Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Sisters Red

I'm going to start this review with this Twitter interaction:
I picked up Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce at the library after watching a slightly old, yet glowing review of it by The Readables. I haven't read many fairy-tale retellings, but I used to love them as a child, so I was excited to see what it was all about and WOW. I think this is one of the best books I've read so far this year.

Scarlett March has dedicated her life to fighting Fenris - wolves who are often disguised as attractive men - after she suffered a brutal attack by one as a child. With only one eye, the other lost as a result of saving her sister from the Fenris attack years ago, she walks the streets wearing a red cloak. The red cloak serves two purposes: the red lures them in like a bull to a red cape, and the cloak is the perfect hiding place for the hatchet she uses to kill them. Scarlett lives, breathes, and eats the hunt of the Fenris. Her little sister, Rosie, goes hunting, too, but becomes conflicted when Scarlett's obsession with the hunt deepens as more and more girls are found dead, and she finds herself falling in love with Silas - Scarlett's best friend and hunting partner.

The story is told through chapters alternating in Scarlett and Rosie's point-of-view. This was a wise decision, because I really felt tugged between the two sisters. Scarlett is so dedicated and determined to lessening the population of Fenris, and with good reason. Rosie is as good of a hunter as her sister, but isn't sure if that's where her passion lay, and I got a really good feel for her struggle to choose between her sister's passions, and her own.

And o-m-g the action! The action scenes in this book were so detailed, and there are a lot of them, yet they don't get repetitive or redundant. Each fight is different and exciting. I loved that Scarlett is such a kick-ass female lead character who was mostly fearless, but also very real and had heart. She could work her hatchet like crazy, and Rosie was also incredibly skilled with her bone-handled hunting knives.

This book was so awesome, guys. I stayed up late biting my fingernails through each intense action-packed fight scene, and found myself in tears more than once. Can this book be a movie? I am so looking forward to reading more of Jackson Pearce's work, she has three other fairytale retellings that I am beyond excited to pick up from the library next week.

Have you read this? Do you want to yet? :) What were your favorite fairytales as a child?

A Real Scroller?

Do you e-read? I have a Kindle, but for some reason, I just cannot get into reading on it. I've read several books on it - but mostly they are books that I don't care to own/have on my shelf, or are books that are only available on e-book (like Fifty Shades of Grey back in the day...).

I just think there's something romantic about having a physical book, being able to dog-ear the page, underlining your favorite quotes and passages, being able to easily loan them to a friend, not having to worry about a battery dying in the middle of a commute, not worrying about throwing it against the wall and breaking in a fit of frustration with your favorite characters. I just cannot get into the lack of personality that comes with reading on a little grey tablet. I love seeing my bookshelves overflowing with colorful book spines, and each book comes with a story that's more interesting than, "it was sent through a wire to this!"

Also, I love this article in the New York Times several years back about not being able to 'judge a book by it's cover.' I love being able to peek and see what people are reading on the train, and when they're reading a Kindle, it makes me want to know SO BAD what they are reading.

Maybe this is just me, but it makes me sad that buying actual books and reading them are being slowly pushed out by little gray slates and electronics. This is all just my personal preference for reading, and I do have to say that it makes me happy when people are reading regardless the device they choose.

What about you? What do you think about e-readers?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Amplified

When I was in junior high and high school, I used to really want to play in a band. I begged my parents for a bass guitar and eventually got one for a birthday present. After learning a couple of songs from my favorite bands, and having one band practice in a friend's garage, I gave up and haven't touched my bass since.

Amplified by Tara Kelly is about a girl, Jasmine Kiss, who is much more ambitious than I once was. Jasmine is seventeen and freshly graduated when she is kicked out of her cardiologist father's house for deciding to pass on college and pursue her dreams of being in a band. She heads off to Santa Cruz, guitar in hand, in search of a band, a job, and a new place to call home. After obsessively flipping through classified ads, Jasmine finds a perfect match: not only is a band looking for a guitarist for an industrial rock group, they are also looking for a roommate. The only problem: they don't want a girl in the band, and Jasmine has intense stage fright. She auditions anyways, and Veta, the lead singer, loves her, but Jasmine needs to convince the rest of the band - especially Veta's cute, moody brother Sean, that she is the perfect fit for C-Side.

This book was a quick read and quite enjoyable. I did think that the pacing was a little off in the beginning and Kelly made things a little too convenient for Jasmine, but I loved the characters. The tension built up between Sean and Jasmine was natural and exciting, and the band dynamic was well thought out and displayed nicely - I really got a sense of who each character was and what their 'role' was in the band. It was a good book for me to live vicariously though, which was fun, and Jasmine's passion for guitar was palpable on the page.

Rating: 4 / 5

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reading Rainbow Nails Tutorial

Remember that awesome nail art I posted a couple of days ago by Kelly at Basecoat Topcoat? Wellll, if you're anything like me, you've been dying to know how to do it yourself. We're all in luck! Kelly sent along the step-by-step process on creating these awesome Reading Month inspired nails. If you attempt this look, I'd love to see! E-mail me your beautiful book nails at thelitgirlblog {at} gmail {dot} com! I think I might give this a go over Spring Break, which is all of next week.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing this with us!

Are y'all going to give this a try?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Story Week!

Chicago friends! Do you know about the awesomeness that is Story Week?

Every year for the past 17 years, Columbia College Chicago (my school), has hosted Story Week. It's called a 'Festival of Writers' for good reason. It brings our Fiction Writing department together for networking and appreciation of authors who have 'made it.' It brings the public in to see what our school is all about, and give them access to some pretty badass writers. It's a week of readings, panels, discussions, Q&A's, and ultimate inspiration for people like me who hope to someday make a living off of writing.

This year, the lineup for Story Week is above and beyond. I've been in Columbia's Fiction department for three years now, and I don't recall being as excited for Story Week as I am this year. Gillian Flynn, author of the bestselling and much buzzed about Gone Girl is here. Sapphire, author of the book-turned-movie Push, and it's sequel The Kid is here. Joe Meno, author of one of my favorites, Hairstyles of the Damned and the newish Office Girl is here. Audrey Niffenegger, author of the book-turned-movie The Time Travelers Wife is here. Emma Donoghue, author of the bestseller Room is here. GUYS, THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER AWESOME AUTHORS HERE, TOO! Not to mention all of the readings by undergrad and graduate students in the department, alumni, and faculty.

Yesterday, I went with my class to see a Q&A session and reading with Sapphire. I read Push several years back after the movie came out, and The Kid over the summer. I deeply admired Sapphire's bravery at tackling the tough subjects she has in her novels, and the brilliant voices she created for Precious and Abdul Jones. Listening to her read from her novels and bring those voices to life was incredible, and hearing her research and experiences with the novels was inspiring and eye opening. Afterwards, she did a book signing. I bought a copy of Push to be signed, and I will probably re-read in the near future. Luckily, I was the last person in line to get my copy signed, and I got to talk to her for a few minutes.
One of the things she said that really struck me happened when I expressed to her something one of my teachers said about librarian's not being able to keep Push on the shelves in the teen section of their libraries, and the idea of a lot of discussions happening about how much is 'too much' for YA readers to read. She said in these days, people and children, especially, have access to so much knowledge on the internet. She said, "when I was a child, people used to tell us not to cross or play in the street because we would get killed. Now, instead of telling kids not to cross the street, we have to show them how to cross the street."

It was great, and an awesome kick-off to my 2013 Story Week experience.

If you're interested in attending any Story Week events, check out the website HERE for the schedule and more information.

Book Review: The Fallback Plan

Sometimes, graduating college can be more:
Especially when your job prospects are looking bleak. So what do you do when you are graduated, 22, and with no job in sight? Move in with your parents, of course.

That's where The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein takes off. Esther Kohler has just moved back in with her parents after graduating from Northwestern with a degree in theater. Her only hope is to get a not-too-damaging chronic illness to garner checks from the government, and extra sympathy from her loved ones. To fill in the time between looking for jobs, and helping her mother with crafts, she hangs out with her friend Pickle, and her unrequited high school love, Adam. Her summer plans for illness and hanging out take a turn when her mother sets her up to nanny for a young couple, Nate and Amy, and their four year old daughter May. 

May's baby sister just died six months before, and Esther is gripped with curiosity over the death of the baby, and how their household seems so unaffected by the baby's death. As she grows closer to May, she becomes a shoulder to lean on for Amy, and a listening ear for Nate, she finds out maybe more than she wanted to know in the first place. Esther's relationships get thrown for a loop, and she battles long standing inner demons, and escapes to the world of a screenplay she thinks about writing, a Narnia-esque tale involving pandas.

One of the things that made this book so enjoyable was the characters. I felt something for every single one. Esther's dialogue with her parents was hilarious and realistic. Her relationship with Adam was a true-to-life rocky and awkward 'are we or aren't we?' one. I felt for Amy and Nate. And I fell in love with May just as much as Esther did.

The Fallback Plan was also crazy hilarious, and I related to it very much, as I'm due to graduate in two months with a degree in the arts and the future freaks me out. There were parts where I called my mom to laugh and say, 'THAT'S SO ME!'

Oh, and if you love the show Girls on HBO, this will make you feel better about having to wait however-many-months for Season 3 :)

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Today's Library Haul.

My name is Courtney, and I have a book addiction. (Hi, Courtney...)

I went to the library today. I could not stop picking books off the shelf. When I had left the fiction section, my arms were groaning. I checked out, and hauled them in my little library-designated tote bag down to the Teen section. Then I got another small stack of books and stuffed them in with the other books. Then I ran up two flights of stairs to catch a train. Ouch.

These are all of my picks for the next couple of weeks. I will probably finish reading Divergent by Veronica Roth in the next day or two, and then next weekend I will be leaving to go to Michigan for a week. It's my final Spring Break! So of course, I needed reading materials for the 9+ hour bus trip there, and the time that will be spent there.

Why did I get so many? Besides the fact that I have a problem, there will be at least a few of these books that I won't be able to get into for whatever reason (not in the mood, don't like it as much as I thought I would, etc), so I like to have a wide variety to fall back on! As you can see, I've got a pretty good variety of Young Adult and 'regular' fiction, and then there's a memoir snuck in there that I've been dying to read by Pamela des Barres.

Have you read any of these? Is there one I should start with first? Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets this many books at the library?

Book Review: Snuff

*I'll start this off by saying that Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk is definitely for mature audiences, so this review will touch on some of these mature themes, as well!* 

Cassie Wright is a queen of porn with a legendary career. She's the star of what seems like hundreds of adult movies such as Chitty Chitty Gang Bang, World Whore 1 & 2, To Drill A Mockingbird, and The Wizard of Ass. She has thousands of doting fans. She has the blow-up doll and genital replicas. She has a mysterious child given up for adoption, conceived during one of her movies with a mystery porn actor. But there is one thing she doesn't have, and still needs: the world record for the world's largest gang bang.

The Challenge: engage in an act of sex with 600 men.
The Dilemma: no one expects Cassie to survive, hence the title of this final film: World Whore 3: The Whore to End All Whores.

To do this, they have gathered a room full of six hundred dudes - found in classifieds, online ads, street fliers, etc, waiting for their turn to make their dream come true and be in the presence of the Queen of Porn.

The story is told by three of these 'dudes': Mr. 72, Mr. 137, Mr. 600, and Sheila, who is the personal assistant to Cassie. Mr. 72 is a nineteen year old boy who thinks he may just be the mystery baby given up by Cassie Wright 19 years ago. Mr. 137 is a jaded ex-television roll with a haunted past that is hoping this will get his career back on track. Mr. 600 is Branch Bacardi, a seasoned porn veteran himself. Sheila is the 'talent-wrangler' who keeps the men in order while also tending to Cassie during the filming. She also spends the most time with Cassie leading up to this day, where she hears an obnoxious amount of Hollywood history from the actress.

My problem with these characters is that they all sounded exactly the same. Even worse, is that each chapter is in first person in these four characters. Sheila is a 21-year old female who sounds exactly the same as Branch Bacardi, who sounds pretty similar to the 19-year old maybe-baby of Cassie.

Most of the action takes place in memory of the characters. When the story was being told in the present moment, it really dragged. Palahniuk really relied on his shock value to make the room more interesting and disgusting than it probably was, and even with that, after a certain point I was like : OKAY I GET IT! Because without the gross details, it's just a room full of dudes with their hands down their pants, watching porn and eating potato chips. I get that shock value is something Palahniuk is known for (read Haunt by him for some intensity), but I couldn't get into it with this novel. Maybe I'm over it? The memories of each of these characters were told in the same, repetitive voice, each one seeming to top each other in extreme memories that hardly seemed realistic.

The ending of this novel was surprising. A twist was presented in true Palahniuk fashion, but it was so far out of anything that could ever possibly happen that I rolled my eyes and slammed the book shut. Trust, I understand the concept of fiction, but this was too exaggerated and over-the-top.

So in the end, I was lured in by the idea of the novel. After all, when the stakes are raised with the possible death of a celebrity, and this crazy world record, it sounds pretty gripping. However, with characters that sounded the same and a narrative that relied too much on shock value, I was left, sadly, disappointed.

Have you read Snuff? Any other Palahniuk works? I really enjoyed Fight ClubChoke, and Haunted.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reading Rainbow nail art!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the nail art blog Base Coat Top Coat, and was amazed at the art Kelly was able to fit onto a fingernail. After spending a crazy amount of time admiring her nail art, an idea struck me. Since March is National Reading Month, I asked her if she would be interested in creating some book-inspired nails. Luckily, she was so sweet and accepted the challenge! This is what she came up with and I am in love! I love the bright colors, and now I can only curse myself for not having the steady hand to recreate this awesome nail design on my own hands. She calls these nails 'Reading Rainbow,' and how fitting. Who didn't love Reading Rainbow as a kid?

Are you rocking any book-related nails this month? Do you think you could give this look a try?

Thank you, Kelly, for creating the coolest nails I have ever seen! Be sure to check out her blog and drool over her other designs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Recent Acquisitions!

Two days of posts in a row? Whaaa?

I have finally gotten a camera. Boyfriend and I have been dancing around the idea of getting one for awhile now, and when we found a great deal, we couldn't refuse! Part of our urge to buy one is my current obsession with watching 'booktubers' on YouTube. I had no idea that things like 'bookshelf tours' and 'book hauls' and reviews were a thing to do on video. I'm hooked, and now kiiinda wanting to get on that BookTube bandwagon. Would anyone like to see some video book reviews?

Of course, with a new camera, we had to take some pictures, and the first thing I leapt at to take photos of was my stack of latest book purchases. I bought all but one of them at my favorite used book store here in Chicago. I love being able to walk into a book store, and then walk out with a heavy bag of books and my wallet not sobbing too hard ;) Here's what I got!

Basic Psychic Development: A Users Guide to Auras, Chakras & Clairvoyance by John Friedlander & Gloria Hemsher : I've been studying and learning a lot about spirituality, crystals, meditations, and chakras lately. Consider it up there with BookTube obsession. I read the first chapter already and there's a lot of insightful step-by-step exercises to help you ground yourself with Earth and her energies, 'own the room,' and running energy.

Divergent by Veronica Roth : I actually bought this today in celebration of a good Tip Day at work. I've heard SO MUCH about this series. I love that it takes place in Chicago (hello!), and that Veronica Roth wrote this while she was a student here. I also am feeling really pulled to YA Dystopian novels lately - perhaps it's those AWESOME Capitol photos for the Catching Fire movie that have been released? Can't wait to read this! My sister is actually going to be reading with me on this one, so I'm double excited!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote : I love Truman Capote. Of course, I loved Breakfast at Tiffany's, as well as several other short stories of his. I've heard nothing but glowing reviews of In Cold Blood. Capote really got down and dirty to research for this book, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he reconstructed this murder and executed (no pun intended) this book.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck : The other day in a class, a classmate referenced Of Mice and Men, and how the final sentence of the book, which is a question, really stuck with her. So when I saw it on the shelf, I had to buy it. Also, because I feel like this is a book most people have read/should read. It looks short, so I will probably get around to it soon!

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: I LOVE J.D. SALINGER! I love this novel, too. I bought it because I wanted to own it. I gave my copy to my sister a few Christmases ago, and I'd really like to read this one again. It's been a while. A refresher is needed!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Another book I haven't read, but feel like I need to at some point in my life.

That's all of them! Not like I need more books, but I can't seem to stop myself...

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Wanna see some video reviews?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy World Book Day!

Today is World Book Day!

When I first heard about 'World Book Day,' I thought it was just a day to put the spotlight on reading. Kind of like when 'National Pancake Day' is declared, and it's just a big day for people to go out and eat pancakes for dinner. I did some research and found out that not only is World Book Day a worldwide celebration of reading, but it's a day to inspire children to read and have a wider access to books. Today, millions of book vouchers and awesome books are being given out to children, along with a celebration to bring together the reading community of young and old.

That's pretty awesome, right?

Also, how have I forgotten to mention National Reading Month?! Happy National Reading Month! I've finished a couple of books so far this month, and I'll be writing about them very soon. I'm working on getting over a yuck sinus infection and then I can hopefully resume posting ASAP!

Are you celebrating World Book Day?