Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Zulily: Great Deals on Awesome Gifts!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and then it's Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I personally love this time of the year because you can find some awesome deals on Christmas presents. However, there are plenty of ways you can find good deals all year long. I try and take advantage of these when I can. One such site is Zulily. They have various specials every day. Just visit the website, search the main page for an event that looks good, and check out all the wonderful deals available.

I've been browsing this site for awhile now and there is always something I wish I could buy for myself or someone else. If you're looking for some awesome gifts, at a good price, then definitely sign up. It's free- you can even use your facebook or twitter to sign up. Once you sign up using my affiliate link, and make your first order, I get $15 credit to Zulily. I'd love it if you some of you would sign up with my link! That way if you happen to find something to buy, I get credit to try and finish up some of my own Christmas shopping! Obviously, I totally recommend this site and I would personally buy a lot of these products, so definitely check it out!

There are stocking stuffers, toys, books, clothes, and so much more!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Put Me In a Story this Holiday Season (Big Giveaway)

 The holidays are fast approaching and that means time for family gatherings, traditions, and enjoying the magic of the season! Now you can cuddle up with the children in your life and celebrate #BookMagic with Put Me in the Story. This is a fantastic website from Sourcebooks that allows you to choose from a variety of titles to personalize for that little one in your life. One thing I love about the website is that it gives you options under various "themes" like Favorite Characters (Disney, Hello Kitty, etc.), Occasion (Birthdays, New Baby, etc.) and more.

One of things that I always loved opening up on Christmas morning was a book. I've been a lifelong reader and it's something that I hope my niece and nephew will enjoy as well. Right now, I know they like looking at books and having them read to them. This is a great start, and the holidays are a fantastic time to get with the kids and read a favorite story---or even a new one!

 Put Me in the Story has been kind enough to offer me my choice of book from their website for a little one in my life, and boy are there a lot of them! This would be a fantastic gift. I have decided to go with Our Little Deer by Sandra Magsamen.

From their website: Your little “deer” will always know how dear they are to your heart with this special personalized book! 

Families will love snuggling up together to read this adorable, personalized book that shows your little one just how special they are. Cute, holiday illustrations and sweet messages of love will have everyone smiling in good cheer! 

Show your little star how bright they shine with Sandra Magsamen’s Our Little Deer—personalized with your child’s name and photo, and a special dedication page with a message from you! Share a whole lot of love with your little “deer” this holiday season and all the way through the years ahead! 

Using the Rafflecopter below, enter to win your own personalized books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prizes (Drawn December 6th): · Grand prize: $500 shopping spree on Put Me In The Story
 · 50 winners will receive a free personalized book of their choice

This giveaway is run by Sourcebooks/Put Me in the Story. I have no control over it.

I would, however, love to hear your thoughts below about these personalized books in the comments below! How are books part of your holiday season?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shooting Thoughts: The Struggle to Juggle

Welcome back to Shooting Thoughts, my randomly posted discussion post! Today I want to talk about trying to fit it all in - blogging and life.

The Struggle to Juggle

I've been meaning to talk about this topic for awhile now, but I was really inspired when I started a new job a couple weeks ago. At the moment, I work 20 hours a week at that job, between 8 and 9 1/2 hours at my other job (I scaled down some hours when I got this new job), and I'm a full-time graduate student with all my classes online (3 classes is full-time). Add in regular life with family and friends and blogging, I'm pretty busy. So far, I'm doing okay with reading for fun which is nice for the blog and keeping somewhat up to date on book reviews. But it's still difficult..hence the fact that I didn't have anything posted between last Wednesday and Monday. Sorry about that, by the way. I'm trying to at least fill up MWF, especially with scheduling ahead of time, but again, it's still hard.

I'd love to know what things in your life that you have to juggle along with being a blogger. Some of you post something almost every weekday and I just don't know how you do it! I'm sure people definitely utilize the schedule function, like I have been trying to do, but even then, you have to find time to write up reviews and all sorts of other posts. I'm lucky in that I focus on a variety of things for my blog, so I don't have to worry about just book reviews or other book-related items. Like I said above, I'm currently doing okay with my reading but I'm not some super fast reader. If I can get one book read a week, that would be great. Sometimes it's two if I read a graphic novel or something smaller. I'm trying to keep up with book reviews as much as I can, so I can space them out, but for all the other empty days, I need to come up with something to post.

Besides scheduling posts ahead of time, how else do you juggle all your responsibilities with being a blogger and all other aspects of your life? My long-time job was nice enough to let me take a day off each week to make time for my new job and class. They know the new job is important because it's a temporary position within an academic library, and my long-time job is a public library. Since I'm mixing my classes between public and academic, it's good to get as much experience as I can. Working a lot and still trying to read, do homework, and work on projects for class is overwhelming sometimes though. I need to get a lot of sleep and try and do things ahead of time. I try not to plan too much on certain days if I know I need to do a lot of reading or something is due soon.

Anyway, I don't want to ramble on and on about my own life. I'd love to hear what you juggle and how you deal with it!

Monday, November 17, 2014

This is Sarah by Ally Malinenko

This is Sarah by Ally Malinenko

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin's world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that changes everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so how can he bring her back?

As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going even if it kills her.

Review: This book is simple in plot, but full of emotion. The book is told in two first-person point of views. Some chapters you get Colin, the boyfriend and last person to see Sarah before she disappears, and Clarie, Sarah's younger sister who has always had a crush on Colin.

This book surrounds Sarah, but it's not entirely about her. This book is about the holes that people leave when they go away. In Sarah's case, these are huge holes because there is no closure. Sarah is probably dead; many people believe this. But without knowing where she went or who might have taken her, there is always the question. Colin holds onto this idea of Sarah still being out there in order to keep himself from healing. He goes to therapy but doesn't truly open up. Claire, on the other hand, knows her sister is gone. She knows that she can never be the "perfect" daughter and she often wishes she had disappeared instead.

The book is mostly Colin's story, I think, though Claire definitely has her part. It was sad hearing from either of them because they feel stuck in the past. Neither of them can really let go of Sarah. It doesn't help that Claire loves Colin and almost wants him to see Sarah in her and is willing to do whatever she can to make him happy. Colin isn't happy though. He's not even grieving, really. He's just...angry.

While there isn't a huge plot to this story, it still works. It's about growth and change. It's about life and death. It's about love and friendship. It's about moving on. This is Sarah is a mystery in a way, but that's not really what it's about. Even as a reader, we have to learn that sometimes answers don't appear and people go away.

I would definitely recommend! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography

The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography by Kathryn Hamm and Thea Dodds

Review by Lauren

Source: Copy from Blogging for Books; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: With nearly half of the states in the US (and 13 countries) currently recognizing same-sex partnerships, the market for LGBT weddings is poised for explosive growth, offering great opportunity for today's wedding photographers. But capturing portraits in this new market requires a new approach to posing, which until now has been nearly exclusively oriented toward pairing a larger man in black with a smaller woman in white. What works for Jack and Jill won't necessarily work for Jack and Michael, let alone Jill and Louise. The New Art of Capturing Love rewrites these traditional techniques, giving photographers the tools to create flattering, emotion-filled images for any couple in today's dynamic wedding market.

Review:  I might not be a professional photographer, but I can admire good photography. Plus, I'm a big fan of love, in all types of forms. Therefore, I really loved checking out this book about LGBT wedding photography. I've never given it much thought, but it's true that a lot of typical wedding shots would not work for a couple of the same sex. It was really interesting to see new pose ideas in this book. They even include ideas for the wedding "objects" like dresses, suits, shoes, rings, etc. as well as wedding party/group shots.


There are Behind the Lens moments where the photographer whose photo is highlighted share some thoughts about the shot, or the couple in the shot. I loved the more personal information the best, of course, since I don't take pictures for a living. I think this book has a nice mix for fans of photography to those who want to try and recreate these moments. I liked how the authors included their thoughts throughout the book to help photographers in using some of these ideas. They note to talk to the couple and see how comfortable they are with PDA and other things that photographers might take for granted. They also note how some poses will work better for some couples than others, depending on heights, what they are wearing, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I hope it does well because it has some great tips for Gay and Lesbian weddings!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Level 26: Dark Prophecy by Anthony E. Zuiker

Level 26: Dark Prophecy by Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Steve Dark is a man with a unique talent for catching serial killers. Now he's on a mission to embrace his destiny, unbound by authorities, moral or otherwise, and supported by a mysterious benefactor with unknown goals of her own.

Review: I read the first book in this series, Dark Origins, last year and really loved it. It took me awhile to read the sequel, but I'm definitely glad to have finally grabbed a copy. Now I just need to read the third and final book!

Back to Dark Prophecy though...this is a series about a man named Steve Dark who worked for a government department named Special Circs who hunted down the most horrific killers. Dark Origins was the first book in the series, as I stated above, and introduces you to Dark and his family. He is dealing with a psycho serial killer that seems to have it out for Dark. In Dark Prophecy, Steve is trying to change his life but it's not easy for him to walk away from his life's career.

Level 26 means a serial killer that is off the normal 1-25 chart the FBI keeps. They do not seem to kill for a particular reason; they change methods and places. I think the killer in Dark Origins was more freaky than Dark Prophecy, but it was still very interesting. Dark Prophecy deals with a killer the media soon dubs the Tarot Card Killer because they are staging the murders to look like the images on the cards. I thought this was really interesting and I was curious as to why this was done. Don't worry, you do find out in the end.

One of the most interesting aspects about these books is that they are digi-novels. You can visit the Level 26 website, click the book you read, and it takes you to a playlist on Youtube where you can watch videos. Throughout the book there are moments where they tell you to watch a video, so you know when to do so. I tried to keep up with the videos for the first book, but with the second book, I never really had time. I watched part of the first video, but so far, I have not checked out the rest. This doesn't take away from the book, of course. It's just an additional aspect for those that like something visual to go along with your books! Plus, the videos are really well done and have wonderful actors. These are not amateur videos.

I'm loving this series, and with only three in all, I do hope some of you will dive in and check these out!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Sign-Up!

I'm so excited for the Chaotic Goddess Swaps 12 Days of Christmas! You will get matched up with a fellow blogger and after learning a bit more about them, you send them 12 gifts and they send you 12 gifts to open up one day at a time around the holidays! I've done this swap before and it's one of my favorites, so I hope some of you will join in. Who knows? Maybe we'll get paired up!


  • Sign-Ups Close on November 10th, 2014
  • Partners Assigned on November 12th, 2014
  • Packages Ship by December 6th, 2014
  • You open 1 wrapped gift per day starting December 13th
  • Swap Show-Off Post/Linky goes life on December 24th!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Adult Review: A Secret Match by Kelli A. Wilkins

A Secret Match by Kelli A. Wilkins

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Everett Kinkade is a world-famous professional wrestler and the sexy heartthrob of millions of adoring female fans. But Ev has a secret he doesn’t dare share with anyone. He’s gay.

After years of being Ev’s secret lover, Josh is tired of hiding in the shadows and wants Ev to openly acknowledge their relationship. Coming out is the last thing Ev wants and fears it will ruin his career.

One night in a moment of truth, Everett outs himself on live TV. There’s no going back, and his announcement sparks a firestorm of problems – both personally and professionally. He’s forced to come to grips with who he really is while facing down a tag team out to destroy him.

Torn between living a lie and losing the man he loves, Ev has risked everything… can he find a balance between his career and his heart?

Review: I really enjoyed A Secret Match because I could understand both sides. I knew that Ev was in the spotlight and part of his "facade" is that he's a ladies' man. He's worried that if he comes out as gay that he will ruin his career. At the same time, Josh loves Ev but he doesn't want to be kept a secret their whole life. The two of them have a difficult time even going out in public for fear that someone will recognize Ev and out him to the media.

When Josh gives what seems to be an ultimatum, Ev realizes that he loves Josh too much to just let him go. However, he doesn't realize he's going to out himself on live TV until it's happening. There is no going back for Ev or Josh, and now the two of them have to work together to make their relationship work under the firestorm. Sure, not everyone is upset by Ev's news, but there are plenty of homophobic people.

I think the idea of making Ev a professional wrestler was great because it's a career a lot of people don't associate with a gay man. It shows that Ev is a complete person, regardless of his sexuality and his career. There are plenty of sexual moments, some more graphic than others, throughout the book. They work within the overall story though. That's the main issue I have with romance books. I don't mind sex scenes if they work within the overall plot, and this works! I would definitely check out more books by this author.

On a slightly different note, this book reminded me of a German soap opera called Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love) where a wrestler (Christian) ultimately falls for another guy (Olli) and they have to deal with the two lives. Christian actually comes out after winning a match, except his guy is there to celebrate with him, hence the photo below:

I thought of the similarities while reading, so I figured I would share! You can search their storyline via youtube if you're curious!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (I would stick to the first paragraph only!): After her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia's mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn't always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren't part of the "in" crowd.

At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she's dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it's hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia's father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

Review: I mention only reading the first paragraph for the summary above because the second part gives away a big moment in the book. Sure, you can read it and still enjoy the book, like I did. However, once I'd read the summary, I found myself waiting for this specific moment to occur and it doesn't until later in the novel. Now that we're past that though, I have to say that I did like this book. It's not a new favorite of mine but it does deal with a lot of important topics in a good way.

Sonia is half Indian (her dad is from India) and half Jewish American (from her mom's side). Her family doesn't really celebrate any Jewish customs though, unless her grandparents are around. This leaves Sonia feeling less than Jewish and not sure what to call herself when it comes to religion. As for her race, she starts getting questions at public school about whether she's black or not. She's not sure what to say because she's lighter than the black kids, but darker than the white kids. Nobody seems to understand that she's half Indian, and Indian as in India and not Native Americans.

I really felt for Sonia because I went to small, private schools until college and I was really nervous about the change. I can't imagine being as young as Sonia and going from a Montessori type school to a public middle school and trying to fit in. She becomes friends with a girl named Alisha, but she starts to ignore her when Kate takes an interest in her. Kate is popular and wants Sonia to be like her. While Sonia likes Alisha and isn't trying to hurt her feelings, she is a bit blind to how she's affecting Alisha and what it might look like since Alisha is black and Kate is white. I hated reading how the black and white kids sit on opposite sides of the lunchroom. It just goes to show that people don't have to be segregated by a government for it to still occur.

Beyond this, Sonia is dealing with family issues since her dad lost his job and is dealing with a lot of depression. It's sad to view it through her eyes since she doesn't fully understand what is going on and she just wants her old dad back.

All in all, this was a good story. I love that it focuses on two important issues in an easy-to-read way. Oh, and this was yet another book for my children's literature class, in case anyone is interested!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

Review: The Wednesday Wars was another book for my children's literature class, and after reading it, I can definitely see why it's an award-winning novel. This book is one that could easily be read by those in middle or high school. Holling is in the seventh grade but he doesn't sound terribly young and the events in and around his life could be understood by a variety of ages.

As the summary states, this book takes place during the Vietnam War. Besides that though, this book could take place today. Holling deals with everyday situations like teachers and family. For his family, his dad is pretty strict and doesn't want his children causing trouble, especially if it might upset someone who could be a potential client (Holling's dad is an architect). I could understand Holling's dad being worried about business and wanting to leave his son with something successful in the future, but he was difficult to like. I appreciated the growing relationship between Holling and his sister, Heather, though.

"Holling," she said, "I was so afraid I wouldn't find you."
"I was standing right here, Heather," I said. "I'll always be standing right here."

Obviously one of the biggest relationships Holling has in the book is with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. She doesn't seem to like Holling much in the beginning, though I suppose it's more that she has to find something for just one child to do while the other kids go to church or temple on Wednesday afternoon. Eventually, she decides to teach Holling Shakespeare, which Holling does grow to enjoy and he finds similarities between the plays and characters in his own life. I thought this was enjoyable, because I do like Shakespeare, but even if you don't, you shouldn't worry about that! Shakespeare is mentioned throughout, but the book is so much more than that.

Check this out soon if you haven't read it already. I think you'll find something to enjoy.