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Friday, February 28, 2014

Influenster MysteryBrand VoxBox

I'm actually writing about this one in a decent time period!

This is a fun concept. Influenster sent out three samples of hair products, but they're not telling the brand until like a week after you get the first one. I got this a few days ago and I should get the next one in a couple days. Everything is a L'Oreal Canada owned brand, but they don't tell which one.

Does that make sense?

Here's what it looks like.

(Weird picture and I'm sorry - the box was empty by the time I remembered to take a picture of it because everything was in my shower or my hair basket. Plus I don't wanna show my address.)

Here's the card:

You can click to enlarge, but I'll type what this says.

The front says: "You're invited... to try our latest product innovation."

And the back:
Our Latest Haircare Routine

For Distressed, Damaged Hair 
Congratulations! You've been hand-picked to try the latest haircare innovation from L'Oreal Canada - manifacturer of over 25 global beauty brands. But, SHHHH! Our new formula is so special, we're keeping the brand it's from top secret until the launch! In this special mystery VoxBox program - you will receive not ONE but TWO boxes! The first you just received contains an unbranded version of our mystery product line for you to use for one week. In one week's time you'll receive a second box revealing the mystery brand of the full product line. 
What to expect:We all want beautiful, healthy, shiny hair - yet flat irons and blow-dryers traumatize hair, causing some serious damage! But never fear, our new mystery product is here. Specially formulated to reconstruct hair's strength by 90% from root to tip, it repairs hair & prevents further damage. How does it work? The mystery product contains damage-fighting Phyto-Keratin Complex and Cupuacu Butter. 
Mystery box - what you'll recieve1. Shampoo 2. Conditioner 3. Split-Ends Serum
Use each product during your normal shower routine. Split-Ends Serum should be applied after shower to towel-dried hair.

And the rest is about Influester stuff that's not important and my wrists are gonna start getting angry at me so let's leave it at that.

Here's a picture of what else was inside.

These are actually nice sized samples. I personally will probably get three shampoos out of the bottle, and maybe 4 or 5 conditions. For some reason, I use a lot more shampoo than conditioner. My longest layers are a little past my armpit right now, but my hair is really thick. The serum will probably last me a couple weeks, though, because I only use a little.

My first impression was that the shampoo looked like banana penicillin. Anyone else get that when they were a kid? Anyone else remembering how good that stuff tasted? So I'm probably a little biased that I think it smells a little tropical. It's hard to place, though, but it's nice.

I really like the shampoo so far. I get greasy roots because I don't shower everyday and occasionally push it a little, but this seems to take care of it pretty well. I'm getting some pretty good volume using it and I notice my hair feels a lot lighter using it. If this turns out to be a brand I can't afford, I might have to invest in a clarifying shampoo because it's a difference from my usual Pantene. It lathers, so it's not sulfate-free, but I don't really care about that.

I'm kind of on the fence about the conditioner. It's very thick. It actually almost crumbles in your hands until you work a little water into it or work it in your hands. But I'm not sure how well my hair is getting moisturized from it. So I'll keep trying it, but my hair specifically might not work with it so well. I also need to moisturize my scalp so I do condition my roots and my scalp even though a lot of people don't. Otherwise my head itches really badly because it dries out so much. (Aren't you glad to know that?)

The serum stuff isn't like anything I've tried before. I like the way it makes my ends feel. They do get very silky. I don't use hardly any of it so I think it would last a fair amount of time. I don't know if it really makes my hair look different, but I've only used it twice and I used too much gel today and then went out into terrible weather so my hair isn't great and is actually kind of dry, so I'll have to keep trying that.

Okay, now the fun part. I cheated just a little and peeked at the brands that L'Oreal makes, partly because I was curious. One of them is Redken and I thought this might be a Redken product for a bit, but I think I changed my mind. All the Redken stuff I've used has had a pretty similar smell and this just doesn't remind me of anything I've used from them.

What I really think this is? Garnier. It's kinda tropical smelling, which goes with the whole Garnier Fructis thing, and they have a lot of different lines. I've never used anything Garnier besides one straightening thing so I can't really compare.

Watch me be surprised and have it be something wild like Shu Uemura or something, though :P

What do you guys think it is? I'll let you know next Friday!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 24, 2014

YA Review: The Accidental Genius of Weasel High

Another review! Are you shocked? I'm honestly a little shocked. I'm going to try and start posting a review or a "Things I've Read Recently" post every Monday. So far, I've got one posted, one scheduled, two drafts, and this, so obviously I'm doing awesome!

...let's hope it lasts.

Alright, let's get onto the review!

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High by Rick Detorie

Published: January 1st, 2011 by EgmontUSA
Genre: YA Contemporary... but like a hybrid between a regular novel and a graphic novel
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 199
Part of a series? Nope.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Larkin Pace desperately wants a new camcorder. How else is he going to become the next great filmmaker? But his dad won’t give him any money, his sister is determined to make his life miserable, and his nemesis Dalton Cooke is trying to steal his girlfriend. Now this height-challenged aspiring director must chronicle his wacky life for a freshman English assignment.

Review: The tagline of this describes it as "A book for the wimpy kid who has grown into a wimpy teen." I have only read part of one of the Wimpy Kid books* while I was baby-sitting, but what I remember of the book, I tend to agree that they're both for the same kind of audience. A lot of reluctant readers would probably snap this up. And while it's definitely a higher reading level than the Wimpy Kid books, it's a lower-end YA in my opinion. Like I might actually have put it at upper-MG myself and I think it really rides that line, so it would be a great transition book. There's enough text that it would challenge a reluctant reader, but enough illustrations that it might be less overwhelming. It's a good balance.

It's also really freaking funny. The idea of it being a notebook assignment for English class (which I thought it was clever that the teacher called it a blog, good way to make the assignment more interesting for students) works really well. There were seriously times where I sat there giggling to myself. I liked Larkin's voice, I liked the format of the book, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Plot Talk: This is definitely more of a slice of life book than a huge plot book. The biggest plot arc is Larkin's attempt to get a camcorder and the ways he tries to earn money for it. There are some plots that are just odd - but in a way that would really appeal to the audience this is aimed at. They're very hijinksy. Hijinkesque? Which is actually another way that it works as a lower-YA or transition book, because that feels more MG than YA. It's not boring or anything, but it's not hugely plot-driven. It works well, though.

Characters: Larkin is fourteen, claims to be an "accidental genius" (someone who "possesses an awesome talent that happens to be totally useless") because he can remember incredible amounts of details about movies, and wants to be a filmmaker. Occasionally, he is very fourteen, if you know what I mean. He's bad with girls, he has this weird thing about shampoo girls, and he's a little gullible. He sometimes is very much a 14 year old boy and I think he's absolutely relatable and a really fun character.

I also liked Larkin's relationship with his mom, the way it was shown that they had a good relationship and that he actually thinks his mom is cool and funny. Throughout the book, his relationship with his dad develops, slowly but steadily, and it's nice that it shows that while they love each other, they aren't the closest they could be at the beginning of the book, and how that changes.

His sister Kelly is a pretty typical "older sibling". Spoiled and kind of annoying. They spend most of the book fighting and teasing each other, and it would have been nice to have a moment where they bonded. But, you know, sometimes that just doesn't happen.

One other thing I thought was really cute was Larkin's friendship with "Miss Sadie", the neighbour he did chores with to earn money for his camcorder. There were a lot of really funny moments that came out of it, and it was just a nice thing.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: There was a little bit of fat-shaming that annoyed me. I also wasn't fond of the way Larkin reacted when he found out his "rival" had his hair dyed, making a big deal of it being "like a woman", and I was glad when his friend Brooke didn't care and was also somewhat annoyed at him. In general, I didn't like Larkin's attitude towards Brooke when he found out she wasn't interested in dating him. I mean, from her point of view? Her best friend basically stopped talked to her for no reason that she knew, kissed her, then got mad when she said she didn't like him that way. I understand rejection is hard, but that kind of attitude sucks and I was really glad that, while they rekindled their friendship, they didn't end up dating.

PG-13 stuff: The back of my ARC says ages 12 and up and I think that'd be fine, maybe even a little younger depending on the kid. It's a pretty tame book, nothing much for language or anything.

Cover comments: I like the cover! I like the "sneak peek" aspect for the strips inside and I think it's approachable and wouldn't completely embarrass certain kids who don't want to be seen reading "girly" books. (Which I have lots of feelings about that I won't get into right now.) It's neat.

Conclusion: This was a good book. I laughed a lot reading it, I liked the characters, I liked the style of the illustrations, and in general, I thought it just worked really well. I think a lot of kids would really like it and I liked it as an adult. Four out of five roses.

*So, fun fact, Wimpy Kid started on this website called FunBrain. When I was in 7th grade, that was one of the websites we were suggested to play on during spare time in computer class. I think I might actually vaguely remember the original form of it.

So I think that's everything! Have you read The Accidental Genius of Weasel High? What did you think?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Influenster Maple VoxBox

So I got this before Christmas but I didn't get around to talking about it until now because the holidays are kind of rough on me.

If you don't know what Influenster is, check it out here. You can earn badges and stuff, and sometimes they sent out things called "VoxBoxes" which have a bunch of cool stuff in them. This was the first one that's been available to Canadians, as far as I know.

FAIR WARNING: This post has TONS of pictures.

(Apologies for the pictures on my bed. Click for larger pictures.)

This is what it looked like when I first got it. I'd show you it closed but that part has my address on it ;)

You get this neat card which also tells you the general prices and a little about the stuff inside.

If you can't read that, it says:
Influenster #MapleVoxBox
Canada has seen a lot of firsts: It's the first nation to celebrate Thanksgiving, train the world's first female jet-pilots, & establish a national park! Joining the ranks of these auspicious Canadian firsts is Influenster Nation's first Canadian VoxBox: The Maple VoxBox. We finally made it. Log in to check in your VoxBox now!
Full disclosure, got these for testing purposes, yada yada, you get the gist.

I'm going to go by the order of the things on the card for the sake of things being a little easier. First up:

Skinny Cow Milk Chocolate Flavour Heavenly Crisp. The card says these retail at $1.29 a bar or $4.29 per 4-pack. I'll put what the card says here:
Skinny Cow Heavenly Crisp bars bring you layers of wafer with delicious chocolate crème flavour covered in a milk chocolatey coating. At 100 calories per 19g bar, say yes to delicious!
First of all, you guys should probably know that I don't diet. I believe diet culture is harmful, and I'm a big advocate for fat acceptance.

So anything that is "diet", or "skinny", or whatnot, really needs to amaze me for me to put my money behind. And this bar really did not. First of all, I got this around the 4th or 5th of December and this expired December 31st. So that makes me raise an eyebrow.

As for the bar itself, it's wafer and chocolate. It's like a diet Kit-Kat bar. It's got 10 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein. If they had a high amount of protein, I might actually like them more, because I always need protein (I'm not vegan or vegetarian or anything, I just don't eat enough protein). As it is, there's nothing special about them. They also aren't allergy safe, so, while they might be a decent option as a treat for people who are trying to cut down sugar in their kids' diets, a lot of schools wouldn't let you bring them. Especially since they aren't nut safe.

All in all, they're fine. They're tasty and they might be nice if you're trying to cut sugar, but there's not much to them. It's not like a granola bar. You're still hungry afterwards. And the price is really high for something like this. This isn't something I'd purchase.

The second thing is Skinny Cow Milk Chocolate Dreamy Clusters. The card says these are the same price as the bar, but they say "per bar" again when these are a snack pack so don't quote me here. The description here is:
These bite sized crunchy crisps and creamy caramel drenched in milk chocolate are only 120 calories per 28g pouch. With Skinny Cow Dream Clusters, you can say yes to delicious!
Again, not a fan of diet culture so there's the wow thing. And again, these don't really. These are better, and I might have liked them better if they had a different flavour. I'm not a super fan of the "crisp" thing (they're Rice Krispy type things - if you've ever had a Krackel bar, like that), but I love caramel. I would have loved more. They also seemed a little stale to me. I did eat them about 2 weeks after I got them and they had to go through the mail, though.

You get five of these in a pouch and I have seen a few people use these as treats in lunches for their kids, giving them one or two per lunch. And I can see the appeal of that, because they're presumably lighter in sugar than your average candy. The ingredients don't have nuts, but the package didn't say if they were nut safe, so I don't know if they'd be a safe school lunch item.

Again, these were okay. Nothing wrong with them, but nothing special, and the price tag for something so small and not really filling at all throws me off. All in all, Skinny Cow products probably just aren't for me. Your mileage may vary.

Next up!

NYC New York Color Big Bold Curl Mascara which retails at $4.99 (depending on your store, obviously). The card says:
Big Bold Curl Mascara's oversized curved brush is the ultimate way to get outrageously thick and super sexy lashes. One stroke gives your lashes up to 12x more volume and 99% more lift.
Speaking of the brush - it's HUGE. I should take a picture to show you guys.

Seriously HUGE brush. The orange brush is CoverGirl LashBlast Volume and that's a large brush to begin with. The size of the brush honestly does take a little adjusting to. If you're not careful, you can smack your eyebrow or the crease of your eye. The easiest way I found to apply it was actually to tip my head back. The formula can also be a little clumpy so this is a mascara that takes some time and practice.

However. It gives you gigantic eyelashes. You get a lot of mascara in a few swipes and it builds pretty well, and, really, I've never had a mascara that makes my eyelashes so big. There's lots of length, lots of volume, and honestly, I'm just really pleased by this. The curve of the brush takes a little getting used to, but it can work nicely to get all sorts of weird angles. And this shade, Extreme Blush, is a VERY black mascara, which I prefer. The price is also very nice.

Next up, the lipgloss.

NYC New York Color Big Bold Plumping Lip Gloss. And the card says it retails at 4.99
Big Bold Plumping Lip Gloss makes lips look up to 50% fuller with a high gloss shine that lasts up to 4 hours. The ultra-soft, mega applicator gives full and even coverage for beautiful, perfectly plump lips.
This also has an oversized wand.

I don't have a lip gloss tube in my makeup bag and I don't feel like getting up to find one, so this is an eyeshadow primer, but the size is about the size of an average lip gloss wand. You can see how large this lip gloss is.

Oh, and the colour on this is called Big City Blush. It's a very light, slightly frosted pink and... it doesn't look great on me. It might work nice as a way to lighten up darker lip colours, but honestly, on its own? It's too pale and too frosty for me.

The lip gloss itself... is lip gloss. I'm not a huge lip gloss fan. I'd rather use a tinted lip balm or a stain, even. This is a little sticky and I just don't like having sticky things on my face because it gets in my hair and that's just a me thing. The smell is nice, kind of vanilla, sugar cookie, thing. It's a decent lip gloss, but the colour is not good on me and I do not really like lip gloss.

As for the plumping aspect... I didn't notice anything. It didn't sting or make my lips hurt or anything, but I didn't see a difference. I also wonder if the large brush might get messy, but I didn't notice it myself. I can't say anything for the longevity as I didn't wear it long enough for obvious reasons.

The nail things are neat. They're Broadway Nails imPRESS Press-On Manicure and the card says this retails at $8.99-$10.99
imPRESS Press-On Manicure by Broadway Nails is the revolutionary way to apply polish! Get a salon-perfect manicure in seconds - simply peel off, press on, and you're done (NO glue needed!). There's no drying, a killer shine and a manicure that lasts up to a week! Available at Walmart.
I really loved these. I got up them in a black and silver crackle pattern and they looked really need. It took maybe five minutes to apply them. I did it waiting for my mom to get home so we could leave to go out to my aunt's for Christmas. Reading the instructions did end up helping, shocker, but it was seriously easy. Wipe this little wipe thing over your nails, peel the stickers off the fake nail, stick it on. Done!

Here, have a weird picture of my hand!

These lasted six days on me, only starting to lift a little at the end, and then they started driving me wild just a little. The only thing that really annoyed me was that they were thick and it was so hard to scratch itches. Other than that, nada. They were a short length - I actually had a couple nails that were longer - so they were very functional. The pattern was nice and they didn't seem to damage my nails at all. Honestly, I think they were a good way to keep them a little protected, because I didn't break a nail for the entire week and when they came off, they seemed stronger than before.

I've seen a lot of people use these and they come in so many patterns and colours. I just wish more available in my town! I've only ever seen one set and they're not a colour I'd pay 10 or 12 dollars to use. These would be great for vacations and stuff, and they're a cheaper option than going and getting gel nails or whatever. Very much liked these.

The second things are Ice Breakers DUO which the card says retail at $1.99
New Ice Breakers DUO combined sweet fruity taste with refreshing cooling crystals. Ice Breakers DUO is a two sided mint with a fruity flavoured, textured side and a minty, smooth sides that cools and refreshed your breath. Available in strawberry and raspberry.
I... don't like raspberry that much. But these are good. I'd probably like the strawberry better. I'm also not super fond of aspartame, but these aren't bad. They're mints and sweet and the scrubby crystal side is fun.

This picture is kind of blurry and I guess it's the best I got. Sorry!

Something that's neat is the box came with two $1 off coupon for NYC makeup. I don't have anywhere that sells it in my town or I probably would use these.

Last up - Montagne Jeunesse Clay Spas priced at $2.49
Join the Revolution and start a new weekly skincare regimen with the Clay Spas from Montagne Jeunesse. These natural bamboo fabric masks are infuse with clay for a cleansing experience that is better, quicker and easier than ever before.

This is one of those masks where it's like a creepy cloth face with no eyes or mouth or nose... and possibly I get distracted too easily at 11:30 at night. As you can see, I got the Red Earth Clay mask and, honestly? It stunk. I don't like the clay smell, I think, because I had another clay mask that I didn't like the smell of either.

I think this did tighten up my pores. It was fun wearing the goofy cloth mask thing and for three dollars, these are nice to splurge on once in a while as a fun little thing. There are so many varieties of these things and even from my overpriced pharmacy, they're not that expensive. I liked this.

Okay, I think that's everything!

What'd you guys think of this?

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 17, 2014

YA Review: Notes From the Blender

LOOK ANOTHER REVIEW. Honestly, I'm as shocked as you are. This one is long, too!

Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Published: May 2011 (I'm pretty sure) from Egmont
Genre: YA Contemporary
Binding: ARC and yes I got this in 2011, and yes, it's 2014. Just... run with it, please.
Page Count: 228 in my ARC, 240 according to goodreads
Part of a series? Nope.
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Declan loves death metal--particularly from Finland. And video games--violent ones. And internet porn--any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway.

Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). She's the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested - or it was until today, when she's dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she's getting a new brother--of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan's dad is marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means they'll be moving in together.

Review: This is kind of a weird one. Declan talks a lot more frankly about sex and masturbation and bodily functions than most YA books I've read really do, the whole set-up is kind of hilarious, and it's just... different. I did quite like it, though. I even got a little sniffly at the end.

Plot Talk: Okay, so, the set-up of this book. Neilly and Declan don't really know each other... right up until they find out that his dad and her mom are not only getting married, but having a baby. Accidentally. Which makes them both crack up because their parents had given them the Safe Sex talk several times over. Declan has a crush on/boner for Neilly, Neilly doesn't know who Declan is, neither of them initially deal with the whole thing where their lives are uprooted very well, everybody grows up a little bit, and it all ends happily.

...I'm getting better at this part, aren't I?

Characters: The book is told in alternating POVs from Declan and Neilly. Here's a neat thing in the ARC that I actually wish I had a final copy to check - their chapters have different fonts. It's subtle, but there's a difference between her chapters and his.

Since Declan opens the book, we'll start with him. He's a hard character to like and he would be making a joke about "hard" if he heard that. He talks and thinks a LOT about sex and masturbation and, while that doesn't hugely bother me, he also spends a lot of time at first treating Neilly like she exists only to turn him on. At one point, he claims that seeing her eat a Popsicle in the cafeteria made it so he has to go home for the rest of the day. He makes a lot of cracks about her being spank bank material. He at one point says he recognizes the back of her head because he'd "spent enough hours picturing it bobbing up and down on my lap". He also ends up coming off as a Nice Guy and there are moments where he doesn't seem to realize that Neilly is human that are really unpleasant.

The authors do end up showing pretty darn well, though, that a lot of his behaviour, especially the sex stuff, was partly a coping method. That he was not dealing well with his mom's death, even seven year's later. And that, I think, while it doesn't excuse treating Neilly like that, is a really good thing to show. A teenaged boy coping badly with the death of their mother feel less common to me. I like that he apologizes at the end of the book and (erm SPOILER HEYO POSSIBLY SKIP THIS PART) realizes that not only was Neilly NOT going to be interested in him that way, that he more valued the idea of her being both his friend and his sister. It was nice and refreshing. The other thing I really liked was that not only did it show Declan having issues with both the changes and the death of his mother, but he was shown to have emotions including breakdowns and crying, but also that he tried therapy and, while it takes him time to find the right one, it helped him.

As for Neilly herself - first of all, the gymnast thing is not in the ARC??? Apparently that was edited in after they went out. So I can't really comment on that besides saying that it would fit her really well, because she was a very in control character. (I'd check the finished copy, but I don't have one on hand.) She's a very tough character. She does not forgive easily, which ends up being something she has to learn because she's too hasty to hold grudges. She does not deal well with the changes at first, either, and she has to do a lot growing through the book.

As for side characters, Neilly's mom and Declan's dad are somewhat irritating at first. They spring a ton of sudden changes on their teenaged kids - remarrying when neither of them told them that they were even dating, a new pregnancy, and moving - then get annoyed when they don't deal well with it and need time to adjust? That's just not fair and unrealistic. By the end of it, they do redeem themselves, though.

I also liked that Neilly had a good relationship with her dad despite her parents having a rocky breakup, and besides that, liked and respected and cared about her father's partner Roger. The fact that everything with her mom and dad ended up being pretty good natured and even her mom ended up going to their wedding while not being glossed over was refreshing. It wasn't shown as easy, exactly, but at the same time, everyone sort of had bigger fish to fry.

One of the neatest characters, though? Declan's aunt Sarah, who was a woman in a relationship with another woman, and also the minister of a church! That was great to see.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: The aforementioned issue of Declan really acting like a jerk about Neilly. It is kind of uncomfortable. Luckily he gets over it. There are also a couple moments of transphobia/cissexism - "But now it was clear that nobody with a penis could ever figure out how girls thought." pg. 55 of the ARC and I'd check it if I had a final copy but I don't, apologies. Girls can have penises. I realize a lot of people wouldn't even notice that, but it's something I notice because that kind of language can hurt people.

There is also a focus on faith. Declan and Neilly attend a youth group at Declan's Aunt Sarah's church. It didn't bother me, personally. I actually thought it was handled nicely, and it is a part of a lot of peoples' lives. It was nice to see it in an inclusive setting and I didn't think it was overdone, personally. There's actually a lot less talk about God so much as them learning about themselves. And I'm not religious in any way so I'm a little more sensitive to that kind of thing.

In a weird way, the part that ended up being "preachy" was the anti-drinking and anti-drugs message. While Declan's made sense due to the death of his mother, it does come off a little overdone with some of the other characters. I also worry about the all or nothing approach as they get older and the message might alienate some teens. And I am saying this as someone who does not drink despite being legal age to do so. It's not a bad message, obviously, but it was almost overdone at times and I really do think some actual teenagers might be rolling their eyes at it, which would defeat the purpose of it.

PG-13 stuff: PRETTY MUCH EVERY THING DECLAN SAYS OR DOES. Most teenagers probably won't be phased by anything in here, mind you, but there is a fair amount of language and innuendo and such. Your mileage may vary.

Cover comments: Okay, funny story. So I got this back in 2011 and then got all broken and didn't review for a long time. So because of that, I ended up basically forgetting what the title of this was or that I had it. And the ARC has a much different cover. It's orange, with a blender on it.

And then I took this out from the library. Whoops.

Obviously I liked it! It catches your eyes and the juxtaposition of the two shoes being so different really works.

Conclusion: This is a very funny book that balances the humour well with the more serious aspects. While I'm not always fond of Declan's behaviours and the way he objectifies Neilly, I liked most of the characters and they were written well. It was very engrossing and easy-reading, to the point where I put off peeing through three chapters because I didn't want to stop reading. I liked how there were a lot of characters who had different orientations and backgrounds, and oddly, I liked how Declan's Norwedgian death metal thing wasn't a way of acting out, it was just something he liked. The alternating POVs worked well and, all in all, I very much enjoyed it. Four out of five roses.

(Aren't they pretty?!)

Other notes:

- The only one I have says "Dude, don't DOWNLOAD your porn!" Because... yeah.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 10, 2014

MG Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

LOOK IT'S A REVIEW! ARE YOU SURPRISED? I'm a little surprised, honestly. It's been a long time since I've done one of these! So, um, be gentle on me?

The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Complete First Serial by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Published: As a bind-up, in 2004 by Simon and Schuster for Young Readers. The books individually were published in 2003 and 2004.
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Binding: Harcover
Page Count: Goodreads is saying around 600. The first four books are about 100 pages long and the fifth is the longest at about 130. There's also some stuff that isn't numbered so it probably does round out at around 600 pages.
Part of a series? Yes, and I'll add some information a little bit later about this.
Amazon link for boxed set / Amazon link to the first book / Book Depository for the boxed set / Book Depository for the first book / IndieBound link to the boxed set / IndieBound link to the first book

Summary (from goodreads): It all started with a mysterious letter left at a tiny bookstore for authors Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Its closing lines: "We just want people to know about this. The stuff that has happened to us could happen to anyone." Little could they imagine the remarkable adventure that awaited them as they followed Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace and a strange old book into a world filled with elves, goblins, dwarves, trolls, and a fantastical menagerie of other creatures. The oddest part is in entering that world, they didn't leave this one!

Review: First of all, let me explain this a little for anyone who is a little confused because I had to look this up, too. This copy that I read is a bind-up of the first five books which is referred to as the first serial, or the first series, also known as "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Each book has an individual plot, but the series also has an over-reaching plot arc (and they read really well as a set, honestly). There are also three books other books, Goblins Attack, Troll Trouble, and Great Escape which are apparently the second book plus bonus material? (I'm not entirely sure myself as I haven't read them.) There's a second series of three books, The Nixie's Song, A Giant Problem, and The Wyrm King which I have not read but seem to feature different characters.

You also can get some bonus books like the actual Spiderwick Guide, The Care and Feeding of Sprites, an activity-type book where you can make your own notebook, and a scrapbook by Thimbletack, the brownie. I actually really like the idea of that and totally would have been into all the bonus material as a kid. Also possibly as an adult.

Plot Talk: I saw the movie adaptation of this long before I read it and more than once, too. If you have seen the movie, it's actually a fairly decent adaptation. The plot of the movie basically takes the plot of the five books and smooths it out into one plot. While some things are obviously different, the five books do have a pretty strong overall plot through out and I honestly think it works really well to have all five of them together. But my view will obviously be biased because I read them all at once. Each of the books does have an individual plot, but they can feel a little cliff-hangery. And while as an adult, that can be infuriating because I want to know what happens, it's also a good way to get kids hooked on them.

Characters: I really liked the portrayal of Jared in this. Jared has a lot of anger issues from his parents' divorce. He lashes out and misbehaves in ways that feel realistic if you've been in that situation or known someone who has. The best part, though, is that he doesn't always understand why he does things he does and that can totally be a thing that happens. It feels like it's not you. He also does not like the way he behaves and regrets it when he lashes out. It's a very good thing to see and it's worth noting that it's something that he deals with for basically the full five books. There's no magic fix, but they aren't constantly dwelt on, either, which can come off unrealistic.

Mallory and Simon, not being the POV character, are somewhat smaller characters, but one thing I really appreciated was the relationship between the siblings. They got along sometimes, but not always, and they worked together in a way that made their strengths and weaknesses balance them into a great team. They also very obviously cared about each other, even when they didn't always show it.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc: There's some toilet humour that I'm not entirely fond of. There is also a scene where a vision is shown, although briefly, of the death of both a unicorn and a young girl and I'm kind of on the fence on whether it was necessary. Other than that, I don't really have anything.

PG-13 stuff: Again, there's some toilet humour. There's a handful of cr-words, once a donkey is referred to by a word that is not donkey and one chapter has the H-word in the title. Part of the plot of the books is that a character is hospitalized for suspected self-harm due to fairy violence and it's pretty plainly put. There's the vision mentioned of a unicorn being hunted and killed for its horn and a girl dying alongside it which isn't described vividly or anything but might be a shock, a non-graphic - but upsetting to the characters - killing of a group of dwarves, and some animal violence by the fairies. Sensitive kids might have some problems with these and if your kid is, I'd preread them. It didn't take me that long, although I'm a fairly quick reader.

The back of my bind-up says ages 7 and up and I would honestly disagree with that. I would say at the youngest, 8 and up, and preferably more like 9 or 10, as a guideline. Obviously, kids vary, and I realize kids read up, but I think for most kids, 7 is going to be way too young. Most 7 year olds aren't going to understand a lot of what's going on and a fair amount of it might be upsetting.

Cover comments: I quite like the cover. It's simple, but it works well. I also do like the way it's designed to look like an old book a little. And, this is totally a weird Laina thing, but you know how some books are like a little bit matte, but they'll have glossy parts? This is one of those and I really like that. And, another weird Laina thing, but the pages are cut so that they don't all line up. You know that look, like with the Lemony Snicket hardcovers? And I like that because I'm weird and a little superficial sometimes.

And, because I don't exactly have a part for this, I think here I'm going to talk about the extra stuff. There are lots of illustrations. Not too many, though. It's a good balance, especially for the age group that I'd recommend these for. Most are in black and white, but each book has a couple full-colour illustrations. (Is that true in the individual ones? Does anyone know?) The illustrations really fit the book well, and sometimes include things like maps, news articles, samples from the Guide, drawings of Jared's. I always loved things like that as a kid and I think they're used very well here.

Conckusion: I really liked this series. I like how the set-up is that all this really happened, sort of like the Series of Unfortunate Events books, to bring that series up twice in a review that has nothing to do with them, and as a kid who loved those books, I would have loved these even though they aren't really similar beyond that premise. I liked the characters, they were written in a way that I know I would have connected to as a kid, and I really love fairy lore. I was surprised by these, but they're going to be a solid four over all and I highly recommend them.

(Look, I have new roses!)

Other notes:

- I don't really have anything except that for some reason, my notebook smells like perfume. Except it's reminding me of a perfume I owned several years ago, not a perfume I own now. It's kind of weird! But, hey, nice smell, at least.

Peace and cookies,