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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 153 pgs.
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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, which was our February book club selection, takes its name from an old Persian city, also called Pārsa, that was destroyed by Alexander the Great around 330 BC and is located in present day Iran. Because of the nation’s geographic location and, later, its oil riches, Iran became a prime target for invaders of all types, including Iraq and the West.

In these pages, Satrapi recounts her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in which the Shah who supported the United States was overthrown by student, fundamentalist, and Islamic groups and replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini and later created the Islamic Republic.  As a child, Satrapi is quick to passionate responses and, yet, is confused about what it means to be a revolutionary.  She tries to outdo her classmates with her own stories of family heroism, but she soon realizes that it is not the kind of competition you want to win, even on just the school yard.  There are dire consequences to opposing a fundamentalist regime.

This memoir, however, focuses less on the politics and more on the human aspects of this revolution.  The confusion of coups and the realization that war is devastating can touch each person in unexpected ways.  Whether it is an elevation in status, fear of being singled out by others who are afraid, or even the death of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.  Satrapi was a young girl who loved school, found reading to be a solace, and strove to fit in.  These are individuals, their country’s policies and actions may not reflect each person’s desires.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi should serve as a reminder of what revolution can lead to, how it affects everyone differently, and how the consequences cannot be ignored.  It must have been unimaginably hard to raise a young girl at this time, especially one as outspoken as Satrapi was.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran. She grew up in Tehran, where she studied at the French school, before leaving for Vienna and Strasbourg to study decorative arts. She currently lives in Paris, where she is at work on the sequel to Persepolis. She is also the author of several children’s books.

What the Book Club Said:

The book club all seemed to have enjoyed this graphic memoir. And the discussion was rather animated about the politics of the time and the religious fanaticism that took over Iran’s government. There were also interesting discussions about how her parents allowed her certain liberties even when they knew that neighbors informed on others and some were even in charge of ensuring women dressed and acted according to the new laws of the land. This was probably the most animated discussion in a long while, and some of us cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

Animal Adventures: Sharks

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle is a box full of undersea wonder, with 6 plastic sharks, 20 fact cards about different species, a diorama to create, and four 3D puzzles. This was another activity that my daughter snatched up the minute it came and opened it right away. The box is eye-catching and full of sharks and other activities. Stickers complete the package.

We worked on the diorama of coral and other life together as she wasn’t sure how to get them to stand up in the cardboard base. Other than that, she put together the 3D sharks herself and set about telling her own sea stories with the diorama once we’d finished.

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She did ask about some of the sharks and I read some of the information on the cards to her. We enjoyed Animal Adventures: Sharks by Cynthia Stierle. We’ll likely get back to playing and learning soon.

RATING: Cinquain

Make and Move: Shark

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 28 pgs.
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Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green includes a 28-page book and 20 pieces to build a 37-inch shark floor puzzle. The puzzle is easy enough for a Kindergartner to put together on their own with little help. My daughter set to work on the puzzle the moment it arrived on the doorstep. She loved how there were pieces that moved like joints and fins that moved as if the shark could swim. We talked about the jaw and the internal organs we put together.

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The book itself is attached to the box with the puzzle pieces, and it explains what sharks are, how they swim, what senses they have, and how they breathe underwater. There were many different types of sharks in the book, and each has a different body shape. My daughter was fascinated that there were sharks that hunted food by spiraling.

Make and Move: Shark by Jen Green provides kids with educational material and a fun activity. My daughter was eager to do the puzzle again after the first time.

RATING: Quatrain

Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co

Source: Giveaway Win
Hardcover, 272 pgs.
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Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co. has the funniest pictures of pooches around, and the stories in these pages are endearing.  They even brought to mind some of my own dog stories.  From the pictures to the stories and the checklists and recipes, this book is a must have for any dog lover.

One great story: Natalie builds her dog Perrin race tracks in the snow during winter blizzards, which can mean that she digs them several times over the course of a storm, especially in Massachusetts.  Then, of course, there’s Denise, Theo & Desna – Theo the husky practically ate all the furniture and Desna decided that her favorite perch was the kitchen counters and Denise had to puppy-proof the entire kitchen.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love dogs, and while my current dog does not have her own Instagram account — she does make appearances — we love her to bits.  She’s my daughter’s sibling — they’ve grown up together.  We adopted her when our daughter was about one.  She’s a husky mix and she can be a handful, but at least she hasn’t eaten the furniture.  We do have a zillion nicknames for her, with my daughter recently referring to her as Woofie.  Nicknames are terms of endearment for animals, I think, and I’ve given multiple names to my pets for many years.  Who can stop themselves when they are so cute!

My previous pooch went everywhere with us — camping, to see Santa, to restaurants and stores — and he got into mischief.  He loved to eat things he wasn’t supposed to.  That dog would unwrap bubble gum, eat glass to get at the bacon grease, and get his head stuck in cardboard boxes if he thought there was a morsel of food to be had.  One of my favorite stories was when we were camping — by this time he was elderly — and we decided to take a “short” hike, according to the map.  Well, that hike ended up being way longer than the map led us to believe and the dog just refused to move.  He sat down and that was it.  My poor husband had to carry this 45-pound dog over his shoulders (much like Bryan in Colorado), and would you believe that people on the trail thought our fluffy dog was a deer.  Ridiculous!  They even brought out their cameras to take a picture.  People are sillier than dogs sometimes.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a long time, I’ve noticed that my parents have started treating their dogs like children.  They have seat belts and clothes.  One of their dogs used to have a leather hat and coat — she looked like a mean biker with her Peek-a-Poo underbite.  It makes me wonder why the dogs even put up with humans — oh, right, it’s the treats, toys, and warm beds.

Dogs and Their People by Barkpost by Bark & Co. is just a delightful and fun book.  There are recipes for dog biscuits and more.  It would make a fantastic gift for those dog lovers in your life — you know the holidays are coming faster than you think!

RATING: Cinquain

Check out BarkPost!

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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RATING: Cinquain

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson (available in the United States in December) offers a stark reminder of what politics has become and how it works behind the scenes. Peterson’s very stark imagery catches candidates at their most vulnerable and in midst of their performances, but it also catches the media, the staff, the public, and the nation in a way that is least flattering and very surreal. The 2016 election has been a whirlwind of unbelievable moments from an unlikely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, to an outsider — Bernie Sanders — hoping to make inroads in the two-party system through a grassroots revolution.

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

“The Trump and Sanders phenomena were, of course, animated by radically divergent convictions and world-views. But both reflected a profound disruption taking place outside the confines of Washington, D.C.” — says John Heilemann, author of “Game Change” and “Double Down.”

While the previous election cycle had seen a historic shift in the presidency to the nation’s first Black president, President Barack Obama, the 2016 election cycle has seen a completely different stage and set of actors. With the election behind us, the nation is clearly hurting and it is divided — not only among racial lines. Peterson’s images are heavy on contrast and demonstrate the theatrics behind the scenes. While voters may see the debates and the comments at rallies as entertaining and indicative of “publicity” and “branding” — or just plain “fluff” — it is clear that the men and women on the campaign trail see many different sides of the candidates and the public.

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson is a collection of photographs, quotes from the candidates, and tweets, among other things. It also includes an essay by John Heilemann. But above all, it stands as a mirror to what our political system has become.

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Make Your Own Zoo by Tracey Radford

Source: Cico Books
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford helps parents and kids turn recyclable materials into fun jungle animals and habitats.  My daughter had a babysitter, Anna‘s daughter, for a week, and they attempted to do more of these than the sad-looking lion that she and I did before or the unfinished animal she started with daddy.

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Our sad lion, who is apparently missing his tail.

When my daughter and the girl were working on their projects, we discovered that I somehow missed a step…I forgot to cut out the templates for the lion parts that are included in the back of the book. So the poor looking parts are my poor drawing skills at work. They decided not to cut out the templates either, but their stuff looks better than mine — probably because my daughter used some old stencils my parents gave her from my attic savings at their house.

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Hard a work on their own version of a jellyfish

Trying to make her own animal.

Trying to make her own animal.

You need the templates unless you’re more confident in your drawing skills, glue, scissors, paint, pens, cardboard tubes, egg cartons (cardboard and Styrofoam), old newspaper, and cereal boxes. Animals range from giraffes to parrots, and you can made ice floes, tree houses, and more.

Their giraffe without paint

Their giraffe without paint

The girl's jellyfish in water.

The girl’s jellyfish in water.

Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford is an adaptable book that can be used by all ages to create animals and fun dioramas on a rainy afternoon. Some of the directions are a bit complicated for the age 5 group, but with a little help, they can have fun putting these animals together. Make it a group activity and see their creativity become unleashed.

RATING: Quatrain

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 224 pgs.
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Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is a memoir written as a series of personal essays that’s not only about the writing life, but also loving what you do so much that no matter how on the outside you are, you keep plugging away. Addonizio never shies away from her less than sober moments or her self-doubt.  She takes life on full force, and she makes no excuses for that.  It’s what life is for — living.  In “Plan D,” she talks about having a plan to give you some sense of control, but in all honesty, those plans don’t always work out.

As many of you know, I’ve written poems and submitted them and received a ton of rejection of late.  This book hit my bookshelf at the right time.  “How to Succeed in Po Biz” brings to light the difficulty with being a poet, what it takes is determination and a will to struggle through it all to achieve even just a modicum of success.  Royalties are small and many poets find other sources of steady income or work toward small awards and fellowships to keep working on their craft without the drudgery of a full-time job, or at least only requiring a part-time job.

Addonizio has always been a fresh poet to me, and as she writes in her essays she remembers those very low moments when she met failure, thought about giving up, and went forward anyway.  This perseverance, sheer will is what poets need.  She’s by turns vulnerable and well shielded from the barbs that come with writing poetry — the title of the book stems from one critic’s comment about how she was Bukowski in a sundress.

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is utterly absorbing.  I read it in a day, and I’m still thinking about everything she said and how it applies to my current struggles with poetry and the publishing industry, especially as someone outside academia.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

She’s the author of several poetry collections including Tell Me, A National Book Award Finalist. My latest, My Black Angel, is a book of blues poems with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones, from SFA Press. I published The Palace of Illusions, a story collection, with Counterpoint/Soft Skull in 2014. A New & Selected, Wild Nights, is out in the UK from Bloodaxe Books.

Due summer 2016: Mortal Trash, a new poetry book, from Norton. And a memoir, Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life, from Penguin.

I’ve written two instructional books on writing poetry: The Poet’s Companion (with Dorianne Laux), and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within. Visit her website.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweets & Treats With Six Sisters’ Stuff

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family is a fun book for the sweet-tooth in your family or for those gatherings, like book club, where you’re sick of making the same old treats.  The Six Sisters are masters at combining ready-made products in the grocery store with original recipes, as well as creating recipes from scratch.

When I got this book out of the library, we went through and selected recipes we all wanted to try.  My husband chose Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches for a gather we had with several kids, and the kids loved making them.  I’d recommend this for hot summer days when you have cookies and ice cream on hand or you could make your own cookies.  I chose to make Oatmeal Scotchie Blondies, which we shared with our daughter’s preschool class, since it made more than a dozen.  These were more like bars and something happened with the recipe that made these harder than expected.  Perhaps it was because I had to substitute some brown sugar for white sugar.  I’m not a culinary expert.

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The final recipe we made, and one we’ll likely make again, was shared with book club in June.  Mint Oreo Brownies were easy to make, using brownie mixes and Oreo cookies, as well as marshmallow creme.  The recipe called for food coloring and mint extract to make a light green colored marshmallow and frosting.  These were such a hit with book club that we only had two left, and I also cut the recipe down to one box of brownie mix.

Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters’ Stuff: 100+ Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family has recipes that are so easy to use, and as long as, users know how many people they are feeding, the recipes can be adjusted.  The cookbook includes recipes for other brownies, cakes, cookies, and bars, as well as pies, no-bake treats, and ice cream.  It’s definitely a cookbook to keep on hand.

RATING: Cinquain

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 320 pgs.
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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, the May book club selection, is not for the faint of heart, as Roach discusses some of the most gruesome experiments and studies in science that involve cadavers.  However, she does pepper her examination of these curious lives with humor that helps to break up the grosser aspects of the book.

“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship.  Most of your time is spent lying on your back.  The brain has shut down.  The flesh begins to soften.  Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.”  (pg. 9)

Through her — what some would call — irreverent humor, Roach explores the role that cadavers have played not only in scientific and medicinal research, but also in auto safety and military ballistics.  Readers may find they need to take breaks from reading as Roach gets very detailed, but others may find that reading straight through is made easier by her asides and funny anecdotes.  Even the people she talks to have to have a sense of humor so they can disconnect from the sadness of lost life, like one surgical student who said she didn’t have a problem working on heads, but she did find it uncomfortable to work on hands because they hold you back.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is a sensational look at the role of cadavers in modern society and in our past, and is often the case, cadavers are not given their due.  These cadavers, which were mostly donated, have given us insight into the human systems, the impacts the body can sustain before dying, and some of the wacky theories that scientists and doctors had about severed head reanimation and more.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Her most recent book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War, is out in June 2016.

Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, Discover, New Scientist, the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, and Outside, among others. She serves as a member of the Mars Institute’s Advisory Board and the Usage Panel of American Heritage Dictionary. Her 2009 TED talk made the organization’s 2011 Twenty Most-Watched To Date list. She was the guest editor of the 2011 Best American Science and Nature Writing, a finalist for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize, and a winner of the American Engineering Societies’ Engineering Journalism Award, in a category for which, let’s be honest, she was the sole entrant.

What the Book Club Thought:

Most of us enjoyed the book and its curiosities.  I have no idea why this book sat so long on my bookshelf unread.  A couple others were a bit put off by the author’s tangents, but they also read the book in a once-through fashion.  As I read it in spurts, I didn’t find the tangents to be that off-putting.  One member expressed that the book could have been improved by some editing to make it less wordy and more like the author’s published newspaper/magazine articles.  Mostly, the members found the subject matter fascinating, though one member did mention that the part about animals seemed a little out of place.  Overall, it seemed as though everyone enjoyed this book club selection.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 400 pgs.
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The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond is another great cookbook with easy to follow ingredient lists and steps.  My favorite part of these cookbooks is the step-by-step photos she adds for each part of the process.  One thing I would love, that doesn’t seem to be in these cookbooks, is a guide on how to pare down the ingredients and recipes to meet the food needs of a smaller family.  While my family will eat leftovers, there is a limit to how long they will keep and how much my family can eat.

For this cookbook, we had our daughter choose the recipes of what looked good to her, and we tried them out.  Among the recipes we tried were the Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (a dish similar to a spicy Portuguese soup I make and the Oliver Garden Zuppa Toscana soup); the Red, White, and Green Stuffed Shells; Shrimp Scampi; and the Pasta Puttanesca.

The soup was the easiest to make and the leftovers went quickly, mostly because I love soup.  Her recipe was very close to the Olive Garden version, so if you love that soup, this is a recipe for you to try at home.  The stuffed shells are also easy to make, though they can take a lot of time because the stuffing process will depend on the flexibility of your shells — which you don’t want too flexible because they’ll be mushy.  My daughter and husband really enjoyed these, which is a win for me since they both hate spinach.

Shrimp Scampi is probably the easiest of the recipes, next to the soup, but this one was not liked by either my husband or daughter for some reason.  Since eating this, which has wine in it and a lot of garlic, my daughter has refused to eat shrimp, something she normally loves.  In my case, I had to eat all the leftovers, but got sick of eating them because there was just too much.  Pasta Puttanesca is another recipe that did not go over as well as the first two, even though I eliminated the anchovies and olives, both of which are not liked here.  I love olives, but the other family members do not.  To me, without those ingredients, or at least something to replace them, the pasta was bland tasting.  My daughter, however, loved the tomatoes.  She ate those right up.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime by Ree Drummond is another cookbook I’ll have to buy at some point to try the recipes, since this one has to head back to the library.  I could just take it out again, but I like to make notations in my cookbooks about changes I make or things I substitute.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Author:

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Source: NetGalley
ebook, 288 pgs.
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Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard, which will be published in September 2016, is stunning. Wolfe is a clear talent at capturing nature, tribes, and animals and his composition is unique and lively. It’s clear that the equipment he uses and his forethought about the scene enable him to capture even unexpected beauty. Rather than work as a career photojournalist, he has taken a harder, more independent path. While this has left him to be creative and take on projects that others might not, it also has some consequences, such as not being in his home more than he is on the road. However, it is a choice he never regrets, and readers will see why when they view the phenomenal images in this book.

His love of photography is infused in every picture he takes, and it is these pictures that enable us to put ourselves in different locations and view them as they are, without industry and interference from the modern world.  Even photos at a distance are created with composition, lighting, and subject in mind.  It is clear that he loves what he does, and he equally loves the subjects, shining a new light on even the ones most photographed, like penguins.  Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard is a book that everyone will want to have in hardcover to cherish Wolfe’s art — to hold it, to view it up close, and to reach inside and experience the world through his eyes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Photographer:

The son of commercial artists, Art Wolfe was born in 1951 in Seattle, Washington, and still calls the city home. He graduated from the University of Washington with Bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and art education in 1975. His photography career has spanned five decades, a remarkable testament to the durability and demand for his images, his expertise, and his passionate advocacy for the environment and indigenous culture. During that time he has worked on every continent, in hundreds of locations, and on a dazzling array of projects. You can view his stunning photographs online and buy.

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide by Fauzia Burke

Source: FSB Associates
Paperback, 168 pgs.
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Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide by Fauzia Burke offers new authors and busy authors who know little about online marketing a step-by-step guide that will minimize missteps.  Like when plotting a story, authors will have to do some legwork, creating a marketing outline of sorts.  First of all, books are like an extension of an author’s brand; so an author will want to examine what their goals and dreams are, as well understand who the readers of a particular book are.  Are they young women? Are they older, college-educated men?  You get the idea.  Burke includes some worksheets to help authors get started outlining their personal and professional goals and dreams, and how their books play into that process.

Authors also can use this form to identify their audience, which will later help determine which social media channels will be the best marketing tools, cutting down on wasted efforts on channels that the identified audience doesn’t use as often or at all.  The goal is to be able to tell a room full of people in just a few sentences what their book is about and how it fits with the audience it targets.  With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and many other social networks to monitor in addition to traditional marketing techniques, authors may wonder when they’ll find time to write another book.  Burke’s no-nonsense style will speak to busy authors because she makes the task of online marketing seem less daunting, especially for those who feel overwhelmed by the process.

Burke also notes that the most successful authors are those that know their brand, their audience, and target their time toward those things, as well as their secondary goals, which may include building relationships with readers, helping a specific group, or calling attention to a specific cause.  In addition to the pre-marketing research, Burke offers a priority list for authors, and one of the items on the list may surprise some.

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide by Fauzia Burke is a great place to start with learning how to market a book online.  It not only will educate authors about themselves and their books, but their audience as well.  When done right, these authors will build a fan base that will happily help them market their books to others, turn out for events, and more.  But it can’t just be about marketing.  She reminds authors that social networks are about building relationships that last.

**For bloggers looking to grow their presence on the Internet, there are some great tips that could translate really well.**

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Fauzia Burke has been a leader in online marketing and digital branding for authors and others for nearly twenty years, now integrating publicity, branding, social media, and websites to establish clients online.