Sunday, October 26, 2014

read | Draw-A-Saurus

by James Silvani
This is amazing. This book is actually really effective. It's not just a gimmick to sell you a three-step drawing "tutorial" where the picture jumps from a marshmallow to a mighty dino. I definitely don't consider myself an artist, and when I tried to draw a T-rex to test out the book, it turned out surprisingly well if I do say so myself. One bit of advice - NEVER draw a dark line. Ever. I made this mistake only to turn the page and see that I needed to erase it completely. If you're going to make a feature so dark it's permanent, make sure you look ahead to see if it actually sticks around.

My dino partly finished
In addition to the surprisingly effective tutorials, this book is adorable. It's filled with fun facts about anatomy and the dino lifestyle in general, and they aren't just the typical "Tyrannosaurus Rex was the King of the Lizards." The illustrations are wonderful, of course, and the book is great quality. This book is packed with color and the paper is almost velvety. This is a book that appeals to kids and grown-ups alike. I can't recommend it highly enough.
5 out of 5
More Info

Author Bio

The finished product!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hour 24 | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

1,025 pages later, it's that magical moment - wrap-up time!

The Aftermath
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    Hour 3, when I realized I'd fallen back asleep after about 30 minutes. That plus knowing I had other stuff I had to do during the day was a disheartening start.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    I powered through Anatomy of a Misfit at the end, it's an easy read and I really enjoyed the narrator's voice. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - pretty much the same type of story, and I liked it for the same reasons. And Ready Player One and Heir Apparent for some YA virtual reality - how's that for a genre?
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    I loved it, brutal though it was. It would be cool if for photo-related challenges there were a gallery where you could see them all in one place instead of jumping from tumblr to Twitter, but now that I think about it that cuts down on exploring everyone's blogs so never mind I'm tired.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    The mini-challenges are awesome. I love the excuses to take a break, and they're a great way to keep you engaged with the community, which is kind of the whole point of doing an event with other people. I did not know there were that many book-themed activities, and I was definitely impressed by them all.
  5. How many books did you read?
    Three, and I listened to a smidge of an audiobook.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Horns, The Eternal Ones, and Anatomy of a Misfit, and I listened to The Cuckoo's Calling.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    I enjoyed reading Anatomy of a Misfit the most, but looking back I think Horns was the better book.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    The Cuckoo's Calling. I think I'll try it again in print form.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I wasn't a Cheerleader. :( Maybe next year?
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Very! My level of dedication depends on my schedule / morning after, but this is a really cool experience. I would definitely like to get more involved where I can - Cheerleading here I come!

Hour 22 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Is it bad that I had to pull up a list of what I've read this year to remember what I liked this year? I think not.

Best Book of Your Reading Year - The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. I LOVE the Bartimaeus series, and I was looking forward to reading this book just because of the author. And it's completely different from everything I'd been reading lately (aka dystopian). And it's well-written, which shouldn't be out of the ordinary but it is. This book made me so happy on so many levels.

Best Main Character of Your Reading Year - Tarzan. Because he is legit. He teaches himself English without hearing English (which doesn't actually work, by the way) and basically civilizes himself and is also the toughest dude around.

Best Character You Love To Hate of Your Reading Year - The Gone Girl antagonist. You know who I mean.

Hour Barely-Keeping-My-Eyes-Open Update | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

These mini-challenges are killing me. Because they're all so cool and I want to do them and suddenly I've spent a solid hour working on a promotion for my favourite genre and I still have three books in my TBR. And I'm loving every excruciating minute of it. Got through two books so far, woo hoo! I finished Horns by Joe Hill, in which I had 286 pages to read, and I read The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (411 pages), so I guess my total so far is *pulls up calculator program* *realizes 411 ends in 11 and is actually pretty easy to add* 697 pages - definitely more than the average day - plus an hour or so of The Cuckoo's Calling audiobook, whatever that is in pages. I'm getting ready to start Anatomy of a Misfit. I really wanted to get into Shadow and Bone, but I'm no longer at the mental capacity to grasp an entirely new world right now.

Hour 19 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

In order to show my favourite genre (can you tell what it is?) I've made a movie poster-style-ish promotion.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hour 15 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Thieftaker Atlas
shrugged the eternal ones,
Shadow and Bone

Austen Hour | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

When I can't keep myself from actively choose to spend my time binge-watching Netflix, I like to trick myself into thinking I'm still being productive by designing and embroidering cross-stitch pieces. Sometime last year I made a piece with a few Austen heroines (sorry Fanny, it's not your fault your name is so unfortunate).

Which I have no idea what to do with, so suggestions are more than welcome.

Hour 13 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Clutching my TBR with fear in my eyes
So I took some creative license with this challenge - I cobbled together a version of Belle (from the original fairy tale, of course) (or the Little Golden Book of the movie) (pick one). PS Full-length selfies are HARD.

Hour 6 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

My "Name Your Read-a-Thon" entry - sadly, my e-books aren't too photogenic so just imagine Anatomy of a Misfit and The Cuckoo's Calling are in the stack.

Hour 5 Challenge | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Another hour gone, another 64 pages down. Time to break for the Book Staging challenge! (I don't have easy access to a pitchfork so I've gone with the kitchen variety.)

4 Hours | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

We're four hours in and, not gonna lie, I missed a bit of that when I fell asleep with my open book on my face. Still, I've made decent progress - 114 pages of Horns (I started on 84, so I'm at 198 right now) and 20 minutes (whatever that converts to) of The Cuckoo's Calling while I made breakfast.

Friday, October 17, 2014

watch | The Maze Runner

I read The Maze Runner a million years ago, and I remembered that it involves boys running through a maze. So I went in to this story for pretty much the first time. This is a fun new installment in that cool trend where everything's a trilogy (any bets that part three is just too action-packed to be contained by a single film?). And it shows. Not that this is a bad thing, I'm just sick of watching twelve Part Ones a year. This movie presents (brace yourself) a dystopian world where pretty much nothing makes sense. And then the film's resolution... takes what you already didn't know and mixes it up some more. Do I want to see the next movie? Yes, good job Hollywood. Am I satisfied with The Maze Runner as a film? Nope. There's a lot of racing toward something, I just wish I had any idea what that might be.

read | Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

So I have rather spontaneously decided to participate in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. While I do have some commitments that require me to function as a person for a few hours, I'm just looking at them as built-in breaks. Which I am sure I will desperately need. I have stocked up on pre-made meals and varieties of tea, let's do this!

My reading goals (or should I say opportunities?) are:

Horns by Joe Hill
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

And an audiobook that lets me do mobile things while still reading (not quite sure how to convert pages to minutes):

The Cuckoo's Calling by *ahem* Robert Galbraith ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

read | Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat is everything you would want from this book. I didn’t laugh out loud as much as I do at Gaffigan’s stand-up, but it was definitely an amusing read. The essays, while thematically grouped, can seem a little too short, though it’s better to want more from a story than to wish there was less. I started out reading a couple of essays at a time, which was a good way to brighten my mood without being concerned that they didn’t necessarily flow together. I eventually finished the last hundred pages in a sitting, and I wouldn’t say either method is better for experiencing this book.

This book is a series of anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of keeping up with five kids. The stories are fun and relatable, and this is a book you can keep around and reread if you need a mental health boost. I would have liked more long essays, but I enjoyed the stories and would definitely read book two.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

read | Fluent Forever

Fluent Forever is a good way to face a language without becoming overwhelmed by it. This book explains methods you can use to learn a language quickly, though they are not for the faint of heart. It's not a too-good-to-be-true scenario, and it does require daily review and eventual immersion. I like to think I would learn a language in my spare time, but it's not an immediate goal for me. Even so, I found this a highly enjoyable read.

The book summarizes the techniques you'll use early on and reiterates them frequently - much like the system for learning itself - so this can get quite repetitive if you're not trying to commit the plan to memory. There's interesting research about how our memories work and better ways to learn, and these explanations are fun to read casually. I feel like people who want to learn how to learn a language quickly might see these sections as obstacles to the "important" information. Another pro (and con) to this book is that it requires a lot of outside information. A lot. You still need to find textbooks, pronunciation guides, etc. The book does provide several free sources, though some of the links I tried to follow were no longer active. Overall, Fluent Forever is an interesting insight into how the mind works whether or not you are actually seeking to learn a new language.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NEVER EVER watch | Lucy

If you haven't seen Lucy, then SAVE YOUR MONEY. When it comes streaming to Netflix, then SAVE YOUR TIME. This movie is a ridiculous attempt to imagine an impossible "what-if" scenario. I was predisposed to hate this movie, as the trailer includes the statement that humans use only 10% of their brains - FALSE. Other grievances (spoilers ahead, not that it matters because this movie barely has a plot):
  • Lucy's mom is the worst character. Lucy talks to her on the phone and her mother speaks s o  s l o w l y and DOES NOT REALIZE how INCREDIBLY HIGH her daughter is, despite Lucy's ramblings about how she can feel her blood and also the universe.
  • The professor who does "research" on using the brain fully has NO DATA. NONE AT ALL. Students ask him what his evidence is, he says he only has hypotheses, and true to snarky college student form they storm out TOTALLY ACCEPT THIS LACK OF PROOF AS A LEGITIMATE STANCE UPON WHICH TO LECTURE.
  • It makes NO SENSE that having a fully functioning brain (which you do, by the way, congratulations) would affect anything outside of your skull. But Lucy acquires weird telekinetic powers and knows how to control them immediately.
  • A million pointless shots of energy or drugs or whatever racing through purple organs.
  • She shoots everybody who is maybe in her way. She leaves the guy who is basically her worst enemy ALIVE WITH KINDA BLOODY HANDS.
  • She declares that she has no desire anymore and then kisses the French dude. For practicality's sake?
  • She can write a prescription without any medical training.
  • When henchmen are ordered to kill the murderous blonde, they point their guns at her and chill. When she takes their guns, they raise their fists and chill. When she PINS THEM TO THE CEILING they wiggle angrily.
  • The bad guys are shown in GLORIFYING SLOW-MO as they try to take down Lucy with a ROCKET.
  • She powers back through time for NO APPARENT REASON and no one notices her - okay, maybe she's just observing and she's not really there - BUT THEN FOUR GUYS STARE AT HER. WHAT. EVEN.
  • She puts the secrets of the universe on a flash drive.
  • There is no plot to this movie. She realizes she's gonna die, so she... dies... and then she's everywhere and then that's it. There are no further implications (except for the gazillions of random people she killed).
I was even considering giving this a generous two stars for entertainment value but then it took this weird 2001 turn with the whole origins-of-the-world thing that CULMINATED WITH A BLACK MONOLITH and then I was just so so so done.

1 star. Out of 5. Because this movie gave people jobs, so I guess that's something.

read | Brunette Ambition

This book seems like Lea Michele's published scrapbook. It's an easy summer read, not unlike a hardcover magazine. Brunette Ambition has a combination of life stories and lifestyle tips, alternating enough to keep the book from feeling like a biography or a yearbook. It's not what I was expecting, but it was enjoyable. The writing isn't great and some lines and points are repeated a few times.

When not biographical, the book focuses on living a healthy lifestyle and loving yourself for who you are which, when combined with Michele's Glee fame, makes it a good choice for middle-school girls. It's a little contradictory to read articles about loving your imperfections with professionally airbrushed photos on facing pages, and there's a pretty useless section of makeup "tutorials." The directions are vague and the photos don't actually show how to do any of the process, so unless you're already experienced with makeup (in which case you don't need the tutorials) you're not going to know how to recreate the looks. While this book isn't perfect, it's suitable for young teens and has a good message.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

read | O, Africa!

O, Africa! is the story of two brothers who get so caught up in keeping afloat that they miss the fact that they're being swept over a waterfall. They work to make a relevant silent film in an age where sound is taking over. Indebted to mobsters and presented with a potentially lucrative project abroad, filmmakers Micah and Izzy Grand travel to Africa.
            I read this book because it is about film in the 1920s and I wanted to experience that atmosphere. As far as the filming goes, my expectations were met. I enjoyed reading about the filming process as it occurred in its early days. However, seeing as a significant amount of the story takes place in Africa, there wasn’t as much of a 20s experience as I had hoped. The filming in Africa captures the jungle in its pure (yet edited) form which, naturally, doesn’t lead to many flappers and speakeasies.
            The characters in O, Africa! are first identified by their flaws. I appreciate the emphasis on how human they are, but my early negative impressions were hard to overcome. Much of the action in this book is driven by the Grands’ desires to both make a masterpiece and fulfill the demands of the American mobsters, all while falling behind the times. I liked the premise, but it felt like the plot and the character development took turns rather than occurring simultaneously. O, Africa! has a unique setting for an interesting story that, despite its cheery cover, explores the dark side of life.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

watch | Begin Again

Begin Again is basically Once with celebrities. The story of down-on-their-luck (both in professional and personal lives) musicians finding each other through music is quite similar. The movie itself, not so much. It builds backstory through flashbacks, which can feel slow and unnecessary when you already know where the plot is heading, but they get the story across in a way that doesn't stop the momentum of the movie. The scene we all know from the previews, where Dan (Mark Ruffalo) fills in the instrumentals for Gretta's (Keira Knightley) song, is a little too Country Bear Jamboree after a couple of minutes, but this too shall pass.
Begin Again hits the weird combination of bittersweet and idealistic in just the right way, so you leave feeling happy or sad but you're not sure which. The songs are nice and aren't oversold because the movie doesn't show a public reaction to them - the creators are happy with their work, which is believable, but there isn't a barrage of admiration that's out of proportion to the appeal of the music. Begin Again is a welcome break from the action blockbusters and crude comedies that fill the summer.
4 out of 5 stars

Monday, July 14, 2014

read | The Screaming Staircase

I love this book. I read the Bartimaeus trilogy several years ago, so when I saw that this was the same author I grabbed it immediately. It's refreshing to pick up a YA book that doesn't fall into either the "dystopian" or "paranormal romance" genre that has been sweeping the shelves at Barnes and Noble. The premise for this novel - kind of Ghostbusters in London - is a welcome change of pace.

The novel starts in the middle of the action and uses a series of flashbacks to build its world. I'll admit, it took me a while to get through the first third of this book because I didn't latch onto the main plotline right away. When I figured out what was going on, I couldn't put it down. I love this story's construction and how it unfolds. I wish there had been more of it to read, even if that would mean a slower pace overall. I enjoyed the story, the characters, the setting, and I don't feel like I have a complete understanding of how the novel's world functions yet. In a good way. I've already preordered the sequel and I look forward to continuing this story come September.

5 out of 5

Friday, February 21, 2014

play | Thief

Technically, this isn't a review.

The game doesn't come out until the 25th, so until then here's a promise that I will soon have an opinion. I'm a fan of games like Dishonored and Far Cry 3, where you have the option of using stealth rather than flat-out aggression - it leads to longer, more immersive gameplay and means you don't have to worry constantly about keeping an eye on your health.

Thief is open for pre-order and pre-load, for 10% off on Steam and (hooray!) an extra 25% off that price on Green Man Gaming, bring the price down to about $33  (GMG gives you a key that you add to your Steam library).

I'll post an actual review as soon as I've played enough of the game to feel I've formed a reliable opinion.

Green Man Gaming:
*NOTE* This is a referral link - if you use it, we both get $2.00 added to our accounts.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

shop | Maybelline Polka Dots Nail Polish

Blue Marks the Spot (2 coats)
Not the greatest without a base color
When I walked past this polish I couldn't resist picking one up. It looks so amazing in the bottle and I mistakenly expected the same effect on my nails. On application, the dots aren't as dense as they look in the bottle. I was a little disappointed at first, but I've since decided I'm okay with it since this means you can build the dots up as much as you want. The dots come out pretty unevenly, and if you swipe the brush on the lip of the bottle to get rid of excess polish, you'll lose most of the dots. I end up blobbing a drop in the middle of my nail and pushing the dots around with the brush until I'm happy with the results.

My real complaint is with the base color. It's tinted, yes, but it never really gets opaque. I understand that this keeps the dots from getting coated, but I'm going to be adding a different color underneath from now on.
As for removal, think of glitter polish and then cry a little more. It takes a while to get the dots all off, so you're going to get really familiar with the scent of acetone. On the bright side, sweeping remover over the polish takes off the tint of color and leaves you with black and white dots, which is a pretty cool look. I also like the whole French tip thing, mainly because it doesn't have to be perfect to look good. They're polka dots. There's no such thing as a straight line.

Blue Marks the Spot (1 coat)
with L'Oreal Now You Sea Me (2 coats)

Pros: Looks awesome. 

Cons: Removal is not awesome.

eat | Starbucks K-Cups

I don't live at Starbucks. This becomes problematic for someone who requires coffee to start moving in the morning, as this means I'm not in the mood to make coffee until I've had my coffee.

Fortunately, I do live with a handy dandy Keurig machine, and I recently tried out the Starbucks Caffe Verona line of K-Cups.

The coffee actually brews, so don't worry about dealing with crummy instant stuff. I'd say it has a bit of a caramel flavour - THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT TASTES LIKE CARAMEL. This is a dark roast coffee, so be prepared for intensity.

A box of 24 K-Cups is $22.49, which comes out to about 94 cents a cup - significantly cheaper than a $2.00 tall in-store. I'm happy using 8 ounces of water with these pods, which keeps it at a healthy dark roast, but you could definitely thin it out and go with 10 ounces or cut it down to 6 (gulp!) and put hair on your chest. Even though a tall coffee is a little larger at 12 ounces, the K-Cups end up costing about 12 cents an ounce versus 17 cents an ounce at Starbucks. Pennies saved, I know, but it adds up.
Perfect for curling up with a good book - I picked The Book Thief.

Pros: Cheap. Convenient.
Faster than waiting in line.

Cons: You kind of need to have a Keurig.