The Belles Review

the bellesfour stars

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Buy Now on Indiebound

The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton is Barbie Dreamhouse pink, with sparkles and roses adorning the cover. Inside is a map of the fictional island setting, beautifully detailed in hot pink and white. On the front of the cover is a beautiful girl (although her eyebrows are a little scary) in fancy dress with a sultry expression. Okay, so I can’t say I’m a fan of the girl’s look on the cover, but, overall, I believe that this cover perfectly reflects the tone of the novel. It’s ornate, and so, so pink, enough to make me slightly uncomfortable picking up the book.the belles border 2.png Yet this was one of the factors that drew me to the novel, the sheer audacity of all that hot pink in anything but a middle grade novel about popularity and hot crushes. Yet, in a YA that professed to be about the dark side of beauty, the cover, and its choice to be so glaringly, overwhelmingly pink and flowery felt almost like a dare.the belles border 3.png

So I gave The Belles a read. And kept reading. I finished this book in less than a day, all 434 pages. It was flowery. It was ornate. And it was dark.

 

roses

For the full review, click here

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Follow the Flow Chart to Find Your Next Book!

Tired of seeing the same old stories recommended on Goodreads? Desperately searching for a refreshing and engrossing novel so that you can be sucked away from boring reality for a day before being rudely thrust back in after the last page has been read, desperate for yet another fix? Well, boy, did I randomly create the flow chart for you!

Just answer the questions and make your way through the chart. I tried to mostly include books you likely haven’t read before, although there are a few popular novels in there that were just too good to resist. Start at the question about reading YA.

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The Very Basics of Archery (How Not To Suck, pt. 1)

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Today’s blog post will be on something completely not related to books, because it’s my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want.

Namely ARCHERY!!!!

Today’s informative post will be on how to shoot a bow like a badass, i.e. how not to do the stupid things you see actors doing in the movies and looking like an idiot. While there are many types of bows, each with slightly different shooting styles, today we shall focus on my favorite, the recurve bow:

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  1. Put the string on the bow the right way around.

 

There’s this lovely Facebook group called The Back to Front Archery Club , where they post hilarious pictures of people literally putting the string on the bow on the wrong side in movies, which looks stupid and will, quite literally, either cause the string to fly off the bow and hit you in the face (which would be hilarious) or just kind of make your arrow poop a few feet when you let go, as the bow is not supposed to bend in that direction, and just won’t bend very well in that direction.

 

Fig 1. The Wrong Way. i.e. That String Looks Like It’s Going to Fly Off And Hit Him in the Balls

wrong way bow

Fig 2. The Right Way i.e. Notice How The String itsn’t Going to Hit Her in the Balls If She Had Balls?

The right way

 

  1. Put your feet parallel to each other a shoulder’s width apart. If there was a stick at the end of your toes, they should be facing towards the target.

 

There are other ways to stand, but this is basically what you want to start with.

Fig 1. Like This.

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  1. Make the girl scout salute (Three fingers straight up) and place them right under your arrow when it’s clipped onto the string (without touching it). When you pull back the string, keep it on the tips of your fingers in a light grip. That way, when you let go and shoot, the bow won’t be jerked around, and you’ll be able to aim better.

 

While I prefer a different method to grip the string, this way is much better for beginners.

Fig. 1 Grip the String Like This (But don’t touch the arrow.)

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Fig. 2 No

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  1. When you pull back the arrow you want to pull it back to the same place each time, or else you might aim at the same spot, but each time you shoot, the arrow will go somewhere else. Therefore, when you pull your string back, put your hand below your jaw, with the string touching the tip of your nose. This way, when you shoot, you will be pulling the string back the same distance, in the same place, every time.

 

You may see archers pulling back to the corner of their mouth. This is not ideal for recurve bows, as “the corner of your mouth” isn’t a super accurate descriptor, whereas “below your jaw” stays the same each shot. This is because, if your hand is below your jaw and touching it, you physically can’t move your hand any higher. And, if you move your hand lower or to the side, you’ll no longer be touching your jaw, and you’ll know you done goofed.

 

Fig 1. The Right Way.

Note* She is gripping the arrow in the way that I shoot. While technically it is better, the way you grip your arrow really doesn’t matter until you get really good, and it’s too easy for beginners to screw up.

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Fig 2. The I Suck and/or Want To Loose an Eye Way

Notice how they are pulling the bow back in such a way that they probably can’t perfectly recreate? That’s why you want to pull it back to below your chin, hand touching the face, string touching your nose. Like fig. 1. Got it? Don’t be like Katniss and definitely don’t be like Ygritte.

 

  1. Brush your face when you release the bow. That way you won’t jerk the bow to the side. You keep shooting too far to one side? Probably because of this.

 

This sounds nitpicky but trust me, it’s super duper important.

 

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwpVYV6QTKo at 24 seconds in.

 

Alrighty. This was fun! Now, when you go to that bachelorette party, over 40’s meetup, or drunken escapade with projectile weapons, you’ll be able to impress the shit out of everyone else. And not look like a jackass. Win win.

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P.S. Please do not aim at the sky like some sort of video game character. If you let go, the arrow is eventually going to come down, and impale someone’s face or, if we get lucky, your face, so….just don’t do that. Please. Or aim at your friends. Or…maybe just take an actual archery class. Don’t learn this shit off the Internet. Seriously. People on the Internet are bullshiters. Don’t trust anyone.

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The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) Review

 

sea of ink mapfour stars

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

This book has a gorgeous type of imagery going for it. The series name is Sea of Ink and Gold which actually sort of makes sense, and isn’t one of those esoteric fancy shmancy series names that sound pretty, but make no sense. The cover is a satisfying mosaic of blues, and greens, and golds. The world inside the book is also rich, with pirates, and assassins, and a sea that may or may not reach to the end of the world.pirates.jpg

To read the full review, click here

The Book of Dust

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Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Author: Philip Pullman

Buy Now from Indiebound

 

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman had so much potential. The world he had created decades ago with The Golden Compass was already fully fleshed out. He had a dedicated following of adults and teens who had grown up with his novels, and were just itching for this prequel to come out.

Sadly, I don’t think this book lived up to the hype. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t good. It was simply slow, and the characters mildly interesting. In fact, I only, truly got invested at the very end, and by then the story was over. Ironically so were the characters, because the next book in this series will be about Lyra, the protagonist from the author’s last series, set when she’s in her 20’s.

Okay, the good:

To read the full review, Click Here

A Marketing Success Story: Who Knew it Could Actually Be Done?

business-commerce-salesmen-sale-sales_pitch-sales_strategy-desperate-aton3946_low.jpgEveryone knows the drill. You write a book, a literary masterpiece, and you decide to either send it to an agent and publisher for publication, or publish it yourself. Congratulations! Your job is now done! Finally your book can make its way into the world.

Sadly, you are so very wrong.

What many people, particularly traditionally published authors, don’t take into account is how much time and effort you have to put into marketing your own novel. Publication companies do help, however, unless you are already a top selling author, often you are given minimal pre-publication publicity (nice alliteration, me) and forced to either see your book sink into the endless depths of obscurity or take up the mantle yourself.

When I was fifteen, my mother published her first book League of Strays. After so many years getting rejected and improving her writing, her hard earned novel was finally becoming a reality. She created swag; bookmarks, pens, ect., and arranged a blog tour but, otherwise, assumed that her publisher would handle the rest.

Finally, the release date arrived. We had a fabulous launch party and my mother was the happiest woman on earth. Ever since she was young, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and here she was, realizing her dream. Sadly, things didn’t go as she expected.

After the launch, her book sold alright. Most people hadn’t heard of it, as her publishing company hadn’t prioritized her marketing. Worst of all, she became one of the many victims of “Goodreads Bullying”. I had to watch as her face fell,  as her Goodreads page got swamped by one woman and her cronies not only telling all her prospective readers how offensive her book was, but also bringing others in to give it one star and to leave reviews stating that, although they hadn’t actually read the book, they heard how offensive it was and felt that a one star review was necessary. Ironically, her book had been about bullying, and the dangerous consequences of responding to it with violence and aggression.

After her first book, she became rather disheartened. After what had happened with League of Strays, how could she possibly put out another, and have it be successful? I hated seeing her like that.

Ultimately however, she continued work on a book that had been close to her heart since the beginning. This book was terrifying to write; it contained the sensitive issues of the Holocaust, told from both sides of the war. Afterwards, she sent it out, and got accepted by a publisher. However, we both knew from her past experiences that this was only the beginning.

So, how do you let the world know that your book exists? It’s a scary process. Most authors don’t know where to begin, they’re worried about rejection, about wasting money on pointless promotional material and online scams. Well, I’m here to tell you those are very real concerns, however, there are some tricks to marketing that my mother and I learned after many hours of fruitless and fruitful effort.However, my mother did make one, very intelligent marketing decision right off the bat. She hired me. With cold hard cash and many, many burritos.

Marketing is a time consuming job. Having someone there to do all the research and emailing that is requires is definitely valuable. It doesn’t hurt to hire some tech savvy student who also has some knowledge of Photoshop. It’s cheap, and saves a LOT of time. It’s also effective, as long as you have a clear list of tasks for them to accomplish.

My mother and I have been struggling to figure out what to do and how to do it. We have no marketing background, and no one to help us. However, after 3 months of work, today we have accomplished something she hadn’t thought possible.

The National Holocaust Museum is selling her book, along with many other Jewish organizations across the United States.

This just goes to show, it is possible to market your own book successfully.

Over our time working together here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t be afraid to contact the big guns. At first, we were reluctant to contact newspapers and large groups for promotional purposes. Especially after her last book, we were afraid of rejection. However, finally, we realized that these groups are just as actively looking for authors as we are for them. So we sent them Stolen Secrets. And the National Holocaust Museum agreed to sell it yesterday.
  2. Photoshop is your friend. 99 percent of all promotional material I was able to create on Photoshop, from bookmarks, to postcards, to professional looking posters. Hiring a designer is expensive, and a lot of the time unnecessary. Learn how to use Photoshop, or find a student who can. It’ll save you a TON of money. After all, who wants to spend a hundred dollars on bookmarks? I designed them in two hours, and we printed 250 full color bookmarks for $25 on gotprint.com.
  3. Do the basics on Goodreads. Due to her previous experience, my mother wasn’t too keen on promoting with Goodreads. However, I submitted her books to Listopia categories there that her book applied to such as Books Published September 2017 and YA’s set in the Bay Area. This is very valuable, as readers who are looking at a book in one of those categories will have your book recommended for them. It’s a quick, easy, and free thing to do, although the author can’t do it themselves. However, never put your book in any “Best of” categories, as that is unethical and could cause backlash.
  4. Get Reviews. Make sure you have several reviews on Goodreads before your publication date. Most people I know primarily show interest in books with enough reviews, good or bad, to look professional. In addition, Goodreads uses algorithms to promote books using the number of reviews as an indicator as to the book’s popularity. So get your book out to as many people as possible! Just be wary, a simple spray and pray method like mass e-book giveaways rarely results in tons of reviews.
  5. Oh My God, Fix Your Cover. Professional looking cover art is a must. This is especially true for indie authors who often have to design their own. Please get it professionally done, or done by someone competent. It’s very difficult to get people to buy a book who’s cover looks homemade. It’s sad but true.

    league of straysThis is also the case for authors who’s publishers are in charge of cover design. My mother’s first book League of Strays, looked great, except for the vampire-esque guy brooding on the cover (Look at those thick eyebrows, that dark and hooded stare. He looks like Edward Cullen had an unholy lovechild with a serial killer). You don’t know how many confused reviews she got saying that they had thought this was a vampire novel. The cover repelled many fantasy haters, which was a shame because her book contained no fantasy at all.

    Now, for her second book, Stolen Secrets, the publication company decided to gostolensecretsfront1 all  out on the Jewish theme, and sent us a sample cover which was covered in faded sheets of paper, and sported a big, red, Jewish star on the front. Both of us thought it was ugly, and looked like the kind of book no teen would grab off the shelf. It looked boring. She didn’t know if it was okay to contact the publishers and reject the cover but, remembering her lack of action with her first book, proceeded to contact them with a redesigned cover I had made (It wasn’t fabulous, but at least it didn’t look like the kind of book teachers forced you to read in middle school). They responded, slightly annoyed, with a new, fabulous, eye-catching cover.

The overall moral of our marketing adventures together was that successful marketing can be done, you can contact those groups or organizations that you are afraid to even consider, and that you can reason with designers or publication companies. Your novel only comes out once. Give it the best entrance into the world you can and leave yourself with no regrets afterwards. After all, which would you rather face, a little rejection, or permanent obscurity?