#1 Weekly Blogging Tip: The Follower Gadget

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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:


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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.  


Weekly Blogging Tip Series: An Introduction

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For most of us, it is our love of reading that has lead us to start a book blog.

We divide our time between reading and writing about what we have read in the hopes that by sharing our love of reading with other people we will learn something new and entertain other people.

The result is that (for some of anyway), out blogs become very important to us. Some of us may even spend almost as much time blogging as we do reading. I would guess that a lot of us are on some occasions working on new blog design and content and otherwise seeking to improve ourselves as well as readers.

I am definitely always working Page Turners the best that it can be. This means that on many occasions I have emailed other bloggers for tips and advice on anything from design to HTML coding.

Similarly, I often receive emails from other bloggers asking me questions about blog design and use.

This got me thinking; maybe it would be helpful if I started a series of posts containing blogging tips that I have picked up over the last two and half years. This might help me solidify my ideas about what I want here at Page Turners, as well help other people who are just starting out blogging or thinking about what they want from their blogs.

The Weekly Blogging Tip Series

So I am starting a weekly series of posts containing my personal blogging tips, which will be posted every Thursday until I run out of tips.

What these tips are:

All of these tips are obviously based on my personal taste (something I want to admit up front).

Some of these tips are things that have worked well for me.

Some of these tips are related to questions that other bloggers have emailed me.

Some of these tips are things I think it is important to consider in relation to the design of your blog.

Most importantly, some of these tips are about making your blog as accessible and easy to use as possible for the people who visit it.

What these tips are not:

These tips will not all be relevant to every blogger. I use Blogger as my platform and as such a lot of my tips might be relevant only to other people who use the blogger platform. I have never used Wordpress or any other platform and so I may not be able to identify whether a tip is relevant to Blogger users or all book bloggers.

image from justintadlock.com

This is very important. I don't want people to be offended if I offer a tip which you don't utilise on your blog. In fact, this series of posts isn't at all about what people should or shouldn't do on their blogs.

I am happy to admit that some of the tips I will be sharing with you are things I believe improve a blog, but things I don't do myself.

Also, I know for a fact that there are many blogs out there I regularly follow that do things differently to what my tips will be. This doesn't mean that I enjoy their blogs any less and I certainly don't want people to think I am suggesting that your blog isn't effective or enjoyable if you something differently.

What makes blogs special is that that each is unique and personal to their individual author. Ultimately and regardless of design, it is a bloggers content and enthusiasm that will create a successful blog and keep people coming back.

I am a bit nervous that I am heading into dangerous territory with this series of posts, but I hope that people understand that I am doing this with good intentions and a genuine enjoyment of blogging.

Please feel free to let me know what you think and if you have any tips that you think are useful, which I might consider including in my series.


Also, check out my most recent review of The Black Russian by Lenny Bartulin, a funny and satirical novel set in Sydney about a second hand book seller caught up in a whole lot of trouble!

Review: The Black Russian by Lenny Bartulin (Australian)

I first heard of Lenny Bartulin's The Black Russian, when it was shortlisted for the 2010 Ned Kelly Award for crimewriting. After leaving a comment on one of Bernadette's blogs (see Reactions to Reading and Fair Dinkum Crime) expressing my eagerness to read the book, she kindly sent it to me to read. So a big thank you to Bernadette for her kindness. Please take some time to have a look at her blogs.

Crime fiction is a greatly underrated genre, and so recently I have been deliberatley making and effort to explore it further.

Lenny Bartulin's The Black Russian ticked a lot of boxes for me. It was crime fiction, it was Australian, it was set in Sydney (my home town), it had a reputation for being funny and, as a bonus, its protagonist was a second hand bookseller.

It had all the makings of a great read, and Bartulin delivered.

"After yet another slow week at the cash register, Susko Books - that fine purveyor of second-hand literature - is facing financial ruin. Jack Susko heads to a gallery in Woollahra to scape up some funds with the sale of an old art catalogue. With his characteristic panache and exquisite timing, he arrives just as De Groot Halleries is being done over by masked thieves. Along with a mysterious object from the safe, the robbers seize a valuable first edition from Jack's bag, too.

The owner of the gallery refuses to call the cops, and Jack is offered a sizeable sum to keep silent. But when de Groot arrives at the bookshop with his heavy to renege on the deal, all bets are off. With an ease that almost constitutes a gift, Jack Susko finds himself at the centre of a world full of duplicity, lies and art theft."

Although this might sound a little shallow, what I enjoyed most about this book was that it was based in Sydney, and much of the action took place in areas I am very familiar with. I liked seeing those areas depicted in fiction; roads I drive along several times a week, buses I regularly catch and at one stage, a street my parents in law actually live on. I think Bartulin really captured what Sydney feels like - the weather, the streets, the people. He is able to capture the different atmospheres and lifestyles of Woollahra, the city and the western suburbs for example.

In fact, The Black Russian has a distinctly Australian flavour, expressed in the accuracy of the depiction of the setting as well as the dry Australian humour in Bartulin's writing. 

The characters were perfectly formed stereotypes. There was the money hungry art gallery owner, the evil and morally repugnant crime boss, the femme fatale and of course the cynical and frustrated small business owner. Fortunately, Bartulin was a skilled enough writer to prevent the steotypes from becoming cartoonish caricatures - thus maintaing the humour that they each provide.

Perhaps another risk Bartulin took was with the entirely implausible plot, but rather than distracting the reader with its implausibility Bartulin provides comedy, larger than life characters, accurate and atmospheric setting and witty one-liners to ensure that the reader sees past the implausibility and becomes drawn into the story.

I would even go so far as to say that the implausibility of it is all is almost part of the point of this book. Bartulin uses the larger than life characters and outlandish plot to poke fun at Sydney's 'try-hard' preoccupation with art, culture and money. 

Although this is a comedy, it is primarily a piece of crime fiction. Scribe Publications, the publisher, has quotes on its website comparing Bartulin's writing to Raymond Chandler and Ian Flemming. I haven't read Ian Flemming, but I think that a direct comparison to Raymond Chandler's work is perhaps taking things a bit far.

There is certainly the influence of the often talked about hard-boiled style of crime fiction writing in Bartulins writing, most clearly in the dialogue of Jack Susko. This was the books main weakness for me, but a weakness I see in a lot of hard-boiled style pieces of crime fiction (and so probably more a question of personal preference than weakness). A lot of the time Jack Susko's sarcastic sense of humour is very funy, but at other times it felt false and unauthentic. Consider these exchanges in the early part of the book between Jack Susko and the two thevies who are holding him at gun point.

In the first exchange, Jack Susko is being duct taped to a chair by one of the thieves:
"'Nice mask,'said Jack. 
Shane ignored him, concentrated on winding the tape.
'Why didn't you wear the cape?'
'Lone Ranger doesn't wear a cape.'
'You mean you're not the Scarlet Pimpernell?'"
The second exchange takes place as the second thief goes through Jack Susko's bag and pulls out his copy of a valuable first edition Ian Flemming book:
"Walter picked up Jack's bag from the floor. He lifted the flap and had a good look inside. He pulled out a package and waved it around. 'What's this then?'
'A bomb,' said Jack."
Maybe it's the criminal solicitor in me, but I can't suspend my sense of reality quite enough to believe that this is how any person would react when being held up and robbed at gun point, I don't care how financially unstable they are.

Ultimately, The Black Russian is an incredibly humourous book. It is the second in a series of three books, A Deadly Business, The Black Russian and De Luxe. Although I hadn't read the first book in the series this didn't affect in any way my understanding or enjoyment of this one.

You could read this book if you were looking for a witty example of modern-day crime fiction with a good dose of black humour. It is also a good book for a person who is interested in reading an accurate depiction of the people, the life and the atmosphere of the Sydney I know and love.

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

Have you ever read a book set exactly where you live and in the time that you live? What did you think of the depiction of your city?

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a fascinating look at the role of polygamy, historically, in the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Not only does it give historical consideration to this practice, but it also looks at its existence in modern day break-away LDS groups/sects (or whatever word you would like to insert here).

Ebershoff achieves this with two distinct story lines.

The first is the historical story line of Anne Eliza Young, one of the wives (the 19th in fact) of the Prophet Brigham Young. It is set in the late 19th century and although it is a fictional story, it is based on the real Anne Eliza Young, who was actually married to the Prophet and who became famous when she broke from the LDS and began a campaign to end polygamy.

There are parallels between this historical storyline and the modern day story of Jordan Scott, a man who grew up in a breakaway group of the LDS which still practised polygamy. Although polygamy is now illegal, the story is also based on real break away groups of the LDS that are based somewhere in America (sorry, I'm an Aussie, can't remember where, maybe Utah?) and who still practice polygamy. Jordan becomes involved with the community again when his mother, the 19th wife of his father, is accused of his father's murder.

Through the eyes of Anne Eliza we see how polygamy affected the women and children at the time when the LDS was in its early days, and through Jordan's eyes we see the impact it has had for current practitioners of this religion (both the breakaway groups and the main body of the Church).

Although fictional, The 19th Wife is clearly well researched, and it is this sense of authenticity that really peaked my interest.

Ebershoff tells Anne Eliza's story through her own words, but also through a series of fictional documents, including memoirs of her family members, letters and newspaper articles. Whilst this was a novel approach to presenting the story of Anne Eliza, at times it meant that her story wasn't as cohesive as it could have been, both as a standalone story, and how it sat in the context of the entire book. The book was at times frustrating because it moved frequently between the two protagonists, as well as the additional mediums used to tell Anne Eliza's story. This meant that just as you were settling into one story, you were quickly moved onto the next.

The storyline involving Jordan Scott also had the additional element of being somewhat like a murder mystery. When his mother is accused of murdering his father, he sets out to investigate what really happened. Jordan was also a gay man, which played a significant role in his character development. At times, Ebershoff handling if his character's homosexuality was a bit cheesy and added more complication to the story than was really needed. My other complaint with this story was the resolution to the murder mystery – it wasn't as satisfying as it perhaps could have been.

Although the two narratives do not always work well together, by using the two narratives Ebershoff is able to cover many aspects of polygamy: it's rise, its affect on those that practice it (now and in the past), arguments for and against it as a religious practice and its eventual formal demise from the Church of LDS.

Some of the parts I found most interesting were where the characters in the modern day storyline discussed the reasoning behind the LDS formally renouncing the practice of polygamy when in fact their original Prophet declared it to be the will of God. There is an interesting exchange on an internet chat board where someone questions how seriously you can take the entire Church when it is willing to renounce the word of their God for the sake of the laws of man.

Overall, Ebershoff's straightforward prose and well researched stories meant The 19th Wife was an easy and fulfilling read.

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

Have you read this book? I would love to know what you thought about it if you had. I am not normally into books that have an agenda to push, but Ebershoff does a good job of considering all sides of the debate around polygamy (I thought).