Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday Thunks (04.30.09)

Welcome to the April 30th version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!

This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by Kimber, the color mango and the number 70566.

1. What color is your front door?
Had to think about this one since I'm at work. Think it's brown.

2. We discussed our folks in previous TT so now tell me about your siblings. If you are an only child, tell me whether or not you wanted siblings, older, younger etc.
I'm an only, and I guess at times growing up I wished I had a sibling (older or younger, didn't matter) but generally I've been pretty glad I'm an only child.

3. What color/type butterfly is your favorite?
Where we go in the mounts of NC has very pretty blue & black butterflies, so I'd say those are my favorite. But any particularly colorful one will do :-) Maybe I can answer this better after we go to the Butterfly garden @ Callaway Gardens in a couple of weeks!

4. Will you be celebrating Cinco De Mayo?
Nah, unless we just happen to go out for Mexican for dinner. But probably not.

5. Oprah- love her, hate her, or don't care?
Don't care!

6. Are you worried about the spread of swine flu?
Not yet.

7. Hard or soft pillows?
Right in between, firm but with some give. I HATE super-soft or down pillows. What's the point?

8. How many trees are in your neighbor's yard?
Which neighbor?

9. What was the color of the last car you saw?
Black, I think.

10. When does your driver's license expire?
In January of 2017

11. Look at the clock on your computer and type the numbers backwards.
809

12. When you put your pants on, what leg do you put in first?
Right

13. How would you respond to this letter if you were an advice columnist.
I am an ugly woman. I was an ugly baby and child even! It is a fact. I am 36 now and I have never had a boyfriend, and I am still a virgin.Due to me not having men in my life, I have poured everything I have in to education and my career. At 36 I am the youngest (and first female CEO) at a big, successful, tech company. I have over 200 personal patents and millions of pounds in investments.I have everything: huge house, holiday villa in Spain, 3 cars, power boat, a race horse, etc. but as much I try to talk myself into everything being “great” I cannot help but to miss that special someone to share it all with.Most of my friends are married with kids and I feel like I am gradually drifting away from them also.Where can I find someone to marry an ugly woman?
I just wouldn't respond. It got lost in the mail...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Followers = GIVEAWAY!

Glitter Graphics - http://www.sparklee.com
100 Followers Banner
So I didn't openly advertise this... In fact, I left my first mention of it on my review for Ink Exchange after Liyana pointed out I only needed one more follower to reach 100! But, the truth is, I've been planning a giveaway to coincide with the addition of my 100th follower for awhile now. And that day is finally HERE! :-D

Gosh, everyone, I can't thank you enough for reading my blog, following it, stopping by and leaving comments, linking my blog and reviews to yours, you name it! I've enjoyed making new friends in this book-blogging community and have happily found a lot of great new reads because of it!

So I'm sure you're all wondering, what's the giveaway? I pondered this for awhile... A copy of a book I rated highly, a gift card, something else bookish... Ultimately, I decided on a $20 Amazon gift card. The reason? I could send it via email the same day I announced the winner! Talk about instant gratification!!

Amazon Gift Card image

Here's how to enter:

~ Leave a post telling me what book you're planning to get with the gift card. Please also be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you (and more importantly, send you the gift card!).

~ Become a follower and mention it in a comment for ONE additional entry.

~ If you're already a follower, let me know, that's TWO additional entries.

~ Tweet about this contest (@Melsbookshelf) and leave a comment for THREE additional entries.

~ Blog about this contest and link to it, either in a post or on your sidebar. Be sure to leave a link in a comment below! This will get you FOUR additional entries!

This contest is open to everyone who is able to purchase from Amazon.com, since all I have to do is email you the gift card. The contest will end at 11:59pm on Saturday, May 9th. I will announce the winner (as chosen by Random.org) and email the gift card on Sunday, May 10th!! Good luck to all of you!

REVIEW: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Ink Exchange coverSeries: Wicked Lovely #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: March 2009 (Paperback), HarperCollins
Trade Paperback, 325 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I purchased my copy of this book. I was in no way compensated for this review and my opinions are my own.
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.

Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.

The tattoo does bring changes—not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .

MY THOUGHTS

I couldn't tell you why, but I was prepared to like this book less than Wicked Lovely. Perhaps that's because I'm not much for tattoos and that was what this entire book revolved around. Maybe it was because I wanted a direct continuation of the story of Aislinn, Seth, and Keenan. Actually, I suspect it was because of some reviews I've skimmed through that didn't rate Ink Exchange as favorably as the first book in the series. Even when I started reading, I remained skeptical. In the end, though, I closed the book and knew that I liked it better than the first and I truly think it was a stronger book than Wicked Lovely.

Ink Exchange is darker and much more serious than Wicked Lovely, in my opinion. As much as I liked Aislinn and Seth from the first book (and they're still in this one, too), Leslie and Niall are simply deeper and more complex individuals. That they have suffered in their lives is putting it mildly. And then of course there's Irial, and without him and his desire to "feed" his dark fey (I won't go into more detail than that), we wouldn't even have this story.

As I finished the last page, I could not believe that I'd finished this book so quickly. I mean, I realize it's not a difficult read, but the pages just flew by because I had to know what was going to happen. I'm really glad that I've got Fragile Eternity nearby and can dive right into it, but the thought of waiting roughly another year for the next book is borderline agonizing. As most of you probably know from my Sunday Salon post, I had the good fortune to attend a signing with Melissa Marr on Sunday. Part of me wishes I'd already read all these books before going, the other part appreciates what I was able to learn from Marr before reading Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity. Marr's strong focus on her characters and developing who they really are is what makes these books so enjoyable and dare I say it, addictive. The end of this book definitely leaves you wanting more.

5 stars

My review of Wicked Lovely

Other reviews of Ink Exchange:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Ink Exchange

TeaserTuesdays Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

~ Grab your current read
~ Open to a random page
~ Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
~ BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
~ Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's mine:

InkExchange coverAnd when Leslie curled up in bed, she felt herself believing in Niall, believing in them, believing it really could be okay. Those dreams of finding someone who cared about her, who saw her as a person--maybe they weren't as impossible as they'd seemed.

~ page 180 of Ink Exchange, by Melissa Marr

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mystery Mondays: Crimes of Paris WINNERS!!

MysteryMondaysLogo
It's time to announce the lucky winners of The Crimes of Paris giveaway!! Thank you again to Hatchette Books for allowing me to offer FIVE copies to some lucky readers! In the end, there were 66 total entries and Random.org chose the following:


Congratulations to the winners!! As soon as I post this, I'm sending all of you an email. Please send me your snail mail addresses as soon as possible so that I can forward them onto Hatchette. After that you'll soon be seeing this in your mailbox:

Crimes Of Paris cover

Thanks again to everyone who entered the contest!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Sunday Salon (04.26.09) Book Signing!

SundaySalon
Sunday again, my goodness! I had a pretty decent week in reading--only two books, but over a thousand pages, so I'm not complaining!! I reviewed The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, as well as The Dawning of Power by Brian Rathbone. Don't forget to check out my Crimes of Paris review--there's a GIVEAWAY going on that ends tonight (courtesy of Hatchette Books!). I actually started reading a third book, which I ended up staying up until the wee hours of the morning to read, and subsequently reviewed it this morning: A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. So for me, it was a pretty good week!

In other news, I went to my first book signing in years today! Melissa Marr was at the B&N in Alpharetta so I made the drive over to have my copy of Wicked Lovely signed, along with buying Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity to have signed. Marr was a great speaker--the whole session was Q&A and she's such an interesting, personable woman that the time flew by. It was fascinating to learn more behind the Wicked Lovely series, not to mention how she comes up with the ideas and puts them all on paper. I think everyone there enjoyed it and had a lot of laughs--Melissa Marr has a great sense of humor! I also had the pleasure of meeting Vania over at Reverie Book Reviews, as well as Kelsey from Just Blinded Book Reviews. I took some pictures of Melissa Marr talking and signing, as well as one of myself with her. Silly me forgot to get a picture of the bloggers, though, darn it! :-) So I'll leave you with those pics. Have a great week, everyone!!

Melissa Marr1Melissa Marr2Melissa Marr3Melissa squaredYay for book signings! :-D (It's Melissa squared!)

REVIEW: A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

Passion Most Pure coverSeries: Daughters of Boston #1
Genre: Fiction, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pub Date: January 2008, Baker Publishing Group
Format: Trade Paperback, 477 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O'Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin's affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O'Connor household. Full of passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page.

MY THOUGHTS

Again, I must thank Julie Lessman for sending me this book (and thank you to Amy from My Friend Amy, as without her recommendation, I never would have added the book to my wish list). This may also end up being the most personal review you see here, so bear with me. I don't wish to offend anyone (and hope that I don't!), but I feel the need for people to understand where I'm coming from.

Let me start with saying that I stayed up until after 3:00AM to finish this book last night/this morning. I simply devoured it. Some of you might recall I recently said in another review that I was not sure that I cared for Christian fiction, as it often feels formulaic and cliched. The story in A Passion Most Pure is certainly neither of those. In this book, Lessman was able to accomplish what I was starting to feel wasn't possible in Christian fiction: write about characters who seemed real, had greater depth, and subsequently take them through a captivating story. For Christian fiction, I was surprised at the number of turns the plot took and the high level of romance, not to mention how attached I became to many of the characters. The sibling rivalry between Faith and Charity was unbelievable; Charity becomes a character you love to hate, or at least, strongly dislike. :-) I will be very interested to see how she is redeemed in the second book!

To clarify the comment I had made regarding cliches and formulas, I think that what I have the hardest time dealing with when it comes to Christian fiction is the strong theme of characters feeling the need to "save" other people, telling them that they are praying for them, etc. In some ways, it bothered me that Faith obviously loved Collin so much, yet couldn't bring herself to marry him because of his views of God and the fact that he wasn't a believer. What if God was bringing them together so that ultimately Collin would learn (from Faith) to love God and live for Him? Yet, at the same time, I do think that it's important for God to be at the center of a marriage, so I can also understand to some extent Faith's initial unwillingness to marry Collin. Personally, I don't feel like people should just pray for others without being asked to--I suppose that comes from my own viewpoint and upbringing. I sometimes feel like it can almost come across as a little offensive. I most definitely believe in the power of prayer, but more in that it means understanding the good from God that is already there and we all express as His children, made in His image; not simply praying for a specific outcome--for example, that someone will convert to a specific Christian faith and be saved.

What did I like the most about this book? It made me think--really think about the importance of God in a marriage. I have not yet been married a year (our anniversary is 3 weeks from today!), so I feel like this book came to me at a timely point in my life and marriage, and for that I am truly grateful. So while my personal feelings on how Christianity should be represented may not always be in line with Christian fiction (and certainly we all have our own viewpoints and understanding), there was definitely much about A Passion Most Pure that I appreciated. I always love a book that makes me think!

4 stars

Other reviews of A Passion Most Pure:

In My Mailbox (04.20-25.09)

InMyMailbox
In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren--thank you, as always!

I had a quiet week in terms of books in the mail--just one, but I thought it was important to share it because the author was kind enough to send me this book and I want her to know how much it was appreciated.

Passion Most Pure coverA Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (Thank you, Julie, for sending this to me!)

Synopsis from Amazon.com:

Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O'Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin's affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O'Connor household. Full of passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page. Book 1 of the Daughters of Boston series.

**Side Note: I received this book on Thursday and was finally able to start it last night. I actually ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it, so that should tell you something right there!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

REVIEW: The Dawning of Power by Brian Rathbone

Dawning of Power coverSeries: World of Godsland #1-3
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: October 2008, White Wolf Press, LLC
Format: Trade Paperback, 696 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
Echoes of the ancients' power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind's deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. In times such as these, ordinary people have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.

MY THOUGHTS

First off, I'd like to thank Mr. Rathbone for sending me a copy of his book--I greatly enjoyed it! It seems rare to come across a synopsis that says so little about a book, but this is certainly one of those cases! To me it was a bit like Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks' Shannara series, and Paolini's Eragon saga rolled into one. In fact, there were two scenes that almost could have been taken from LOTR, though I don't hold that against Rathbone. This novel is actually comprised of three books, all of which take you to Godsland and reveal the story of Catrin Volker, revealed to be the Herald of Istra, and her companions and Guardians.

Catrin's story is truly incredible--she is a teenager when she discovers a power awakened within her and ultimately has to head on a journey to save all of Godsland. Rathbone's writing is captivating and draws you into the story immediately. At times I feel as if the characters' dialogue slips into something a bit too modern for the story and time being portrayed, but that only happens here and there. The level of detail with which Rathbone writes this epic adventure is very impressive. However, because there IS so much detail, not to mention so many places and characters, the story can be somewhat difficult to follow at times. There are multiple points of view, and at points in the chapters we would revisit some characters briefly, and occasionally I had to think hard to recall who they were and how they fit into the story.

Overall, though, I immensely enjoyed The Dawning of Power. Over the years I have become a huge Fantasy geek and this book was right up my alley. There is plenty of action with plot turns and twists to keep you driving onward to discover what happens next. I definitely became attached to many of the characters as I learned more about them and they played their part in the quest. I can't wait to read Rathbone's next book, and a part of me has to wonder if he won't continue Catrin's story at some point down the road. That door was certainly left open. I for one, would like to see that happen.

4 stars

Other reviews of The Dawning of Power:

Cheryl's Book Nook

And The Award Goes To...

Once again, I have to thank my fellow bloggers for some awards this week... Even better, I get to pass them back out!

Lovely Blog awardThank you to Elizabeth at As Usual, I need more bookshelves and Liyana at LiyanaLand! for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Here are the Rules...
1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3) Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I awarded some lovely bloggers last week who weren't necessarily "new-to-me," but this week I'm going to take the easy way out and award this to the 30 "new-to-me" blogs I discovered during the readathon:

1) tickettoanywhere.blogspot.com
2) diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com
3) ashleyslibrary.blogspot.com
4) smsbookreviews.blogspot.com
5) books-movies-chinesefood.blogspot.com
6) www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk
7) bookpsmith.blogspot.com
8) bookjunkiereviews.blogspot.com
9) books4alison.blogspot.com
10) agignac.blogspot.com
11) crazycommamomma.wordpress.com
12) alainereading.blogspot.com
13) abookloverforever.blogspot.com
14) fantaghiro23.blogspot.com
15) awaitingserenity.net
16) callistahogan.livejournal.com
17) birdbrainbb.net
18) hiddenplace.wordpress.com
19) wordsbyannie.blogspot.com
20) thefriendlybooknook.com
21) thebookgirl.net
22) bookslovejessicamarie.blogspot.com
23) kbpinkbookmark.blogspot.com
24) lastexilewords.blogspot.com
25) lissaslongyarn.blogspot.com
26) chikune.com/blog
27) gimmemorebooks.blogspot.com
28) librariansbookreviews.blogspot.com
29) karinlibrarian.wordpress.com
30) relatedreading.wordpress.com

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You Don't Say awardNext up, TeddyRee from The Eclectic Reader sent me the Super Comments Award! This is one of my favorites. Last time I awarded it to my top 10, this time I'm going to look at my current top 20 and award it to five of ten people I haven't already given it to. (Don't worry, the other five won't be left out... keep reading.) Your winners are...

Trish @ Trish's Reading Nook
Molly @ My Cozy Book Nook
Liyana @ LiyanaLand!
Luanne @ A Bookworm's World
Penny (aka Yooperchick) @ Penny's Pages

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2009 Friendly Blogger awardThank you to Scattie at In My Head for the 2009 Friendly Blogger Award. I am passing THIS one on to the other five people in my top 20 commentators, mentioned in the award above:

Jen @ 50 for Jen
Vania @ Reverie Book Reviews
Melody @ Melody's Reading Corner
Ravenous Reader @ Tales of a Ravenous Reader
Nely @ All About {n}

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Premios Dardo awardThank you to Jo at Ink and Paper and Mishel at mis(h)takes for the Premio Dardos Award! I'm not sure I feel as though I have earned it, yet, but it is certainly appreciated...

This award is for bloggers who distinguish themselves for showing cultural values, ethics, great and fun writing skills, as well as individual values, through their creative writing.

Rules:

1. To accept and show the distinct image
2. Show the link to the blog from which you were given the award
3. Choose 15 blogs to give the Dards Award (Premio Dardos).

Here are my picks--I'm limiting it to five this time around:

(1) Kristi, aka The Story Siren
(2) Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot
(3) Amy from My Friend Amy
(4) Mishel at Mis(h)takes
(5) J. Kaye from J. Kaye's Book Blog

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Finds (04.24.09)

FridayFinds

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Here are four books that I added to my wishlist this week thanks to great reviews from great bloggers!! :-)

Poison Study coverFirst off, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I saw this one on a couple of different blogs this week and decided it would be an intriguing read... Here's the synopsis from BN.com:

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooma in the palace--and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust--and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

City of Bones coverThe next book on I added was City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I know I'm woefully behind the times on that one, but hopefully I'll get around to reading it soon. Here's the synopsis from BN.com:

Their hidden world is about to be revealed.... When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it's hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know....

Bones of Faerie coverNext up we continue the bones theme with Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner. Apparently I'm on a real faery/fairy kick these days. Here's the synopsis from BN.com:

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see—into the past, into the future—and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction—as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.

The King's Rose coverAnd lastly we have The King's Rose by Alisa Libby. I have a personal interest in this one, as on my grandmother's side (my mother's mother) we are related to Catherine Howard. Again, here's the synopsis courtesy of BN.com:

Life in the court of King Henry VIII is a complex game. When fifteen-year-old Catherine Howard catches the king's eye, she quickly transforms from pawn to queen. But even luxury beyond imagination loses its luster as young Catherine finds her life-and her heart-threatened by the needs of an aging king and a family hungry for power. Will their agendas deliver Catherine to the same fate as her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn-sacrificed at the altar of family ambition?

Engaging historical fiction with a throbbing YA heartbeat, this thrilling novel will draw readers into the intrigues and dangers of the Tudor court.

I hope all of you found some good reads this week, too!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Thunks (04.21.09)

Welcome to the April 23rd version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!

We pick a subject, and your job is to interpret it anyway you want. Write about it on your blog... simple as that. Maybe you can interpret it as a picture - we don't care!
Please only leave a link if you have written a Thursday Thunks post. Please mention us in your post, and link back to the blog here.
Don't forget to go visit the other participants' blogs. Read and comment about all their Thursday Thunks! Thats what all this is about afterall, isn't it? We'll have so much fun and become lifelong friends....

This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by Berleen, the color eggshell and the number 101.


1. If you could skywrite anything you wanted, what would it be?
Probably how much I love the hubby. :-)

2. Did you get drunk at your prom?
Nope

3. What is your favorite spice to use cooking?
Basil and oregano

4. What color is your roof?
Um, gray I guess... Whatever color the shingles are, probably dark gray.

5. In a land far, far away I would be a princess in a huge castle.

6. In the Miss USA pageant, Miss California was asked; "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?" and her answer was; "Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. Um, we live in a land that you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and in, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman," Carrie said to a mix of boos and applause. "No offense to anybody out there. But that's how I was raised and that's how I think that it should be between a man and a woman." Do you think that cost her the crown?
It sure sounds like it did...

7. Do you watch Miss USA/Miss America pageants?
No, they hold no interest for me whatsoever. I don't think I even watched them much when I was younger.

8. Have you ever driven/ridden on a tractor?
Lol, no. I have ridden a riding lawn mower before, though.

9. For the parents - what cartoon/children show did your child watch obsessively? (Hey, if you aren't a parent, maybe a niece or nephew...) N/A

10. If I set a level on your living room floor - would it show that it was level?
The carpet would probably distort that...

11. What was the last restaurant you ate at?
Jason's Deli

12. What's the picture on your wall calendar for this month?
Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

13. Are you superstitious?
Nah, though sometimes I pretend to be.

14. If I get into your car and turn on the radio - what type of radio station will I hear?
Either country or top 40.

15. Would you rather wake up with a snake in your bed or a lizard?
How about neither? If I HAD to choose, I guess it would be a lizard.

16. Do you think schools have changed at all since the Columbine tragedy 10 years ago? In what ways?
I don't know... seems the violence is moving to universities.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

30-Question Bookish Meme

OK, I'm finally breaking down and doing this meme, though I really should be reading The Dawning of Power (it's really good so far), but I keep getting sidetracked by my Reader and Twitter... And the TV's on, which is always a distraction. But after this, I'll get back to reading!!

1. Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Well, I love hardbacks when I can get a good deal on them. There are certain authors and series that I collect in hardback. I have a bunch of the B&N Classics in Hardback, Mary Higgins Clark (thanks to Bargain books and used bookstores), Harry Potter... If I don't get a book in hardback, I prefer trade paperback when it's available.

2. Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Barnes & Noble! I used to work for the B&N College Bookstores (sister company to the stores you all know) and have been hooked on B&N ever since. I just prefer the atmosphere there, and I get lots of coupons with their membership.

3. Bookmark or dog-ear?
Lately I've been better about using bookmarks (or some kind of pieces of paper to serve as a bookmark). I never dog-ear books anymore, though sometimes I'll leave them open face down, which really isn't much better, I know...

4. Amazon or brick and mortar?
Both. Amazon frequently has great deals and I like to take advantage of their free shipping (and no sales tax. (Same with BN.com on the free shipping.) But I enjoy browsing bookstores on occasion, too--it's nice to be able to browse a bit before buying.

5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
I tend to alphabetize by author (and title within author) by genre (roughly).

6. Keep, throw away, or sell?
I usually keep (unless I hate it) and I NEVER throw books away. Books I don't like will either go to a used bookstore or I might run a giveaway on the blog if I feel other people would enjoy it.

7. Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Keep it! Often they have beautiful pictures and they do serve as added protection to the book.

8. Read with dust jacket or remove it?
I guess I usually end up reading with it, though if it starts bothering me I'll take it off.

9. Short story or novel?
Novel. I haven't had much luck with short stories.

10. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Harry Potter for sure! I've only read one Lemony Snicket and I didn't feel compelled to read another. It was OK but not as magical for me as HP was.

11. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I always try to stop at the end of a chapter, but if I'm falling asleep while reading I usually give up and just stop wherever I am in the book.

12. “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
"It was a dark and stormy night." The first line of A Wrinkle In Time. I remember loving it when I found that out :-)

13. Buy or borrow?
I admit I like to buy. I'm working towards my own personal library.

14. New or used?
New is my preference, but I will buy some used--particularly hardcover.

15. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
By browsing or book reviews, usually--love these blogs, Amazon and BN.com for those reasons. I don't have too many friends/family who read like I do, so I can't count on recommendations (although I've gotten a couple from other book bloggers out there, and I always take those seriously).

16. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
I guess it depends. In some respects I like cliffhangers if I know there's another book coming and I really loved the story. Otherwise I prefer a tidy ending with no loose ends.

17. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Anytime I can fit it in. I'd love to have more time to read in the morning when I'm fresh, but I usually find myself doing more reading in the evening before bedtime.

18. Stand-alone or series?
Doesn't matter. If I love the story and the characters then a series is nice.

19. Favorite series?
Guess that would be Harry Potter. :-)

20. Favorite children’s book?
I always liked the Berenstein Bears

21. Favorite YA book?
Tough one, not sure I could pick so I'm going to cop out and say there are too many to name.

22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Well, I can only think of one that no one was familiar with, which I read recently - The Maidenstone Lighthouse. Oh, I had an epiphany while answering #27--The Oval Amulet by Lucy Cullyford Babbitt is another one that I like, though I'm not sure if it is very well-known.

23. Favorite books read last year?
Um, Confessor by Terry Goodkind, Several of the Shannara books by Terry Brooks.

24. Favorite books of all time?
I don't know, now I'm started to get annoyed by these questions. Probably anything by Georgette Heyer, more specifically These Old Shades, Regency Buck, Frederica, Devil's Cub, The Grand Sophy and Lady of Quality.

25. What are you reading right now?
I'm reading The Dawning of Power by Brian Rathbone. Well, that's what I SHOULD be reading but I'm typing up this stupid meme instead. ;-)

26. What are you reading next?
I don't know, I'm hoping to get A Passion Most Pure in the mail so I can start on that one :-) Otherwise I might read Need by Carrie Jones.

27. Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old?
Maybe The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, I remember liking that one.

28. Favorite book to reread?
Georgette Heyer's books or the Harry Potter series.

29. Do you ever smell books?
Yes, I love the way a lot of older books smell. (And brand new books, too!)

30. Do you ever read Primary source documents, like diaries or letters?
Nope. (Finally, an easy question--for me--requiring practically no thought!

Blogger Tips & Tricks: Widgets

Welcome to another installment of Blogger Tips & Tricks. Sorry this one's been delayed a bit. I think the issues I had while trying to post HTML code on previous posts burnt me out on these a little. :-)

Here are links to my previous posts, in case you missed them or simply want to revisit them:
The Look & Feel
Functional Headers
Grab Buttons & Favicons

And this is completely beside the point but don't you love the word "widget?" Such a goofy word, yet such a wonderful little feature...

WHAT ARE SOME WORTHWHILE BLOGGER WIDGETS? (AND WHERE THE HECK CAN I FIND THEM?)

In my numerous searches and with the help of some of you out there, I have come across several widgets that I have enjoyed using on my site. In this post I'll tell you where you can find them and why I love them...

The Recent Comments Widget
I noticed several bloggers had a little section in their sidebar devoted to recent comments. I thought that was pretty neat, since it gives visitors an idea on what posts are generating discussion and interest on that particular blog. You can find the widget at Blogger Templates. It's a piece of cake to add, so why not try it out?

Top Commentators Widget
I first noticed a top commentators widget being used over at J. Kaye's Book Blog. She uses it to highlight which bloggers to feature in her blogroll, which is pretty cool. For me, it came in handy when I wanted to hand out the "You Don't Say - Super Comments Award." You can customize it to look at a certain range of past comments, whether it's the last 500 or 5,000. (They do recommend limiting it to around 500 of the most recent comments.) I think it's a neat little way to give some commentators a little recognition. You can find this widget at Blogger Plugins.

Blog Statistics Widget
This little widget simply shows how many posts you've written and how many comments you've received, in total. I thought it was neat, so I added it to my blog. You can find it at Blogger Tips & Tricks (uh-oh, looks like I accidentally stole that name for this series of posts... sorry :-/)

Label Cloud "Widget
"
I don't know about all of you, but my Blog Post Labels list was getting a little out of control after awhile. Eventually, I did pare down the number of labels I was using, but I also added the code to turn it into a label cloud, making it take up less room in the sidebar. So I guess technically this isn't a widget, since you are editing HTML code, but since it's a sidebar item I'm featuring it as a widget. You can find the code and instructions at phydeaux3.

Translate This Blog Widget
I don't remember whose blog I saw this one on, but given how many people from outside the U.S. I've seen on various blogs, I thought perhaps it would be handy to have this little widget. I don't know how much use it will get, but it seemed like a neat addition to make my blog accessible to more people. You can find this widget at Blogger Plugins, again.

Actually, Blogger Plugins is a great web site and may just have all of these plugins I've mentioned here. I'm simply telling you where I first found the information to add these little gadgets to my blog. If anyone else has any great sidebar gadgets and widgets they'd like to share information about, please leave a comment below. I know a lot of people have some cool features on their blogs, some of which I may not have even come across yet. Remember, I'm just sharing with you the little bit that I've learned in trying to tweak my blog and make it my own. There's a whole wealth of knowledge on blogging just waiting to be discovered!

I hope you find all these tips useful. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Stay tuned for my final post on Blogger Tips & Tricks: Helpful Links - this is where I'll summarize all the useful sites I've found in improving my blog. It may be the most helpful of all of these posts and I may start wondering why I wrote the rest of these entries :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: The Dawning of Power

TeaserTuesdaysTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

(1) Grab your current read
(2) Open to a random page
(3) Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
(4) BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
(5) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Dawning of Power coverHere's mine (as usual I'm cheating a bit, posting more than two sentences):

With her homeland sliding by, Catrin's thoughts turned to all those she had lost and left behind. Tears filled her eyes as she thought of her father and Benjin. Equally distressing were worries over the safety of Chase, Strom, and Osborne, her faithful companions. They had stayed by her side and risked their lives for her, and now she was abandoning them. Unable to bear the pain, she wiped her tears and concentrated on what lay ahead.

~ From The Dawning of Power by Brian Rathbone, p. 206

Monday, April 20, 2009

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler

Crimes of Paris coverGenre: Non-fiction, Crime
Pub Date: April 27th, 2009, Little, Brown & Co.
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
Turn-of-the-century Paris was the beating heart of a rapidly changing world. Painters, scientists, revolutionaries, poets--all were there. But so, too, were the shadows: Paris was a violent, criminal place, its sinister alleyways the haunts of Apache gangsters and its cafes the gathering places of murderous anarchists. In 1911, it fell victim to perhaps the greatest theft of all time--the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Immediately, Alphonse Bertillon, a detective world-renowned for pioneering crime-scene investigation techniques, was called upon to solve the crime. And quickly the Paris police had a suspect: a young Spanish artist named Pablo Picasso....

MY THOUGHTS

First off, thanks to the kind folks at Hachette Book Group for sending me an advance copy of this book to review! Keep on reading, there's a giveaway to follow the review!

I have to come right out and say that I rarely read nonfictional works, which is a little embarrassing for me to admit, but there you have it. But when I read about The Crimes of Paris I was intrigued and thought I would give it a shot--it would make a great review for Mystery Mondays! My initial reaction: I wish the book was more like what the dust jacket portrays it to be: an account of the true story of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. That story is there, but it is drawn out through the entire book, along with accounts of other crimes that have tenuous ties (at best) to the theft of the Mona Lisa.

That being said, it was a very interesting read on Paris and its crimes in the early 20th century. Until reading this book, I had no idea that Paris had once been a hotbed of criminal activity, ultimately leading to many advancements in police work and detection coming from the City of Light. To me, that was one of the more interesting aspects of the book, along with the story of the Mona Lisa. One thing I have to say with regards to that theft: it was never clear to me that Picasso was actually a suspect, as the synopsis implies. He was brought in for questioning, but it was in reference to a friend of his that had been arrested.

So, if you are expecting this book to be solely about the theft of the Mona Lisa, you may be disappointed. I found that I grew tired of reading about various criminals and their capers, though some of the stories were certainly more interesting than others. The Crimes of Paris was also an interesting study of the people of Paris in the early 1900's--I never knew how fascinated they were by crime and how much they sympathized with the criminals while distrusting the police. This fascination led to a profusion of literary and dramatic works revolving around crime and detection--this was the era when the true detective stories really began.

3 stars

Other reviews of The Crimes of Paris:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
The Biblio Brat
Books Love Jessica Marie

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!

The ever-generous group at Hachette Books is letting me give away FIVE copies of The Crimes of Paris! This copy is open to the U.S. and Canada only, and sorry, no P.O. boxes. You also must be at least 18 years of age to be eligible to enter.

To enter, all you have to do is:
~ Leave a comment with a valid email address
~ For a second entry, become a follower and let me know you are one in the comment below
~ If you are already a follower, let me know--that's TWO additional entries

This contest is open until 11:59pm on Sunday, April 26th. I will let Random.org choose the winners and announce them on Monday, April 27th.

Mystery Mondays: Poll Results!!

MysteryMondaysLogo Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll over the last couple of weeks! I received a wide variety of responses! I also learned that I want to try a different site for poll questions in the future--I wasn't able to customize this poll the way I wanted to, but I'm glad people voted anyway! Next time around it will be much improved! So here was the question...

Who is your favorite mystery author?

Your answers:

Agatha Christie - receiving 4 votes
Charlaine Harris - receiving 2 votes
The following each received one vote:
Sue Grafton
James Patterson
Karin Slaughter
Carolyn Keene
Janet Evanovich
Laurie R. King
Arthur Conan Doyle
Michael Connelly

Thanks again for participating! Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for another Mystery Mondays poll!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sunday Salon (04.19.09) Short & Sweet

SundaySalonHappy Sunday, Saloners! This will be a quick post, as I think I am still recovering from cheering through 15 hours of the 24-Hour Read-A-Thon yesterday and this morning! :-) It was such an awesome experience and I was so thrilled to add 30 new blogs to my Reader!! What a great way to bring the community together for a day of doing something we all love... TOGETHER! I just realized that I hadn't written a post all day--I guess after commenting and tweeting I was just typed-out for most of the day!

This week was slow for me, in my opinion. I only read and reviewed 2 books.... Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and Deadly Exchange by Geoffrey M. Gluckman. I enjoyed both, which made for an easy week in reading, just wish I'd had more time to do it!

I shared more awards with fellow bloggers, which always makes me happy. As much as I am honored and touched to receive awards, I love handing them out even more. There are so many wonderful blogs out there I want to be able to award each and every one of them :-)

This week I also started a series of posts I entitled Blogger Tips & Tricks, with various subjects for each post, including layouts and functional headers and grab buttons. I intended to post another one this weekend but the Read-A-Thon took over my life yesterday and I just didn't have time today. I think my next post will focus on widgets that are available to Blogger. After that, I will probably post links to various sites that I've found helpful as I've learned how to make the most out of Blogger. I hope those of you using Blogger are finding these helpful, and some tips will even come in handy on other applications, too!

So that's really it for my week in review. I didn't feel like I could go an entire day without posting an entry--I'm not ready to end my streak of posting every day since starting this blog! Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead--happy reading and blogging to all!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

REVIEW: Deadly Exchange by Geoffrey M. Gluckman

Deadly Exchange coverGenre: Suspense/Thriller
Pub. Date: June 2007, iUniverse, Inc.
Format: Trade Paperback, 337 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
What if the company you work for could control your mind?

Only weeks remain before Lectures and More, Inc., a company representing the world's top motivational speakers, launches its latest technological advance: a mind-altering radio frequency device sold as a work-site enhancement product. The deceptively altruistic Ulrich Rogers spearheads the company and its reeducation programs, incorporating the presentational prowess and charm of Jennifer Chance, a world-renowned motivational speaker. But as the lies that make up her life begin to unravel like threads on a poorly sewn garment, it becomes evident that nothing is as it seems.

Jennifer alone holds the key to unveil Rogers's plot to hold America hostage using Lectures and More's newest device. Plunged into a twisting chase to escape the clutches of Rogers and his former espionage henchmen, Jennifer seeks help from Frank Revere, an enigmatic former government counterintelligence agent. But the question of who to trust continues to dangle in Jennifer's mind. Thousands of lives hang in the balance, but a deeper deception lurks in the shadows …

Brimming with suspense, danger, and mystery, Deadly Exchange conjures up a blend of the ordinary, the arcane, the seen, and the unseen in the search for truth.

MY THOUGHTS

Reading this book was like reading a season of 24, except that these events took place across more time than just one day. I have to admit that it was a little difficult to get settled into this book--because it is written from multiple points of view and shifts settings as events unfold, it can be a little difficult to follow at times. However, once I got comfortable it was a fascinating, riveting read... Gluckman's knowledge of the government, its agencies, and military technology is impressive! Not to mention, his plot twists keep you on the edge of your seat!

I don't know about all of you, but for me well-developed characters are extremely important in creating an enjoyable book. Gluckman succeeded many times over with his character development in Deadly Exchange. Frank and Jennifer are very believable, but I can't say much without giving away an important part of the story. And as for the "bad guys," Walter Jones in particular--you love to hate them! The addition of the various Rastafarian boys added another element of interest to the "cast."

If you enjoy political thrillers or the TV show 24, I think you would enjoy this book. Even though it started slow for me, the subject matter was so fascinating I couldn't help but enjoy Deadly Exchange.

4 stars

Other reviews of A Deadly Exchange:

#readathon: A Whole New Respect for Cheerleading...

Readathon Cheerleader buttonWho says cheerleading is easy? Lol :-) I think I ended up getting a *little* obsessed (in a good way, I suppose) with this whole cheerleading for the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon... I've really enjoyed stopping by everyone's blog to leave a comment. And I think I did hit just about everyone participating--if I missed you, I sincerely apologize because it was my honest intention to visit every reader out there. I can't imagine how you guys must be feeling by now, we're nearly halfway through the day!!

I guess I've really spent most of the day commenting, though my official scheduled times were 8am-11am this morning, 10pm-11pm tonight, and 7am-8am tomorrow... It's just so hard to stop when there are so many people out there to cheer on :-) I've also been doing a lot of tweeting with all of you, too! Of course, in between all of my Read-A-Thon activities the hubby and I were working with our meat smoker, trying our hand at a pork butt today. At the moment, I feel like I smell like a charcoal briquette but it's worth it--our pulled pork was AWESOME, especially for our first time trying it ourselves!

But back to the Read-a-thon... One of the best things about being a cheerleader? Finding new blogs to follow!! Since I haven't been in the book-blogging community for too long (just realized today's my 2-month anniversary!) I know there are a jillion blogs out there just waiting for me to find them... Today I added 30... yes, 30!!! to my subscription list and blogroll. I'd like to take this moment to share with you those "new-to-me" blogs:

1) tickettoanywhere.blogspot.com
2) diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com
3) ashleyslibrary.blogspot.com
4) smsbookreviews.blogspot.com
5) books-movies-chinesefood.blogspot.com
6) www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk
7) bookpsmith.blogspot.com
8) bookjunkiereviews.blogspot.com
9) books4alison.blogspot.com
10) agignac.blogspot.com
11) crazycommamomma.wordpress.com
12) alainereading.blogspot.com
13) abookloverforever.blogspot.com
14) fantaghiro23.blogspot.com
15) awaitingserenity.net
16) callistahogan.livejournal.com
17) birdbrainbb.net
18) hiddenplace.wordpress.com
19) wordsbyannie.blogspot.com
20) thefriendlybooknook.com
21) thebookgirl.net
22) bookslovejessicamarie.blogspot.com
23) kbpinkbookmark.blogspot.com
24) lastexilewords.blogspot.com
25) lissaslongyarn.blogspot.com
26) chikune.com/blog
27) gimmemorebooks.blogspot.com
28) librariansbookreviews.blogspot.com
29) karinlibrarian.wordpress.com
30) relatedreading.wordpress.com

What new blogs did you find today?!

Now If only I could find the time to finish the last few minutes of Deadly Exchange so that I can write that review!!

HAPPY READ-A-THON DAY!

Readathon Logo
Yay! So excited it's finally here, though I will not be participating as a reader this time around... I'm looking forward to cheering everyone on and reading posts throughout the day! Good luck, everyone! Love all the pictures of snacks and reading spaces out there.

Hubby and I made the mistake of trying to get a Boston Butt in the smoker this morning... Interesting experience that made me about 20 minutes late getting to the Read-A-Thon (nearly typed Read-A-Thong, wow) but I'm here now! Hope to do a LOT of commenting and finally get my review for Deadly Exchange posted today. (It was like reading 24, except that it wasn't about just one day...) And I'll have another Blogger Tips post coming up soon, too!

Good luck to all you readers out there! I'll be stopping by as many of your blogs as I possibly can to share the love :-)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Awards!

Well guys and gals, once again I'm overwhelmed with your kindness and generosity in passing along some awards to me. Now I'd like to return the favor and send some love out to some of my favorite blogs... First up:

Lovely Blog AwardOne Lovely Blog Award

Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise gave me the One Lovely Blog Award last week. Thank you so much! Here's more info about what this award means...

This award which is given to new blogs and blogging friends.

The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Well, I don't know that I'll be awarding "new" blogs here, but I will pass this on to 15 fabulous, lovely blogs:

Please go check out these wonderful blogs and the people behind them!

The next award is the newest that I've seen on the blogging scene and I think it's one of the best... The "You Don't Say" Super Comments Award... I received this from J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog, as well as Kristina at Kristina's Favorites. Thank you both!

You Don't Say awardIt is easy for me to hand out this award. Thanks to Nymeth, I now have a top commentators widget in my left sidebar, so here are the current top 10 commentators...
  1. Mishel (31)
  2. Dar (30)
  3. Ti (22)
  4. Nymeth (20)
  5. J. Kaye (13)
  6. Beth F (11)
  7. lilly (11)
  8. Literary Feline (10)
  9. Jo (9)
  10. Scrap girl (8)
Thanks so much for taking time to stop by my blog and share your thoughts with me and my readers!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blogger Tips & Tricks: Grab Buttons & Favicons

***UPDATED 12/17/09 (READ ONLY text boxes)***

Welcome to my latest installment of Blogger Tips and Tricks! I decided to group Grab Buttons and Favicons into one post. Though the two aren't exactly related, they are both about promoting your blog and its look & feel (discussed in Monday's post).

Just under my profile picture in the left sidebar, I imagine some of you have noticed my grab button, which I added 2-3 weeks ago. Well, I think I actually tried to call your attention to it in a post, too. Shameless, I know. :-) I've seen several great buttons out there, and have decided to display other bloggers' buttons just above my blogroll. Everyone likes a little link love, right?! With some of these buttons, I've had to copy them myself and save them in Photobucket so that I could link them to the respective blogger's site. Others have given me code that I can copy and paste directly onto my blog with little effort--that's what I was going for when I added my grab button.

HOW TO DISPLAY AND SHARE YOUR GRAB BUTTON

Making the button was easy for me--I created it the same way I made my header tabs that I talked about in Tuesday's post about functional headers. Many bloggers are fortunate enough to have theirs made professionally, which is even more awesome! So think about what you're looking for in a grab button. I think it's important that the button reflect the personality of you and your blog. In my case, I grabbed an image right from the header and customized it with my blog's name.

The hard part of the grab button was figuring out how to create the little text box in which I could display the code for the button. (By the way, again, you'll want to make use of a photo sharing web site, like Photobucket, for this little project.) Some of you may have wondered how I got those text boxes to show up in my post the other day. It was necessary in order to show you the code, rather than have Blogger automatically convert it into links and images, but now I'll show you how to do it!

Some of the code I showed you on Tuesday was actually for my site button, here it is again:






If I hadn't placed it within that text box, you would see my grab button, linked to this blog, within this post. In order to create a READ ONLY text box that can't be edited, place this code before the code for your grab button: . (PLEASE NOTE: You can adjust the number of rows and columns to suit the size of your sidebar area and length of your code. If you leave it with fewer rows, you'll see a scrolling bar show up. You may have to tweak the number of columns (really, characters) depending on the width of your sidebar/posting area.) At the end of the grab button code, you will use this closing HTML tag (MINUS THE EXTRA QUOTATION MARK, Blogger would not let the code display without it, darn Blogger):
.

So, in Blogger, add your HTML gadget, copy and paste the code for your button once (this will be the actual button display) then use a text box to display the code for your button as I explained above. There you go! Once you have your own grab button, please feel free to let me know and I will add yours to my sidebar :-)

WHAT THE HECK IS A FAVICON?

So yeah, favicon (pronounced fave-icon) was a new word to me too--I discovered it when I wanted to create a logo to replace the Blogger logo in the address bar of browsers. Well ladies & gentlemen, that little logo you see up there is called a favicon. Who knew?!

Once you create the image you'd like to use--remember, these are tiny so it's best to keep it simple--there's a fabulous site you can use to (1) shrink it to 16px by 16px and (2) host the image for free! The site is http://www.iconj.com/. You will then be able to get code from that site, which you will place in the header area in your blog, using "Edit HTML," under "Layout."

**UPDATE** I noticed a few days ago that the iconj site does not seem to be working, and I'm not sure if that's a permanent issue or not. Here is another option for you. This site, html-kit, will let you generate a favicon (.ico) file from a picture you have stored on your computer. Just upload the photo and then download the Favicon kit that is generated. You can then use FileDen, a free photo storage site, to store the .ico file. So where you see a link to the iconj.com file in the examples that follow, you would replace that link with a link to your fileden file (which should look something like this: http://www.fileden.com/files/2009/6/9/2471226/favicon.ico). (END UPDATE)

That was the part where I actually had some trouble, so I hope to eliminate that for all of you reading this. *Fingers crossed.* When I first added the code, my favicon was not displaying on Safari, but I could see it on Firefox and Explorer. Well, as it turns out, there was another piece of code that solved that problem. Because I was trying to do this specifically for a Blogger site, as opposed to WordPress or whatever, it was harder to be sure I was finding usable information. Funny thing is, when I finally DID find it... the blog was written in French. Lol. It's been years... over a decade... since I had to read French. But, thankfully, I managed to figure out what I needed to do, and suddenly my favicon was visible to me in all of my browsers. Success!

The code I was given by the ICONJ web site was as follows (pretend the "<" and ">" are used at either end. Blogger is giving me trouble with posting HTML code today):






For this favicon to display in all browsers, you actually need to add one more little bit of code just after rel=' shortcut icon'.

That code is: type='image/x-icon'/

So the final code looks like this (again, missing the opening and closing "<" and ">", be sure you include that in yours. DARN Blogger.):






Copy and paste the code you are given for your favicon--remember to include that extra piece I gave you above if it's not included--in the very top header portion of the HTML code for your blog, right after the "head" tag (normally between "<" and ">", but Blogger is not letting me use some codes today, even with the text box.) Voila! Your favicon is visible to the world!

Questions? Comments? Need more help or clarification? Leave me a comment! I'm still learning all of this, but if I don't know the answer to your question, I'll definitely help you find it!

***Special thanks to an email from a reader on 12/17/09 who pointed out that my text boxes were able to be edited by others. And thanks to Google Search I found out how to fix that with this HTML Tutorial on Textarea.***

Please stay tuned for the next edition of Blogger Tips & Tricks: Useful Widgets