The end is nigh....

Christmas is almost here and so my blogging for the year is coming to an end.

There was no Weekly Blogging Tip this week, but I still have a few so they'll be back next year.

I posted what I think will be my last review the day before yesterday: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, which I gave an 8 / 8. Whether or not you enjoy The Lord of the Rings will definitely come down to personal taste, but for me this book has everything that I could possibly ever want in a book.

The reality is that my reading has slowed down significantly since I entered my third trimester and if I were to continue posting the reviews I have drafted then I would quickly out of reviews all together.

I do have to have a look over what I have achieved this year, so I am sure I will be jumping on the 2011 round-up post band wagon soon.

In the meantime:

Review: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, a fantasy masterpiece

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien is a fantasy classic that has held me in its clutches since the first moment I began reading it.

Now, in my late 20's I have read it probably more than I have read any other books and I am still in awe of how magically fabulous it is. This of course means that reviewing it has proved to be almost impossible because no matter what I write I can't possibly do Tolkien's masterpiece justice.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Lord of the Rings is one of the best examples of fantasy fiction that there is. In it, Tolkien has created a perfectly formed alternate history that is as enthralling as it is real. Everything about it; the characters, the setting, the history, the creatures and the language are inescapably real. The details that Tolkien includes in every element of this breathtaking book are mindblowing and Tolkien's skill as a writer renders the story and setting so perfectly that you might as well be in Middle Earth while you are reading it.

Sometimes I feel as though I have lived Frodo's journey over and over again. I can only imagine how he must have felt when Gandalf revealed the truth to him about the true nature of the ring that Bilbo bought back from his travels. In fact, it is this scene that is one of my favourites of the entire book (along with the flight to ford for those of you who are familiar with the book):


"… All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. And already Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The enemy is fast becoming very strong. His plans are far from ripe, I think, but they are ripening. The enemy still lacks the one thing to give him strength and knowledge to beat down all resistance, break the last defences, and cover all the lands in a second darkness. He lacks the One Ring".
I get shivers up my spine when I read this even now. It perfectly conveys a sense of ominous foreboding that is present throughout the entire book.

I think that what Tolkien did so effectively in order to create such a realistic fantasy world, is to blend elements of fantasy and reality to the point where they are almost indistinguishable. We know that Hobbits like songs and food, are courageous and courteous and enjoy those simple things in life. Dwarves on the other hand are more concerned with material wealth than anything else. Elves are mysterious and philosophical creatures.

We also know that Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves aren't real, but it is their incredibly human qualities that make this easy to see past and to bring them alive in our minds.

A lot of complaints about The Lord of the Rings centres on its pace, or lack thereof. I agree that the pace changes significantly throughout the book. There are incredibly tense parts of the book (the flight to the ford) and then there are longer more drawn out parts of the book (for example, when Frodo and Sam are on their final journey across the Morgul Plains to Orodruin to destroy the Ring).

This has never been a problem for me. The book has an epic length because it is an epic tale. Also, the variation in pace seems to accurately reflect what is occurring in the book at that time. The flight to ford goes at a cracking pace because it is perhaps the most dangerous moment in their entire journey. Frodo is about to be captured with the ring and has one chance to get across the river to save it, himself and the rest of Middle Earth. When they are crossing the Morgul Plains, however, they are all alone, tired, dehydrated and at the very end of their journey. These moments for them would have seemed long and drawn out and so the book is long and drawn out in these parts.

I only wish that I could do The Lord of the Rings more justice than what I have done here. Although I don't recommend it to people very often (because whether you enjoy this book is largely going to be a matter of personal taste I think), it is easily one of my favourites of all time.

I can't think of another book that displays such a sense of majesty and admirable human qualities as The Lord of the Rings.


8 / 8
One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.



Am I entirely alone or are there other people out there who feel the same way I do about this masterpiece of fantasy fiction?

Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Witches is one of Roald Dahl's fabulous kids books that brings back fond childhood memories.

Interestingly though, I don't think that I ever read The Witches as a child. I remember reading The Twits over and over again, but I can't recall reading The Witches. I was, however, a big fan of the movie version of The Witches with Angelica Houston playing the Grand High Witch.

In The Witches, a young boy, Luke, goes to live with his grandmother when his parents pass away. His grandmother teaches him lots of useful things about witches, real witches, who live all over the world and who make it their business to kill as many children as they can. Eventually, he finds himself trapped in the witches clutches when he mistakenly gets locked into their annual convention and overhears their plot to turn all the children in the world into mice! Things go badly, and it then up to him and his grandmother to save the rest of the world's children from the evil fate that awaits them.

What's not to love about this book as child! There's magic, there's excitement, there's fear and there are the wonderful illustrations provided by Quentin Blake to go with it.

There's not a lot else to say about The Witches by Roald Dahl, except to say that even as an adult the story retained most of its magic. I wouldn't mind re-reading a lot of his other books and my new little addition (coming soon) might just give me the excuse to do it!



6 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it


What was your favourite Roald Dahl book as a child? Did you enjoy The Witches or did it give you nightmares?

#6 Weekly Blogging Tip: Review Content


Content of book review posts

Last week's Weekly Blogging Tip was about keeping your blog design simple and clear in order to make your content more readable and encourage repeat visitors.

This made me think more specifically about the content/design (however you want to think about it) of our books reviews.

So this week's tip is:

Let the review itself be the main focus of your book review post.

What do I mean by this?

What I am referring to is what people often do (and what I used to do in all honesty) which is to start of every post with the full details of the book; the title, author, publisher, year published, number of pages, edition, paperback, hardback, ebook, audiobook etc.

Some blogs might commence with this information, and then include the blurb from the back of the book, and then maybe some quotes from the book – all before they have reached the actual review of the book.

I know I repeat myself a lot when I say this, but I do recognise that everyone has their own style.

Having said that, my own thoughts on this are that most people who are out there reading reviews on book blogs want to know what you thought of the book. What is your summary of what the book was about? Did you connect with the characters? What was the prose like? Were there any interesting issues or themes the book raised?

The potential problem I see with commencing your review post with all the additional information is that the post isn't focussed on the review itself – it contains a lot of other information before the reader even gets to what they are looking for.

Another way of looking at it is this. I am a solicitor who appears in courts before Magistrates and Judges. If I were appearing in, for example, a sentence matter I would raise my strongest points first. What does the Magistrate really need to know about this person? What makes this person different to other people that come before the court? If I can get the Magistrate's attention straight away with these strong points, they are more likely to stay with me throughout my submissions.

I think the same thing can be said of review posts. Get straight to the point – which is the review.

If you think that your readers might also enjoy reading all the publishing information about the book and perhaps they might also like to read the blurb from the back of the book – then why not include it at the end of the review? That way people can read the most important information first without being distracted by the less important information. If they want more information when they have finished reading the review, then they have some bonus information at the end of the post. If they don't, they have least read your thoughts and experiences on the book, which let's face it, is what we want to share with everyone.

That's why I say: Let the review itself be the main focus of the book review post. Don't distract your readers with information they may or may not want to know before they get to your thoughts. They are there for your wonderful thoughts, so think about giving your thoughts to your readers first up.

Given we are talking about the content of posts; I thought that it might be useful next week to talk about the frequency of posts.

#7 WEEKLY BLOGGER TIP: FREQUENCY OF POSTS

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.


PAST TIPS:
#5 Blog design
#4 Third party commenting systems
#3 Commenting habits
#2 The obsession with followers
#1 The follower gadget
An Introduction

The Readers: A podcast for everyone


I just had to share my enthusiasm for this new podcast I have recently discovered.

When a I say recently, shamefully, I have known about it since it first became available. Unfortunately, due to my old laptop having my iTunes on it, and my sheer dislike of doing anything on my laptop because it takes so long, I only subscribed to the podcast in the last few days.

I can't believe I waited so long!

The Readers is a podcast by two book lovers, Gav from Gav Reads and Simon from Savidge Reads. I have followed Savidge Reads for a little while now, but this podcast has introduced me to Gav Reads which I am very much looking forward to reading more of.

In The Readers, Gav and Simon basically just talk all books. So far I have listened to them discuss the Man Booker Award, short stories and how to get out of a reading slump - amoungst many other things. So far, I have listened to them interview Carol Birch (short listed for the 2011 Man Booker for Jamrach's Menagerie) and Ian Rankin (most famous for his Rebus series).

I have enjoyed it so much that I listened to the first three episodes almost straight through. It's great because it's listening to two people just talks books and all things book related, just like you and I might do with friends, except that Gav and Simon know what they are talking about and have a wide range of interests and tastes which makes it incredibly interesting.

I will looking forward to listening to more of their podcasts and having a look through their show notes.

So, if you haven't listened to this podcast - please do. I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.

Review: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland (Australian)

Adrian Hyland's Diamond Dove came to me as a highly recommended book from some other bloggers. I also listened to a fascinating interview with Adrian Hyland on the ABC Radio National Book Show, where Hyland was interviewed about the sequel to Diamond Dove, Gunshot Road, and also spoke about his 10 year experience living and working with remote Aboriginal communities in northern Australia (click here to listen to the interview).

The books protagonist, Emily Tempest, was born to a white father and Aboriginal mother. Although she identifies as Aboriginal, she has always moved freely between the communities and has never been quite sure of where she belongs.

The book begins with her return to Moonlight Downs, the property on which she grew up and which the Aboriginal tribe to which she belongs has been awarded Native Title land rights over. Her return, however, is not smooth and she soon finds herself embroiled in an investigation when one of the elders, also her old friend, is found murdered and a mentally unstable Aboriginal man named Blakie is blamed for the murder. Initially, Emily sets out to help the police capture Blakie who disappears after the murder. Instead what she uncovers are a series of strange events and occurrences that lead her to think that Blake may not be responsible for the murder at all. So follows the story of Emily's adventures as she tries to solve the crime, and come to terms with her own identity in the process.

The story in Diamond Dove had a lot of promise, but sadly, for me, it just wasn't realised.

Hyland certainly did a good job of drawing upon his extensive experience working with outback Aboriginal communities to Hyland has clearly used that experience to provide the reader with (what I imagine is) a very honest and accurate portrayal of what life for the both the Aboriginal and white population in isolated areas can be like. In Diamond Dove, we see the clash of traditional customs and beliefs with the attraction of larger more urban communities and what they can offer. Hyland also uses the story to explore the practical side of native title land rights and what it means for the traditional and white owners.

My complaint is that the plot itself moved too slowly and lacked a sufficient amount of tension that would have been fitting for what is essentially a work of detective fiction. Perhaps Hyland was trying to mirror the pace of life in the outback for these isolated communities, but in the end I was willing the book to pick up pace. I also found the characterisation somewhat lacking. I wanted the characters to be more fully formed and a little deeper than they were.

Although the traditions of detective fiction are observed here and the story is not unique in that sense, I did appreciate the uniqueness that the outback setting and the Aboriginal characters bought to the story.



5 / 8
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.


Do you appreciate it when an author uses the conventions of a traditional genre, but sets their story in a more unique or unusual time or place?

Also, let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I would be very interested to hear your view on Hyland's depiction of this Aboriginal community.



#5 Weekly Blogging Tip: Blog Design

Clear and simple blog design

Last weeks tip was to consider your options with regard to third party commenting systems, especially if you are using the native blogger system which is pretty un-user friendly when you compare it to what else is available.

That made me think of other ways we can make our blogs more user friendly, and the first thing I thought about was blog design.

I know this is dangerous territory because everyone's taste is so different, but I do still think that there are some fundamental things that we can all so to make our blogs as user friendly as possible when it comes to design.

So this weeks tip is:

Keep you blog design simple and clear.  

Regardless of what layout you use (one sidebar on the right, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side etc etc) there are ways of keeping your blog design simple and clear.

First - there are always exceptions to these suggestions that work really well. If you do the opposite to these suggestions, I don't think that you have an unattractive blog :-) These are suggestions not rules.

Here are some suggestions for keeping for blog design simple and clear and your readers happy:

Light coloured backgrounds: A light coloured background with dark writing makes it easy on the eyes of people who are reading the content of your blog. Don't get me wrong, I love many blogs that have dark backgrounds, but there is no denying that they are harder to read than blogs with light coloured backgrounds. Good content will bring people back, but it can't hurt to make it as simple and easy as possible to read that content either. (When I say a light background, I mean under the area where you are writing).

Solid background: I only raise this because I know that there are some blogger templates that have a see-through option, so your writing is visible over the top of your background image. Again, this can make it a lot more difficult for people to read the content on your blog.

Avoid bling: I couldn't think of another word for this, but essentially what I am talking about are things such as moving graphics, flashing fonts and music that automatically plays when a visitor open the web page. Why avoid it? Generally speaking, if not used well (and I reckon its pretty hard to use that stuff well) it just becomes distracting from what people are really there for - your book reviews and other book discussion. Also, if someone is checking it on an old computer or just a crap one, then a lot of that stuff either isn't going to load or its going to load super slow which is super annoying and might turn people away from your blog.

Standard font: Standard fonts are easiest for people to read. That's why they are standard. Some blogs I have come across use font that looks a bit like cursive handwriting, which is so much harder to read than a standard font.

Clearly marked sections: By this I mean using headings in your sidebar so that it is clear to readers what information they are looking at and it doesn't all blend into one.

De-clutter: Sometimes the more information in your blog (particularly your sidebar), the more difficult it is to find things. For example, rather than including images from all the blogger awards you have received, why not create a page/post where you keep this information and leave a link to it somewhere in your sidebar or About Page? At the risk of repeating myself, the clearer it is, the easier it will be for your readers to navigate.

An 'About' section: This is really useful for new people who are visiting you. It means that there is one place that they can go to learn about your website and decide whether there is anything that interests them.

I am sure that there are many more suggestions people might have for keeping your blog simple and clear.

Why is it important to have a simple and clear blog?

In my view, simplicity = easier on the eye = easier to navigate = more user friendly. You might have the most interesting content in the world, but if your blog isn't user friendly or easy to read you risk losing visitors. The more user friendly your blog, then hopefully the more people will come back for more :-)

Given I have posted today about blog design being important, I thought that it might be worthwhile also talking about what to put in the contents of your book review. Again this will be very personal, but I will be brave and make some suggestions anyway!

#6 WEEKLY BLOGGING TIP: REVIEW CONTENT

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.


What other tips do you have for a simple and clear blog?

Review: 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

This is barely a review, more a nod in the direction of Agatha Christie – whose books I love reading but reviewing them can sometimes become a little repetitive.

4:50 From Paddington is the story of Miss Marple's investigation into a murder that took place on a train. Her friend Mrs McGillicuddy arrives at her door one day with a story about seeing a woman murdered on a train. The police don't believe her because no body was recovered, but Miss Marple knows better.

She uses her personal common sesnse approach to come to the realisation that the body must be hidden somewhere at Rutherford Hall, an old family home alongside the railway tracks. She arranges a friend of hers to gain employment at Rutherford Hall and do some investigations into the family.

These investigations lead to a whole host of hidden secrets, but Miss Marple is determined to catch the killer before they kill again.
Not one of Christie's best, but then I am more of a Poirot fan than a Marple fan. Miss Marple herself barely lifted a finger to help solve this crime and the other characters didn't have enough charisma to keep me interested in their plight.

All in all, the story was a bit slow and….. English for my tastes. I know that sounds crazy, but there you have it.


5.5 / 8
Enjoyable. I would recommend it to Christie fans.

Did you feel a bit..... blah, about this one?

New review resources on Page Turners

I have been working very hard lately to bring two new pages to Page Turners:


and 


In Reviews by Genre, you will be able to find reviews to the books I have read in one of two ways. The first is by genre. There is a link to each book under the appropriate genre. Where a book falls into two or more genres, you will find multiple links. The second is by author surname. So if there is an author you are particularly fond of, or are interested in knowing more about, you can see whether or not I have reviewed any of their works and, in the event that you find them, read a review of their worlds.

In Reviews by Year, you will find reviews of the books I have read in the order that I have read them. You might notice that at times there are books I haven't reviewed. In almost all cases, this is because the books have been so wonderful they I haven't been able to do them justice in a review and so have not reviewed them. In 2009, however, there are many books referred to without links to their reviews, and this is because I started blogging in June 2009 and therefore haven't reviewed books read prior to that date.

Why these two new pages?

Sometimes when I find a new blog I like to have a look at what books they have reviewed recently and who they read a lot of. This helps me to determine whether we have similar taste in books and whether I might become a more regular visitor. For blogs I am already familiar with, it helps me to find reviews of books I want to read and to see what their opinion of that book is. In other words, I have found pages like these helpful when looking for new blogs and navigating blogs I am already familiar with. So, I thought that it might in turn be useful to have pages like these for my readers.

On a more personal level, it allows me to keep track of my reading. With these lists, I can determine whether I favour a particular genre, who my most read authors are as well as a variety of other patterns in my reading. One of the reasons I started my blog was to become a more critical reader. I hope that these new pages will assist me to be more critical of my own reading habits, and make changes and improvements where I think that it might help me to become a better reader.

So, I very much hope that you find Reviews by Genre and Reviews by Year useful. I have to admit that I am particularly proud of my Reviews by Genre page because I had to teach myself a large amount of HTML in order to complete it and it took many tens of hours to do it.

There is still always my master list of reviews on the Book Reviews page if you find that more to your tastes.

Happy blogging and reading :-)

The Sunday Salon: Pride and Prejudice and a reflection on my reading

It is Sunday and the end of the weekend is nigh.

I have had a lovely weekend. Yesterday I spent all day at a local park with my friends. We were celebrating my birthday (which is next week) and having our yearly Christmas gathering where we passed around our secret santa presents and ate far more food than was necessary. What could be a better way to spend a beautiful sunny Saturday?

And now it's Sunday. I am relaxing on my bed with my blog, the BBC Pride and Prejudice and a bowl of poporn. Lydia has just eloped with Mr Wickham and Mrs Bennet is keeping to her room in a very distressed state. Can't blame her. That Lydia. What a hussy :-)

And in only 10 minutes my football team (that's soccer to most people) Sydney FC will be playing at Kogarah Oval and I must remember to switch over to Foxtel to watch the game. Although I am a season member, the weather just isn't good enough to tempt me out today, even for Sydney FC.

On an entirely different note, I has a look at my reading for this last month - and it isn't pretty.

When I do the maths, I read on average 7 books a month. In October, I read 9.

In November... I read 2 books. That's right, 2. And one of those books I actually started reading in October.

I don't know what it is. I like to think that it's because I am entering my third trimester and my concentration is drastically lacking. That's right, I just blamed the baby. Nothing is beneath me now :-)

Seriously though, I have been reading The Sunday Philosophy Book Club by Alexander McCall Smith for over a week now, a book that would usually take me two or three days of reading on the train for me to finish it. The one book I started and finished in November was Shakespeare by Bill Bryson, one of the shortest books I have read all year. I wish I knew what was responsible for this reading malady. I can see that it is continuing into December. I hope it is baby related and will wear off soon. Until then, I will keep persevering.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend as much as I am.

Literature recommendations for non-literature-readers?

The Blue Bookcase posed an interesting question to its readers this hop: What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature? 

I actually think that this might be one of the hardest questions ever posed over at The Blue Bookcase. Why do I find it so hard?


Firstly, because if I knew someone didn't like literature I probably wouldn't recommend anything to them. When I first started seeing my boyfriend (years ago now), he had never read a book (or no more than 2 or 3). I talked him into agreeing to read one Harry Potter novel a year. Bless him, he did read The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets for me, but I could see that it was making him miserable. He didn't enjoy a single moment of it, and I didn't want reading to be something that made him miserable. After that experience, my gut feeling would be to accept that everyone has different interests and leave it at that. 


Leaving that aside, if I did decide to recommend something, it would probably depend on the person. There are so many different kinds of people out there, it only makes sense we all have different tastes. If that person already wasn't a fan of literature, I would want it to be a fairly specific recommendation to them personally in the hopes that it might help them enjoy their reading experience. 


So where does that leave me? 
 
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden comes to mind. As does A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, an amazing Australian book. Lovesong by Alex Miller is another beautiful Australian book I would definitely consider recommending to the hypothetical literature-phobe. If I were brave, I might suggest a Margaret Atwood book, perhaps Alias Grace or The Year of the Flood.  If I were even braver I would definitely consider recommending The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, a really beautiful book. 


I am trying to choose books with language that is both beautiful but straightforward. I wouldn't want to scare anyone off with challenging prose or poor pace and lack of plot. All of these books I feel are unique but accessible to a wide range of people, and those are the qualities I would be looking for when I made the recommendation.

What about you? If you were brave enough to recommend literature to someone who doesn't like reading, what would you think about recommending?
 

#4 Weekly Blogging Tip: Commenting Systems

Choosing the right commenting system

Last weeks tip was to be a thoughtful commenter. I thought that it might be a good idea to also have a post about the different commenting systems there are available for people to use.

Never having had a wordpress blog, I don't know what the native wordpress commenting system is like. If it is similar to the Blogger native commenting system, I hope that this post helps you as well.  This weeks tip is this:

Consider replacing the native commenting system with a third party commenting system.

What's wrong with the native blogger system I hear people asking? Well, perhaps this is just a matter of personal taste, but since I have seen other people complaining about the same thing I thought it was worth having a post on.

The problems with the native commenting system:

Spam: I got spam all the time in my comments. Well. Not all the time. But frequently enough for it to become really annoying.

No one likes getting spam, and the blogger commenting system just seemed to make it really easy.

Comment moderation/Captcha: I know that the blogger system has ways of getting around the problem of spam, and that is either to enable comment moderation or Captcha. Neither of these options seemed particularly desirable to me.

The problem I had with comment moderation is that there are only so many hours in the day. I just didn't really have the time to go through every comment and approve them before I allowed them to be published on Page Turners.

And Captcha? Well, I don't know about you, but I find Captcha really annoying to use. I love nothing more than reading through a whole heap of people's posts. I open up lots of tabs in my browser and go through and read them and comment on them. Only problem is that sometimes I hit submit on my comment and then move on to the next post, only to realise a captcha has come up which I haven't filled out. Then when I am ready to comment somewhere else, I have to go back to a previous blog and finish captcha-ing. Depending on how the site is set up, I have even been known to lose that original comment. Also, if I am blogging on my lunch break at work sometimes my work computer makes it really hard to read the letters. This is quite off putting when you want to leave a comment but the commenting system (in combination with my computer to be fair) is making it really difficult. Plus. It's just annoying. As you might have already figured out, I am a seriously impatient person. I want to write my comment and submit.

Leaving replies: My biggest problem with the blogger commenting system, though, is that you can't directly reply to people. I like to reply to people who take the time to write on my blog. I don't think it's something that you necessarily have to do, but I like to do it. I was finding it really hard with blogger though, where I had reply to everyone in one single comment. Unless those people came back to Page Turners specifically to check if they had been replied to – that reply might never have seen their reply. Not very conducive to starting or furthering discussion.

The solution: a third party commenting system

There are lots of different commenting systems out there that you can use to replace the blogger commenting system. These include systems such as INTENSEDEBATE, DISQUS and LIVEFYRE (links coming).

I only have experience with intensedebate (and so most of the following will mention that), and I can tell you that downloading it on to Page Turners has been the best thing I have ever done for my blog.

The benefits of a third party commenting system are these:

Easy installation: These commenting systems can be loaded onto your blog from the system's own website, which makes the installation of them super easy (even for technically useless people like me!).

Spam gone: Since downloading intensedebate, I have ever again had a spam comment (from a non-blogger anyway, see last week's post).

Creating discussion: With third party commenting systems you can reply directly to a comment, and they can in turn reply directly to your reply. Other people can join in as well. That way, people can really interact with each other. I receive emails directly from intensedebate when someone has replied to one of my posts and one of my comments. I imagine it emails all commenter's directly if someone replies to their post (although I don't know if you need an intensedebate account for this to happen???).

Tracking other comments: With the third party commenting system I use, I can keep an eye on all of my comments. If I leave a comment on someone elses blog I am notified by email that I have received a reply. This is great. It means that I am reminded to check back in to other blogs when I might otherwise forget to do so.

Single sign on: Once I log into my intensedebate account, I don't have to sign in each time I comment on someones blog (so long as they use intensedebate as well). The system just automatically remembers my details. Easy!

Commentluv: Commentluv is a great plug-in which I could never get to use with the native blogger system. It allows a commenter to leave a link to their most recent post. It isn't included in the body of their comment, so it isn't distracting or spam. It does, however, means that I have one extra way of finding new and interesting posts/blogs to read.

[I feel at this point it is worth saying up front that I have heard of some issues, and experienced some issues, when installing the third party commenting systems. I don't know if this happens with other systems, but when I installed intensedebate it deleted all of my blogger comments so it looked like I had lost about 1.5 years worth of comments. I googled the problem and found sites saying it was a common problem and I should wait it out. Within a week, all of my blogger comments had returned without a problem. It was scary, but patience proved to be worth it.]

So, if you want to make things easier for yourself and, more importantly, for your readers I would very much recommend that you consider using a third party commenting system on your blog.

Given I have mentioned this week that I think third party commenting systems can make it easier for your readers (as well as you!), I thought next week might be a good time to talk about how blog design can make things easier for your readers as well. I am aware that this might be heading into dangerous territory because there's nothing more personal than taste in blog design, but I am going to give it a shot anyway.

#5 WEEKLY BLOGGING TIP: BLOG DESIGN

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.

If anyone else has any tips they think might be worthwhile sharing - please email me your ideas to pageturnersbooks (at) gmail (dot) com


PAST TIPS:
#3 Commenting Habits
#2 Obsession with Followers
#1 The Follower Gadget
An Introduction

Review: A Certain Justice by PD James

A Certain Justice is a modern day legal crime thriller, and it delivers what you might expect from such a book.

DI Adam Dalgiesh is asked to investigate the death of Venetia Aldridge, a famous criminal barrister found murdered in chambers. At the time of her death, had just successfully defended Gary Ashe, accused of the bloody murder of his Aunt. Her life is turned upside down when she discovers that Ashe has commenced a relationship with her daughter and that they intend to be married. Could it be Ashe who has killed Aldridge, or even her own daughter who has killed her out of spite? Or is it more complicated than anyone can imagine?

I certainly enjoyed the book nad while I was reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The plot was engaging in a very dark way and it certainly felt significantly more realistic than a lot of crime novels.

I believe that the last point is largely because of the author herself.

I had heard PD James spoken of as one of the best as well as one of the most prolific modern day crime writers. Naturally this meant that I was keen to read one of her books. This was only enhanced when I heard her speak about her life on the ABC Radio National Book Show on the occasion of her 90th birthday. She seemed to have led a fascinating life in various government departments, including a lot of criminal and forensic sections of the government and so I was interested to see how her books were informed by this experience.

As said, it definitely seemed to. The book displayed an understanding of the criminal law system (I feel able to say that because I am a criminal lawyer in NSW Australia and the Australian system is based on that of England) and it also displayed an accurate understanding of the approach criminal barristers take to their work.

People are often harsh about crimnial solicitors and barristers. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I could represent guilty people I would be a very rich lady (well, I'd be well off anyway). The reality is that most people who choose the criminal law as their career path (from a defence perspective anyway), it is more about the bigger picture than the smaller picture.
My only reservation with this book is that it hasn’t proved to be very memorable. Although I can remember being hooked on it while I was reading it, now that I have read it some time ago I can’t remember much about it. Certainly not much of the detail.

In the end, I would say that it was a great example of modern crime writing, nothing more and nothing less. 


 5.5 / 8
Enjoyable and worth reading if you have the opportunity.


Have you read much PD James? How do you think her books compare to other crime fiction writers?

Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

We have all heard fantastic things about Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and there were certainly some astonishing things about the book that I appreciated. 

Unfortunately though, there were other less astonishing and ultimately tedious things about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that prevented me from enjoying the book at all.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is written from the perspective of Professor Arronax. Professor Arronax is recruited, along with his servant Conseil, to find what is assumed to be a monstrous sea creature that has been attacking ships throughout the ocean on a world wide scale. He joins a mission with expert whaler Ned Land to locate and destoy the sea creature.

Instead what the three of them discover is a man-mind underwater ship, the Nautilus, captained by the enigma that is Captain Nemo. Captain Nemo has given up his life on land in favour of a life under the sea in what would now be known as a submarine. He holds the three men captive on his submarine, leaving them with no choice but to join his adventures throughout the ocean.

What was astonishing about this book was how scarily accurate Jules Verne's creative imagination was. Although submarine's did exist at the time Jules Verne wrote this book in 1870, they were not at all as advanced as the machine depicted in his piece of fiction, that is, a machine powered by electricity which was derived from a battery on board the ship. After doing some brief research on submarine's after reading this article, it seems that the first time electricity and batteries were used to power submarines wasn't until 1896. The double hull design of the Nautilus didn't feature in real submarines until 1900.

Similarly, although at the time Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the ability to go underwater diving existed, the characters in Jules Verne's books were able to wear self-contained diving suits that enabled them to go on expeditions away from the Nautilus for quite some time. My research indicates that the first self-contained diving suit using compressed oxygen wasn't invented until 1876, 6 years after Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

There were many more examples in this book of other such predications in this work of science fiction that actually came to pass.

Unfortunately, the knowledge that Verne's creative imagination in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea contained eerie predications of the future, wasn't enough to overcome the big weaknesses in this book.

The first was that far too much time was spent writing about such things as the design and capabilities of the Nautilus and cataloguing the underwater sea creatures that were encountered by the adventurers. This meant that the pace of the book was incredibly slow. Although looking back at the book it is possible to see that many things occurred in the plot, it didn't feel as though much was happening at all while I was reading it.

With the feeling that the book was lacking so much action, it would have been nice to have the character development to focus on. Instead, the characters were flat and two dimensional. Ned Land became frustrating for all the whingeing he did, and the servility of Conseil was equally as wearisome. Although I am sure that Verne meant for Captain Nemo to be a mysterious enigma of a man, because of his seeming lack of interest in his new passengers and in anything other than himself and what directly effected him for that matter, I found myself completely uninterested in what it was that had lead him to this life under the sea.

Ultimately, I had to drag myself through the entire book (and I have to admit that there was even some skimming involved). Although I wanted to enjoy Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the slow place and lack of action made for a slow and uninspiring read.



4.5 / 8
Worth reading if you have the opportunity and are a fan of science fiction, but don't prioritise it. 


I know that a lot of people love this book. If you are one of them, what did I miss?
If, like me, you were disappointed by the book what do you think it was that disappointed you?

#3 Weekly Blogging Tip: Commenting Habits

freshinkblog.wordpress.com

Thoughtful comments

Last week my tip was about the risks of becoming too obsessed with the number of followers you have.

There was lots of interesting discussion, and one of the issues that came up was how else to judge the success of your blog? It was suggested (by me and some others) that comments was another way of judging whether you are achieving what you want from your blog and so it seemed appropriate that this week we talk about our commenting habits.

It's difficult to frame this discussion topic as an actual tip but here goes:

Be a thoughtful commenter.

I can hear everyone asking what I mean by 'thoughtful commenter'. Let me try and explain.

I am going to generalise and say that there are about 3 kinds of comments.

Spam comments: So far as I am concerned, these are a big 'no no'. What are spam comments? They are those comments you get from someone (usually on a meme related post) that say something along the lines of "Great post. I love your blog, check out mine". You later discover that this same comment has been copied and pasted onto a lot of other people's blogs as well. This doesn't happen to me as much anymore (although I don't really participate in memes very often anymore) but when it does, it drives me crazy.

Spam comments are never cool. The purpose of a comment shouldn't be (in my view) to get someone to come to your own blog. That might be a lovely and welcome side effect but it shouldn't be why you are leaving a comment. This is not thoughtful commenting. This is rude commenting.

I also include in this group any comments in reply to a meme post that might have some personal comment such as 'I really enjoyed that book' quickly followed by 'I hope that you will come and check out my [insert meme post name and link here] post'.

Although this is slightly better than an outright spam comment, I still don't think it's cool. Perhaps if you interacted with what the blogger was saying in their post on a more significant scale it might be acceptable, but otherwise I think it is barely distinguishable from the outright spam comment. If you are participating in a meme, then the link to your post is on the hosting blog and it shouldn't need to be spread about on every single blog you comment on. The purpose of leaving this kind of comment seems simply to be to direct people back to your own post (this is different to sharing a link to your own review on a review post which I think is actually great). That's spam in my books.

Minor comments Brief comments: What I am referring to hear are those comments that go something along the lines of "Great review, I want to read this now" or "Thanks for the reminder, I have been meaning to read this for ages" etc. I want to be very upfront and say I leave comments like this.

These comments aren't necessarily bad comments. They are polite. They show that you have read the post (or at least that you appear to have read it). Most importantly, these comments can reflect all you have to say about a particular post. I read posts sometimes where they serve to remind me that I wanted to read a particular book, but I don't necessarily have anything additional to say. In such cases, the choice is either to leave no comment at all, or leave a minor comment that reflects how you feel. We all like comments, so I tend to leave it anyway.

So, I would suggest that although these aren't the worst kind of comments, they probably aren't ideal if they are the only kind of comments you are leaving on other people's blogs.

Interactive comments: This should be fairly obvious. These are the comments that demonstrate that someone has read the post and thought about the content. It might be that you have read the book that has been reviewed and so you offer your own opinion. It might be that the blogger has said something in their post that has caught your attention and so you respond to it. It might be that you offer a different perspective to the one offered by the blogger (in a nice way of course!!) or saying that you share their perspective for certain reasons.

Even a minor brief comment, take 'Great review, I want to read that' for example, has the potential to become an interactive comment simply by adding a reason at the end: 'Great, review, I want to read that because you talked about the use of hard boiled writing which is a style I want to explore after reading The Long Goodbye recently OR I found what you said about the language used by the author to be quite compelling because I enjoy a very descriptive style of writing'.

Interactive comments can start or continue discussion. They can lead to the sharing of ideas and introduce us to new books.

So, I would argue that interactive comments are the best kind of comments because they encourage other bloggers to keep posting, they help to build community and they really get our bookish thoughts flowing.

So what's a thoughtful commenter?

I believe a thoughtful commenter is someone who participates in the blogging community by reading other blogs and leaving mainly interactive comments (with some minor brief comments as well of course so long as they are used in moderation).

We all put so much work into our blogs. Leaving a nice, interactive comment is one way of showing our appreciation to other bloggers who share our interests and are providing us with lots of interesting content for us to read and think about.

Given all this discussion about commenting, tune in next week for:
 #4 WEEKLY BLOGGING TIP: COMMENTING SYSTEMS

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.


PAST TIPS:
#2 Obsession with Followers
#1 The Follower Gadget
An Introduction

Page Turners is on Twitter!


Page Turners can be found on Twitter!
@blogpageturners

That's right ladies and gentlemen, I have joined the 21st century and created a twitter account. It was people's responses to my Weekly Blogging Tips posts that inspired me to give something new a try and I am very much looking forward to seeing how/if Twitter affects my blogging.

I intend to use this account primarily as an additional means of sharing with people when Page Turners is updated. No doubt as I become more proficient I will have many other interesting bookish things to share.

It is now possible for you to follow Page Turners on Twitter, as well as to share posts on Page Turners via Twitter.

I am looking forward to adding people to my twitter feed and reading all the interesting things people have to share. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments if you want to.

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (her highest selling book)


And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie's most popular novel. In fact, I did a bit of research (ie. looked up Wikipedia) and was informed that is actually one of the best selling novels of all time.

It was originally published as Ten Little Niggers, but given the clear racist meaning behind this title, it was renamed in the 60s as And Then There Were None.

Eight different and otherwise unknown to each other people are invited by an old acquaintance to stay on Indian Island (originally Nigger Island). When they arrive, they discover that although there are two additional people on the island, the help, their host has yet to arrive. The boat that took them there has left and they find themselves stranded. Each person has the poem "Ten Little Niggers" framed on the wall of their room. On their first evening there, they discover that they have been trapped on an island by a person determined to kill them all one by one – and that person must be one of their number. And yet, at the close of the book, all ten people are dead.

Who killed them?

I was very taken by this story and had absolutely no idea until it was revealed at the end who the murderer could possibly have been. It was certainly very creative story telling on Miss Christie's part, but I can't help but wonder what makes it the most popular of all her books, to the point where it is one of the highest selling books of all time? It certainly has a lot of murders, more so than any other of her books. And it has one of the trickiest endings to figure out in my view. But I missed having a central detective to follow around as they attempted to solve the crime.

For myself, there are other books I have enjoyed more than this one. I think though I am a little biased toward the Hercule Poirot novels, I just can't help myself.




6.5 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it.


Is this Agatha Christie one of your favourites and what's your theory about why this one might be her most popular novel?

Review: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

"Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and decadent Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants, gradually becoming infatuated with them and the life of privilege they inhabit in particular, with Sebastian's remote sister, Julia. But he gradually comes to recognize his spiritual and social distance from them, eventually discovering a world where duty and desire, faith and happiness are in conflict."

I would like to be able to give a better review of Brideshead Revisited than I am able too, but as it turns out, I can't.

I wanted to like this book. I really enjoyed the movie and so I thought that the book would be bound to be better. Unfortunately, I didn't find it so.

I think the first problem I had was that I was unknowingly pregnant while I read this. I felt sick all the time, my concentration levels were unaccountably low and I just found reading anything hard slog. Perhaps, if I read this book while I wasn't under the influence of pregnancy hormones and morning sickness I might have enjoyed it more.

But then again, perhaps not.

I couldn't identify with any of the characters. I couldn't identify with their lifestyle. I couldn't identify with the class and religious differences and the conflicts that arose because of it. I didn't care whether Sebastian and Charles were gay or not. All the characters were definitely on the irritating side. Everyone whinged too much. Not enough happened in the plot to otherwise distract me from the 'irritating-ness' of the characters and their general whingyness. Waugh's writing was great, but again, it still wasn't enough to help me engage with the story or the characters.

There you have it, not much of a review but because of the state of mind I was in when I read the book it's all I can manage.

If anyone else has a proper review of this book they would like to share, please leave a link in the comments. I would love to know what you thought of the novel if you have read it. What did I miss? 

#2 Weekly Blogging Tip: Obsession with Followers


from freshinkblog.wordpress.com

Obsession with Followers

Last week, my tip was to put your follower gadget close to or at the top of your blog.

I ended my post last week with a warning that having a follower gadget on your blog, which displays how many followers you have, can have a bad effect on your psyche.

This leads me to this week's tip:

Don't become too obsessed the number of followers you have.

Although we all blog for ourselves and in order to share our love of reading, it is very easy to become obsessed with the number of followers you have. You begin to wonder why more people aren't following your blog, and then you start comparing yourself to blogs with more followers than you. Then it's all downhill from there.

I admit that I go through periods of time where I pay more attention to the number of my followers than I would like to. It was actually part of the reason I was inspired to write my recent post "A changing blogging community and some self evaluation".

Why having followers is a good thing

I hope that I made it clear in last week's post that there is nothing wrong with wanting a following and hoping that you will attract one.

It's normal to want followers and it's normal to do things that might attract followers. It's also normal to worry about how many you have sometimes.

We spend so much time and effort on our blogs, it only makes sense that we hope that other people will see our websites and enjoy the work we have put in.

Making attracting followers your priority

The danger though, is that you can then fall into the trap of doing anything you can to attract followers, instead of concentrating on the quality of your content and participating in the blogging community.

These are example of what I mean:

Competitions that are only open to followers: One half of me understands the argument people might make for this practice. The blogger only wants their prize to go to someone who follows their blog and not a random person in it for the prize.

The cynical half of me though thinks that this is often just a way of covering the fact that people are hoping that by having a competition only open to followers, they will gain new followers because people will sign up just to enter the competition. Those new followers might up your count, but they are still in it just for the prize, and not because of any original admiration for your blog (I am a very cynical person, I should warn you).

The follow back syndrome: This is where bloggers advertise that if you follow their blog they will in turn follow yours back.

On the one hand, this could be seen as polite and a valid form of participating in the blogging community, if you then actively participate in all of those blogs that you have signed up to follow in return for their following.

But that's the thing. Does everyone then actively participate in everyone else's blog? What I think is more likely is happening is Blogger #1 in an attempt to grow their following, advertises that they will 'follow-back' anyone that follows them. Blogger #2 therefore becomes a follower knowing that they will gain a follower in return.The your feed becomes cluttered with blogs you aren't necessarily entirely interested in. Everyone has different interests, and so it makes sometimes that someone might follow your blog and yet the content of theirs doesn't 'float your boat' so to speak. That's ok. It's variety.

Why could becoming obsessed with followers be bad?

I think it probably comes down to what you want from blogging and what you want for your blog specifically.

Do you want it to look like a lot of people follow you, or do you want genuine participants?

I would suggest considering quality of your following, not your quantity. Do you have 600 followers but your post gets 3 comments each? Or do you have 200 followers but you get many more comments on your posts from people keen to offer their views and experiences about what you have written about?

By becoming too follower focussed I think that there is a significant risk that people might lose what it really means to be part of a community. Don't we want to meaningfully participate in discussion with other bloggers and have other people do the same with us?

Good quality content and a genuine interest in participating in the blogging community are great ways of attracting followers.

Please know that I am not telling you that I don't think you should have follower only contests or follow-back policies or whatever else you do to attract followers. A lot of these types of things so doubt work to attract genuine followers, especially when used well.

This tip is simply a warning against becoming so preoccupied with attracting followers that you forget to enjoy yourself, produce good content and participate meaningfully in the blogging community.

Since I talked a lot here about building a following and participating in the broader book blogging community, I thought next week might be a good week to talk about comments. So tune in next week for:

#3 WEEKLY BLOGGING TIP: COMMENTING HABITS

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.


 
PAST TIPS:
 
An Introduction
#1: The Follower Gadger

Review: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, a timeless novel that provides insight into modern society

"Watch thou for the Mutant;
Keep pure the stock of The Lord"

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is one of my new favourite books of all time.

I was completely hooked from the beginning to the end by the story, the characters, the setting and the nail biting tension that made me grip the book so hard that my knuckles turned white.

The Chrysalids, written in 1955, is a dystopian books set in a post apocalyptic future where vast tracks of the earth have become inhabitable because of what we assume has been a nuclear disaster. The protagonist, David Strom, live in an isolated agricultural society where no one really knows that happened to wipe out the 'Old People' who built cities and machines but who were unable to save themselves from disaster. There is one religion in this future, a fundamentalist Christian religion where people consider anything outside of the norm to be a 'Deviation', an un-God-like perversion of what is considered normal and therefore acceptable. Anything, be it animal, plant or person that is considered a Deviation is destroyed. Children who are considered Deviations are killed at birth, and those whose abnormalities are not apparent until later in life are sterilised and sent to love on 'The Fringes'. It is a dark and somewhat depressing view of the future, and yet there are clear similarities between this future and our present.

David Strom is a Deviant – born with telepathic powers he uses to communicate with other people within his community who have a similar abnormality. They understand that their abnormality places them at great risk and they are able to hide it until the birth of David's younger sister Petra, born with the same abnormality, puts them all at risk.

David, Petra and the other's with telepathic abilities find themselves racing across the country to avoid capture and are only able to do so when they are discovered by a far away community of people from Sealand (New Zealand?) who travel across the globe in order to rescue them.

There is so much to say about The Chrysalids that I barely know where to begin. In relation to the story itself, Wyndham has portrayed an entirely plausible possible future for mankind, based on the weakness of mankind in the present. In addition, the plot itself is entirely captivating. Putting the book down was like ripping myself out of one world only to find myself back here where I belong. The characters were fully realised and unique, the landscape was vividly described and the tension Wyndham created was palpable.

It's when you get underneath these wonderful qualities to consider what the book is really trying to say about society that you really realise just how timeless The Chrysalids really is. In it, Wyndham really goes deep into subjects such as religious fundamentalism, prejudice, intolerance, self-identity and fear and condemnation of the 'other'.

In The Chrysalids, Wyndham asks those questions most ask at some stage; who am I, who decides what the norm is and how do they decide and where do I belong?

In the end, it was this theme of intolerance and bigotry that I found the most fascinating and the most applicable to today. Wyndham effectively reminds us that behaviours such as intolerance, prejudice and racism are rarely as black and white as they seem. Although to the reader the people of David's town are religious fundamentalists, creating 'others' and destroying them as they see fit, the reader cannot help but ask themself how different the Sealanders are for all of their noble ideals. Everyone has a different perspective and view point on life and what being a 'good' person entails – how do we decide what perspective is right and which is wrong?



8 / 8
One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.



Have you ever been bowled over by a book whose message is just applicable as it was 50 or 100 or even 200 years ago. How does it make you feel when an author seems able to really get inside what makes society work and how that might affect the future? If you have read this book, how did it resonate with you?


Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Christie's first novel)

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Agatha Christie's first published novel and therefore the world's first introduction to the wonderfulness that is Hercule Poirot.

This has always been one of my favourite Christie novels, even before I realised it was her first published work. I read it over and over again as I was growing up, but always with enough time between readings to forget who the criminal was. Now sadly, I have read it so much that I can't forget 'who did it' but I still enjoy it nevertheless.

The narrator, like most (all?) of her Poirot novels is Hastings. He is resting after an injury in the war and is invited to stay at a country property, Styles, with an old friend. While there, he finds himself embroiled in family drama as the matriarch of the family, Emily Cavendish, is poisoned, and it is clear that someone in the house must be responsible for it.

By luck, Hastings runs into his old friend Poirot, who on the request of hastings and the family, sets to work using his little grey cells to solve the murder.

I really loved that the Poirot introduced in this book is the Poirot we see in all the books. Christie just got his character so spot on right from the very beginning that he is thoroughly consistent throughout all the books in which he appears. He finds himself in England as a refugee from the war, a fact that had escaped my notice until this reading of the book.

In this book we also have the varied cast of characters upon whom suspicion is thrown. There is Alfred Inglethorpe, Emily's new and much younger husband upon whim suspicion in naturally initially thrown. There are her sons, Lawrence and John Cavendish, both of whom have their own motives for doing away with their mother. Also in the house is Mary Cavendish, John's beautiful but unsatisfied wife who may or may not be having an affair with the dark and handsome toxicologist (yes, a very suspicious profession when someone has been poisoned) Dr Bauerstein. There is Cynthia Murdoch, an orphan who has been taken into the family and of course the eccentric Evelyn Howard, Emily longest friend and paid companion.

Then of course there are the marvellous clues that Christie scatters throughout the book. Who left the footprints outside the window? Why is there a green fabric caught in the latch of the murdered woman's bedroom door? Can Cynthia really be that sound a sleeper? Who was arguing with Emily on the day of her death and what was that argument about? Why is there a crushed coffee cup on the floor of the bedroom, next to a puddle of candle wax?

Despite it being her first work, this is a book that is bound to keeping you guessing until the end.



6 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it. 


Did you realise that this was Christie's first novel when you read it (if you have read it)? If you didn't, does it change the way you think about the book?

#1 Weekly Blogging Tip: The Follower Gadget

image from freshinkblog.wordpress.com

The Google Friend Connect follower gadget

The follower gadget provided by Google Friend Connect is a convenient way of allowing people to sign up and become members of your blog. They are then notified directly (using different means) when you update the contents of your blog.

If you choose to utilise this useful blogging tool, my tip is this:

Place your follower gadget close to or at the very top of your blog.

My reasoning is this. When people visit your blog they will certainly see the top of your blog and the content of the post that you are reading.

Although we very much hope that they will scroll further down, there is no guarantee that they will. If they do, there is also no way of knowing how far down they will scroll.

I know in theory if they like your blog they might deliberately scroll down looking for your follower gadget, but then again, they also might not.

So, by having the follower gadget at the top of your blog you are making it easier for people to follow your blog if they like what they see.

I know from personal experience that when I moved my follower gadget from lower down my sidebar to the very top, the rate at which people followed Page Turners definitely increased.

If you use other methods of allowing people to follow you (as I do as well) such as subscription by email or RSS feeds, I would still suggest that you consider having them toward the top of your blog.

More about Google Friend Connect

I know that if you are using the Blogger Platform, you can go into the design page from your Dashboard, click on "Add a gadget" and look for Google Friend Connect. I don't have any advice how you can add the gadget using other platforms.

If, however, you would like to learn more about Google Friend Connect consider reading the Wikipedia entry or go straight to the Google Friend Connect page.

The positives

The Google Friend Connect follower gadget is only one of many different ways to follow other people's blogs, but it certainly seems to be a quick and easy way and one which I would say most bloggers like to use and are familiar with.

The negatives

The downside of the Google Friend Connect follower gadget is that you can see, right there in front of you, how many people are following your blog. This can have a definite affect on your psyche, and not necessarily a good one.

This will be explored more fully in next week's Weekly Blogging Tip:

#2 WEEKLY BLOGGING TIP: OBSESSION WITH FOLLOWERS

image from justintadlock.com
Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.  


PAST TIPS: