Summer Blog Theme Revamp

Guess what? My blog theme is changing – again – like the seasons. If I found the perfect theme, I’d likely switch it later out of boredom. What do you do when fresh turns stale? Refresh! Besides, blog themes make an important statement on the web.


Tinker Under The Theme Hood

So why am I changing my blog theme again? One reason is that my previous theme switch-up in early April was an experiment with new post-formats and the block editor. And as it turns out, the tumble-like blog page isn’t as functional as I like.

So I tried several select themes, but nothing really clicked. Then I started to systematically “Try & Customize” every free theme down the line. In a short time, I discovered Canard and was thunderstruck! It was almost exactly what I was looking for – plus a bonus feature!

Let the theme tweaking begin.

Rather than bore you with the particulars of the changes, suffice to say I’m stoked to spelunk the depths of the design.

Personalized

The best thing about blog themes is their uniqueness. As a Personal Blogger, YOU are distinct with particular traits. And blogs vary in style just like people do.

The blogosphere is a collective place where individual writers express themselves through self-publishing. That special “self” is like no one else. So a personally designed blog theme extends that distinctive expression; it reflects your tastes.

So I like to find just the right colors, fonts, and layout that display my own vogue. For example, fonts come in many styles: modern, elegant, quirky, artsy…almost anything! Colors also convey a lot. Orange: enthusiasm… Green: harmony… You get the idea.

I often wonder though, how much does it really matter anymore? With that, I have a question straight to you, dear reader.

How often do you visit blogs?

Do you mostly read blogs in the WordPress (or other RSS aggregator) Reader?

I admit, I often read blogs in my Reader feed – it’s convenient. And only sometimes do I click out to actual blogs on the web. I’ve often considered making a point to abandon the Reader in favor of visiting actual blogs like we’re in the 90’s!

If you specialize your blog theme, but no one ever sees it, why bother with themes at all? If you master Google SEO, then search results will lead visitors to your blog itself. In that case, your theme should make a good first impression in the hope of gaining a bigger audience.

Regardless, I think your blog theme is significant even if nobody sees it because tweaking it is still a creative act and an expression of yourself.

under construction signage on laptop keyboard
Photo by Fernando Arcos on Pexels.com

Theme It Up

On the spectrum of blog personalization, are you closer to the “set-it-and-forget-it” default end? Or do you gravitate toward the “tweak-it-to-death” custom end?

Which is more important to you: form or function? Both of these factors come into play for blog design. Both how your blog looks and works make a difference in how your blog feels overall.

If you don’t express yourself in your blog’s thematic structure, give it a try!

One last thing: however much you customize your theme, don’t neglect the overall blog priority: writing posts! Some of the best blogs on the web are bare-bones black text on white screen – just words. But the writing is excellent.

My First Stephen King Read

Is Summer the best season to read books? Because I’m kind of on a reading kick. So I was wondering what books I’d like to read next. One of the most popular and prolific authors of our time is Stephen King. Yet I’ve never read a single one of his books! Shouldn’t I read such a widely known writer as King? Otherwise, I feel like less of an acculturated reader.


Scary Proposition

If I’m going to read a King book, the obvious question is, “Which one?” It should be known that I’m not much into horror and related unsavory fare. So the story should be one of King’s shorter works. I might need to muscle through a book that’s less than palatable.

I’ve seen some movies based on Stephen King stories, so maybe one of those books should be a top choice. Or maybe not.

One idea that strikes me is the fact that I tend to enjoy what my wife calls “miserable” movies. These often have the main character suffer a tragedy. Or if not, they are the victim of a lot of bad choices, either their own or that of others. (Let’s not get into the psychology of why I like these stories…)

With that, one of King’s best known books stands out: Misery.

I watched the movie decades ago, so I kinda know the gist. I’m intrigued by it because it’s about an author – writing! Should I put this on my to-read list? If not, is there a Stephen King book that is generally recommended as a first?


My Fear

I’m afraid that I would end up disliking any King book. In fact, I’m not interested in reading King for his stories or characters. What I want is to see how he writes, to get a full sample of the level of his writing skill as a fiction author.

I thoroughly enjoyed King’s non-fiction book, On Writing. It’s the only King book I’ve ever read. I want to experience first-hand his penned fiction.

What are King’s strengths in his storytelling? Is it his characterization? Are his plots simple yet with twist endings? What’s the pacing? How well does the master of fiction set a scene? Does he have killer dialogue!?

Those questions are driving my curiosity to read a King novel. But maybe I shouldn’t dare to read one. Do you have any recommendations? I will consider the risk. Thanks!

Top Kindle Wishes

The good folks over at the Good E Reader site asked a question this week. What would make you buy a new kindle? My white paperwhite is working well, but I’d trade it in for a new one if… Here are some of my ideas.


New Hardware

Here are my top-3 hardware feature requests!

USB-C

The kindle paperwhite I have is not the newest one, which is waterproof. That feature is worth quite a lot, but not enough to make me trade up. It would take at least one more improvement. And that’s switching from micro-USB to USB-C!

What’s the big deal about the charge port type? It’s that most of my other gadgets now use USB-C, so this is about convenience and simplifying the cables around my house. Less cable clutter!

So just adding USB-C to the current waterproof design would likely tip me over the edge to upgrade.

But the one single feature that would outdo all the others: Color e-ink!

Color e-ink

Of course, I’d still want black text on white pages. But color would bring to life book covers! It would also enable colored highlighting in e-ink fashion. And, while not much benefit to me, it would promote color e-ink comics!

7” screen

Amazon already makes this, but it’s only on the high-dollar Oasis. This bigger display would be nice to have in the paperwhite, but I would not want to sacrifice its size. Instead, make the bezels a little bit smaller. Optimize them for finger-grip and a bit more screen.

Extras

  • More color options for the outer housing (bring back the white paperwhite)
  • Faster CPU for speedier overall performance
  • Include a free case/cover for Prime members
  • Wireless charging

New Software

The kindle has great software features: built-in dictionary and word finder, vocabulary builder, goodreads integration(!), and X-ray. It’s quite a list; I’m not sure what else to add!

My top software request is for the display to show the cover of the last book I was reading when turned off! I read that was coming soon, but I’ve still not seen it.

How about a progress bar? Add this option at the bottom of a book with the location/time/percentage indicators. A progress bar would be a simple visual way to show how far you’ve read. It could be a skinny line, or if thicker it could show tick marks at quarter or third points in the book.

I’d like to also see new incentives for purchasing. For example, each kindle could include one free ebook of your choice. Or, for Prime members, drop the free Prime Reading option, which offers only 1,000 books to read. In its place, offer kindle Unlimited, with its full catalog, for $5/month instead of $10. That would be a great Prime perk.

Finally, every physical book you buy from Amazon could offer the ebook version for at least 50% off the normal price. And vice versa, every ebook you buy could offer the physical copy for half-off! Some books you just wanna collect on a real shelf.

kindle on ground
Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

Conclusion

So I’ve listed several big-ticket items that I want in my next kindle. And I’m sure there are other good ideas out there – like cooperating with libraries for better ebook lending.

The kindle in its current form – 3 versions – is already a winsome ereader. I love my paperwhite! But Amazon shouldn’t rest on its laurels.

What ideas do you have? What would make you buy a new kindle?


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Reviewing The Case Of The Missing Finger

Do you ever go on a streak? I’m talkin’ about a season when you find your spare time focused on doing one thing. Sometimes it’s movie watching for me, other times it’s video games. Right now, I think a book reading streak hit me. I’ve finished two this month! The latest is a cozy mystery. Here are my 99.9% spoiler-free thoughts.


Cozy Mysteries

I never thought I’d be into cozy mysteries; then again I had never tried one. But last year I stumbled upon this genre in a trilogy by Cheri Baker. I ate it up! (It was the Kat Voyzey series.)

Baker is at it again this year with her newest cozy mystery set of books. I knew I wanted to give’em a try and finally jumped in. This past weekend I read the first in the series called, The Case of the Missing Finger.

I purchased this cozy read on my kindle; love my paperwhite.

Sure, a missing finger doesn’t sound too cozy…until you consider more gruesome alternatives. This mystery is cozy like a massage. No foul language, no sex scenes, and no on-page violence.

Up front, my only gripes about the book are: first, there were several typos or similar minor issues while reading on my kindle. Second, I wasn’t sure where the plot was going sometimes. Yet I attribute that not to weak writing but to weak reading. In other words, I’m pointing the finger at my slow brain, not the author.

I should mention too that this story is written in the third-person, which I generally find harder to get into. Baker’s previous cozy series is in the first-person, so for me it has the edge for readability.

All that aside, there is plenty to like about the missing finger case!

The Story

Cheri’s new sleuth is a lady named Ellie Tappet. To be honest, I didn’t expect to connect with Ellie much. But I gave the story a chance. And I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it. I appreciate Ellie’s traits. She is probably the coziest character possible for this genre. (So far, though, I like Kat Voyzey’s quirky character better overall.)

The setting where the finger goes missing is one of my favorite parts about the story; it takes place on a cruise ship! That includes some shore excursions too. As I read, I couldn’t help but long to go on a cruise again myself. I’ve been on two 7-day cruises before and plan to go on one again next year!

So it was easy for me to imagine the scenes Ellie and the cast played in. I do wonder if it would be hard to picture things if you’ve never been on a cruise. But I think Baker described locations quite well throughout.

In fact, I was pleased with how well Baker’s visual imagery worked. The author’s writing in this regard was just right: neither too vague in description nor too verbose. It was just enough to set the scene or people and let the action take place.

One strong aspect I find in Cheri’s cozies – this book and the previous trilogy – is the wide cast of characters! There are always a lot of people involved. They’re fleshed out on different levels, but they all have the right depth needed to make the story work. More importantly, they keep you guessing.

The draw of any mystery is, of course, the “whodunnit?”

The Case of the Missing Finger is no exception. There were so many important people involved, I had no clue who to suspect! Cheri impresses with how well she balances the cast, in this case the cruise crew. Keeping track of who said or did or even wore what is a tricksy feat to pull-off. Baker has a talent for it. (The tight bunch of characters in the third Kat Voyzey book is a stand-out example.)

When I got to the final chapters of this very cozy mystery, I really liked the ending reveal! I was not just surprised, I was like, “Oh wow, this is…dude!” I’m sorry, but for fear of accidentally spoiling it, I just can’t use any other words to describe it.

As Cheri Baker has done in all three of her other mysteries, she brought yet another of her strengths to the closing of the missing finger story. The final chapters, which follow the solving of the mystery, wrap up all the loose ends and tie off all the characters’ major and minor story arcs. Baker is superb at this. She just does a fine job of it – makes me smile everytime.

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Good reads

My preferred fiction genres are typically sci-fi or fantasy. But these cozy mysteries are growing on me. They’re wonderfully short and quick to read through. That’s a nice change of pace after trying to read heady books like Dune (I’m still not done with that one!). I’m a slow reader, so…

And you know what? I aint gonna lie. Reading fast books like this helps me reach my annual goodreads reading challenge!

Over on goodreads, I gave this book a 4-star rating.

The other cool thing about reading Cheri’s newest trilogy: I already know what my next good read will be!

I’m cruising with Ellie Tappet again in book two, The Case of the Karaoke Killer.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!