Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Day in Nerd Heaven With My Daughter...

Let's just start off with saying: I am not above bribing my kids to get them to do well with something.

It seems that even though my husband and I are HUGE bookworms, our 8 year old daughter struggles to share our enthusiasm sometimes. It's not that she doesn't like to read, because when she's into a book, she enjoys it. It's that she's an 8 year old who feel like she has better things to do, and gets lazy about reading.

Her school uses the Accelerated Reader, or AR, program, to test kids on reading comprehension, and each test rewards kids with points that accumulate throughout the year. The school sets a certain goal for each grade (The 3rd grade goal is 35 points for the school year, which in my opinion is really low, but I think it's so that it is achievable for all the kids. Most books are worth 0.5-3.0 points, but the bigger the book, the more points it's worth.) and when the students reach their goal, they get a t-shirt and are entered into book an prize raffles at an end-of-year assembly.

So we've started setting slightly higher goals for my girl, and she gets to choose what rewards she wants. When she reached 100 points, I took her shopping and to lunch at the mall. At 125 points, she got to go to an awesome locally owned paint-your-own-pottery place, called Missus Potts.

So for reaching 150 points, she said she wanted to go somewhere to eat that was fancy. She chose The Cheesecake Factory.

And since her earning 150 points coincided with the most awesome Doctor Who craft boutique ever hosted by Whimsic Alley in Los Angeles (brought to my attention by my good friend Kit, owner of Kit's Designs, who was vending there), I decided to take her to the Cheesecake Factory at The Grove in LA, about a mile from Whimsic Alley.

My girl and me, in our Disney-Who mashup shirts.
Mine is Rapunzel and the TARDIS, and hers is Merida and the TARDIS.
They're Karen Hallion shirts. Karen Hallion shirts are cool.
Also notice the TARDIS necklace, made by Kit's designs...

Even though we're still trying to instill that love of reading in our daughter, she's already a lover of all things geeky, especially Doctor Who and Harry Potter.

And, oh my, this store is HEAVEN for us nerdy types!

Whimsic Alley
Geeky T's! Love me some Firefly!

You walk in, and it's like you're walking into Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series.


There are all kinds of small shops inside, like a "robes" shop with clothes...

Robes Room!

And a wand shop...

The wand chooses you....

She's been chosen.

And shops themed after Game of Thrones and Sherlock and Doctor Who.

Then you walk through a T.A.R.D.I.S. door, and IT'S BIGGER ON THE INSIDE you guys!! It leads into the great hall, which is a large banquet room that looks like the Great Hall from Hogwarts, and is available to rent for parties and such. They even have a Yule Ball at Christmas, and a Time Lords Ball.

And even though the place was super busy, partly because of the Doctor Who boutique/craft fair going on, and partly because people just like to shop there, the staff are all super friendly, and knowledgeable, and just really cool.

Mommy in the phone booth....

Calling The Doctor...

This is the kind of place worth taking a road trip to LA for, even if it's just for the day.

Ready for flying lessons!
About to get a running start onto Platform 9 3/4!

And if you do get a chance to go to Whimsic Alley, check out the little cookie bakery right next door called Milk Jar. Best cookies ever, served with farm fresh milk, in a milk bottle-shaped jar no less! You can even choose whatever 2 cookies you want (and they are huge!) and they will make you a custom ice cream sandwich with their own homemade ice cream.

Talk about a fantastic day trip, making sweet memories with my girl who is growing up way too fast.

We'll so be going back!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

In Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, Lara Lington begins to see the ghost of her Great Aunt Sadie after attending her funeral.  Sadie takes Lara on quite the adventure to find her missing necklace and Lara learns the importance of family along the way.

I love that Sophie Kinsella’s books are light, romantic, fluffy and enjoyable and they don’t take long to read.  This book doesn’t disappoint in all those areas and even throws in a little mystery as well. I found the book perfect for the beach or unwinding after a long day. It's by no means an amazing, life-changing piece of literature, but it's a fun bit of escapism.

I give this book a B.

If you liked this book, I highly recommend Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic series, which, in my opinion, is Kinsella's best work.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
After a bad breakup, Jane Austen super-fan Courtney Stone wakes up one morning to find herself transported back to early 19th Century England, and in the middle of an Austen-like life.

Being a Jane Austen fan myself,  I was really hoping to love this book. It has some really good elements, like a romance similar to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, and of course traveling back to Jane Austen's  time. But the author's writing was a little vague, especially in the end, and I was left wanting a little  more from the story.

I give this one a C.

If you liked this book, or Jane Austen's work in general, I highly suggest the British television mini-series, Lost in Austen, which I discovered at my local library. It was really good!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Cap is back yo!
In the sequel to Captain America, Steve Rogers is trying to figure out who he is and how life works now that he's living in the 21st Century, all while trying to fight a new (well, new-ish... but I don't want to give anything away.) enemy, The Winter Soldier. Oh, and Nazi-like organization Hydra isn't gone either.
I really liked this movie. So much so, that I saw it twice this weekend.
I wouldn't say it was as good as the first, because it's hard for any sequel to be as good as it's predecessor (unless we're talking about The Godfather Part II. That was just as good as the first. But Pat III was terrible.). But it was definitely worth seeing. Twice even! 
And it doesn't hurt that Chris Evans is Captain America, and Sebastian Stan (aka Jefferson/The Mad Hatter from Once Upon a Time) is The Winter Soldier. And Scarlett Johanson, though not my favorite in real life, is really good as Natasha/The Black Widow.
And please don't be one of those people who leave as soon as the credits start rolling. This is a Marvel movie after all. And there is ALWAYS more, at both the end of the animated credits (which might just have alluded to a possible Avengers/X-Men crossover!! Yay!!) and again at the end of the longer credit roll.
As with any sequel, definitely see the first one before you see this.
Though it's rated PG-13 for violence and some mild language, I recommend Captain America: The Winter Soldier for kids 10 and up.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Think I Need a Literary Tat, STAT!

It's a weird thing.

Tattoos, like chocolate, or Flaming Hot Limon Cheetos, are addicting, and induce cravings like you wouldn't believe, unless, of course, you already have a tattoo.

I only have one, that I got when I was 18, as a payment for babysitting, because my friend Jessie is awesome like that. It's a shooting star on my foot, and it matches one Jess got at the same time. I love my little tattoo, even though, sometimes when I look at it from a certain angle, it looks like a pinata...

I just told my husband I NEED a new tattoo.

He said no.

And I yelled at him that he never lets me have anything I want, and why does he hate me so much.

He just shook his head.

But really, I've been craving a new tattoo for quite a while, and since books (and the world's greatest book club) are such a part of my life, I was thinking something literary would be perfect.

But there are so many things I want, and so many to books choose from...

Do I go with a Deathly Hallows symbol?

Ravens for each member of my family?

The VFD eye, with "The World is Quiet Here."?
Don't mind this gross man-leg...

Some amazing Gaelic quote, or even just "Sassenach"?

Or just random stacks of books, like the ones in my house?

Maybe a combination of it all?
I should probably read the Percy Jackson books before I permanently etch the symbol on my body, yes?

Now, to go find the money to afford such a masterpiece...

Anyone else have lit ink?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TV Review: Breaking Bad

I know a lot of people who have been hesitant to start Breaking Bad, just because of the subject matter. A brilliant chemistry teacher, who resorts to making meth in order to support his family after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. It's heavy stuff, and not something people generally think they're going to enjoy watching.

But let me say, after finishing this series last night (finally!!)  this show is one of the best, if not THE best, shows made, possible ever.

Bryan Cranston, as Walter White, is one of the best actors, possibly ever.

His transformation from sweet, quiet, sort-of-pushover Walter in the beginning, to what he becomes toward the end is just amazing, and terrifying, and brilliant.

Then there's Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman. Spot on as the junkie with a heart. He's a good guy deep down, but his stupid decisions get in the way, almost up until the very end.

In fact, all the actors in this show are spot-on, amazing, and nothing but believable. Super-sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, is a perfect skeez-ball.  You will kind of start to hate Skyler, Walter's wife, played by Anna Gunn. Same with her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), but for other reasons. Walt Jr., aka Flynn, played by RJ Mitte, has some of the best one liners, usually about food. (Raisin Bran Crunch... it says crunch right on the box. I thought we were going to Cold Stone Creamery?) And then there's Walter's brother in law, Hank, who happens to be part of the Albuquerque D.E.A. Dean Norris plays him as such an arrogant, yet family loving man, you just don't know if you should hate him or admire him.

This show is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is INTENSE to say the least. I'm seriously on the edge of my seat almost every episode, and there are some seriously cringe-worthy moments.

It's beautifully shot, using the natural dessert settings of New Mexico. The show has even spawned Breaking Bad tours throughout Albuquerque.

And you'll never look at a pair of tighty-whiteys the same way again. Or old orange-striped Winnebagos, for that matter.

I would only recommend Breaking Bad to very mature high schoolers, or 17 years and up, since there is a lot of graphic violence, sexual situations, and, of course, drugs and drug use.

All five seasons are available now on Netflix.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Denny Swift is a race car driver/car dealership employee whose many ups and downs of life are all told by his very philosophical, and sometimes funny, dog, Enzo, who very much believes he's on a mission in Denny's life and will be reincarnated as a human himself when it is complete.

I really enjoyed this book. There were parts that made me mad, and sad, and laugh out loud. I really ran the gamut of emotions while reading it (tissues may have been involved...). But what I loved the most is that it is narrated by a dog.

I give it an A-.

If you liked this one, try A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I’d heard so much about this book, that when my book club decided to read it, I was pretty excited.

Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a seemingly happy couple that moves from Amy’s native N.Y.C. to Nick’s hometown of North Carthay, Missouri after they both lose their jobs in journalism. But when Amy goes missing on their 5th anniversary, Nick, of course, is the main suspect.

Being a fan of murder mysteries/true crime stories, I enjoyed the psychology of what could possibly have been “the perfect crime”. The length which the characters go to prove both guilt and innocence is fascinating, and keeps the story flowing well. However, although the characters are developed well, it was hard to find any character that was actually likable.

I recommend this one if you’re a fan of the mystery/suspense genre, and enjoy a good plot twist!
I give Gone Girl a B-.

The movie version, starring Ben Affleck, is supposed to be in theaters this October.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Arthur Dent is a guy just trying to get by in life. Then aliens show up and blow up the earth.  Arthur narrowly escapes by hitching a ride on an alien spaceship with the help of his friend, Ford Perfect, an alien who has been posing for the past fifteen years on earth as an out-of-work actor, but is in fact a researcher for the manual, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

This is one of those books that I didn't love, but I didn't completely hate it either, which surprises me, since I'm usually super into really geeky stuff like this. I really enjoyed the dry, British humor and the off-the-wall scenarios, but the story itself seemed to stay at the same, slow pace throughout the entire book. It just didn't hold my attention very well.

I give it a C+.

If you liked this one, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the next book in this series. Though honestly, I'm really not in any hurry to read it...
On the plus side, the movie version has Martin Freeman (AKA John Watson in Sherlock and Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit franchise) in it. Might be worth watching just for him!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. It takes place in Westeros, which I imagine to be much like medieval Europe, and follows several families on their quest for the Iron Throne.

I’m just going to come out and say that I’m so glad I watched the first season of the HBO series before reading this 800 page epic.  There are so many characters, and Martin’s writing is so descriptive, that keeping everybody straight can be challenging.  I had never thought of myself as a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan, but I really enjoyed the storylines (especially those involving Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister).  Although the writing can be very violent and sexually graphic, the novel is well worth the read.

I give this book an A-.

If you liked this book, the second book in the series is A Clash of Kings.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Review: Bossypants

Bossypants By Tina Fey

Tina Fey hilariously recounts her life, from being attacked by a total stranger in her yard as a child, to joining Second City improv group and becoming a writer and eventually regular cast member on Saturday Night Live, to the joys of marriage and motherhood.

Tina Fey is arguably one of the funniest, and smartest, women in "show-biz" today. Although this book may not be life changing, it was pretty darn funny, and it's always nice to know how down-to-earth and normal celebrities can be... even if they are super rich, have too many Emmy's to know what to do with, and are friends with Alec Baldwin...

I give it a B.

If you liked this book, check out Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Best Cover of a Rhianna Song. Ever?

OK, so this isn't a real post.

I just want to say how much I LOVE this cover of Rhianna's "Stay" by 30 Seconds to Mars.

I am in no way, shape, or form a Rhianna fan.

At. All.

But I could listen to this version all the live long day, folks.

And that Jared Leto is so hot right now.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

To All the Twilight Haters and the Twihards alike.

Over the past few years, there has been much love, and more recently much hate, towards The Twilight Saga, created by Stephenie Meyer.

I began as one of those who really liked Twilight, and it's following sequels. I read the books. I saw the movies. (Though I'll be the first to admit New Moon was the WORST of these books, and movies. It was just awful, and I even thought that in the midst of my really liking this series.)

Then I reread the first book, and realized:

"I'm just not that into you anymore."

Sorry Twilight Saga. You have some major flaws, like a not-so-strong female protagonist, and a somewhat controlling (and sparkly) male protagonist.

But still, even now, I don't HATE these books. There is no reason for me to HATE them. Dislike them, even very strongly dislike them, yes. Disagree with the way characters behave? Sure. But full on HATE? That's a strong word.

And I have to admit, it kind of makes me sad, and slightly upset, to see all the Twilight bashing around the interwebs these days, even though I don't necessarily "like" these books anymore.

And my biggest reason for disliking the haters:

These books got so many people to actually READ.

These books, as bad as they might be, looking back on them now, were a "gateway drug", if you will, for many people who don't read much, or even at all, to get into books and find their love of reading. And that is a beautiful thing.

Not since the Harry Potter books, had anything been this popular. So many people jumped right onto this bandwagon, and were happy to do so. It not only got people reading, but writing. Especially fanfiction. The most famous Twihard fanfic, of course, being the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.(Which, as terribly written as that is, STILL got people to read. Reading is never a bad thing people!)

But now, since the books have been picked apart to death, saying you actually like them is like a death sentence to your social life. Or at least your book club social life. If you like Twilight, you will be judged.

And I don't think that's fair.

In fact, it really verges on bullying.

Even Stephenie Meyer has said she no longer wants to talk about Twilight, and that it's not a happy place to be for her. People have picked it apart to the point that the person who created it, and should be proud to have had her stories published, feels bad about her work.

No one should be made to feel bad for liking something, whether it's Twilight, or some other fandom, or artsy things, or certain cars, or reality TV, or ANYTHING.

We are desperately trying to get this message through to our children every day, and yet, as adults, we do it all the time, to each other.

Why do we feel we have any right to tell someone they can't like something just because we don't like that thing?

So my message to all you Twihards: Don't let the Twihaters get you down!

If everyone else hates what makes you happy, the thing that you love (Twilight or otherwise), don't give them a second thought. Just love the crap out of it. And be happy doing it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Since birth, Juliette's touch has been lethal. After accidentally killing an innocent child while trying to save him, she in institutionalized by her parents. But when the new government, called the Reestablishment, find out about her, and want to use her as a weapon, it takes all she has to break free and fight back.

This is another one of those young adult dystopian series that have become so popular lately. It took a while to get used to Tahereh Mafi's unusual writing style, and although it's not in the same caliber as The Hunger Games or Divergent, it was still quite an enjoyable read with characters you connect to, and root for throughout the book.

I give Shatter Me a B-.

If you enjoyed this one, I suggest reading the next two books in this series, Unravel Me (#2) and Ignite Me (#3).