Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seasonal Recap on A Splash of Ink: Summer

Today's the second day of Fall. Can you believe how fast the summer went?
I got the idea to do a summer recap from a blog called Musings From Neville's Navel. If the name hasn't intrigued you enough to check it out, you might like to know that she writes about books, reading and other geeky stuff.

Anyways, let's get on with the recap! This includes June, July, August and September (up until now).

Favourite Read of the Summer: 

The Program by Suzanne Young
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories. 

I can't stop talking about this book. It made me ball my eyes out and usually that's not a good thing, but I just love how the author made me feel about the characters. It's part romance, part social commentary, and part grief. If you want something with emotional impact, this will definitely deliver.

Most Bizarre Read of the Summer: 
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey's acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.

I wanted to read this book because of all the controversy surrounding it. If you don't know, there was a big scandal when it came out that Frey fabricated a lot of the events in his supposedly true memoir. It read very much like a novel. It reminds me a bit of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. It was...interesting to say the least, very gritty and not for the faint of heart. Let's just say after reading this I will never even think about doing drugs.

Top Five Blog Posts of the Summer: 
1. Keeping Track of Our Blogs and How to Use Bloglovin'
Back when everyone thought the Google Friend Connect was leaving us, I looked into using a third party reader to follow my blogs. Since then I've discovered a ton of new blogs and enjoy being able to follow blogs no matter who the provider is.
2. Emotional Impact: Bookchewers Linkup
Every week The Bookchewers hosts a linkup. That week it was about books that have affected you. I talk about books that made me laugh, books that made me cry and more. An interesting way to see my reading tastes, if you're interested.
3. Tips on Starting a New Blog
I wrote this post soon after I started by photography blog, A Splash of Photography. I talk about naming and designing your blog.
4. The Book Chewer's Linkup: Library List
This is supposed to be about the books you would get for a character in a novel (I choose Juliette from Shatter Me), but I veered a little off course and talked about a bargain book buy in cottage country.
5. Guest Post: Caitlin Hensley and Self Publishing
In this post, Caitlin talked about her choice and journey to self publish her book Paranormal Legacy.

BONUS: 2012 Summer's Top Post: 
Second Hand Books and a Partially Empty Bookcase
I talked about buying new bookcases and buying thrift store books. Back then I was looking for more books to fill my shelves because there was empty spots, but now I'm looking for empty shelves to hold my books!

If you want to do something similar on your blog, feel free to shamelessly promote your post in the comments, so I can check it out! Have you read either of the two books I talked about? Thoughts on Summer ending? Let me know in the comments!

Reading: Skin by Ted Dekker
Listening: Civil Wars
Watching: Downton Abbey SEASON FOUR!!!!:D

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Take a Good Profile Picture

Profile pictures, we all need them. It's important to get them right, because they're often people's first impressions of our online personas. Whether it's for your blogger account or other social media, there's some guidelines that I've found effective.

TIP #1: Use a picture of yourself
This might sound obvious, but way too often I see profile pictures that are of random objects. It gives off a more serious and personal vibe when you actually use a picture of yourself. That being said, sometimes you are going for a silly, fun vibe, and a picture of a chicken, instead of you, might be more appropriate. Your choice.

If you decide to use yourself in the profile pic, you don't have to completely reveal your identity (I know that some people want to keep that private), but you should show some part of yourself (hands, eyes, etc.). You can use props or camera angles to disguise yourself. I used my sister as a model for these examples of "disguised" images:
Blur yourself out. The farther you are from the in focus subject
the more blur there will be.

Put a prop in front of your face, if you don't want people to see it.

Turn away from the camera. It's pretty hard to recognize people by their backs.

TIP #2: Use a close crop
Since most profile pictures are quite small, it's important to have a close crop or else you won't be able to see the details in the photo. That means that full body shots are usually a no-go. You have to pick the most important part of the picture (usually the face) to fill the image. 

PRO TIP: If you're having a hard time figuring out the crop, adjust your thumbnail size to get a better idea of how the photo would look smaller. 
I adjusted my thumbnail size in the Windows Explorer folder.
TIP #3: Go Outside
This is just a general photography tip: good light equals good photos. Unless you have a studio lighting setup, the quickest way to get a good light source is to head outside. Going outside will also make pictures taken with your phone or other cheap camera look way better. It's not impossible to get good lighting inside, but it's so much easier to walk out the front door and take some pictures. Besides, we've all been on the computer too long anyways, tehe.

I actually used a DIY reflector to get this particular shot. If you'd like to read
more about that, you can click here to read my post on A Splash of Photography.
TIP #4 Use Props
Props can make a profile picture really fun. Maybe consider using some props that represent you or the content you write for your blog. Here's an example my using my sister:

Although, I love the content of this shot, it's important
to remember that often times profile pics are square.
That means some of this image might get cut off.
TIP #5: Get someone to help you.
I've tried taking selfies with a tripod before, and although it works, it's a lot of time and effort to get the shot right (my head just always seems to be off frame). It's so much easier to ask/coerce/bribe someone to help you. If you're a control freak like me, you can explain what you want, do a sketch of how you want the subject in the frame and fix the settings before handing over the camera. Or you just give the camera to your assistant (like my sister did) and let them come up with the ideas. 

There you go, those are my five tips on taking a profile picture. Now that I'm rereading all my advice, I realize that my own profile picture needs to be redone! Of course, all of these tips are my own opinion and not the hard and fast rules. Anyways, let me know in the comments if you have any advice on profile pictures or have seen any extra special ones lately. 

Reading: Outcast by Jolina Petersheim
Listening to: Nothing in particular
Watching: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Previously on A Splash of Photography: Birthday Walk in the Woods

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Three Anti-Social Tips for Writers: A Video

I found this TED-Ed video while surfing the web and thought all you writers out here would enjoy this quirky, animated, advice video.

Don't be shy; let me know what you think in the comments!

Reading: The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim
Listening: Lights
Watching: Rookie Blue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bookchewers Linkup: Sequels

It's time for another Book Chewers linkup! Today's topic is all about sequels and series. If you'd like to see the original prompt, you can check it out here

1. Best sequel you've ever read?
Definitely Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce. It has all the same elements from the previous book that I loved, yet it was it's own creation. It didn't feel dragged out or unnecessary like some sequels do.

2. Worst sequel you've ever read?
Whatever the second book is in the Dragons in Our Midst series by Bryan Davis. *Insert Google Search* the book is called The Candlestone. I wanted badly to like the book (and whole series for that matter), and I did like the plot, but I just found the writing drier than burnt toast.

3. Sequel that outshone the first book?
I'm going to get guff for saying this, but I enjoyed Catching Fire more than the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It felt like the tension was higher, and not to mention the many ideas that I loved from the first book showed up again in this sequel.

4. Do you often read sequels or do you read the first book and move on?
I always get excited to read the sequel after I finish a good book, so I usually go get it right away. The only reason that I won't read the sequel is if it hasn't been published by the time I finish the first book. I usually end up forgetting what the first book was about by the time the sequel gets published and so I don't read it.

5. What's a sequel that really surprised you (in a good or bad way)? Why?
Fire by Kirstin Cashore. It's not technically a sequel, but it was written after and widely considered as the second book in the Graceling trilogy. It's more of a companion, in my opinion. Anyways, it was so surprising because of how different it was. At first I was put off with the different characters and timeline, but after reading it, I was so impressed. It was great and definitely rivals Graceling.  

6. What's the last sequel you read? (Briefly, what did you think of it?)
My Goodreads account tells me it was Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. I really enjoyed this, although the MC was a bit whiny in sections. I actually wrote a post about how I bought the book; you can read it here.

7. What are 3 sequels you're planning to read (eventually...)?
I've had a hold on this book for what seems like forever, so it's number one on this list: Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons (the sequel to Article Five).
The next one is The Treatment by Suzanne Young. It's the sequel to the heartbreaking, but enjoyable book The Program.
Hmmm...another sequel that I intend to read at some point is...*insert scrolling on Goodreads* the last book in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. I left it so long that I forget what happened in all the previous books, so I'm planning to reread them at some point.

8. What's the first sequel you see when you look at your bookshelf?
The Harry Potter series and Artemis Fowl series. They're right beside each other, so I saw them at the same time.

9. Best sequel cover!?
I thought about this one for a few minutes and came up with Insurgent by Veronica Ross. I don't know if it's the prettiest, but I do like it.

10. What book(s) do you think desperately need a sequel...but don't have one?
I can't think of any books off the top of my head. Maybe Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins? I feel like we (as readers in general) sometimes get carried away with book series and sequels, especially with YA books. Not that I think series are bad, but I think we sometimes forget the value of a novel, a story on it's own.

How about you what's your favourite series? How do you feel about sequels? Let me know in the comments.

Reading: 102 Ways to Write a Novel by Alex Quick
Listening: Jack Johnson
Watching: Suits
Previously on A Splash of Photography: How to take a Dear Photograph

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Buy Second Hand Books

Discounted books I've bought recently.

I'm a thrifter.

Goodwill? Talize? Salvation Army? St. Vincent de Paul?
You name it, I'll take it!

I don't care what kind of thrift store it is, so long as the prices are cheap, and it has what I'm looking for.

Quite often, I'm looking for books. Go figure right? A book/writing blogger buys books from the thrift store. Surprise of the century, tehe.

I've had enough hits and misses since I started buying second hand books a few years ago, that I feel quite qualified to give you some pro-book-thrifter tips.

Before You Shop:

1. Decide how much you want to spend per title. It's easy to convince yourself to buy lots of books at a thrift store because you assume it will be cheap. However, some thrift stores charge a lot more than a few dollars due to the type/condition of a book. It can come as a sucker punch when you get to the till and end up with a huge bill after purposely going thrifting to save money. I've learned that after a certain price, it's not worth buying the book second hand when you can get it brand new for just a few dollars more.

Here's my code in Canadian dollars:
Paperbacks: No more than three dollars, but willing to go to five if I really want it.
Hardcovers: No more than four dollars, but willing to go to five if I really want it.
Magazine: No more than a quarter (25 cents).

It might take a trip or two to see what the average price is for books before you can set a realistic spending limit.

2. Scope out places that sell books secondhand. There are plenty of places other than the usual thrift stores that sell books secondhand. You can ask at the public (or school) library what they do with weeded books, see if the library has a book sale, garage sales, banks, flea markets, bookstores specifically for used books, and you can even see if a friend or relative has some books they might want to sell (this is particularly useful when someone is moving!). You can always use our good friend Google or your local phone book to check out the places in your area.

3. Have an idea of what you're looking for. Be open to anything, but have an idea of what type of book you want to get. I'm usually looking for teen books, but I'm also trying to accumulate the entire Harry Potter series and Artemis Fowl series via second hand books.
My progress thus far. Oh! I also have HP 6 that didn't fit

As You Shop:

4. Do a quick scan of all the shelves. This just gives you a chance to see what the store has to offer and what you might want to zero in on. Try to figure out the organization of the books (if there is any); the ones I frequent are sorted by categories. Develop a sort of game plan for what you're going to look at, so you don't end up spending the whole day looking through books that you have no interest in. 

My typical plan looks something like this:
Skip over cookbooks, diet/health books, harlequins, children's picture books, and look for teen/children's novels, adult fiction, dictionary section, religious section, and the arts section, depending on how the store is organized. 

5. Don't be afraid to go into different sections. Books in thrift stores aren't always sorted perfectly like they are at a retail book store. Books get shelved and put back in the wrong section, especially similar books like children's and teen. You don't have to go through every single section (see tip number three), but it's helpful to take a look in sections that are a) close in proximity to the desired section and b) similar in content to the desired section.

6. Smell and inspect the prospective book. It probably won't have that new books smell, but it might smell like smoke or mildew. Also look to see if any pages are missing or loose. Avoid smells and books that are falling apart at all costs, no matter how good the book looks. 

7. Ask yourself if you really need the prospective book. I've bought way to many books that I haven't read yet, because they were cheap(ish) and looked mildly interesting. Now my bookshelves are overflowing, and I have a ton of books that I don't really want. A good question to ask yourself is "Would I get this book from the library?" if you would, then it's probably a good purchase, but if you'd pass it over for something else, then you probably don't really want it. It's okay to leave the store without buying any books.

8. Keep going back. The selection is always changing. Some days I hit the jackpot and other days I don't get anything. That's the way of second hand book shopping. 

Do you have any pro-tips on looking for second hand books? Got any awesome books from the thrift store? Thoughts about thrifting? Let me know in the comments. 

Previously on A Splash of Photography: How to take Dear Photograph
Reading: Skin by Ted Dekker 
Listening to: The Barr Brothers
Watching: Reruns of Downton Abbey! SO EXCITED FOR SEASON FOUR!!! AHGHSOABBAA!!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Small Town Libraries

We've been traveling in these last few days of summer. We came across this cute little library in a town called Neustadt. It was only open two days a week! Maybe my city slicker is showing, but I had to share this quaint location with you fellow book lovers.

Excuse the wide angle, I was pressed for space between the sidewalk and parked vehicles. Have you encountered any small/cute/pretty/unique libraries? Let me know in the comments.

Reading: Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance
Listening: Johnny Cash
Watching: Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives (...classy, I know, tehe)
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