Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Four To Score by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum Series)

THE DETAILS:
Pages: 313
Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery/Crime
Release Date: 15/06/1998
Publisher: St Martin's Press
I bought it.
Book 4 in the Stephanie Plum series.

THE SYNOPSIS:
Stephanie Plum, the trash-talking New Jersey bail bondswoman of this popular series, is tracking Maxine Nowicki, who's wanted for skipping out on a car-theft charge lodged by her ex-boyfriend. Now the ex-boyfriend's very interested in getting back the love letters he supposedly wrote to Maxine.

 But what he's really looking for is the secret on which Evanovich hangs her screwball cast of colorful minor characters, including Sally Sweet, a cross-dressing drag queen; Lula, the 250-pound ex-hooker who works for Steph's boss; Cousin Vinnie, the bail bondsman; Grandma Mazur, who packs a Glock and is always looking for a little action; and Joyce, a wannabe bounty hunter who's been cramping Steph's style since she played pass the salami with Steph's ex-husband. 

The action doesn't get much farther from Trenton than the Jersey Shore, but when Steph's apartment and car are blown up by the others on Maxine's trail and she moves in with Joe Morelli, the handsome, arrogant cop she's been hung up on since high school, it gets hotter than the craps table in Atlantic City. Plum's fans won't be disappointed in this fourth outing in the series, and they're likely to be even more interested in the snappy patter and sexy shenanigans than in the mystery that holds it all together. --Jane Adams

MY REVIEW:
So my Stephanie Plum books turned up in the mail and after I got through the other book I was reading I couldn't wait to pick this up. I never even bother to read the backs of these books anymore, because all I know is that I think Stephanie Plum is awesome and I want to read more. Before I reviewed this I actually bothered to read the Goodreads description and I must say that the description doesn't actually do a great job of promoting the book.

So it took me a while to find the most accurate synopsis on Goodreads to post here, but one of them actually described Stephanie Plum with the words "condom carting" and most other descriptions make the book out to be some cheap erotic romance with some bounty hunter drama on the side. I hate to disappoint you but if you are after erotica then you are going to have to read a few books to find any. I actually really like that this book is more about the cases with only a little bit of personal stuff on the side, because I actually find the mysteries interesting.

This book is definitely more risque' than the others I have read so far in the series, but it's not overly descriptive or anything. To be honest, I'm not exactly a prude, but I prefer minimal-none sex scene description in the books that I read. Like I said, I prefer to read about the mystery , to read the funny bits and to read the more romantic stuff where they actually talk to each other.

I'm not really sure how to talk about this book without spoiling things, but there was definitely more of a romantic aspect to this book. While it wasn't a conventional relationship (if you could call it a relationship) It was interesting to see the characters in this situation. I felt like Stephanie was questioning everything because her failed marriage was still on her mind.

We also got to meet a new character Sally who was very colourful. I'm not sure if we will get to see more of him, but it's always fun to meet a new character in a Stephanie Plum book.

I felt like this book was probably the strangest of all the ones I have read so far. The connection between the crimes was just a little unsuspected and it just seemed a little random. Having said that, their were some aspects that were really predictable...

Overall, I think this book is worth 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I really enjoyed the novel and couldn't wait to start the sequel, I didn't like it as much as the other books in this series. I hope I didn't spoil to much for you guys. I would have liked to talk about more but I wanted to avoid spoiling it for you all. I highly recommend this series and think the blurbs are quite misleading...

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #5)

THE DETAILS:
Pages:380
Genre:Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date:
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Price: $19.99
I received this book in the mail from the Publisher.

THE BLURB:
In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive. 

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.


THE REVIEW:
After 'The Fiery Heart' I was pretty eager to find out what was going to happen next. Richelle Mead has a bad habit of finishing her books in the craziest situations and it makes me go a little crazy when I realize I have to wait for the next book in the series to hit shelves. I do manage to wait for the book to come out (I have to), however, once 'Silver Shadows' arrived it went straight on top of my TBR pile (forget the planned reading list) and I started it as soon as I could. Was the latest installment of 'Silver Shadows' worth the wait? I think so.

I'm not going to lie it took me an abnormally long amount of time to finish reading this novel. In the past I used to be able to devour a Richelle Mead novel within a day minimum and two weeks maximum. These last two installments of the series have taken me months to read. I don't know if it's because I have been preoccupied with things other than my TBR pile or if the books are somehow slowing me down a little. I do think at this point the series is definitely getting more complex and because of that I may be taking more time to digest the story.

One thing that definitely slowed me down with this one was the institutionalised stuff. I just thought that Sydney being punished like that was so wrong and at times disgusting, so I would put this book down on purpose. I didn't really feel encouraged to pick up the novel because of that either. I felt like this section of the story really dragged on (even though it was probably neccesary) and as soon as the characters got past this point (don't want to spoil too much) I zipped through the rest of it quite quickly. Note to authors everywhere, I know that you have to create difficulties for your characters to overcome, but geez sometimes reading a novel (especially in a series) where your favourite characters (I mean fictional friends) are being tortured feels a little masochistic. Just sayin'

Okay, so I know I just said I hated the facility (and I do), but I think it's always interesting to learn about another part of the VA/Bloodlines world and more about how much the Alchemists affect it. I don't think anyone realised just how much control the Alchemists have over their kind until now, or even how deep their hatred of Vampires goes. More barriers faced by the Alchemists become evident in this book and it just goes to show that leaving the alchemists is not as easy as some of us (me included) once thought. It's seriously like a brain washing cult...

It was also interesting to learn a little more ablout how Alchemists fit into the system in regards to vampire politics. I would have assumed at the end of the last novel that this would be a quick rescue with help from Rose, Dimitri and the gang, but it turns out that the Alchemists are almost like a foreign country and while they work alongside the Moroi, they do not intervene in each others business. I could definitely see how the vampire world compares to our society.

I felt like this book had some really interesting and important themes/messages that could definitely apply to the real world. These include, but are not limited to: Love conquers all, How far people are willing to take a conflict or issue because of their beliefs, Picking your battles, And to define the term "monster". I obviously don't want to go into it too much, because I already feel like I am spoiling the novel for you, but to expand on the themes/messages this is definitely one of those novels that will make you question your ideas of good and evil. In the novel we are positioned to feel sympathetic towards Sydney and her ordeal, but if we were Alchemists, we would look down on her for her modern beliefs. Good/Evil is not based on what you believe, but on your actions/how you treat others.

So as usual the book got awfully interesting towards the end and the ending made me go crazy again. I was really amazed at how smart the characters were with their schemes. I definitely would not have thought of some of the stuff they came up with! And there was a short burst of "Syndiran" for all you vampire romance maniacs out there too. Really the ending was just surprise after surprise, And it definitely made up for the drawn out and slightly sickening beginning.

Overall, I give this 4.5/5 stars. Even though I thought it was great and I can't wait to see what happens soon, I'm not in rush to reread it. I seriously recommend both the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series to anyone who likes the YA Fantasy genre. I haven't read any other reviews of this book yet, so I would love to know what everyone else thinks. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.


Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vampire Academy (Book Vs Film)

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'Vampire Academy' is probably my favourite vampire series and like other readers I was filled with feelings of both excitement and anxiety when I heard there was going to be a film. While the idea of seeing the story play out on the big screen is definitely appealing, I tend to be concerned about casting choices, the script and the soundtrack. After waiting and waiting for the DVD to come down in price I finally saw 'Vampire Academy' on the weekend. I ended up watching it twice, because I enjoyed it so much. However, the real question here isn't regarding the entertainment value of the film itself, but rather how it compared to the novel it was based on.

I read and reviewed 'Vampire Academy' by Richelle Mead over two years ago, so I am not so sure I could critique the movie on the order of events or even the events themselves. I'm pretty certain though that I accurately remember character traits, clothing choices and the majority of the story. All the important parts, right? One thing I definitely remember was the re-cap you get in the first or second chapter of each 'Vampire Academy' novel. This movie had a fair bit of narration by Rose and while at times it was annoying, I honestly couldn't imagine how the directors would have gotten all the information into the movie without it. It definitely kept within the re-cap style speech.

Rose also narrated (or rather translated) what she could see through her connection with Lissa. Rose's personality definitely shines through here and her eyes turn reptile green. I felt like this was the only thing that wasn't really explained well in the movie and I could understand people (who didn't read the novel) getting a bit confused over it at first. I also didn't really get the Special FX. Reptile green eyes? It's very different from what I would have imagined. I would have thought maybe her eyes would go blank, or that she would close them?

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When the cast for the film was first announced I noticed a few angry readers in my blogger news feed fuming over the decision to cast Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway, because she did not fit the character description. From what I can remember of the series Rose had dark hair and eyes, was strong and described herself as curvy. Some people use the term "curvy" to describe a woman over a certain size, while some use it to describe a woman with an hour glass figure. Maybe in this instance Rose is curvy in comparison with Moroi girls which are super thin? Even though Lucy Fry (Lissa) looks about the same size... I honestly don't know okay. I understand why people were annoyed, especially if you are a bigger person and you really identified with Rose because of that. However, I do feel like casting is a common issue when books get turned movie and that sometimes it's just so impossible to find a real life human that matches all of everyone's ideas about how the character should look.

As far as acting goes I feel like Zoey was definitely the right actress to play Rose. She got the personality, the humor and the defiance 100% correct as far as I'm concerned. I know a lot of this has to do with the script, but I think that the way that Zoey delivered the lines really made me believe she was that character and not just some actress in a movie. For me the classic Rose moments were when she changed her mind or made a remark, just because... Or, when she makes little remarks about Lissa, because Rose is not only a devoted dhampir; she is a true friend.

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As far as casting goes I didn't really have any issues. I was really pleased with an Aussie choice for one of the leads. I started watching 'Mako Mermaids' before I found out that Lucy Fry was going to be in 'Vampire Academy' as well. While all of the casting choices were not exactly as I had expected, I thought they each suited the roles in their own unique way. I'm not going to delve into actor and actress names here. If you really want to know who's who in 'Vampire Academy' I suggest looking up the cast on IMDB.

One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that it was going to be a gore fest. While I do like reading Vampire novels and watching Vampire movies or shows, I find that some of them are borderline for me with the gore. I know that they do suck blood... However, I find that some movies/shows really focus on that part, rather than the actual story. I really liked that this movie stayed true to the novel and that I wasn't overly grossed out. 

I also felt like even though this movie was a 'Vampire Movie' there were some very cliche "teen movie" scenes. This movie reminded me a little of 'Twilight' in that respect. There was the typical scene where the girls walk into the school dance wearing their PG approved prom dresses, strutting their stuff and walking past a bunch of scowling fellow school girls. Except in this case the school girls actually bare their fangs. I don't know if this is really a negative thing though. Bringing a fantasy movie more in line with girly drama is just another way to introduce more people to the genius that is Richelle Mead.

I was really happy that the movie directors didn't change the story too much (if at all?) and that the two girls remained the focus of the story. I actually felt like they downplayed the Dimitri thing even more so than the book, and I was really pleased that the story was not taken over with the "Love at first sight" stuff. The integrity of the story was there, and for now at least it seams that the movie has not promoted any kind of teacher-student shenanigans.

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I was really pleased with the way Mead's characters, the themes, And the books events were portrayed in the film version of 'Vampire Academy'. I really enjoyed the way the film ended and I didn't mind the slight Mean-girls style antics that were included in the finished product. The only things that bothered me were that it was a little boring at the beginning and that some of the "vampire" stuff (such as the term 'Blood Whore') were not explained well and could prove confusing for those who haven't read the book. 

Overall, I think the book is definitely better and even if you are not much of a reader I seriously recommend it. It is such a quick fun read and you'll be so hooked on the series... I think the movie is great if you want to share the story with your non-reading friends or if you want to re-live the 'Vampire Academy' experience in a short time frame (It took me around two days to get through the first book). If you haven't read the book, and just want to see the film I strongly recommend watching it with someone who has read it, so they can explain anything that is confusing. 

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I really hope to see the trailer for the sequel Frostbite come out soon, And I hope that some of the themes will be explored more. (Please keep in mind that my review of Frostbite was written so long ago and I am aware that the quality of my reviews was very "omg I loved it" at this point in time).

Also, is it just me, or do the snarky voice overs in this movie version of 'Vampire Academy' remind anyone else of 'Stick it'? 

And, Finally, I hope you all enjoyed my little Book Vs Movie post about 'Vampire Academy'!

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dress-up Ideas for Halloween and other Costume Parties

Hi Everyone,
So Halloween is approaching and I thought I might share some dress-up ideas with you all. I am not really one for Halloween myself as I am a scaredy cat and it was never something I celebrated as a child (the tradition has only really started to infiltrate into Australian culture in the last couple of years). I find most Halloween costume ideas to be downright creepy or gruesome which I am not into. So I thought I would share some ideas for people like me who don't want to don the fake blood.

I also thought that this may possibly be one of the only posts I will right on the subject of costumes so I am going to try and put as many ideas in there as possible. I think these ideas could be cute for any costume party and I tried to make sure I included ideas for vintage enthusiasts and avid readers. Obviously if you want people to be able to figure out what you are dressed up as you may have to find a costume idea that is a bit cliche. I once went to (the only costume party I went to since I turned 18) as Ruby Gloom and only two people knew who that was... Trust me if you dress up as some lesser known 50s actress or Indie fantasy character you will spend the entire night explaining it.

CUTE AS A CARTOON COSTUME IDEAS:
Some people find children, cartoons and plush toys to be utterly terrifying. Actually no, I just made that up. I think these ideas are super cute though and I wanted to make an excuse as to why people can dress up as a cartoon for Halloween.

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Lauren Conrad looking super cute as Minnie Mouse. 
To dress as Minnie Mouse I suggest: Bobby-socks, Polka-dot skirt, A Bow, Minnie ears (or hair tied into buns), a black nose and lipstick or lip gloss. 

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It's Betty Boop! This pic looks a little photo shopped though.
To get the Betty Boop look I suggest: A short pixie-cut style wig (or short-bobbed length hair finer waved or gelled back), Red lipstick and a black/red dress. There are some really intense Betty Boop make-up looks on youtube if you want to have a try at a really authentic Betty costume.

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Daphne and Velma. I know that they are dolls, but I really like this version of their outfits...
To dress as Daphne: Back-combed 60s style hair with a head scarf/alice-band, A 60s style shift dress (or a long sweater and matching mini skirt), And, an air hostess style scarf in a neon colour.

For the Velma look: Nerd glasses, a bobbed wig, a cardigan/sweater (in autumn colours), a plaid skirt, matching socks/shoes.

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I already shared this one on Facebook. This would be cute for Christmas too.
Deer costume: This make-up look, sticks/antlers, fawny coloured garments or whatever garments you would prefer. 


THE 90s FLASHBACK:
Now this is scary. Not only was the 90s like twenty years ago (what time lord made that happen?), but it also is coming back into fashion already...

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Here's a pic of the spice girls dressed as each other. Girl Power! 
Baby spice: A short dress (in a pastel colour or girly print), A blonde wig (or hair pulled into plaits/.pig tails), light pink lippy and a lollipop/teddy bear.
Scary spice: Crimp your hair (and put the top half in pig-tails), animal print outfit and platform shoes.
Ginger Spice: Red wig (or hair out and curly), outfit consisting of black or red (or the union jack) and some red lipstick.
Posh spice: A black mini dress, smoky eye shadow and a bobbed wig.
Sporty spice: A high pony-tail and a tracksuit.
I think this would be a fun costume idea for a group of friends. You can get heaps of ideas on pinterest.


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Gwen Stefani from NoDoubt in her quirky nineties look. 
To get the look: Pull hair up into little buns, wear face jewels (usually a diamante on the forehead or a few above the brows), wear maroon lipstick, wear a cropped top and a tribal maxi skirt. You can also try dying or spraying your hair a blue or pink colour (as Gwen has had her hair dyed those colours in the 90s).

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Ok, so this is definitely closer to the 00's... Brittany Spears in 'Baby One More Time' music video.
For the costume: A pleated skirt, a collared shirt, pigtails with fluffy scrunchies and trainers. 

FAMOUS FEMALES THROUGH HISTORY:
I know these are all lady costumes anyway (sorry boys), but THESE women in particular are super famous (or infamous) for their roles in history. These are also super appropriate for Halloween because these women are all dead (and you could zombiefy it if you really wanted to).


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Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. You could also choose to just dress generic 18th century or 19th century. 
To Get The Look: A wig (or curl and style your hair under a hat like in the photo), A frilly long sleeve top, a long skirt (you can create a bit of puff with a petti coat), court shoes (or mules, or slippers), rouged cheeks and stained lips.
If you want to wear a very accurate costume it could cost you a lot of money.

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Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. 
To get the look: A wig (or a plaited hair style with gold beads), Egyptian eye make-up, gold cuffs, big earrings, A dress as referenced via pinterest (could be gold satin, black fringing or white) and some sandals. You could also have a fake snake in a basket to scare people with. hehe

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Amelia Earhart. If you do not know who this woman is, google the name NOW. 
To get the look: Aviation cap, goggles, a collared long sleeve shirt with applique, long trousers and lace up shoes.  I suppose she might have worn gloves as well, but those could be a bit annoying to wear.

GLAMOROUS ICONS:
These women are the most iconic of their time and the looks are probably the most recognizable. Regardless of whether or not you are into vintage fashion you would probably agree that these looks are iconic. 

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Marilyn Monroe.
The Costume: A Wig (or hair curled into a faux bob), orange-red lipstick, a costume from one of her films (pink or white dress would be the most obvious choice) and appropriate jewellery. 

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Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffanys'
The look: Hair in updo with tiara/hat, pearl necklace, black dress and cigarette holder.

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Jackie Kennedy.
The look: A matching skirt/suit, a pill box hat in matching colour, a bobbed wig, pearl necklace and earrings.

BOOK CHARACTERS:
Obviously not everyone reads, so I tried to make these as obvious as possible. I chose books that had been made into film.

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Hermione Granger from 'Harry Potter'.
The look: A collared shirt with a maroon tie, a pleated skirt, black shoes and messy hair. You could also carry a wand.

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A Twilight Character of choice.
The outfit: Something chic in a dark colour, an antique pendant of some kind (the cullen crest) and super pale glittery skin. If you are into it you could also wear contacts.

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A Shadow Hunter
The look: a fake sword strapped to your body, black clothes and rune markings.

If you are on a budget I suggest going for looks that don't require a wig (where the hair is in a similar style to yours) and that require items that you mostly already have in your wardrobe. If you do have to buy a piece try to buy something that can be reused for another costume later on. A pleated skirt for example can be used for a the Hermione, Brittany and Velma costumes. 

I hope that at least some of these ideas are helpful and that you all have a wonderful Halloween whether you choose to celebrate it or not. 

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pretty Picture Post: The Sea, The Sand and The Swimsuits (Part Two)

Hi Everyone,
Remember part one of 'The Sea, The Sand and The Swimsuit? Click here to view post. Well, I managed to find more pictures. I am thinking that this series of posts could seriously go onto a third or fourth post even, but we'll see. Again these are all monochrome pictures. And, again, not all of these are swimsuits. There will be some play-suits and sundresses too...  

As for my own search for a nice swimsuit.... Well I kind of gave up. I figured that I usually find things once I stop looking and I'm probably better off going into a shop where I can try things on. I guess it doesn't help that I am so particular and that I don't want to spend ridiculous money. I am thinking something in a dark colour. A bikini with high waisted low-cut-leg bottoms, with ruffles and with a modest top with half decent straps/ties. Yeah I don't want much do I...

In Australia we are edging closer to beach weather, though I suppose most of the tourists here at the moment probably think it's just beautiful at the moment. Most of the memories I have of the beach are as a kid collecting sea-shells (even though you are not supposed to), building castles, dancing in the shallowest of waves and making sand angels. 

I hope you'll enjoy some of these lovely pictures and I hope to make more lovely beach memories one day soon...

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I hope you all enjoyed this installment of pretty pictures. If you would like to see more beautiful pictures please make sure that you are following me on Blogger via Google Friend Connect or that you Like my Facebook Page

Your Favourite Blogger,
Natalie