Friday, September 30, 2016

October is Harry Potter Month


October is an important month in the Harry Potter series. A lot of things happen, including the death of Harry's parents and the start of him being The Boy Who Lived. As such, I decided that October would be the perfect month to celebrate all things Harry and you are welcome to join in! Have something HP related you want to talk about? Post on your blog and I'll share here, or if you want me to post about it, get in touch and I will try and make it work. If you want to share the above graphic, please do. You can just link it to this post or my main blog page!

Things to look forward to in October:

1. A post on each individual book (so 7 in all) from 7 different book lovers!

2. A few other HP related guest posts

3. At LEAST 10 HP giveaways (and yes, some are open to Canada and some are even International - read each giveaway to find out)

4. A review of the Harry Potter Studio Tour in England - with many fun photos

5. A review of the PLAY Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

6. And so much more!

If you think you might want to write something on your own blog, let me know and I can set up a linky that will go throughout the month where you can link up and share with others. I'll do my best to tweet out any HP themed posts too.

For now, make sure you are following the blog or even follow me on Twitter to get updates on everything, especially the giveaways! Also, real quick, the current auction is an annotated and signed copy of With Malice by Eileen Cook. Follow that blog for future auctions (and giveaways!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryBristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.


ReviewKingdom of Ash and Briars is a book that I randomly came across at BEA 16, but I am very excited that I did! I've read and enjoyed fairy tale re-tellings in the past, but they aren't something that I seek out time and again. What I truly loved about this one is that it's based around more than one fairy tale, mixing the stories of Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Sleeping Beauty. It also says it takes from Austen's Emma, but as I haven't read that book, I didn't notice the comparisons. Regardless, it was great reading through the book and seeing where the various fairy tales came into play, creating a completely new and enjoyable book! 

The story of Kingdom of Ash and Briars follows an orphan girl named Bristal who discovers she is one of the long lost elicromancers, immortal beings with great power. There used to be many more, but now there are only two currently in existence, known as Tamarice and Brack. Bristal joins them to train and learn how to use her power, but it's not long before danger is looming over them.

It's hard to talk about this book because I feel like even the smallest details could be seen as a spoiler, and I do think you should go in knowing as little as possible. I will say that I loved Bristal. She's a smart young woman, willing to sacrifice her happiness for the good of others. I appreciated her bravery and willingness to fight. She's definitely a heroine to root for throughout the book. This book is a stand-alone, which is great. It could have been stretched out, but I feel like it works much better as one single book, with all things reaching their conclusion in the end. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Connection Error by Annabeth Albert


Connection Error by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryIt's typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he's (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can't handle another distraction. But he also can't ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man's a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He's got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn't mean he's above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it's even begun?


ReviewAnother fantastic read by Annabeth Albert. This is the third book in the #gaymers series. You don't necessarily have to read them in order, but I would so you know more about the gaming company that crosses all three books, as well as the other couples who were previously featured and show up in Connection Error.

The first two #gaymers books were more about traveling in a car or RV with someone, but this one was a bit less traveling. The future couple, Josiah and Ryan, meet on a plane and then spend one night together when they have to make a delay in another city. From there, it's a mix of long-distance "getting to know you" with some meetings in between. It worked well though! I like that it had a nice mix of long distance and in person, so it wasn't completely falling in love through a video screen. Though I do understand how people get close on the computer. For a guy like Ryan, talking about himself is often easier to do when he's writing it out and not having to say it face to face, though he learns to be more emotionally open as the book goes on.

Ryan is a bit older than Josiah, though I don't think the exact ages are every mentioned. He's a NAVY Seal but is now in therapy after losing his legs. He wants to get back into the Navy, even if that just means being a teacher. As for Josiah, he works at a gaming company, that is featured in the two previous books too! He's great at his job, but he does have some trouble being the leader at work. The two are able to learn a lot from each other though, and I loved that. It showed that they were equal in the burgeoning relationship.

I don't know if this is the last #gaymers novel or not, but I'd love to see more of these characters or story lines! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blog Ahead 2016 + Swapoween Sign Up


I really meant to do a Sunday Post today, with some various announcements, but I didn't have much time this weekend, with family in town. However, I keep meaning to say that I'll be doing Blog Ahead this October, so now is a good a time as any!

This is a blog event hosted by Herding Cats and Burning Soup and the idea is to spend October scheduling as many posts as you can during the month. I think the big goal is to schedule ahead 30 posts, so if you start the month with 2 blog posts scheduled, you'll add 30 and hopefully have 32 posts scheduled by the end of the month. I suppose you can schedule for October (which I will) but you can also try and get things scheduled out for November and December too so you have a bit of a cushion during the upcoming holiday months!

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Chaotic Goddess Swaps has some great blog swaps throughout the year. I haven't done one in awhile, but I love Halloween so much that I couldn't pass this up!

Sign up for the Swapoween Hop now:

Swap is open to U.S. and Canadian bloggers only!

PACKAGE REQUIREMENTS

  • Halloween related goodies
  • At least 5 Items
  • Value of $20-$40

IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER

  • Sign-Ups Start: Monday, September 19th
  • Sign-Ups End: Monday, September 26th
  • Parnters Assigned by: Wednesday, September 28th
  • Packages Ship on/by: Saturday, October 15th
  • Recap Linky Opens: Wednesday, October 19th

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryGroomed to be the perfect highborn Victorian young lady, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has a decidedly different plan for herself. After the loss of her beloved mother, she is determined to understand the nature of death and its workings. Trading in her embroidery needle for an autopsy scalpel, Audrey secretly apprentices in forensics. She soon gets drawn into the investigation of serial killer Jack the Ripper, but to her horror, the search for clues brings her far closer to her sheltered world than she ever thought possible. 

ReviewStalking Jack the Ripper was one of the books I KNEW I needed to get when I attended BEA 16, so I was really excited to get an ARC as well as meet the fantastic author, Kerri Maniscalco, who signed my copy. But you're here to know what I thought about the actual novel, right? Well, it's amazing. Seriously. I find the Jack the Ripper murders to be fascinating, especially because they were so horrific and yet nobody has officially been named as "Jack." Stalking Jack the Ripper takes a lot from actual history and creates a new fictional story where a young girl fascinated by science and studying under her uncle becomes entangled in the murders, desperate to know the true culprit. 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is an intelligent and fierce character. She loves science and despite being a young woman in Victorian times, she is determined to learn as much as she can so that she may help people in the future, especially since she lost her own mother to illness. It's through her uncle that she meets Thomas, who is an apprentice under him as well. Thomas is a bit insufferable at times, but you can't help but love him right away. He's clearly attracted to Audrey, though he loves to mess with her all the same. He's a big of a young Sherlock, often deducing things about people correctly by simply examining them and putting one and one together. I loved that he didn't care that Audrey was interested in science. He worried about her and wanted to keep her safe, but he also didn't coddle her or keep her away from the gruesome details of the Ripper murders.

Along with Thomas and Audrey's uncle, we get Audrey's father who is lost in grief over losing his wife, and Audrey's brother, who is desperate for Audrey to be happy but also wants to keep her safe. All the characters just made up the world that Maniscalco "created." I put it in quotes because this isn't fantastic. These are real places and these murders did occur, though the author obviously takes artistic liberties, especially when naming the murderer, since they have not actually been solved. I loved the ending, and it was definitely not what I expected, so kudos for that!

I need more now! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA '16; all opinions are my own

Official Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...


Review:

I loved Labyrinth Lost, which is a bit surprising as I don't normally seek out fantasy novels. Regardless, this one was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I'm actually glad this one is a sequel because I need more. However, I will say now that Labyrinth Lost is a full novel, so despite a few questions at the end that make you want to read the next book, this is a satisfying read all on its own.

Now, as for the actual story, I liked the world that Cordova created called Los Lagos, where the main character, Alex has to travel to save her family. She is a bruja, which is a witch of sorts, except the power is something that travels through her family. Everyone in her family loves their magic, but Alex has always tried to run away from hers, hiding something awful about it. Her trip to Los Lagos is actually because she tries to banish her power and something backfires, putting her whole family in danger. Los Lagos is a full imagined world, and I loved the various locations and details that Cordova used to help readers visualize.

One of the things that I really loved about the series are the varying characters. Everyone is so interesting and diverse. I LOVED the diversity, whether it was age, ethnicity/race, sexuality. It was all there and done so well! Alex is the main character and she is definitely a layered character that one can easily relate too. She fears and hates her power, but she fiercely loves her family and would do anything for them. Then there is Nova, who Alex doesn't know that well, but he agrees to help her through Los Lagos. Finally, we have Alex's best and only friend, Rishi, who has a much larger part in the book than I first realized. It's easy to see that Alex has a crush on Rishi, though it's not named right away. I loved that it just was though. Nobody, not even Alex, made it into a big deal.

Again, this was great and I eagerly wait for the sequel!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Annotated Copy of All the Feels by Danika Stone - Auction Ends Tonight!


The auction for an awesome ANNOTATED copy of All the Feels by Danika Stone on Leave a Mark Auctions ends tonight at 9 p.m. EST! Definitely think about bidding. This is one seriously awesome annotated book - I wish I could keep it! Oh, and it's open to U.S. and Canadian bids - If you live in another country, you can bid/win but I ask that you help with shipping! I can probably do about half.

A new auction should be up in a day or so; keep an eye out! Lots of great auctions to come. Please follow the blog so you are automatically updated!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan


The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryFourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will... But he's got to kill someone else first.


Review:

I thought I'd switch up my reviewing style a bit and share the likes and dislikes of this book for you all:

LIKES-

1. It takes place in Europe. Now, the main character lives in New Town and they are against the neighboring town, Old Country. Despite this, the book is obviously supposed to be set in Europe and I like books outside the United States.

2. Charlie Law. He's fourteen, almost fifteen, and not quite like a lot of boys in books. He's infatuated with a girl from school, yet he's a good person all around. He knows to do the right thing and he wants to be a teacher when he grows up. He even befriends Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, when a lot of people wouldn't.

3. The fight between New Town and Old Country seemed very realistic, especially in today's time. New Town isn't run by the best people, but they are taught that Old Country is awful, and even people from Old Country agree, like the Duda family. However, Old Country eventually invades New Town and the question is: Is it better now, or was it better then? Can it get better now?

DISLIKES:

1. I suppose my main dislike is how quick the ending seemed to go. There is a lot going on in Charlie's life and there are some serious stakes. However, it just seemed like things were worked out too quickly or too unrealistically, even, with everything that had been shown or stated before.

Overall, this was an interesting YA novel. I appreciated the way the friendship between Pav and Charlie was shown, without too much romance overtaking the plot. There is a lot of realistic overtones to these made-up towns. If the end had played out a bit different, I would definitely have loved this one. Regardless, I'd still recommend.

Monday, September 19, 2016

100 Years of Roald Dahl: Etsy Products!


I'm so excited to be taking part in the 100 Years of Roald Dahl Celebratory Blog Tour! I grew up reading Dahl's books and even watching the movies. Recently, I have begun thinking that I should collect the books and reread some of the titles from my childhood, as well as read some of Dahl's works for the first time, as I definitely haven't read them all!

Now is a great time to start your Dahl collection because his children's novels have been given a new look in paperback (there are even some select titles in hardcover such as Matilda and James and the Giant Peach).


Above you can see the new paperback covers for Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Witches. I love Quentin Blake's illustrations!

Today, in honor of 100 Years of Roald Dahl, I thought I would share some fun Dahl themed products that are available on Etsy. If you don't know, Etsy is a place where people can create all sorts of items and then sell them (along with vintage and other such items). Dahl is such an iconic author, as are many of his characters, that I thought you might be interested in grabbing one of these fun items below!


Matilda Purse Clutch from the Etsy shop Marjorie Handmade. This clutch is $24 and it comes from Australia! The shop includes products from other Dahl novels too such as The Twits, The BFG, and more!


Your choice from one of 6 different Roald Dahl books - a Book Locket Necklace/Bracelet/Key Ring from The Locket Library, based in the U.K. Depending on what you choose, these start at $8.05.


Handmade Roald Dahl Themed Journal from the Etsy shop Iartjournal, based in the U.K. You can buy this for $12.74!


James and the Giant Peach Ornament from the Etsy shop Novel Adornment. You can buy this starting at $5 (other options raise the price a bit) and the shop is based in the U.S.


Original Book Art, Esio Trot by Roald Dahl from the Etsy shop ShireArts, based in the U.K. This is being sold for $20.10. There are other Dahl books available for sale too!





Over on the right, is the Roald Dahl Bookmark with a quote from him. This is from the Etsy shop SJCampbellCreative and the shop is based in the U.S.










On the left here, you get another look at the bookmark. At the end of the quote, there are some beads and another metal addition that says roald dahl.

You can buy this for $20!





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I had a ton of fun finding all of these Roald Dahl items on Etsy, and I hope you enjoyed looking them over. We have shops from the U.K, the U.S., and Australia - so I hope most of you reading will be able to find something you enjoy and that won't cost you too much. I do recommend looking at shipping if the shop is out of your country - some aren't too bad!

-Lauren

What is your favorite Etsy product in this post? What is your favorite Roald Dahl novel?

And now, enter the tour wide giveaway!


--Rafflecopter Giveaway HTML: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA '16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryCatrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

Review:

This is a book that I read in one night, which isn't surprising because it's a graphic novel, but it was also really good and something I didn't want to put down! Ghosts is the story of two sisters, Cat and Maya, though the book follows Cat's point of view. The two girls have been moved to a town in Northern California that is not as sunny in order to help with Maya's cystic fibrosis. While there, they realize that the town very much believe in ghosts and they aren't afraid of them returning on The Day of the Dead. 

image source

I loved this graphic novel for various reasons, so I thought I'd share a list!

1. The sister relationship. Despite Cat wishing she didn't have to move, she loves her sister and would obviously do anything to help if needed.

2. Day of the Dead celebrations. I know a bit about this holiday, when ghosts of people's ancestors are said to return. I loved learning more, as well as getting some colorful illustrations of the parties and costumes.

3. Being able to see Maya's cystic fibrosis. It's one thing to explain this disease in a novel, but with the illustrations, the author could really show the coughing and the equipment that Maya had to use to move the fluid from her lungs. It made me care for her even that much more.

4. Have I mentioned the illustrations? I know not all graphic novels are in color, but this one was, and I really loved it! It wouldn't have been as an exciting novel without the color, especially concerning the Day of the Dead celebrations.

A great graphic novel - perfect for middle school and up, though I highly suggest adults check it out too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins


When in French: Love in a Second Language by Lauren Collins

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA '16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryA language barrier is no match for love. Lauren Collins discovered this firsthand when, in her early thirties, she moved to London and fell for a Frenchman named Olivier—a surprising turn of events for someone who didn’t have a passport until she was in college. But what does it mean to love someone in a second language? Collins wonders, as her relationship with Olivier continues to grow entirely in English. Are there things she doesn’t understand about Olivier, having never spoken to him in his native tongue? Does “I love you” even mean the same thing as “Je t’aime”? When the couple, newly married, relocates to Francophone Geneva, Collins—fearful of one day becoming "a Borat of a mother" who doesn’t understand her own kids—decides to answer her questions for herself by learning French. 

Review:

I picked this one up on a whim at BEA 16 because I thought the premise sounded great. Basically, Lauren Collins moves to England to continue working for a New York magazine, just in a remote location. It's here where she meets her future husband, Olivier, who speaks English, but is actually French. When the two end up in Switzerland because of Olivier's job, Collins realizes that she really needs to learn one of the biggest languages, which is French. This will also help her communicate with her boyfriend in his own language, as well as converse with his family, who only speak French.

If this were the whole of the book, I would have been very happy. I love memoirs and reading about people's lives, even if they aren't "famous names" or "celebrities." Lauren Collins writes for magazines, but I wouldn't say people know her based on her name. However, this memoir of sorts was really enjoyable. I'm from the United States and I can only speak English. I wish I could speak another language, but my classes never seemed to stick (French in high school, Spanish in college). I do believe we need to learn at a much younger age!

Anyway, in between true stories of Collins and the task of learning a second language, she shares various historical anecdotes concerning language. I found most of these interesting, and they did add a lot to what Collins was going through in her personal life. I wouldn't say I was all that interested in everything that was added to the book but overall, it was intriguing and I'm glad to have read it. I'd highly recommend to those who speak another language or want too, and for those of us who like to travel or want to explore the world more! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett


Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryTwo nights ago, a young woman brought her husband into the emergency room of the Sriphat Hospital in Thailand, where he passed away. A guard thinks she remembers her coming in before, but with a different husband - one who also died.

Ladarat Patalung, for one, would have been happier without a serial murderer-if there is one -- loose in her hospital. Then again, she never expected to be a detective in the first place.

And now, Ladarat has no choice but to investigate...


ReviewThis was a book I picked up at BEA16. I can't remember how I came across it, though I imagine it was a simple book drop that I came across and realizing it was a mystery, I grabbed a copy. I'm a huge fan of mysteries because I love following the case, whether I guess the culprit or piece it all together or not. 

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness is the first book in a new series which follows a nurse ethicist in Thailand named Ladarat Patalung. She's an intriguing character, having lost her husband 12 years prior and still living alone with only her cat. She loves her job and is very committed though. I loved that the book was set in Thailand though, as I don't believe I've read another book set in this country. The author did a great job not only describing the hospital and its functions, but also the language, the people, and certainly the food. There is the use of Thai throughout the book, but it is always explained and therefore, I never felt confused or lost while reading the book.

As for the mystery in this one, Ladarat is approached by a detective at the hospital she works at concerning what he believes could be murder. A woman had brought her husband into the emergency room of Ladarat's hospital the night before, where he was declared dead and his death certificate signed. The woman left and that was it, except someone who worked at the hospital thought he had seen this same woman bringing her dead husband in a few months previous, at a different hospital. Is it the same woman, and is she marrying and killing off men? What could she gain? And how would they find her?

It's not known until near the end of the book while the detective enlists Ladarat's help, besides her being the nurse ethicist of the hospital (this means she's a nurse, yes, but she also deals with any ethical decisions the hospital may face), but I promise there is an answer. It's nothing huge, but it does make Ladarat even more determined to continue her detective work at the end of this novel. However, back to the initial story - there is a lot going on in this book besides the mystery, but it worked well. The author handled these various story lines with ease, weaving between them throughout the book so you were always curious what would come next, yet never confused. I thought about explaining some of this, but I think it would be best to enjoy the book without knowing too many details! Believe me, it's worth it!

I love books where the main character is not a detective but is called upon to become one. This isn't like cozy mysteries, where the main character makes themselves a detective. Ladarat is called upon for her help and she does waver if she should help as much as she can, or focus instead on her paying job, especially with a big inspection coming up. 

One of the things that I really loved about this book is the writing style. It's not one I can really explain, but it seemed to suit the story and most especially the character of Ladarat. I appreciated how the author talked about Thai culture and explained how it is very different in many ways to American culture, as Ladarat is often commented to be a bit American. She spent a year studying there in college, but she also seems to understand the world in a slight American way and all of this is included expertly in the story. 

I definitely loved this one - five stars for sure- and I am excited to read more about Ladarat and her mysteries!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan


Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryThe scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words "Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL." In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.

ReviewWhen I picked this book up at Book Expo America, all I knew was that it was a graphic novel story about Snow White. I was just excited about that, so I didn't take the time to fully read the summary on the back. Well, when I went back recently to do so before finally digging in, I was even more excited to read this one. 

Instead of the typical fairly tale version, this Snow White takes place in 1928 and follows the family of Samantha Snow. Samantha's mother called her Snow before she passed, and that's how the nickname began. Now she lives with her father, who remarries a woman in show business. They live in New York before the Depression, and Snow's father works on Wall Street, except he seemed to have come through unscathed, without losing his money. This is obviously what appeals to his new life. She does not like Snow though, so she ships her off to boarding school. Snow doesn't return until her father passes away, but she's not safe with her stepmother. 

I feel like there aren't too many spoilers in this story because it does follow the fairy tale, just using the era as the backdrop. This fairy tale turns into a more realistic, yet sad, story of grief and greed. Instead of a magic mirror, messages about Snow's beauty appears to the stepmother on ticker tape. If you aren't aware of what this is, the Google definition reads "a paper strip on which messages are recorded in a telegraphic tape machine." 

When Snow runs off from her home, she enters the Hoovervilles, instead of a dilapidated town in fear of her stepmother. And the seven dwarfs? These are are seven young boys who live on the street and take care of one another. Aspects of the book are easy to understand, but some of the other little details like the ticker tape and the Hoovervilles require an understanding of this time period, which is why I think this would actually make a great historical novel if studying the time period. The students would already know the basic story, but the teacher could help bring this new time period to life.

I loved what Phelan did with this story! It really made the tale of Snow White come to life in a new way. As for the illustrations, they are all quite detailed and very well done. All of the ARCs had black and white photos, but it's noted that the final edition will be in full color. I most definitely want to get that edition, because this is one book to hold onto! 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich


And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryWhen Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt's home, it's immediately clear that the "blood manor" is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too--the questions that Silla can't ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that's appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

Review:

I read and loved The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich so I was really excited to get an ARC of And the Trees Crept In at BEA 16. While I did enjoy this one, I must say that The Dead House is still a reining favorite.

One thing that I love about Kurtagich's writing is that she focuses on spooky, fantastical ideas, and I love reading books like this. Also, she uses a unique writing format in her books. With And the Trees Crept In, there are pages that look like the inside of a book or a burned note, each chapter starts with a spooky little rhyme, and the author even uses capitalized and bold words to make a point or highlight something. It's a fun way to really visualize a book, making this one something I'd suggest reading. I do think an audio version would be kind of cool though, upping the creepy factor.

The overall premise of And The Trees Crept In is a teenager named Silla who ran away from home with her little sister, Nori, and go to her aunt's old mansion of a house. It's a wonderful escape, even with the weirdness of the house and even Aunt Cath. Things don't start to really go wrong until the two girls have been there for a bit, and suddenly, evil seems to be lurking close by. Two years pass and Aunt Cath isn't the same, Silla is sure the woods are getting closer, and Nori can't speak - only able to use signs to get her sister's attention about needing food or being scared.

I don't want to say too much. There are a lot of twists and turns and revelations throughout the book, so it really is best going in a bit blind! I would recommend reading it, but I HIGHLY recommend reading The Dead House. I'll be curious to read more by Kurtagich in the future though.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Just in Case Kit: An Easy Bridal Gift Featuring Evian Facial Spray


I'm not engaged, but if I do get married, I think I'd go with an October wedding. I love the weather and the atmosphere. I'm currently gearing up to attend an October and a December wedding this year, and I can't wait! I love seeing what people put together for their wedding and when you're really close to them, it's exciting to see them so happy and moving forward in life!

So if you'll be attending a wedding anytime soon, I have the perfect sort-of DIY gift that you can give the bride. This is something you'll want them to have FOR the wedding day, so give it to them at a shower or the Bachelorette night! 

Easy Bridal Gift (Featuring Evian Facial Spray)

One of the cutest gifts I've seen people put together for a bride is a Just In Case kit (at least that's what I like to call them). These are usually put in a bag of some sort, and I'd highly recommend a makeup bag so the bride can keep it afterwards! What you do after you have your bag is fill it with all the little essentials that a bride may need on her wedding day. 

Some possible items to include-

*tampons/pads
*cotton balls
*bobby pins
*chapstick
*band aids
*sewing kit/needle and thread
*tissues
*hand/face wipes
*Evian Facial Spray


Evian Facial Spray is great for the bride on her wedding day! You can get a smaller size that will fit perfectly in the makeup bag, though it does come in a fuller size. This spray is refreshing and re-hydrating, which is something any nervous/excited bride could use! Just spray a little where you want it, wait about a minute, and then pat it dry. You might wish to include a soft cloth for the Just in Case bag so the bride has something to pat the excess water with. 

Besides waking yourself up a bit, this spray is also great for spraying on the face over one's makeup. If the bride is feeling a bit hot or if the wedding happens to take place outside, just spray a little of this on her face and it will help brighten and refresh her look! Perfect, right?

I was given a smaller bottle to try out to share my honest thoughts and I love it! I'll be carrying it around with me on vacation, so this is something the bride could keep for her honeymoon too! When you're out and about, it's easy to feel hot and want a quick refresher and I think Evian Facial Spray is the way to go! 

*I was given a bottle to help with this sponsored post, but all opinions/ideas are my own*


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Leave Me by Gayle Forman


Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryFor every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.


Review:

Now, I'm not a mom, so maybe reading this seems weird to you. I get it. The whole idea of the book is a married, mother of twins, woman named Maribeth who decides to leave her family behind one day. She's recently had a heart attack and she never even knew it was happening. She figured it was gas and if she hadn't already had a doctor's appointment, where she mentioned her symptoms, she might have continued on not knowing. It's a scary thought, but it's something that's apparently common with women. They don't experience heart attacks the way men do, and they can often go unnoticed.

Anyway, Maribeth is fine. She has surgery, she stays in the hospital for a bit, and then she goes home. Everything should be fine, right? Not so, because all of these resentments start to build up within Maribeth and she doesn't think she can properly heal if she stays in her apartment. Her mom is there to help, but she still leaves things for Maribeth to worry and fret over. Her twins are too young to really know what happened to Maribeth, so their wish for her attention is understandably selfish. As for Maribeth's husband, he spends a lot of his time at work and he doesn't help run the household the way Maribeth did, even with her having her own job as a magazine editor. Everythings piles up until Maribeth leaves her home, with only a note to her husband. She doesn't tell him where she's going, because she doesn't know yet.

I don't want to go into too many details about where Maribeth goes and what she does when she gets there, because it's important that you experience this for yourself. Maribeth might sound harsh to you, but it's easy to understand her and her circumstances. No, I'm not married. I'm not a mom. But I can see how the pressures of these things, as well as unspoken hurts and worries from the past, can build up inside a person. With something so horrible and sudden happening, like a heart attack, it makes sense that someone might want to reevaluate their life. I don't think most of us would run off without telling those we love where we're going, or leave our kids and husband behind, but I'm sure that a lot of people have thought of it.

I appreciated that Forman wasn't afraid to touch on this topic. Moms and wives are human too. They don't always think of coming home to their hectic household a positive thing. Sometimes they just want to head off somewhere and be by themselves. It was interesting to see all that Maribeth experienced and learned about herself when she was away from home. While her taking off might not be something most people do, I do think that getting back to yourself and finding new enjoyments is important in every life. Don't get lost in a role.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, with great characters! I loved that we got to know enough about the secondary characters that they felt three-dimensional and real. It made the whole story come together!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Huggle App: Way to Make Friends as an Adult



I was given the opportunity to share a new app called Huggle with all of my readers and I'm really excited about it! The idea is that you download the app on your phone (it's free!) and you can fill out your profile and then just go about your daily life. It will match you up with the places that you are visiting - like the gym or a concert- and if someone else on Huggle went to the same place, you'll be able to visit their profile.

In the app, you have a Places section and you can click on "Places Nearby" and it shows people that were in places near you. You can also click "My Places" and it shows the people that were in the same places as you! The whole idea of this app is to help you meet new people and possibly make new friends in places you are already visiting.


Huggle is obviously available in the U.S. but it's originally a U.K. app! It's great to see that it's expanding and more people can use it. If you're curious about how you are kept safe using this app, read the following-

Huggle has been praised for deterring inappropriate online behaviour.

Huggle is the first app in the UK to provide safety features, such as it’s one minute photo verification and hyper-local technology, which automatically picks up users' locations and stops fake check-ins. No random people can see your list of places only you! And you can only speak to people if you have a place in common.


I love that these measures are in place and I'm a huge fan of the idea behind this app. There are plenty of apps out there where you can find a boyfriend/girlfriend, and you probably could with Huggle as well, but it's ultimately about finding people with common interests that you can be friends with! As we get older, it's harder and harder to meet new new people and everyone seems to be stuck in the same rut. Maybe they don't have time, maybe think they have enough friends. There are plenty of excuses, but I'm one of those people who loves to meet new people and possibly become friends. Just because we're not in school doesn't mean we should stop socializing, right?


I've so far come across two other people who have visited places near me, which is great! You can "like" this connection or you can message them. So far, I've just "liked" the connection! While using this app in my own life, I read the September issue of Family Circle and I was excited to see a feature all about adult friendships between women. Around 1,000 women were asked questions and the magazine shared the various percentages in answers. It was really eye-opening and made me realize even more that people need this app!

I thought I'd share some of what the Family Circle survey revealed about these friendships in order to give you an idea of why Huggle might be the perfect new app for you!

When asked about the greatest obstacle to making friends as an adult, 40% answered that they just didn't have enough time! Huggle is great for this because it shows you the people in your area going where you already go! No extra effort involved!

The survey also included some fun tips on how to meet people and one idea was to follow your passion. This essentially means join a class or find somewhere where you can enjoy what you already love - dance class, book club, etc. This is something extra but it's still a nice idea. However, if you're already doing something like this in terms of going to a gym or somewhere else with a lot of people, you can use the app to narrow down people who are doing the same and you might be interested in getting to know better.

Finally, the survey states that 40% of friendships that have ended are just two people who drifted apart. Nothing big happened, like a fight. Whether you had a falling out with a friend, or simply went in different paths in your life, this doesn't mean you don't deserve future friends! Use where you are in life and find the people around you. Some places, like a small dance class, might mean it's easier to just talk to someone there and get to know them. 

However, there are plenty of places where Huggle comes in handy! Maybe you met someone but didn't get contact details and can't find them later. Check out Huggle and if they are on there, you can make another connection! Or maybe you are looking for a workout buddy - look at Huggle and see who else attends your gym! Whether you're new to town or just want to expand your friendship horizons, check out Huggle and see what comes of it! 

Thanks to Huggle for allowing me to help promote via BloggersRequired; all opinions are my own though! 

-Lauren

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg


The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own (this book comes out next Tuesday, September 6th!!)

Official SummaryShelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes. 

When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that'll take both their talents to crack. 


ReviewThis is the first book by Elizabeth Eulberg that I've read but it most definitely won't be my last, especially since this is just the first book in the Shelby Holmes series. I'm a big Sherlock fan so I always get excited to see new interpretations and this was a really enjoyable one! 

Sherlock is now Shelby, a nine year old girl in New York who is known for her detection around the neighborhood. She doesn't have friends, but people know her and admire her skills, except for the policewoman, Lestrade. It did amuse me when Shelby would interact with Lestrade. Shelby is a typical Holmes because she's straightforward and knows she's good at what she does. Having a nine year old act like this to a cop would seem strange, but Eulberg did a good job with their relationship. Lestrade is intent on keeping Shelby away from her cases, and it's obvious that she's upset when Shelby can solve a case before her, as any copy would be, I'm sure. 

Another key player of course is John Watson, who Shelby just calls Watson. I initially went in expecting Shelby to narrate the book, as she's the title character, but of course, I should have realized it would be Watson based on the original stories. Watson is new to New York. He lives in Shelby's building with his mom, who was in the army. He likes to write, and therefore, he starts chronicling his adventures with Shelby instead of focusing on fiction, like he had in the past. Watson is a couple years older than Shelby, and he starts out wanting to find new friends, but eventually, the two of them realize they are better together - like the original Sherlock and Watson. 

If you know the original stories or even have seen the movies/TV shows, you should recognize the various similarities between Shelby and Sherlock. There is Lestrade- the detective, Mrs. Hudson-she lives in Watson and Shelby's building, Shelby is addicted to sugar like Sherlock was addicted to drugs, Shelby has a brother Michael like Sherlock had a brother named Mycroft, and on! I loved seeing these little nods to the original story throughout the book.

As for the actual mystery, it was a case of a show dog going missing. It was a cute story, but it was also a fun mystery that I enjoyed learning along with Watson. Shelby isn't always forthcoming about all of her discoveries, but Sherlock was always the same. This is a mystery you could figure out on your own, before the big reveal, though. I pieced it all together near the end, but it was still a fun story to read and I had no idea for a long time! I can't wait for the next book.