Book Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I had never heard of Joe Hill, the offspring of Stephen King who wrote this novel under a pen name because he did not want to gain attention to his work for the sole reason that he is Stephen King’s son, until my grandmother, a Stephen King fanatic, told me a little about the book when she was a quarter of the way through it. After she had finished she lent me the book and I wearily took it and began my journey into the life of Judas Coyne, an ex-rocker with a wicked taste for paranormal items and much younger women.

Heart-Shaped Box opens with a run of the mill, usual day of a retired rock star, Judas Coyne, his clerk and annoying friend by business-association and his goth fan-girl girlfriend whom he refers to as Georgia, that being the state in which he picked her up in while on tour with his band. The only thing remotely intriguing about this washed up rocker living in a desolate section of the United States in a farm house is his collection of occult and otherwise eerie knick knacks that fans had sent him over the years.

Judas’ attraction to so-called haunted objects has over the years evolved into an entire room full of random junk that most likely isn’t worth keeping around, but who he had built himself into being over the years on the road with his band is a man in which the goth lifestyle flocked to–And it had obviously stuck with him years after the other members of his band died off and disappeared. When his clerk sees a haunted suit online, Judas doesn’t think twice before telling him to get it. Days later, the suit arrives in a heart-shaped box and the horror, ghost-chasing story unravels.

Heart-Shaped Box is not the great horror story in which people have been claiming; it is however, a horror story that is about the same caliber of a Stephen King novel–And not his early work, which was what had built King to be known as a great horror story teller. This novel, while interesting and captivating at first, begins to drag on by the time you reach the middle of the story. While Hill is describing light, smells, temperature and feelings, you start to think to yourself “Yeah, I get it, now on with it!” This feeling is nothing short of what is felt while reading a recently published King novel.

Hill’s attention to detail is either an attribute beloved by readers or an attribute that can be seen as nothing but a writer wanting to write a novel instead of a novella. While his detailed explanations and back story of the characters is thorough, I found myself more interested in the story of Coyne’s girlfriend, Georgia; or Marybeth as we later begin to refer to her as, while my interest in the main character simply went stale, leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

While I can respect that Hill used a pen name in order to separate himself from his father and publish his novel by himself, this story runs dry way too early in order to be called a great horror story and it can easily be seen that the majority of Hill’s interest in horror stories and writing them came from his father. This novel reads as if Hill simply read Stephen King’s instructional writing book, On Writing, and decided to try on the novelist’s suit for a while.

ScratchBack: Because the PayPal Donation Button is Ugly

Making money for your blogging/website endeavors isn’t new, it’s actually a big reason why so many people are starting their own websites. Once Darren Rowse published on his website that he makes a six-figure income purely from blogging and has even went as far as to publish a book about blogging for cash, everyone has been jumping on the blog bandwagon.

There are many ways that you can make money blogging including putting a PayPal donation button on your site. Most of your readers are not advertisers and so while you can make money from direct advertising on your website, there are still a great deal of people visiting your site and if you write about a great deal of information that appeals to many people and they appreciate the work you have put in to your website in order to bring them the content they crave, some people may love to have the option of donating a little money to you to thank you for your contribution and let you know that they appreciate your hard work.

If anyone has actually seen the PayPal donation button you may have noticed that it is seriously one of the ugliest buttons to ever grace a website. I don’t know what layout the PayPal donation button would look good on, but it honestly looks horrendous on most websites and while it lets your readers donate to you, they don’t get much out of it.

Scratchback

ScratchBack took all of what I’ve already covered into consideration when thinking of a program that would let a website’s readers give back a little. ScratchBack is a program that gives you a fancy shmancy tip jar for your blog. It lets your readers scratch your back and like the saying goes, it also lets you scratch their back in return by providing a link back to their site when they purchase a link using the ScratchBack widget, which you can see in action on my sidebar to the right.

ScratchBack is a great program with an easy to manage control panel, making the entire program fool proof to set up for your website. It is also quite flexible with many color options for you to choose that will match your website’s layout the best and it also lets you pick your own widget rate, giving you complete control over the price of your top spots. By pricing your top spots low you may get more people who purchase a link on your site and scratch your back, but by pricing them a little higher, your links will be more in demand, especially if you choose to only display a certain number of top spots at a time. For instance, on Woman Tribune, our top spots are priced at $25 for an entire month. Looking at that purely from an advertising perspective, you are able to tell me that you appreciate the hard work put into this website and in return, get a link back to your website or blog for about 83 cents a day–A complete steal when you inquire about advertising prices on a website. Even if you don’t have a website of your own and you still want to scratch my back, you can link to your favorite website, a friend’s website or a website that you feel readers of Woman Tribune would be interested in.

To sign up with ScratchBack you can go to their website and you can also check out their blog for exciting industry news. They have also implemented a link directory which is huge, so go on over to their blog directory and submit your link.

Hint hint: Link directories are important because it provides a back link to your website which helps raise your Google PageRank.

We give ScratchBack
[rating:4/5]

Vote For Your Favorite Undies and Help Cervical Cancer Research

The Undie Awards I love underwear. Seriously, I cannot be within five feet of Victoria’s Secret or any store selling cute and sexy undies or I would go broke in minutes. I’ve owned pretty much all styles and types of bras and panties and if you’re like me, once you find that bra or panty that fits you the best and is the most comfortable, you love it to death–Literally, you will wear it until it develops holes and still consider keeping it. You may even go as far as to want to tell every other woman you come into contact with all about the bra that makes you feel incredible or the panties that you can wear with a tight skirt without any discomfort.

So I want to hear about your favorite undies. What are your favorite bras, panties, G strings, thongs, body shapers and so on? Not only do I want to wear about them, but I want you to vote in The Undie Awards.

The Undie Awards are where men and women can vote for their favorite undies by type, brand and style and once your vote is in, 25 cents is donated to cervical cancer research. The voting is completely anonymous, all you have to do is provide your email address after you cast your votes and the only information The Undie Awards have about you is that and your body type.

This is a fun and easy way to donate money to the National Cervical Cancer Public Education Campaign, so go on over and cast your vote for your favorite undies!

Planning Your Big Day: Wedding Registries

wedding registry kitchen items There are a lot of things to consider when planning your wedding and let’s face it, who can ignore the fact that there are presents involved?

Women have a tendency to over think pretty much everything regarding their wedding day; the term “bridezilla” didn’t come out of the sky, you know, and setting up your wedding registry is no different. There are some simple things you can do, however, to make the process of setting up your wedding registry.

First of all, start with the room you get the most excited about when you think about getting shiny, new things for it. If it’s your bedroom, go to the bedroom and take a look around. Take note of what you already have (and like) and think about what you’ve been wanting to add to the room that you haven’t already. If you have some items, like myself, that maybe your parents or your soon-to-be spouse’s parent’s handed down to you, would you like to update them? If so, in what colors or styles? Make a list of items you need as well as what you would like–It’s okay to be a little frivolous; in fact, it’s expected.

After you’ve finished with the room that you get the most excited about, move through the house in the order of what rooms give you that warm and fuzzy feeling and rooms that you would love some new gadgets for. However, it is also expected that you will forget some items that you’ll be kicking yourself later for not adding to your registry, so to help out with setting up your wedding registry, I Do Sugar, part of the Sugar blog network, has made a very convenient wedding registry [PDF] containing items that one can most often easily forget about to make sure that doesn’t happen to you!

You can download the file here; I can’t even imagine the number of sanities this file is going to save when it comes to wedding registry planning!

Mary-Kate Olsen, The Hippie

Mary-Kate Olsen Oh Mary-Kate Olsen, you wild and crazy woman always looking to separate yourself from your cute, cuddly kid super-celebrity persona. But I must ask, just what exactly were you thinking when you saw this dress and thought “Yeah, I think I’ll wear that!”?

Mary-Kate doesn’t look flattering in the least in this dress; in fact, she looks quite large and the headband is just dreadful.

What do you think, leave it in the comments!

Natural Aromatherapy for Your Bathroom

aromatherapy As a person who has easily spent way too much money on aromatherapy home and bathroom products including skin care, bath and shower products, candles and incense, I recently found a terrific natural approach to aromatherapy guaranteed to lift your spirits and your immune system.

Head over to your local flower shop or crafts store and pick up a small bundle of eucalyptus, mint, or lavender and some natural garden twine. Hang the bundles off of your shower curtain rod using the twine, close to the shower head but out of the way enough so it won’t get too wet when you turn the shower on.

If you have a cold or would like to boost your immune system, eucalyptus is a natural decongestant. The steam from the shower will release the scent throughout your bathroom and it will also clear up your cold and prevent it from returning and others from attacking.

Mint is also used as a throat soother, if you’ve looked through your local store’s cold and flu section, you may have noticed some products that aid in the soothing of the throat or medicines that get rid of sore throats and most often, those products contain mint. What not a lot of people know is that mint can also aid indigestion, helping stomach aches and also chest pains.

Lavender is my favorite plant for aromatherapy. Lavender as an essential oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and it is also used to naturally soothe headaches if applied to the temples; I used to get horrible stress headaches and ended up buying myself a natural body salve with lavender essential oils that worked wonderfully. Breathing lavender in has a calming effect and it is used to soothe stress, aches and pains and is best for you when exposed to it right before bed, as it produces a deeper sleep rid of stress that is most often carried with you into sleep making you wake even more tired than you were before you went to bed and still carrying emotional baggage and stress.

This little trick can even be used just to put a nice, natural fragrance in your bathroom that will last for a few weeks.

The ‘Healthy’ Glow

tanning bed It’s spring, which means summer is just around the corner and women are getting ready to get their bikini bodies. But what if women, with their exercise schedule and healthy diets, are backtracking and while they think they are being healthy in their efforts to maintain that perfect beach body, are really just harming their health more?

If you go to a gym, you most likely utilize most of the facilities and activities that they have to offer. Work out equipment, maybe some private classes with a personal trainer or being part of a weekly class, if they have a nutritionist on staff, you most likely consulted with them about maintaining some healthy eating habits or have gotten a quick snack from them. Just before taking your shower, getting back into your street clothes and going home, how many women hop into the tanning bed for that healthy summer glow; because lets face it, who wants to be a color just a few pigments darker than chalk? But what you don’t know is that tanning beds, a $5 billion a year industry, are harming you more than you may think.

Personally, I used to frequent tanning salons because I suffered from chronic insomnia and I found that while accompanying a friend of mine on her tanning trip and deciding to try it out for myself, that a tanning bed was the only place where I could fall asleep. While I didn’t strive for the perfect tan, I do know women who became absolutely obsessed with tanning, making appointments at two or three different tanning facilities just so no one told them that they were tanning too much because they would go to a variety of different places. It looked as if they were going once a week, but they were really visiting these facilities three times a week or more!

Tanning, while incredibly bad for your skin to begin with, as the ultraviolet radiation can cause wrinkles, dark spots and premature aging; indoor tanning can also put you at a 55% higher risk for Melanoma.

Dermatologist Louis Barich, MD, has reported that “Essentially, 20 minutes in a tanning bed can do as much damage as five hours of natural sunlight.”

So before hopping into that tanning bed for that healthy glow, go outside and get some fresh air instead–but be sure to put the sunblock on! While being pasty white may not seem very attractive to you, think about how you would feel about wrinkles, dark spots and ultimately, skin cancer.

Giving Your Pet Medication Just Got Easier

Pill Pockets for cats Giving medication to your pet is sometimes worse than getting your child to swallow that disgusting spoonful of cough medicine. They refuse to take the medication willingly and in most cases, pet owners must resort to holding their pet down and slipping a capsule into their mouths and hope they don’t just take it into another room and spit it out.

I got my cat spayed about a year ago and while still at the vet office the next morning, she had ripped all of her stitches out and within a few days of bringing her home, she had an infection from the stitches and the vet having to restitch her. In addition to the normal medication I had to give her, I also had to give her an antibiotic for the infection. Now, I have an unnatural love for my cat, I treat her as well as people treat their children and seeing her in any kind of pain or discomfort at all had me welling up with tears, so giving her the two medications twice a day was agony for me–and she didn’t like it much, either.

I recently found a great item that makes giving pets medication easier than ever–Pill Pockets. Staying true to hiding capsules in food, Pill Pockets, made by Greenies, are treats for pets that you can easily put a pill in and feed to your pet. They are made for cats as well as for dogs and would most definitely be an asset for any person having trouble with giving their pets medication.

Book Review: Chix Can Fix by Norma Vally

Home improvement books really aren’t my type of books, since I’ve always lived in apartments and can’t really take it upon myself to paint and redecorate without the approval of a landlord, whom most often are scared to death when you say “Oh yes, I’m thinking about black carpeting and green walls, what do you think?” However, Norma Vally’s Chix Can Fix tempted me because the book is not only geared towards home improvement, but also to fixing household appliances without the hassle of having to call in a professional and be robbed blind. I was also curious as to how a woman would speak to other women about home repairs and improvements, especially considering that traditionally, this book would have been geared solely towards men, had the author been a man.

I do not watch television; in fact, for three years I didn’t even have basic cable channels so my television was only used when I was watching a movie, so I had no background on who Normy Vally was or what this so-called “Tool Belt Diva” thing was all about going into this book. I was especially interested in this book to see how Vally represents women who do their own home improvement and repair work and because I had never made my own home repairs, nor knew who Norma Vally was, I went into this book completely clueless and came out just as clueless as before, but more offended than anything else.

Norma Vally speaks down to her readers, a true triumph since this book can be found in several clearance bins in many different home improvement and supply shops. She goes into explicit detail and over-simplifies already clear points as if she were a man imitating how one should speak to clueless women. She attempts humor quite frequently, but instead of coming off as humorous, her wording falls nothing short of being condescending and petty.

The self-proclaimed Tool Belt Diva had the perfect opportunity to publish a positive and helpful book for women, already knowing that women would be more inclined to purchase her book, but instead makes the same mistake as most other books of any nature do when attempting to appeal to a female audience–Speaking abut fashion and making every other sentence “cutesy” will not build a solid fan base; instead, this will provoke readers to look at the author of the book in a negative light, knowing that she does not take herself seriously, never mind being able to take the plight of her readers seriously.

If you are still inclined to purchase this book, you will find step-by-step instructions on a variety of different home improvement and repairs, such as plumbing, electricity, walls, floors, doors and windows. You will also find an estimated budget for every project in the book if you are saving up or would like an estimate for a particular home repair or improvement.

Chix Can Fix did not impress me, nor did I see what I had expected; I expected a woman-friendly book that went above the stereotypical “man job” demeanor; what I got was the reinforcement that because you’re a woman, you have no right to do these types of home improvement jobs, but if you insist on doing them anyway, Norma Vally would like to think she can help–while insulting your intelligence the entire time.

[rating:.5/5]

Tackling Comment Spam for Good

Blogs are everywhere today; just about everyone has one and because so many people of various backgrounds, cultures and personal interests are involved with the caring and keeping of personal or entertainment websites, they have easily become the leading form of web media when it comes to attracting spam.

Web publishers need to constantly be on top of their comments, checking for spam and getting rid of it promptly before viewers see them and suddenly think we condone the buying and selling of illegal pharmaceuticals or we are unnaturally concerned about their personal and intimate relationships. Spam comments are equally bad for everyone involved in a particular website. They are irritating for the webmaster, having to check sometimes daily or even multiple times a day for comments that are inappropriate for the website and are offensive to readers and it also shows readers that a website may not be as professional as it would like to be seen. If a website fails to look the part of a multi-faceted, entertaining and above all, polished and mastered website, it does not matter how well your website does stat-wise, your viewers will not be interested and potential-advertisers will not take you seriously.

Dealing with spam comments can quickly become a second job for a webmaster, especially since the bigger a website gets, the more spam it attracts. The secret is to finding an efficient and user-friendly spam comment program to help eliminate the worry of unprofessional and inappropriate spam. If you are running WordPress, you are most likely still running the spam monitoring system Akismet that came with your original WordPress install; however, there are other programs out there, for WordPress in particular, that I have found to work much better than Akismet.

Defensio anti-spam Defensio is a comment spam monitor and eliminator whose entire mission is based off of outsmarting evil spam, which it does miraculously. In my opinion, you cannot get any better than Defensio for taking the edge off when you’re thinking about how your website is doing and if any spam is leaking through.

With its innovative technology, Defensio actually adapts to the content you post and is proven not to work in the exact same manner for two different bloggers; instead, it adapts to the webmaster’s specific way of managing their comments and follow suite. Every comment that is posted on your website is given a level of “spamminess” and is determined whether or not the level it is given is low enough to be posted. On a personal level, I have seen comments with a spamminess level as low as 20% be held for moderation, just to make sure that it wasn’t someone trying to plug their site or a company looking for some shameless exposure.

With 99.77% accuracy, Defensio definitely gives you the security you need to be a successful, professional and efficient webmaster with absolutely no worry about back doors being left open for spam comments to get away with accessing your content. It tackles comment spam for several different user interfaces such as WordPress, PixelPost, Mephisto, Text Pattern, Movable Type and Drupal. It is also supported by several different web developer platforms such as Ruby on Rails, Java, Perl, PHP (4 and 5) and Python; all of which can be downloaded here.

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