Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Liebster Award: 2016

I am honored to have been nominated for the Liebster Award for a second time (first in 2013 and now in 2016).  This award is given to bloggers by bloggers to recognize awesome blogs, get to know others in the blogger community, and follow new blogs!  A huge thank you to Bookish Beauty for the nomination.

The rules are super easy and fun!  Check them out:
- Thank the blog who nominated you and link back to them.
- Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the award.  To be eligible, they need to have 200 followers or less.
- Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
- Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
- Give your nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post their nomination.
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{In no particular order} the Liebster Award goes to... 
1. Booknerd Babes
2. Swissbookworm
3. Tabitha Reads Books
4. Reviewing Daydreamer
5. I Am Shelfless
6. The Queen of Teen Fiction
7. YA Bibliophile
8. Life Is Reading
9. Joie Des Livres
10. Paved With Books
11. Radiating Samshine
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Without further ado, here are my answers to the Bookish Beauty's questions... 

1. What's your favorite book? 
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.
I haven't read this book in years, but I plan to re-read the whole series soon.

2. What makeup product gives you the most joy?
Lip gloss, lip balm, chapstick, whatever you want to call it.  Who doesn't like super smooth lips?!  That and I'm pretty sure I have every candy flavor in existence from my middle school years. 

3. Favorite book series?
The City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau.
Again, I haven't read these books in years, but I remember I couldn't put them down.  I haven't been keeping up with any current series lately which is something I hope to change in the near future.

4. Holy Grail makeup item? 
I think this means what makeup item I couldn't live without... so I choose mascara.  My eyelashes are blonde and that forces me to wear mascara everyday so people can actually see that my eyelashes do indeed exist.

5. What was the last book you just could not finish? 
I honestly don't remember.  However, it was hard for me to get through We Were Liars by E. Lockhart because I was so nauseous. 

6. What is a recent beauty product you bought that disappointed you? 
Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips. 
I still have blackheads after using all six of these strips.  Enough said. 

7. What book do you think everyone should read? 
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 
This book won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason people!

8. Best beauty product discovery this year?
I'm not heavily involved/active in the beauty product industry so I honestly can't tell you what new products were released this year.  Makeup is something my roommate can teach me about next year.

9. Favorite reading genre?
DYSTOPIAN.  I think I mention this in every review I post.  I have a tendency to be redundant (count how many times I write "honestly" and "so" in this post alone).  I'm sorry. 

10. What's the best lipstick you own, shade and brand?
Mary Kay Dusty Rose. 
I kind of forget that I'm wearing it halfway through the day because it's so light and silky on my lips. 

11. Most anticipated read in 2016? 
Heartless by Marissa Meyer. 
I loved Cinder (have yet to read the sequels) and I love fairy tale remakes.  I have to get my hands on a copy ASAP.
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{In case you wanted to know me better} 11 Random Facts About Me: 
1. Everytime I go to McDonald's, I order a Big Mac meal.  Yes, I am aware of how unhealthy that is, but I don't go to fast food restaurants on a daily basis. 
2. I'm a true Wisconsinite - I love cows, I'm addicted to cheese curds, and I root for the Packers/Badgers/Brewers no matter how awful their season is going. 
3. I'm trying to use up all 8 perfumes I have in my medicine cabinet, so I wear a different scent every day. 
4. Speaking of scents, I love going into Bath & Body Works just so I can smell everything. 
5. I have a foot fetish. 
6. Fuzzy socks make me happy. 
7. I feel the urge to paint my nails a lot, but the polish doesn't stay on longer than a week so what's the point? 
8. My ideal date would involve laser tag, going to a sporting event, or going to the local frozen yogurt shop. 
9. Last month, I saw Panic at the Disco in concert.  Brendon Urie is 100x more amazing in person. 
10. I hate driving in snow.  It's like I have a fear of getting into a car accident or something. 
11. I scream when a cat hisses somewhere by me.  One bad experience can haunt you for the rest of your life. 
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{And finally} 11 Questions for the bloggers I nominated: 
1. What bookish memes (if any) do you participate in? 
2. What's your go-to beverage when you're reading? 
3. What's your dream vacation? 
4. What's one book that you've had on your shelf for a long time and haven't read yet?
5. When did you start blogging and why? 
6. Do you enjoy writing? 
7. What's your favorite scent? (refer to #3 & #4 in the Random Facts section above)
8. Coke or Pepsi?
9. Paperback or Hardcover? 
10. Who do you consider to be your book boyfriend/girlfriend? 
11. What's one book you would want to be adapted into a movie?

To the bloggers I nominated - I hope to hear from you soon!  I'm interested to read your answers to my questions.  If you don't mind, post the link to your Liebster Award post in the comments below.  Congrats and keep up the good work!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: Out of the Easy

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruth Sepetys 
Publisher: Philomel Books 
Rating: 4

Synopsis (via Goodreads): It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.   She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.  With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Review: I had a hard time remembering that this book was set in New Orleans during the 1950s. Josie Moraine's story is timeless, intriguing and heart wrenching - ingredients that are bound to make a perfect book.  

Out of the Easy follows the struggles of seventeen (soon to be eighteen) year old Josie Moraine who is desperate to leave New Orleans, and her mother's shadow, behind to further her education.  She's inspired to pursue her dreams after an encounter with a customer at Marlowe's Bookstore who assumes she's already in college based off of her appearance.  This throws Josie off because she's used to getting looks of pity and disgust thanks to her mother's employment in "sales."  Did I mention that her mother steals from Josie and treats her like a dirty kleenex?  Uh, yeah.  

Sound familiar?  I was thinking somewhere along the lines of Cinderella, perhaps?  Despite the slight similarities, Out of the Easy is a very unique young adult novel that I'm glad I read.  I fell in love with Patrick Marlowe after the first 50 pages, but he had a different view on love than Josie, so he wasn't around very long.  Jesse, on the other hand... Hot. Damn.  I thought of him as more of the "bad boy" type, but he was so caring to Josie, and sweet, and he went to check up on her when she was hiding from her mother in the middle of nowhere and UGH.  He made my heart melt.  

I loved the characters.  Josie stuck to her guns the whole story and didn't let her past cloud her dreams for the future.  I've already touched upon the two boys who made my heart happy, so we'll move on to... Willie.  She was more of a mother figure to Josie than her biological mother was, which was weird to me because Willie admits when she first meets eight-year-old Josie that she doesn't like kids.  Yeah, right.  She was a tough cookie to crack; she was extremely protective of Josie, but didn't show her affection often so Josie wouldn't get too attached to her.  Cokie, a staff member of Willie's, was always kind to Josie.  That man would most likely take a bullet for her.  It made me happy when his story was wrapped up nicely at the end. 

Although action was slow at times the ending, in general, was perfect.  Seriously.  Ruth Sepetys wrote a brilliant stand alone novel that I strongly encourage folks to read.  Do yourself a favor and take a trip to your library to pick up a copy.  

I'll just wait here for you to comment on how awesome it was as well...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Waiting on Wednesday is a daily meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  It highlights what newly released books us bloggers are most excited to read. 
Title: There Once Were Stars
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?
My Thoughts: I need a cover ASAP.  The first thing that gets my attention when it comes to books is the cover, then I have to read the little blurb.  Obviously this time was a little different... This synopsis gives sets the expectation bar pretty high, so I hope the cover is just as intriguing. 

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: How It Went Down

Title: How It Went Down
Author: Kekla Magoon
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Rating: 3

Synopsis (via Goodreads): When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.  In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.  Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Review: All I could think about while reading How It Went Down was the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.  Now, I don't know if this book was inspired by that event, or just crimes similar to Trayvon's case, but that's all I could think about. 

After leaving the gas station to pick up a couple of things for his mom and sister, members of a local gang called the Kings, start harassing Tariq.  The leader of the gang, Brick, has been doing everything in his power to convince Tariq to join the Kings; however, Tariq wants nothing to do with it.  The situation is misinterpreted by a bystander and Tariq winds up dead.  

It took me about 150 pages to get the characters straight.  Tariq's story is told through 10+ points of view - some were family members, some were friends, some were involved with the crime, but all were impacted by the shooting.  The entire story spans over nine days.  The difference of opinions from the characters about what they think happened that fateful night goes to show how there are multiple sides to a story.  Literally the entire book is about each of the characters trying to cope and wrap their minds around what happened, while the reader is handed clues to solve the puzzle and piece together what actually went down.  (Get it?! Went down?!
My opinion in the book also went down as I neared the end.  Maybe it's my lack of gang experience (which I'm totally cool with) or the fact that that topic doesn't appeal to me.  Maybe it's because of how many POV's there were.  Maybe it's because of how short the chapters were.  Long story short: I was not impressed.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Review: We Were Liars

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 3

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A beautiful and distinguished family.  A private island.  A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.  A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.  A revolution.  An accident.  A secret.  Lies upon lies.  True love.  The truth.  We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.  Read it.  And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. 

Review: HOLY.  BALLS.  There are literally no words to describe how I felt after finishing this book.  It made me sick to my stomach; it made me want to chuck the book across the room, and I remembered that I screamed.  The reviews that claim this story is "haunting" are 100% correct.  

We Were Liars is a heartbreaking tragedy that reminds readers how toxic greed can be, and how easily it can tear people apart.  The story is told through the eyes of Cadence Sinclair Eastman, a teenage girl who suffers from a traumatic brain injury after an accident during, what she calls, summer fifteen.  You see, the Sinclair family is so stinkin' rich that their grandfather owns an island.  Each of his three daughters, Cadence's aunts, have a family summer home on that island.  Every summer, the aunts bring their children - Cadence's cousins - to the island and they all have a mini family reunion.  (With all this family being introduced at once, it was easy to get confused, but fortunately, there's a family tree on one of the first pages of the book!)  To be honest, I was jealous of the relationship Cadence had with her cousins.  Although they only got together once a year, they were inseparable on that island each summer.  That's just another reason why the ending is so depressing. 

Cadence is the oldest of seven grandchildren, with Johnny and Mirren only a couple of months younger.  The three of them, along with Johnny's best friend Gat, call themselves the Liars.  Why?  I don't really know.  Sure the Sinclair family, in general, acted like they were "perfect" and Mirren lied about having a boyfriend; but other than that, they weren't really liars if everyone knew the truth about what happened during summer fifteen besides Cadence, who, after the accident, has a distorted memory.  Together, Cadence and the reader try to find the missing puzzle pieces of what exactly went down during the fifteenth summer.

I loved E. Lockhart's writing for several reasons.  
1. Cadence's struggle with her brain injury was written beautifully.  You could feel her pain, and sympathize with her, but not for her.  She was a strong, determined girl who could take care of herself.
2. Every once in awhile, there would be a storybook chapter - a mini fairy tale story that inferred the next big obstacle involving her family.  They were like a magic mirror to the future.
3. Each of the Liars' description was summarized in a couple of words.  Johnny was "bounce, effort, and snark," Mirren was "sugar, curiosity, and rain," and Gat, Cadence's Gat, was "contemplation and enthusiasm, ambition and strong coffee."  That's all the reader gets to know about those three, which makes sense in the end.
4. I felt like I was watching a Nicholas Sparks movie, or Charlie St. Cloud, while I was reading it.  Both the movies and We Were Liars had an identical sense of mystery to it.

The only thing I didn't like: the random poetry.  And the ending.  THE STUPID, STUPID, ENDING.

At this point in the review you might be wondering: What does this mean, Alexis?  Did you like the book or not?  Yes... and no.  I loved this easy, breathtaking read.  I hate how it is bound to give me nightmares...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See

Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Goodreads): From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. 

Review: This book tore me apart.  To be honest, I don't remember the last book that made me cry.  Last night, as I was reading the last fifty pages, I bawled like a baby.  

All The Light We Cannot See has two main settings (France/Germany) over a span of forty years (1934-1974) that tells the story of four main characters (Werner, Marie-Laure, von Rumple, and Jutta) and their experiences during World War II.  I typically don't read books associated with war or watch movies associated with war because... war.  I know people who've been overseas, I know people who are overseas; who doesn't know somebody who's in the military?  In fact, my great-grandfather was a soldier in WWII and happened to be one of those to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  But I digress... 

It's easy to distinguish which character is being highlighted in each chapter because the book is written in third-person. If it wasn't, I think I would be beyond confused and probably would've never found the motivation to finish reading it.  The chapters are pretty short - the longest probably being ten pages at the most - and the overall story is separated in parts through the different years.  However, the years don't go in order.  Again, with any other book this might've confused me, but I wasn't even phased. 

My overall thoughts?  This book was beautiful.  I loved the characters, I loved the perspective, and I recommend to everyone - even if WWII isn't a topic of interest to you.  It will captivate you, enchant you, and make you think.  I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a daily meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  It highlights what newly released books us bloggers are most excited to read. 
Title: The Siren 
Author: Kiera Cass
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A girl with a secret. The boy of her dreams. An Ocean between them. Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude...until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love with a human breaks the Ocean’s rules. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.
My Thoughts: First thing that got my attention was this cover - it's absolutely gorgeous!  Then, I read the synopsis and HELLO... MERMAIDS.  Well, Sirens, but they're like the same thing. 

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Teaser Tuesday (2)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm.
"In the town house, Frederick pulls on pajamas made of jelly-green silk and folds his glasses on the nightstand and climbs barefoot into his brass childhood bed.  Werner gets into a trundle bed that Frederick's mother has apologized for three separate times, although its mattress is more comfortable than any he has slept on in his life." (pg. 223)