Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Review by Lauren

copy from my sister; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?

Review: I actually read this book about a month ago, but I decided to hold out on reviewing the book until Holocaust Remembrance Week. Rose Under Fire is the companion novel to the wonderful Code Name Verity (my review here) and they are both books that should be recognized this week for heartbreakingly realistic stories about young girls fighting in WWII. I would recommend reading Code Name Verity first though, as important plot points are mentioned in Rose Under Fire.

However, back to the book at hand. I obviously loved the latest by Elizabeth Wein and I honestly cannot tell you what book is my favorite. Both of these focus on young women thrust into horrible situations in which they must draw on their own strength and courage. Rose Under Fire is the only one that focuses on concentration camps in depth though, and I find it most fitting for this week. Rose is the definition of the idea that bravery isn't about not being scared, but being scared and still fighting. Rose is terrified and fully believes that she will not survive Ravensbrück, the women's concentration camp she ends up in.

Despite that, she finds herself growing close to the other girls in her bunk, who they call Rabbits, as they were experimented on in the name of science by the Nazis. She fights back in her own way. She does what she can to keep hers and others spirits up, especially by using her talent of creating poems. She can't write them down, but she can write them in her head and recite them aloud. These poems are wonderfully done and included throughout the book. It doesn't take long when reading this book to learn the fate of Rose, but I still don't want to reveal it here. It's always better to find that out for yourself, so be sure to read this book before anything truly big is spoiled.

Overall, this was a beautifully written book. It is easy to read, in terms of the writing, yet difficult to read, in terms of the emotion. This is a fictional book, but things like this did happen during WWII and that thought is always with you as you read. You are horrified by the things that occur in this book, but it's not a fantasy book you can feel safe from. Holocaust Remembrance Week is an important event, but this period in our history is never forgotten and books like Rose Under Fire continue to show new generations just why it should always be remembered.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tune in Tuesday with Rush

Tune in Tuesday comes from Tales of Books and Bands

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Week, I wanted to share a song that was inspired by the Holocaust and concentration camps. Taken from Wikipedia, here is some information behind the song:

Lyricist Neil Peart has stated that the detailed imagery in the song intentionally evokes concentration camps of the Holocaust. Peart has stated that while Nazi concentration camps of World War II were his primary lyrical motivation, he decided to abstract the lyrics so as to apply to the experiences of atrocity of any similar prison camp scenario. It also has to do with singer/bassist Geddy Lee's remembrance of his mother's accounts of the Holocaust, which she survived.

"Red Sector A" by Rush

All that we can do is just survive
All that we can do to help ourselves is stay alive

I hear the sound of gunfire at the prison gate
Are the liberators here?
Do I hope or do I fear?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hidden by Loic Dauvillier

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier

Review by Lauren

copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In this gentle, poetic young graphic novel, Dounia, a grandmother, tells her granddaughter the story even her son has never heard: how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was hidden away from the Nazis by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep her alive when her parents had been taken to concentration camps.

Review: I would definitely recommend this book to teachers that are trying to introduce what the Holocaust was to a young audience. This book takes place in the present time and looks back on WWII and the Holocaust. Now, Dounia has a granddaughter named Elsa who seems to be close in age to Dounia herself when she had to go into hiding. One night, Elsa comes into the living room and snuggles up with her grandmother, and they talk about nightmares. With this prompting, Dounia begins to tell Elsa how as a young Jewish girl in France, she had to be separated from her parents and go into hiding.

 Obviously, as adults reading this and knowing a bit about the Holocaust, we know that her parents have been taken away to concentration camps. Young Dounia doesn't understand this. She is desperate to be reunited with her parents. At the same time, she knows that her neighbors and other strangers are helping keep her safe and she does appreciate that.

I loved getting this perspective of the Holocaust and how it might have been for a young girl. Dounia is lucky that those around her are able to help and keep her safe. We wonder about her parents through the book and wish for their safe return, but at the same time, Dounia's story is a unique point of view and one that I really appreciated. It was interesting to get into the head of a young girl who knows bad things are happening, yet does not fully understand what it all means. Through her you get a look at the people who fought back, the ones that helped hide innocent men and women.

Hidden is a lovely graphic novel. It focuses on an important subject in world history but it does so without being extreme and becoming inappropriate for children. Like I said above, this is a great book to introduce the topic of the Holocaust to a younger audience, but it's also a nice book for history lovers or people who wish to get into graphic novels since it's fairly short and easy to follow.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Holocaust Remembrance Week

From today until May 4th, it is Holocaust Remembrance Week. This was a horrific event in world history and we obviously wish that nothing like this will ever happen again. In honor of those that fought for the right, and those that lost their lives during WWII, I decided to make all my posts this week about these topics.

At the moment though, I would love to know what books dealing with WWII and the Holocaust that you have read and would recommend.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Dear Review (Custom Quilt)

How Dear

Courtney also makes adorable prints at Prints Charming
She also reviews at

Review by Lauren

item sent for review; all opinions are my own

The owner, Courtney, makes the most adorable handmade quilts. I came across her etsy shop while browsing for unique guest book ideas. Courtney will custom make a quilt for you and then you can use a fabric pen to have guests sign it. I thought this would be fun for the baby shower I planned for a friend so I contacted Courtney to talk to her about her designs.

Unfortunately, she couldn't find any Tim Burton specific fabric, but I told her the basic colors were black, white, and blue, so she went with that and created the lovely baby blanket you see above! I think using just the colors worked out for the best because it can be used as a nice decoration once the baby has grown too.

When I received the blanket in the mail, I decided not to use it as a guest book. Courtney said people have changed their minds before, and I realized that the quilt was just too nice to have people mess with it. I was afraid someone might spell something wrong or accidentally mark the wrong spot. I like the idea of a quilt guest book, but I think the actual blanket is wonderful enough as a gift. The price is also great too. Most of the baby quilts are only $70, plus shipping. I've seen similar items at a much higher price. Plus, if you want to give the quilt as a gift, you can split with another person and you're only paying about $40 each (with shipping).

I think the colors were well done and the quilt was beautiful to look at in person. Courtney did a wonderful job. When I gave it to the mom-to-be, she really loved it as well. I told her the story behind the colors and she seemed to agree that just using the three main colors was a nice idea. I think the fact that this was custom-made for her meant a lot as well. It's different than buying a blanket at the store, because you know you're getting something thought out and personal.

Courtney also offers throw-sized quilts, as well as custom quilted pet portraits that are just adorable! I'm afraid I was so excited about the quilt and giving it to my friend that I never took a personal photo of it, so all the photos I used here are ones that Courtney took before she shipped me the blanket! Thank goodness she thought to do that! I would definitely buy another quilt from Courtney in the future!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Theming Thursday: DIY Gifts for Mom (2)

Today is part two of my Mother's Day DIY gifts. I think making gifts are always fun, and a lot of times they can save you lots of money. However, if you need ideas for a "from the store" gift, then let me know and I'm happy to try and help! Here is part one of the DIY gifts.

You can't forget the wonderful grandmothers in your life! Strawberry Mommycakes offers this free, printable grandma book! The pages offered are:

  • Front Cover
  • About Me Page
  • Growth Page
  • Hand Print Page
  • Favorite Things Pages
  • Picture Pages
  • Drawing Pages
  • A Year in Round Up Page

  • Via Catch My Party, 9 to 5 Mom offers some cute and free Mother's Day party printables if you're in the mood to plan a little party.

    Seven Thirty Three also has some free printables available for a mother's day party. You can always use some of these for gifts too - like the tags and the card!

    I should be mopping the floor offers some fun (and free of course!) coupons to make a Mother's Day coupon book! I know a lot of moms that would really love this!

    Kori Clark offers some different Mother's Day cards (Grandma and Nana versions too). I have to say my favorite is the one above where your child fills out "Things I know About My Amazing Mom." This would be a card to keep for a lifetime!

    Remember, there is still some time until Mother's Day so if you want more DIY ideas or a specific gift for someone, let me know and I will be happy to try and find some possible ideas! Also, Theming Thursday is a weekly feature so please leave future ideas in the comments. Want more party ideas? Gift ideas? Let me know!

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

    Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

    Review by Lauren

    copy from library; all opinions are my own

    Official Summary: Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part . . .

    Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

    Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

    Or so she thinks.

    Review: I've wanted to read this graphic novel for a long time as I remember reading positive reviews when it first came out. I came across it at the library recently and decided I might as well give it a shot. I really liked Anya and how she felt like a regular teen girl. She's not happy with the way she looks, even though her mom doesn't understand the American need to be skinny. After all, she's from Russia and while their culture doesn't take over the book, it was great to see aspects of it throughout...from her mom being a bit stuck in the old culture to a boy at her school who is picked on for being a nerd and still having a strong Russian accent.

    The only friend Anya has is Siobhan, but Brosgol shows how they aren't normal "best friends." I liked that their first interaction in the book has Siobhan trying to bum cigarettes off Anya; almost like an annoying older sibling. I didn't realize they were even friends at first, and I think that was the point. It shows why Anya finds herself so easily able to accept a ghost in her life, though there are other reasons (such as Emily - the ghost's- ability to help Anya pass tests and learn information about the guy she likes). I liked that Brosgol doesn't have Anya accept Emily right away. I mean, she fell down a well and finds a ghost! Who would be okay with that? Her first reaction is that there is some kind of gas in the well causing her to hallucinate, which I thought was a clever reaction for Brosgol to give to Anya.

    As for the actual story, I really liked it. When I was about halfway through, a friend at work commented that the second half was very different, so when things got really weird, I wasn't shocked. It didn't make me dislike the book, though I suppose some people might find it too much of a 180. I personally thought it made things quite interesting, even though I was enjoying the first half just fine. My one complaint is probably close to the very just seemed like a sudden shift in Anya concerning Emily. Regardless, I really enjoyed this one and would love to read more by the author/illustrator!!


    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Sweet Erin Creations (Jack Skellington Cookies)

    Sweet Erin Creations

    Review by Lauren

    items sent for review; all opinions are my own

    When I was searching for food that matched my friend's baby shower theme (Tim Burton), I came across these Jack Skellington cookies on etsy. The owner, Erin, was kind enough to allow me to try them out at the shower and share my thoughts with all of you!

    The picture up top is how I went about displaying the cookies. I used my white cupcake stand and placed a Jack figurine that my sister owned on the very top. The cookies surrounded Jack and the bottom layer. I think it turned out great and helped these wonderful cookies stand out even more.

    Personally, I think Erin did a great job. The faces are all fairly similar, yet a little different for each cookie, which added some fun personality. A friend of mine personally grabbed the "angry" looking Jack's. Each cookie was individually packaged in plastic, which kept it nice, neat, and fresh!! These cookies have been eaten at varying times after they arrived and they were always yummy. I love that you don't have to eat them the day of arrival like some food items you might purchase online.

    One of my friends commented on how good she thought they tasted, and another took one to eat and another to save because she loves Jack Skellington. With them in plastic, she'll be able to keep it as decoration, which is just another plus for the practice.

    Erin was fantastic to work with, which is always important since you are speaking with someone online. I think her cookies tasted great and the artwork was very well done. I would definitely order more from her in the future. I'd love the Harry Potter cookies she has as well!

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon

    Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon

    Review by Lauren

    copy from library; all opinions are my own

    Official Summary: Based on the Emmy Award-winning web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, this collection of stories written by Zack Whedon (Deadwood, Fringe) chronicles some of the earliest adventures in the lives of archenemies Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible. This anthology solves many unanswered questions left over from the show. For instance: What event inspired Dr. Horrible to become the world's greatest criminal mastermind? Why is Penny, the beautiful girl from the Laundromat, still single? How can you, the reader, be like blustering do-gooder Captain Hammer? And why is Horrible's sidekick, Moist, so... um... well, you'll find out!

    Review: Based on the characters made famous by Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (starring Neil Patrick Harris, etc.) Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories is a great addition for fans. I loved learning more about these character's lives and how they became the person they are in the "movie." I think people who haven't watched the film can still enjoy the comics included in this book, since it is a bit of a prequel. If you do though, I would definitely recommend watching the Sing-Along Blog soon after. It's funny, well-written, and has SONGS!!

    One of the things that I thought was cool is how they showed the various characters coming together. A lot of the comics lead the various people (Moist, Dr. Horrible, etc.) to a specific point in time and I thought that was a nice way to tie things in. The drawings are all really well done as well. Each story ends with a realistic drawing that makes the characters look like their actor counterparts. It's almost like a poster, since there is no words and the name of the next story is on the back, so you could easily tear it out. That's if you don't mind "mutilating" your books!

    Overall, I really loved this graphic novel collection. It makes me love Dr. Horrible and the rest even more and I can't wait for more - either stories or a film!!

    This was read for the Graphic Novel Reading Challenge

    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    The Favorite Color Swap

    I just love taking part in swaps. I didn't see any for the Easter season, so I was excited that Chaotic Goddess Swaps is now hosting another fun swap - this time you send your partner four or five items in their favorite color! I signed up with the color purple, so I'm excited to see what my partner has chosen for their favorite. I gave a friend of mine a "gift basket" of things all in the color red once, and it was really fun, so I know I'm going to like shopping for this one.

    If you want to sign up, you have until April 21st at 12 a.m....not a lot of notice, I'm sorry, but I signed up late too!! Just visit here and fill in the form.

    Happy Easter!!!

    Happy Easter, everyone!! If you're celebrating, I hope it's a wonderful day and if you're not, I hope you have a fantastic Sunday anyway!!

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Batman: Li'l Gotham by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

    Batman: Li'l Gotham (Volume 1) by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

    Review by Lauren

    copy from library; all opinions are my own

    Official Summary: First up, Robin needs Batman's help to learn the true meaning of Halloween. Then, on Thanksgiving, Batman and Robin join the families of Gotham City around the table for a holiday feast--and birds of a feather flock together to stage a march against the city...led by The Penguin!  As Christmas time approaches, the search for a missing holiday choir leads Batman and Nightwing into a confrontation with Mr. Freeze! But in this heartfelt Christmas tale, the frozen fiend's motives aren't as nefarious as they seem...And on a festive New Year's Eve, Catwoman thinks she'll be spending a quiet night at home, contemplating her New Year's resolutions--until Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn show up, that is!

    Review: For someone like me, who is mostly a newbie to Batman and his world, I found Batman Li'l Gotham to be a bit confusing in parts. The actual stories are cute and easy to follow, but they include a lot characters and I didn't always know who they were at first. However, I eventually figured things out for the most part and found myself really enjoying this volume of stories.

    The Joker and Harley Quinn on Valentine's Day

    Li'l Gotham is perfect for younger Batman fans, as all the characters are drawn in miniature and each story focuses around various holidays, most involving a mystery that wraps up nice in the end. I could see parents that grew up loving Batman sharing these stories with their children to start their love of the superhero without the violence and more "scary moments." For me, it was cool to get to know some of the other people in the Batman universe through these comics (obviously collected together in this first volume). I've been on a Batman kick lately, so it's nice to get a better understanding in an easy to read format that doesn't take too much thought to get through.

    If you're completely new to Batman, you might want to look up some of the famous characters so you aren't left confused while reading, since nobody is really explained; they simply show up and do their thing, from the villains to the heroes. For example, the first stories show Batman and Robin but what you have to know is that the current Robin is Damian, Batman's biological son and not one of his earlier Robins (like Dick Grayson).

    Beyond that, I think this was a fun collection and I would definitely recommend to Batman fans, young and old. The second volume of Li'l Gotham comes out August 5, 2014, and I'm definitely excited to check it out! They're cute and fun and perfectly enjoyable!

    This was read for the Graphic Novel Reading Challenge

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Wickedly Whipped Creations Review (+Discount Code)

    Wickedly Whipped Creations 

    Review by Lauren

    items sent for review; all opinions are my own

    If you order from the shop, tell them you know Lauren from ShootingStarsMag and you'll get $5 off of your order!

    Wickedly Whipped Creations was nice enough to help me out with my friend's baby shower a couple weeks back. The theme was Tim Burton, and since that's not the most popular baby shower choice, it was difficult to find items. I love the challenge though and I think Tim Burton is great, so I was really excited to find a variety of ways to incorporate all things Burton-esque.

    The shop owners offer up a variety of items, but most popular seem to be their rice krispie and cake pops. This review could be finished with one word if I wanted and that would definitely be YUM. I've had plenty of homemade cake pops, but these were adorable and tasted great. The rice krispie pops had me most excited because I LOVE rice krispies and I was so curious to see how they would taste. These were amazing, and while I loved everything, I would say they were my favorite. I'm already trying to think of future reason to buy some more!

    As you can see from the above photo, the rice krispie pops were designed to look like Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The detail is just wonderful, especially on Sally since there is more to add for her face. I loved that each pop was wrapped nicely in plastic with a ribbon. I ended up eating some of these a few days or so after getting them and they still tasted fresh! I think the rice krispie pops were definitely well-liked by the party guests. One of the little girls (a friend's daughter) seemed particularly excited to carry hers around. Another girlfriend ate hers quite fast, and when I finally got to bite into one, I definitely savored every bite. Finally, my mom just ate hers the other day and thought it was fantastic, and it just shows how fresh the rice krispie pops were after a couple weeks.

    The cake pops were also made to look like Jack and Sally. I went with vanilla for the flavor as to not shock anyone's taste buds too much. Plus, I personally really like vanilla cake pops. These were very yummy and tasted great. I thought the cake was quite moist too. The design, once again, was done very well, and I loved how the faces looked on this "mini canvas" if you will!! I liked that the cake pops made fun little favors for people to eat at the party or take to bring home.

    This is definitely a wonderful etsy shop. I loved working with them, their products tasted great, and they really helped add to the overall party. I would recommend them and personally purchase from them in the future.

    And remember, if you mention you know me (Lauren from ShootingStarsMag), the shop will give you $5 off of your purchase! Think about Mother's Day, Graduation, and more coming up! These pops and more would make wonderful party favors and/or treats!

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    Theming Thursday: Mother's Day DIY Gifts (1)

    Today's Theming Thursday is all about Mother's Day (for the U.S. at least, as I know the U.K. just had theirs recently!). I have quite a few DIY Mother's Day gift ideas so I'm going to break it up between today and next Thursday. Therefore, if you are looking for anything specific, let me know and I will try and find something to share next week!!

    Use these for your own moms, or pass them along to your children or significant other to do for YOU!

    Kinzie's Kreations offers some free printables to put on a bag of M and M's. This is a sweet, simple gift for any mom. She even links to another blog that offers a free printable to have a little fun with the M and M's.

    Above is one of the printables you can find from the link Kinzie's Kreations links too. This blog, Over the Moon, offers a cute Q and A card with the M and M's to have a mom and their child bond a bit. Put both of these blogs' printables together and what a fun present! This would be fun for a younger child to give to their mom.

    Service coupons for Mom from Ambrosia Girl. Just print these out and your child can fill the coupons out with what they are willing to help you with - take out the trash, do the laundry, wash the dishes, etc. Easy to do and great for a slightly older child!

    Free printable bookmarks from Living Locurto. I like that there are a few options, from the two above, to World's Best Mom and Grandma. They even offer black and white options for your child to color in!

    This is how the Craftibilities blog set up their gift, but they offer free printables that you can use in your own way. Put them all in a tote, or a cute basket, etc! The tags include "Happy Mother's Day", "You're an EXTRA special woman and Mom! Love you!", and more. Obviously you grab items that fit the capitalized word, so EXTRA would be a flavor of Extra gum. This would be a fun project for teens or even for dad to do with the kids!

    That's it for this week. Remember, I'll have more DIY Mother's Day gifts for next Thursday so if you have something you want me to help find, leave your thoughts in the comments!

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Top Ten Bookish Items I Want!

    Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

    Today's Topic: Top Ten Bookish Things (that aren't books) That You Would Like To Own

    I'm late in posting this, but when I saw the topic, I knew I had to take part. I love owning book-themed items!


    Of Mice and Men t-shirt from Out of Print Clothing

    Harry Potter book purse from retrograndma
    Notable Novelists card game from Notable Novelists

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Review: B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

    B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

    Review by Lauren

    copy from library; all opinions are my own

    Official Summary: Once upon a time (right about now) there was a planet (how about this one?) whose inhabitants consumed thirty-six billion gallons of beer each year (it's a fact, you can Google it). Among those affected, each in his or her own way, by all the bubbles, burps, and foam, was a smart, wide-eyed, adventurous kindergartner named Gracie; her distracted mommy; her insensitive dad; her non-conformist uncle; and a magical, butt-kicking intruder from a world within our world.

    Review: This was another book title I came across at the library while working. The title looked familiar and I thought it might be a bit enjoyable to read this "Children's Book for Grown-ups" or "Grown-up Book for Children" - whichever you prefer.

    The book isn't very long, but it still took me a little bit to get into. It took me no more than an hour to read and there were certainly passages in the book that I found interesting. It wasn't as funny as I expected; instead, it offers up a good lesson on the limits of alcohol and how too much can affect you in a negative way. In that regard, it really did seem like a "Grown-up Book for Children" and as someone who does not drink alcohol, it's one I could appreciate. I don't mind people that drink, but in moderation!

    As for the summary, where it mentions a "butt-kicking intruder from a world within our world", the author is actually talking about a beer fairy. Yes, a beer fairy. She was the one giving out all the wisdom on proper drinking, etc. to Gracie. One of her quotes was something I really liked though-

    "Courage is where you find it. Having said that, I must admit that bravery that comes from a bottle - or from a book or a sermon, for that matter - lacks the full strength and purity of bravery that comes straight from the heart."

    Overall, it was a very quick read that I was able to find some meaning out of...though if I gave ratings, I'd say this is around a three star read overall.

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Theming Thursday: Free Easter Printables

    Easter is coming up and I thought it would be fun to share a list of FREE Easter printables.

    BluGrass Designs (via Catch My Party) has some fun, free printables for an Easter party. I really like these candy bar wrappers!

    Joy Ever After shares some free One of My Favorite Peeps printables if you want to gift something a little fun to a friend!

    Bunny Cakes offers some cute bunny cupcake toppers!

    Whimsically Detailed is also giving away some fun Easter party printables!

    The Rubber Punkin has some cute Egg Coloring party printables. There's the invitation (shown above) and some cute tags!