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Bloggiesta conclusion

Bloggiesta

OK, I think I am done with actively working on my blog during Bloggiesta. Somehow I didn’t feel like updating my Goodreads; I chose instead to update my reviews list, so all books are on it now. I had neglected it for a long while.

Also I wrote a couple of reviews and another post for Crafty Tuesday and am quite happy with what I did.

Don’t forget you can still join my Photo Editing challenge and maybe you will win a great e-book about Real.Life.Photography from Ella Publishing.

It was a fun weekend, it is evening now where I am and I am done! How is everybody else feeling? Are you happy with what you got accomplished or have you procrastinated like the best of them and spent all time on twitter and browsing other people’s blogs (not that there is anything wrong with that)?

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Bloggiesta update 2

Bloggiesta

Saturday was another good day and I tackled two things:

I really liked this one. Related posts are really a good idea and I am quite happy with nRelate. It is rather good and no work at all. What I did after reading the challenge is install the “Tweet old posts” plugin that automatically tweets older posts to being them back to the attention of twitter followers. I tweeted one immediately (you have no say in what post, but can exclude categories and specific posts from the pool) and it re-tweeted a locations post – good choice, :).

My overall score is 85, which is pretty good, especially seeing that I don’t promote my blog much or that I don’t monetize it in any way (not counting the affiliate links, if I depended on them I’d have starved a long time ago).

What this grader obviously wants me to do is get a Facebook page. Thanks, but no, thanks. I do have a Facebook account but it is rather independent from any other online activities and I want to keep it that way.

It complains about lack of tweets about my content and/or Facebook shares. Well, it IS possible to do that easily from every post, so if people don’t want to do it, I can’t do much about it. I mean, I hardly ever tweet or share other people’s posts so I am not one to complain. 

A 301 redirect is a good suggestion. I looked into that already some time ago and somehow – I can’t remember why – I couldn’t do it. I hate messing directly with program files, so I might look into a plugin for it. I will look into that again.

Today I want to update my Goodreads account and then I will be done. Not bad at all! How are you all doing?

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Bloggiesta update 1

Bloggiesta

Day 1 is over, what have I got done so far?

I have already cleaned my Google Reader. What a great feeling it was to unsubscribe from feeds. I came from 128 and ended up at 61, that is quite good going. In the future if I find I don’t read a blog in a week I will unsubscribe from it. I do not want to get into a situation where I have to stare at a list of 867 unread items again.

I went through Joy’s Evernote challenge and decided how to incorporate Evernote into my blogging.

I installed the Tumblr app on my phone and made sure I had my tumblr account activated in Instagram. That should make posting on my Tumblr blog Teleidoscope 2.0 a little easier.

Not too bad for only one evening. Saturday will be a bit busy, but I hope to get to do some more later in the afternoon.

How is everybody else doing?

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Bloggiesta kick-off

Bloggiesta

OK, I am all set and ready to go for Bloggiesta, are you, too?

What are my plans? Well, I am quite happy with the look and behind the scenes of my blog right now, so I don’t feel the need to do much. However, there are a few areas that could do with a little improvement.

  • I need to clean out my Google reader. It collects so many feeds right now that I always am behind, no matter how often I try and read posts.
  • Joy from Joy’s Book Blog offers an Evernote challenge. I LOVE Evernote for my “real” life and am looking forward to reading about Joy’s ideas on how to incorporate it into blogging.
  • I am going to have a look at The Blue Stocking’s Revitalize old content challenge. Sounds interesting!
  • I like the idea of my Tumblr blog Teleidoscope 2.0 but it is sadly neglected. I want to find a way to easily update it with conten on a regular basis which also includes Instagram.
  • If I have time I want to update my Goodreads account with reviews and ratings.
  • And, of course, (you might have noticed it already), I am running my own mini challenge this time about basic photo editing. So I am planning time for that as well.

Bloggiesta is hosted by Suey from It’s all about books and the 1st daughter from There’s a book. You can find more information, a list of all participants and a master list of challenges over there. On Twitter you can find us with the hashtag #bloggiesta. On Twitter there will also be a few twitter parties which are always fun.

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Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Basic photo editing

Bloggiesta

Hi! Welcome to my mini challenge about basic photo editing.

If you are a blogger you most likely work with images to enhance your blog posts, at least now and then. Maybe all pictures you use on your blog are book covers that you downloaded from the net; maybe you take pictures of your own books, book shelves, book bags, library etc. It doesn’t matter where your pictures come from or whether they were taken with a cell phone, a point and shoot camera or the most sophisticated DSLR camera. Almost every photo can do with a little editing. There is not much work involved, will only take a few minutes and the result is always an improvement.

Today I want to give you some basic photo editing tips that will make the pictures on your blog look so much better than the SOOC (straight out of the camera) ones that you might have used until today.

Don’t worry we will only cover a few easy things that can be done in any photo editing software (e.g. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Gimp). After that I will show you a nifty online tool that you can use if you haven’t got any editing software on your computer.
I am doing my editing with Photoshop CS2, so you might have to look around a bit in your software to find an equivalent, but I am sure it is there somewhere.

Before you begin editing, open your image and duplicate it, then close the original. You always want to work on a duplicate, so you have the original to go back to if you don’t like your editing results but accidentally saved them.

 

CROPPING

Cropping iconThe first thing you might want to do is crop your picture. Is there something on the side or in the corner of the picture that distracts from the subject and you would like to get rid of it? If you don’t need or want to stick to a certain ratio of the image, just get out the crop tool and start cropping.

I am using a photo of my Harry Potter books that I took to post for the Harry Potter readalong. I know, the quality is not the best and they would definitely look better if they were all one kind of edition, but it is how it is – I took it with my cell and it is rather grainy; that is why I am going to remove the colours later. Things that don’t go that well together in terms of colour often look better without them.

Do you see those ugly robot’s feet on the left? I used them to prop up the books, but I don’t want to show them.

Uncropped

Open your image and choose the crop tool in your software (it normally looks like the icon I posted at the beginning of this paragraph). Start at the upper left corner where you want your image to begin and drag out a square or rectangle until you cover all the area you want to show.

Cropping

Then commit by hitting Enter or clicking on the checkmark in the menu bar.

There, now your photo is cropped and only shows what you want to show.

Cropped photo

 

RESIZING

Image sizeNow it is time to resize your image. Unless you have your camera set to the lowest image size your image is probably too big to use online.

Go to ->Image, ->Image size. Change the resolution to 72ppi which will automatically decrease your pixel size. Then enter the width pixel size that you would like to have. For my blog a width of 600 is about the maximum that is shown properly. It totally depends on the column sizes of your blog. For the main content column a width of 400 to 500px is a good medium size. For a sidebar a width of 100 to 200px maximum would be suitable.

Image size dialog

Don’t ever increase the size of the image! You might get away with a small increase (especially on a monitor) but in a lot of cases your image will look pixelated and ugly. If your photo is too small for your purpose, instead consider adding a background and /or frame of some sort to make the whole image look bigger. .

See Pedro at the beginning of this post all nice and crisp? Below is what he looks like when increased in size:

Pedro way too big

Not so pretty anymore, is he?

Whatever width you decide on, it is absolutely crucial that you keep the ratio of the picture! Make sure the checkbox "constrain proportions" (or maybe “keep ratio” or something similar) is checked. Then the software will automatically choose the proper height according to the chosen width to keep your image with the correct proportions. Of course, you can always enter the appropriate height yourself, but that involves some maths, why not let the program do the work for you?
If the ratio is not kept your image will be distorted and looks extremely unattractive.

Let’s take Pedro again. You might only have a 100px sidebar spot for the Bloggiesta button, but Pedro is 152px wide. So you go and change his width, but forget to check the proportions checkbox. Now he looks like this:

Pedro too thin

He is recognizable, but still! We can do better than that!

 

COLOR CORRECTION

Color correction iconsNow that you have your image cropped and resized you can correct its colours a bit if you wish to do so.

The two basic things you can do is improve the brightness and contrast of your image, and then you can play with hue, saturation and lightness. If you use Photoshop you might want to do that as an adjustment layer. That is represented by a little button in the bottom of the layers palette. The advantage is that you can always go back and change your settings or remove the adjustment altogether. If you don’t have that option, you just change the values and they change the image for good (unless, of course, you go back with Ctrl+Z).

Go to –>Image, –> Adjustments, –>Brightness and Contrast and move the slider until you like the result. The settings always depend on your image, but do not overdo it. Just play around until you like what you see.

Brightness & Contrast

This makes my image a bit brighter and boosts the contrast. That’s ok for me because I want to give it another tint altogether.

Brighter and more contrast-y

 

–>Image, –> Adjustments, -> Hue, saturation and lightness is not a necessary editing step, but you might want to use it if you want to change the overall colour of your picture, give it a certain tint or desaturate it to make it black and white. There are other methods to turn a picture to black and white but this is the easiest one. Try it out, move the sliders and see what they can do.

Hue & Saturation

Above are the settings I used to make my image look like this:

Colorized

 

This is as far as we are going today. Not hard, is it?

Now, if you do not have any graphics software, there are online tools also that will help you accomplish basic (and also pretty advanced)  editing. The one I am going to show you today is PicMonkey.

 

Picmonkey

 

Snap_2012.09.07_21h21m07s_001I love Picmonkey. It is easy to use, it is free and it requires no registration.

All you need to do is click on “Edit a photo” and upload your image.

Edit a photo button

After you upload you image you might come across this window (which I saw yesterday for the first time when I uploaded a poor quality photo, not sure whether this is a new feature or whether it only turns up in certain cases):

Image setting choice

Since your answer depends entirely on the photo you are using I suggest that for now you just click on “Cance” and use your photo as is.

Picmonkey is rather self-explanatory. You have an auto adjust button that automatically enhances your image. Or at least it should do. If you don’t like whatever Picmonkey is doing just click on the “Undo” button at the top of the screen.

Undo button

On the left you have all the editing options, like cropping, rotating, resizing etc. Hit the apply button when you have adjusted the settings to apply the change (it can be undone with the undone button).

Editing options

But there is more. If you click on the icons on the far left, other menus open. You can add effects, can touch up skin, fix blemishes, whiten teeth and so on.

EffectsTouch up

There are many more options like adding captions, little symbols etc. . Just play around and remember, you can always undo what you have done if you don’t like the result.

Once you are finished click on “Save” to save your image. A dialog box opens on the left, where you can choose a file size, i.e. quality, of the image. The pixel dimensions are always the same, just the size of the file changes according to your settings. Mel is poor quality, Ewan decent and Russell excellent. In my example below the difference in file size is between 500kb and 1.4MB. The file size is down to the fact that I kept my image at its original size and didn’t resize it to web size. If you can afford it space wise always go for the better quality.

Saving the masterpiece

After resizing to a web size my file size difference was only between 22kb and 51kb. And here is my Harry Potter picture after applying the auto adjust, cropping, desaturating and the Lomo effect.

Edited photo

OK, we are done for today.

 

What is the challenge?

I would like you to go and find an image that you would like to post on your blog and edit it in some way. Crop it, improve or change the colours, resize it, add an effect, whatever you like to do in order to make the picture look better. Then post it on your blog (before and after, please) and come back here and link us up to it, so we can come and have a look.

One thing to consider: Please do NOT just take any image from the net that you come across! Always respect the copyright of people and check the terms of use of images on sites where you CAN take images from. 

 

What is the prize for one lucky winner?

I am giving away one copy of Ella Publishing’s e-book Real.Life.Photography by Rebecca Cooper. Ella Publishing’s e-books always give excellent advice and easy to follow instructions, plus, they look great! I know them from own experience and highly recommend them.

real.life.photography

After Bloggiesta I will draw a winner from all participants who were up for my challenge and posted a link to their blog post with the before and after image(s) in the comments of this blog post.

Also, for everybody who did not win the book but is interested in buying it Ella Publishing was so generous to offer a 20% discount for my readers to buy Real.Life.Photography. Just use the discount code REALLIFE20 when you check out to get 20% off. The code expires on December 31, 2012.

If you come across a problem, have any questions about above editing tips or about anything else related to Photoshop or photo editing in general, please send me an email via the contact button on the left, via my Contact Me page, leave a comment to this post or contact me on twitter. I would love to hear from you and will get back to you as soon as possible.

And now, have fun with your images and with all the other fun Bloggiesta events!

You will find everything you need to know about them at It’s all about books and There’s a book.

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Top five series I haven’t finished

Top Ten Tuesday

There must be lots of them. I am not a reader who keeps on reading a series even though I have lost interest in the genre or topic or even though the series becomes just plain boring.

So I went through my Goodreads account to see what series are still unfinished or discontinued (by me).  Here we go:

 

 

Top five series I have not finished
  • The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.
    Stopped after book one. I have book two and three – and maybe even four, not sure – lying around here, but when I started on number 2 it bored me to death.
  • The Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton
    When Agatha started to seriously lie to get her neighbour to marry her I stopped immediately. I hate that sort of stuff.
  • The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R Ward
    What a promising series! I loved the guys and could have continued forever. But then she treated V so unfairly. I managed the following book six but that was it. The series had deteriorated considerably.
  • Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris
    Book seven was my last one. I am still interested but just not as much as before. It might have to do with the image of that greasy Eric from the TV series that I now have in my head. Until I saw him I adored Eric just as much as the next girl.
  • The Narnia books by C. S. Lewis
    What a disappointment! My own Narnia project given up after one book, I feel bad about that, but I found the first book rather disappointing.

Tons of mystery series: Crowner John, Matthew Bartholomew, Daisy Dalyrymple…after a while I lose interest and stop reading them for one reason or another. However, there are a few series that I follow no matter what, but that is a topic for another list…:).

What are your Top Ten series you have given up on? Or do you continue come hell or high water?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You will find tons of more Top Ten Tuesday participants there.

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The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop is coming back

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

You probably know the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop already. Judith from Leeswammes’ Blog is hosting it for the sixth time already. This fall it will take place from Oct 27 to 31 and it will a great event again, I am sure.

This is what Judith says about it:

This event is an opportunity to give away prizes and get more traffic to your blog. You will run your own giveaway, but it will be linked up to all other participants via a links list. That way, not just your readers, but also the readers from the other participating blogs will stop by your blog.

You can offer one or more books, a gift voucher (for instance, to amazon or bookdepository), or anything else related to books and reading. There is no minimum or maximum value that your prize should have.

The only restriction is that if you’re giving away a book, that it should have some literary merit. It does not have to be the most difficult classic ever, but please no romance, urban fiction or YA. Quality thrillers, poetry and non-fiction are fine, as are contemporary fiction, literary fiction and any other genres not in the categories above. If in doubt, please ask!

You can find more information about the hop and how to sign up over at Leeswammes’ Blog. What are you waiting for? It is going to be fun!

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Harry Potter: activities

hpreadalong

I am still reading The Philosopher’s Stone and am getting nowhere with it. The kids haven’t even been sorted into their houses yet, somehow I find the read drags on and on and is rather, um, boring. Maybe, even though I can never remember a thing, I remember still too much to enjoy the re-read.

On the other hand, I am active on the visual front. We have been watching a few Harry potter films (left out the third one as I don’t like those dementors and the whole Azkaban topic) and are now in the middle of the Order of the Phoenix. God, that Umbridge woman! A terrible, terrifying creature! Her rosy cheeks, her giggling, fanatism and pink room make my stomach turn. Imelda Staunton does such a great job playing her! To finish off our HP movie marathon I still need to get the last three films, so it will be a little while before we can conclude the series.

Maybe I should have joined a HP watchalong?! But – there is still some time before the readalong finishes, I might get into it after all.

And, yet on another note, I found this great article at Cracked.com about the 5 most depraved sex scenes implied by Harry Potter. A must-read for Harry Potter fans!

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In my mailbox

 

 

I am still doing great with my book buying ban. Only one book to talk about.

 

I swapped

  • Come together by Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees (in German). I probably never would have known about this book if it wasn’t for a swap partner who offered one of her books to me. So I chose this one as it sounds quite interesting. A love story (sort of) told from two different points of view.

Cover Come Together  

What was in YOUR mailbox recently? 

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Week on the web

weekontheweb

Here are my finds for this week…

What interesting things have you found in the last few days?

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My lists project

crafty_tuesday

Remember the 30 lists project I mentioned in my last recap post? Well, it is in full swing and I am having a blast. The only downside is that I don’t get anything else done. To create a list every day is quite time consuming if you don’t just scribble it on a piece of paper, let me tell you. Plus, I don’t want to fall behind, I know that one day without making the list will be the end of it, so I am keeping at it.

Want to see my lists so far? Aren’t they pretty? Well, I think they are, :).

My first batch of lists

If you would like to take a closer look you can view them on my flickr set or my Pinterest board (now you know the REAL reason I am so busy, I am uploading all day).

As far as reading is concerned, I am still reading the first Harry Potter, but find it strangely unattractive. Somehow I am not getting into it. And I started to continue The Grass Crown. My only complaint about that one, you can’t take it anywhere, it weighs a whopping 1.2kg. No bathtub read, unfortunately.

What are you all up to, be it crafty or otherwise?

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History locations: Moat festival

We often have medieval festivals  in our area. There are tons of medieval castles around and most of them organize some annual festival or other. This time is was the Moat Festival in our local moat which is a park in daily life.

Moat Festival

There were lots of stalls with medieval goods, food and drink and performances. Knights fighting, musicians playing (I LOVE bagpipers, especially when they are half naked and tattooed) and acrobats doing their tricks, it was a lot of fun.

The vegetarian food selection was rather, um, limited, but if you are a carnivore you were all set. Quite educational for the children who all of a sudden realize that the yummy “Schnitzel” was a cute little piglet once.

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Bloggiesta is around the corner

Bloggiesta

It is almost time for the next Bloggiesta. it will take place the last weekend in September and will again be hosted by Suey from It’s all about books and the 1st daughter from There’s a book.

This must be my 4th time or so that I am participating and – apart from getting a lot of things done – it has always been great fun. No idea what I am going to do yet though. I only changed the blog’s looks six months ago and feel no need to do anything cosmetic again. I might look into a better mobile version or something else that goes into a more technical direction. We will see.

This is what you can expect from Bloggiesta:

  • to spend time that weekend (as much or as little as your schedule allows) working on your blog
  • to create a to do list to share on your blog and link up with other participants
  • to hopefully participant in several mini challenges and learn something new
  • to connect with other participants through blog hopping or twitter
  • to make new blogging friends!
  • to come away at the end of the three days with a spiffed up blog!
    Are you going to join us for a fun blogging weekend? Write your participating post and head on over to There’s a book to sign up!
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Top five books on my fall TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a hard one as I am never planning ahead much, and if I do the plan usually gets thrown over quickly. However, as I have signed up for the Harry Potter readalong, at least a few books will be HP books. I am pretty sure I won’t read all of them before the end of the year, I am no Harry Potter aficionado.

So, my preliminary Top Ten Five Books for fall look like this:

 

 

Top five books on my fall TBR list
  • Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone by J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets by J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  • The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough. About time to get going with this one.
  • Shades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs. This is my second book of that cozy series that I own. I must know whether it gets any better. With the first one I was not 100% convinced.

I can’t plan more than five books, and that is already stretching it. Any more would be pure speculation.

What are your Top Ten/Five/Three Books on your fall tbr list?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You will find tons of more Top Ten Tuesday participants there.

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A chance acquaintance by Charles Chadwick

chance_acquaintanceOdd couple gets together and then part ways again.

In a nutshell:

Short synopsis:

Ugly Elsie meets a man on the bus who will soon give her life a different direction for a while.

Language I read the book in: German (Eine zufällige Begegnung)

Did I like it? Yes.

For people who: like quiet stories, interesting and unusual characters.

 


My thoughts: 

I got this book because the title caught my interest. I had no idea what to expect, Charles Chadwick was an unknown name to me and I just started reading.

The story is told from various points of views and at first I found it a bit difficult to get into it. After a while, however, I just could not stop. It was obvious that the acquaintance would not turn into romance but rather into a friendship and until now I still can not figure out where the line was.

Elsie’s disfigurement makes it impossible to awake any romantic feelings in Stan, even though he wishes this was different. On the other hand Elsie has feelings for Stan, but knows they will never lead to anything. I liked her attitude towards herself. She never indulged in self-pity and just took things as they were without making a fuss about them.

All characters were well developed and believable. Elsie’s brother and uncle I found absolutely insufferable. How his sister’s looks can play such a big part that he even lies for years to his children (or rather lets them believe something which was not true) is incomprehensible. Her uncle Geoffrey is such an ass, but you find people like him all over the place. His character was so realistic it was frightening. Pretending to be generous, but then never living up to his own words with some“excuse” or other. I thoroughly disliked him.

The only complaint I have is that the relationship between Elsie and Stan came about a little too quickly. On the other hand, maybe people like them have to make snap decisions in order to grab what is being offered. I don’t know. Maybe we all should be a bit more like that.

This is a quiet and quick read that, in spite of it being so unspectacular, will stay with you for a long time.


Location: Mostly Dorset, UK

Dorset CottageDurdle Door, Dorset

Images from flickr user j-sin and wikipedia user Saffron Blaze


Product info and buy link :

Title A chance acquaintance
Author Charles Chadwick
Publisher Short Books Ltd.
ISBN 9781906021405
I got this book from I swapped it
Buy link Buy A chance acquaintance

If you click on the buy link above you will be taken to The Book Depository.co.uk. If you buy the book through this link I will earn a small commission. You can find my general affiliate links to The Book Depository, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com here.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Cover Coraline by Neil GaimanI never knew buttons could be so frightening.

In a nutshell:

Short synopsis:

Coraline has to fight an evil witch to get her parents back. At the same time she rescues a few lost souls.

Language I read the book in: German (Coraline)

Did I like it? Oh, yes.

For people who: like children’s adventures, good vs. evil, witches and smart cats.

 


My thoughts: 

This was my first book by Neil Gaiman and I didn’t know what to expect. I have heard a lot about him, but it was always referring to adult literature and not children’s books.

I finished Coraline in one afternoon which is rather remarkable as I normally drag books around for ages. But this was a quick read, very entertaining (in a spooky sort of way) and – I wanted to get it over with. I never read thrillers or horror (not anymore, that is), and now you know, why. If Coraline is already scaring me to death, what a bundle of nerves would I be after reading some adult thriller?

Coraline is such a courageous girl, it is amazing. She is sensible, clever and fearless. The book should be read by every child out there so she can be their role model. The ideas Neil Gaiman came up with – OMG, I have no idea how kids relate to them, but I found them frightening to the extreme. Fake parents with buttons for eyes, a world that slowly dissolves, some ancient being acting as a corridor? Bloody Hell, for me that was about as much as I could bear. But I am a bit of a scaredy cat.

Anyway, this story had me from the beginning and I just couldn’t stop reading until it was over, evil was outplayed and everything was good again. Totally recommendable for children and adults alike.


Movie tip

Coraline


Product info and buy link :

Title Coraline
Author Neil Gaiman
Publisher HarperPerennial
ISBN 9780061139376
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy Coraline

If you click on the buy link above you will be taken to The Book Depository.co.uk. If you buy the book through this link I will earn a small commission. You can find my general affiliate links to The Book Depository, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com here.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

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Week on the web

weekontheweb

Here are my finds for this week…

Have YOU found anything interesting this week?