Javan has been at school for 10 years and is only just returning to his kingdom and father. Before he has the chance however, he miraculously survives assassination attempts only to find that an impostor is posing as him. When he tries to let the palace guards know, his uncle betrays him and he’s sent to Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. He must find a way out to save his father, out the impostor and save Akram from his uncles rule.

The Traitor Prince (Ravenspire, #3)

Amazon |
The Traitor Prince
C. J. Redwine

The Traitor Prince read like a romance placed into a fantasy world. The main plot was so entwined with the romance plot that I am really surprised that it isn’t a main genre on goodreads for this book. I was disappointed. This is also the third book in a series that can be read as standalones. I have actually heard so many good things about the first two books, but if they are anything like this one, I probably wouldn’t be interested.

There were many magical creatures and fantasy elements within the book, but I felt like it didn’t merge with the plot as well as it could. This could have been a gladiator style arena with real world animals, and all humans and it would have read the exact same. There’s plenty of magical creatures but they’re literally fodder to be killed off after a paragraph. There’s mention of dark elves and fae, but we only meet one elf. And we rarely see actual magic happening. For a fantasy book this is so completely disappointing.

One of the good things is that the characters each have very individual motivations and reasons for what they do. Even the antagonist Rahim thinks through his plans in depth, and has a clear motivation to being the bad guy. There were however some secondary characters who were placed in the book purely to be part of our main characters motivations. There were a few deaths throughout, and I think too much emphasis was put on one death to push the story forward when it wasn’t necessary. I also think the main character, Javan, was a little bit too naive to not understand that something was wrong with his father. But that could also be because as a reader we are told he’s being poisoned and manipulated.

As a whole I found the book really dragged on. We spend approximately 80% off this book stuck in a prison. It’s not that interesting and that’s where all the romance stuff comes into play to make it interesting. We do see Javan ride across the dessert from his school at the beginning, and I was really disappointed that we didn’t get any adventure style road trip time. We literally got a ‘few weeks later he arrives’ and then he’s stuck. There’s clearly a lot of world building in the series of books, which was just hidden so much behind the dull and boring walls of the prison.

Overall the book just didn’t sit right for me, although I know it’s anticipated by a lot of people. Maybe the previous two books were a lot better settings and characters, but I did not enjoy this story for multiple reasons.

POSITIVES

+ Character motivations

+ Clear world building

NEGATIVES

– Naive MC

– Dragged on a bit

– Romance too much of a focus

– Lack of actual magic

I received The Traitor Prince by C. J. Redwine from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an unbiased and honest review

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One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make is that they don’t see their blog as a brand. To be memorable and a website that people want to visit you need to have coherent content that is useful and unique and it helps to have some kind of theme. Even if that theme is ‘The things I like’.

A big question to ask yourself is are you the face of your blog? In some niches, it will most likely have to be you unless you have contacts that will be models for your photos. For example, beauty bloggers are the face of their blogs as they use themselves when posting makeup looks. Different niches such as books or video games don’t need you to show your face to a camera, so the face of your blog could be an avatar or logo.

Name and URL

Your name and URL are really important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it needs to be memorable for people who read your content. If they don’t remember your name, they may never come back because they can’t find you again. This is also similar for your social media handles, you wan’t people to remember who you are when you try to engage with them.

For your URL you need to think about whether you will purchase your domain or whether you will stick to the free wordpress or blogspot domains. Although you can switch from wordpress/blogger to a self-hosted domain if you plan on making this a long-term project or a business I would always go for self-hosted as soon as possible. This well help with your readers remembering the correct URL and it will also help with your SEO as the longer your website is live it will help increase your DA score.

Speaking of SEO, it’s sometimes helpful to use search engine friendly keywords within your name and URL. For example, a lot of beauty blogs will include keywords such as lipstick, makeup or beauty within their names. This isn’t necessary to build a good blog though, and many bloggers will use their name as their personal brand. It’s also important to try and make your URL easily searchable. If you’re using numbers in your name and URL, you need to stay consistent as to whether you’re using the numerical version (10) or the written version (ten).

Try writing down some ideas for your blog name – find words that suit you or you niche, connect words, create phrases and try to be creative. 

Mission and Vision

A lot of bloggers don’t really think much about their blog before starting. There was no thought into where they wanted their blog to go, or why they’re writing. Most just started writing about what they were interested in and didn’t think too much about the future. And I was one of these people. But if you take some time to sit and think about what you want from your blog, and where you want it to head it gives you some clarity about why you’re blogging.

A mission statement is the what, who and how of your blog. This is where you define the purpose behind your blogs content. Your mission statement will help steer you to the projects and sponsorship’s that are relevant to your brand. This will also help ground you into what your blog is at this time. If your mission statement doesn’t look anything like your blog, you need to work on changing one of the other.

A vision statement defines what you want your blog to become and the impact it will create on the readers. This is going to help you know what direction you want your blog to head in. If your vision statement includes wanting to make a sustainable income, you know that you’re going to have to work on getting sponsored and signing up to affiliate networks. If you wan’t to build up to provide a weekly podcast or newsletter, you know you need to set up YouTube or a mailing list.

Target Audience

Picking your target audience is really important as you want to write your content for the right people. If your content isn’t relevant to people, then they will end up not reading it and not returning. This will increase your bounce rate and also lower your views in the long run.

I would get Google Analytics as soon as possible so you can also keep an eye on who is reading your blog from your marketing efforts. You may need to tailor your posts differently than how you first thought. For example I knew writing about beauty was mainly going to be a female audience and I expected 18-24 as my age range as that’s what I fall under. I basically thought I was writing for people just like me, but actually half of my audience is the 25-34 age range. This shows me that my university posts that I originally wrote as a category on my blog was maybe not as relevant for my audience.

Tone of Voice

Whether you’re the face or not, you’re also going to have to think about the brand persona your blog encompasses and the tone of voice. Your TOV will depend on your mission and vision statements. Why you’re blogging, who your readers are and what you want in the future are all factors into your TOV.

If you’re blogging for professional reasons for colleagues and you want to increase your authority I would go for a more formal and professional TOV. If you’re going for daily lifestyle blogs that are based around yourself, then a less formal and more friendly tone will be good.

You can also think of a celebrity or a character that you want your brand to sound like. For example, if your blog was a really informal one and you wanted to sound a bit kooky or eccentric then you could aim to write like Phoebe from Friends. Staying on the Friends theme, if you blog was more academic then maybe Ross would be a better character to use. But always base this on your previous statements and make sure it fits your content and audience.

Tagline

A tagline is a way to give a quick overview of your blog’s personality and topics. This is where you can explain your brand in a one liner that encourages people to continue reading your website. For example, if I’m looking for fashion blogs to find outfit inspiration and I’m clicking through to multiple different blogs, I’m more likely to stick on the blogs that have fashion or style in their tagline. I probably won’t find much outfit inspiration if I’m on a car blog will I?

You can optimise your SEO by using keywords related to your content. So my tagline is simply books, beauty and lifestyle because I blog about books, beauty and lifestyle. So if people search for book blogger, beauty blogger or lifestyle blogger I have a slightly higher chance of being in those search results. As with your blog name and URL, you may go for a personal brand or a professional brand in that case your tagline could describe yourself. E.g. ‘Marketing and Management student working in PR’.

Aims and Goals

Goals for you blog are targets that you want to reach. For example I set myself social media follower goals for 2018. Goals should usually be SMART goals to make them more accessible when planning how to achieve them. If you haven’t heard of SMART goals before they are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Therefore I want to gain 300 followers on Twitter by the end of 2018 is a SMART goal.

Your blog aims are more long term and your goals should assist you with your aims. You aims should also then assist with your vision statement from before. One of your aims could be that you want to start monetising your blog within a year, or that you want to go into full-time blogging. Aims could also include wanting to work with X brands. They are less specific than your goals, but should also be realistic as you don’t want to demotivate yourself.

Colour Palette and Logo

Your colour palette and logo should be consistent across all platforms in order to make you more recognisable. I would advise stick to pick 3-5 colours that you want in your palette and work with these when designing your websites, header and logo. The reason why I would say limit yourself with colours is because you don’t want your website to look too busy as it may also come across as messy. Poorly designed websites often will have high bounce rates as people are less likely to click on other pages.

If you don’t have the skills to create your own logo I would highly recommend getting one designed for you. Your header will always be the first thing readers see when they click on your site, and if it looks bad, it will give of the vibe that your blog isn’t great and they may leave before they even read anything. They don’t have to be a strain on your bank balance at all. I’m currently offering header designs for £5 and separate logo’s for £3. If you’re interested please email me.

What do you offer?

So you’ve made your mind up and branded up. But what do you really have to offer your readers? Are you writing reviews for products, or are you giving inspirational talks? How is your content going to be useful for these people reading your blog? I would sit down while branding and pick out your niches and topics and also plan out about a months worth of content. Figure out how much you want to post per week and make an editorial calendar. You won’t have to stick with this once you’ve started, but it’s important for you to know what content you will be offering.

Do you have a USP?

So you know a bit about what content you’re going to create and how it’s going to be informative. But is it unique? There will always be some content that is over-saturated in the blogging world (cough – Naked palette releases – cough) but you need to think about what can you bring to the table. Are you bringing a professional background in your topic or just a passion for it? Or are you creating unique imagery for all your posts that aren’t the same as other bloggers? You need to find something that differentiates you from other blogs to try and encourage people to visit yours on a weekly basis rather than once every 3 months.

Stay on Brand

One of the main things about creating a brand is staying on brand. If you’ve set your colour palette to be pastel colours, don’t create assets in your blog posts with bright neon green text. If your TOV is professional, don’t start using emojis and swear words in your posts. The biggest part of being a brand is sticking to the guidelines you’ve set out for yourself!

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Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the bad luck at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)
Amazon | Waterstones |
The Hazel Wood
Melissa Albert

In The Hazel Wood I absolutely loved the Hinterland. The idea of it, the characters that come from it, and the world building once we reach it. Everything about just kept me completely enthralled which was why I was happy I read through the first part of the book. Alice’s mother Ella has ensured she has no knowledge of the Hinterland or her grandmother, which means we spend a lot of time following Alice as she has to learn about them before she tracks The Hazel Wood down.

The Hazel Wood also made me extremely nostalgic for the fairy tales I grew up reading. The characters were quite dark and not the Disney versions of a tale at all, so getting out Grimm’s book may be my next step. I also thought it was a very different approach to including fairy stories into the real world. This isn’t some Once Upon a Time book and you don’t always get the perfect rounded happy ending at the end of a story.

We’re introduced to the Hinterland through Ellery Finch, a classic bookworm character. He’s wonderful, and helps Alice get to the Hazel Wood to find her mother. He uses his usefully unlimited bank account to fund the adventure as well. The best thing about Ellery Finch is that he’s completely set up as a love interest, but there’s no romance at all. They share hotel rooms, have car trips and go through hell together, but for once the two characters keep a platonic and wonderful friendship.

One of the main plot twists was pretty predictable and heavily hinted at throughout the book, so I don’t think it could really be called a plot twist? But it did make me want to continue reading it because of the consequences of the actions taken. The book was also written so well that it pulled you into the story. It was creepy and magical but also funny at times. One of my favourite descriptions by Alice was ‘They looked like Etsy jewelry on steroids’ which comes at a time of crisis for her. She just made the book seem so real.

Overall, I definitely think everyone should pick up this book and hopefully Melissa Albert will be writing some more novels soon.

POSITIVES

+ Hinterland world building

+ Nostalgic for childhood fairy tales

+ No romance

NEGATIVES

– A tad predictable

– Wish it had more set in the Hinterland

I received The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once  the Augurs controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good. In a  bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

The Wren Hunt
Amazon Waterstones |
The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

We’re thrown straight into this book as we follow Wren as she’s literally hunted by a group of boys on St Stephens day. This is supposed to be symbolic as the judges will ‘hunt’ the augurs, but I still don’t really understand how a group of boys could hunt a girl every year? Surely the parents would say something, or the people in the small town who most likely all know each other? I get that it ties into the druid’s Wren bird, and it’s about Wren day and etc but it doesn’t seem plausible that it could be a yearly occurrence in our time.

It’s set in Ireland which means there’s Nemetons and druids and lots of local based folklore and myth. This is something I live for, as I love the small local myths from Ireland, Wales and Scotland (as they also feel a lot more close to home). Even though there’s very minimal ‘magic’ within this book, it is an extremely magical read.

My main issue was that in general the pacing of the book was slow. It was beautifully written but it just never created that tension and drive to read on to the finale of the book. We spent a lot of time learning about the different aspects of being an augur and about Wren and extended family, but there’s very little action within the plot.

Our narrator, Wren, is found to be quite unreliable as she doesn’t fully understand everything that is being planned around her. She only really knows what she’s been directly told or what she’s picked up along the way. This meant that the plot twist was made even better, because as a reader you don’t quite see it coming.

POSITIVES

+ Set in Ireland & Irish myth/folklore

+ Plot twist

NEGATIVES

– Slow pacing

– Significance of the titular ‘Wren Hunt’

I received The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review

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Blogging has become a lot bigger in recent years. It’s a career choice and dream for some, and others enjoy it’s a fun hobby. There’s so many different kinds of bloggers. You have beauty bloggers, vloggers, book bloggers, mental health bloggers, car bloggers and many, many more. If you have an interest there’s a high chance people will have a blog about it. And if not, maybe you should be the first? If you’ve been wanting to start blogging for a while then this is the post for you. There’s things you need to thing about before you start blogging in order to create a more organised mess on your first try. No one is perfect first time round, but with some of these tips maybe you’ll bypass some of the mistakes those before you have made.

What is your aim?

Before you start a blog, you really need to sit down and think about why you want to start. Possible aims for starting a blog are:

  • Improving/learning a skill
  • Establishing authority in a topic
  • Adding to CV and/or portfolio
  • Networking
  • Side Hustle
  • Hobby
  • Meet new people

These reasons, and there’s many more, will have different directions for when you start creating and writing. If you’re writing just as a hobby about what you enjoy, you’re less likely to be writing posts about the sector that you work in (unless you really love it of course!). Writing about your industry sector will mean you’ll have to write much more technical or formal pieces (depending what sector you’re in) to fit the professional aspect of the blog.

Also, blogging can be very time consuming so you need to think about how much effort you will be putting in. If you can only afford to put aside a couple of hours a week then a full website probably isn’t for you. If you’re going to make this into your full time job, well I can only warn you that you’ll have to devote a lot of time and effort into a blog, and it sometimes takes a long time before you get paid enough to survive on just blogging.

One of my biggest pieces of advice for someone starting a blog is to start writing about topics you love or feel passionate about because then that effort will always be a little bit fun.

Accept that Mistakes Happen

Like any new task, skill or job you will go wrong a few times before you get it right. The blogging community is full of people from all around the world and with different skills. There’s those who can write wonderful post’s but can’t design a thing, and then there’s the one’s who can make every photograph beautiful but struggles to write anything meaningful. This world is full of mistakes and things which make people not want to read your blog. Common mistakes and their solutions:

Random Ideas

Usually someone will be following your blog to read about specific topics or themes that they enjoy. When you start to branch out of the brand that you’ve made your blog into, some people may lose interest and unfollow you. Thinking up random ideas is a good way to find that inspiration, but you don’t need to write a post about every single idea you have. Stick to your niche and your blog will look more consistent and followers will be happier.

Too Many Topics

There’s not enough time in the world for you to create a website that covers every single topic you know the smallest thing about. Pick a handful of topics you both enjoy, and know something about in order to write meaningful content. This also will help you create higher quality content as you won’t be rushing to write content about every topic.

Formal Writing

People writing non-professional blogs often lack the informal language that people enjoy reading. Growing up writing essays in schools and then reports at work has really clamped down the personality in your writing. But you will need to find this personality as people reading will want to get to know you in order to support you and your blog.

Brain Dumping

On the other end of the spectrum, some struggle to write about a topic coherently. Dumping all the information they know into a blog post will be messy, and often won’t be as readable as you think. You need to learn to write well and include content which flows from one idea to the next. Use a blog outline if you’re writing similar content all the time (E.g. Product and book reviews). Utilise headers and paragraphs to split information up and make it into small readable chunks. Create content that people enjoy reading rather than content that confuses people.

Accidental Plagiarism

You’ve been reading blog posts for a while now and you aspire to be like X, Y and Z. Your posts have taken on a very similar writing style with a very similar topic and it’s just too close to the original content. You need to create unique content that brings your own personality and style into the writing and images. Take a break from reading those bloggers and find your own voice and brand.

Don’t worry what people think

Some people view blogging as a bad thing. They think it’s an easy thing to do and it’s for people who want to stay at home in their PJ’s on their laptops. This isn’t true (although sometimes writing posts in my PJ’s is a lot more comfortable). Like I said before it takes a lot of time and effort to be a blogger and it is common that people will react negatively if you tell them you’re a blogger. But , don’t take any notice of them at all.

I work in PR and I work with bloggers who are very important for my industry. And there’s been an increase in positive sentiment around bloggers and youtubers over the past few years because content creation is so important. Being a blogger means you’re part of the minority that creates content and doesn’t just consume content. It’s really a good thing, and no matter what others may say, you need to ignore them and believe in yourself and your blog.

Just create

At the end of the day, you just need to start creating. There’s no 20 step programme into how to become a blogger, although many websites try to tell you that. Just put a pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard (depending what kind of writer you are) and write some blog posts. You don’t have to post those first drafts, but if you don’t start somewhere you’ll never get anywhere.

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