Thursday, October 31, 2013

REVIEW--The Last Dragonslayer

Happy Halloween!!!!  I have to admit--it doesn't really feel like Halloween to me.  Our city's trick-or-treating got moved to tomorrow night due to weather, so I'll probably feel the Halloween spirit more then.

But today's review is on a book that I thought could inspire a great Halloween costume--The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde.  Doesn't a dragon make a GREAT costume?!

This book is the first in The Last Dragonslayer series; the second in the series just recently came out in the U.S., so I'm sure I'll be reviewing that one soon!  I loved this book!  It was so different than most fantasy books I read, but if you know much about Jasper Fforde, this was right up his alley!

  • First book in The Last Dragonslayer series
  • Fantasy

The Gist:
Jennifer Strange, our protagonist, lives in the Ununited Kingdom.  In this kingdom, magic used to be huge but is now fading away (Have a flying carpet?  That used to be an exciting part of magic but now means you're a pizza delivery boy).  Jennifer manages a magic agency to help the few magic-users find work.
She hears a Prophecy that the Last Dragonslayer will kill the final dragon that exists; and once this is done, everyone will be clamoring to claim the land left by the dragon.  If this isn't crazy enough, Jennifer finds herself caught up in the Prophecy.

What I Loved:
  • This book was SO FUNNY!  Seriously--Laugh Out Loud funny!
  • This is such a unique, unexpected, and quirky world with crazy world-building.  So Jasper Fforde!
  • The book introduces us to some new characters that I've never seen before.  Like a Quarkbeast--what in the world does a Quarkbeast look like?!
  • The characters are so loveable, especially Jennifer and Tiger.  I'm just rooting for them all the way.
  • A very well-paced novel.  Moved at just the right speed for me so that I was constantly entertained.
  • The themes of greed, destiny, and staying true to yourself were so well portrayed!

What I Didn't Love:
  • There was a lot to take in at times--a lot of characters, positions, titles, etc.  If you're not used to fantasy, this could be a little overwhelming.
  • The difference between "Big Magic" and "Old Magic" (and even their definitions in general) was a bit hard to understand.
My favorite quote:  
"But still money was short, and he was forced to do the one thing that sorcerers should never do.  An act of such gross betrayal to his art that if it were made common knowledge, his reputation would be destroyed forever, and he would die a broken man, humiliated and shunned by his peers."
"You mean ---?"
"Right.  He did children's parties."

I just loved this book!   A super-fun read that is about an eighth grade reading level.  Pick it up--you'll love it, too!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Knife and the Butterfly-Inspired Outfit

Hello, readers and fashionistas!  On Monday I reviewed Ashley Hope Perez's latest book, The Knife and the Butterfly.  So today's outfit is inspired by that book, specifically the main character Azael.  Now today's outfit is awfully girly to be inspired by a guy gang member, but it's really the colors I was after.  Here it is:

Butterfly Rainy Day Look 

This outfit is all about blue and white!  

I'll admit--today is a foggy, rainy day in Indiana and today I'll be at work, so this outfit combines the rainy atmosphere with a dressy work look.  
Why blue and white?  Because those are Azael's gang's colors...and gangs have to be recognizable by their colors (or so I've been told).
So let's break it down:
  • This royal blue jacket is TO DIE FOR!  So chic and perfect for a rainy day.  I love it!  Plus it gives me the pop of blue I wanted for this outfit.
  • Crisp white pants and a white button-down blouse.  This keep the outfit sleek while incorporating the white color (and yes, I know white isn't worn this time of year below the waist, but I totally ignore all social fashion "rules" when designing these outfits!).
  • I didn't want to add blue shoes, because that would be overdoing it, so I paired the outfit with gray/silver flats.  I love the toe silver detail on these!  Just the sophisticated pop I wanted.
  • Ok, these blue butterfly earrings are kind of cheesy, but this book uses a butterfly as a metaphor (and obviously in the title), so I added them.  In a way, though, they actually take a few years off the outfit, so this could definitely be worn by someone in her low 20s.
What do you think?  How would you incorporate blue and white into an outfit?

I'll be back tomorrow with a review that reminds me of a great Halloween costume (which may be foreshadowing my Friday post just a bit!).


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday--Scary Book Covers

Happy Tuesday!  Today's Tuesday theme is so fun--the Top Ten Scary Book Covers!  Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this!

YA books can get really creepy, and covers are so awesome nowadays that they can get super creepy, too!  So here are a few of my favorite scary covers:

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith...yeah, I would prefer not to come face-to-face with this guy.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs...Notice that the girl on the cover is levitating?  Makes it a bit creepier.  I love the photos inside the book, too--keeps you feeling edgy!

The Rats by James Herbert...Ok, no way are you ever getting me to read this book!  Rats preying on humans?!  AAAAAGH!

The Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan...All of Shan's books are pretty creepy-looking (this is #2)...yeah, this kid on the cover has definitely had a bad day.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff...Daggers/scissors hanging over a baby bassinet?  Eek!

Unsouled by Neal Shusterman...I talked to Neal at my ILF conference last week about this cover...did you know that HE asked for one of these heads to have its eyes open?!  That's the creepiest head of all!  These covers get spookier with each book!

Blood on my Hands by Todd Strasser...dripping blood--need I say more?

The Restless Dead by various authors...dragging/digging hands always get me.

Misery by Stephen King...I could've put any Stephen King book here, but this one is just known for its crazy scary factor.

Read If You Dare by READ Magazine...We have this book in my library and the girls' eyes are shiny red and jump out at you...super creepy!

So what do you think of my choices?  What are YOUR scariest book covers?

I'll be back tomorrow with an outfit based off of The Knife and the Butterfly...see you then!

Monday, October 28, 2013

REVIEW--The Knife and the Butterfly

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a great weekend!  I took a 2 1/2 hour nap on Sunday (when I probably should have been blogging) and it was FANTASTIC!  Definitely needed!

So last week I attended the Indiana Library Federation annual conference.  This was the first time that I really focused on networking at a conference (rather than just sitting and absorbing information), and I couldn't believe what a difference it made!  I got SO much more out of the conference by meeting other librarians, sharing ideas, and just TALKING.  I can't wait to continue building some of these relationships and moving forward in our progressive field.  And a special shout-out to Heather and Ruth who were both super-fun to meet!

A REALLY exciting part of the conference, though, was that I got to present with author Ashely Hope Perez!  We presented together on how authors and librarians can work together to provide unique experiences for students.  I think our presentation went really well and I was honored that I was asked to be a part of it.  Here's a photo of us right after our presentation:

Isn't Ashley super-adorable?!  And so super-sweet!

So I thought it would only be fitting to review one of Ashley's books, The Knife and the Butterfly, today. 

  •  Standalone novel
  • Realistic
The Gist:
Azael  is in the infamous gang, MS-13.  So it's not really that surprising when his gang gets in a HUGE brawl with a rival gang.  But what IS surprising is when Azael wakes up the next morning after the brawl.  He's in a jail cell but he doesn't remember much from the fight at all.  In fact, he really has no idea what landed him in jail.  But this isn't a traditional jail.  Azael doesn't get a lawyer visit or his phone call home; instead, he's forced to observe an inmate named Lexi.  He has no idea who she is or why he's supposed to watch her, but he can't shake the feeling that she has all the answers about his situation.

What I Loved:
  • Such a raw, violent, unrestrained story, which is exactly what a book about a teen in a gang should be!  I've read "gang books" before where there aren't even guns, so this book made the situation seem real.
  • I love that it was inspired by a real-life event; this kind of life really does happen!
  • The last few chapters bring everything together and it is FANTASTIC!  The ending had me thinking about the book for a few more days.
  • I loved the back-and-forth storytelling between "Then" and "Now."  Sometimes this can be confusing in books, but Perez makes it completely effective in the story.
  • The title is great!  In my opinion, the knife represents cutting deep and the graphic parts of life; the butterfly represents hope and loyalty.  Both of these were integral in this book (and in gangs in general, right?).

What I Didn't Love:
  • It was a little slow-moving for me (until the end!), which is probably because I didn't find many of the characters very likeable.  Even though the book is pretty short, I found myself taking longer to read it.
  • Yes, this is a gang book, so there definitely needs to be cussing.  But wow--so much cussing!  Although I kind of appreciate it now since I've met Ashley and know that she really was depicting a character--she is so sweet and bubbly that I couldn't mistake her and Azael any day!
 My favorite quote: "Everybody here acts like they're going to have to pay a hundred bucks for every word, that's how hard it is to get anything out of them."

A great read with an exciting ending!

I'll be back tomorrow with another Top Ten Tuesday, and on Wednesday I'll have an outfit based on Azael!  See you then!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Madness Underneath-Inspired Outfit

Happy Friday, readers and fashionistas!

Yesterday I reviewed The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson.  In this book, main character Rory is back at Wexford Academy and helping a secret ghost society stop a new batch of dangerous ghosts.  Well, she's kind of back at Wexford, because really she is completely behind in her classes.
So today's outfit is inspired by her two lives--one as a student at a boarding school and one as a ghost hunter.  Here it is:

Dangerous Preppy Look

Even though I am neither in a boarding school nor chasing ghosts, I could totally see myself wearing this.

So here's the outfit:
  • The blazer is an obvious choice for a boarding school uniform.  This one has a great shape to it (it accentuates the waist and has a great shoulder line) and has that classy prep feel.
  • Even though boarding school students don't typically wear jeans, they are a necessary item for late-night ghost hunting.  These are great--they're kind of scuffy-looking and bring down the seriousness of the outfit.
  • These boots are awesome (and from Target!) and make running around super easy.
  • The purse (a Rebecca Minkoff) is completely classy and can be worn across the body.  Rich students have to have nice handbags, right?
  • And the red stud earrings are simple yet bright.  And this is a murder mystery, so maybe reminiscent of drops of blood?!

I hope you like the look!  I'll be back throughout the weekend, and next week I'll be reviewing a book by an author who I'm totally claiming as a friend--you'll find out why on Monday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

REVIEW--The Madness Underneath

Whew!  Sorry my post is coming a little late today!  I just got back from an amazing two-day library conference and I've been scrambling to catch up all day!  But it was totally worth it--the conference was fantastic.

Today's review is on the book The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson; this is the second in the Shades of London series.  I have really fallen in love with this series for the unexpected action, supernatural characters, and quirky narrator.

  • 2nd in the Shakes of London series
  • Supernatural/Mystery
The Gist:
Following the attack by "The Ripper," Rory is living in Bristol with her parents.  Out of nowhere, Rory's therapist suggest she return to Wexford Academy, and Rory soon learns that this was planned by the secret ghost agency in London.  Now that she is a terminus and able to defeat ghosts, the agency knows they may need her expertise in getting rid of some dangerous characters.  And Rory's about to learn how dangerous these ghosts are and how close they are to Wexford.  But defeating them while trying to stay on top of her Wexford schedule may be more than she can handle.

What I Loved: 
  • Sometimes I find sequels lack the excitement of the first in the series, but this book had a very cool concept and some major thrills!  The last third of the book had me turning the pages quickly.
  • This book is just as spooky and mysterious as the first--some gruesome deaths, an insane asylum, and surprise attacks.
  • I liked that this book demonstrated Rory's difficulty in re-entering Wexford and that Wexford held her accountable for that.  She didn't have it easy in catching up on work (totally understandable) but had to be held responsible for that.
  • Rory is just as snarky and sarcastic as I remember...and this is such a hoot!
  • I loved the cliffhanger ending, because it left me wanting more.  I don't remember the first having such an ending, so this will get me to check out the third book as soon as it comes out.
  • I LOVE the title--so clever!

What I Didn't Love:
  • Just like the first book in the series, I felt like the parents were super weak.  They NEVER call to check on Rory--hello, your daughter almost died?!  And the fact that they send her back to Wexford is pretty laughable.
  • Some of my favorite characters from the first book--Jazza and Jerome--are very minor in this sequel.  I missed Jazza!!!
  • Even though the end was very exciting, it all came on pretty suddenly.  Rory's interactions with Jane and Stephen were thrown in so unexpectedly that I wasn't ready for it.

My favorite quote: "Also, for the record, if someone is called a Romantic, it should mean some sexy times, I think.  Instead, what it really means is people in puffy shirts who probably had a lot of real-life sexytimes, but produced almost exclusively pictures of hillsides or people in dramatic poses, like pretending to be Ophelia dead in a swamp.  I definitely call shenanigans on this."

A fun and mysterious read--I can't wait for the sequel! 

Yeah, this probably won't mean anything until you read the book!

I'll see you here tomorrow for an outfit inspired by the book!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Name of the Star-Inspired Look

On Monday I reviewed the book The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, a great October read that combines mystery with the supernatural (i.e., Jack the Ripper has come back from the dead).  So today's look is inspired by the Victorian time period and the dark mystery of this book.  Here it is!

 Victorian Look

A spooky but sophisticated look, right?

Here's the breakdown:
  • The shirt...isn't is so Victorian looking?  I love the black color, the high neckline, the lace collar--this shirt is perfect for this look!
  • Plum is a great color for this time period, so I added plum pants that aren't too skinny.
  • Black heels--these are some awesome shoes that hype up the look.  Kind of gives an "I'm not messing around" feel to the outfit, don't you think?
  • The accessories--pearl earrings to keep it time period-appropriate, a large black ring to heighten the mystery, and plum nails to color-coordinate. 

I love this look because it gives a mature yet mysterious interpretation of the days of Jack the Ripper.  What do you think?

Tomorrow I'm reviewing the sequel to The Name of the Star--it's called The Madness Underneath.  See you then!

Top Ten Tuesday: Character Names I Love

Hi, readers and fashionistas!  Today's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and Bookish) is about character names.  I love me some character names!  And they're getting more and more creative as time goes on.  So here are the top ten character names that I love:

  • Ember from Article 5...I LOVE the name Ember.  I actually wanted to use it for a daughter if Baby #2 was a girl.  A neat twist on the traditional "Amber" with some pretty cool meanings behind it
  • Pierce from Abandon...Pierce is a girl in this book, and I love using some of the more traditional guy names for girls (like Spencer, Christian, etc).  A strong name for a girl :)
  • Xander from Matched...A cooler version of the traditional "Alexander"
  • Katsa from Graceling...Katniss is so popular now that I like this similar but different name (similar but different...does that even make sense?)
  • Severus Snape from Harry Potter...I love alliterations in names and I love the way that this name rolls off the tongue.  Plus "Severus" just has this evil sound :)
  • Eleanor from Eleanor & Park...names like these, the more traditional names rarely used, are ironically becoming more popular and just have that cool factor.  I could have an Eleanor as a daughter :)
  • Park from Eleanor & Park...c'mon, Park is just a cool name.  People don't mess with a Park.
  • Lev from Unwind...I love shortened names, and Lev (once again) has that short, cool factor.  
  • Arden from Eve...I've always loved the name Arden because it's not as cutesy as so many other female names.
  • Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars...maybe I'm just biased because I love Augustus.  But what a cool yet cute name.  Just like his character :)
So what are some of your favorite character names?

See you back here tomorrow when I show off an outfit inspired by The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson!

Monday, October 21, 2013

REVIEW--The Name of the Star

Needing a spooky read for October?  I have a great series for you to try out!  Today's review is on The Name of the Star, the first in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series.  A great choice as we gear up for Halloween!

A creepy but beautiful cover!
  • Book 1 in the Shades of London series
  • Supernatural/Mystery/Thriller

The Gist:
Rory, a Louisiana native, is attending boarding school in London while her parents work overseas.  Almost immediately following her arrival, a series of murders in London starts occurring, and every murder seems to mimic Jack the Ripper.  Because of a near death experience, Rory finds herself connected to the murders--and Jack the Ripper himself--in more ways than expected.  A mystery thriller with major supernatural twists thrown in!
What I Loved:
  • Rory, the narrator, is very quippy and sarcastic.  I loved her voice!  A great example of this is my favorite quote down below.
  • I loved the various points of view that were given throughout the book of the random people connected to the murders.  A spooky way of starting various chapters!
  • Johnson does a great job of connecting the past and present in this book.  She really brought the history alive for me!
  • The murders are pretty horrifying; perfect for October!  And do you know much about Jack the Ripper?  Horrifying murders to say the least!
  • The characters are realistic--they're jealous, have crushes, etc.  

What I Didn't Love:
  • Rory's parents...they're pretty much nonexistant.  They don't even help Rory with her school orientation.
  • Rory's near death experience that allows her to connect with the supernatural--really?  It was a cheesy near death experience and seemed pretty minor.

My favorite quote:  "It didn't take a great deal of insight to know that Jazza was not going to want to go to a crime scene that evening.  She was, to use the vernacular, a normal person."


Overall a great read, and the sequel is just as creepy and fun!  I'll be reviewing it on Thursday!  Check back here Wednesday for an outfit inspired by this book!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

OOTD (5)--A Fall Aztec Sweater

Happy weekend!  I'm just wrapping up my vacation in North Carolina, and it will be back to work on Monday.

We're definitely getting into the heart of fall, so this outfit of the day features a comfy but colorful long cardigan.  A great outfit for layering and handling the various temperatures of autumn.

Here's how the outfit breaks down:
  • The Aztec-like sweater is from Target...yep, Target!  It's super comfortable and lightweight.  The colors are great and can be played up by the color tee underneath.
  • The light aqua boyfriend tee underneath is also from Target.  I love these tees because they're super inexpensive, comfortable, and adorable (they have a tiny pocket on the chest!).  I stock up every season.
  • Skinny jeans from TJ Maxx
  • Gold glitter sandals from DSW.
  • It's hard to see, but I paired the outfit with a gold bird necklace from F21 and light pink dangly earrings from Charlotte Russe.
So what do you think?  A good fall outfit?  
Have a fun and safe end to your weekend--I'll see you back here tomorrow!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eleanor & Park-Inspired Outfit

Yesterday's review of Eleanor & Park featured a 1980s setting...perfect for outfit design!  So today's outfit is totally inspired by the 80s...totally rad!  So I picked a couple of trends that I remember from the 80s (I was a little kid then, you know) and designed this look:

80s Inspired

Can you guess what 80s trends I'm playing up?  Let's go through it:
  • The flower tank is tied in the front--don't you remember the 80s shirts tied to the side?  That was SUCH a thing then, so I played on that with this floral shirt.  The floral is super cute and sensitive...perfect for a romance book!
  • I added olive skinny pants to match the shirt.  It tames down the color and keeps it contemporary.
  • Jelly shoes!  Don't you remember and love jelly shoes?!  These pink jelly sandals bring back the jelly and add the pop of color we need.  They look super comfortable, too!
  • Stacked bracelets that correlate with the outfit keep the accessories simple and feminine.  

So what do you think?  A simple, girly outfit to play on the 1980s (but no one has to know that's what you're doing!).  I'll be back on Sunday with an Outfit of the Day post!

See you then!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

REVIEW--Eleanor & Park

Hi, friends!  I'm in West Virginia right now, en route to North Carolina to visit some family.  But even on the road I'm ready to blog!

Today's review is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (yep, her name is Rainbow!).  I'd heard a lot of buzz about this book for awhile and was excited when my book club picked it up for September.  So here's what I have to think!

  • Standalone novel
  • Realistic/Romance
The Gist:
It's 1986.  Park, a half-Korean, and Eleanor, a heavy red-head, meet on a school bus (Park lets her sit next to him when NO ONE else will).  This initial meeting starts a friendship over comic books and music; this turns into a relationship full of awkward moments but real feelings.  There are bumps in their way--her abusive step-father and his judgmental friends--but Park is determined to make it work.

What I Loved:

  • This is so real high school.  I see this happen all the time--students falling for each other that aren't necessarily the "hot" or popular kids but the awkward teens with baggage.  This is real.
  • I could relate to Eleanor.  She would let her circumstances affect her relationship with Park, and there are times where something that has upset me causes me to act angry toward Luke.  Poor guys--they're always getting the heat of our anger, even when they didn't cause it!
  • The scene where Park's mom apologizes about how she first judged Eleanor--a really powerful scene!
  • Park struggling with learning stick shift.  I totally understand, Park.  Again, another awkward teen moment.
  • Park TRULY cares about the bullying Eleanor faces.  The way he treats her--giving her a necklace, opening her door, inviting her to dinner--so authentic and sweet.  
  • I like the simplicity of the cover.  I know some people have criticized Park not looking goth enough (he goes through a goth stage), but I like it. 

What I Didn't Love:
  • There's a lot of cussing.  I know, I know, teens cuss...but I don't.
  • Eleanor's mother.  C'mon, stand up for your daughter!  Nope, she always chose Richie.
  • The ending left me wanting more resolution.

My favorite quote:  "Seriously, Park, I'm never going to forget your phone number."

A really good read!  Authentic, sympathetic, romantic, heartbreaking.

I'll be back tomorrow with an 80s-inspired outfit!  See you then!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Is Not A Drill-Inspired Outfit

On Monday I reviewed the book This Is Not A Drill, a tragic realistic story about an elementary school hostage situation.  Since the topic is pretty serious and could hit home with many people, I decided to pick a more light-hearted side of the book to feature in my fashion re-do.  

In the book, Emery and Jake teach French to the first graders; isn't that adorable?!  I can just see a class of first graders throwing around "Merci!" and "Je voudrais..."
After thinking all about our Americanized interests of French culture--Eiffel tower, baguettes, berets--I decided to create a look based off of the French maid (but a PG-version!).

So here it is:

French Maid

Are you getting the French maid vibe?  

The outfit breakdown:
  • The striped skirt and cream blouse are the basis for the French maid look of black-and-white.  It's a flirty yet appropriate pairing.
  • French maids always have lace, so I added a fun, black lace necklace to add just a pop on the shirt.
  • Isn't that the most adorable French-inspired watch?!  Ok, a little over-the-top for the outfit but I couldn't resist!
  • You have to have good shoes if you're trying to look French.  These heels are GORGEOUS!
  • The red nail polish is a no-brainer.  It adds some vibrancy to the look.
So what do you think?

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of a sweet/humorous/realistic love story, Eleanor & Park.  See you then!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday--Books I was Forced to Read

Hi, readers and fashionistas!  Today's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and Bookish) asks us to list ten books that we were forced to read.  I feel like I'm always being told to read, whether it's for a class, book club, or committee.  And as you'll see from the list below, sometimes this is a great thing and sometimes I'm ready to just finish the darn thing!

Books I had to read for class:

Middlemarch by George Eliot.  I remember that this took FOREVER for me to read, and once our class watched the movie, I realized I hadn't really understood any of it while I was reading.  Oops.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  I know it's probably a sin as a Hoosier to not rave about Vonnegut, but he's just a little bizarre for my taste.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I had to teach this to freshmen one year--one of my favorite classics.  LOVE this book.  Makes me so sad whenever I see it banned somewhere.

The Odyssey by Homer.  I taught this to an academic team last year.  It's great but man is it long!  And to think that this used to be a verbal story!

Books I read for my book club:

The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  I probably wouldn't have picked this up on my own--it's pretty long--but I really enjoyed it!

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Probably one of the more fun books I've been told to read.  I'm reviewing it on Thursday, so pop back then!

Books I had to read for a committee:

Jude by Kate Morgenroth.  This book is SO underrated.  Such a great YA read!

Steve & Me by Terri Irwin.  I don't share much in common with Steve Irwin, so it was an interesting read.  Made me appreciate his work a bit more!

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.  If I were required to read books like this all the time, I'd never stop reading!  I'll be reviewing this one soon!

Genesis Alpha by Rune Michaels.  Another hidden gem!  My boys especially love this at school.

I can't wait to see what's on YOUR list!