Friday, August 1, 2014

Shooting Thoughts: Expanding Your Blog

I figured it was about time for another discussion post! Today's topic is all about expanding your blog. I've been blogging for about seven years now, I'd say, and I've gone from doing just music to focusing on all sorts of topics. My main focus is entertainment, but I also like to mix things up and include products and other types of posts. It keeps things fresh for myself, and hopefully for those of you that read my blog on a regular basis.

So my question for you all this weekend: How do you keep your blog fresh and/or if you could expand your blog, what would you want to include?

A lot of the people I follow are strictly book blogs, but I know people have other interests. It's fun to see the blogs that try and mix those in, such as using music (Novel Sounds, etc) or food (Caffeinated Book Reviewer, etc.) I love books, but I also like music, movies, plays, crafts, and more, so I do what I can to keep things different and hopefully exciting.

I'm sure many bloggers have a main topic for their blog and I'm sure they are worried about changing things up, because they don't want to alienate readers. However, I think you have to remember that blogging should first and foremost be for you. If you aren't happy, or feel stuck in a rut, then you should try and mix things up. I'm not saying change your book blog to a beauty blog or vice versa, but how about mixing the two? You're sure to keep old readers with similar posts and hopefully interest them in your new posts well as garner more interest from others! It might not work for every reader, but overall, it's a win-win situation I think.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Buckle Up Music Festival - The Acts

Buckle Up Music Festival - The Acts by Lauren Becker
Pictures by Lauren Becker

The first artist that I was able to catch was Eric Paslay at the main stage. I wasn't familiar with the name, but I ended up knowing a few of his songs, which is always nice.

Later in the night, when the Eli Young Band played, they even brought Eric out for a song with them. The pictures above, however, are for Eric's own set.

I watched Ashley Monroe on the River Stage, which is great because almost every spot gives you a nice view. I wasn't sure who Ashley was at first, but once she started talking about her career, I realized I already knew her in a way. She's in the all-girl country group Pistol Annies (which also has Miranda Lambert). She sang one of their songs, as well as a couple other popular country songs that she helped write, but someone else sang. Of course, she sang a lot of her own work too, and I can definitely say I'm a fan now.

Ashley was a lot of fun live. She gave brief stories about some of the songs and how they came to be, as well as anecdotes from her life and career so far. It was nice getting to know her, while still feeling like there was enough music at the same time.

The Eli Young Band played on the Main Stage. They were pretty lively and upbeat; definitely a good band for their time slot since it was later in the night.

Alabama was the main band on Friday night. It was fun seeing generations of country fans, especially during this show. I grew up listening to a lot of songs from Alabama, so it was really cool recognizing so many.

For Buckle Up, my mom joined me because she is a big country fan and has been all her life. In fact, my mom and dad's first date was going to an Alabama concert, so she was excited to see them live after all these years. She definitely enjoyed it, and I think that's a plus for a festival like Buckle Up. It gives you a chance to see certain acts you might not normally be able to see live.


Thompson Square played at the River Stage. They are a husband and wife duo that my mom and I saw live a few years ago. They are definitely cute to watch live!

They mixed in some other tunes like "Say Something" by A Great Big World, which was cool to hear. I kind of think of them as a rock-country act in some ways. Their music is mainly country sounding, but their persona and look screams rock.

Thompson Square bumped right into The Band Perry's set, so we had to leave a little early to try and get a good enough spot. My mom thought Thompson Square was a bit boring, but I think that's mainly because The Band Perry had so much energy. Their set really screamed "main band" compared to TS.

Finally, we have The Band Perry. They were the main band for the Sunday night show, so obviously they were singing on Main Stage. The three of them are siblings, in case you didn't know, and they put on an amazing show. I would definitely see them live again.

All of them were brimming with energy and I loved Kimberly's stories in between songs. She knows how to keep a crowd's interest.

They played a variety of songs from their albums, and I found I knew most of them, which is always fun. A couple songs they sang were "I'm a Keeper" and "Pioneer."

Behind them were three big screens that often had one sibling in each as they performed, so you got a close up view. They also had some cool designs and things like the picture above, which is for the song "You Lie."

I could probably go on about this performance for awhile now, but this post is long enough. I will say that my mom and I probably found The Band Perry's performance to be the best over the weekend, but everyone seemed to be having a good time and all the acts put on good shows. I want to thank Buckle Up for allowing me to attend the festival and I'm definitely curious to see what artists they bring to Cincinnati next year!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Zits: Chillax by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Zits: Chillax by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In Zits: Chillax, Jeremy Duncan, high school sophomore and future rock god, offers up a comedic outlook on teenage life, including school, parents, chores, bands, and friends.

Jeremy and his best friend, Hector Garcia, are planning to achieve a lifelong dream…going to a rock concert! Without parental supervision. But the Gingivitis concert falls on the same night their friend Tim is donating bone marrow for his mom, a cancer patient. Not a problem: Jeremy and Hector are determined to go to the show…for Tim.

Review:  To be honest, I've never read a Zits comic, but I still wanted to check out this first Zits novelization because it looked pretty fun. Jeremy is very much a typical guy. He wants to hang out with his friends and girlfriend, Sara, playing music and generally avoiding anything too emotionally taxing. Things change when one of his friends, Tim, announces that his mom has cancer and he has to donate bone marrow. Sara thinks Jeremy needs to stop being such a "guy" and talk to Tim, but instead, Tim and his best friend Hector decide to go to a concert in honor of the hopes of getting an awesome piece of merchandise to take home for him.

 This is a really quick read, full of full page comics and illustrations throughout the book. It's definitely something I could see guys enjoying more than girls, as the idea of being a guy is talked about a lot in the novel. I love that Jeremy's parents, and even some of his friend's parents, get a lot of page time. It makes the book more realistic. Zits might be about a group of teenagers but that doesn't mean their parents just disappear. After all, they have to get permission somehow to go to this epic concert. There is even some cool mentions about one of their teachers, showing Jeremy and Hector that not all teachers are alike and they have lives outside the walls of a school.

Overall, Zits was fun. I think I might enjoy some of the actual comics a bit more than the book, but I'm glad to have read the novel. If you like the comic strips or have a guy in your life that could use a push to start reading more, I'd recommend checking this out!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Local Flavor Swap Announcement!

I've been planning for this swap for awhile now, so I already have a good idea of what I want to include...depending, of course, if I still think whoever I'm matched with will enjoy it.

However, sign ups are still open until Monday, July 28 if you want to join the Local Flavor Swap at Chaotic Goddess Swaps. The basic idea of the swap is to send a "package that contains at least 5 items local to your region, that fit your partner's tastes."

I live in Kentucky, but it's right next to Cincinnati, Ohio so I'm going to mix the two (Cincy, Ohio and Kentucky) as there are more items I could include that represent Cincy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a  legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.

Review: I've been interested in superhero comics lately, so I was really excited to see the new adaptation of the first ever Asian American superhero, known as The Green Turtle. Yang adds a really cool back story about how the Green Turtle came to be and found his unique powers. It uses Hank's Chinese roots in a unique fashion, giving more weight to his background. He couldn't be the Green Turtle if his parents hadn't come from China.

I loved that the story was fairly long for a graphic novel, yet still read quick. It gives a full look at Hank's family and his journey to becoming a super hero, which actually starts with his mom. She is saved by one and decides that her son should be one too in order to have a better life. It was quite amusing to see what ideas she came up with to try and get Hank to develop powers.

There are some sadder moments in the book, but that seems to be fairly typical of superhero origin stories such as Spiderman or Batman. I don't want to say too much about the actual storyline, because I probably couldn't explain it well enough without giving away too much information. Therefore, you should simply check this one out for yourself! I would love to read more about Hank and his adventures. He changed a lot in The Shadow Hero, and I think he'd be an even better superhero in future stories.

The book comes with the first original Green Turtle story at the back of the book, which was cool to see. It definitely shows how the writing in a comic has gotten better through the years. I thought it was a cool addition!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bunbury and Buckle Up: The Vendors!

Bunbury and Buckle Up Music Festival are two events that occurred in the last couple weeks in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was lucky enough to get media passes to both events and to entice others to attend next year (you really should), I'm here to share a bit more about these festivals...aka the VENDORS!

All photos taken by either Kari or Lauren Becker

First up, we have Krochet Kids, which was a booth available to purchase from at both festivals. This wonderful non-profit has women from other countries create beautiful headbands, hats, and more and the profits go back to them to better their lives. If you want to learn more, definitely visit their website. What I really loved about the pieces is that each one is hand signed by the woman who made it on the tag.

My sister and I really loved the hats they had available, and I also would have loved to have gotten a shirt. Unfortunately, I didn't have the money to purchase at the festival, but I do hope to support this organization soon.

This is one of the official merchandise booths, so if you heard someone play and really loved it, you could check these out and see if they have an album or other merch item available. Plus, you can get official merchandise dedicated to the actual festival.

The photo above is Bunbury, and I got my Jesse Thomas c.d. here, but obviously Buckle Up had these booths too. There was one on each end of the festival grounds.

I really liked that they took a few credit cards instead of just cash, since most of the booths only allowed cash. It makes sense, of course, but I was only able to buy the c.d. at the festival because they took my card. Also, they sold ponchos for $5.00, which is so great as it rained at least one of the days for each festival.

The booth above is for the Music Resource Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is such a great program, as I firmly believe that music is an important part of many people's lives and can give many something to focus their energy and emotions on. Unfortunately, it was a bit rainy when I visited this booth, so the instruments were covered up. Normally though, people could visit the booth and play around with the instruments and learn more about this youth-based program. They were another vendor available at both festivals.

From their website: For a membership fee of $24/year, teens in grades 7-12 can attend MRC to learn computer music production & recording, and take private music lessons.

These two photos come from the vendor Baizaar, a traveling boutique that offers a variety of jewelry, journals, and more from countries such as India and Thailand.

This was another vendor that allowed you to use credit cards, so I had to purchase something for myself and my sister. She chose a silver ring (sorry for the lack of a photo) and I got a small journal from India.

This shop was definitely cool to visit and the women running it were very sweet. They only attended Bunbury, however. 

Real Leather Stuff was a vendor available at both festivals. I can't say for sure, but I imagine it got more interest at the Buckle Up festival, with all those country fans and whatnot. 

I took a long shot of a few other vendors at Buckle Up, including WNKU (a local radio station who was at Bunbury too), the Music Resource Center, and Down n Dirty Hats (only at Buckle Up, as they sold cowboy hats).

Pure Romance was a larger vendor that was at both festivals. They even offered a charging station for your phones! They were giving out some free items, including a pair of sunglasses that I saw a lot of guys wearing (including a friend of mine).

Cincy Shirts was definitely at the Buckle Up festival, though I can't say for sure about Bunbury. I believe they were at both though! It would make sense, since their shirts are representing the city!

And that's it for the vendors. There were obviously some other vendors at Bunbury and Buckle Up, but I tried to focus on as many as I could, especially if they were at both festivals. I still have Buckle Up musical acts, food, and reasons to attend next year coming up! I hope you're enjoying the festival posts!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn + Movie Trailer

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?    As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Review: I've been a fan of Gillian Flynn since her first book, Sharp Objects, came out. I read it with the online book club I was a part of at the time. Then, when Dark Places was coming out, I was lucky enough to receive a book for review. Then, Flynn comes out with her latest novel, Gone Girl. I bought it the week it came out but because of life and reading all sorts of other books, I just recently sat down to read the book. And here we are...with the film version of Gone Girl being released this October and I'm finding myself even more excited to see it.

As for the actual book, it's probably best if you know as little as possible about Gone Girl before reading it. It's told in parts, through various points of view, and it paints a picture of domestic bliss turned angry...but did it turn violent? That's the ultimate question of course. Nick might not be the best husband, but is he bad enough to kill his wife? I found myself questioning him while I read, as I'm sure most will, because he honestly does not help himself when it comes to certain situations.

Because I said less is better for this book, I won't really say much more. Of course, I did really enjoy this book. Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite authors and I'd recommend her books to anyone who likes darker mysteries. My favorite of her work is still Dark Places, but I can see why so many people have fallen for Gone Girl. It takes a story from the headlines, one we so often see, and mixes it up into a shocking, horrifying read.

Gone Girl- Official Movie Trailer

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