Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Raven Review: Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones

All "Halloween" type reviews in October are dubbed Raven Reviews

Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones

Raven Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Constable & Toop is a comic Victorian ghost story set in London 1884. Sam Toop is the son of a funeral director with the unfortunate ability to see and hear ghosts. But London’s dead are the least of his worries when murderous Uncle Jack comes to stay, seeking sanctuary from the law. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ too when a ghost clerk called Lapsewood, working in the Bureau discovers that ghosts are mysteriously going missing. His investigations soon reveal a terrible disease known as the Black Rot, eating away at the haunted houses of London.

Review: Constable and Toop is a title that I came across one evening while working in the library. I read the back cover and immediately knew that I had to check it out. I'm definitely glad to have stumbled across Jones' ghost story and I hope some of you will follow my lead and find a copy to check out!

The book takes place in London, 1884. The setting is done really well. I could easily imagine the streets and buildings as Sam Toop and the various ghosts traveled around the city. Everything came alive, like viewing a movie on the screen. While Sam Toop is one of the main characters, as his ability to see and speak to ghosts leads him into the mystery of the Black Rot, the book follows more than just this young boy.

All points of view are in third-person, but each chapter can change from Sam Toop working in his dad's funeral home to Lapsewood, a ghost who has not yet crossed over and finds himself investigating London for a lost worker, to various ghosts that are met throughout the book. As a priest crosses London exorcising various ghosts, the buildings they occupied become fair game for what is known as the Black Rot, unless a new ghost wanders in. Then they are stuck. This happens to a worker and Lapsewood is sent to find her, using the help of a young Rogue ghost named Tanner. Rogue means they did not cross through the door after death but neither did they enter the ghostly workforce where everyone is kept in neat order. Instead, these ghosts roam the city streets, as free as they can be. Unfortunately, many of them get stuck in buildings and end up being horribly exorcised.

Once Lapsewood and Tanner learn more about the Black Rot, the story eventually reaches Sam, who has to decide to help or not. Throughout his life, Sam has tried to help as many ghosts as he could, but they are never thankful and sometimes they trick him into doing "bad" things. Sam is tired of it, just like he's tired of his Uncle Jack hiding in their home, when he's wanted for murder. But Jack has many secrets, and Sam ultimately becomes tangled up in more than one mystery.

The various point of views might sound daunting, but don't worry. It's mostly Sam and Lapeswood, and all the other narrations are easy to follow and important to the overall story. Constable and Toop is a unique ghost story that had me forming deep connections with the characters, even the ones we don't know for very long. I highly recommend this one!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Review: This is a middle grade book that I've wanted to read for a long time, so I was excited to see that I was assigned to do so for my children's literature class. While the book might be labeled as MG since Auggie is in the 5th grade, that doesn't mean that adults can't read this book and get a lot out of it. It focuses on a lot of important topics about friendship, love, and being kind to others.

I loved that the book is told in first-person point of view, mostly following Auggie because it allows you to get inside his head. You know how feels about his face and what he thinks when other people scurry past him, afraid to even touch his skin. However, the book is also in the first-person point of view of other important characters too. You get thoughts from Via (Auggie's older sister), Jack (a classmate of Auggie's) and more. Like I said, most of the book is Auggie's point of view, but the entire story isn't all about him. It's also about the people he affects, in good and bad ways. Auggie is the sun, and the other characters are the planets who orbit him.

I do think that the ending is wrapped up nicely in a lot of ways, which is a bit unrealistic. Some of the things that happen could have occurred and the outcome probably would have been the same, but in real life, the odds of these things all happening are pretty slim. It still works though, because the whole book is a journey and a struggle for Auggie to accept himself more than anything. He has to learn how to walk with his head held high, instead of hiding beneath his hair or an old astronaut helmet. In the end, Auggie has to learn what everyone does; the world might be a scary place, but the people you love will always make things better, so keep them close.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Touring Local: September Edition

First off, I want to thank Ginny from Gin's Book Notes for making the awesome banner above for this new feature. The idea behind this feature is that instead of traveling way out of town to do fun things, you should try Touring Local. I'm going to try and have at least one post each month for the previous month's adventures! Most of these activities were either in KY or OH, since I live on the border.

Touring Local: September Edition

 September 6, 2014

 Crafts and Drafts is presented by a local newspaper called CityBeat. It's an outdoor festival with, you guessed it, crafts and drafts! Various musicians would be performing throughout the day too. I ended up going pretty early in the morning to check it out, so I didn't hear any singers. Instead, I made my rounds around the festival just to see what was available.

This is a look at some of the booths and the area we were at. I didn't stay long, but I did get a couple minky tag blankets for a couple of my friend's that are currently pregnant. They are super cute! I wish I had a picture of them...but I guess you have to take my word for it. I love craft festivals but this one wasn't that big, so I don't know if I'd go again.

After the Crafts and Drafts, we were headed home when we saw that there was an event going on at the Lunken Airport so we decided to stop in. They were having an Aviation Day where people could come and check out some old-fashioned planes close up. You could even purchase a ride in one!

This is my dad hanging out in front of some of the planes!! It was really cool to check these out up close. It was also cute seeing all the young kids hanging out. There was one plane that was low to the ground that the kids were taking turns sitting in!

The above plane was huge! There were a couple parts under the plane that you could look up into. We checked out the back area, where I guess the bombs were held.

Before we left, we visited the booth from Amaizing Grace to get some awesome kettle corn. You can't go wrong with kettle corn in the fall. There were some other areas/booths to check out here as well. You could get flavored ice and later in the afternoon they were giving out free lunch and soda. We were a bit too early for that, so unfortunately we left before the food.

September 17, 2014

The Best of the North Celebration was such fun! I am definitely going to attend next year. Best of the North was presented by Cincy Magazine and was held in the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From their website: Hundreds of Cincy Magazine readers have nominated their favorite places to eat, shop, and have fun in Northern Cincinnati. Now it’s your turn to join the fun and decide who comes out on top!

Featuring more than 60 local businesses, this is your opportunity to vote for your favorites in over 60 categories of local food, retail and service organizations.

The Village Spa - one of the nominated spas
The convention center was a great place to hold this event because it easily held all the businesses that had been nominated and showed up to the event. There were a few bars throughout the room (each ticket to the event got you two drink tickets) where you could trade in your drink ticket for water or a soda. Other drinks were available for a fee. There were also some tables to sit at on the left side of the room, as well as standing tables around the booths. My mom and I attended this event together, and we were lucky to always find a quick spot when we needed to try the food we were given.

Donna's Gourmet Cookies - these were amazing! We definitely voted for them.
While Best of the North featured all sorts of businesses from restaurants, to consignment shops, to ice cream locations, spas, and more, the places that offered food were my favorite because they all had something you could grab and try out. The first item in the first picture above is the booklet where we voted for what we liked best under each category. Once we had walked around the whole room, my mom and I filled out the booklet and turned it in!

Painting with a Twist from Mason, OH

I included some photos and links above to feature just a select number of businesses that were featured at Best of the North. The cookies are something I'd love to try again and Painting with a Twist is a business I want to visit; you can drink wine while painting a lovely picture! Again, Best of the North was a lot of fun and I'm already excited for next year!

September 21, 2014

The Cincinnati Comic Expo was the first comic event that I've been too, but it was a lot of fun. It took place over a whole weekend (Friday to Sunday) but I was only able to go on Sunday. This was probably a good thing or I would have spent way too much money (even more than I did!). My sister, a friend of hers from work, and myself attended this event together.

My sister and I (I'm in the Batman sweater) posed in front of a replica of Sherlock Holmes' front door. My sister was about to take a picture of me when a couple girls stopped and offered to take a photo of us together.

We then took a picture in front of the Tardis. The same girls let us borrow their sonic screwdrivers for the photo!

I took some quick photos of Paul McGann, who was the 8th doctor, as he met with fans for photos and autographs. I didn't get to personally meet him but the three of us did attend his panel at the end of the day where he was interviewed and generally amused us all! It was a lot of fun and I would totally attend another panel with him!!

The autograph/photo booths were set up along the outer perimeter of the floor so they were easy to find. An intercom would announce when people would be appearing here or presenting a panel (which were mostly on an upper floor).

Quick shot of Henry Winkler!
The actual floor space of the comic expo was huge, but everything was pretty much spaced out in rows so we simply went and up down to check everything out. My sister's friend really loves artwork, and there was plenty of nerdy posters, paintings, drawings, etc. that you could purchase. We all got a mix of items, including this really awesome Tardis drawing that my sister and her friend bought. I got a Harley Quinn poster from the same place!

Sorry for the slight glare, but I think you can get the gist of the painting. It seriously looks like a photo until you get up close to see the marks. My sister and I still need to get frames but then these are totally going to be displayed in our homes! I wish I knew the artist's name but he was out of cards so I never got it!

Harley Quinn
I'm on a bit of a Harley Quinn kick so I got this poster as well as some of the New 52 comics. I need to get a few more to be up to date though!

The artist signed this drawing for my sister so I'm able to tell you who he is, and that would be Chad Schoettle, currently a Cincinnati resident. By the way, I should probably note that none of these were the original drawing or painting, but a poster/print of the original so they didn't cost that much! And for those that aren't aware of Doctor Who, this above photo is the Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant.

 Another booth I came across was offering personalized drawings. They wrote down your name and took a photo of you and then you could come back in about twenty minutes for the finished result. This shot (sorry it's a bit blurry) is the drawing they made of me! I think it's so cute. It's currently being used as a bookmark in a Doctor Who book I also bought at the con.

Another shop was selling little candles and I got one that had the Batman symbol on the outside. It's bright yellow and smells like bubble gum. I don't have a photo, I'm afraid, but it's up in my room and super cute! I believe the same shop was selling necklaces and my sister got a couple- Hunger Games and Doctor Who themed I believe.

I also got a little Winnie-the-Pooh print (my sister's friend got the same one). I don't have a photo of that either, I'm afraid, but it's currently framed and in my mom's room. 

And finally, there was a shop called ChicalooKate that sold really fun magnets with nerdy/pop culture quotes. All three of us got one, and mine is below (taken from her etsy shop, not my actual photo):

I have this on my fridge, and I just love it! She has some really awesome magnets on her website that I'd really like to get. If you would like this Doctor Who Stories Magnet, though, be sure to visit this link.

Voila! I have reached the end of the Comic Expo. There are a lot of things I could still talk about, but I wanted to focus on the main details. I hope you enjoyed my first Touring Local feature and I'll share my October adventures next month. Don't forget to use local deal sites, like Groupon and others, to find good deals! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blog Tour: Loop by Karen Akins Review and Interview

Loop (Loop #1) by Karen Akins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Age Group: YA
My Copy: eGalley via NetGalley
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: 10/21/14
Review by: Alicia


At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future. 


I have been wanting to read Loop ever since I heard it was about a time traveler who accidentally brings a boy from the past into the future with her, and oh yeah, he’s in love with her future self. I mean, how does that not interest you? So yeah, I’ve really been looking forward to Loop. Luckily for me, Loop was even better than I thought it would be.

The book starts off by literally throwing you into the story. There is no slow start; it starts off with a bang. Because of that, I had a little bit of a hard time getting into it, but once I got a little ways more in, I was hooked. Bree has a lot of different slang and it was part of the reason as to why I wasn’t all that into Loop. Once I got the hang of it, the slang was fine. Actually, the slang leaned on the cute and funny side which I loved. All of the future technology, words, ect. were also a little hard to follow at first, but once I was past the first couple of chapters, I was able to understand it and had no more problems. Akins does also explain everything, so you won’t spend the entire book lost and confused.

Loop had a lot of mysteries going on, as is the case with most books dealing with time travel. I’m usually really good at figuring everything out in books before the truths are revealed, but Loop stumped me. I think I only figured one or two things out, the majority of the twists and revelations surprised me. I was a little suspicious of the person who turned out to be the attacker, but even then I pretty much dismissed them. Major props to Karen Akins for writing a book that will leave readers guessing and unable to figure everything out.

And Finn. Their first meeting was the best. They didn’t leave the best first impression on each other, especially since Bree ended up “kidnapping” him, which was absolutely hilarious. They spent a lot of time after that bantering and bickering. I love reading about couples who banter, and Bree and Finn’s relationship definitely has that throughout the entire book. Their relationship is too freaking cute. Honestly, they just had a lot of cute and funny moments together. Finn is definitely a new book boyfriend. He’s confident, hot, not at all embarrassed by his nerdiness, protective of Bree, but also knows that he needs to back down because she can do things herself, and it’s easy to see just how much he loves her. *happy sigh*

And Bree. Oh, Bree. You are fabulous. One of my favorite heroines. She’s snarky, fearless, willing to do whatever it takes, and very easy to relate to. I had absolutely no problems about liking Bree. Her narrative is easy to follow and enjoy. She is also funny and smart. I spent half of the book laughing at the things she said or thought. Bree may be smart, but she does have a few moments where she messes up. When those happened she owned up to it and tried to come up with ways to fix it, even if it didn’t turn out all that right.

If you are looking for a book that is funny, cute, romantic, fun and unputdownable pick Loop up! I could go on and on, but this review is already getting long. Just get a copy of Loop. Trust me.

The sequel, Twist, will be out on March 31, 2015. You can bet I’ll be counting down the days until I can get it.

Cover Comments: I’m not a huge fan of kissing covers, but I do like this one. Especially the background—it looks like a time vortex.

Overall: 5/5 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today to celebrate the release of LOOP!

1. What was your favorite scene to write?

 Ooh. This is a hard one. There’s one particular scene where Bree and Finn are trapped together in a small vehicle from the future called a Pod, and it was fun to write because they’re packed in there so tightly that I was hyperaware of all their body movements. I could just feel their awareness of each other as I wrote it out. And it’s a scene were she starts to open up to him, so it gives that extra dose of closeness.

 2. If it was possible to time travel, would you?

 Part of me would want to go back to my own past and observe special moments (like my wedding or my sons’ births), but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to ruin them. Everyone tells me how happy I looked on my wedding day—that I didn’t stop smiling the entire time—but I think I’d be picking apart details. For instance, my husband surprised me for our ten-year anniversary last week with a slideshow of our wedding pics, and I noticed that my shoes looked weird from a certain angle.

 So now, even though I know there’s almost no chance that people were staring at my shoes that day, I will always wonder.

 3. Do you have any favorite time travel books, movies, and tv shows?

 Oh. My. Word. You have opened up the floodgates. I LOVE time travel. I love to pick it apart and find loopholes in it. I think that’s part of the fun.

 My all-time favorite time travel is Back To The Future. It’s actually the first movie that I remember seeing in the theaters. (And little spoiler alert: There’s a scene paying homage to it in TWIST.) My husband and I have heated discussions about whether II or III is superior (II, obviously).

 In recent years, I really enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past. I thought the way they tied the present together with the changing past was brilliant. Looper held my attention, but dang it was gruesome.

 In books, I've actually avoided reading time travel while I've been writing LOOP. There are already so many similar themes in the sub-genre. I didn’t want to be overly influenced by other authors. And let me tell you, it has been hard. Once I finish my final polishes on TWIST, I’m going to have a total time travel binge. I’m looking at you, Julie Cross, Myra McEntire, and Cristin Terrill. J

 4. What are some of your favorite books and which books are you looking forward to?

 Well, I mentioned the impending time travel binge.

 All-time favorites are Harry Potter, everything by Jane Austen, The Hunger Games series, Anne of Green Gables, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tuck Everlasting, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In recent years, I really liked The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, The Mediator series by Meg Cabot, and the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis. I haven’t had a chance yet to read Beth’s book The Body Electric, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to a few of my crit partners’ books. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio is coming out at the end of April, and I can’t wait. I got to read an early version, and it’s fabulous. Kimberly Loth’s sequel in her Kissed series is coming out soon, and she very cruelly hasn’t let me read any of it yet. I’m looking forward to that one, too.

 5. What are you working on now?

 At this moment, I’m waiting on copy edits for TWIST. I’m also finishing up revisions on a Middle Grade story that’s been percolating in my head for quite awhile. And then, there’s a shiny new idea brewing that I can’t talk about just yet.

 Thanks again for having me! I hope everyone enjoys LOOP. <3 nbsp="">

To find out more about Karen, you can visit her: website, twitter, tumblr, facebook, goodreads, instagram, and pinterest.

Raven Review: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

All reviews in October that have a "Halloween" feel are labeled Raven Reviews 

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Raven Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy-tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy-tale curses of their own ... brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

Review: First off, I really liked this book and I thought it was a quick, imaginative read. At the same time, I can see people getting frustrated with Mira. I know I did. She is thrust into this new world where fairy tales are real, and they aren't always beautiful, so she's understandably confused and seeking answers. However, she also ignores a lot of well-meaning advice, even when proof is shown to her that she is doing the wrong thing. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up before you get hurt! I guess it wouldn't be much of a journey if Mira always did the right thing though.

I loved how Mira met a variety of people who are fated to play out fairy tale roles. Some of them are excited about it, like a boy named Freddie, while others are afraid, like a girl named Viv. I won't tell you the curses these teenagers are afflicted with because figuring it out is half the fun. As is probably obvious, Mira belongs among this group. I think her fairy tale curse is a bit obvious, but again, I'll let you learn that on your own!

That what we want - what we're willing to fight for - matters as much as, or more than, our curse."
p. 167

As for the two brothers mentioned in the summary, that would be Blue and Felix. Both of them share the same curse, except Blue seems unwilling to give into his and is desperate for Mira to stay away from his brother. The aforementioned annoyance with Mira definitely occurs during these encounters. In time, though, Mira's eyes are opened to the true reality she now lives in, but is it too late for her and those she loves?

The book is in third-person point of view, following Mira, with a few moments of Blue's perspective. I think this worked well. Mira might be in the dark about a lot of things, but some of it are things you can still try and work out on your own. As for Blue, his moments show you more of his curse and how it affected him, which also helps you understand Felix in a way.

Kill Me Softly is a great book for this time of year, but it's also great for anyone fascinated by the dark side of fairy tales.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: Vitamins and Death by Medeia Sharif


YA Contemporary, Prizm Books

Release Date December 10, 2014

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother’s briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High.

Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, Deidra thinks no one will figure out they’re the Battles from recent news and that they’re safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed her life.

Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Find Medeia

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Review by Lauren

Source: library copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.

Review: I read Ella Enchanted for my children's literature course when we focused on fairy tales. Levine's novel is a different take on the Cinderella story. While there are many similarities between this book and the Cinderella you know from the Disney version, Ella is more feisty and capable of taking care of herself. She does eventually fall for a prince but they do get to know each other beforehand. They see the good and bad within each other.

Ella's circumstances are not fun. She is cursed her whole life with obedience, meaning she must do whatever people tell her to do. Most are not aware of the curse, but when the knowledge enters the wrong hands, it adds even more trouble to Ella's life. More than anything she wants to find Lucinda, the fairy who cursed her, so that she can gain control of her life instead of being pushed around by her absent father and new step-family.

This book is full of magical creatures, curses, fairies, and ultimately, the blessing of true love. Levine has created a version of Cinderella that truly celebrates being true to oneself.

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