Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Sun'll Come Out... [Giveaway]

When I was in elementary school, my parents took me to see Annie on stage. They even bought me a cassette tape of the score (dating myself here). I spent countless hours listening to it on my Walkman (again, dating myself) and belting out the tunes along with Annie (horribly off tune). When I heard that Annie was soon to be released as a movie, I immediately started making plans to see it. Because Annie! Although this is an adapted version of the original, it still sounds pretty fun, especially for kids. Check out the official site from Sony Pictures to learn more about the movie, directed by Will Smith and Jay-Z.

I was lucky enough to get an Annie prize pack and I have one to giveaway to you, too. The prize pack includes:
- One (1) official ANNIE kids shirt - photo
- One (1) 'Build A Brighter Tomorrow' activity book - photo
- One (1) sticker sheet - photo
- One (1) Scholastic ANNIE poster - PDF

Check out the shirt!
I love the baseball shirt style and especially love that it can be worn by a boy or a girl. I am hoping that once we get ours, Luke and I can go see the movie.

To enter the giveaway, simply answer this question: If you're a fan of Annie, what is your favorite song? ["It's a hard knock life... for MEEEEE"] If you're not overly familiar with the songs, tell me why you might like to see the movie.
Giveaway closes one week from tomorrow, Friday, December 26th.

Although I was given a prize pack for this post, all opinions are my own

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

I kind of forgot it was Wednesday and also this week has been terribly long.

Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy)
Book #2 in the Sixties trilogy. I LOVE these books. They intersperse history with historical fiction, which I love. Sunny's town is being invaded in the 1960s. As time goes on, she learns that the invaders are here to help the African-Americans in her town register to vote. Her small Mississippi town is divided, angry and violent. Her point-of-view is interwoven with that of others who live in her town, telling a story of--well--revolution.

Luc's mother warned him of the mock men, chimpanzees, who live in the jungle (the inside). But Luc is older now, an orphan after his mother and sister die of the worm (HIV). A professor comes along and proposes to take Luc into the jungle with him to study the chimpanzees. Originally wary, Luc grows to love the jungle, the chimpanzees and his professor. As the story evolves, you grow along with Luc and his experiences and it's really, in many ways, a beautiful story of Africa, endangered species and just trying to survive.

And that's it. Is it break yet? What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

After not getting any books in from the library forever, I got a million at once. I'm not exaggerating. The librarians had to give Shane a bag to cart them all home. I haven't even done my usual best books of December library request because so many books! So little time!

Leaving Time: A Novel
I keep reading Jodi Picoult books because I remember when she first started writing, her books were new and refreshing and engaging. Now they follow the John Grisham script where the characters aren't that engaging, but you keep reading for the plot twist. And then I get so hung up in the plot twist that it's all I focus on. In this book, I failed to guess the plot twist. Shame on me. This book focuses on Jenna, an adolescent girl who spends most of her life obsessing over her mother, who disappeared after a fatal and tragic accident at the elephant preserve ran by her mother and father. Having abandoned hope of her mother turning up on the internet, Jenna does two things: she hires a private investigator (the man who worked her mother's case) and a psychic. Although Jenna stumbles into the psychic's house, she learns later that the psychic was once famous for missing persons' cases, until she failed to find a famous politician's son while he was still leaving. This book bounces between the perspective of Jenna, the psychic, the PI and Jenna's mother. It was enjoyable to just read, but as usual, I felt the characters lacked depth because they were all just a set up for the grand plot twist at the end.

Ketchup Clouds
This book is told through letters from Zoe to a death row inmate, Stuart Harris. She doesn't know him, instead she picks his name at random. She writes to tell him that they have something in common--she has also killed someone she loved. The letters build up to the anniversary of this someone's death, though you aren't really sure until the end just who she killed and how. I loved the ambiguity--does Stuart respond to her letters? Does anyone ever find out what truly happened? This was a really good, engaging read.

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry (2013) Hardcover
Set during Puritan times, this book tells the story of Judith. Judith disappeared along with her best friend. Two years later, only Judith returned--missing her tongue. Seen as an outcast and a fallen woman by the town, no one speaks to Judith. No one calls her by name. She is unable and afraid to attempt to speak with her mutilated mouth. Instead, she narrates the novel mostly through her thoughts and silent observations. A tragic event forces Judith to find her voice and to begin to try to speak her story. This one gripped me. It was equal parts awful and hopeful.

The Wicked Girls: A Novel
Two 11 year old girls meet for the first time. At the end of the day, they will have killed a child. 25 years later, the two girls are brought together again as a serial killer stalks a small seaside town. Although they are court ordered by law to keep apart from one another and although no one knows their true identities, the two girls--now women--are forced to choose how they will keep their secrets hidden. I liked this book, although I guessed the identity of the serial killer a little too easily. Still, it was a twisting story, one that raised a lot of questions about crime and punishment.

I love coming of age stories. Coming of age stories in a slightly medically advanced world where head transplants are a thing? Even better. Travis Coates was dying of cancer, so he chose to have his head cryogenically frozen. Five years later, he comes back to life with his head attached to a new body. He feels like no time has passed at all. Only, it has. His best friend is in college and not who he thought he'd be. His girlfriend is now engaged to someone else. And Travis, Travis is a sixteen year old who doesn't understand how things changed the way they did. This is not a book about science or about a dystopian world, even. It's a book about a boy trying to fit in, with just one little twist.

Countdown (Sixties Trilogy)
Book one of the Sixties trilogy. Franny Chapman is an 11 year old girl in 1962, facing problems from atomic bomb drills at school to getting the boy across the street to notice her. Interwoven with Franny's stories are newspaper articles, photographs and movie clips from this time period, which I loved. The author managed to weave history and fiction seamlessly together, in a very interesting way. I admittedly don't know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but this book mapped out a great portion of it--while being engaging and making me want to read more! I'm on book 2 of the trilogy and love it.

What are you reading?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Golden Tote December Review

I spent today at home with sinus gunk and with a sick kid to boot, but UPS saved the day by delivering my December tote a day early! I have to say, this is probably my favorite tote yet.

If you haven't read any of my previous reviews, let me tell you a little about Golden Tote. Like Stitch Fix, it is a stylist curated tote. Unlike Stitch Fix, you get to pick one or two chosen items, depending on the base point of the tote. Then a stylist adds in surprise clothing items based off of your style profile and any comments you might leave. Unlike Stitch Fix, you cannot return items that don't interest you or don't fit, but the price point per item is much, much lower than Stitch Fix. There is also a Golden Tote trading community on Facebook where you sell or trade unwanted items--I have had a lot of luck in this community!

I had a few referral credits this month, so I was able to order a single piece on Black Friday and order a tote the Monday afterward. Although they always reveal the new month's tote on the first Monday, this Monday happened to fall on Cyber Monday. They honored that by throwing in an extra surprise clothing item with each tote ordered that Monday. How could I resist?!
As always, the clothes came with lovely packaging and a style card for my two chosen items.
This is what I ordered on Black Friday: the holiday sparkle sweater set by Skies are Blue. It came with a necklace, too.

In fact, Morgan is kind of obsessed with the necklace. I need to make sure to keep it away from her!
My first chosen item in the tote was the Winter Wonderland top by Skies are Blue. I love it. Metallic and flowy with sheer fabric. It's not the warmest top, but it's very festive and so feminine. 

My next chosen item was also by Skies are Blue, the Tis the Season dress. Oh my goodness. I am at home with no makeup and wet hair, yet I felt like a princess as soon as I put this on.
Also, it has POCKETS. 
My first surprise item was a top by Le Lis. Le Lis are usually pretty unique and have split backs. This one was no exception. The front is a sparkly sweater material with sheer sleeves and a sheer underlay. The back has a sheer split in it. Love it. So unique to anything I own.
This next one is by Catwalk Studio. I was a little unsure at first because it just looks BIG and has a lot of material. It's a sweater type material with a sheer underlay. But then I put it on and wow. It might not be the most flattering cut, but it is WARM and buttery soft. This will get me through the winter. 
Hourglass Lilly tunic. I love Hourglass Lilly tunics and asked for one in my order comments, so I am glad the stylist followed through. Long sleeve and makes a perfect warm to cold weather transition piece. 
Naked Zebra top. This is a pretty basic top, but the sleeves have zipper detailing and the neckline has a faux leather trim. I love how minor details can make a piece interesting.
And finally, the Peppermint skirt. I LOVE this. First of all, I am thankful my stylist followed my instructions to size up from a small to medium in skirts because this is very form fitting. It is also, however, the kind of form fitting that can be flattering if sized right. It hits right at the knee with a lace overlay. I love pencil skirts. Love. 

So, that's my December Golden Tote. I am feeling pretty good about how I'll look this month!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Bear with me, friends. I have taken a lot of migraine meds today and everything is quite fuzzy.

Ordinary Grace: A Novel
I love coming of age stories. This is a coming of age story with a bonus mystery. It's the summer of 1962 and Frank is enjoying small town life with little responsibility. Unfortunately, 1961 is also the summer of death and the summer of secrets. This book to me was absolutely outstanding. Frank is on the cusp of adulthood and is thrust there before his time due to accidents, suicide, murder and much more. The story chronicles this one summer in which his small town seems to fall apart before his very eyes. Frank tries desperately to make sense of it, to determine whether he believes steadfastly in God like his Methodist preacher father, or whether he cannot believe in a supreme being who would bring such suffering. Characters were rich and believable and the plot was engaging.

I had to go gently into this book because it was a difficult read. It reminded me much of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. A series of short stories spawning over various parts of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, these were mostly poignant, moving stories about the things the men of the new generation of war carry with them. There were some humorous stories, too, but mostly they were strong, provocative and made you think.

I enjoyed the Matched series by Ally Condie, so I was interested to see what she did. This book is dystopian, but of a different kind. In a world where aboveground is mostly ruined from pollution, a city is built under the sea. Some stay above and some stay below. Above sends food, while below mines for ore. In the midst of going below ground, miracles happen. Bats appear, though no animals were taken below ground. And some men and women are born and become sirens. When kids come of age, they can choose to stay below or go above. Rio always dreamed of going above. Rio is a siren, but her twin sister Bay is not. When choosing day comes, Rio says she will stay below, thinking her sister will do the same. Then Bay chooses to go above and Rio is left wondering, seeking answers from her siren aunt Maire. When Atlantia is in danger of dying, it is up to Rio and Maire to join together and try to save their city. This was a very unique dystopia. Some of it was predictable, but it was an interesting storyline. My only complaint is I felt the ending was kind of rushed, otherwise it held my attention.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Those Who Wish Me Dead
I first became acquainted with this author when I read So Cold the River (which was a great book), so I was excited to see he had a new one. Jace Wilson witnesses a murder, while trying to prep himself for a normal teenage dare, and ends up a wanted witness. He is put into witness protection, to save him from the two killers--named the Blackwell Brothers. Unfortunately for Jace, they have someone on the inside and he senses they will find him, despite being sent into the wilderness with a guide for troubled boys. As the story unfolded, I was intrigued by the storyline but also by the Blackwell Brothers themselves, who were creepy enough to belong in a Cormac McCarthy book.

Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy)
Lily Proctor is a teenage girl living in modern day Salem, afflicted by mysterious allergies and fevers. Then in a fit of anger, she finds out that she can't live in her world because she isn't meant for her world. Transported to a different Salem, Lily finds out that there is another Lily who goes by Lillian and rules with fierce magical power. I read this one because the librarian asked me to screen it for the shelf, and I definitely enjoyed it. It was kind of cheesy teen romance in parts, but overall, the story was engaging and I could shut my brain off to read it.

The Young Elites
Adelina is a survivor of the blood fever, which swept her country a decade ago and left countless dead and others forever marked by the disease. It begins to emerge that some of the children who survived the blood fever were left with… otherworldly powers. Called young elites by some, malfettas by others, these children are both worshipped and feared. Taken in by the Dagger Society, a group of young elites forged to overthrow the king, Adelina struggles with her loyalty toward her former family and her new one. I liked the Legend series by this author, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

What are you reading?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Golden Tote November Review

What is Golden Tote?
A clothing service that has two options:
1. A $149 tote, where you choose two pieces and receive a total of 5-7 items.
2. A $49 tote, where you choose one piece and receive a total of 2-3 items.
3. Something that is giving much-needed life to my wardrobe.
4. An all or nothing deal. You can return an entire tote but not individual pieces. This helps them keep their price point low. However, there is a Facebook group where you can trade or sell unwanted items. I've had huge success with this!

I had a few referral credits (thank you to whomever clicked my link and ordered--please let me know what new clothes you purchased!), so I was able to budget a $149 tote this month. This is amazing because I hate winter clothes, due to my deep seated hatred of winter. It's also amazing because since discovering Golden Tote, I feel so much better about my wardrobe. I get so many compliments on my clothes, and I truly do believe it's an excellent value.

In my comments when I ordered, I asked for items that could be worn through the winter or through transition times. I feel like this was definitely reflected with my tote.

My first chosen item was the Perfectly Plaid Dress. I am a sucker for a dress that I can wear throughout the winter. I absolutely love this one. The fabric is stretchy, but hits in very flattering ways. When I put on heels, it hitched up a little but still completely appropriate with opaque tights. It was also very warm.

My second chosen item was the chunky knit pullover sweater.

It was a little bigger than I thought, but it was so comfortable. It is incredibly soft! I tend to not be a sweater person because blah blah winter clothes, but this one may get me through the winter.

And now my surprise items! Mak B Olive sweater with faux leather elbow patches. Another sweater! This is so soft, like a fleece blanket. I've never done elbow patches before, but I think I like it. At the very least, it's so comfy and warm.

Everly shift dress. I love this one. It is way too short in the back for me to wear as a dress, but it is perfect with leggings. It is ribbed and lined and can be worn through winter and probably fall and spring, as well. I wore it with a black kimono cardigan and it was perfect.

Split personality top. I loved this one and knew it was a winner when students were complimenting it. It's super cute and has a longer back, which I love. The sleeves were almost like sweatshirt material. What I love about these clothes is that they are stylish (I think) but still very functional and comfortable. This is huge for me!

Skies are Blue top. The front of this is like silk almost but the back and sleeves are sweater material. Someone told me I looked really skinny while wearing it, so I am definitely putting this one in my "wear often" category.

I am telling myself that I don't need a December tote because Christmas and all that, but it has been so nice to slowly update my wardrobe while feeling that I'm getting a good deal (six quality pieces of clothes--two of them made in the USA--for $150) and generally feeling a little bit better about myself, too. The next round of Golden Tote will be released the first Monday of December at 11AM PST, but you can always order November pieces before then.