Desert Island Characters

July 22, 2014 2014, Top Ten Tuesday 0

desert island characters

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Characters I Would Want With Me on a Desert Island. I’m aiming for a mix of sensible and pure selfishness here. I’m also hoping this desert island is more tropical resort than Survivor or I won’t be lasting too long.

Teenage Theo and Boris from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I’m going to need some entertainment on this island and pulling Theo and Boris straight out of Vegas will provide just that. Boris will roll up with a flak and I’ll just sit and ask him to say things in his weird accent. Later, when Theo and Boris are alone, I’ll giggle over their bromance with the other island characters. It’s perfection.

Karana from The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

If I’m going to have someone save me from dying on an island, I think it needs to be this amazing, animal-loving, weapon-making wonder of a girl from a book I read to pieces as a kid.

Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Uh, who wouldn’t want Arya Stark on their desert island? She’s feisty and funny and we know she can survive a hard scrabble life. Plus, if things get dire, I can have her sit and tell me stories of Robb and Jon Snow.

Jeanne Anne McCullough from The Son by Philipp Meyer

She’s one of my favorite characters ever, so I just need her to be there. Maybe she can shape-shift between her different ages in the book so I can experience her whole life while we’re on the island…because that wouldn’t be weird.

Henry David Thoreau from Walden

Are you ready for me to cheat? I’m going to cheat. So Thoreau isn’t a character, but he’s pretty vital to Walden. He could do double island duty of teaching me how to be okay with solitude and planting a mean bean field.

Cheryl Strayed from Tiny Beautiful Things

Yeah, whatever, I’m cheating again. Thoreau is pretty fantastic on the page, but I’m sure after a few hours I’ll be desperate for a good curse word. Not only did Cheryl Strayed survive a pretty serious trek in Wild, but she knows how to hand out some seriously amazing advice. For this century.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Someone is going to have to lay down the law when all of these characters want to kill each other and I can’t think of anyone better than Atticus Finch.


Yeah, it’s only eight. I’m stingy about my food.

What characters would you want to spend time with on a desert island?



How to Build a Girl: Part 2

July 21, 2014 2014, Book Events 15

We’re moving on to Part 2 in the How to Build a Girl readalong! Now that we’re getting to the halfway point of the book: those of you trying to avoid plot points before reading might want to bookmark this for after the book is out (it can be pre-ordered through The Odyssey Bookshop). You can still watch The Pixies in their terrible music video to stay entertained while you wait, though. If you’re cool with minor spoilers, come on in!

I wish I could convey how obsessed I was with this song (and pretty much every band Johanna mentions in this section) as a freshman in college in 2002. No big deal, just a decade behind.

So, after Johanna’s stinging embarrassment on television, she decides it best to completely revamp herself: new look, new name, new life. She calls herself Dolly Wilde, after Oscar Wilde’s niece, dies her hair black and goes into a record shop for the first time. After a mishap with her younger brother, she ends up with a copy of a free music magazine, Disc & Music Echo, and grows determined to become a music journalist. Following a crash course in the music she’s missed, Johanna begins sending D&ME countless articles until they call her in to offer a writing gig with the magazine.

A few specific thoughts:

  • I thought this section was a fantastic balance to the first part of the book. While it still had the same humor and wit, it was a little more subdued, which I think was needed after such a punchy start.
  • Based on her wall, I’m thinking Johanna would be awesome at Tumblr. Also, she needs a community like My Daguerreotype Boyfriend (YUM).
  • I was basically freaking out over the music in this section. Repeatedly. It was wonderful.
  • I really, really hope Johanna’s dad isn’t going to screw things up by trying to use her as his next path to the future…but you know, it’s pretty much bound to happen.

And then there was Johanna’s first gig.

This tweet totally threw me back. The summer before I went to college and learned enough to listen to The Pixies, I was riding the emo wave hard and went to see Brand New open up for Taking Back Sunday. It wasn’t my first gig, but up until that point it had been mostly Dashboard Confessional and Ben Kweller and, let me tell you, Chris Carrabba doesn’t end up with butt sweat like this.


The Shelter (yes, from 8 Mile) is like the size of my living room. And it was August. And I’m pretty sure the place was at twice capacity, so it was absofuckinglutely disgusting. I completely understand Johanna’s experience. But, hey, I did meet my husband that night, sweat and all.


The Hunt for Premade Blog Templates

July 18, 2014 2014, bloggiesta, Book Blogging Tips 48

Happy Bloggiesta, ladies and gents! One thing I’ve noticed during a few Bloggiesta Twitter chats is the frequency of people mentioning that they want to change their blog design but don’t want to spend  a ton of money in the process. Understandable? Totally understandable. Thankfully, there’s a little step between the free themes offered by your platform and throwing down a bunch of cash for a custom design: premade templates.  There are a ton of places you can look for premade designs, but there’s a great collection on Etsy, which happens to be reputable and easy to use to boot. So, today’s goal is finding a Blogger or WordPress template and getting your site all jazzed up for under $50 (in some cases, much under).

If you’re not quite sure how this works, you’re basically purchasing a code from the designer that you’ll be putting into the inner-workings of your blog. It’s a super easy process, but if it makes you uncomfortable to think about messing with that stuff, most of the designers offer installation for a few dollars extra. The thing to remember about the code is that it will be custom to your site, so instead of seeing the sample headers or categories, you would be seeing your blog name and your own personal settings.

Just searching Etsy’s homepage for terms like blogger premade template or wordpress premade template will bring up thousands of results to go through. You can use the filters on the left to narrow your search and sort your results at the top.

I went through and found a few examples for each blogging platform just to give you a peek at what’s available on the site.


etsy premade blogger templates

Left: ShinyMagic | Right: AdrienDesign

etsy premade blogger templates

Left: xosarahshop | Right: KotrynaBassDesign

Self-Hosted WordPress

etsy premate wordpress templates

Left: DinosaurStew | Right: 17thAvenueDesigns

wordpress themes etsy

Left: PixelFrau | Right: IdyllicDesignStudio

Just as a disclaimer: I haven’t worked with any of these designers, so I’d check out their feedback before you buy just to make sure you feel comfortable. I can, however, highly recommend New Chapter Designs, who did the custom design for my Blogger site and then updated it when I transferred to WordPress. She has a waiting list, but does have a great premade Blogger template that’s only $15 if you’re anxious for a change. I can also recommend the Tweak Me Theme for WordPress, which is what Stephanie used as a base for my design, especially if you’re looking for something easy to customize.

A few other things to think about while searching:

  • If you find a design you like, you can browse the rest of the artist’s work by clicking on their name at the top of the page.
  • Did you fall in love with something that happens to be on the wrong platform? Browse through the designer’s shop or send them a message, they might be able to adapt it for what you need.
  • Try to ignore the color of the sample designs. That sounds like an odd tip, but most designers will let you choose your own colors for just a few dollars more.
  • If you love a designer’s work, take a peek at the cost of their custom work (usually a page within their shop). Some designers are really affordable and you might end up deciding it’s worth it.
  • Responsive templates will cost more but are more than just mobile, they adapt to the size of any screen they’re on.

So, it’s time for your challenge! Even if you’re not ready to commit quite yet, take a peek and see what you can find. You can leave your favorite designs or any questions in the comments!



A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor

July 16, 2014 2014, ARC, reviews 7

brave man seven storeys tall

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor

Publisher: Harper | Source: Publisher

Owen Burr’s hopes of competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens are dashed when he is blinded in one eye during his final college water polo match. Before his father Joseph, a well-known classics professor, can help him plot out his next steps, Owen decides to go to Berlin and attempt life as an artist. Soon, he is taken in by an art collective with questionable intentions while his father organizes a speaking tour that will allow him to search for his son

It’s clear from the beginning of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, as the story of Joseph’s heartbreak is woven into the action of Owen’s blinding water polo match, that Chancellor can write. Sadly, the book soon seems to split in two, with half of it favoring a fast talking, dialogue-heavy style that feels too stark against the more meditative foundation established in the beginning of the novel. While the plot Chancellor writes for Owen in Berlin is a fascinating one, the change in voice makes it feel a little like a misplaced short story sandwiched in a much better novel.

Though the two halves come back together toward the end of the book, which is incredibly strong, the middle remains disconnected and uneven. Still, the standout moments of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall mark the entrance of a new, creative voice in the world of fiction that will be well worth watching in years to come.


Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

July 15, 2014 2014, ARC, reviews 14

evergreen rasmussen

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Publisher: Knopf | Source: Publisher

In 1938, Eveline and her new husband Emil leave their small town to make a home in the wilds of Minnesota, scarcely prepared for the changes  they will meet. The couple lives a quiet and happy life with their new son Hux until Emil is called to care for his ailing father in Germany. Determined to show her  strength, Eveline chooses to stay in Evergreen while Emil is away; a decision that will permanently alter her life.

Evergreen is told in four parts that span most of the twentieth century, from Eveline and Emil in 1938 through generations of their family in the 1970′s. The story is one that should be experienced alongside Eveline, with little knowledge of the plot before hand, as Rasmussen excels at fully immersing readers in her novel. Within the first few chapters, Evergreen becomes a real place with distinct textures, smells and identifiable locations. Rasmussen carries her characters, and their descendants, through the next several decades with an admirable blend of tranquil atmosphere and demanding pace.

Though some of the pieces fit together too neatly, particularly in the final section of the novel, the journey of Evergreen is a beautiful one. Rebecca Rasmussen shares the lifetime of a family, from its wavering first steps to its last moments of forgiveness, with all of the moments of grace, strength and heartache in between.


How to Build a Girl: Part 1

July 14, 2014 2014, ARC, Book Events, discussion 15

how to build a girl moran

Here we go with the first section in the How to Build a Girl readalong! I’ve been struggling to figure out the best way to structure this so I can share my feelings and discuss with other #moranalong-ers but not spoil anything for those of you who want a peek into the book before it comes out. Thankfully, there isn’t much that’s spoilery in the first section, so everyone is in the clear this week. From here on out, though, I’ll do a spoiler warning if necessary (don’t worry, you guys, this is a safe space).

In section one, we’re introduced to fourteen year old Johanna. It’s 1990 and Johanna’s family is struggling with the recent addition of unexpected twins, which brings the number of children up to five. While her mother deals with unmentioned post-natal depression, her father works odd jobs and hopes for a late-career record deal. After sharing potentially damaging information with her neighbor, Johanna desperately seeks out a way to earn money. She enters and wins a poetry contest, followed by a horrifically embarrassing stint on local television, which she fears will follow her for the rest of her life.

A few specific thoughts:

  • I love that Krissi isn’t the jock older brother or the nerdy younger brother (because, really, how many siblings fit into one of those perfect categories we so constantly see?), but that he and Johanna still have that great, bantering brother-sister relationship.
  • I absolutely died at Phil Collins and “Not fucking no jackets required.” DEAD.
  • I love that Moran gives us a teenage female character who is open about masturbation, since it seems to be a topic that’s limited to teenage boys or adult fiction, but I hope that it’s not something that’s always going to be the setup for a joke.
  • I feel kind of bad for UK readers because I think part of what makes the book so funny is the charm of the Brit slang…and that’s just normal to them.
  • The first section was filled with so much humor, but there were these great little heart-clutching moments dropped here and there, too. And then there was this…

“Because my biggest secret of all–the one I would rather die than tell, the one I wouldn’t even put in my diary–is that I really, truly, in my heart, want to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful so much–because it will keep me safe, and keep me lucky, and it’s too exhausting not to be.”

ryan gosling cry gif

If you can gather your emotions and want to see what other readers thought about the first section, everyone is linked up on As the Crowe Flies (and Reads).