Sunday, September 30, 2012

All Things Halloween Gift Guide


Tomorrow is October 1st and it happens to be the start of one of my favorite months. I love Halloween, I love the Fall...I can't wait! In honor of the month, I'm doing a general Halloween gift guide today. If you want something specific...like Halloween treats, Zombie gifts, etc...leave your thoughts in the comments. But right now, this is all about general Halloween gifts for those out there that love the Holiday like I do and want to celebrate all month long!

All Things Halloween Gift Guide

Bone Chillers Ice Cube Tray

Get it from Baron Bob for $7.95

From the Site: Bone Chillers are the creepiest coolest ice cubes you will ever drop into a glass. The Bone Chillers Ice Cube Trays make 8 ice cubes for you: 4 skulls and 4 four crossbones. Fight off scurvy or the sweltering summer heat like a pirate and chill your beverage to the bone.


Halloween Lip Balm- Pumpkin Spice

Get it from HowardsHome for $3.00

From the Site: Our own hand blended ingredients give you a smooth, creamy, non waxy, non greasy flavor full lip balm with just a touch of sweetness.


Boo Ghost Necklace

Get it from LaughingVixenLounge for $25.00 (I love this shop- they have a bunch of other Halloween themed jewelry)

From the Site: This necklace has 3 half inch (11 mm) tall silver plated charms that spell Boo with black glass and orange acrylic beads between them. In the middle of the necklace hangs a glass Ghost bead (This is one of the cutest beads I've ever seen). The middle charm and bead measures about 1 3/4 inches (42 mm) long. Everything hangs from a silver plated chain with a lobster claw clasp and a small orange acrylic bead on the end. Chain is 15 inches (37.5 cm) long but can extend up to 18 inches (45 cm) with the extender chain at the end. It is made to wear like a choker (snug around your neck). I can make the chain longer if you like at no extra cost.


Chocolate Brains Filled with Candy

Get it from candycottage for $22.00

From the Site: Chocolate brains are a necessity for the Halloween Treat table! An edible chocolate box shaped like a human brain spills out gummy worms and M&M's maybe even a chocolate spider or two. They are unique treats for your ghosts and goblins. Great for coworkers, family and friends.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Movie Night Swap Link-Up

 
 
 
I'm a bit addicted to swaps, if you can't tell. I think they are a really fun way to meet new bloggers and I happen to really love shopping for people. A bonus is that I get something too, and you can't say no to that.
 
First off, I apologize for not getting this posted yesterday. I was literally only on the computer for about five minutes to check my email, so I figured I'd better get this up really fast before I head off to work! 
 
My swap partner was the lovely Sara from Sara's Organized Chaos. We were told to give our swap partner a movie, two boxes of movie theater candy, popcorn, and a trinket that represents you. Sara was super awesome and gave me three boxes of candy and her trinket happened to be an actual BOOK! (When we signed up for the hop, we stated what type of films we like as well!)
 
 
As you can see from the above photo, I got the Pop-Up Bowl Popcorn, as well as boxes of Nerds, Hot Tamales, and Dots. The trinket was the novel On the Island and my movie was Paul! I saw this one in theaters with my dad and really enjoyed it- and I don't already own it- so it was a wonderful surprise!! Thank you so much, Sara! I love it all!
 
The last time I did a swap someone asked what I gave my person, and since Sara is better than me and has her post up already, here's the link to show you.
 
Thanks to Linny's Vault and Life with Attitude for setting this all up!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia + Interview

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia

Review by Lauren

copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary:
 
Lemon Williams was raised buried in the shadow of her free-spirited mother, Stella, and consequently her childhood was spent on the move – dodging disasters and mastering the art of packing up apartments, of being the new kid, and of leaving the past behind.

But when Lemon begins her senior year at another new school, she realizes she’s taken an inescapable part of their last life with them: She’s pregnant. In an attempt to fill in the gaps of her history and to avoid repeating Stella’s mistakes, she decides she must set things right by going in search of the father she’s never met. So as new life grows inside her, Lemon boards a Greyhound bus and heads west to San Francisco in hopes of freeing herself from her childhood mishaps and discovering the true meaning of family.


Review: This is one of those books where I think it's supposed to be YA, but it's not like most YA titles I've read. And that's a good thing. It's very much a cross-over, in my opinion, similar in some ways to Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. By that, I mean Fingerprints and Ballads both deal with big issues of life...moving forward, making mistakes, falling and picking yourself up.

Fingerprints of You has a bit of a lighter feel overall though, I thought, and I loved the setting of San Francisco. It was great to explore the various areas with Lemon, especially lesser known places. I've never been to California, so it was nice to have that "tourist" look of things.

Lemon is an interesting character to follow along with. She wants to find her dad in order to find herself in a way, and knowing that she's going to have a child that won't have a dad in their life either gives her new perspective. She meets a boy that is the definition of a perfect book boy. He's adorable, loves music, and sincerely seems to care about Lemon (despite the fact that she clearly has a rough past and is, you know, pregnant with some other person's kid).

I really did enjoy reading Fingerprints of You. It's not full of big action, but it's full of big emotion...and a whole lot of heart.

And now...an interview with Kristen-Paige Madonia

1. Fingerprints of You reference a lot of books, since Lemon is a big reader. Are these all titles you have read and personally enjoy? Which one would be a favorite?
 
  I have read them all, but I think it would be absolutely impossible to pick a favorite! I can say that, like Lemon, as a high school student I fell in love with the Beats, and part of my literary heart will always belong to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It was published in 1957, but there’s something so timeless and romantic about the spontaneous cross-country road trip, the jazz and art culture of that time period and the west coast, and the poetry and indulgent lifestyle the characters experiment with. It’s a journey novel, a quest for faith and true friendship, and a search for love as the characters hunt for a sense of an authentic and meaningful life, and to me it will always be the classic coming-of-age novel. It's one of the books that changed the way I saw the world around me and inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone and explore various parts of the U.S. myself, and for that I am so very thankful.

I read On the Road in high school as well. I'd love to re-read it now that it's been awhile, but I remember enjoying it!
2. I read that a portion of this book was previously published. Can you share what this was, or how the story changed from short story to full-length novel?
 
 The first two chapters were published as short stories in literary magazines and anthologies (in Sycamore Review http://www.sycamorereview.com/issue-21-1-%E2%80%93-winterspring-2009/and American Fiction: Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers http://www.amazon.com/American-Fiction-11-Previously-Unpublished/dp/0898232538/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348422928&sr=1-1&keywords=american+fiction+volume+11), and that was how the novel began, as a short story. I’ve never found the confidence to begin a day writing by saying, “Today I will start a novel!” – it just doesn’t happen that way for me. So each of my novels (I’m currently writing my third) has begun as a short story.
 
When I first discovered Lemon and Stella I was sitting at a coffee shop in San Francisco and noticed two women, a woman and a girl really, crossing the street, and just like that, Stella and Lemon arrived in my imagination in typical fashion of their characters: they were mysterious but vivid, complicated but strong-willed and clear in their convictions, and they were one-hundred percent relentless about making sure I didn’t forget them. It was a terrible time to find a new set of characters – I was in the middle of working on a different novel - but once I created them, I just couldn’t leave them alone. So I wrote what became chapter one and two as a short story and returned to the other book I was writing at the time. But I wasn’t satisfied with where I left them, so I wrote another story… and another. By the time I hit the hundred-page mark, it was clear my story had become the beginning of a novel. The novel changed a great deal during the course of all the different drafts, but the story was always Lemon's and the voice and point of view always belonged to her.
3. Since I love music, are there are any songs that you feel fit the characters or the situations in the novel?
 
Absolutely, in fact, last month Lemon released her cross-country playlist on my website, which includes the songs I imagined her and Emmy listening to on their journey, all songs I listened to when I was writing the book. I created the idea of "Lemon's List" once we sold the novel to Simon and Schuster, and it has been a great way for me to engage with the characters and the world of FINGERPRINTS OF YOU again. She's posted a playlist and a booklist so far, and next month she'll share her movie list followed by her list of favorite places in San Francisco. You can find Lemon's Lists, including the songs, at the following link: http://kristenpaigemadonia.com/lemons-booklist/

Thanks so much for having me on Shooting Stars Mag, Lauren!
 
Thank YOU Kristen-Paige!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Movie Review: House at the End of the Street

House at the End of the Street

Movie Review by Lauren

Summary from IMDB: A mother and daughter move to a new town and find themselves living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When the daughter befriends the surviving son, she learns the story is far from over.

Review: Going in to this movie, I expected to be scared...or at least creeped out...and while I'm not a huge horror movie fan, I was excited for it to be at least more entertaining than The Apparition. And it was. By far. I really loved this movie, to be honest. For one thing, I thought Jennifer Lawrence and Max Thieriot did a great job with their respective roles and that's always a good start.

One of the things that I really appreciated about House at the End of the Street, and which makes it hard to review, is that I was constantly being surprised. I like movies that make you think, and "horror" or "scary" films that do that are awesome. I'd much rather have the psychological, constantly trying to figure things out type of scary film than ones that just rely on the blood and guts.

For me, I still found HATES to be a pretty freaky movie, and even moreso when you get further into the film and learn more about the situation involving Ryan (the surviving son/brother) and Carrie Ann (the sister that killed her parents).

I will admit that Elissa (Lawrence) was a bit too trusting but part of that is explained by her mom that tells her she always wants to fix people...and of course, it's obvious that Elissa is used to being more of the grown up so she likes to go against her mom suddenly trying to be a parent in this new town. Besides that, though, Elissa is a good friend and she genuinely cares about Ryan (even though the rest of the town, for the most part, think he's crazy and should go away).

Like I said above, what really made this movie for me (and I hope for other people) will be the fact that it keeps you on your toes. You think one thing is happening and then it suddenly switches, and then you learn new information and you have to reevaluate your opinion again. I love that! It kept me guessing and invested in the movie. One of the best parts was the very last scene because bam! More news is revealed that finally brings everything together!

And finally, I really enjoy that you can find empathy for the "villians" of the story. Maybe not the townspeople that are jerks just to be jerks, but once you see the film, I think you'll understand what I mean about the "villian." And that empathy makes it all the more interesting.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review- Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris + Make it a Gift

Mira's Diary- Lost in Paris by Marissa Moss

Review by Lauren

copy from the publisher, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary:

When Mira receives a cryptic postcard from her missing mother, she sets off with her father and brother to find her in Paris. Only Mira doesn't know she's looking in the wrong century.
With an innocent touch to a gargoyle sculpture on the roof of Notre Dame, Mira is whisked into the past. There she learns her mother isn't just avoiding the family, she's in serious trouble. Following her mother's clues, Mira travels through time to help change history and bring her mother home.



 
Review: One of the things that I found interesting about this book was the author, as it says on the cover, she is the bestselling author of the Amelia series. I never read a ton of those books, as I believe I was a bit too old when they were coming out...but I did check out a couple in the past and I really like them. I like books that are journal format (I had a huge love for them when I was longer too) and I also really enjoyed the little sketches throughout the "notebook." Mira's Diary is essentially a more grown up version of Amelia. Her book is a sketchbook but each chapter is still a day, like a diary, and there are little drawings throughout the book since Mira likes to sketch (though she doesn't think she's very good). This was an aspect I greatly enjoyed in Lost in Paris. It allowed me, as a reader, to get a better idea of just what these characters look like to Mira, as well as the interesting items she comes across in the novel. With a setting like Paris, it's nice to get some pictures to help you along as well!
 
Two Blue Dancers by Degas

And what a fun setting! I've never been to Paris, but it was fun to see a modern view as well as a look into the past (namely the 1880's and 1890's). I greatly enjoyed the mentions of famous painters and artists from this time period. In fact, Mira's first trip to the past brings her into the home of Edgar Degas, who drew very lovely pieces dealing with ballet. You can actually see Mira's version of one of these on the cover (top left corner). As a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I also enjoyed some mentions of him...though he's not an actual character in the sense that Mira ever gets to meet him. He's simply mentioned by another writer, who plays a key role in this novel, so I won't go into further detail on that.

Going into the book, I didn't realize how much of a historical aspect this story contained. Yes, it deals with time travel, so you would expect some histroy, but it's actual a key element to Mira's story. She is meant to change things but it takes her awhile to realize just what that is, and at the same time, she comes to realize that affecting people's lives for the better doesn't come without sadness or hardship. A large part of what Mira is changing deals with prejudice, particularly towards Jewish people (and Mira is Jewish) so it's difficult for her to reconcile her religion in today's world with the hatred people felt toward it in the past. Not that it doesn't exist now, but for Mira, it was never that close to her world. It's an interesting part of the novel and I like that, for any reader but especially younger ones, you are learning right along with Mira but it's not preachy or boring. Rather, it makes history come alive, and that's never a bad thing.
 
Make it a Gift

In the novel, the only thing that travels back in time with Mira that belongs to her is her sketchbook, so I figured if you're going to give this book as a gift...adding a sketchbook might be a fun ideas as well. You can get a bigger sketchbook (as you can see from the above photo) but I'd suggest the smaller one since I imagine Mira's isn't that big as she's able to carry it around with her in an easy fashion.

Small Black Premium Sketchbook from Peter Pauper Press

Get it for $7.99

From the site: Here is a high-performing Small Black Premium Sketchbook (5-1/2'' by 8-1/2'') that slips easily into your bag or backpack for on-the-go drawing. Its heavyweight fine-tooth paper is perfect for dry media, including pencil, charcoal, Conte crayon, and chalk pastel. The pages are micro-perforated for easy removal with clean edges. Each sketchbook comes with 192 pages/96 sheets. Sturdy book binding lies flat for ease of use. Archival-quality paper will keep your artwork pristine for years to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The New Normal + More on the Blog!



I wanted to let everyone on this blog know about my update on another blog.

Let's Get Beyond Tolerance- a review of the new TV show The New Normal

This week, I hope to have a review of the current episodes of Glee and maybe even more about The New Normal. Keep checking the site (and follow along if you wish) but hopefully I can keep up these posts on Shooting Stars Mag that at least alert you to the posts after the fact.



As for this week on Shooting Stars Mag, I'm hoping to at least have the following:

*Movie review of House at the End of the Street
*Book review of Fingerprints of You by Kristen Paige-Madonia + author interview
*New gift guide...any suggestions? Leave it in the comments!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Silly Rabbit: A Cereal Lovers Gift Guide

 
Alright, it's been a bit since my last gift guide and I do like trying to do it once a week, so let's see if I can get back on schedule. Again, if you have ideas for guides...please leave them in the comments or email me. And if you have a product you want featured, let me know that too and I'll try and find a theme where I can use it!

Today, though, I'm doing a gift guide for those breakfast enthusiasts-
 
Silly Rabbit: A Cereal Lovers Gift Guide
 
 
 
Crunchmallows Cereal Marshmallows
 
From Vat19 for $2.25
 
Site Info- Cereal marshmallows are the best. But getting them typically requires sorting through a lot of healthy nonsense like toasted oats, grains, and fiber. No more, amigos!

Crunchmallows are the delicious, tasty, crunchy cereal marshmallows you love and absolutely nothing else! Each 1.75-ounce bag contains approximately 350 colorful, melt-in-your-mouth cereal marshmallows which are perfect for injecting your favorite cereals, cocoas, and party mixes with a ton of sugary goodness.
 
The Ultimate Chocolate Cereal Bar Collection
 
From Perpetual Kid for $11.99
 
Site Info-
These incredible and ultimate cereal bars have peanut butter puffs, cookie crunch, and fruity flakes combined with pure Belgian chocolate for a true kid-in-all-of-us taste! They are more delicious than you remember your favorite cereals ever being!

Just like your favorite cereal, each of our Cereal Bars in the chocolate trio contains a special prize inside!

Each bar is individually packaged in a retro styled "cereal box"! Set includes three 2.8oz bars. Premium Belgian Chocolate.
 
Sip-n-Spoon Set
 
From Perpetual Kid (again) for $7.99
 
Site Info- No more bowl tipping resulting in a mess of milk down your face and on your shirt! Our Sip-N-Spoon allows you to eat your cereal and then drink the leftover milk right through the handle!  Sip-N-Spoon set comes with four colored spoons: Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue.
 
 

Cereal Killer T-Shirt
 
 
Site Info: If you enjoy cereal then you are technically a cereal killer. Psychologically you’re motivated to seek out your favorite brand(s) of cereal and consume them to reach a high. Cereal killers come from all age groups: whether you are in elementary and need something quick for breakfast, or college and can’t afford much else, or even if you are in your latter stages in life and need the fiber, everyone that you’ve ever met can be one. Trust no one!
  • 100% Preshrunk Cotton Heavy Weight T-Shirts (Ash Grey is 99/1 cotton/poly;Sport Grey is 90/10 cotton/poly)
  • Great fit, Great quality.
  • Available in a wide assortment of colors and styles.
  • Sizes from Small all the way up to 10XL in select colors.
  • Youth Sizes also available. (size choices listed under men's reg tee)
  • Select Designs available in White or Black ink depending on your preference.
  • All Shirts are Custom Made to your chosen specifications. You pick the Style, Color and Size.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler


Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler

Review by Lauren

copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: While speaking at a Hong Kong medical conference, neurosurgeon Dr. Lucas McCrae slips the cloth off a cadaver’s head during a routine medical demonstration, and is overwhelmed by what’s staring back at him: The face of his best friend, Andy Baer.
Stunned, McCrae races back to Seattle to discover that Andy is in fact missing and may have been murdered by a gang of body snatchers who operate a legit funeral business and make a fortune by selling recovered body parts to medical researchers.

McCrae teams up with an unlikely pair—a beautiful but hardnosed female cop and a gang member whose family was victimized by the cadaver ring—to try and expose a macabre web of corruption that involves law enforcement, politicians, funeral home curators and murdered prostitutes.
 


Review: I've been reading a lot of detective, mystery type novels lately. I suppose part of the blame is my detective fiction class but I do really like these novels and I'm glad to have the chance to check out some newer titles in the genre. Dead Ringer is no exception. Lucas McCrae is not a detective, but when it comes to the people he loves, he will stop at nothing to find out the truth...and then exact revenge for any wrongdoing.

The story behind Dead Ringer was very fascinating and I did like getting a look at people that would sell body parts for money (often collecting these body parts in ways that are less than legal). They are horrible, but yet oh so interesting to read about. The whole cast of characters in this book were actually really intriguing to read about. Lucas and his wife Laura are on the edge of a divorce, yet Lucas wants it to work so much. His best friend, Andy, is missing and he thinks he saw his head in Hong Kong but can't prove it. Even while not present, Andy was a fully realized character, especially with the use of flashbacks/memory scenes. Then you have the owner of the funeral business and his partner, army vets that are full of hate, and yet they have a very unique side to them that I think people will find shocking and interesting at the same time. Finally, you get the cop, Wendy, who is willing to fight for what she believes in, even if that means wiggling around the law she works to uphold.

Anyway, I don't want to go on and on about the things that you just have to read the book to understand, but I do like that the author uses his expertise (he's an internationally renowned neurosurgeon) in creating a character like Lucas and a story like this that deals so heavily with the medical world, whether legal or not. It definitely provides an aunthenticity you don't always get in books.

I should mention that the blurb on the cover says, "this is the stuff nightmares are made of" which makes Dead Ringer sound like some horror novel, when it's really not. Yes, it's a bit creepy, but nothing that made me think "I shouldn't read this at night" or anything. If you get scared or freaked out really really easily, then maybe skip it...but I think it's something that's more intriguing mystery than scary mystery.

Finally, I do have to say that while the end is shocking in a big way, it was also really cool and different!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest Post - The Serpent's Ring + H.B. Bolton


Candace from the lovely blog, Candace's Book Blog, asked me to take part in the blog tour for author H.B. Bolton's novel, The Serpent's Ring. I asked her to talk about a museum exhibit, in honor of her book (find the summary below), in a guest post. I hope you enjoy! What museum exhibit would you want to "visit" in a more realistic sense?



Book Summary- Evan and Claire Jones are typical teenagers, forced to go with their parents to yet another boring museum ... that is, until something extraordinary happens to make their day a little more than interesting. After following a strange little creature into a closed exhibit, Evan and his older sister, Claire, discover the Serpent’s Ring, one of the magical relics formed from the shattered Mysticus Orb. Purely by accident, they have awakened its powers and opened a portal to Sagaas, land of ancient gods.

Before the siblings can comprehend what has happened, the Serpent’s Ring is wrenched from Evan’s hand by an enormous bird and flown back to Aegir, the Norse god of the sea. Evan and Claire, accompanied by a band of unlikely heroes, must retrieve the Serpent’s Ring before Aegir uses its immense powers to flood all the lands on Earth.


Guest Post by H.B. Bolton-

English Dining Room - source


It Doesn’t Hurt to Wonder

Somewhere, deep inside the Art Institute of Chicago, a treasure can be found — a treasure, neither of gold nor priceless paintings, but one created to delight children. Once upon a time, I stumbled into the Children’s Gallery of this monumental museum, and what I found captivated me for hours.

Imagine a room filled with rich tapestries, exquisite furnishings and historical architecture that spans centuries. This was what I found in the Thorne Room. But there wasn’t just one room; there were 68 rooms total, and not one of them reached higher than two feet. Each room was set inside the wall and protected by a sheet of glass — sigh — oh, how I yearned to be six inches tall and investigate! If somehow I managed this and was able to travel inside, I’m not sure where I would start. Each and every room, created and carefully constructed by Narcissa Niblack Thorne, was magnificent in its own way.

Victorian Parlor- source

Perhaps I would have started in the 17th-century Spanish foyer, and gazed at the beautiful arches and wrought-iron chandeliers. I could have meandered into the 18th-century English dining room and sat on one of the Chippendale chairs, drank a cup of tea from a Chinese teacup, and nibbled on a few treacle tarts. After a relaxing afternoon, I would have rested for a bit in the 19th-century Victorian parlor. I would have stared at the portrait of Queen Victoria and wondered about the size of paintbrush used to create such a refined piece of art. I would have sunk into the comfortable ladies chair and read Pride and Prejudice. And later, when I was sleepy, I would have lain on sage-colored bedding and watched as a breeze brushed the lovely canopy.

Bedroom - source

Early the next morning, I would have had breakfast in the Early American kitchen, enjoyed the flickering fire, and had a nice chat with a miniature woman from another era. She would have explained why there were glass “witch’s balls” hanging beside the door (to keep away evil spirits) and taught me how to spin linen thread with her flax-wheel.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a laser beam with the ability to shrink me down to the proper size … but it doesn’t hurt to wonder.

***
H.B. Bolton's links are:
Website: http://www.hbbolton.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/h_b_bolton
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HBBoltonAuthor
Author on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6150459.H_B_Bolton

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cover Reveal: Solstice by P.J. Hoover

 
Author P.J. Hoover was kind enough to ask me for help in spreading the word about her upcoming YA novel, Solstice, and as such...we have the cover reveal for you all today!

First, more on the book-

Piper's world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.

***
 About the Author-
P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek.
 
***
 
And finally, the cover!
 
 
Isn't that awesome? I really love the colors. They are bright and very unique for covers I've seen. I like the lettering of Solstice as well, like it's blowing away on the wind...too cool!
 
Want to know just what the blurb on the cover reads?
 
“Solstice is one red-hot read—it intrigues, sizzles, and satisfies.” —Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times bestselling author
 
oooh I'm sold. What about the rest of you?!
 
The author is hosting an amazing giveaway on her blog at the moment, so be sure to check that out. It's in honor of the cover release, but it's not a copy of the book (giveaways will come for that in the next couple months). It's still some amazing items, though, so don't miss out!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How Does Sleep Come? by Jeanne C. Blackmore


How Does Sleep Come? written by Jeanne C. Blackmore and pictures by Elizabeth Sayles

Review by Lauren

Copy from Sourcebooks, but all opinions are my own

Review: How Does Sleep Come is a lovely story for little ones. Jacob is going to sleep one night, but before he does, he asks his mom the title question. She goes on to tell him just how sleep comes...comparing it to snow and clouds and even a cat. It comes quietly and gently and all sorts of other ways. It's a very relaxing story, if you can't tell; perfect for a nighttime read!

One of the things that I loved about this book are the use of illustration. Inbetween each new way that sleep comes, there is a page where it says that Jacob yawns and stretches and even that he closes his eyes near the end. I like these pages because they utilize the part of the story just stated. For example, the first way that sleep comes is quietly like a snowfall...and you turn the page to where it says: Jacob snuggled under his covers. On the picture, you can clearly see Jacob lying in bed with some snow falling down on him. Each page of Jacob in bed is similar to this one, which I really enjoyed.

Check out the snow picture below or on the illustrator's blog:

 
Like I mentioned above, this truly is a great book for nighttime. It's obviously all about falling asleep but the rhythm of the words throughout give a sort of lulling feel, perfect for putting a little one to bed. On the back of my review copy, they give you the last lines in the book and it perfectly shows what I mean-

Jacob closed his eyes.
And the snow fell.
And the fog rolled in.
And the clouds drifted.
And the cat purred.
And the butterfly alit.
 
And quietly, silently, softly, peacefully, gently, Jacob fell asleep. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

EP Review - Charlie Played Cello


Charlie Played Cello's Red EP

Review by Lauren

Buy it on Itunes!

music sent for review, but all opinions are my own

Los Angeles based rock ensemble Charlie Played Cello released their debut EP Red Fontana/Universal May 29 on iTunes. CPC is made up of band members Mike Resch (bass), Bill Scott (guitar), Tommy Villafranca (drums) and Chris Wiebe (vocals, guitar).

For those that don't know, an EP is a shorter version of an album, so Red only includes five songs, but they are all quite catchy and enjoyable.

The tracklist-

1. Memories Collide
2. Run Away with Me
3. Tired of Playing Games
4. Drifting Apart
4. Life Me on Fire It's Midnight

One of the things that I thought when listening to the music was that, while the music is pretty modern and standard pop/rock, the vocals from Wiebe actually have an old-fashioned sound that I greatly enjoyed. It just compels you to listen closer. I think it really stands out in the song, "Tired of  Playing Games."

While "Run Away with Me" seemed a bit repetitive in places, it was still catchy to listen too. One of my favorite tracks was "Drifting Apart", though. However, I think most people would really enjoy "Memories Collide." It definitely seems radio-ready and the intro actually made me think of some other current bands. Fun song (and you can see the very fun video below).

Finally, this is a band - based on their music and video- that I can see being a lot of fun live. They seem to really love what they do and want to make their listeners feel good. "Light Me on Fire It's Midnight" is catchy like the others, and it's something I could picture people dancing too or enjoying at an actual concert.

Overall, a pretty good debut! Check out the video below and let me know what you think in the comments!

Interesting Fact-

While loyal followers know how CPC got their name, new fans might not know that "Charlie" was one of Mike's and Chris's best friends who died in a motorcycle accident driving home from a CPC show. He played cello, and can be heard on some of the band's recordings.

The official video for Charlie Played Cello's song "Memories Collide" which is a fun look back at the rock 'n roll lifestyle.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: This Is Not a Test + Two Song Picks!

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Review by Lauren

From- I bought a copy!

Official Summary:
 
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?



Review: I'm not going to have a really long review for this book because it's been all over the blogosphere for awhile now, so I figure you've heard it before. If you have not, read this book. It's seriously wonderful. It's emotional and suspenseful and interesting and full of questions that you don't always get the answers too (or the answers you want) but that's life, and yeah, you have to live it. Keep living and fighting and breathing. One day at a time.

This is my first book by Summers, though I believe I own her first. Now that I've read this one, though, I know I need to keep reading her stuff. Summers reminds me of John Green and This Is Not A Test is the same...just with zombies. And the zombies work. They represent a lot, but they are scary and curious...a living human resigned to this fate. Do they have a soul? What does that mean, anyway? Sloane isn't sure she wants to be alive. She thinks giving in to the zombies might be for the best. But then she won't find out what she's truly capable of, and it's a lot, both good and bad.

Two songs make me think of this book so I wanted to share them, especially for those of you who HAVE read this before. What do you think?

First up, The Zombies with "She's Not There"!

And then, we have Young the Giant with "Cough Syrup"!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blogging Besties Swap Goodies


Krysten from the lovely blog, Why Girls are Weird, hosted a Blogging Besties Swap where she matched people up by their personalities and interests. I was paired up with Jess from Fishie in the Sea who loves making lists like I do, has great taste in music and enjoys going to concerts, enjoys reading, and is even in college like myself. These are just a few similarities between the two of us but I'm really happy to have "met" Jess through this swap. She even knows who Charlene Kaye is which I find awesome, since I've seen her live twice now. LOVE "Dress and Tie" and "Animal Love."


Anyway, back to the swap...here are some pictures of the items that Jess sent to me, including a list that explains.

A fun little pen, since I like to write
Scrapbooking stickers since I like to scrapbook
A mix C.D. that Jess put together...I need to find some new music, so this is great. I can't wait to listen to it!!


A Tie-Dye Shirt set, since I like to be crafty and it's even in the colors that I told her I liked...such as green and purple! Fun, right?!

A copy of Without You by Anthony Rapp since I love to read and I LOVE RENT (Anthony Rapp was the original Mark in case you didn't know...). It's an old copy that Jess read herself, which is fun, because she has little post it notes throughout from a school project. I like seeing what people thought of the book or the things that they picked out as significant.

A composition notebook (also because I like to write) but Jess actually painted the front and back, with some cute little designs, in the colors purple and green. Isn't that awesome?! I love that she's creative, and it makes a very unique journal.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Write an Author Campaign

Write an Author Campaign



David and his friend Eddie wrote letters to their favorite authors in hope of getting a reply...Now You Can Too!



Between November 1- 30 submit your letters to New York Times Bestselling Author, Lisa McMann. In order to do so, you must FIRST donate at least one dollar to either of the following charities picked by author Lee Bantle:

Doctors without Borders- http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


All letters must be emailed to the following address-
lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

The winning letter(s) will be announced sometime in December. After that point, Lisa McMann will either email or hand-write her reply and we’ll send it your way once it’s ready!
Only one letter per person - Open to Anyone!
The judges will be Lauren Becker and maybe author Lee Bantle- who created this event (we have to have judges because the authors who participate in this event don't have the time to read every single letter, so we'll try and find the one we feel most deserves a reply)!
All letters should be no longer than two pages
 
I have a poster with most of this information. It's a Word Document -pretty simple, but it's for anyone that wants to promote this off line and I would really appreciate it if you did. Good for schools, book clubs, libraries, coffee shops, local businesses, bookstores, etc. If you would like the "poster" then please email me: lauren51990 AT aol DOT com and put Write an Author Poster in the subject!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Frame Up by James Phoenix

 
Frame Up:A Fenway Burke Mystery by James Phoenix

Review by Lauren

Copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In “Frame Up” the first volume in the Fenway Burke Detective series, we find our hero living on board his floating home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The Queen Anne’s Revenge is a fifty-eight foot steel hulled sloop that is more than sea worthy but that could use a good coat of paint. She’s birthed with craft in much better shape.

Fenway is living alone and nursing his wounds from his recent divorce. He’s drinks too much and doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself. A childhood friend with a shady background approaches him about clearing a man serving a life sentence for a crime his friend says he didn’t commit.

Against his better judgment Fenway takes the case and soon finds himself in over his head… way over his head.

Almost right from the start Fenway doesn’t like the smell of things and finds out very quickly that his client’s a patsy who’s been framed up to take a fall. But knowing it and proving it are two different things.

As he digs deeper, bodies start to pill up and he finds himself up against sinister forces far beyond his imagining, people with unlimited financial resources and International connections with some of the most violent and ruthless men on the planet. Nothing is as it seems. He’s got to clear an innocent man, find the true culprit and somehow stay in one piece.

And the odds aren’t good…Not good at all.


Review: When I was asked if I wanted to review this book, it was mentioned that Frame Up hails back to the tradition of a hard-boiled detective made famous by authors such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I was interested by this for two reasons. One, I took a Film Noir class last semester and many authors of this genre had their works turned into noir films (and even were screenwriters). I actually wrote my final paper on some of these authors, so I was intrigued by them. Second, I'm in a Detective Fiction class this semester and Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep is on the list, so I'll finally be reading an actual novel with a hard-boiled detective. In the end, I haven't read a classic book in this genre- yet - but I was curious about a modern take on the private eye type of detective.

I'm glad I checked out Frame Up because it was an interesting, enjoyable read. I started it the first week I went back to school so the shorter chapters were awesome. I was able to get through them relatively fast when I had breaks during the day. As for the character, Fenway Burke...I really enjoyed him. He does have a romantic interest as the book goes on, but he's still a hardworker and willing to risk his safety to make sure the truth is figured out. He's relentless in that way, even when he would probably be better off not being so.

I loved the cast of characters that surround Fenway. They range in age and occupation, but they are a huge part in Fenway's life and are always willing to help him succeed. Having taken a Film Noir class, I can definitely say the book had aspects of noir. The detective, the romance, the dirty cop(s), the danger and murder.

Frame Up was an enjoyable read. I like mysteries and the need to find out just what happened. This one was easy to read and went fast, which is also a good thing, since I am currently in school now. I don't want to be bogged down by a book with too much explanation or description. Frame Up keeps the pace going, with one new mystery or murder after another.

I'm definitely interested in checking out the next book, due out in June 2013, I believe! If you'd like to read some sample chapters, head over to the author's website.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon + Interview/Giveaway


Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon

Review by Lauren

copy from publisher, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Four thousand, three hundred and seventeen stitches, his father had told him once. All the King's horses and all the King's men had put Henry Franks back together again.

One year ago, a terrible accident robbed Henry Franks of his mother and his memories. The past sixteen years have vanished. All Henry has now are scars and a distant father--the only one who can tell Henry who he is.

If only he could trust his father.

Do his nightmares--a sweet little girl calling him Daddy, murderous urges, dead bodies--hold clues?

While a serial killer stalks their small Georgia town, Henry unearths the bitter truth behind his mother's death--and the terrifying secrets of his own dark past.

Sometimes, the only thing worse than forgetting is remembering.


Review: Henry Franks is a modern-relling, if you will, of the famous story Frankenstein. I've read Frankenstein twice for school and it's not really my favorite story, but I love the premise so to have a modern take is quite fascinating for me. In the end, I am really glad that I was given the chance to read this book.

One of the things that is interesting and different about Henry Franks is the set up of the book. It's mostly in third person point of view of Henry, but his dreams are first person. However, there are also some interesting additions to the book like newspaper articles, sessions from Henry's therapy, and the point of view of Henry's dad, giving you a look into his intriguing life.

I can't imagine living Henry's life. He doesn't remember the accident that killed his mom and gave him all his scars, not to mention the rest of his previous life. He's going to therapy but the panic sets in easily and he just wants answers. Luckily, he has a neighbor, Justine, who is willing to look past the way he looks and become his friend...as well as help him on his search for the truth.

My one complaint while reading the book were all the references to trees scratching Henry's house and other weather-related items. It fits, because there is a hurricane coming toward the town, but sometimes I just wanted less of it. Overall, that's one of the only things that bothered me. I enjoyed the mystery and I loved that not everything was obvious. Some things I thought I knew would switch on me last minute, which was great. It's fun to keep guessing and wondering...since it keeps you turning the pages for more!

And now, Peter Adam Salomon was kind enough to answer some questions for us!

1. Henry Franks is said to be a re-telling of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Were you always a fan of this book or did the enthusiasm for the story come
later?


I was a huge fan of the book growing up, but hadn't read it in a very long time
when I started thinking of writing a book sort of re-imagining Frankenstein. As
the story progressed, I became fascinated with the other side of the 'creation'
myth: how the creature reacts as they come to terms with being created. The true
enthusiasm for Mary Shelley's book grew as the character of Henry grew in his
own story, that search for himself and for acceptance and for understanding is
universal.

2. This is your debut novel, so congratulations on that! Are you already
working on a new story and is there anything you can let readers know?


Thanks!! I ended up writing two new Young Adult novels while HENRY FRANKS was in
the submission process (publishing is a lot of 'hurry up and wait' so I wrote
while waiting). One of those, an action/adventure thriller will hopefully go out
on submission soon. In addition I have been working on a couple of picture
books. So I've tried to keep myself busy.

The thriller was inspired by watching parkour videos on Youtube actually and so
writing the action scenes became an interesting experiment, but hopefully the
time spent 'researching' on Youtube will be worth it.


 3. Your website for Henry Franks includes some photos that highlight the
landscape found in the book. I love this idea! Did you take these photos and if
so, did you have them taken before, during, or after you wrote the book?


Actually those photos were taken by a friend of mine, Jon Cohen, who lives on
the GA coast. He's an amateur photographer who really needs a website of his own
(hint, hint) but in the meantime I'm very honored and pleased to showcase some
of his pictures on the Henry Franks website. He was one of my beta readers so
was familiar with the book and I gave him some suggestions of photos that I
thought would work well for the tour and he took the time to take the pictures
for me. Actually, I'd love to expand the photo tour concept so if any readers of
the book have photographs they think remind them of certain passages from the
book I'd love to have them send them in and I'll put them up!


4. What aspect of being a published author is the most surprising for you?

I had spent most of my life dreaming of the moment when I sold my first book and
despite being able to research the publishing industry online and following
along as others wrote about their journeys on their blogs I had never given much
thought to what happens immediately after that moment of selling my first book.
The actual nuts and bolts of the process. So in some respect, everything has
been a surprise, even those things which I knew to expect. Still, the first time
I saw the cover art, the first time I held the book in my hands, all of those
surreal 'firsts' associated with the publication of a debut novel have been a
wonderful surprise to some extent. It is still odd to think of myself as an
agented author, never mind as a published one. And I know that there are so many
talented writers still waiting for that moment when they sell their first book
so I'm trying to humbly, graciously, and thankfully appreciate every single
moment of this.


5. Are there any songs you would put on the Henry Franks soundtrack; meaning
songs that you feel fit the themes, characters, or even particular moments in
the book?


What a wonderful question! I need music in order to write, always having
something playing in the background as an emotional crutch of sorts (I have a BA
in Theater and Film Studies, with a concentration in set design and construction
for musical theater, so my taste in music runs to Broadway and 80's new wave, I
am definitely a child of the 80s). The one CD I was listening to pretty much
non-stop while writing HENRY FRANKS was the recording of Next To Normal, which
has similar thematic elements to HENRY. In particular, for the name alone, I was
always a big fan of "I'm Alive" from that show. Also, I always think of
Fantastic Dream by Alphaville as a song I'd love to put on a soundtrack, simply
because it's one of my all-time favorite songs and being able to introduce it to
a wider audience would be a good thing.

Some of the themes of HENRY FRANKS are so universal: trying to figure out who
you are, first love, wondering if your father is a serial killer (okay, that
last one maybe not so much) that there are probably a number of songs that fit!


6. The book is written in an interesting format; two point of views, newspaper
clippings, etc. Was this how the original draft was set up, and what made you
decide to add in these extra additions?


Actually both the doctor scenes and the news articles were in the book from the
beginning mostly because it made it easier to write (the news articles enabled
me to present information to the reader without having to write entire chapters
dedicated to that information...I thought that if I have a scene with a killing,
for instance, then I'd have to worry too much about pronoun usage and
description in order to keep the identity of the killer hidden from the reader.
In a news article about the killing, that worry is taken away). At one point I
wrote a number of additional 'news articles' in order to 'hide' the ones that
were important but we decided to stick with as few as necessary so as not to
overload the reader.


Enter To Win Your Own Copy of Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon (U.S. and Canada only)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/887ee62/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Apparition


Movie: The Apparition

Review by Lauren

IMDB Summary: A couple are haunted by a supernatural presence that is unleashed during a college experiment.

Review: It's weird...I would normally say I'm not that big of a horror fan, which is true. I get freaked out easily and I have an over-active imagination, which never helps. However, there are some films that are a bit more scary or freaky and I love them. After all, one of my favorite films is Cry Wolf and that's about murder (and more realistic murder at that).

What does this all have to do with The Apparition? Well, I expected it to be a bit scarier, to be honest. It's not a realistic film, which is good for me. I don't have to leave the theater worrying this can actually happen. But I walked into the theater expecting to be a bit freaked out, possibly even jump here and there, and that's kind of the test of a horror flick...or at least a movie that comes across as being somewhat frightening. But The Apparition kind of failed at that. Neither me nor my sister jumped at all during the film and we left it feeling a bit let down in some ways...it could have been a great premise, but it just fell flat. Most of the movie, apart from the very beginning and near the end, seemed to be about Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) as a couple. It didn't really make sense to me. I guess I just expected more.

I will say that one of the big reasons I wanted to see this movie was for Tom Felton, who played Patrick, the guy who helps Kelly and Ben understand just what is happening to them. I'm a fan of Felton's and it's nice to see him in parts vastly different than Draco Malfoy (which he's most known for) and I do think he did a good job.

In conclusion, I want to mention that I kind of liked the end. It was odd, especially for a movie that felt more like build-up for 75% of it, but it was cool, different, and a bit unique (at least for me). If the whole movie was more like that, it might have been better.