Friday, August 28, 2015

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

Craving's Creek by Mel Bossa

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Fourteen years ago, on a sun-drenched summer day on the banks of Craving's Creek, Ryde swore to his best friend, Alistair, he'd never be alone in the world. Though Alistair was destined for the priesthood, there was something beyond holy about the first kiss they shared. But a fun camping trip went horribly wrong when Alistair was involved in a horrific incident. Now, at age thirty-one, Ryde's life is a mess of alcohol and the painful imprint of his last look into Alistair's desperate eyes. Since the evil they encountered on that shore, his first love has been lost to him-until he learns a friend's wedding is to be officiated by a priest named Father Alistair Genet. Amid the rush of emotions, one thought crystallizes: Ryde's love for Alistair not only has never died, it's stronger than ever. Stronger than God. But it may be no match for the church...and the repressed memories that are slowly tearing Alistair's mind apart.

Review: By the time I started reading this book, I had mostly forgotten the summary, so it was a lot darker of a story than I originally thought. I knew that Ryde was in love with his best friend Alistair, but that by the time they are adults, Alistair has entered the priesthood and Ryde is desperate to remind him of their teenage love. If you have read the summary above, then you know that there is a lot more to the story than just a teenage love gone wrong.

Alistair and Ryde have been best friends for years, even if other people think that Alistair is weird. His family is very religious and they are certain that Alistair will become a priest one day. Alistair begins to question that when he falls for Ryde. However, one summer when they are teens, Alistair goes on a camping trip with Ryde and his family and both of their lives change forever.

Even if you are more informed of the plot than I was going in, I don't want to talk too much about the moment that changes the boys because it's a big part of the story and you should discover that on your own. However, after this moment, the story skips to fourteen years later and Ryde is now thirty-one. He has had a problem with alcohol for years. His family understands why, but they want him to get better and aren't sure how to go about it.

It takes the news that Alistair is officiating a friend's wedding to get Ryde to try and change his life around. He gets sober, begins really talking to a therapist and begins his quest to take Alistair away from the church and back into his life. If you are a really religious person, you might be a bit upset on how some of the priests and the church are portrayed. At the same time, this book isn't anti-religion or anti-God. Alistair always keeps his belief in God and he continues to pray, regardless of what is going on in his life.

Craving's Creek is an adult novel with mature moments, but it's also an intense read that deals with mental illness, horrific moments in the past, and the power of love in leading you on the way to healing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

(R)Evolution by PJ Manney

(R)Evolution by PJ Manney 

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Scientist Peter Bernhardt has dedicated his life to nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter on the atomic scale. As the founder of Biogineers, he is on the cusp of revolutionizing brain therapies with microscopic nanorobots that will make certain degenerative diseases become a thing of the past. But after his research is stolen by an unknown enemy, seventy thousand people die in Las Vegas in one abominable moment. No one is more horrified than Peter, as this catastrophe sets in motion events that will forever change not only his life but also the course of human evolution.

Peter’s company is torn from his grasp as the public clamors for his blood. Desperate, he turns to an old friend, who introduces him to the Phoenix Club, a cabal of the most powerful people in the world. To make himself more valuable to his new colleagues, Peter infuses his brain with experimental technology, exponentially upgrading his mental prowess and transforming him irrevocably.

As he’s exposed to unimaginable wealth and influence, Peter’s sense of reality begins to unravel. Do the club members want to help him, or do they just want to claim his technology? What will they do to him once they have their prize? And while he’s already evolved beyond mere humanity, is he advanced enough to take on such formidable enemies and win?

Review: This book is a little over 500 pages long, so it's not something I can really help summarize beyond what the official summary tells you. I will say, however, that it was fantastic and I really loved practically every minute. I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I think it's important to branch out sometimes and try new genres, and I'm glad that I took this interesting summary and went with it, because it definitely paid off.

Peter Bernhardt is a scientist who wants to use nanotechnology to help people like his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and lives in a nursing home. However, this same technology can also be used by terrorists and they do, killing thousands of people. Peter and his company are soon seen as suspects and Peter has to use the help of his college friend, Carter, in order to not only stay out of prison for something he didn't even do, but to also find a way to continue working with nanotechnology to create something else that will still help people.

(R)Evolution is very scientific, but for someone like me, who hates science and is really bad it, Manney does a phenomenal job explaining everything. Peter works with some intricate technology and scientific information, so it's important that Manney can hold the average reader's attention. What I also really loved is that everything Peter works with and created felt realistic. Nanotechnology is a real thing, and while Manney makes everything come "to life" so to speak for Peter in today's day and age, this is also based around real ideas and research. It's important for certain science fiction books to feel real and (R)Evolution definitely did! I also didn't realize that this was the first book in a series, but it is, and I can't wait for the second novel to be released.

Regardless of (R)Evolution not being a standalone, it still ends in a really good place, so you won't feel like you have to wait a long time for big answers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter.

Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?

Review: Many of you might have heard about the book called Geography Club. That was the first in a YA series of books about Russel Middlebrook. Now Russel is in his twenties and the author has decided to write a series of NA books about the character. If you liked the YA series, you're sure to love a slightly older Russel. Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is the second NA book, coming after The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know. As with most NA or adult titles, there is some more mature moments and language, but nothing outrageous. It's just a slightly more mature YA, if you will.

Now, as to the actual book, it was interesting to get a look into the struggles of people hoping to make it big in Los Angeles. Russel is hoping to be a screenwriter and when a really old producer, who made some big movies back in the day, wants to make Russel's movie, it really does seem too good to be true. Russel's boyfriend, Kevin, tries to be supportive but it's obvious he's worried about this Mr. Brander and doesn't want Russel to get his hopes up too high.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is about chasing dreams, but also learning to let them go. It's about learning how to be a couple with the stress of real life surrounding you. There are a lot of secondary characters that really add to the overall story, like Russel's ex-boyfriend, Otto. He's desperate to be an actor, but with burn scars on his face, people aren't willing to take a chance on him when they are trying so hard to make their dreams come true. It certainly makes sense, but that doesn't mean it's any easier for Otto or for the reader, who is rooting for all these men and women to reach their dreams.

This is, once again, an exciting look into the life of Russel and I can't wait for the third novel coming out next year!

Music Choice:

If you'd like to know what music I feel fits this book, please visit Let's Get Beyond Tolerance!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.

Review: You can't really read a title like The War Against the Assholes and not be interested. However, I have to admit that it wasn't all that of an interesting read for me. I suppose it got better as it went along, but it was difficult to understand at times and all of the dialogue was written out in paragraphs. What I mean is that they would have dialogue (he says) and then dialogue (she says) back and forth in one paragraph instead of breaking things down line by line. This definitely confused me for a bit, but it got better as I got used to it. You just have to really pay attention to know who is speaking and saying what.

When it comes to characters, there are a mix of people that are important to the story and are part of this "war" so to speak, whether they are assholes or not. However, let me just focus on Mike and Alabama, a member of his group fighting against the assholes.  Mike isn't that likable starting out. He'll fight with people with no shame and he doesn't care if he seriously hurts them, as long as they are still breathing. I like to think he's more likable as the book goes on, though, as you get to see more of his personality and how he really does care for certain people, like his parents. As for Alabama, she's kind of a bad ass. She plays the violin and isn't afraid to wield a gun around. I think a book about her would be kind of cool!

Overall, I'd say this is a 3-star type of read. I don't really rate books, but sometimes I think it helps get my point across. So yes, 3-star: good at times, but not really something I'd go around recommending.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting to Know (4): Leaving the Country

Wow, I can't believe it's been another week already! I can't say I'm not excited though  - it's nice to have a mini break since I don't work this weekend.

Getting to Know (4):  I have never been out of the county (United States) but I have a dream of visiting England. My sister said we'd go when I graduate from grad school (she's been a couple times already - and to France and Canada) so we're hoping to go sometime next year. Maybe I can even meet one of you lovely English bloggers in person! That would be fun.

What about you? Have you left your county, and if you have, where did you go? If not, where do you want to go?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can't "write what she knows" because she hasn't yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva's life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they've even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer's blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Review: I do really like books where the main character writes, just because I want to publish a book some day and I can relate to that aspect. Eva has various story and play ideas throughout the book and more than once, I'd stop and go "I'd read that!" which is both a good and bad thing. Good because Eva has some intriguing ideas, but bad because I can't actually read them unless Bloom decides to write them!

There are aspects of Eva's character that can be annoying. She's not always aware of other people, but at the same time, she's someone you can relate to in many ways. For one, she has difficulty with her two best friends over the summer. They are all starting to grow apart, make new friends, and generally aren't with each other 24/7. Eva has trouble with this and her friends aren't always the nicest about it. Yes, her friends have legitimate complaints about Eva, but I think she had reason to complain about them too.

I also think the whole idea of trying to experience life, for whatever reason, is something that people can relate to as well. Eva thinks in terms of writing a story, but we're all creating our own autobiography as we live, right? I think most people around Eva's age are trying new things and really figure out who they are, so that aspect comes across well. I also really liked Eva's job at camp. It was fun getting to know the little girls she worked with and how Eva learned a lot about her own personality and strengths helping them.

One thing that was a bit annoying were all the guys in Eva's life. There are essentially three guys she goes out with throughout the book and that she could end up with. There is only one I really like. It's not that she's dating a lot or anything like that, but as someone who never thought people liked her, it's weird for me to read about teenage girls who have all these guys willing to be with them.

Anyway, Don't Ever Change is a good book. There are some moments/circumstances that felt left undone, which is a bit annoying, but overall, this was a quick, fun read!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Influenster Box Product Reviews

I'm part of the website Influenster, and I was really excited that I was offered their Sunshine VoxBox to review this past month (all opinions are my own). You can see the contents in the above photo. Unfortunately, my family ate the Sriracha Blue Diamond almonds before taking the photo, so those were included too! My dad liked them - they were hot, but not too hot!

The other items:

Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Daily Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths: These work well, but they didn't have a nice scent! I wouldn't really recommend!

Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Aloe Soothe Spray Moisturizer: Good product for the summer and hot weather, as it includes aloe. You just spray and smooth it in right away. I used it on my arms and legs and it felt really nice and refreshing.

Infusium 23 Moisture Replenisher with avocado and olive oil:I liked this! I have really frizzy hair, and it did help keep my hair pretty smooth throughout the day. This picture (above) is after having my hair down for hours and it looked pretty good! Also, the product smells so nice!

Sinful Colors nail polish: I really like the color, but I still need to actually use this! I've used the product before though, I believe, and it didn't last very long. I think it's a good price for a polish though- so check it out!

I also got a coupon for barkTHINS, but I haven't seen them around. They do look quite yummy, so I'd recommend keeping an eye out.

Overall, I liked the products I was sent. They were all great for the summer, and it was fun trying some new things!