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17 April 2014

Audiobook Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Sometimes you just come across a book that makes you happy.  While Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell isn't necessarily a happy book, it just made me happy to listen to it.  So many people had been talking about it on twitter, that I knew it was special, but I was scared that (again), I'd be one of those weird outliers who just didn't "get it".  

I was worried that I would miss part of the magic because I was listening to the audio version, rather than reading it.  But I didn't.  The voice actors that read Eleanor's and Park's parts were amazing.  Her voice was so sweet and almost musical, and his was soft and warm (like he was smiling the whole time).

My main hangup with many YA books is that I don't feel that teenagers actually talk and act the way the author writes them.  Or at least, the teenagers that I'm around don't and never have.  But Eleanor and Park were different---they were believable!

I was on the fence about Park's dad the entire book, up until the very end.  He had been such a hard man, but he loved his kids and included Eleanor in that.

Ritchie on the other hand....I can't type the words that describe him.  The FCC would be all over me, and you wouldn't want to read my blog anymore.  I am glad that Eleanor, and seemingly her mom, finally found the strength to do what was right.

As a child of the 80's/90's, I got so many of the references---to music, to hair, even Pizza Hut (cause really, who goes there now?  But back then, it was a weekly dinner at my house!)

And then the end.  Like the last line.  I had to find the hard copy at a book store to make sure it was correct.  It's not often that I yell at and plead with a book.  But I did.  I wanted more.  I wanted to know.  I have an idea, but I WANT TO KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!

My only complaint (besides MUST KNOWING) is not with the book itself, but rather the audio.  I was listening via CD, and I don't know if it was my car stereo, but it didn't show the track number, nor did it say when the CD was over.  Other audiobook CD's I've listened to did.  So I know I listened to a chapter more than once because I didn't realize the CD was over and it was time to move on to the next one!  I remember thinking at one point, "Boy, this sounds familiar.  Maybe it's a recap.  No...."

Eleanor & Park is a magically wonderful book.  It is a must-read, in my opinion.


16 April 2014

Armchair BEA 2014: Updates April 14-18


Make sure you're signed up for the Armchair BEA google+ community!  Join here!

And, registration is now open for Armchair BEA, so make sure you've registered here!  You aren't going to want to miss this!  

15 April 2014

{Out of the Box}: April 2014 Popsugar Must Have Review

Out of the Box is a feature I do to showcase and give a brief review of products in the subscription boxes that I receive.

Today's look is at my April 2014 Popsugar Must Have box.  Popsugar Must Have boxes feature home, beauty, health and food products.  They normally cost $39.95 per month ($109.85/ 3 months; $214.70 / 6 months; $429.40 / year).  If you are interested, please use my referral code (and help me earn free boxes).  Popsugar often releases discount codes (April's was 50% a box), so check around.  Or, ask me.  I'll find it for you!

As a whole, I'm slightly underwhelmed with this month's box.  Don't get me wrong, there are some great products, but I just feel kind of "meh" about it.  Let's take a look at my box and the products inside:
1.  Caldrea Rosewater Driftwood Hand Soap (suggested retail $10.50)

I really like the smell of this soap.  It kind of reminds me of potpourri, but also something else that I just can't put my finger on.  Either way, I like it.

2.  NatureBox Popsugar Must Have Mix (suggested retail $5)

This mix was apparently made special for Popsugar.  It has almonds, cranberries, soybeans and corn.  Every time Popsugar puts something like this in the box, I think "Ew.  I'll never eat this."  and then I do, and it's pretty good.  So, I tried the mix and like it.  I don't like that it's pretty high in calories/fat, but everything in moderation.

3.  Too Faced Natural Eyes eye shadow (suggested retail $36)

It's my favorite thing in the box.  I like the color palette.  It's very pretty and easy to use, and comes in a pretty tin (with directions!)  The only thing I don't like is that it didn't come with a brush.  Luckily, I have an eyeshadow brush, but if I didn't, I'd still be waiting to try it out! 

4.  Graphic Image Pocket Notes (suggested retail $20)

I like the color of this little notebook, and it is the perfect size for a purse or pocket.  I love pretty notebooks, but never use them!

5.  BlueAvocado (Eco) Shopper (suggested retail $25)
This is a very close second place favorite to the Too Faced Natural Eyes eye shadow.  It's too pretty to use as a grocery bag!  I may use it either as a school bag or as my carry-on when we go to California!  I love that it zips up to purse size.

6.  Fresh Pastry Stand Totally Awesome Tea Towel Set (suggested retail $18)

This is probably my least favorite thing in the box, and the item that made me go "meh".  Don't get me wrong, I love that Popsugar is getting stuff off Etsy.  But, I don't like the graphics, nor do I really need/want tea towels.  Maybe if the graphic was different, I'd be a little happier with it.  Oh well.

So, if we total it all up, I spent $39.95 but got a box worth $114.50---even with items that I wasn't too thrilled about, I still came out ahead! 



05 April 2014

Alpha Delta Kappa

 
I'm very happy to say that Thursday night I was initiated into the Alpha Delta Kappa sorority.  It is an
 international honorary organization of women educators dedicated to educational excellence, altruism and world understanding.

PURPOSES

  • To give recognition to outstanding women educators.
  • To build a fraternal fellowship among women in the field of education which will add to their effectiveness in the promotion of excellence in education.
  • To promote high standards of education and thereby strengthen the status and advancement of the education profession.
  • To promote educational and charitable projects and activities, to sponsor scholarships, to further and maintain worthy standards in the field of education and to cooperate with worthy community programs relating to education and charities.
  • To contribute to world understanding, goodwill, and peace through an international fellowship of women educators united in the ideals of education.
I never in a million years ever thought I'd be in a sorority.  But it's not like I'm  Elle Woods pledging Delta Nu.  I think it's cool that it's just for women in education, and they do a lot with various charitable organizations (St. Jude's for one).  

04 April 2014

Armchair BEA and Instagram!

I'm excited to announce that I'm on the Armchair BEA Central team for this year!  I am part of the Instagram Challenge team, and if you know me, you know I love Instagram!  Though I usually use it to post annoyingly cute picture of my dog, Luna.  I'm sure we will have wonderful challenges for you to participate in!

For more information about Armchair BEA, click here

To follow Armchair BEA on twitter:  @armchairbea

To follow me on twitter:  @maestra_amanda

To follow me on instagram:  akfurman

02 April 2014

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)
Image and synopsis from Goodreads:  Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I've been in a reading slump lately.  I haven't felt like doing it.  And when I have read, I haven't felt like blogging.  Until now!  

Cinder is a dystopian retelling of Cinderella.  And you all know how much I love retellings.  But, to be set in a dystopian future, in Beijing, and feature androids and cyborgs---awesome! 

I thought that Cinder herself was a wonderfully written character.  You felt her confusion, her anger, everything.  Not once did I roll my eyes at anything she felt, said or did, thinking that it was too far-reaching for a teenager.  She was kind, she was loyal, and she cherished her (mostly undeserving) family.  

I was just as infatuated with Prince Kai as the 200,000 teenagers in New Beijing.  (That may be because my generation had the Wills and Harry infatuation).  

The pace of the novel was so fast, I finished it in a day and a half.  There were no lulls in the action.  Though, they never came out and said it until the very end, I guessed the "twist" as soon as it was introduced.   

Every culture around the world has a Cinderella story, (mainly to teach morals).  Cinder is a futuristic version of that concept.  

I've already put myself on the waiting list for Scarlet, and hope that I get an email from the library this week.  I cannot wait to keep reading Cinder's story!  




01 April 2014

Book to Movie: Divergent Review

Lead characters Tris and Four stand above a futuristic Chicago.

Like many of you, I read and enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I read it when it first came out, was one of the first to read Insurgent (and was disappointed, but that's another post here), and have yet to read Allegiant (though it is on hold at the library).

But, when I started hearing rumblings about a Divergent movie, I was interested.  Yes, I could definitely see this book as a good movie, but I was fearful of the recent Hollywood trend of turning good YA books into horrible, and horribly undergrossing, movies.  I honestly figured though that I'd watch it on Redbox or Netflix, I never figured Aaron would actually want to go see it in the theater.  So, I was really surprised when I mentioned after seeing a commercial for it how I'd like to see it, that Aaron agreed to go see it in the theater ON OPENING WEEKEND!  (this never happens---I didn't even get to see Harry Potter #7 part 1 or 2 on opening weekend, but he was off and I guess figured had nothing better to do).

As we were sitting in the theater, I gave Aaron a brief synopsis of the book and he perked up a little (I'm guessing he figured it was going to be more of a girly action movie).  I was very happy when he didn't grumble through the entire movie, or make stupid comments (like he's been known to do) when he wasn't enjoying the movie (yes, my husband is THAT guy).

I thought the storyline stayed as close to the book as a 2 1/2 hour long movie could.  Did they cut some characters and scenes out?  Of course.  Did it make that big of a difference?  Not really.  It was really funny though, as we were walking out of the theater, a girl who was quite obviously a huge fan was arguing with her friend over the importance of a character that wasn't in the movie.  The friend didn't think his addition or subtraction really changed the storyline at all, but the superfan was adamant that IT DID!  To be honest, it had been so long since I read the book, I had forgotten about the character (Elias, I think), so I have to agree with the friend.

As far as casting, Theo James is dreamy to the extreme as Four/Tobias.  He was tough, he was broody, but he had a soft core.  I said this to Aaron, and he agreed that he was much better looking than Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  

I also loved Ashley Judd as Mrs. Prior.  She can do silent and giving, but also kick so much butt.  Kate Winslet as Jannine Mathews was just brilliant casting.  Kudos to whomever gave her the script and whomever cast her.  She is so perfectly cool and calculating.  

However, the casting of Shailene Woodley as Tris was a point of disagreement between Aaron and I.  I think she did a great job, and embodied the smart yet physically weaker girl.  I also think she is naturally stunning.  She doesn't need gloss and glamour to shine, it just comes naturally.  Aaron disagreed--he thought she was too weak looking, that the fight sequences (especially between her and Four) were super unrealistic.  That there was no way that this little slip of a girl could kick a guy like Four's butt.  

All in all, I think it was a great movie.  I'm happy that it has done so well, and I do hope that Insurgent gets made into a movie as well (even though I didn't like the book).