Friday, December 19, 2014

23 gifts for better living

Today I thought about sharing a bunch of gifts that the receivers would enjoy in their home. The focus is on items that can be shared as activities between all family members and objects that induce positive initiatives. Also, there are a lot of other gifts that promote comfort, along with a heavy doze of planning and organizing help.

These can serve as hostess gifts too, with many being under $20. You can also find inspiration for family members, friends, relatives, bosses, coworkers and everyone else.

Let's jump into each of the items and find out why I'd give each gift to someone in particular.

1. Stationery set
The set can be enjoyed by one person, shared amongst family members or serve as a planning and organizing capsule for the house.

 2. Heatable doll
This heatable doll will be a hit for both kids and adults, providing extra cuddles when needed.

3. Kid's apron and hat set
Imagine how much fun a family can have in the kitchen baking all together, or at least the uninterrupted time you'll give to the mother, while the children pretend to be cooking, wearing these cuties.

4. Botanical desk calendar
Not only it this item useful for everyone leading a busy life, but it's created by Rifle Paper Co., which equals fabulous design.

5. Piggy bank
This half piggy bank gets attached to any container and instantly turns it in into a bank. Perfect for committing to no-brainer saving in every room.

6. Love letters
Love is such a powerful word and I believe should be the first thing promoted and encouraged in a family. Let them be reminded that whatever they do needs to be done with love and whatever happens, love is what matters most. Seems so cheesy, but it's universally true. Also, it doesn't hurt that the letters are gold and would look good everywhere, from the living room to the kids room.

7. Bubble calendar
What I like most about this calendar, beyond the fun of popping the bubbles, is that you have all the days of the year lined in front of you. You have the whole year ahead to make anything you wish, but the days are limited and you better take advantage of each. Such a simple and powerful message to give!

8. Instagram projector
The miniature projector is used to display Instagram pictures. The cutest way to hold on to the favorite memories of the year, share moments with family and friends and simply enjoy your life in square pictures.

9. Grow your own chilli kit
It's one of those perfect for every age gifts again. There's nothing like the joy of actually growing something with your own hands. Caring for a plant is proven to be a remedy for stress and eating out of it is pure delight.

10. Cookie cutters
Don't be a fool to underestimate the power of a few cookie cutters. The gift receiver might already have a lot at home, but some new shapes in bronze color never hurt anyone. It might actually make them want to bake a batch right now with their family or they even pick up baking again after forgetting what a joy it is. The result (cookies) is a gift that keeps giving when shared with friends and neighbors too.

11. Family calendar set
For all busy families, with conflicting schedules and all students sharing a house with roommates. Easy breezy planning and chore sharing process.

12. Heating set
The necessities for the winter presented in such a festive way makes for a great gift. Beautiful enough not to be hidden away and warm to keep one comforted. It will definitely be used and cherished.

13. Playing cards
A set of playing cards that comes with instructions on how to play different games will make for endless fun in the family. It will also be such a major entertaining base when guest come over. 

14. Saving kit
While being created for kids, I wouldn't mind using this one. It's genius because it teaches money management in such a simple way. Perfect for teaching the kids or for any adult that hasn't got his/her way around money yet.

15. Photo box frame
Photo frames get a bad rep and people usually hate them. This is not your usual frame. It's a box with five sides for pictures and one lid to open and put things in. A great way to keep all your loved ones together or to serve as a compilation of memories in photos and written notes hidden inside.

16. Meal planners
A necessarily planning tool for every household, designed in a simple eye-catching way will help people be organized and never have a headache on the "what to cook" matter again. The whole year will run so much smoother because of you.

17. Magnetic board game
Group games are the best and they provide even more pleasure when they involve physical effort. The board is magnetic, which means it won't get ruined fast and the game will be more intense and more exciting.

18. Elephant timer
While being a beautiful home accessory, this elephant is a modern timer. The receiver can use it to track their time or create their own version of the "pomodoro" technique altering their work time and fun time. Such a productivity booster!

19. Travel diary
This diary will be perfect for all travelers and those who dream of traveling. Some people might take advantage of your gift to start putting down memories from the last trips, while others will be inspired to book a ticket in order to fill the diary with interesting things.

20. "Laundry day" candle
It's the particular scent that makes this candle perfect for anyone. Smelling of fresh and light is great for days in need of calming and finding some peace. On the funny side, it can remind you that the laundry is overdue or it can actually substitute the actual process of doing laundry when you don't feel like it.

21. Picnic set
With the cold winter days ahead, staying in will be the normal activity. Gift this exciting set to be used for indoor picnics now and taken outside come Spring. Perfect for couples, families and when having friends over.

22. Little pig box
Every woman has tiny treasures they always misplace, so this beautiful box will come in very handy and will be proudly displayed in every bedroom.

23. Faux fur throw
Gift warmth and comfort with this luxurious throw. Pick a neutral color to go with everything and you'll be the reason behind many cuddles and movie marathons on the couch this winter.

I hope you find some inspiration and get motivated to tackle the last of your gifts for this season.

Have a festive weekend!


| Love, Lisa |

Monday, December 15, 2014

The best gift guides of 2014

Even though I like to hunt for presents all year long, I can't wait for the end of the year gift guides to be released. A lot of them feature sponsored content, so you get to spot a few items in every gift guide. But there are many bloggers who put thought and work into them, providing great ideas and new picks. Shops have been creating awesome gift guides the last years too, especially the online versions.
Here is a list of my favorite gift guides of 2014, a mix of blogger ones and retail productions.

Hope you enjoy browsing them and find some great ideas for your remaining gift giving marathon!

| Love, Lisa |

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2 non-traditional holiday wreaths

Wreaths are great to bring the festive atmosphere at home, while occupying little vertical space. The bigger the wreath, the stronger the effect it creates is. However, you can get easily bored with the same wreath year after year. To avoid this, you can switch up the ornaments, add quirky items and even go for an entirely unexpected color palette. Here are two ideas for you. Continue reading to find out how you can make your own and where to get similar decorations.

The first one has a light blue, purple, silver and pink palette, on a green base. It combines mate, glittery and satin finishes. The coastal tone and slightly fantasy theme makes it perfect for a beach cottage, a children's room or anywhere it fits the mood.

To make a similar one, you'll need to start with a traditional green wreath. Tie a big pink ribbon into a bow at the top of it. Continue by placing the shiny and glittery blue baubles and adding silver stars. At the end, place some small purple baubles for interest. As a general tip, the wreath should look balanced, but it doesn't need to be symmetrical, especially when it's on the smaller side.

Where to shop similar items:

The second wreath has a kind of exotic look, with a more muted color palette, consisting of gray, green, purple, pink and lime. Everything is built on a crystal wreath that wasn't looking exactly holiday related at first. The fanciness of this wreath makes it appropriate for neutral spaces, living rooms, entrances, corridors and even bedrooms. It's a good choice for when you don't want to decorate with very contrasting colors or don't feel like going the traditional route.

To make your own version, you need a crystal wreath or any white or gray one. Add the purple stems first, to make sure the most saturated color is spread evenly. Than add the blue baubles close to them, either on the inside or outside part of the wreath. You can even tuck them inside the stems, depending on the shapes and sizes you are working with. Continue with the green branches, adding volume where needed or balancing out the purple stems. With the lime ribbon, make small bows and place them where the purple stems meet the wreath. I added one for each stem, but you can put additional ones is between too, if the wreath is bigger. It will make everything pop. To finish it all, hand a small purple bell close to the bows and you're done. Instead of bells, you can choose any small and sharp ornaments for contrast and a punch of color to tie everything together.

 Where to shop similar items:

Which of the wreaths did you like more? Are you going with something similar for you home this year? Let me know in the comments.

| Love, Lisa |

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY: Easy festive snowman

I had this piece of foam in my closet for months. It had the perfect shape of two stacked circles and it was just begging to be turned into a snowman. You can cut your own shape out of a foam piece, balsa wood, thick paper, cardboard and whatever material you have on hand. Also, the shape can vary from a small ornament for your tree to a super big installation for the children's room.

Materials I used:
- piece of foam (1cm thick)
- scissors
- glue/tape
- ribbon for the scarf
- ornaments for the eyes and nose
- thin ribbon
- star shaped confetti for the buttons
- bell ornament for the hat

 1. Start by sticking the ribbon on one side of the "neck", just between the two circles
2. Go around the "neck" just as you would when wearing a scarf. After a full circle, make a loop to fold the scarf.
3. Let it hang a little and take it on the back side, securing with tape
4. Take two baubles for the eyes and place them to estimate the right position. Dig two holes respectively. I used scissors for this, because I am impatient, but any precise tool can do.

5. Put some strings through the baubles and push them through the holes. I did this easily with a cotton swab.
6. Secure the baubles as tight as you can and tie the strings at the back. Cut the extra if needed.
7. Find a bent or sharp shaped small object for the nose. I used a bent mini pine cone.
8. Open another hole for it. Be sure to secure it in place.

9. You can use anything you like for the buttons on the lower part of the snowman. I used star shaped confetti because they were the perfect size and complemented the theme.
10. Don't forget to put a hat on it. That little bell fit perfectly.
11. Hang your cute snowman on the wall or make it part of a big display.

Let me know if you liked it and plan on making your own snowman.

| Love, Lisa |

Monday, December 1, 2014

13 tips for smarter tree trimming

1. Lay down a sheet or plastic foil before taking out the tree and only remove when you're done decorating. Add the tree skirt or sack at the very end if you're using any. We always underestimate the amount of glitter and tree needles that fall on the floor, no matter how careful we are.

2. Work your tree like it's a piece of clay. If you have an artificial one, open the branches and adjust them to achieve the biggest volume. Turn some piece of greenery up or down to make sure everything looks full. Don't turn around every single piece though, because you will want to adjust that when putting the ornaments. Start small and you'll keep moving them until the end to get the desired result.

3. Give yourself time and prepare mentally for an easy going and not fast process. Work in layers and don't move to the next one unless everything looks the way you want it. This is the only way to assure you have control over the final result, otherwise there are small chances you'll be able to find out the things not working when the result doesn't seem right.

4. Pick up a theme or color palette. Think about how you want the tree to look in the end. If you prefer your tree more undone and child friendly, use toys, photo ornaments, whimsical decorations. For a polished and fancy version, go monochromatic. To create a luxurious looking tree go classic and gold all the way, with glitter and shine as your best assets. There are unlimited options you can embrace, according to your preferences, space, children, budget etc. Choose from the beginning to avoid surprises, disappointment and frustration later.

5. If you can afford spending money on only one thing or if you're buying decorations from scratch, I'd say go for the lights. Find the ones that work best for your tree tone and make everything pop up. A lit tree at night looks magical, having nothing else on. The warm yellow glow is the most flattering, but be aware with pale green trees or ones that look snowed on. Yellow and white will wash them out, so opt for red lights or another saturated hue. For colored lights I prefer small twinkles, buy for white or yellow I'd say the bigger the light bulb the better. Don't forget to try if the lights work by plugging them before putting on tree. Seems silly, but sometimes I forget.

6. Start by putting the lights. Make sure they are placed perfectly because it will take a village to fix them later. If you want a lot of intensity, use two strands or more. Start from the bottom and build from there. When doing the top part, start from up and go downwards. It's easier to get to the plugs and keep cords out of sight. Choose the same light color and size. For really dense trees, it's better not to push them too far in the tree because they will disappear behind the branches. For lighter trees, tuck them into some places and bring them out on some edges to create depth and balance. Experiment with how you want them to look. Turn off the lights in the room to see how they work at night. Turn the bulbs facing out and not towards the tree if there seems to be little light. Add more if you like and don't settle until you are content.

7. After the lights,  it's time to modify the shape of the tree. Fill in places that look sparse with artificial or natural branches, ribbons, bulky decorations. You can alter the silhouette of the tree too. If it seems too round and full, put some long pieces to create a more layered outline.

8. Be creative with the decorations. Gather all you have in one place. See if they are enough for the tree. If not, estimate how many more you need. Make a mental map of where they should go and count them. Either go shopping with your precise list to avoid buying stuff you don't need for the tree or start making your own. Fabric scraps and ribbons are great for making ornaments or as additions to plain ornaments. Cotton balls, paper scraps, toys and accessories are good to use too. Basically, everything that can be hanged or tucked between tree branches and all you can spray paint if the color doesn't work will work perfectly as trimmings. Add sentimental items to make your tree more meaningful and to give memories to your family.

9. You can use two or three different size baubles to create more interest. Put smaller baubles towards to top and keep the bigger ones on the bottom, if your tree is on the small size (under 1.8m). This helps maintain the balance and not end up having too much on some spots. You can also go all over with big baubles and add smaller ones as a second layer later.

10. When using only one color for the ornaments, try different finishes like matte, shiny, grainy textured, embossed or glittery. The tree will end up looking interesting and the lights will play with the materials, providing beautiful results.

11. At the point when you're done with the main ornaments, go once again and add things where needed. Don't be afraid of putting too much. Add some different things from the initial ones, like flowers or sharp shaped ornaments like bells, animals, stars, bows.

12. To top up everything, choose either a big fancy classic star or angel for the top of the tree or go for a totally unexpected one. A big bow, a sparkly ball, a wrapped present with ribbon would all look great up there. For an easy solution, hot glue together some small and big baubles (ten or more, depending to the tree size) to create some height and bulk and stick that on the top.

13. Add value to the tree you just trimmed to perfection by arranging the space around it. Add a tree skirt or a piece of cloth in a color that doesn't clash with the ornaments. Put together wrapped presents or empty boxes wrapped just for the effect. Hang things on the walls near the tree. You can also permanently wallpaper the space behind the tree to create the background you like, if there's too much visual noise already or the wall color is totally off and makes the tree not look good.

I hope you find these tips useful and they speed up the trimming time too. It took me a lot of years to figure out some fuss free ways and of course I am no expert yet. Doing and undoing the tree is still going on, but the final results are always worth it.

Happy holidays season!

| Love, Lisa |

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gifts: How to discover what people really like

The reality is that gift giving is very intimidating to almost everyone. More or less we all dread that person in our list that already has everything, the one that never seem to really like our picks or the one we don’t spend that much time with, to know their preferences. No one has the gift operation 100 % perfected yet, because there is always someone who will make you wonder and think and sweat and stress and overspend.
Fortunately, we live in the best era humanity ever experienced (related to this topic, at least) and peaking into other’s lives is not that much of a rarity. I am not referring to bad old spying, but to the sophisticated Internet era “taking a quick look over” the life of everyone. Even for those who live on the other side of the world or the ones we can’t seem to pick up their brain, there are helpful tricks to help us make better decisions.
Of course, the first step before going through any of these methods, would be to ask directly what they’d like (if you are comfortable asking and you can afford things more than $10). If there say they don’t need anything, go on, they have been warned.
Here are some of the tricks to get on the table, after putting your modern spy hat on:

1. Pinterest
Of course Pinterest tops the list, because it is a fast, no brainer tool that helps you pick up a present for practically everyone in the world, without even knowing them. People create boards on Pinterest and name them to their likings. Luckily, there are these popular categories you can choose from and one of them is called “Wishlist”. I bet everyone picks it or creates some slight variation to the tittle. Those boards help pin everything you like and don’t know where to save without bookmarking. For me, it’s a way of getting stuff I don’t really need or usually can’t afford out of my brain and leave them somewhere safe I can return to, serving a little as a shopping bag for every website on internet.
To utilize Pinterest, go to the “Wishlist” board (or an equivalent to that, like “stuff I want for my birthday”) of the person you’re interested in and look for a general “theme” in all the pinned images. If everything seems to be pink, you’re really lucky. Just get anything you like, spray paint it pink and they will love it no matter what. Now, if your gift receiver is more intimidating and all their pictures are of vintage cars, you’re not supposed to buy a real ‘70s car for them (if you can though, it would be awesome). A miniature model will do, just be sure it’s a rare model or a special edition. Also, a calendar full of cars is great too, as well as a print or painting.

So, you get the idea, find a theme and work around it with what you have.

The second approach you can take is more direct. Pick an item from their “Wishlist” and buy it. You better look towards the top of the page, where the freshly pinned items are, so you don’t end up getting something they already have or don’t like anymore. A safe way is to go for a “Christmas edition” or “limited edition” or “value set” pick, which increases your chances of them not having it yet. Also, pay attention to the description below the picture, if there is any. You don’t want to go for the striped dress and ignore the “I like this dress, but I wish they made it in solids”!

2. Websites like Polyvore, Lyst, LikeToKnow, Amazon
Similar to the “Wishlist” concept above, there are many websites nowadays that help people store their favorite things around the web.
See if you happen to find your friends on one of those by doing a quick Google search (creepy, I know, but it’s for a good reason) and go with any of the two above directions. It is easier to shop through these platform, since they direct you exactly to the shop that carries the item, so you don’t have to search for everything manually.
Fast and easy! If only they were already as popular as Google though and everyone had an account.

3. Blog power
If you are lucky enough to have all lifestyle/beauty/fashion bloggers on your gift list, then everything is good. Go to their blog and see if there is something you can afford in their latest “Things from heaven” wishlist. If you are lucky, there should be a $60 candle or a $35 pen and pray they haven’t already got it in their stockings!
If your friends and family are normal people with no glamorous “wishlists” consisting of $500 scarves, you would be surprised to discover how many of them might have a blog. Think of how many teachers/professors/journalists/writers/mums/florists/decorators/architects/crafters/cooks/travelers/fashion addicts you know and Google them to find a possible blog. It might be something as simple as a personal diary, but it’s better than nothing.

4. Go out vs. stay in
If there is only one question you can ask them or someone who knows them better, try to find out if they prefer going out or staying in. This simple fact gives you so much choices and mistakes to avoid. A monthly home delivery (magazine/flowers/box) would be perfect for people who prefer staying in. A concert ticket, on the other hand, is great for the going out types.

See what you can come up with that is creative enough to spark interest, but yet foolproof and not hobby related. Going out means eating at a restaurant for someone, strolling around the park for another and skydiving for someone else.

5. Zodiac sign
Okay, before you laugh or skip this, hear me out. I don’t believe in the zodiac hype, but the descriptions for the signs are somewhat accurate. If you can’t find anything else for your gift receiver, try with their birthday. Again, generalize everything and try to pick up a theme. Homebodies would appreciate something cozy for the house or some nice loungewear. Passionate ones would prefer an adventure or a surprise. Outdoor types would love an experience voucher. Introverts tend to like books more.

Go with this method and again, something classic or the latest release, to avoid duplicates.

6. Taste in music/movies/books
You can learn a lot about someone knowing what kind of music they listen to, what movies they watch and what book genres they like to read. I mean, someone who likes comedy must appreciate a little humor in their gift. That friend who reads about planets all the time, there’s no way he won’t appreciate the piece of land you bought him on the Moon or the star you have his name to (it’s a symbolic gift, no actual land on the Moon or legal star naming, unless you have billions of dollars) and  you can give them a printed certificate they can frame.

A granted way to make people love the gift, is to pick collections of what they like. A CD/DVD collection or a set of vintage records, 10 best books of their favorite author or the complete episodes of a classic movie/show makes for a generous and awesome gift.

7. What they don’t like
When you don’t know what someone likes, there must be something they don’t like. So, obviously, don’t get them what they hate. Now go a little deeper and think. If they don’t like very feminine things, pick up something gender neutral and they will appreciate your thought. For guys who don’t like commercial stuff, opt for local shops, indie or hand crafted. If they hate animal violence, make sure to pick something specifically celebrating the lack of that or even donate to a cause related to their concern.

8. Pay attention
This is the most difficult one, but also the more meaningful, if you ask me. I am aware that it is impossible for some of you, but if it comes naturally, go for it and you will for sure be greeted with a big grin or tears of joy when they will open your gift.

For people you are close to, get to meet from time to time or even talk on the phone/connect through social media, try to pay a little more attention. By being fully engaged in your interactions, you will come through something they say or do that is worth remembering and using for a gift. Recall their struggles and help them rush to the lighter days. Show someone support by giving what they really need and not what was convenient for you to order online in bulk. Pick up that one thing they admitted liking but would never buy for themselves. Remember how your friend, who is a mom of two toddlers told you she hadn’t cut her hair in a year? Gift her a saloon appointment and a babysitter one, because there’s no way she’d go otherwise. For your grandparent who doesn’t need more stuff? Take them to the park where they first met their love and hold his/her hand while sharing a dessert. Surprise someone with a personalized gift, when they would never thought you’d remember their children’s name.
Use your best abilities and surprise people by paying attention to the smallest thing about them. That will be their favorite gift ever (unless someone buys them a house - you can’t bit that one).

9. How you want to make them feel
If you don’t want to spend precious time playing Inspector Gadget around everyone to find the perfect gift, go with a reverse intention. Consider how you want to make each person feel.

Do you want them to be surprised or receive an old favorite of them? Do you want them to know you will always remember the special time you spent together or how much fun you have with them? Do you want those new parents to feel pampered, with finally receiving a non-toy gift? Do you need them to understand something or recall memories? Or do you just want to make them see you remembered them during this special time of the year?

It’s up to you to decide and choose what you need everyone to receive from your choice. If it is necessary, add a handwritten note explaining how the particular thing reminds you of a special time, or how you choose a funky item thinking of them. Sometimes you might assume your cousin will laugh hard at your spicy joke inside the box, but they could actually get confused or even insulted. So, to avoid confusion, add a short note.

10. Consumables
When you can’t decide on a decent gift after all these tips, it’s time to go for the final trick. Consumables! Choose the best option you can afford, that is presented in a cute way and comes in a good size for its price. Most people enjoy food or drinks and it’s something that can be shared easily during the holidays. 

Also, when you don’t know what to pick for someone, it means you don’t know them that well after all, so don’t crowd their space or make them feel guilty of getting rid of your gift. Food or drink is a safe choice that will satisfy both the giver and the receiver. 

Do you find any of these helpful or they seem too intimidating? I'd say go with one or two approaches, so you won't spend infinite time on each of your gift receivers. Trust your judge and have a little fun. No one is actually supposed to give gifts by any laws, we just do it to make someone happy. So keep it light and cheerful and something great will pop up even for the most intimidating person in the list. 

Happy gifting!

| Love, Lisa |

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to choose which books to read

There is nothing that makes a book lover more content than book shopping. Sometimes though, you log in to your Amazon account to buy the latest best seller and the next thing you know is you spent $70 on new “promising” books you don’t even have time for. Sounds familiar?
While there’s nothing wrong about buying books – I consider it an investment actually. But in order to control what you bring in your house and life in general, you should play security guard with each and every one of the books you pick up to read and display in your bookshelves. After all, they tell a story of what you like to read, therefore who you are in the general context. Ever thought about what people would think of you if they found a specific book on your shelves? I wouldn’t be that content if they framed my personality over 30 books of Danielle Steel or the trilogy of  50 Shades of Gray” – not judging anyone, it’s just not who I am and I shouldn’t be paraphrased like that, so I avoid buying them just because they’re famous.
After going into that much deep, let’s take a breath to the surface and lay down some easy and practical ways to help you decide what to pick up next. Everything can be applied when buying online (I get mine from Amazon), going to bookshops or borrowing from libraries. Also, these are based mostly on my own personal experiences.

1. Utilize key words and ratings
If there is something in particular you have to or like to be reading about currently, try searching by keywords and use the rating system to shortlist the best ones. Now go through each of the books and read through the longest reviews, a couple of the highest ratings, with 4 or 5 stars. Then don’t skip the lower ratings, those 1 and 2 stared reviews, as they have seemed to be the most helpful for me when buying books (or anything actually) online. Aside from the “I never actually received this book” ones you randomly find on Amazon, people don’t waste their time writing a long negative review, unless it is for helping other people understand a fault and avoid making the same mistake.
This way you will avoid a pretty light style you’re not fond of, an extended version of a blog post or a very misleading advice book.
When in a bookshop or library, cut time by checking in the right section and ask questions to the people who have experience and maybe have already read the book and can give you a quick opinion.

2. Read about the book and read inside the book
I assume you all read the plot of the book or it’s description and even some of the best single line reviews (the last one that fooled me was “Go read now, it’s that good!” – Um, no, it wasn’t) online or you look for a short description on the back cover when shopping in person.
Anytime you can though, take your time to “Look inside” when online shopping (through clicking on the cover and reading a few digital pages from the book) or quick reading a random page or two in a book you have in your hands. I would choose the first few opening sentences and a couple paragraphs in the middle, but never spoil the end.
Doing this, you are assured you like the flow of the writing and the tone or language used. This can be especially helpful when reading something not written in your first language, so you want to make sure everything is easily understood and you won’t get stuck on ten words you don’t know the meaning of in every page.

3. Be cautious with the “should read” lists
I bet not everyone reads every book before they come up with the list and publish it somewhere (I am talking about you, blogs). Although I am totally guilty of basing my “wishlist” on posts like that, I make sure I take the advice of people whose literature taste I am familiar with, or at least decent human beings who are normal enough to have read a book and share their two cents on it. What I don’t bother reading are actual lists, bulleted points or numbered lists with titles and links.
I was really looking to reading Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” because it was smacked to my face everyday for more than a year, along with pictures of peonies and the birkenstocks comeback. While I wasn’t sold on the birkenstocks (yet! – I can’t trust myself 100% anymore), peonies took my dreams and I got obsessed over “Bossypants”. After costing me some ashamingly 11 GBP, because I was determined to get it before leaving for holidays, so I could read it on the beach like it was the world’s last book, I haven’t finished it yet, three months later. I am not usually one to drop books in the middle and read other ones, but maybe the high expectations I had for it made me feel like I had to like it and when I wasn’t even smiling that often (while other people said they were literally crying over the great humor) I let it go.
Well, I am not saying the book is bad. Let me explain, in case there is a single one out there who hasn’t cried over it yet. First of all, it’s a little short, like short for a 11 GBP, but that’s my fault. Secondly, you really need to be immersed into American culture and especially television shows and comedy personalities in order to be able to laugh at all the lines. Although I know who Tina Fey is and have watched her movies, I have never watched 30rocks or anything like that. But of course I knew Amy Poehler, who was mentioned even more than Tina’s sad straight Greek eyebrows through the pages.
So, you get it, it’s a great book for the right audience. I just foolishly assumed being all best friends (I mean bloggers), we would have the same expectancies on what’s funny.

4. Don’t read after you watch the movie and don’t fall for media reviews
Another slightly disappointing pick was “Gone girl” by Gillian Flynn, which I have to admit I added to my Amazon basket because it was around 3 GBP that day. But of course I had ran over it a hundred times on the “should read” lists and I knew the movie was out but hadn’t seen it. I was familiar to the plot but not details, so I was really excited to find out more through the read.
As one would assume (mothers neglected their children for three days until they reached the end of the book, they say) it would be only a few days of reading, typical situation when I am captivated by a book. But the first pages took me forever to read.
Maybe it was the writing tone, new to me, a little dull and sharp and movie scrip like, or the annoying structure of chapters written in husband’s voice or wife’s voice. Switching through the chapters and the two different voices and parts of the story was a little tiring and I caught myself a few times looking at the tittle of the chapter (when not bothering reading it initially) to see who’s diary/story I am reading because it wasn’t that clear. It was a little difficult to be thrilled until the half of it, but then things got interesting and the writing flow was more detailed and lingering, thus making it easier to follow through.
The one annoying thing that continued until the end for me was that I couldn’t picture some of the characters even when I was one reading. From a book with as few main characters and not a lot secondary ones, I’d expect a better unfolding of them. Ironically the whole story is tightly linked to personalities and early life events, behaviors and thoughts, but beside the two main characters, I couldn’t put many of the others together. Go, for example, Nick’s sister, I couldn’t imagine anyone as her. I read the whole book and never managed to picture her as a real human being with a particular face, which is so unusual for me, as my imagination runs faster and wilder than it should usually.
If I head watched the movie prior to reading the book, I am sure I wouldn’t have made it to the half. The most interesting thing about this book is the storyline, so with that spoiled I wouldn’t find the writing style worth reaching the end I was aware of, without any of the suspense required.
Also, when you pick up a book with amazing “Read now! – New York Times” on the cover, take it with a grain of salt and do a little research before going for it. After all, you are investing your money and your time reading a book and it should be worth at least your time, 100 % worth it.

5. Don’t feel guilty
On the same note, don’t feel guilty to leave a book half read, if you can sense it’s not interesting or helpful enough, if it’s far from the writing style you prefer and in general seems not worth your time. Put it away for a later read or a possible reference or pass it on to a family member or friend you know will appreciate it more. You can also swap such books with others, making sure you don’t loose your money.
There are so many books out there and you don’t want to spend your time reading the ones not worth it.

6. Judge by the cover
The only appropriate time to judge a book by it’s cover, it’s when there is more than one edition available or different publishing houses have translated the same author. Pick up the one that looks more professional and not tacky, related to the tittle and it’s brief in a direct or abstract way.
In case you are wondering why I mention this, two weeks ago, at the annual book fair I saw the same books published by two or three publishing houses (this is how it works in our country). Sometimes the choices were tough and I would pick the one I knew had published other tittles of the same author before. Many times, sadly, the choice was between a watercolor cover or a Google image of Richard Gere and some woman from a movie. I know, copyright and rules and aesthetics and design! But until that happens, judge by the cover for quality.

7. The right way to read
Everyone has their own personal style of reading. I admire those who take their time to read and reread favorite passages and pages, mark them, underline phrases, highlight paragraphs, put flowers to dry in between romantic scenes etc. But I am a flash reader and I like to go and pick up what I can throughout. It is really difficult while reading challenging authors and I have to go back twice to understand or go back to the initial pages to find who that name stands for. I guess I picked this up from the habit of reading books beyond my age, when it was impossible to understand everything as I should, so I just read for the sake of reading.
You might hate not being able to recall every single detail from the book you just finished, but to me what matters most is that the crucial things were picked up and what was meant to be recalled will be, the rest is just material added to your “benefits of reading bank”. What I hardly forget though is how the book made me feel. Understand how you like to read best and find that golden ratio between your method and the time you are willing to spend reading.
There is no wrong way to read!

8. Know what you like
Knowing what you like is a great asset when choosing perfect authors and tittles. But it can also serve for the exact opposite.
From time to time, force yourself to pick a genre you don’t normally like reading, such as sci-fi for romantics or history for contemporary lovers. This will help strengthen your senses and alert your mind in ways you didn’t know before.
And who knows, you might end up liking something new, but you have to try first.

9. When to pick the same author
I usually pick up the same author’s books when I have read great ones before, whose style I admire and whose words flow like a river when reading. You can’t resist another book by Stefan Zweig or Theodore Dreiser, can you?
The last book I bought because I love the authors’ writing style was by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I hate it when the book doesn’t live to my expectations for the writer, so I really hope it’s as great as the previous one.
A topic I am biased about is trilogies. I like three different books that you can totally read individually, but are tied together by context or atmosphere. But I really hate having to read three different books of the same looong story. It seems very manipulative to me and I don’t want to spend six months reading the same thing. You can tell I get bored easily, can’t you?

10. Sharing books
Sorry, I don’t like sharing. I dread the idea of someone asking to borrow a book, because I know I will loose it forever. I still have a friend’s book at home from 3 years ago and it is one of the very few I have borrowed in my life. So I only imagine what borrowing a lot and forgetting or neglecting could mean.
Everyone has their own style of reading, some mark the pages, some underline or hide notes inside of books. I used to be a page marker, but I use anything that can serve as a bookmark now to keep books in good condition.
So if you are a freak like me, never agree on someone borrowing a book you don’t want loosing. If you can afford, buy the book as a present for them for the nearest holiday/birthday or direct them to a library that carries it. Also, I don’t like the smell of old and dirty books, only the smell they pick inside the house. So getting a book returned to me with yellow stained pages and smelling like curry would be a nightmare.
You get it, I vote no for sharing!

11. Going through old books
I am not a fan of reading the same book twice, unless it absolutely adds value to my life. The books I have read twice are not my favorite ones, but those I was too young to understand when I first read them. Thing is, I read most of the classics and “deep” ones until I was 14, then some more classics that high school demanded, making a big pause during university years and coming back to them shortly after. Reading “The tunnel” by Ernesto Sabato at 12, means I didn’t understand all the layers I was supposed to, but being so eager to read, I didn’t stop myself in front of any book I picked from my father’s library and never left anything unfinished. I have to go back to many books, because I know I will gain a new perspective or a deeper layer of understanding at this age. In case you like reading your favorite books over and over, absolutely do it, just consider going through any of the ones that will shift your current mindset, anytime you can.

What do you think? Is it easy for you to always choose the best books or have you fallen into the above mentioned traps more than once? Share your book secrets, please!

| Love, Lisa |
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