April 28, 2016

A Goodreads Review


You may have heard of Goodreads, a book sharing and reviewing site. According to website, they have over 50 million users. I joined Goodreads about a month ago and decided I would do a review to help others learn about Goodreads. As an aside, this review is completely my own opinions.

Overview

Goodreads was launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler. He created it as a way to find new books through your friends and now, recommendations. Through it you can find books (so far I've found every book I've searched for, even if it's old), rate them, write reviews, and shelve them. You can become friends with other people and then see what they read. It's a community built around books.

Features

Goodreads has many features designed to help readers find books. Here are a few that I know of.

Shelves. These are created by you, however you want. I categorized mine by genre, but you could do it alphabetically or however you want.

Book reviews. You can read what other members have said about the book, though I don't always suggest it. Members can also see if their friends have read it and what they thought of it.

Lists. These are put together by members on various subjects. You can browse by clicking on a genre tag in the side panel, or searching for something. So far I've found the few I've used helpful.

Recommendations. Once you have rated twenty books, Goodreads starts giving you recommendations based on your shelves and favorite genres. So far, I've been impressed by what they've suggested. If you don't like a book, hit not interested and they will improve on what you want to see.

The Reading Challenge. If you want to read a certain amount of books in a year, you can joint the Goodreads reading challenge. You set how many books you want to read, then go for it. The level can be adjusted if you aimed too high or too low.

Emails. They send very nice emails, not too often, about new releases, giveaways, and what's new from the authors you follow.

Pros and Cons

Pros
-It's easy to use
-The recommendations are great
-If you want to read a book later, you can save it to your Want to Read shelf
-Your account can be very private
-It's a great way to find something new to read
-You can go from Goodreads to Amazon to buy a book

Cons
-You never know what you could come across by accident
-Reviews of books can be harsh
-Just browsing can be hard to figure out

Signing Up for an Account

Are you now eager to try Goodreads yourself? Setting up an account is quick and painless. I'll show you in 3 easy steps.

1. Go to www.goodreads.com. On the right there is a place you can put your name, email, and password along with a sign up button.

2. Go through the steps to set up your account. You can also sign in with Facebook.

3. You can now add books, friends, and shelves.

I hope this review is helpful to you. In short, I like Goodreads and will continue using it for my reading. 

Do you have a Goodreads account? What do you think of it?

Read part two of this post.

April 25, 2016

Zentangle and What I've Learned


You've probably heard of Zentangle. Or zen doodling or free-form tangling. They're all different names for the same art form, with minor variations. (For simplicity I'm going to refer it all as zentangle.) It has risen in popularity lately as a stress reliever. People like it because it's easy to learn and has unlimited ways to use it.

I discovered zentangle through my mom, who decided to teach it in her art class. Once I tried it, I loved it. The patterns which look so complete are fairly simple once you know how to do it. The possibilities of use. While the rest of the class enjoyed learning it, I taught myself even more than what my mom had.

What Is Zentangle?

Zentangle is an art form, created by two people called Maria and Rick. She had told Rick that she felt peace and complete focus when she was drawing patterns. Together they made an art form that was simple and used to relax and meditate.

The official form of zentangle is draw in a 3.5 inch square. It is black and white, can be viewed from any direction, and is guided by a "string". This string is simply a pencil line drawn through the square. You then fill in the parts the string created. In the tangle above, I used a triangle string. Zen doodling is similar, but with none of the restrictions of zentangle. Free-form tangling is even more free, and the patterns are built off each other. In all three forms, shading is often important.

What I've Learned

I'm the sort of person that plans everything out. I like to have set schedules and have nothing disturb them. When I draw, I like to be precise and know exactly what I'm doing. So I often have problems when things get changed or something goes wrong.

Zentangle taught me not to worry so much. No matter which form you use, there is no right way to do it. The patterns are specific but there are so many ways to combine them. When you mess up a pattern, you have to go with it, because it's in pen.

When I tangle I relax and stop worrying so much about perfection. The pattern in the upper left of the cover picture? That was supposed to be a completely different pattern. I messed it up and that is what came out. When I tangle, I don't think about time or mistakes. I'm focused and enjoying myself. That's the important thing.

Learning Zentangle

There are many ways to learn zentangle, zen doodle, or free-form tangling. Many books have been written with helpful step by step breakdowns of the various patterns. If you search on YouTube, there is a multitude of videos that you can learn from. You can also take classes. It doesn't really matter.

Zentangle experts suggest you do look for things made or taught by CZT (certified zentangle teacher). They say that's the best way to learn if you want the full zentangle experience. I'm not in it for the zen part as much as the art, so I don't mind if they're certified or not, as long as they know what they're doing.

The important thing is to practice. Learn the patterns and practice them, alone or in a tangle, so you know how to do it. Memorize how to put the together so you don't constantly need guidance and can tangle anywhere. Experts say that if you want to learn a new skill you need to practice 15 minutes a day. So go do it. Right now.

What do you think about zentangle and all the others? Do you enjoy it or have a desire to try?

April 21, 2016

Book of the Month: Ungifted


Ungifted: Gordon Korman



Who could resist a book with such a cute robot on the cover? While the robot is a big factor in cover appeal, the title is as well. Who's ungifted, and why? The cover implies that this is a fun book through the bright colors and sweet robot. (Remember, a book's cover is important to the book's contents.)

Donovan Curtis is our troublesome but lovable main character. He is what you might call impulsive, if by that you mean doing things without thinking constantly, and egged on by his two "friends". (They're not that bad, most of the time.) After a major accident at his school, Donovan's name accidentally gets put on the list for the gifted school in the area. Donovan, however, barely makes good grades at the normal school. He's being looked for as the culprit in the accident, so he uses the school as a hideout. Only the problem is he must act like a genius. The school is not like he expected. It's full of gifted kids who are only gifted in academics. In normal things like socializing, they're major failures. Donovan turns out to be the thing they need to both win the robotics meet and skip summer school for Human Growth and Development. But when he is caught and sent back to his old school, will they be able to do either?

My Thoughts

I like a lot about this book. Donovan, for one thing. Yes, he acts on impulse and gets in trouble a lot. But he's also thoughtful and a good kid at heart. He volunteers his sister for Human Growth and Development, though it took some convincing. He defends the nerd kids even though he doesn't have to. Not only does he hide from the superintendent to save his own skin, he's afraid his parents will be forced to pay for damages, and they can't afford that.

I also enjoy the point that things aren't always what it seems. Some people complain because the book is stereotypical. In a way, it is, but to make his point. He exaggerates the awkwardness of the gifted kids and the blandness of the "normal" kids to show his theme. I think he's trying to tell you that you can't judge a person just by how they're categorized.

One thing I dislike is how the POV's are laid out in the book. It's in first person past tense. The chapters are all titled with a single word starting with un- (which I think is a cool idea), the name of the character, and their IQ. If you aren't paying attention to who is speaking in this chapter, you'll have to go back and read it again. I understand that Gordon was trying to give a look from inside the character, but I find it tricky to read. It's a pet peeve of mine to switch POV's a lot in first person. You can go just as deep in third person, and it's easier know who's speaking. But that's my opinion.

Recommendations

The characters are middle schoolers, but I think anyone ten and up would enjoy it. Any younger than that and they would like it but miss the point of the book. If you want a funny book for light reading, this is for you.

April 18, 2016

Breaking Fashion Rules



Don't wear plaid with stripes. Don't wear socks and sandals. Don't wear blue and black. We've all heard the rules of fashion a million times. But why allow someone else to dictate what we wear and how to wear it? That's today's topic. We're going to discuss fashion rules and how to break them.

The Rules

Fashion has a long history of do's and don'ts, no matter what era you're in. Don't wear that, it's not proper. Do wear this if you want to impress. This is cool, that is not. It's probably been that way since people started wearing clothes.

Many of these rules are good ones and there for a good reason. No one's going to give you a job at a nice company if you dress like a bum for the interview. Even these rules however are more like guidelines. Think of the pirates code from Pirates of the Caribbean. Keep in mind that not every rule is meant to be broken.

So why do we follow these rules people make up? Who are they to say what's right to wear? I think it's because we feel if we don't do what they say, we won't be cool. If we can get past that fear, you can learn to break the rules.

Go Outside the Lines

How about, instead of listening to the cool people, we try to actually be ourselves and be original? We've all been made differently and if we can embrace what makes us different, you'll be a happier person. Think about someone you like, a friend- a celebrity, whatever. What do you like about them? That thing that makes them different.

The next time you're going to your closet, why don't you try something new and outside the box? We all have those outfits we wear all the time. Pick one and see what you can do. Try putting a different colored shirt with it or new accessories. Find inspiration from all around you. Break those fashion rules. Who cares if it's mid winter. Wear that floral print dress anyway.

Personal Style

Everyone has a personal style, a type and way of wearing clothes that they enjoy. Some people wear what's trendy because they want to be cool, even if they don't like it. That's not personal style. If you like a trendy item and decide to use it in your current wardrobe, that's style.

Don't let others tell you what you can and can't do. Find your own style and go with that. Your personal style should be clothes that you like. Those outfits that make you feel pretty or bring a smile to your face when you wear it. Don't go with the flow.

Me, I like wearing denim with denim and blue with black. I wear white after Labor Day, because I'm not even sure why you shouldn't. I like finding new ways to combine colors and patterns. Personally, I'm still not fond of socks and sandals, but if you like it, wear it.

So, the whole point of this post is to be yourself and wear what you want. Let your inner style out and who knows, maybe one day people will be copying you.

What do you think about fashion rules? Should they be strictly followed or ignored? Tell me.

April 14, 2016

Easy-Peasy Beading Wire Bracelet


Beading wire is one of my favorite ways to make bracelets and anklets. It's not only easy to use once you learn, it's not expensive either. I'll be showing you how to use beading wire to make an simple bracelet and giving you tips. Let's start.


Supplies:
19 strand, .015 in. beading wire (more on this in a minute)
Crimp beads
Toggle clasp
Seed beads
Wire cutters
Needle nose pliers


A note on beading wire-
Beading wire comes in different sizes and number of strands. You don't need to worry about this too much. You can find it at most craft stores. Crimp beads are what you use to finish the ends and are very easy to use, as you will see.


Step 1: Using either the wire or a measuring tape, measure around your wrist. You don't want it too tight, but you don't want it falling off either. Between 7 to 8 inches is good, however, if you need it bigger or smaller for your wrist, go ahead. Personally I like about 6 1/2 inches.


Step 2: Cut the wire. Important: make sure to add an extra inch or two to the length you measured before cutting. This will be used for the ends. If you are unsure how much to add, more is better, but don't go overboard either.


Step 3: Put a crimp bead on one end of the wire, followed by one half of the clasp. It doesn't matter which.


Step 4: Pass the end of the wire back through the crimp bead. You can leave a little tail if you want, though I suggest not.


Step 5: Take the needle nose pliers and smash the crimp bead between the jaws. It may take several tries.Make sure it is completely smashed or it will come apart later. If you left a tail, snip it now.


It should look flat like this when it's done.


Step 6: String the seed beads on however you like. Make a pattern, go for a monochrome scheme, whatever you want. That's the fun of making your own jewelry. There's no right way to do it.


Step 7: Stop stringing when your bracelet is long enough to reach loosely around your wrist, not counting the clasp.


Step 8: String another crimp bead, then the other half of the clasp. Put the end of the wire back through the crimp and pull it so the loop is small. This may take you a while to master, so don't worry if it's kind of sloppy.


Step 9: Smash this crimp as well. Remember, make sure it's well squished. We don't need our beautiful jewelry falling apart. Cut the tail of the wire off and tuck anything left inside the bead so it won't scratch you.


Finally, wear your awesome new bracelet and smile. You just made your own jewelry. Isn't a great feeling? These also make perfect gifts for family or friends. Who doesn't like a handmade bracelet?


If you enjoyed this post, check out my other jewelry posts- How to Make Simple Earrings and How to Make Feather Earrings. Are there any jewelry tutorials you want me to do? Let me know.

April 11, 2016

Why Your Book's Cover Is Important


Don't judge a book by it's cover. An old adage that means you shouldn't judge something or someone just by the way they look. It's great when talking about people. However, when talking about books, that actually doesn't work. The cover is a big factor to anyone picking up a book. 

You can use the information from this post while designing your own book's cover, whether for fun or for self publishing. All tips are my opinion, so if you think differently, that's okay.

A Great Cover is Vital

Think about the last book you picked up, whether it was from the library or a bookstore. What initially drew you in? Was it the title? An interesting blurb on the back? Or a cool cover? While the other two are equally important (and of course actually having a good story inside the book), the cover is a big part.

Look at this cover:

Guessing by the boy on the cover, what would you think this book was about? Certainly not a boy from the Victorian era. Much less Sherlock Holmes. That hairstyle is nothing like they had back then and completely ruins the cover for me.

Now look at this one:

It draws you in. It makes you ask questions and want to turn the book over and see what it says. Who is the boy? Why does he have a sword? Is that the New York skyline? Unlike the Sherlock book, which was quite good despite the cover, this an intriguing cover.

What Makes A Good Cover?

There are several factors that make a good cover. Remember, a good cover is one that attracts a reader. If you can't attract a reader from the outside, no matter how good the story is they may not read it.

1. The letters of the title are readable. This is a pet peeve of mine. What's the point of a title if you can't read it? I've seen titles written is such fancy, swirly font you can barely make out the words. That is an immediate turn off for me. If I can barely read what it's called, why would I want to read it?

2. It draws your eye in. If you are a photographer or artist you'll know about good composition. Just because it's a book cover, that doesn't mean it can't have those things. If you don't know much about composition, learning about things like the rule of thirds, triangles in composition, and grounds- foreground, background, and middle ground- will help.

3. It makes you ask questions. There are good books with covers that don't do this, but it helps. When a cover and/or title make you ask questions, then you'll want to turn it over to learn the answers.

4. A good color scheme. No one wants to look at something that's an explosion of colors or is full of clashing colors in an unattractive way. The Percy Jackson book has a nice muted color scheme with highlights of lighter, brighter colors. You don't want your book cover to repel potential readers just because you hurt their eyes with the colors.

Using these tips, try designing a cover for your book, just using something like Picmonkey and free pictures from the internet. See what you can come up with. Readers are drawn to interesting covers, so use these tips to help make yours one that draws people in. I hope these help.

What do you like in a cover? What repels you? Tell me in the comments.

April 7, 2016

Let's Talk About: Lindsey Stirling


Lindsey Stirling is awesome and is inspiring to me. She's a YouTube violinist and the highest paid female YouTuber at that. (Yes, she actually knows how to hold a violin properly, and yes, her hair always looks about like that.) That's why I chose her for my next "let's talk about".

Who Is She?

If you haven't heard of her, I'll forgive you. (But check her out immediately after reading this.) Lindsey is the first hip-hop, dancing violinist, mostly because she is the person who invented it. She caught the attention of American Idol and was invited on the show. There she was humiliated on public television. But this girl did not give up. She started making videos, having enjoyed videography since she was younger, and putting them on YouTube. They quickly gained popularity and now she has over 7 million subscribers on her channel. Her videos get millions of views. Lindsey plays both regular violin and electric. Unfortunately she is part of the Church of Later Day Saints, but otherwise, she is super cool.

What Makes Her Inspiring?

Lindsey is inspiring in many ways. She doesn't give up. Despite all the bad things people have thrown at her, she remains strong. If she had given up that night after American Idol, no one would know dancing and playing violin could be combined. I'd never had heard of her.

She's weird and doesn't care. She doesn't care that most of the time her hair is crazy or the clothes she wears are strange. On her second channel she has an alter ego that goes by some weird name and pretends to be her own number 1 fan. Her weirdness is what makes her Lindsey.

I can only hope I'm as strong and determined as her. I want to be myself fearlessly and ignore what others think. She makes me want to try things that are different.

If you've never heard Lindsey play, head to her YouTube channel and watch a video or two or ten. Roundtable Rivalry is one of my favorites. Do you like Lindsey? What's your favorite video?

April 4, 2016

Classic of the Month


I love Jane Austen. And so far Pride and Prejudice is my favorite one of her books. I had to pick it for a classic sometime, and today was that sometime.

Pride and Prejudice

Our heroine is one of the most famous in classic literature. Her name is Elizabeth Bennet (she goes by Lizzie) and she lives in early 19th century England. She has four sisters- Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Her family is not exactly what you would call well-to-do, but they aren't exactly poor either.

The girl's mother, Mrs. Bennet, wants the girls to marry into rich families so that their family will be better off. A rich young man by the name of Bingley (what sort of name is that?) and his friend Mr. Darcy move in next door. Mrs. Bennet instantly decides she must marry at least one of her daughters to one of them. At the next ball, Lizzie and Mr. Darcy meet and immediately dislike each other. She overhears him criticizing her and takes great offence. From there she swears to never like him. However, her sister Jane falls in love with Mr. Bingley. His sisters effectively keep them apart. Lizzie's dislike for Mr. Darcy only grows after an old friend of his, Wickham, tells a terrible story of how he was bad to him. As the story proceeds, Mr. Darcy and Lizzie are thrown together time and time again and both start to soften, a tiny bit. He tells her a different story of how Wickham tried to run off with his little sister. He proposes to her and she refuses, quite viciously. Both regret their actions afterwards. Wickham and Lydia run off together and finally Lizzie realizes Mr. Darcy is better than he seems. He even convinces Wickham to marry Lydia so the Bennets can keep up appearances. He proposes to her again and she accepts. It ends as all Jane Austen's do, with everyone married and living happily ever after.

What I Like About It

Allow me to say it again, I love Pride and Prejudice. I read through it very quickly because I liked it so much. I would definitely say it's one of my favorite classics.

First, the sisters. Not many books have large families in them, even if they are in a historical setting when it was more common. Even fewer have a whole family of 3-D characters. But this does. Jane is the sensible oldest, always ready with a kind word and ear to listen. Lizzie, of course, is the hotheaded, quick tongued one. That's why she's my favorite. Mary is the boring, religious sort of girl (I don't think anyone likes her). Kitty is flighty and follows Lydia too much, but she's really a good girl. Lydia is the trouble maker, always willing to do things that she shouldn't. Mrs. Bennet is the over-concerned mother prone to fits and breakdowns when she doesn't get her way. Mr Bennet is a sensible father who just wants his girls to be happy. I love the relationship between the sisters and how real it feels.

And of course, Mr. Darcy and Lizzie. Every scene they are in is a witty battle of quick exchanges and stubbornness. You almost want to cheer when one makes a good point. Then Jane beautifully brings the two of them together, which you would say was impossible if you only saw their first scene together.

Book and Movie Adaptions

If you keep up with movies, you probably know about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It is an adaption of the original, except now the girls are all zombie killers. It started off as a book and was only turned into a movie in the past year. I have never watched or read it, and have no intentions to.

Then there's the Kira Knightly version, which I haven't seen either, though I'd like to. I'm sure it's a fine movie but I'm more partial to the next version.

The BBC Pride and Prejudice TV series, all on disc. This is the first one I ever saw, before I even read the book, and I love it. The costumes and sets are beautiful, and the script is basically taken from the book. You read the book and you can hear the voices of the actors, that's how good it is. This will probably remain my favorite forever. The casting was excellent, especially Mr. Darcy and Lizzie. They play off each other well. And if you've never seen it, look up Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. To end this post, I'll give you picture of him. You can sigh now.