Bloggiesta 2014

Bloggiesta 2014

Bloggiesta is a blogging event where us bloggers get together and fix things up on our blogs.

My pink hammer is all ready to cute-ify this blog!!!

My pink hammer is all ready to cute-ify this blog!!!

This is the perfect time for Bloggiesta!! Since I changed my blog design, there are a few small things that still need to be fixed.  And here they are:

  • Change favicon using this tutorial from Jenni Elyse
  • Search results header
  • Rewrite About me page
  • Optimize Yoast Seo plugin with Nose Graze tutorial.
  • Set up Shelfari
  • Responsive Header using this tutorial.
  • See if I can fix the float on my book covers for my responsive design.  Not sure how to do this.  Not sure that I care.
  • Fix related posts images for these categories – reading challenges, news, change google diary to be featured image instead of book cover, events, blog tour, author interview
  • Move tag cloud and put something in the footer in it’s place?? Ooh maybe an Instagram feed or something.
  • Change design credits on links page

And I will probably do a mini-challenge about Google + if they do one.  I don’t know if I’ll have time for tons of mini-challenges but I’m going to try.

What is your to-do list this Bloggiesta? Leave a link I want to see it!

Audiobook Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Audiobook Review: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina SankovitchTolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
Published: June 7, 2011
Narrator: Coleen Marlo
Audiobook Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins
Genres: Memoir
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

After the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch found herself caught up in grief, dashing from one activity to the next to keep her mind occupied. But on her forty-sixth birthday she decided to stop running and start reading.
3 Stars

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love. The author, Nina, uses reading to deal with her grief instead of travel like in Eat, Pray, Love, but both books had very interesting insights and growth from their experiences.  Nina sets out to read a book a day for a year and also blogs a review about each book.  This obviously took a huge amount of time and because of that she let a lot of unimportant things slip out of her life.  For example, she didn’t obsess about sending out tons of Christmas cards or putting up tons of decorations.  She got her family to help with dishes more.  Nina describes books as an escape back to life and it was easy to see how having a time consuming hobby helped her get her priorities in life straight again.

The title was very misleading.  While it was interesting to see the kinds of books you could read in one day, I was expecting a book about someone who reads all of Tolstoy’s works or something.  Tolstoy doesn’t even show up until the very end and she obviously doesn’t read any of his major works since they are way too long to read in one day.  I can’t remember what of Tolstoy’s she did read. Even though I was disappointed that there was hardly anything in the whole novel about Tolstoy, it was a good way to find out about new books.

I found some interesting insights about reading and books while listening to this, but overall it was actually kind of dry.  In between the boring stuff I found a few thoughts that I really enjoyed.

  • Why are kids encouraged to read every day but adults aren’t?
  • There is always beauty to live for whether it’s in memories of the past, blessings in the present, and the idea that beauty will come again.
  • Good fiction IS truth.
  • Books don’t have to be hard work to do you some good.

Mostly, this book made me want to read a book a day for maybe a month.  A year is kind of crazy, but it did sound fun to just read a ton of books.

Narrator Rating: ★★

This book did not translate well into an audiobook.  It was very hard to tell when the author was quoting a book or was speaking in her own words.  I think it would be better to read this one especially since the narrator sounded like Siri.  She just sounded so robotic that I’m not 100% convinced this was narrated by a person.

Overall, it was kind of a dry read but had a few insights about reading that I liked.  It also gave me the idea of reading a book a day which seems like a really fun idea.

Content Rating: High, for a chapter that talks about sex. It does not go into specific or graphic detail but it is probably geared more for adults.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch has written two books of non-fiction. The first, her memoir of a life of reading, entitled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, came out in 2011. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair not only tells the story of Nina's life of reading but of how books helped her to cope with the death of her oldest sister. Described as a must-read by Oprah Magazine and hailed as an outstanding debut by Kirkus Reviews, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is for anyone who has ever found refuge -- or comfort or escape or joy - in a book.

Nina was born in Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School, Tufts University, and Harvard Law School. She lives with her four children, husband, and three cats in Connecticut.

I Figured Out How to Design A Blog

I Figured Out How to Design A Blog

Sadly, my husband is tired of hearing about my NEW! BLOG! DESIGN! after asking him twenty million times for his opinion on my new blog badge that had only slight variations (is the feather better on the right or the left??).  But that’s the beauty of the Internet.  Chances are NO ONE cares about the tiny details of my redesign, but the fact that this post is public and I can write whatever the crap I want gives me the beautiful illusion that someone does care and will read this entire rambling thing.

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I’m so proud of my new blog design because I did it all by myself! Meaning I customized the CSS for my existing theme and made a new banner and badge.  But still!! I was very proud of all the little tiny things I changed.

Let’s start from the beginning.  I’ve been wanting to redesign my blog for a while now.  Not because it was ugly, but, as the owner, I look at this thing all the time.  It’s like furniture – its not like the couches are in a terrible place but after looking at the couch in the same place for 5 years you just want it somewhere else you know? I was just tired of the dark look.  I wanted something colorful, feminine, and light.

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My blog before

Since I started my blog in 2011 I have always had a black colored theme.  White, minimalist designs seem to be the trend now and I wanted one.  But I was broke.  Enter me finding these adorable feathers on Etsy when I visited the Bumbles and Fairy-Tales blog and saw her cute new design and lo there was a design credit!!  The feather had all the colors and ooooh it could be like writing my blog title and then I added this cute font I found from Nose Graze and there you go.  From there I went color happy (pink! mint green! dark green! light brown! gold!) and changed the color of all the things I could find.

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The block quote were trickier to do the colors for.  I didn’t want the Related Posts and the About the Author box the same color.  I wanted the book synopsis pink so that left light green, dark green and yellow for the back ground of each.  Yellow was too dark and having the author box light green didn’t make it different enough … then I was hit with the idea to make the author box with a yellow border and white background. An added bonus for that was that it made it look more a part of the blog post!

 

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AND I got to learn new things! I learned how to make my own buttons so the ones on my blog could be pink instead of orange.

Here’s the thing about changing your design.  It starts out as a new header and then you realize the links don’t match and before you know it you’ve redesigned the whole thing in two days.  I even had to put a new arrow next to the return to the top link.

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It took me two hours to find a cute font that you can actually read for the blog post headers that I thought matched the new style of my blog.  I loved the font in my sidebar headers but it was just too hard to read so I couldn’t use it for the post titles.  But I couldn’t let it go either. So I have like 4 fonts on my blog. Oh well :)

Then I had to make new star ratings and a new badge.  My plugin for the social media icons didn’t have the right color pink, but to my surprise I liked the dark grey.

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My new banner didn’t have my owl which has been on my blog since it started.  I feel like he’s my mascot so I made a quote with him in it.  It’s from Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I thought it fit with my blog title perfectly :)

The thing that took the most time was the menu.  I had to change the font size, figure out how to change the sub menu indicator to the cute little double arrow and then figure out how to change the background color from black to it’s now present light gray.

If you are speechless at my ability to ramble for 800 words about a new blog design, I have a new catch phrase for you.

 

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How often do you redesign your blog? Have you ever just wanted to change one thing and then ended up doing way more than that?

Book Review: A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Book Review: A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam GidwitzA Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Series: A Tale Dark & Grimm #1
Published: October 28, 2010
256 pages
Genres: Childrens, Fairy Tale
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.
4 Stars

A Tale Dark & Grimm stays true to the spirit of the original Grimm fairy tales which were stark, disturbing, and usually tragic with characters who acted like idiots.  A Tale Dark & Grimm retells and weaves together fairy tales but adds humor to balance out the violence.  The humor comes in a wonderfully written voice from the narrator that acts like the best audio commentary you’ve ever heard about these fairy tales.  The narrator even suggests that maybe little kids should stop reading because there are some gross scenes coming up.  I’m pretty sure that would make any kid on the planet keep reading.  If you’ve ever wanted to read a fairy tale with snarky commentary then you need to read this book.

A Tale Dark & Grimm doesn’t glamorize violence though.  There are definitely morals and cautionary tales that add depth to these tales.  It reminded me of The Tales of Beedle the Bard where Dumbledore talks about how fairy tales are too watered down now and they fail to teach kids anymore by covering up anything bad or scary.  Learning about the evils of life is best done in a story where kids can learn from the mistakes of others and realize that there is true evil out there.  I loved this quote about how even when we don’t deserve it sometimes bad things happen to us and there can be some good in that.

For, in life, it is in the darkest zones one finds the brightest beauty and the most luminous wisdom.

– Adam Gidwitz,  A Tale Dark and Grimm (Prologue)

Overall, it was a wonderfully written snarky retelling of Grimm fairy tales that doesn’t shy away from the scary things in life and what they can teach us.

Content Rating: Mild, for some very mild violence and gore.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Adam Gidwitz

Adam Gidwitz

Adam Gidwitz grew up in Baltimore. Now he lives in Brooklyn and teaches kids large and slightly less large at Saint Ann's School. Adam only writes about what he's experienced personally. So, while all of the strange, hilarious, and frightening things in A TALE DARK AND GRIMM really did happen to Hansel and Gretel, they also happened to Adam. Of course, if you've ever had a childhood, they've probably happened to you, too.

Book Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Book Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson BurnettA Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published: 1905
242 pages
Genres: Childrens, Classic
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative student at Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, is devastated when her adored, indulgent father dies. Now penniless and banished to a room in the attic, Sara is demeaned, abused, and forced to work as a servant. How this resourceful girl's fortunes change again is at the center of A Little Princess, one of the best-loved stories in all of children's literature.
4 Stars

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s way of writing, even in the author’s note, has a whimsical, magical child-like tone to it that is very endearing.  And like a child, the author can also be bluntly honest which made me laugh.

I loved reading about Sarah and the teacher that is jealous of her.  In all honesty, the imaginative and optimistic Sarah was a much better teacher to the girls at the school.  The teacher and other adults in the story seemed to delight in other’s misfortunes while Sarah felt deep empathy towards them and tried her best to help them. I loved Sarah’s imagination and her ability to use it to bring happiness to her and others around her no matter how bad things in their life were.  Sarah had a beautiful ability to see things from someone else’s view.  She even befriends a rat. I couldn’t help thinking that even though Sarah is just a child, I would like to be as kind, loving, and happy and she is.

When you will not fly into a passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and they say stupid things they wish they hadn’t said afterward. There’s nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in— that’s stronger.

– Frances Hodgson Burnett,  A Little Princess (p. 94).

A Little Princess was one of my favorite movies as a kid and although the movie was different than the book it was based on, it still had the great characters and imagination that I loved in the movie.  The movie amped up the conflict and made it a little more sad than the book, but if you liked the movie you will definitely like the book.

Overall, it’s a beautifully written classic about the power of imagination. 

Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870. In 1872 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, with whom she had two sons, Lionel and Vivian. The marriage was dissolved in 1898, and Burnett was briefly remarried, to actor Stephen Townsend. That marriage too, ended in divorce. Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children's author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.