Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King

Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King

Review by Lauren

Source: review copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Hazel Rose never dreamed that the murder mystery book group she and her friend Carlene started would stage a real murder.

Nevertheless, the normally composed Carlene is unusually angry and rattled one night during a book group discussion and dies after drinking cyanide-spiked tea. Despite a suicide note, Hazel is skeptical; Carlene never seemed suicidal—she was busy making plans for her future. Incidentally, Carlene was married to Hazel’s ex-husband, and Hazel has always suspected there might be something more to her past than she let on.

How much does anyone really know about Carlene Arness? And did she die by her own hand or someone else’s? Hazel begins a search for the truth that produces no shortage of motives, as she unearths the past that Carlene took great pains to hide. And most of those motives belong to the members of her very own book group…

Review: When I was offered a chance to read Maggie King's debut novel, I happily accepted since I've been wanting to read more cozy mysteries. As I've only read a few, I can't really compare it to any others, but I can say that it was a very enjoyable read!

Hazel Rose is a middle-aged woman who has made her way through a mix of ex-husbands, her last actually making her a widow before they could officially divorce. This might make Hazel a good candidate for murdering her first ex-husband's current wife, but as Hazel is telling the story, she couldn't do it, right? Well, if not her, then probably one of the other book group members, right? This includes Carlene (the victim) Sarah, Lucy (not there that night), Trudy (not there that night) Annabel, Helen and her son Art, Kat, and new member on the night of the murder, Linda.

As Hazel decides to investigate the murder, not entirely convinced by the suicide note "Carlene" left behind, she realizes that all the members of her book group have something they could be hiding, and possible motive for wanting to get rid of Carlene. It becomes abundantly clear that Carlene was far different than most people realized, even her own sister, Kat. She lived a different life in the past and could have made a lot of enemies.

One of the things that I love about cozy mysteries is that they tend to have a theme, like food or books. This one, of course, is books, though with the way the book ends, I don't know how a "book-themed" sequel will happen. I would be happy to learn more about these characters though, especially with so many secrets and interesting tidbits unearthed throughout Hazel's investigation. 

I wasn't really sure who the murderer was, as there are many that it could have been. I loved learning new information throughout the book as it kept me turning back and forth between possible suspects. In the end, I was fairly surprised by the culprit. It wasn't someone I really ever had in mind until Hazel did, so that was exciting! I like being surprised, though cozy mysteries are usually fun even if you do guess.

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Look + Giveaway Reminder

I hope you like the new look of the blog - it's not quite finished yet, but it's getting there! I wanted to try something a bit new for the new year and make viewing the sides a bit easier with two columns instead of the one. I have Zoe from Stories on Stage to thank for helping me out with the design!

I just wanted to throw a quick thank you her way as well as remind all of you about my current giveaway. You can up to $15 from The Book Depository (open to everyone who TBD ships too - it's a lot!) if you do one of two discussion posts on your blog by January 17. There are two options, depending on what you are interested in and how much time you have to write. Neither of them have to be terribly long...so I hope more people will write something!

Right now the prize is $15 but if we get more people making posts, I might raise the amount you can win! Thanks to everyone who has already agreed to write something. I appreciate it. Whether you want to enter or not, please spread the word! My own post allows you to ask me a question - any question- so feel free to visit for that too if you wish. I'll answer these in the next week or so. Alicia, my co-blogger, will be coming back in a couple days so I'm giving her reign of the blog for a bit!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Batman Detective Comics: Faces of Death + iZombie Series

This past year, I took place in the Graphic Novel Reading Challenge as I really wanted to read more graphic novels. I signed up for the first level in the beginning (12 books) and then continued on to the Bronze Age, where you had to read/review 24 books during the year. I figured I'd post one post with my final graphic novels of 2014- I finished with 27, so that means I officially made it through the Bronze Age!!

Batman Detective Comics Volume 1- Faces of Death by Tony S. Daniel

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Bruce Wayne returns as Batman, and sets his sights on new villain the Gotham Ripper, who in turn has his sights on Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne explores a budding romance with television journalist Charlotte Rivers, who's visiting Gotham City to cover the gruesome slayings–while also trying to uncover Bruce's own mystery. But time is running out as both Commissioner Gordon and Batman work to uncover the true identity of this new serial killer.

Review: By now, most of you have realized my love for Batman and the graphic novel collections of new comics. I love the dark, gritty stories and this one definitely fit the bill. Batman/Bruce Wayne is battling a lot of gruesome killers in this one, from new killer the Dollmaker to old fan favorites the Joker and the Penguin. I've noticed that in a lot of these Batman collections there is usually a comic or so that leaves me a bit confused. I assume it's setting up something for the future, but I don't know yet. For this volume, there was only one section that had me confused; the rest of the book seemed to follow a linear storyline from beginning to end. Overall, I really liked this one, and I hope I can find the other volumes soon.

iZombie series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Review by Lauren

Source: copies from library; all opinions are my own

Review: I've heard of iZombie for awhile now, so I was excited to find all four volumes at my local library. Volume 1: Dead to the World, Volume 2: UVampire, Volume 3: Six Feet Under and Rising, and Volume 4: Repossession. All the comics are collected into these four volumes, and that's the entire story, so it was kind of cool to read something from beginning to end. At the same time, I would love to see more of these characters.

iZombie is mostly about a zombie named Gwen Dylan and her friends, Ellie (a ghost) and Scott (a were-terrier she refers to as Spot).

At least once a month, Gwen has to eat a brain so she doesn't turn into a shuffling, mumbling version of a zombie. Of course, when she eats a brain, she gets memories and even the voice of the dead. This often leads her to finishing up their final business. The rest of the time, she works as a grave digger (which is how she ends up getting the brains when she needs them), lives in a crypt, and spends time with her very unique friends.

Things start to get even weirder in the first volume though, when Gwen meets a man named Aman who tells Gwen she needs to do more than just eat a brain once a month to keep from becoming a true zombie. His ideas leave Gwen feeling weird though, as she wants to stay as far away from being an "actual" monster as she can. This storyline progresses throughout all the volumes, leading to what could easily be the end of the world if Gwen doesn't figure out how to stop it.

Throughout the comics, we learn more about Ellie and her background, Scott and his, and some other side characters that come into their lives to help defeat the end of the world. These were really fun comics, and again, I'd love to read more about the characters. The end was very bittersweet, but at the same time, it made sense. It didn't turn the whole story into a sudden "happily-ever-after" which would not have been realistic.

All in all, a good series!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Great Holiday and 12 Days of Christmas Blog Swap Reveals

I'm sharing my goodies from two winter-themed swaps I did in the past month or so. The first is the 12 Days of Christmas swap from Chaotic Goddess Swaps.

My partner was Morgan from Crafts and Craft Beers. She's active on other social media more than blogger, but it was great getting to know her and pick out 12 gifts for her to open this holiday season!

Here is what she got me:

Some of the packages when I first opened the box!
Candy at the bottom of my box of gifts!
Cute Snowman frame, L note cards, Penguin socks, etc.
Tree cookie cutter, deer ornaments, gummy worms (love), etc.

This is everything all put together!

The next blog swap I participated in was called The Great Holiday Blog Swap (no button for this one) hosted by Erika at Cat Eyes and Skinny Jeans. The idea behind this swap was to gather items for your swap partner that represented winter to you! I was paired with Felicia from the blog Ellie.

This is what she gave me:

These two photos have everything in one. Some E.L.F. products (I really like the nail polish), a book, a movie, a slouchy hat (need to wear these more), etc.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie

Review by Lauren

Source: bought a copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered when the tyrannical Simeon Lee is found dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. When Hercule Poirot offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man.

Review: I've been trying to read more Agatha Christie, and in particular, the stories that involve her iconic detective, Hercule Poirot. Amazon is currently selling many Christie e-books at a good price, so I happily picked up this story and read it in a matter of days. I'm sure many of you could finish it in one day, actually, as it's not very long. I was hoping to have this review up yesterday, for Christmas Day, but I figured most of you would be skipping the internet so I might as well wait for the day after!

Now, as to the story, I really enjoyed this one. Simeon Lee, the head of the Lee family, is not someone that people really like...not even his own family. He's giving, yes, but he's also mean and able to hold a grudge for years. He invites his whole family to spend Christmas with him, but when the patriarch is found with his throat slashed, Hercule Poirot comes in to help the police catch the killer. As those who have the most motive and opportunity, Simeon Lee's family are immediately the main suspects.

When I'm reading a mystery, I don't always think too deeply about who may have committed the crime, especially if the book is a quick read. I just let the author take me on the ride. For this one, it was mostly the same. There is a curious moment in the book that relates back to the perpetrator in the end that I did notice at the time. If I'd really stopped to think about it more, I probably would have had the ultimate criminal in sights before it was revealed. As it was, I wasn't terribly surprised by the killer...but how they went about the crime was definitely interesting.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and I'm excited to check out more Christie!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman 

Review by Lauren

Source: bought a copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Something is out there . . .
Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

Review: Christy's Love of Books reviewed this novel and it definitely grabbed my attention. I used to be too scared to really read horror or "scary" novels but lately, I've found myself more and more interested. Bird Box has a terrifying premise...imagine not being able to open your eyes outside, or even inside if the windows are not completely covered. Nobody knows what you see, because anyone that does inevitably goes mad. The details of what happens to these people are gruesome and awful to imagine. With all these adjectives, I might not be selling this book...but really, it was great!

Malorie is just a normal girl until this epidemic starts taking over the world. She is pregnant, though, and desperate to survive for her babies' sake. She makes her way to a safe house of sorts where she meets a man named Tom who is in charge of keeping everyone safe. This book goes back and forth between the present and the past. The present is Malorie and her two children, who she refers to as Boy and Girl (even to them) traveling down a river, trying to reach safety. The past is about the epidemic and how it worsens, Malorie reaching the safe house, and then what happens within the house and how it leaves just Malorie and her children in the present.

The past moments were definitely my favorite because that's the bulk of the story. You're always wondering if someone is going to get hurt, what's really lurking outside, and how all these people can survive within one house together. The present is harrowing too, of course, but those chapters aren't as long since it's just Malorie traveling the river. There are scary moments and you desperately want them all to be safe, but what really waits them at the end of this journey?

I would warn anyone who has children before first reading this book. It's tough to read about Malorie's treatment of her children. It's understandable, as she was forced to train them to be better than her at surviving this world from the moment they were born. They are just little kids though, and it's awful to imagine them having to grow up in this fashion.

Overall, this was a great, original story. I could see it being a film...though one that is a bit quiet and haunting, music used to up the suspense and danger.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ask Me Anything- No Really, Ask Me! (Giveaway added)

Yesterday was the release date of the new film, Ask Me Anything, starring Britt Robertson. It was also written and directed by Allison Burnett, who wrote the novel it was based on, Undiscovered Gyrl. I had a couple discussion post ideas for people to use to help promote the film. If you would like to help out, refer to this post.

JUST ADDED: if you decide to do one of the two discussion post ideas, linked above, then I will enter you into a giveaway to win whatever you want up to $15 from The Book Depository - open to anyone who TBD ships too, and that's a lot! To enter, make a post, and email me the link to pass along to Allison and you're entered. My email: Lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Giveaway ends Saturday, January 17 2015 (so Jan. 17 is the last day your post could go live!)

I have decided to do the Ask Me Anything blog post- where you get to, that's right, ask me anything! I can always refuse to answer something, but I'll do my best to answer any questions about me, my blog, whatever!

First off, I want to let you know that the movie is out now at the Arena Theatre in LA (and more theaters soon we hope!) as well as most digital platforms imaginable, such as iTunes. Be sure to visit the official facebook!

And now, ask away! What do YOU want to know?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vitamins and Death - Book Blast Giveaway

VITAMINS AND DEATH, Prizm Books/Torquere Press, December 10, 2014
Purchase from Prizm, Amazon – Vendor sites will be updated on the author’s site.

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother's briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High. Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, she thinks no one will figure out they're the Battles from recent news and that they're safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed Deidra's life. Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Find Medeia – YA and MG Author

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Book Blast Giveaway

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Discussion Post Ideas!

Hey everyone! I'm sure most of you have seen my review for Ask Me Anything by now. If not, it's about a post down! I'm currently trying to help the screenwriter/director, Allison Burnett (he also wrote the novel it's based on!) spread the word. At the same time, we'd really love to get discussions going about online identity.

Therefore, if you'd be willing to write up a discussion post on your blog, we would love to know about it! All you have to do is mention the film (say the post is inspired by it, whatever!) and include a link for people to learn more. They have a facebook page, or you can link to IMDB. Again, that's up to you!

The contents of the post, however, will be about online identity. Do you use a pseudonym? Why or why not? Do you share personal details about your life? Do you share photos of yourself/friends/family? A couple other bloggers have already expressed interest in writing something, so I'd love to have more of you sharing your thoughts and experiences!

If this isn't something you're interested in doing, but you would like to still spread the word about the film (it comes out this Friday, Dec. 19th!!) then you can do another type of post titled....ASK ME ANYTHING! Yeah, I'm original. I might be doing this on Friday myself. The idea is to allow your blog readers to, yes that's right, ask you anything. It's hopefully a fun way to get to know the bloggers behind the blog. Of course, you should think about the questions you're asking. You can ask something a bit more personal (hence Ask Me Anything) but every blogger is allowed to answer the questions they deem appropriate or the ones they are willing to answer. That's their right!

Anyway, I hope one of these will inspire a post in you! If you're going to post something, please let me know. Comment here with the link or email me and I'll pass it along to Allison.

Ask Me Anything Facebook - like them!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger

The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know by Brent Hartinger

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley/author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn't keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren't cutting it anymore.

What's the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn't?

Enter Kevin, Russel's perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies in a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russell will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar's crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!

One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it's a thing he doesn't even know he doesn't know.

Review: You might remember the Russel Middlebrook books, starting with Geography Club, which I reviewed in the past. This is the same guy, but now he's 23 and this new series of books reads more like NA than YA, and I loved it! This is what I wanted when people started talking about NA. Similar stories about growing up and making your way through life, like YA and Adult books cover, but focused on the twenty-something crowd. Nothing too angsty or books all about sex. Something realistic, at least in terms of contemporary YA.

As for this particular book, Russel is living on a houseboat in Seattle with his long-time best friends, Min and Gunnar. Min is in graduate school and making new friends. Gunnar earned a lot of money with a successful app, which paid for the houseboat and allows him to aimlessly research new interests, like Bigfoot. As for Russel, he's working two jobs and hooking up with random guys because he let his high school boyfriend "walk" away. Now that boyfriend, Kevin, is in town and Russel isn't sure if dating him again would make things better or not. Russel has also met an older lady named Vernie Rose, who has been through a lot in her life and is happy to pass along her wisdom and knowledge.

I really appreciated this book, being in my twenties at the moment, because sometimes it does feel like other people have their lives figured out and you're just wandering. I definitely have goals and a path that I'm moving toward, but there are plenty of things I don't know or haven't done yet. It's all a part of life, and it's great to follow Russel on that journey.

Since this is NA, there are some sexual scenes. Nothing too overly graphic, but just something I like to point out! I'm definitely excited for the second book in this new series, coming out in 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Film Review: Ask Me Anything

Ask Me Anything 

Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/AskMeAnythingFilm

Film review by Lauren

Official Synopsis: Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt takes a year off before college to find herself, all the while chronicling her adventures in an anonymous blog into which she pours her innermost secrets. Eventually, Katie's fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.

Review: Author Allison Burnett's novel, Undiscovered Gyrl, is hitting the big screen as Ask Me Anything, starring Britt Robertson, Justin Long, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, and more. What's even more exciting about this is that Burnett wrote the screenplay and directed the movie based on his own novel.

I read and really enjoyed Undiscovered Gyrl, so I was excited to get the chance to view Ask Me Anything before it's December 19 release date (select theaters and many digital platforms). Katie is taking a year off between high school and college but she doesn't really know what she wants to do. She finds a brief job at a bookstore, and then ends up being a nanny for a little boy. At the same time, she is really coming into her sexuality. At the start of the film, she is having a sexual relationship with a film professor, even they both are in a relationship. She's wandering, a bit lost, and she catalogs this year in a blog.

It's easy to look at Katie's actions and condemn them, but the story is more than that. Katie is obviously searching for herself, and at the same time, she surrounds herself with an interesting cast of characters. These people make up a large part of the story, though it's all through Katie's point of view. Ask Me Anything is one of those movies where the less you say, the better. The book was the same way. There are moments throughout that you don't want anyone to spoil for you, so I'm trying not to say too much.

I did like the idea of Katie keeping a blog though, as I'm a blogger too. I don't write about my personal life all the time and I definitely don't go into the details that Katie does, but it makes you wonder about people that do. The blogging aspect is something that you just have to see the movie to really understand, but it's essential to the film. 

Overall, this was a very enjoyable film. The acting was well done, and with so many well-known names, nobody overshadowed anybody else. Britt Robertson was exceptional as Katie; she really breathed life into the character and reminded me of Evan Rachel Wood in the film Thirteen. If you enjoyed that movie, I think you would like Ask Me Anything as well. Both deal with realistic, sometimes tough issues, but the characterization and acting really make it worth watching.

Burnett did a great job, and I commend him for making his wonderful novel into an equally fantastic film. I hope you will check it out next Friday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: Batman and Son

Batman and Son by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, and Tony S. Daniel

Review by Lauren

source: copy from library, all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Batman receives the shock of his life when he discovers that he has a son, Damian! After violent conflict with Robin and Damian, Batman must teach his son what it means to carry the legacy of Gotham's Dark Knight. Meanwhile, mysterious Batman imposters begin to appear on the streets of Gotham. One of these imposters begins to kill cops, working his way towards Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. But after failing in his pursuit and being captured, Batman falls into a coma and his mind flashes back to a defining adventure in the life of a young Bruce Wayne...the hunt for his parents' killer!

Review: Yes, I'm back with another Batman graphic novel. Don't worry, I won't make this a long review. Overall, I liked this story. I find it fascinating to learn more about Damian, Batman's son. However, I don't feel like he was used much in this particular collection. I also found it a bit difficult to follow the storyline sometimes. I suppose that's because they go "back in time", so to speak, based on the summary. Regardless, I tried to just read each chapter on its own and I really enjoyed most of them.

I have read this is the beginning of Grant Morrison's Batman run, which is apparently great, so I am curious to try and read more by Morrison. I just need to find what comes next and where I can find copies!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Did you know Batman had a son?

I read this for the Graphic Novel Challenge- 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey

The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey

Review by Lauren

copy from Netgalley: all opinions are my own

Official SummaryMagician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.
But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.
Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another performer, they all face running out of time long before the Devil claims his due.
Review: This book was fantastic! I've been trying to read more genres other than contemporary, and The Circus of the Damned was one fantasy book that really worked for me. Gilbert is a magician, and he uses his skills to win card games and lots of money. He does his best to make sure that people don't suspect he is really a magician though, one with actual powers. One night he goes too far though, and Count Reuben is soon after him, leading Gilbert right into the path of the Circus. The ringmaster, Jesse, is honest with Gilbert about joining the Circus, but a drunk Gilbert is ready to do anything to get away from the rough gang after him. So he joins...and now he's stuck for life like the other members, an eclectic cast of characters that really helped make the book.

As the book goes on, Gilbert does develop a relationship with Jesse and there are a few graphic, sexual scenes. However, this is not the main focus of the book, so even if that aspect leaves you a bit wary, I would still recommend trying this out. Jesse has a dark, burdened past and it's difficult not to feel sorry for him. He is more than what he seems, but he is still on the good side of this deal with the Devil. Gilbert isn't so sure about Jesse or the Circus at first, but he eventually begins to feel at home with these people who are not afraid to self-identify as "freak", a word that Gilbert has run from his whole life.

There is only one scene where the Circus gives a performance and you learn just what everyone does, and it was so wonderfully written. It's something I wish I could see with my own eyes, though the book provides enough details to let your imagination run wild. I was particularly surprised by what Gilbert comes up with. It was spooky and yet fantastic, all at the same time.

Overall, I really loved this book. It was a fast read, but also something I didn't want to end. I would definitely root for a sequel.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lauren's Christmas Wish List

Christmas is fast approaching and I've been spending a lot of time buying gifts for other people. That's honestly one of my favorite things about the season- giving to other people. It sounds like a cliche, but for me, it's totally the truth. I love trying to come up with unique and fun items for all the people on my list in hopes that they will truly appreciate it. It's often something I think about throughout the whole year. However, that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate a nice gift for myself, so for fun, I thought I'd share some items on my personal "wish list." Share your thoughts/wish list items in the comments!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio was a book I read for my children's literature course this semester. I borrowed the book from the library, so I don't personally own a copy. I loved the story though and would love to have my own version. This new gift set even includes the book 365 Days of Wonder which is full of precepts, or quotes from famous people and fans of the book Wonder. If you've read the book, you understand the meaning behind these precepts. I'd love to own both of these books!

You can get this set from Target, on sale right now for $20.90

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is one of my favorite films. I love the dancing, the music, and Diego Luna is one of my favorite actors. Despite loving this movie so much, I don't own a copy, so it would be great to finally get one so I can watch it whenever I like!

You can get this DVD from Amazon right now for $5. 88

This tote bag represents The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and the color portion is made up of the novel's actual words. Isn't it awesome? You can get it in blue (the above photo) or in black. I think I'd like the black best, but I love both! This would be such a cool bag to bring to the library!

You can get it from Litograph now for $29.00

Another awesome tote! This one is from Society6 and it's obviously all about Disney. I'm such a Disney lover; this tote would be fun to own. Society6 has some awesome items. I highly recommend checking out the site!

You can get this tote from Society6 for $22

Tove Lo is a new Swedish singer that I am really loving. I already own her EP, but she now has a full album out called Queen of the Clouds. I'd love to own this sometime soon!

You can get the album from Amazon for $8.99! Great price!

And that's about it! I'm sure there are a lot of other things I would love to own, but honestly, I have a difficult time telling people what I want when they ask for ideas.

Earn Money Shopping Online!

If you are a big online shopper like I am though, I would suggest signing up for Ebates. You get money back just for shopping a bunch of stores online like Target and Amazon! I have been part of this site for a long time but I always forget to go there before shopping. I'm determined to do it now though to earn some extra money. If you want to sign up, I'd love it if you could go through my link!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Glass Prince by Sandra Bard

The Glass Prince by Sandra Bard

Review by Lauren

copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Kidnapping was not Daniel's plan, but when he met a man who seemed unaffected by his magic, Daniel couldn't just let him go. 

Eren has every reason to hate Daniel, and no reason at all to like him. He's not some fairytale to be kept in a glass room at the top of a tower. And he's definitely going to have to rescue himself. He has a mother and girlfriend to get back to, after all, and a life waiting for him. 

But the hardest part of escaping proves to be his reluctance to leave a man who is much more than he at first seemed...

Review:  This was an interesting book, I have to admit. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started reading, but I knew I was curious. Daniel is a mage, but he wasn't born one. His family had this wonderful gift to mold and shape glass to create beautiful sculptures, which they would sell as a family business. Growing up, Daniel felt like an outcast among his own family because he didn't have any powers. The Glass Prince takes place in the present, but readers get the background story of Daniel and how he became master of glass throughout the book.

Eren's power is that magic doesn't affect him. Once he receives his power, Daniel cannot control it enough to really touch anyone. He wears gloves when he's around people, though he spends most of his time in solitude. As you can see, Daniel was fascinated when he realized that he could actually touch Eren and not hurt him. It was exhilarating after all these years of not allowing people to touch him. This quick obsession with Eren does lead Daniel to "kidnap" him, though the initial kidnapping really was more of Daniel trying to help. What turns it into something bad is when he refuses to allow Eren to leave.

Developing any sort of relationship in these conditions seems wrong, and a bit like Stockholm Syndrome (which is mentioned) but at the same time, it also felt believable for the most part. This is an M/M romance, but there are not any truly graphic moments. A large focus of the book apart from Daniel and Eren's growing attachment is the magical aspects of Daniel's life and those he knows, which I did find really interesting! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Review by Lauren

source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.

Review: This book is based on the author's own experiences leaving Vietnam, which definitely adds more poignancy to the overall story. The entire book is told in verse, which I really loved. It's easy to read, but it also allows you to get into the head of Hà and see the world through her eyes, from her papaya tree in Vietnam to a child's view of a mother's grief (Hà's father has been missing even before they leave for America).

Each poem is given a title at the beginning and then a date at the bottom, to show when Hà is writing. I think verse was a great choice for this book because it's so personal and it can easily evoke the emotion needed. I read this book for my children's literature class, and I'm glad to say I did. I had heard of this book before, but I had never given it much thought. I think this is a book that adults would really love as well. Hà is a child, but she has adult issues to deal with as well.

Looking at the cover, I feel like this story would make a wonderful animated film.