Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why I'm Off Facebook, and How I Plan to Make My Blog GDPR Compliant

One of my friends gave me this birthday bouquet.  I will be sharing other birthday surprises and niceties at a later date.

GDPR Compliance

Hello, My Lovelies!  

I have been busy with birthday, Mother's Day, and other family activities lately, and now I have to worry about making sure my blogs are GDPR Compliant.

Disclaimer:  I am in NO POSITION to give legal advice.  I'm strictly sharing what I'll be doing to update my blog and sharing a resource or two for your benefit.  I don't know enough about GDPR to give advice, I'm mostly sharing my frustration!

This hasn't made blogging particularly fun for me, and leave it to the Europeans to screw everything up for the rest of the world.  ;P   Although a pain for bloggers, I understand some of the benefits for European consumers, however I don't for the life of me can see how bloggers can be in compliance with this law because it's way too muddy and confusing.

What is GDPR?  It's a new EU law that goes into effect May 25th.  The purpose of the law  is data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.  According to the MOST HELPFUL ARTICLE I've read so far about this topic, the aims of the GDPR are:

1. To reinforce data protection rights of individuals
2. Facilitate the free flow of personal data in the digital market
3. Reduce the administrative burden.  (on the reader, obviously, NOT the blogger....)

You may be asking, how does that affect me?  I'm American.  Well it does, and you need to protect yourself and update your blog. This is even true if you do not make money from your blog.

Jennifer Priest from Smart Creative Social has written a comprehensive post about steps she's taking to make her blog GDPR Compliant.  I highly recommend that you read Jennifer's post.

The first thing you should do is make sure your blog has a security certificate.  Blogger has made it easy for us to get security certificates with literally two clicks, so I suggest you get one ASAP.  The next important thing to do is write a privacy policy for your blog.  I plan on writing one and posting it via a page soon.

The second thing is adding a cookies consent bar if you haven't done so already.  Here is a resource for adding it to the html of your template.  UPDATE: Make sure your cookies bar won't  be outdated on May 25th.

Another important element is to make sure everything has an "opt in" button.  Blogger is supposedly working on one for the comments section of Blogger blogs.  I'm hoping that it will we available by May 25th, if not, I will temporarily disable my comments.

Under GDPR, personal data can mean almost anything, like blog post comments, Google analytics, third person hosted services like Bloglovin', and social media buttons and "likes."  

Do you have a headache yet?

Here is a free tool to help you write your privacy policy.  Also, you'll need to send emails to your email lists to re-request consent, including your RSS feed (honestly, this is what gives me the biggest headache; this alone makes me want to make my blog private).  You'll also need to confirm privacy policies about all third party services you use and disclose in your privacy policy.  I've read that email services will have a function for this, but I have not tried this yet for my Tiny Letter newsletter.  If you have not subscribed to my newsletter and you want to keep up with me, I highly suggest you subscribe because I will be sending out updates via my newsletter.  The form is at the top of my sidebar.

I'm seriously thinking about making my blogs private (if I can't figure this out by May 25th), or making one private (this one) and keeping my art journaling blog public, and here's why:

I own the domain for this blog.  If I have a private blog, then when folks read my blog they are consenting to read it because they will have to enter their email every single time they read my blog.  I can write in my privacy policy that they are knowingly using their email as the password to read my blog, and explain that I will not share this information to a third party entity.  Also, I'm hoping this will help with comments as well because so many fewer people will read my blog if I take it private.  But I'm still planning on using Blogger's opt-in box on comments once it becomes available.  Also, the RSS feed issue I mentioned, above, is another reason I want to switch to private.  I'm planning on contacting Google about my idea and see if going private will help with this issue.

If you want to read my blog, I will need your email so I can add you to my blog reading list once I take it private.  I can also add you to my Tiny Letter list if you want, but you MUST give your consent to both when you email me.  

My email is rickijill@gmail(dot)com

My art journaling blog is not owned by me, it's owned by Blogger.  I'm confident that Blogger will provide us with tools to become GDPR compliant, so as of the writing of this post, I'll probably keep it a public blog.

Another tip if you're blog is on the Blogger platform:  Read some of the posts on the help forum.  I found them very interesting.


I was reading about GDPR Compliance on the Google Help Forum, and this is the biggest problem, and I do not have the skills to address it.  This is a direct quote from the forum posted by "Gracey":

It isn't really a matter of updating the cooking notice with an opt-out option. 

The requirement is that they must actually opt-in before any cookies are loaded. 

And in order to opt-in to all the different things on a site that requires the user is aware of ALL the cookies that will be encountered when they visit your site, and must be given the choice to opt in to individual services ... like analytics, and ad cookies, and anything else that uses cookies, like email subscriptions or follow options.

That means all of the cookie choices should be listed so they can opt in individually to each service, or opt out of each service.

Honestly, I can't imagine that most bloggers will do this.  So I'm wondering if this is intended to be more of a revenue stream for the EU rather than simply "caring about the consumer."  You must ask yourself, "What is the EU's agenda?" because if it were about protecting the consumer, the law wouldn't be so muddy, and it would be simple and easy for bloggers to comply.  THIS POST explains a lot about GDPR, and how expensive it is for UK bloggers to register with the Information Commissioners Office.  Also, I can't imagine readers willing to "click all the boxes" required to "opt-in" to all the individual services.  What a fun suck! 

However, I do care about privacy.  I care about my own private as well as the privacy of my readers.  Please read my updated privacy policy posted on the legal page.  Click on the link on the tool bar at the top of the blog.  I've worked very hard on this policy, and I hope at least it's a good start.

Why I'm Off Facebook

I'm now off Facebook, although for the moment it's only a suspension of my account.  However, once May 25th rolls around, it will be much easier to delete my account which I plan on doing then.

I never was a fan of FB, and I only opened an account for a book club I belonged to which is now disbanded.

The things I don't like about FB are numerous, but the one thing I don't like is it's a time suck for me.  Since FB quit using a chronological feed, my feed has been problematic.  Lately, I have the same three people's posts, followed by TONS of ads, only to then repeat older post by the same three people before I could scroll down, WAY DOWN, to new posts.  For the most part, if I wanted to catch-up with a friend, I'd have to search for them and then click to reach their wall.  This is a lot of time-consuming work, and yes, I know about the "three dots" but it did not work in my case.

According to AdSense, FB does NOT have an accurate assessment of me.  I am NOT alt-right, and I can't help but wonder if FB doesn't like me for this reason.  After all, they deemed Diamond and Silk as a "threat to the community," and I wouldn't characterize either of them as "alt-right."  Now I know I'm not a household name like these ladies, but keep in mind that FB conducts social experimentation on users without their knowledge not to mention the selling of friends' information of millions of users to third party entities.

I'm also NOT A FAN of the FB privacy policy.  I don't like that FB followed me on the web when I left the platform, and that's not the only policy I don't like.

Another reason is this is one less third party entity I'll have to worry about on my blog.

However, I do like Instagram, and honestly the fact that FB owns IG might be the one thing that saves the company from ruin.  I will continue enjoying IG until I don't like their policies; I do love how much more POSITIVE IG seems over FB.

So far, I have not missed FB at all.  It has given me more free time to pursue more interesting things, like figuring out the GDPR.

I guess that's all for now.  I'll be working on my Privacy Policy most of the weekend.  This is not how I'd like to spend my time, but I want to make sure my blog is compliant only because I've meet so many sweet friends via blogging.  I hope you will take the extra step to enter your email in order to read my blog.  I know it's a pain, but for the moment it's the best plan for me until I'm certain my blog is GDPR Compliant.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Two Steps Forward

About Two Steps Forward

• Paperback: 384 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow (May 1, 2018)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Project comes a story of taking chances and learning to love again as two people, one mourning her husband and the other recovering from divorce, cross paths on the centuries-old Camino pilgrimage from France to Spain.

“The Chemin will change you. It changes everyone…”

The Chemin, also known as the Camino de Santiago, is a centuries-old pilgrim route that ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Every year, thousands of walkers—some devout, many not—follow the route that wends through quaint small villages and along busy highways alike, a journey unlike any other. Zoe, an artist from California who’s still reeling from her husband’s sudden death, has impulsively decided to walk the Camino, hoping to find solace and direction.

Martin, an engineer from England, is road-testing a cart of his own design…and recovering from a messy divorce. They begin in the same French town, each uncertain of what the future holds. Zoe has anticipated the physical difficulties of her trek, but she is less prepared for other challenges, as strangers and circumstances force her to confront not just recent loss, but long-held beliefs. For Martin, the pilgrimage is a test of his skills and endurance but also, as he and Zoe grow closer, of his willingness to trust others—and himself—again.

Smart and funny, insightful and romantic, Two Steps Forward reveals that the most important journeys we make aren’t measured in miles, but in the strength, wisdom, and love found along the way. Fans of The Rosie Project will recognize Graeme Simsion’s uniquely quirky and charming writing style.

My Review:

As mentioned in the book blurb, Martin (an atheist) is using the Camino as a reason to promote the design of a cart he's marketing to the British military and other interested entities. He's also blogging about his progress and the durability of his cart's designs and was able to get a link to his blog included on one of the more popular Camino websites. As his blog gains followers, it's clear that his readers are much more interested in him and his progress rather than the cart's durability.  Zoe has been harboring disdain for the church for years.  Her reasons for walking are: to escape facing her college friend Camille she's supposed to be visiting in France; and grief over her husband's recent death.  This is my one disappointment in the story: there are very few pilgrims walking for spiritual reasons.

This is a mature love story for the most part, although Martin and Zoe are at constant cross-purposes with each other throughout the entire narrative.  They meet interesting characters along the way, and one of my favorites was actually based on a young man that Graham Simsion and his wife Anne Buist met while walking the Camino.  He actually suggested they write this book, and they did!  I appreciate the details in the book about the landscapes and the villages Martin and Zoe stop in along the way.  But the mention of bedbugs, unwashed bodies, blisters, and injuries made me squeamish, not to mention the living conditions in a few of the hostels.  This long trek is not for sissies!  It's obvious that Graham and Anne paid close attention and took notes for this book.  There's a map that shows the various routes for the Camino in the front of the book that is very helpful because not only could I keep-up with Zoe's progress, but also Martin's progress and a few of the minor characters as they take different paths and then meet-up later along the way.

I enjoyed the story, and I recommend it for that, but don't expect anything remotely Christian in it other than a few encounters with nuns, monks, churches, and Christian art.  Simsion is a fantastic writer, and The Rosie Project is a favorite book.  Also, I'm currently reading The Rosie Effect, and I was happy to read in this ARC that Simsion is currently working on the third and last Rosie novel.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Rebecca Rocks

About Graeme Simsion

GRAEME SIMSION is the author of the #1 bestseller The Rosie Project, which has been optioned for film by Sony Pictures, was a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year and won the Australian Book Industry Association Book of the Year. The Rosie Effectwas also a #1 Globe and Mail bestseller, an instant New York Times bestseller and a People magazine Pick of the Week. Simsion’s most recent novel, The Best of Adam Sharp, has also been optioned for film. This is his first novel co-written with his wife, Anne Buist. Follow him on Twitter @GraemeSimsion.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of Two Steps Forward from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Below is an affiliate link from IndieBound for purchasing the book.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore

Happy Wednesday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you a book I read recently:  Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore.  I enjoyed this book so much, and I found the book's premise and history fascinating.

According to Goodreads:

On a quiet Philadelphia morning in 1906, a newspaper headline catapults Alma Mitchell back to her past. A federal agent is dead, and the murder suspect is Alma’s childhood friend, Harry Muskrat. Harry—or Asku, as Alma knew him—was the most promising student at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father, where Alma was the only white pupil. Created in the wake of the Indian Wars, the Stover School was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring reservations. Instead, it robbed them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names—and left a heartbreaking legacy in its wake.

The bright, courageous boy Alma knew could never have murdered anyone. But she barely recognizes the man Asku has become, cold and embittered at being an outcast in the white world and a ghost in his own. Her lawyer husband, Stewart, reluctantly agrees to help defend Asku for Alma’s sake. To do so, Alma must revisit the painful secrets she has kept hidden from everyone—especially Stewart.

Told in compelling narratives that alternate between Alma’s childhood and her present life, Between Earth and Sky is a haunting and complex story of love and loss, as a quest for justice becomes a journey toward understanding and, ultimately, atonement.

"His jaw tightened and lips flattened. 'It's not so easy.  Our worlds are like the sky and earth, Azaadiins.  They get very close, but never touch.'"

My Review:

I enjoyed reading this book, especially the half of that narrative that took place in the past during Alma's childhood and young adulthood. Alma is a student at the Native American Stover Boarding School her father runs; she's the only white pupil, and she's meant to be a model student for the savages.  The Indian students have their ways of clinging to their culture, and Alma receives an education of her own as she assimilates their language, stories, and rituals.  I love Alma's character.  She's truly one of the most idealistic and compassionatet characters because she truly believes what her father and other white adults are telling her about the purpose of the school and how the Indians' lives will be better because of their education and acceptance of the white man's culture.  The school is deemed a success, and one of its pupils is even accepted to Brown University.

The second half of the narrative illustrates the end result for several of the students from the Stover School as Alma and her lawyer husband Stewart embark on an investigation to prove Harry's innocence.  One thing I think the author does extremely well in the book is her characterization of Alma from idealistic young women in the past to melancholy, guarded woman in the present.  Plus I must mention that I like Stewart.  He drops everything to leave Philadelphia and travel to Wisconsin help one of Alma's childhood friends he's never met; he does it for her because he loves her so much.

Obviously what kept me reading the book is the mystery from Alma's past.  It wasn't what I expected at all, and her story is heartbreaking.  Although sad, this book does have a satisfying ending, and I highly recommend it.  Amanda Skenandore's research for this book is outlined in her author's notes, and I'm impressed to say the least.  

"She watched the sun glide toward the horizon until it hung red and brilliant above the trees, its rays--for a fleeting moment--a bridge between earth and sky."

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of Between Earth and Sky from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Below is an affiliate link for purchasing this novel via IndieBound.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Amanda

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, May 4, 2018

Literary Friday: I Am an Executioner

Happy Friday and weekend, My Lovelies!  Recently I read an amazing collection of short stories, I Am an Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran.  

This book is part of Capsule Books' quarterly book subscription for spring.  I love this subscription box because each quarter readers choose from three book capsules that are meant to impart a particular mood or emotion.  The spring choices are red for romance, blue for nostalgia, and yellow for destiny.  I chose red for romance!

Let's take a look at the contents of the spring capsule:

I love the box that the three books are mailed in, and the above card is a copy of a handwritten note about the capsule.

Each capsule comes with three books, the letter, and a beautiful bookmark.

Above are the three books in the red for romance spring capsule.

I like that two of the selections are short story collections because I love short stories!  I like how I can pick up a book and read a story in one sitting before I do other activities.  I loved I Am an Executioner:Love Stories, and I'll read the other two soon before ordering the summer capsule.

According to Goodreads:

An explosive, funny, wildly original fiction debut: nine stories about the power of love and the love of power, two urgent human desires that inevitably, and sometimes calamitously, intertwine.

In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes—who spring from his riotous, singular imagination. From the lovesick tiger who narrates the unforgettable opener, “The Infamous Bengal Ming” (he mauls his zookeeper out of affection), to the ex-CompUSA employee who masquerades as a doctor; from a railroad manager in a turn-of-the-century Indian village, to an elephant writing her autobiography; from a woman whose Thanksgiving preparations put her husband to eternal rest, to the newlywed executioner of the title, these characters inhabit a marvelous region between desire and death, playfulness and violence. At once glittering and savage, daring and elegant, here are wholly unforgettable tales where reality loops in Borgesian twists and shines with cinematic exuberance, by an author who promises to dazzle the universe of American fiction.

My Review:

First of all, don't be fooled by the title;  "Love Stories" is a stretch in most cases.  I'm so happy that this book was included in the capsule because I don't think I would have read it otherwise even though it was a Washington Post Book of the Year.  There are nine stories in the collection, and I loved all of them but one.  That's high praise for a short story collection, and the one story I didn't care for was about an elephant writing her autobiography, and there are COPIOUS footnotes written by....I couldn't quite figure out who wrote them because I found it too tedious to read!

Next, I'll focus on my favorite stories.  In "The Infamous Bengal Ming," a tiger truly loves his zoo handler, but sadly he mauls him.  He didn't mean it, honestly!  And that was the beginning of a series of mishaps and misunderstandings.

In "Demons," a woman believes that a careless whisper wishing her husband wasn't there was overheard by the asura ganas, or small demons in the air all around us.  These beings say "Ashtu, ashtu" at random times, and if they say it simultaneously to a person thinking or saying something, then it happens. The woman's husband dies shortly after she wishes him gone on Thanksgiving, and when she goes to a brown Thanksgiving party no one really listens when she tells them her husband is dead on their living room floor.  (I'm not being racist when I say brown party.  My Indian friend calls them that.)

The third story I'll mention is sort of a satirical sci-fi, postcolonialism story entitled "On the Banks of the Table River (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319)".  It's about a humanoid insect planet that has been colonized by Earth for its natural resources.  The main character is an undertaker, and he has a rebellious daughter.

Please understand that I can't do this book justice.  You're going to read my review and think I'm a crazy loon, but trust me, Parameswaran can write!  This book was first published in 2012, and I read somewhere that he's currently working on a novel.

What have you been reading lately?

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  This week I read My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan.  I chose this book for nostalgic reasons because I was an exchange student and attended Balliol College with several of my friends.  I was happily surprised that Whelan mentions Balliol and the three Anglican Martyrs' Memorial located there.

About My Oxford Year

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 24, 2018)

Major Motion Picture Already in Development with Temple Hill Entertainment

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. 

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

Julia Whelan is a tea master so these photos are in honor of her.
How awesome is that!!!

My review:

In Whelan's Acknowledgments, she states that this novel is based upon an original screenplay.  She was hired to write the novel because she attended Oxford University, and like Ella the main character, she could give a unique perspective as an American who "read" (because at Oxford students read, not study) literature and creative writing there.  I enjoyed all the mentions of many of the sites around Oxford I remember.  Whelan does a remarkable job describing Oxford, and not just the physical place, but also the history, mood, and atmosphere of the university.  I enjoyed reading about the traditions, too.

Also, I love the adorable cover with the bike rider on the bridge and the couple punting on the Isis; it's so charming.  (But maybe I should've paid a bit more attention to the blurb that compares the book to JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.)  Without spelling it out, you probably know to what I'm referring.  Ella has a group of friends who are quirky and fun, and I'm disappointed in Ella's lack of romance toward Jamie as she counts down her departure time once her year of academic study is over.

At first, this novel reads like chick lit because Ella has a wonderful job as a presidential campaign consultant based mostly on a study she conducted about the importance of art education.  She's able to work remotely from Oxford as she fulfills her childhood dream to study at the university as a Rhodes scholar.  Then she has a cute-meet with a dashing if not obnoxious Brit in a fish and chips fry shop who ends-up being one of her lecturers.  Then the next thing you know they fall drunkenly into bed together and we know this because Ella wakes up to Professor Jamie's exiting her bathroom dressed in yesterday's clothes...and the reader gets none of the sexy bits, so this book isn't quite a romance novel.  ;P

When the reader discovers Jamie's life-changing secret, it becomes much more literary.  Julia Whelan does a wonderful job with the novel, and I wonder if the literary allusions and quotes are from the screenplay or from Whelan because they are most excellent, and they add so much to the narrative.  Nevertheless, I think this is a well-written novel, but it's not a lighthearted read as the cover might suggest.  I can't wait for the movie!


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Kei Moreno

About Julia Whelan

Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master. Find out more about Julia at her website, and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of My Oxford Year from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Also, if you prefer purchasing your books from Indie bookstores, below is an affiliate link from Indie Bound.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill