Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Little Lies (L.A. Candy)

A quick and easy read, Sweet Little Lies is the second in a series by Lauren Conrad, a fictional account of her own life as a reality t.v. star. (For those of you living under a rock... Lauren rocketed to tabloid cover status when her and her high school friends were filmed for the MTV reality show Laguna Beach. She also starred in the spin-off show The Hills.)

As I read this and the previous book in the series, I found myself trying to figure out who was who (since most of these characters are based off of real life people). Lauren does a good job of disguising the guys especially, but it's fairly obvious who most of the girl friends were based on if you've seen the tv shows.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Nothing to write home about, but definitely a fun weekend beach read.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles)

This book was super cute, and although aimed at a younger audience, I still really enjoyed it.

I've actually had this book on my shelf for years and it just occurred to me that it is by the author of The Hunger Games (a series that I loved!). While I wouldn't say it's as good as those, this book was still very interesting and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Basically, we follow Gregor and his sister Boots as they fall out of a NYC laundry room into an underworld ruled by giant bugs, bats, and rats. They go on an Alice-in-Wonderland-like adventure as they quest to make it back home in one piece.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Baby-Sitters Club: Then and Now

Book cover changes can sometimes be a good thing. As a graphic designer, I can appreciate that fact. They can introduce a new generation to an old classic that might not otherwise be glanced at.

Sometimes, however...

This happens...

BSC Book Cover: circa 2010

I guess it's better than this previous remake (which thankfully I've never noticed before):

BSC Book Cover: circa 1990

But sometimes I just have to ask... why mess with the original? It was great and it makes me nostalgic just to look it! I admit the girls look a little outdated, but then again... this series is set in the 80's. How else should they look?

BSC Book Cover: circa 1986

Of all the remakes I found of this cover, I think the 1995 version was the best (though I still prefer the original). It updates the cover image to appeal to a new generation, but it still maintains the spirit of the original. I wish the current book cover design had been as thoughtful.

BSC Book Cover: circa 1995

Thursday, January 23, 2014

App Review: Runtastic Pedometer

via: Runtastic Pedometer
According to smart, healthy-type people, it's best to aim for walking 10,000 steps a day. (In other words, 5 miles a day). As a perpetual couch potato myself, that sounds like a tall order! The Walking Site explains that the average sedentary person (sounds like me!) walks about 1000-3000 steps a day, on average. No wonder my metabolism has slowed down post-high-school! I definitely qualify as a sedentary person.

So... naturally this information made me curious to see how many steps a day I'm walking. I found an interesting free iPhone app (it's also available for Android phones) that you just turn on and leave in your pocket all day. It tracks not only your steps but also translates that into miles. Yesterday I tried it out and walked about 4000 steps (I went for a 15-20 minute walk in the morning, which I normally don't do).

I'm very curious to see over the course of time, how much I walk on average (and whether or not this will motivate me to walk more). I do tend to be competitive with myself, so I have a feeling that I may start trying to beat my "score" by walking a little more each day. I also love that this app, unlike a standard drug-store pedometer, keeps track of your walking history for you. That definitely helps give me a better sense of my habits and how to improve htem.

How much do you walk every day? Have you tried a digital pedometer app? Did it help motivate you?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Remote - Office Not Required

As a remote worker myself, this book is preaching to the choir. It repeats itself a lot but is a quick read and gives some great ideas and insights to the practice of remote working.

While I sometimes felt like it was just an advertisement for the author's own company, 37 Signals, most of the time this book just made good sense and found me wishing more companies would operate this way.

A quick read - I give 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Project 365: Week 3

Day 15 - Tracking Etsy sales.

Day 16 - Woke up to a pile of books on the table. Wonder what that's all about?

Day 17 - Mmm! Donuts!

Day 18 - Another 80 degree day in Southern California.

Day 19 - Admiring the palm trees.

Day 20 - Kitty says, "I'm behind on my newspaper reading!"

Day 21 - Today we said hello to the turtles at Pet-Co.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Site Design: Social Demand NY

I recently finished up a fun web project for a social marketing start-up in New York City. I designed a mobile-responsive splash-page style website on the Squarespace platform.

I wish I could say I had to travel there to consult for the project, but alas... I'm still here in sunny California. ;P

See this design in action!

Project 365: Week 2

Day 8 - I feel sort of bad for wearing shorts and sandals while the rest of the country is in an apocalyptic snowstorm... but only sort of.

Day 9 - Working on a knit cowl for my shop.

Day 10 - I turned around to take a break from working and look what I found!

Day 11 - Went and saw Catching Fire today. Makes me want to re-read the books.

Day 12 - Reading a great book that I got for Christmas. It's super good; I can't put it down!

Day 13 - It's the "oops it's almost midnight and I haven't taken a photo yet" photo.

Day 14 - Interesting shapes outside my window.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

This was an excellent book and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. Cinder is set in a dystopian future where robots are second-class citizens, and robot-human hybrids are even lower than that.

As the name of the book would suggest, this is a modern re-telling of the fairy tale, Cinderella. I liked that it didn't borrow so heavily from the original that the plotline became obvious. This book will keep you guessing until the end and leave you wanting more.

I give this book 6 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 TBR Pile • Top 20

On my 2014 "to be read" list... (in no particular order)

Homeland by Cory Doctorow
I read "Little Brother" this month and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Couldn't put it down actually - finished it in one sitting).

I've already started reading this and unfortunately it's MUCH slower paced than "Little Brother" so far. According to the online review though, if you can plod through the first 75 pages, the rest is much better.

The Circle by Dave Eggers
This book sounds interesting and the cover was illustrated by one of my current favorite illustrators, Jessica Hische... so that means it must be good, right? Like "Little Brother", this is also a techno-thriller story... technology takes over the world and the little guy fights back. Sounds promising!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I started this book a couple years ago and really liked it. I was just... distracted... like I have been for years... so never finished it. This is the year for finishing books I've started though so I'll definitely be picking this one up again.

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia
The second in the series Beautiful Creatures. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next. I recently read the first book and watched the movie and this one definitely needs a place on my TBR list... as soon as I stop seething about how horrible the movie was.

(In case you didn't know and don't mind a slight spoiler... the movie severely subtracts from the book's plot, piles on a bunch of new stuff, and completely rewrote the ending... the last 1/2 hour of the movie never even happened in the book! Needless to say, this completely irks the book-lover in me.)

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I'm sure this book needs no introduction, but in case you've been living under a rock the last couple years... this is the 3rd in a series called Divergent. I've been looking forward to concluding this trilogy and the only question now is... whether or not I should re-read the first two books so I can refresh the storyline in my mind.

Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase
I know nothing about this book except that it looks fun and the premise is interesting - a random nobody becomes a royal somebody overnight. Yes, I realize this sounds exactly like The Princess Diaries... but that's okay. It sounds fun and interesting, and... really now, what better reason do I need to read something?

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
I've been meaning to read this sequel to Wicked for probably 10 years now. Wicked was an excellent book, a fascinating twist on the classic story Wizard of Oz. I've never seen the musical (nor do I have  any desire to), so I have no idea how it compares. I just know that I have great expectations for the rest of this series, so why not plug along at it this year?

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I'm actually reading this book right now and it's very good! Cinder is a dystopian futuristic take off the story of Cinderella, from the point of view of Cinder, a cyborg, who is "volunteered" to undergo plague testing by her evil stepmother. So far, so good, and I can't wait to read more!

The Magician by Michael Scott
Yet another second in a series that I have been meaning to get to. I got this and Cinder for Christmas, so they are definitely on my TBR for this year. It's basically a series about magic and wizardry, centering around some kids who team up with the immortal Nicolas Flamel (of Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone fame).

Interesting tidbit: Nicolas Flamel was actually a real guy, and was apparently very interesting and mysterious because people keep adding him into fiction series to help move the plot along.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld
This apparently came out about 7 years ago and I just recently discovered that it existed. It's the fourth in a series called Uglies that I absolutely loved and devoured. I had thought it was a trilogy and only recently learned that there were four in the series, not three, so am super excited to read more about this dystopian universe!

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
I keep being reminded of this story lately and have never actually read it, so... on my TBR list it goes.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
I read The Tipping Point a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Malcolm Gladwell has written several other books, including this one, and they all seem incredibly fascinating. If I had to categorize his style, I'd say his books are in the same vein as Freakonomics. He basically writes about sociological phenomenon presented in a very consumable, easy-to-read mannner.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
This is a new book by the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. He writes fictionalized accounts of real situations that occur in his home country of Afghanistan. These page-turners made my heart ache for those innocents caught in a war-torn country of extremists, and I expect this book to be just as heart-wrenching.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book looks super good and the movie is coming out this year also. I hope to read this before I watch the movie! It's set in 1930's Nazi Germany, and looks like it'll be quite a page-turner.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Another story-turned-movie based in Nazi-Germany that I've been meaning to read/watch. I also plan to read the book before I let myself see the movie, so we'll see how that turns out.

Timeline by Michael Crichton
Or really any book by Michael Crichton will do. I read the two Jurassic Park books years ago (yes, there were only two - where they got the plot for the third movie, I have no idea). I really, really, really loved the JP books - as page-turner-y as Dan Brown - so look forward to reading more by this author.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Like Peter Pan, this classic has been on the back of my mind to read for awhile. Why not this year?

How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson
I'm always a sucker for "how our brain works" books, and this one looks to be just as interesting as all the rest. He dives into how (and why) to be be more still and how our modern society is constantly trying to thrwart that.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The movie was great and I've been meaning to read the book (I know, shame on me for seeing the movie first). Plus it has a cool book cover that has been grabbing my eyes for years.

The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley
Last but not least, this journalistic effort by Amanda Ripley looks fascinating. She follows the stories of three American high school students who study a year abroad, and documents what they learn about how Americans are viewed oversees, how our public school system is failing, and how raising children differs in other cultures. The topic of education and how we do things compared to how other countries do things is intriguing to me, so I look forward to reading this.

What's on your 2014 TBR list? Have you read any of these books?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Project 365: Week 1

Day 1 - Looking forward to the Olympic Games this winter!

Day 2 - Time to buy fresh fruits and veggies!

Day 3 - Oh no! Almost out of ice cream!

Day 4 - Pumping my own gas still doesn't feel totally normal, but at least I'm getting better at it!

Day 5 - Guess what this is.

Day 6 - Found an old art journal I never started. Today is as good a day as any to begin, right?

Day 7 - Of course since I'd put my earbuds in a place where I wouldn't lose them... I just spent a 1/2 hour trying to find them.
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