28 July 2014

How To Customize Your Navigation Bar

Navigation bar (n): that thing that typically runs horizontally right underneath your header.  Maybe above it.  And sometimes it's vertical as a fancified list.  But it's always at the top, and it always has some prominence because it's displaying the most important parts of your blog in a compacted format.  You put links to your About page there, as well as your Contact page, as well as a few things like your Review Policy and Review Archive.

Making this sucker look good goes a long way towards instantly improving the look of your blog.

Some things to consider when it comes to navigation bars:
  • you can't put every important link you've ever had in the history of your blogging career in it
  • you're going to become a brilliant apprentice of creating navigation bars
  • you're going to do great

27 July 2014

In My Mailbox (122)

from the library

Defy by Sara B. Larson
I haven't read anyone's review on this but I've seen it around quite a bit.  Apparently there's a love triangle....so we'll see how that goes.  But overall it looks interesting.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
To satisfy my sudden curiosity for Victorian life.

from half-price books

Push
A movie, not a book, but what a movie it is.  Watched it a while ago and so when I saw it super cheap at Half Price Books in good condition... Well.  You see how that always goes.  ;)

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My favorite Shakespeare play.  If you're into Shakespeare, and haven't yet seen it, check out the version with David Tennant and Catherine Tate.  It is absolutely amazing.  It's more fun to quote/perform than to read but I wanted a physical copy for a reference.

Airman by Eoin Colfer | Review
I've wanted my own copy for such a long time now.  I've read it a few times already.  Eoin Colfer is one of my all time favorite authors.

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee | Review
I'm slowly working on own this series because it's such a lovely series.

26 July 2014

Top 5: Good Books with Bad Covers

Authors almost never have any control over the covers rendered from their novels.  (Which I really don't get, because who would be a better judge of what should go on it?  They don't have to design it, but a little input wouldn't be amiss.)  Unfortunately, there are some brilliant books out there who get slammed with some proper eyesores.

The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable | Review
This isn't so much "bad" but rather "old."  You know how the older covers have this certain thing about them that screams of "pre-turn-of-the-century"?  It puts me off a bit.

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton | Review
The concept is there, but it looks incredibly amateuristic to me.  Something about the lighting difference between the too-clean-cut model and the shadowy background.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman | Review
The text, in this case, is what makes this such an eyesore to me.  Well, that, and the color scheme.  Have you seen the updated cover?  Leagues better!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi | Review
No.  Just...no.  The original cover actually had personality versus this interesting but completely irrelevant piece of shoddy graphic designing.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen | Review
I don't like the new Sarah Dessen covers in general (which is what will most likely keep me from buying any more physical copies of her future books).  The text on this one is well-meaning, but the image itself -- ugh.  Though they tried to composite the two images as smoothly as possible, it's easy to spot the fact that the girl doesn't belong in the background image.  The whole thing is as bad as an off-key note.

24 July 2014

Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn't exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He's pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can't help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he's not exactly sure how to "use "it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it's time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?

23 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
Coming in September
I immediately thought of 13 Reasons Why when I read this.  That book messed up my twelve-year-old self and so I'm a bit wary of Falling Into Place because it's the kind of book I would typically steer clear of.  Still.  It sounds compelling, and I think, if I were in the right mood, I would pick it up.

what are you waiting on? 

22 July 2014

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

21 July 2014

The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

Get steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue as Mary goes undercover at Buckingham Palace - and learns a startling secret at the Tower of London.

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quick-witted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose.

20 July 2014

In My Mailbox (121)

From The Library

Like a moron, I had accidentally checked out the second book without having read the first one.  So this time, I got my stuff together enough to get the right one.  I've already started and it's interesting so far. 

I've read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers and so... third and final book!  I've already started and... It's sad and exciting all at once.  I can't wait to see how all this stuff goes down.

I saw this at Half-Price Books and what had caught my eye was its squat shape and deckled edges and fun, cartoon illustrations.  Then it popped up in random places on the blogosphere so I had to check it out and see what the deal was.  (It's a fun book to just hold for some reason.  Why is its shape so appealing?)

I stumbled upon this while browsing Goodreads and what drew me was its nifty cover.  Also the bit about blind children being the best thieves.  I didn't really need to know more than that.  Had to check it out.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
I'll always consider fantasy to be my go-to genre.  Yet I haven't read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, who is, undoubtedly, one of the classic fantasy names alongside Lewis and Tolkien.  I kept waiting for this book to pop up in Half-Price Books but they only have the third and fourth books.  But I had to read it.  To the library, then!

Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin
This one was name-dropped in a Writer's Digest article and since Ursula K. Le Guin is a big name and I like reading how-to books on writing, I decided this was one I had to read.

what did you get in your mailbox?

19 July 2014

Saturday Spotlight: Peace Love Books

What is Saturday Spotlight? It's where I drag bloggers onto my blog for an interview. It's not part of a hop or any organized event. It's merely a way to feature bloggers and get inside their heads a bit. Like a psych session, but fun.

17 July 2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

16 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (32)

The third installment in the mesmerizing series from the irrepressible, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
This is probably the worst summary I've ever seen.  But this is all I could find from both Goodreads and Amazon.  Pretty scarce for a book coming out this October.

Thank God I don't have to wait that much longer!  In just a short few months, I'll have the third book in my hands and my sanity will, once again, be temporarily suspended.

what are you waiting on? 

15 July 2014

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

14 July 2014

Tips to Instantly Improve the Look of Your Blog

Have a Proper Blog Width

Make the width of your blog wide enough to accommodate your navigation bar (if you have one).  If you've got a ton of links in your navigation (the horizontal bar running underneath your header), then cut back to what's actually necessary or install a drop-down menu.

Keep Your Fonts Simple

Having curly fonts is great for headers (either in the main header, or paragraph headers), but difficult to read in a post when it's in size 12.  If you're unsure what to pick, go with something simple like Georgia or Arial. Then do your research on fonts.

Note: If you'd like to have more than one font on your entire blog, try to stick to just two: one simple font for the body of your posts and a different one for your post titles and other headers.

Reduce Clutter

If you've got a blogroll full of buttons stretching 1000 pixels or more down the sidebar of your blog, it makes your blog look cluttered. Put similar things together and for vast amounts of information (like fifty buttons of blogs you love) make them a marquee.

Prioritize your sidebar(s).  Draw the audience's eye to things that matter by putting them at the top of your sidebar.  Some things should always be at the top: your about section, navigation, search, subscribe via email, and social media links.  The less you have, the better.  Simple is always better.

Put the Focus Where It Belongs

Put the focus on your content, not on your background. Having a chaotic background is not only rough on the eyes, but it draws attention away from its proper place. Your background doesn't have to be from Subtle Patterns, but it should go along with your color scheme and not be the forerunner of the show.

Move Forward, Be Unique

Don't stick with the Blogger templates. When beginning your blog, you're made to choose one of them, but that doesn't mean it has to hang around your neck forever.  Start changing things up, figure out what makes it aesthetically pleasing, and make it yours.

13 July 2014

In My Mailbox (120)

I have been finishing books like the world is ending.  Normally I don't get a book and finish it in the same week, but this week I've finished two!  They were pretty fantastic books, so if they're in at your local library, might wanna entertain them for a bit.

from the library / already finished

Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride | Review coming July 29
I absolutely loved the first book, Hold Me Closer, Necromancerand so I devoured this one.  I can't wait to share my review with you all.

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess | Review coming July 24
This was such a fantastic book!  Assassins, fading magic, a murder mystery, maybe a little romance... I read it in less than a day and, upon closing it, remarked aloud how relieved I was that there was a sequel.  (It was that kind of an ending.)


from the library / on the pile

Everyone loves this book!  Okay, I get it, it's better than a naked David Tennant.  Now I'm just hoping it doesn't disappoint.  I'm instantly wary of wildly popular books because there's more to lose if I don't like them.  I'm excited for this one though.  I'd read the first chapter or so, and it was very intriguing. 

I absolutely loved the first book, Born Wicked.  But after reading the summary on the jacket for Star Cursed, I'm worried that maybe I've forgotten some very key plot points from the first book. o__o

This book is huge.  I haven't had such a thick YA book in my hands for a while.  (Lord, who even has the time for 500 pages anymore?)  But I've heard good things about this one, so I'm giving it a whirl.

I happened to see this in Costco yesterday and managed to snag a copy off the shelf at the library.  I can't believe I'm interested in it.  A year ago, I wouldn't have given it a second look.

what did you get this week?

12 July 2014

Top 5: Bad Books with Good Covers

I don't mean "bad" in a combative way.  But "Top 5 Books That Didn't Work For Me With Good Covers" doesn't have the same kind of punch.  That's essentially what this is, though, a list of five books that didn't work for me that had really nice covers.  (And despite the title, these are actually in no particular order.)

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross | Review
I know that girls-in-dresses is becoming an irritating trend for some, but I'm a big fan of how the text plays into this, color and design wise.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton | Review
Another dress, I know.  They're tiresome.  But there's something about this one that works well as a whole.  I think it gives off the right kind of vibe for the book.

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang | Review
I remember being struck by this the very first time I saw it, and to see the entire series lined up alongside each other is so awesome.  I love series with properly matching covers.  Also, I like how this one reflects the plot so well.  No arbitrary girls in dresses.  The one thing I don't like is how the author's name is in a paintbrush style font.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin | Review
Underwater.  Murky color scheme.  Pretty much wonderful all around.  The text I think is a bit gutsy because by making it partially transparent you run the risk of being unable to see it clearly.  But again, a series that looks beautiful lined up with one another.

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano | Review
Three dresses in five covers.  It's almost enough to make a girl see red.  But the entire template for this book is rather charming.  The text and the white sketch art is reprised throughout the entire book, so that the entire thing comes together in a nice, distinctive sort of way.

what books didn't work for you but had great covers?

10 July 2014

I Do Blog Math (Hell Froze Over)

I don't do math unless absolutely forced to.  Maybe not at gunpoint -- that's so melodramatic -- but certainly under threat of ruining my GPA.  And occasionally, to stave off boredom.

You know when you get so bored sometimes that you're willing to do things you absolutely hate?  Pluck your eyebrows, watch the news, or thumb through Twilight?  Well, in order to break a particularly disastrous bout of monotony, I decided to do some math on my blog.

I got a little crazy with it, once I broke through the how of the math problem.  (Give me a formula and I'm all yours, but asking me to figure something out on my own is like asking me to repaint my nails with molten lava.)  I actually came out of it with graphs.  Graphs.  But at least they're very pretty graphs and rather interesting to look at.

But interesting in a "I'm sure this means something but I haven't the faintest idea what yet the colors are all shiny" kind of way.  Imagine being dragged into an art museum and being asked to try and appreciate a piece of art that consists of three lines, one red, one black, one yellow.

It's kind of like that.

What I'm actually getting to in all of this is blog analyses.

I am going to show you a succession of graphs and then I will explain what they mean, and how they can be useful to you.  (You can have your own pretty graphs!  And feel really smart because you did math without the threat of losing your 4.0 GPA!)

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

"What is it?" John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
"It is the world, my boy," he said. "All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose."

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica -- an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.

An extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery, Here, There Be Dragons introduces James A. Owen as a formidable new talent.

09 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (31)

From the author of Article 5 comes the haunting tale of a girl on the run from the men who hunt her, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.

08 July 2014

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he's next on the menu.

As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

07 July 2014

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

Now nearly a full-fledged member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, Mary Quinn is back for another action-packed adventure. Disguised as a poor apprentice builder and a boy, she must brave the grimy underbelly of Victorian London - as well as childhood fear, hunger, and constant want - to unmask the identity of a murderer. Assigned to monitor a building site on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, Mary earns the confidence of the work crew, inching ever nearer her suspect. But if an irresistible desire to help the city's needy doesn't distract her and jeopardize her cover, unexpectedly meeting up with an old friend - or flame - just might.

A suspenseful and evocative window into a fascinating moment in history, The Body at the Tower is the much-anticipated second outing with a daring young detective.

06 July 2014

In My Mailbox (119)

So I was thinking of doing a video today but that would require me looking passably presentable and since it's Sunday morning and I'm sitting at the kitchen table with no real inclination to move from it until noon -- well, that just means I'll have to do a regular ole boring post.

I moved into a new house a week or two ago and things have been at a constant state of subdued chaos the entire time.  Leaving no time, or enough clarity of thought, to share my latest acquisitions.  Now, however, things have becoming slightly less chaotic and I have enough mental energy for a simple ole boring post.

From the library

I owned this way back when and had gotten almost a hundred pages into it before throwing in the towel.  I figured, "That was then, this is now, let's bury the hatchet." And so I got it from the library, opened it up, started reading... and couldn't get through the first chapter without groaning out loud in frustration.  So, as of now, this is a series I will definitely not be getting into.

I'm currently reading this one and it's very interesting so far.  Not exactly engaging but interesting.  Honestly, I'm still waiting with bated breath for the moment when everything hits the fan and I end up chucking it across the room.  It feels like that kind of book to me, but until then, I'll reserve judgment as much as possible and keep going.  So far, it's good.

Oh my god.  The series that I absolutely love and fangirl and swoon over and can't keep myself from reading even when I shouldn't.  If you're doubtful of my affections, check out my review of A Spy in the House (the first book) and if you're still not convinced, check back tomorrow for my review of The Body at the Tower which is the second book.  And if you're still not convinced, just leave.

My possession of this book is only a reminder of a foolish mistake.  This is the second book in the Dragon King Chronicles and I haven't read the first one, Prophecy.  I haven't made a mistake like this since I was probably eleven-years-old and most certainly not since I started blogging!  But it's happened, woe is me, et cetera.  When I get the chance I'm going to check out Prophecy because what I read of Warrior before I realized my mistake was pretty good.

E-Books

I never check out the free books on Kindle or iBooks.  In general, I don't really like e-books because I always forget to read them (which has bitten me in the tush more than once when I've had an eARC I was supposed to read... >_<).  But I'll be headed back to school soon and I don't carry more in my backpack than I have to and so having something to read on my phone is always a blessing.

This was an iBooks book of the week a week or two ago and which is more -- free.  And which is more -- something I must have.  And which is more -- something I do have.  Hallelujah, praise the lord, and pass the ammunition.

Telepaths.  My secret love.  I adore characters with telepathic powers because I think the effect the power has on a person is fascinating.  (If it's well done anyway.)  So I'm interested by this.

I'm a little skeptical with the presence of "the perfect boy" but it's short and sounds like it could be good.  The cover is certainly lovely.

Another book that I'm rather skeptical about but I am looking forward to trying.