Friday, August 29, 2014

August Favorites

This month went by so fast. I have to say, I'm glad that it's over and we're moving into September and the Fall. I officially hate tourists. They freaking clog everything:  the roads, stores and shops, restaurants, and the beaches. Go home! And stay there. It's also been really hot in August in Florida. We had heat advisories for several days. If you have heat advisories in the summer, in Florida, you know it's hellishly hot. Anyway, I'm going to highlight some of the things that I have enjoyed in August.

Books and TV

My favorite book that I read this month was Landline by Rainbow Rowell. This book is about Georgie and her husband Neal. Georgie has a job writing and creating TV shows. She and her long-time writing partner finally get a break with an opportunity to present four episodes of their "baby" to a producer. The only problem is that while they have been nurturing the idea for this show for years, they still need to write the scripts for those four episodes. It's Christmas and Georgie decides she can't pass up this opportunity and opts to stay behind in California and work while Neal and her daughters fly to Omaha to spend the holiday with family.
This separation makes Georgie fear for her marriage which had already been in trouble for some time. To help stave off this fear and loneliness, Georgie spends some time at her mother's house. Here, she tries and tries to connect with Neal via cell phone but her calls either keep getting sent to voicemail or her daughters and/or mother-in-law keeps answering. Out of desperation, Georgie plugs in an old yellow telephone and tries reaching her husband landline to landline. It turns out that this phone is connection to the past and she reaches Neal back during the time before their engagement.

It's through these conversations with the past that Georgie has revelations about herself, Neal, and their marriage. Is true love enough to hold a marriage together?

My favorite TV show that I watched this month would have to be Outlander on Starz. This is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's series of books. At the time of this writing, I have only watched the first three episodes. I am really loving this series so far. Director Rob Moore has done a fantastic job of translating book to screen. Considering that these books take place in both the 18th and 20th centuries, I think that it's a testament to his skill how fantastic this show is. He pays great attention to detail down to ensuring that the herbs Claire, our female protagonist, uses for 18th century medicine are correct, both in use and as they are seen on screen. I've only noticed a few deviations in the show from the book, but I wanted to love this show so much, that I'm willing to give Moore a little leeway. So yeah, my opinion is biased, lol.

I've been a huge fan of the Outlander series for years. I don't think I've ever read a book with science fictional elements in it that are as well-written as they are in Gabaldon's books. By that, I mean that she incorporates time travel into her novels so that it's not silly or fantastical, but explained in such a way that the reader is able to believe that touching these standing stones would send them hurtling through the past.

Back to the show, I love the costumes, the sets, the language, basically everything about it. I have, at this point, no complaints. I'm thrilled that it's already been renewed for a second season.

Health and Beauty

I've made quite a few beauty purchases this month, but picking only one, Tarte's Lights, Camera, Splashes 4-in-1 Waterproof Mascara is the standout. I've tried several new waterproof mascaras this summer to try and combat makeup meltage from the heat, humidity, beach, and sweating. This mascara is fantastic. I love the classic bristle brush that grabs my lashes and coats them evenly, without clumping. It leaves my lashes softer than other waterproof mascaras do. I have to say, I'm not a fan of crunchy lashes. The staying power is phenomenal. It stays put until I go after it with an eye makeup remover. It retails for $20.00 at Ulta and is worth every penny. What's more, the packaging is totally cute.

The Internets

I discovered a new Booktuber this month that is so adorable. Her name is Jean and her channel is Jean Bookishthoughts. Jean is Scottish ya'll. I could listen to her read a recipe for hours and be happy. Fortunately, her booktube channel is more interesting than that. Jean really knows her books. No offense to booktubers out there, but the ones that seem to be more into performing than reviewing/talking about books are annoying. At least to me. I'm sure some people find them vastly entertaining. Jean is knowledgeable about books and her reviews are entertaining without being over-the-top silly. Plus, she's Scottish. I love the way she says "baby", lol.

My favorite Facebook page of the month is Coffee and a Good Book. It's rare to find a group of strangers online who are civil, respectful, fun, share the same interests, and actually interact positively. This group is all those things. Maybe it's because the moderators are so strict, but I have yet to see any bickering, judging, or drama in this group. I've gotten tons of book recommendations though. Great Facebook group.

Food and Drink

My favorite food that I can't seem to get enough of this month is Ben & Jerry's Half Baked. It has both cookie dough and brownie chunks in chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I may like this flavor even better than Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch, my favorite until I tried Half Baked.

The Mister and I have been frequenting a local wine bar called VINE Wine Bar & Shop. It's a laid back wine bar with a really nice selection of wines, small plates, and wine merchandise. We really like it. We've been going so much this month that they know us by name now, lol. ::cough:: Anyway, I discovered a great bottle of wine there called Thorny Rose and it's a Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a very unassuming wine. I love how it's fruit forward with cherries, blackberries, and strawberries coming through. It's an inexpensive wine too but I have no idea where you can pick it up. I've never seen it in a store and I absolutely love the label, so there's a good chance I'd remember. Ordering online is my only suggestion.We've also tried their red blend. It was okay and probably my favorite red blend, but I'm not a huge fan of blends. They have several other varieties that I'd love to try out some time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kat Spears: Sway


Title:  Sway

Author:  Kat Spears

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press (set to release on Sept 16, 2014)

Pages:  320

Genre:  Young adult/fiction

Setting:  Modern day American suburbs

Where did you get it? This is an ARC from Netgalley.

Why did you read it? I chose to apply for this book because I loved the description of a "modern day Cyrano de Bergerac. Recently, I've felt compelled to pick up young adult novels. I have been enjoying the simplicity and straightforwardness that is more prevalent in young adult fiction.

From the publisher:  In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—-term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.
But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?
A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—-until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
What did you think? First of all, I want to make clear that while the publisher has marketed this novel to 14-17 year olds, I, as a parent of teens, would be incredibly uncomfortable with my 15 year old (and even my 18 year old if I'm completely honest with myself) reading this book. The profanity, drug use, and the casual references to teen sex combined with the language used to describe sex are, in my opinion, too prolific. If this book were made into a movie without any changes, it'd be rated R. Okay then...
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. Spears' writing makes it so that I can hear Jesse's voice clear as day. He is hilarious, damaged, and has had to grow up too soon. He is definitely, out of all the characters in this book, the most memorable. I think that every 17 year old who reads this would wish that Jesse were their friend. 
Is Jesse the modern day Cyrano? Maybe but I think Jesse's motives were a little more selfish and definitely more dark. I think what really makes this book interesting and unique is that the reader roots for Jesse to get the girl but not, necessarily, for the girl to get the guy. 
For a debut novel, Kat Spears has a well-written and edited book that's unique and fun to read. Still, my "reader discretion" message above keeps me from saying that I would highly recommend this book. To whom? I'd recommend it to my friends before my daughters or their friends. 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sharon Gosling: The Diamond Thief

Title:  The Diamond Thief

Author:  Sharon Gosling

Publisher:  Capstone Pr Inc. Set to be released Oct 1, 2014.

Pages:  335 (This was a digital ARC so the final, printed copy might have a different page length.)

Genre:  Young adult/steampunk

Setting:  Victorian London, England

Where did you get it:  This was an ARC from Netgalley

Why did you read it:  First of all, I love the cover. It appealed to me while I was searching for titles on Netgalley. Then I had to read it so that I could submit feedback on Netgalley's website. 

From the publisher:  The Diamond Thief is set in Victorian England and follows the exploits of sixteen-year-old circus performer and jewel thief, Remy Brunel. Brought to London from France to steal a famous diamond on behalf of her evil circus master, Remy finds herself pitted against determined young detective, Thaddeus Rec. Together they are drawn into a dastardly plot that will take them into the heart of the city's criminal world…

What did you think? Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I liked all of the main characters:  16 year old Remy Brunel who is an orphan, trapeze artist, and skilled thief. Thaddeus Rec, a policeman for Scotland Yard who is out to turn Remy in. J, loveable scamp and Dickens-esque orphan. I loved the steampunk elements, as I always do, and the suspenseful edge as Remy's adventure progresses through the story. However, I thought parts of the book were rushed and/or underdeveloped. I didn't feel like I completely understood the villain's motivation nor was Remy's background fully explained. Remy's being a circus trapeze artist was emphasized by the author, yet it played a minor role in the book. Additionally, the reader is not fully introduced to Thaddeus or J. 

The romance between 16 year old Remy and 20-something Thaddeus (I'm guessing here. The author doesn't give us Thaddeus' age and I just assumed he was in his 20s since he was interested in a 16 year old girl yet he was already working at Scotland Yard.) bugged me a bit. I know this is Victorian England and people married much younger than they do in the present day, but still. Aside from that, I oftentimes had a hard time remembering Remy was only 16. Again, I am aware of the setting, but it felt like Gosling made Remy 16 solely so that she could call this a young adult novel. 

So, maybe it sounds like I didn't like this book, but I really did. It was a fun book and for being young adult and steampunk, it was unique and by no means a cookie cutter YA novel. It's impossible not to like Remy, Thaddeus, and J and you root for them to make it out alive and overcome evil. I think this would be a great book for a middle school child. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Janet Evanovich: Top Secret Twenty-One

Title:  Top Secret Twenty-One

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group

Pages:  352

Genre:  Fiction, mystery and crime

Setting:  Trenton, New Jersey

Where did you get it? I pre-ordered a signed copy from Barnes and Noble.

Why did you read it? I really enjoy this series. It's lighthearted, easy, fast-paced, and hilarious.

From the publisher:  Stephanie Plum is back in an all-new adventure from #1 bestselling author Janet Evanovich. This time Stephanie’s in deep. To get to the bottom of the mess, she’s going to have to keep things Top Secret. (This is a really sad blurb. It tells you nothing about the story.)

What did you think? In this installation of the Stephanie Plum series, Carlos Manoso, a.k.a. Ranger, has become the target of the bad guys. Seeing as how he is supposed to be the competent businessman (who used to be a bounty hunter and trained Stephanie, in case you didn't know) the fact that he's having a tough time handling this and needs Stephanie's help is quite the turn of events.

This book was funny, but not quite as funny as some previous books. I also thought the Stephanie/Grandma/Mom interaction was a bit limited and I find those to be pretty hilarious. I don't know if I'm just getting tired of this series, but I'm finding Lula's antics to be more annoying than funny and that's where Evanovich gets most of her comic relief. As for Stephanie's bounty hunting, it's always good for a laugh and she was even somewhat helpful to Ranger.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book and I'm not sorry that I got the signed pre-order. Still, it's definitely not up there with my favorite Stephanie Plum novels. This would make a perfect hammock on the beach kind of read, a definite 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lynn Cullen: Mrs. Poe

Title:  Mrs. Poe

Author:  Lynn Cullen

Publisher:  Gallery Books

Pages:  352

Genre:  Fiction. Maybe even historical fiction and/or gothic fiction

Setting:  19th century New York

Where did you get it?  I bought myself a hard copy at Barnes & Noble. 

Why did you read it? The title caught my eye and I love historical period books. I'm also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and thought that this book would be an entertaining and informative read.

From the publisher:  The triumphant success of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” compels fledgling poet Frances Osgood to meet her literary idol, a mysterious, complicated man who soon has her under his seductive spell in an all-consuming affair. And when Edgar’s frail young wife breaks into their idyll to befriend her rival, Frances fears that deceiving Mrs. Poe may be as impossible as cheating death itself. . . .

What did you think? Just like I thought when I saw the intriguing cover, this novel was entertaining and informative. I've seen pictures of Poe and never thought of him as being a ladies man, lol. That he could be caught up in a dark and dangerous love triangle was surprising. I had also never heard of Frances Osgood, who happens to be a real figure in Poe's life, so I also learned something while reading this novel. It's funny, but before reading this novel, I thought I knew who Poe was. It turns out that I have some knowledge of his works but really, I don't know very much about the man himself. It's interesting that his work was actually well-received while he was alive and he was well-known. Also, interestingly, the term "Lisztomania" is more than just a song title (Lisztomania by Phoenix). It was derived from the behavior of ladies whenever they saw the musician Franz Liszt perform. They pretty much went crazy over him. I didn't even know such a thing as being star struck and celeb-crazy existed in the 19th century.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Cullen's novel. I thought her use of historical style of writing was brilliant and it really helps to bring the reader into the realm of 19th century New York City and Poe's world. I also thought the romance between Poe and Osgood was very Jane Austin-ish in that they, and other romantic characters of that time, seemed to fall in love from sight rather than from actually knowing each other. I've always thought that style of romance writing came off as false (in the case of Austin's novels) but used here, it just lends to the feel of reading a book that written in the 19th century rather than the present. Additionally, I was left guessing who the sinister threat actually was until the reveal towards the end of the novel.

All in all, a great read and different from what I normally choose to read, which was nice. I'd give this a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars only because the romance between Osgood and Poe was a tiny bit annoying, lol. ::shrug:: I really want to read the rest of Cullen's works.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor and Park
Title:  Eleanor & Park

Author:  Rainbow Rowell

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Pages:  336

Genre:  Young adult, Teen Fiction

Setting:  Omaha, Nebraska in 1986

Where did you get it? I downloaded a copy to my Nook app from Barnes & Noble.

Why did you read it? I had seen some chat about it from the bookish accounts I follow in Instagram.

From the publisher: 
Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

What did you think? I loved this book. I downloaded it and sat down and read it in one sitting. I actually barked at my kids when they tried to talk to me when I was reading it. I called my sister and made her download and read it too. She loved it, just in case you were wondering.

This is my first novel by Rainbow Rowell. Her writing is...I can't think of a word that doesn't sound cliche. Unique, lyrical, mesmerizing. She draws you into the story and makes it impossible to put the book down. I think that she conveys what it's like to be a teenager with spot on grace and skill. She also creates characters that are relatable, likeable, and real. I've read books where I've loved the story and atmosphere that the author creates and while I didn't hate the characters, I didn't really care about them either. I've also read books where I've loved the characters but hated where the author prattled on about the scenery or about minor characters or sub plots. With Eleanor & Park I enjoyed all the characters, even the ones I loved to hate, and she also took me back to the 80s and the music, style, and even the feel of an 80s house and neighborhood.

I'd recommend this book to any age 14+ despite it being a "young adult" novel. While it does have some questionable language, that shouldn't stop you from reading it or letting your teen read it. I can't believe that this book has actually been banned by some high schools. What a loss for them. If I had a rating system (should I develop a rating system?) I'd give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get to Know Nilla Bean


Nilla Bean right after we got her. Approx 9 mos old
This jewel is Nilla Bean. Her friends and family call her Bean. Bean is another rescue from Feline Friends of Destin. I really need to unfollow/unfriend these people before I truly become The Crazy Cat Lady. We got her around March 1st of this year. She's about a year old and is a lynx point Siamese cat.

A Little About Bean

Sweet Sisters
Bean is, by far, the most affectionate cat I have ever been around. She jumps in your arms for hugs, lays in your lap for naps, puts her paws around your neck and kneads your shoulders/neck while rubbing her face on yours, and happily drools her affection all over the place. She's also the most vocal and mischievous cat I've ever seen. She claws open cabinets and drawers to steal food. She pops open the lid to Bailey's food and goes dog food diving. When you give her a treat, you have to do so with speed and agility or she'll bite your fingers. I mean, she's drawn blood multiple times. At dinner time, she meows at the top of her lungs for her food. I totally understand where the term "CATerwaul" came from now. But, she's playful and likes to chase the other cats and be chased by them. She's truly a unique cat.

In a Nutshell

Showing her attitude
Bean's hobbies are frog hunting and catching, giving neck and shoulder massages, scavenging for unhealthy food, and hiding her evilness behind her utter sweetness. Her favorite toy is her pink striped mouse that came with her from the shelter. You can find her on Instagram at Kitten & Winnie & Bean. Yes, the cats have their own Instagram account and no, I don't manage it.

Cuddling with me