SchoolhouseTeachers.com: The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew

I’m so excited to be a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for 2013! Not only will I have the chance to try out some great curriculum options, but I get to tell you all about them so you can make informed choices for your family. I can’t wait to see what the year holds for us! My first review is for SchoolhouseTeachers.com, so let’s go!

ST-Logo-v211

SchoolhouseTeachers.com¬†is a homeschooling parent’s dream website. With more than 25 subjects ranging from Pre-K to high school, every family can find something that works for them. Brought to us by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, this site is a fabulous resource. Depending on the subject, you can use daily, weekly, or monthly lesson plans to put together a full curriculum for your student or just pick one or two subjects to supplement your regular lessons. Or you can do what we’re doing and just pick out the subjects that look fun and do the lessons for those. ūüėČ Continue reading

Sunday’s Review-a-thon Update

 

This is has been a crazy weekend. I only got ten reviews posted on the blogs. That is a large number, but I was hoping for a few more. I did get a lot done, but some of it was “behind the scenes”. So, 48 hours later, this is where I am.

Amazon reviews: I posted 17 reviews on Amazon this weekend.  All of the blog reviews are on Amazon, but not all the Amazon reviews were long enough for the blogs. You can see all of my Amazon reviews here.

Goodreads “read” shelf updated:¬†I did post quite a few reviews on GR as well. All of the blog reviews, plus most, if not all, of the Amazon reviews were posted there. More importantly, I updated my “read” list. Thursday night, I had 142 books on my “read” shelf. I now have 224. I’m still not done. I have 60+ read books on my Kindle that I need to mark as read. Continue reading

Fundraising for Lazy People: Hurricane Relief Review-A-Thon

 

I’ve been playing with the idea of hosting a Review-A-Thon for a while. I certainly have enough reviews I need to write. The books are read and notes made; I just need to put it all together.

Then Sandy hit and I wanted to do something but I had no idea what. I just sat around feeling hopeless for a day or so until an author friend living in New York posted that her entire neighborhood was devastated. The photos were bad enough, but actually knowing someone who had lost her home gave me the kick I needed. Continue reading

Celebrating Bloggers Blog Hop

Long ago and far away (okay, so my office downstairs wasn’t really that far away), I started blogging just to have a place to keep up with our field trips. Then I added a few rants. This was long before Facebook. (Now I post short rants there and long rants on my blog.) After a few years, I discovered I could get free books just for reviewing them. I love to read, I’m¬†opinionated, and “free” is my favorite price. It was perfect! Continue reading

Goals for This Week

What’s going on

Okay, so a new home and some personal changes equal a routine change. Before the move, I had more time to read, specifically to read physical books. And writing reviews wasn’t a big deal either. Now, it’s much easier for me to have time to read ebooks and I’m still working on the review thing.

I can still read one ebook a day, but my reading of physical books is going to have to be relegated to weekends for now. My reviews as well. I’ll be scheduling them through the week, but they’ll be written on the weekend. Which means you’re not likely to see a review this week. There will be several next week, though. And of course, more to come in the following weeks.

I will be posting more author interviews, because I think they’re fun and I like spreading the word about not-so-well-known authors. If you have a specific question you’d like me to add to my interview questions, leave it in a comment. It doesn’t have to be serious or earth-shattering. It can be a fun question. The questions I’m using now, I borrowed (with permission) from someone else, so adding new ones is no big deal. One blogger I follow gives authors a long list of questions and asks them to pick ten and send her the answers to those. Sounds like a plan to me. Except with my own questions. Or your questions. Whatever.

I haven’t finished the move from Blogger yet (there is some background stuff I need to take care of) so I haven’t written the planned post about my move yet. Which is why I haven’t yet mentioned Blogelina*. I took a fabulous four-week blogging course and part of the course is a year of free GoDaddy hosting. I was already looking at switching to WordPress and this perk made it possible for me to do it sooner rather than later.
The Online Class: Profitable Blogging for Beginners

Goals for this week

Monday’s post over at Blogelina was about goals for our blogs. I only shared three goals there, but it has occured to me that I will either get a fourth project finished at the same time or I won’t finish one of the three goals for this week.

  1. Write and post an actual review policy.
  2. Update my About Page.
  3. Retag my old posts. The tags didn’t come over from Blogger.
  4. Make a page (or two most likely, divided alphabetically) listing and linking to all my book reviews. Seems like it will be easier to do this as I go through the posts to retag, rather than going through them a second time.

There are so many other things I want to do to make the blog the way I want it. And I suspect there will always be something I want to update or change. I’m also open to suggestions; just leave a comment. (A contact form is on next week’s list.) But these are enough for this week. And by “this week”, I really mean “this weekend”.

*Disclosure: I am a Blogelina affiliate.

Are Reviews Useful?

I’ve written before about requiring users to follow or like a blog to enter a drawing. I understand that different blogs have different purposes and goals and it may work for some people. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I’ve also been thinking recently about other ways bloggers and/or businesses get followers or Facebook fans. A few days ago, I read an article about fake book reviews and that reminded me of a Twitter hashtag that is becoming popular among authors. And, yes, it’s actually related to all this other stuff.

So, I’m writing a two-part series (I feel like it’s not really a series if it only has two parts, but I couldn’t think of anything else to call it) about growing a following organically versus trading follows or likes with others. Today’s post is about books, reviews, and Amazon “likes”. Thursday, I’ll be writing about Alexa ratings, blogs, and Facebook fan pages.

A few days ago, I read a blog post by an author entitled, “Just How Useful Are Reviews?”¬†I had to take a minute to remind myself not to take it personally. As a reviewer who gets at least one email a day from authors asking me to review their books, it’s kind of a slap in the face to see an author who questions the value and validity of reviews. The article had a valid point, though. When it’s possible to buy good reviews, how do you know what you’re really getting? I can’t find the article now, but a few months ago, I read about political and religious groups leaving good or bad reviews en masse about certain books to discourage or encourage others to purchase books that further the groups’ agendas.

I’ve also had the lovely experience of having a couple of my good Amazon reviews voted down as “not helpful”. I say “good” reviews, because a few of my reviews are just one or two lines. Most are informative, helpful reviews, though. I’ve had to make myself not take it personally (again), and I’ve decided that it’s not about me. The reviews that were voted down were negative reviews. I try not to post many of those, but sometimes I just really can’t like a book, and when I get a book from my review programs, I have to write a review before I can get another book from them. I’ve decided that the votes likely came from either friends, family, or rabid fans of the author in question.

You have to take the same factors into consideration when reading reviews. You don’t know who is writing the review, or if they’ve even actually read the book. (Although with a good review, you can usually tell if the reviewer has a clue what’s really in the book.) I don’t buy many books, but I’m buying more ebooks because you obviously can’t find those on paperbackswap.com or at a yard sale somewhere. Before I buy a book, I actually read the reviews. With all the time I spend writing reviews, I’d like to think that many others are reading them, too. It’s not a perfect system, but I don’t think it’s completely broken.

There is one thing I have a big problem with, though. A majority of the people I follow on Twitter are authors, many of them indie authors. I’ve read some of their books, and they’re great. I do what¬†I can to promote and encourage indie authors. I’m even part of a couple of online communities that I joined just so I can meet authors and review their books to share them with a larger audience. (Because someday, I will have a large audience, darn it.) I’ll share more about those communities in my second post. First, my gripe. There is¬†a hashtag #AmazonLikes. An author can post their book link with the hashtag and other authors go like the book on Amazon. Please don’t do that. Tagging is one thing (and another hashtag: #TagItTuesday), and I have no problem with that. I understand that in liking each other’s books, authors are trying to help boost the books in the ratings and/or searches. I get that. But as a reader who actually looks at the “likes” as well as the reviews, I kind of feel like that’s cheating.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I posted two of my Amazon reviews on my Facebook page a few months ago and asked my friends to vote them up if they indeed found them helpful. I stopped after just a couple of days because it just didn’t feel right. On the other hand, the review was right there for them to read and decide if they liked it or not. They weren’t liking something they hadn’t read yet. (I think I got a whopping 11 votes total from doing that. Probably more than I deserved, looking back.)

Do you read reviews before you buy a book? Do you ever feel like the reviews posted are fake?

This is the first in a three-part series.
Part two: She Likes Me. She Likes Me Not.
Part three: Networking and Community Online