine!

Um...okay, SPOILER ALERT...Nita hangs around for a long, long time... END SPOILER.

With my fears on that subject since resolved, I found Dairine a very likable character. She's strong, independent, smart, and snarky. She's only 10, maybe 11, but she's far from childish. In fact, I keep picturing her as a mouthy 15 or 16-year-old (though this may be interference from recalling later books—ah, the joys of re-reading). She also plays off Nita extremely well, creating a believable, and at time touching, sisterly relationship.

My largest problem with this book was its vast technical or abstract descriptions. Other worlds, space ports, galaxy views, and other astrological events play a huge part here, and some of the descriptions are simply too much to picture. This book is the most tempting for me to want a movie to be made, just so I can see what the heck we're supposed to be picturing. Thankfully, these aren't too central to the plot, so you can sorta skim along with minimal knowledge, but it might be nice to see an illustrated edition one day. (If you're really hung up on the space port, don't worry, it gets visited again in later books.)

Same thing goes for the 'aftermath' of the 'final battle'. There are some references made to historical/mythological figures, a lot of whom might not be known to MG readers. Sure, it's a good opportunity for research, but I'd almost give this over solely to the YA crowd. MG readers will like it for the action and the excitement of other worlds, but I think YA readers will be able to understand more of the techno-babble, mythology and spiritual references, and some budding 'feelings' between Kit and Nita.

Approximate Reading Time: 3.5 Hours

Okay, I also have a confession to make... I've been listening to the audiobooks sped-up again. But I only have just under a week to re-read 4 more books and then read the newest! Darn library deadlines.

ANYWAY! Back to audiobook talk. If you normally don't have the patience or interest in listening to audiobooks, I suggest making an exception for this one. The last cassette/disk of the set contains an exclusive interview with DIANE DUANE, herself! She talks about writing, how she came upon the magic in the books, and some advice for future writers! Do yourself a favor and at least check it out from a library for this special hour-long treat!

A Wizard Abroad
~A Wizard Abroad~
Young Wizards Series
Book 4
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Vacations are supposed to be fun, right? You wouldn't think so by the way Nita's acting. But then, being forced to go to Ireland because your mom wants to you 'take a break' from doing magic with your best friend might put a damper on anyone's day. And though Nita tries to weasel out of the trip with, "Wizards don't stop doing wizardry just because they're not at home. If I go on call in Ireland, I go on call, and there's nothing that can stop it," she had no idea how right she would be.

Strange things are happening in Ireland. Oh, there's occasional ghost or 'little people' sighting, but that's pretty normal. What's not normal is sliding through time without thinking about it. Or having rocks roll uphill. Or having ancient heroes and villains, unicorns and merfolk, and some less savory creatures suddenly appear and interact with the locals.

So it's up to Nita and some of the local wizards to set things back to right. But can she focus on the task at hand when she's missing Kit? Plus, she's not exactly on home turf anymore. And what about that mysterious, irritating, angry, cute Irish wizard, Ronan?

Much like the previous book, there is a LOT of information here. Ireland is as much a character as Nita, and it tries to emerge as fleshed out as possible. Sure, there's the regular scenic descriptions, the absurdity (to Americans) of driving on the left, the relentless offering of tea, and the slowness of life (in comparison to New York). But there's also history and myth, accents and language, magic and wizardry.

Frankly, I think this one is a bit indulgent of the author's own fascination with Ireland. The chapter titles are all in Irish/Celtic first, English second. There are long, long sections of Irish myth/legend/history, including lots of names which are never expanded upon. And even the history that seems important to the central storyline seems touched upon here and there, never laid out where it can be seen clearly. Though, this might be partly because of our narrator's role.

There's not much happening that directly involves Nita. The adult wizards (of which there are many, but only 3 or 4 named) are in charge for the majority of the book, while Nita runs around either trying to catch up on the knowledge, or simply observing or reacting to what's happening around her. She has a couple moments of teenage self-reflection, but those have as much to do with the plot as what shirt Dairine's wearing (Batman, in case you're curious). They say that when it comes to wizards, nothing is a coincidence, but nothing Nita does explains why she was important enough to be there in the first place!

Ireland is described as running at a slower pace. The cities, the country, even the wizards don't zip to action as quickly as they do in America (again, with NYC as the basis for comparison). And this book does anything but zip. There's very little action broken up by lots and lots of description. Even the final battle doesn't start until the last 40 pages (of 332). I think if I didn't have the audiobook running in my ear, I would have read it slower than usual, too.

Ultimately, I think this book has a more limited audience. If you're at all interested in Ireland or mythology, you'll probably enjoy it. If you're dead-set on following Nita as she grows up, you'll tolerate this book. If you're wanting action and adventure like in the other books, you might want to skip this one. That I can think of, there's only one thing (character) of importance that appears in other books. And even then, it's not until book #8.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wonder-No-More Wednesday (1)

Okay, really it's just an excuse to answer some of the questions I've so recently been receiving.

Each Wednesday I will answer any questions I've received as blog comments in the past week, well, to the best of my abilities, that is. Since there's no direct-reply option on comment feed, this seems to be the most logical solution to replying to my followers' and visitors' comments and questions.

This is a brand new and original Meme created right here in The Wolf's Den!

Wonder-No-More Wednesday Rules:

1. Answer every question to the best of your ability.
No one or two-word responses. Take some time with your replies.

 2. Each question must at least be acknowledged.
If you're uncomfortable providing a truthful response,
at least thank the commenter for their curiosity.

3. If there are no questions, provide a question of your own.
What're you reading? How was your day? What'd you do this weekend?
And then, of course, respond to it.
There's no reason you can't indulge your readers' curiosity.

This Meme may be copied on your own pages, but please link it back to me and my blog.
Thank you!

Firstly, a HUGE thanks to all my new followers and your compliments on my blog's appearance. It's really great to hear that the work I've done appeals to more than just myself. Even if, at the same time, it does make me a little more self conscious about it, too.

Savannah of Books With Bite asks:
Is [Diane Duane's Young Wizards series] similar to Harry Potter?
~ Yes and no, but mostly no. Where Rowling has a wizarding world cut off from the rest of society, Duane's wizards are very very much involved with the real world. The first book takes place in the middle of Manhattan, after all.
    Where HP has a villain with minions bent on conquering the world, these wizards are fighting what could be considered a god, the creator of death itself. In that respect, there's really no "end-goal" they're pushing for over the course of the series, it's more of a book-by-book, problem-by-problem theme.
    Yes, both series have young (teenage) wizards who grow and age through each book. But instead of a year's time in HP, the YW's events/books are only a few days or maybe a couple weeks. Thus, the YW kids age much slower (allowing for more books before they're no longer 'young').
    I could draw more comparisons, but I don't want to go into too much detail for fear of spoilers. Perhaps I'll make a longer, more detailed post after I finish reading and reviewing the series. In fact, plan on it.

Emma Michaels of The Thirteenth Chime asks:
My release date [for The Thirteenth Chime] is Friday the 13th, (August this year) isn't that crazy?
~ Yes, that is a little crazy, but an awesome kind of crazy. Crazier still is the fact that the release date is the day before my birthday. Hear that, people? Sounds like there's no reason why I shouldn't get this as a birthday present!
Blodeuedd of Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell asks:
How did you come up with the name for your blog?
~ Ooh, great question! It's a long story, actually, but I'll try to slim it down as much as possible.
    I've always loved wolves, probably starting at least as far back as Balto, but possibly longer. In 2005 I joined a Harry Potter fansite under the username StormyWolf, and shortly afterward I began to role-play a character of the same name. In the years since, my character acquired some wolfish characteristics and I acquired the nickname (from some friends) of Wolfy. Now, it's been quite some time since then. That character has 'retired', and most people refer to me by the first half of the username instead of the last. Yet...the affinity toward wolves still remains.
     However, I cannot take full credit for my blog's name. When starting this blog, I was scrambling for ideas of what to call it. One friend (who knows me primarily by my moniker) suggested The Wolf's Den and I glommed onto it immediately. Not only does it take in my online identity and love for wolves, but the Den can either mean the wolf's home or, in urban terms, a study or library. Perfect for a reader or writer's blog, no?
    As I continue outlining my UrbanFantasy/Paranormal novel, I've even found myself jotting in The Wolf's Den as a location. How's that for getting a head-start on publicizing? Hehe, but we'll see how far that goes.
Lit Addicted Brit of Lit Addicted Brit asks:
Including a 'read time' is a really good idea but how do you keep track?
~ Well, when it comes to reading along with audiobooks it's actually quite easy. For the few other books I have read and reviewed on this blog thusfar, I've made my best guess. I mostly like to read books in one sitting (often at night), so it's fairly easy to keep track.
    If I ever get in a situation where I'm stopping and starting a lot, I might just have to invest in one of those timer-bookmarks! I'd have to be pretty desperate for that, though, as I NEVER use bookmarks.
Elle of Media Molly asks:
...I need to practice commenting instead of just lurking most of the time. How else can bloggers know that people enjoy what they wrote?
~ Well, I see two options. They can either develop psychic abilities and use Cerebro to search the world for what people think about their blog, OR they can follow the yellow brick road to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and ask him.
    ...Or maybe we should just learn to lurk less and comment more? ;D
Josette of Books Love Me! asks:
Wow, how did you keep track of how many blogs you visited?
~ Well, there were 261 blogs listed at Crazy-For-Books' page, and I visited all of them, plus one. I didn't follow/add all of them because not all of them had Google-Follower as a part of their website (WordPress or LiveJournal).
Katie of Book Love asks:
Holy cow... This is crazy! Are you still following all of these [375] blogs?!
~ Ahem...yes. Yes, I am. It took me the better part of two days to get my Google Reader to say "Zero Blogs Unread". And since starting this post, I have 39 waiting to be read.
    I have, however, moved many blogs to my "Probationary" Folder and three to my "To-Delete" Folder. In one or two weeks, I'll start un-following the blogs I'm not interested in.
Katie of Book Love also asks:
[Concerning the Young Wizards series] Just based on your review... maybe a mixture of Wizards of Waverly Place and the Magic Treehouse series?
~ Wizards of Waverly Place is very, very comedic and concerns mostly the kids learning life-lessons in and around the magic use. The YW series is very much a life-or-death adventure series with some elements of comedy relief woven through. There's not so much a "the moral of the story is..." as there is a "Wow! I wanna see magic in the world like they do! -Well, I guess I can start out by..."
    Unfortunately, I've not read the Magic Treehouse series, so I can't really make a comparison there...

As many of you know, I posted MANY questions around the blogosphere over the weekend:
Care to venture into The Wolf's Den?
And, just because I feel like it, here's the best response to my question I've yet received:

Jen from In the Closet With a Bibliophile responds:
Hey Vicki, thanks for stopping by my blog. Lately I've had the notion to venture into a wolf's den, on the hope that it might spur my link to the world of werewolf, but alas I had not been able to. So, without further adieu yours is the first so I thank you! :D I'll be following you to see what lovely wolfy things you provide.
Oh, and though you've all been so kind and haven't asked this yet, I'll go ahead and do it for you...

All my followers ask:
Yo! Where's that latest update of the Young Wizards series you promised us "Tuesday at the latest"?!
~ Heh, well, I haven't yet started the 4th book yet. I've been a little bogged down with all my following, after all.
    *dodges rotten fruit*
    Hey! Alright! I'll read it tonight!
    In fact, I'll probably have to be reading one or two books a day in order to get through #9 in time for it to go back to the library on Tuesday. Sigh.

And That's A Wrap!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Hopping Tips

The Results of My First Blogger Hop

Blogs Visited:

New Blogs Followed:

Total Blogs Now Following:

Comments on My Blog:

New Followers:

That's right, I visited, commented on, and followed every blog I could.
(Blogs that did not support Google-Followers, I passed on)

I made it my personal goal to visit every single one this weekend; even stayed up way past exhaustion last night to finish.

Today, I was rewarded with over 300 posts (from Sunday and Monday) in my Google-Reader, which I diligently skimmed and read. It took me (I'm guessing) over 3 hours.

I just got back from an hour-long massage-shower to release my headache and shoulder tension.

Do NOT Do What I Did.

Have you ever gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet, filled yourself to full, then gone back one more time for dessert? Or how about gotten a gym membership and spent two hours going full-speed/full-strength?

Do you remember how it felt the next day?

Yeah, that's about what I'm feeling right now.

So here are my tips on how to safely and successfully Blog Hop:

1. Set a Realistic Goal
Pick a number you're comfortable with following and stick to it. No one is judging you on how many blogs you visit. In fact, there's no (easy) way to keep track at all. The only judge you have is yourself, and I think they'll understand your reasoning.

2. Be Sure to Leave Comments
Remember what I said about 'no way to keep track'? Well, when you visit someone's blog, be sure to leave them a comment. It doesn't have to be super fancy or detailed, but there are a couple things it should include:

A Polite Greeting
As in any correspondence, this helps break the ice and establish a connection.
"Hi there!"
"Hey ho, how's it hangin?!"
 "Caught you through the Hop!"

 Some Positive Detail You Noticed About Their Blog/Post
 An added bonus to the ice-breaker, this gives the blog owner a reason to further their connection with you. It always makes people feel good to know their hard work is being seen/read.
"I loved [insert book title] too!"
"Your banner is really ugly."
"Wow, your story is really similar to mine!"

A Tactful Link to Your Own Blog
Always leave a link. This is about establishing connections. How are we supposed to do that if you say 'hi' and disappear? However, don't be forceful about it. Provide it as an opportunity, not an obligation.
"I also review SciFi in my blog, (link)"
"Go to my blog if you ever want to see your family again: (link)"
"Hope you can hop over my way too! (link)"
"I visited you, now you visit me! It's only fair. (link)"
"Care to venture into (The Wolf's Den)?"

Now, while it's best to make each and every entry unique, if you are dealing in mass there's nothing wrong with creating a template that you can copy and paste. Especially when it comes to links—you don't want to mistype your blog-page and accidentally send them somewhere else!

3. Be Smart About Following 
Don't Expect a Follow for a Follow. 
While it's nice to think the above is some sort of unwritten rule, this can't be farther from the truth. I've seen some blogs with over 1000 followers, and you can bet that that person isn't following 1000 blogs. Well, at least not actively. They might be 'a Follower', but that's not the same as 'Following'.
I'll expand on this more below.

Don't Try to Force Followers
Ever gone into a store and been besieged by salespeople? Or have you gotten solicitors at your door? Most often your immediate reaction is "I'm not interested, GO AWAY!" Trying to force people to follow you just makes them that much more eager to say 'no'.

Follow Your Interests
If you can't stand Romance, why follow someone who only reviews Romance? You'll never actually read their posts, and that just defeats the purpose of following in the first place! It's like someone handing out all their pamphlets only to discover they've all been thrown in the trashcan around the corner. Be honest about what you'll read.

And in the same respect, don't expect people to follow your blog if it doesn't interest them.

4. Organize Your Reader
If you're like me, and you may have overshot your bounds, be smart about how you read things. Don't spend hours trying to sort through things you may not want to read... I dumped ALL Book Blogs into ONE folder, so it took forever to sort through it all.

Set Up Genre Folders
That way you can hit certain blogs when you're in the mood, or save others for another time.

Set Up a Probationary List
If you did select too many blogs to follow, put some in a folder that you can browse at your leisure to see if you really do like their writing style. Give it a couple weeks. If you can't remember liking anything of theirs in that time, it's probably best that you un-follow them.

5. Review and Make New Goals
After it's all over take into account what you did and what results you got.
How many did you visit?
How many did you like?
How many will you follow?
What was your blog's visiting rate?

As for me, I visited over 200 blogs and got around 80 visits.
I had a lot of fun, but I also overexerted myself.
Next time (yes, I will do this again) I probably won't visit (or follow) every single blog I find. I'll definitely be more selective in my genres, and I'll stop when I feel like stopping.

Big thanks to Crazy-for-Books for hosting this weekend's Hop.
I hope you all enjoyed your own hopping.

Until next time...