Defy by Sara B. Larson – Book Review

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Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Intro

[Minor Spoilers]

I was extremely excited to read Defy by Sara B. Larson when I picked it up at work. I love mistaken identity plots, especially when it involves a gender twist. One of my favourite Shakespeare plays is Twelfth Night, or its modern day version She’s The Man, starring my favourite childhood actress Amanda Bynes.

I love the inner dialogue that you get to read in this kind of mistaken gender identity book, and really understand the day to day struggles they go through to hide who they are. Defy started off well with ‘Alex’ ,aka Alexa, fighting off her feelings for a fellow guard to maintain her ruse and protect her life. The beginning was a good mix of the excitement from her guard duties, her intriguing ability to best everyone at sword fighting, and the undercurrent of possible romance. I understood and respected her decisions pre-kidnap, as they were intelligent and rational.

Unfortunately once Alexa, Rylan, and the Prince were kidnapped this balance basically went to shit (excuse my language). Alexa became so focused on her romantic feelings that her romance is practically all that’s focused on for the last 2/3 of the book. She doesn’t seem to want to figure out why they were all kidnapped, or ask questions as to why the prince is so calm about the kidnap. She seems to be completely resigned to the idea that they can’t escape and therefore doesn’t even try. She instead varies between makeout sessions and intense romantic talks with one of the two boys (pssh, I’m not telling you who) the whole time they’re kidnapped.

Kiss

At one point she is even making out with said boy while the other boy is laying right on the other side of her (because of course all three of them have to share a tent,  whyyyy?). Now I get that you might get carried away in the heat of new romance, but not with someone else laying right next to you (unless she just did like 10 shots of tequila????). The whole love triangle plot just ended up getting really weird for me.

In the end I did not enjoy where this book took Alexa’s story. I believe it focused too much on her super weird love triangle, which led her to irrational and frankly stupid decisions. Her character was not developed very well and I don’t feel like I saw her grow as a person, which I don’t always find necessary in a story, but in the case of a girl who’s been pretending to be a boy for years and is now finally able to discover who she is as a woman? Ya, there should probably be some growth. I had to force myself to finish this book and would probably not recommend it to anyone looking to read a fantasy teen read, unless you mostly want romance.

If You Enjoy Mistaken Gender Identity Plots:

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The Disreputable History of Franky Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Pirates! by Celia Rees

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Book Review

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.
After Mara survives the traumatizing accident at the old asylum, it makes sense that she has issues. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, and as if that weren’t enough to cope with, her family moves to a new state in order to give her a fresh start. But that fresh start is quickly filled with hallucinations—or are they premonitions?—and then corpses, and the boundary between reality and nightmare is wavering. At school, there’s Noah, a devastatingly handsome charmer who seems determined to help Mara piece together what’s real, what’s imagined—and what’s very, very dangerous.

Cover

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin has been getting major buzz all over the Instagrams and blogs of the book obsessed. I had always assumed, due to my evaluation of the cover, that it was purely a dramatic teen romance and nothing else. Despite this I was pretty curious to see why people loved it so much. Well, let me say that my judgment based on the cover was, although partially right, definitely misleading.

AssCrown

This book is most definitely an epic  and dramatic teen love affair, but with a whole lot of crazy thrown in. Although I don’t personally find the ‘hate-at-first-sight-then-fall-in-love’ trope realistic, I’m still a sucker for it (ugh, what does that say about me?). One of my favourite things about Mara and Noah’s love me/hate me, will they/won’t they relationship is their witty/sexual/sarcastic banter. I have never seen so many sarcastic sexual innuendoes, and so humorously written, in a teen read.

The first book in a trilogy, it’s hard to judge at this point whether Mara’s character will develop and grow up. I’m hoping she will, because there were a couple of decisions that Mara made that I can only relate to the decision of the horror movie girl by herself who goes into the pitch black basement to check on the scary noise. But, more often than not I understood her decisions.

Noah

I absolutely adored the thrill ride that was figuring out Mara’s present and her past. I never was completely sure if Mara was just crazy, or if she truly had powers. The ending was such a perfect cliffhanger to suck me into the 2nd book. Not joking, I went out and bought the sequel the next day.

For Fans Of: The Mediator series by Meg Cabot, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

P.S. If you haven’t read The Mediator series by Meg Cabot, it’s a super addictive fast-paced read about a girl who can communicate with the dead. When she moves to a new city with her family there is a young attractive ghost haunting her new bedroom. While trying to ignore him she also has to deal with the ghosts that want her help, or simply want revenge…

megcabot-mediator

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Book Review

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A Thousand Pieces of You follows Marguerite, who’s parents have invented a device that allows a person’s soul to travel between multiple dimensions. The book begins after her father has just been murdered and the prime suspect is one of his grad students, Paul. With the help of her father’s other grad assistant, Theo, Marguerite chases after Paul through other dimensions as he tries to escape capture.

This book has had a lot of hype and I was worried it might revolve too much around the excitement of other dimensions and not enough on character development. The author, Claudia Gray, does a beautiful job of crafting each character. There were some scenes that were so beautifully written that they gave me chills. You may think the cover is beautiful, but the story is even more stunning.

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I know it may sound cheesy, but reading Marguerite’s love story and all that she endures brought me to tears. Ya, ya, I get it, I’m a sappy romantic. I really loved the way the book played with the idea of fate. Not just in an emotional way, but in a rational, scientific based explanation of how destiny might truly exist.

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All in all this was a wonderful read. If you want visually stunning settings, and an epic romance that spans continents and dimensions, blood shed and lives lost (btw that’s a Veronica Mars movie reference) then you’ll soak this read right up.

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For Fans of: All Our Yesterdays, Cloud Atlas, Every Day, and The Golden Compass

DIY Canvas Wall Art – For Less Than $5

More and more we use technology to do everything, but it seems like there is also a counter culture within this who are obsessed with doing things themselves. DIY (aka Do-It-Yourself) culture has become a whole new market, people are falling in love with the kitschy appeal of things that come in kits rather than pre-made products. When everything is so easily available at the click of a button nowadays, the thrill of shopping has started to wane on some people (If I’m being real here, I do still love shopping though). Do-It-Yourself culture is all about going on craft journeys and seeing what you can make. With the world at our fingertips we’re able to connect with millions of other people sharing cool and creative ways to spend your days. So even if you can’t come up with something yourself, you’re sure to find something neat to create in the blogosphere.

DIYs are about the sense of accomplishment you get when you complete your latest project. Rather than a house filled with products that you bought, you get a home rich with the memories of everything that you created. Yes, DIY projects take more time and work, but they create unique opportunities to hangout and have fun with your friends and fam rather than just sitting in front of the tube together. That is what I’m hoping you will get out of the DIYs I share.

I love love love gallery walls, but they are always so expensive to make. I also wanted to do a combination of frames prints with painted and hand made art, and decided to start with painting canvas. A huge inspiration for my DIY projects comes from the amazing blog A Beautiful Mess, so if you’re ever looking for more fun projects they have like a bazillion. So I’m gonna show you how I created some pretty sweet looking canvas paintings for less than $5 each!!

Wall Art Setup

 

Supplies Needed:

  • Paintbrushes (Most people own these so you can probably just borrow some, if not you can get them at a dollar store)
  • Acrylic Paint (I got a pack of 10 colours for $2 at the dollar store)
  • Painter’s Tape or Scotch Tape (You don’t need this for just painting, but if you want to do exact lines it helps. For thinner lines washi tape also work)
  • Canvas (I got mine at the dollar store, the smaller sizes were $1.75 each and the larger ones $2.50 each)
  • Plastic Sheet (you’ll need this to put over your workspace so that you don’t get paint on anything you wouldn’t want it on. Garbage bags and newspaper also works fine.

Now you’re ready to go! Also make sure you’re wearing old clothes or that you don’t care if you get paint on whatever you’re wearing because it gets messy. I’ll show you a tutorial for how to make beautifully lined canvas art for you gallery wall.

Step 1: To make sure that all your lines are evenly spaced use an extra piece of tape to measure the equal distance in between tape (as shown below).

Striped Tape

 

Step 2: Once all your tape is secured paint your stripes whatever the heck colour you want :). I layered green and dark blue paint in half the stripes and then shaded out black paint in the other half of the stripes. Don’t be afraid to paint on top of the tape, that’s what it’s there for!

Step 3:  Pull of the tape while the paint is still wet, this way the tape comes off easier and creates cleaner lines.

Mid Stripe

 

Step 4: Make sure to leave the painting to dry before you try to hang it anywhere ( we don’t want paint all over your wall). And Voila!

Finished Stripe

If you want another example of a way you can use tape to create cool lines. For my second painting I used scotch tape to create thinner lines and a more abstract shape. You can find tons of other cool ideas using tape to create shapes and lots of other objects to use when painting on Pinterest.

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DIY Your Own Scavenger Hunt – Valentine Themed

Sometimes it’s really fun to pretend you’re a little kid again. Running around, pretending you’re a pirate looking for buried treasure or Indiana Jones out to find a stolen artifact. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, valentine’s day or just for fun a scavenger hunt will always make you feel like a kid. This Valentine’s Day instead of doing ordinary gifts I decided to create a fun little hunt for my bf to run around and feel like an explorer. Here is a little DIY for you all to get some fun ideas if you want to do a scavenger of your own.

Valentine's Scavenger Hunt

You will need some supplies:

  • Themed Bags (Mine were from Michaels, a craft store)
  • Candy (I got all my candy from the bulk section at my grocery store, but you can fill your goodie bags with whatever you desire)
  • Scissors
  • Coloured Stock Paper (Pink or red work well for Valentine’s heart clues)
  • A Pen
  • Ribbon (This is used to tie up the candy bags)

I went with bulk candy for my goodie bags because they’re inexpensive and you can write really cute sayings to go with. I do love the puns (ex. some Smarties for my smarty, some fuzzy peaches because you’re such a peach). The bulk candy comes in really big plastic baggies tied off with ugly white twist ties. This doesn’t make for  very cute goodies, so to make them a little prettier I cut the bags down to fit the size of the candy and then replaced the store ties with red ribbon to fit with my Valentine’s theme.

Treat Ties

Now it’s time to make your clues! You can change your shape to fit the theme you’re doing, but for mine I made hearts out of card stock to write my clues on.

Fold Paper

Draw Heart

Cut Hearts

Clue Numbers

Clue Writing

Arrange them

And Voila!

Voila!

Hope you enjoy your scavenging as much as I did! Happy Valentine’s day!!

KissXO

-Love Tay

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Book Review

Red Queen Cover

I know, I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But, come on! We all do. What I love in a book cover is when it stops you in your tracks and seems to call out to you, “Pick me up! You know you want to feel my beautifully embossed cover and discover my secrets.” This is still and incredibly hard feat to do though. So when I see a cover that makes my heart jump in excitement, and my fingers itch to pick it up I always know that my wallet is in trouble.

Red QUeen quote

The Cover of Red Queen written by Victoria Aveyard is simple, yet beautiful. It speaks to my love of symbolism, contrast, and white space. Even reading through the blurb once you can already feel how representative the cover is of the story. Not only does the cover image tie into the intense struggle between the red and silver blood lines, but it connects perfectly with exact quotes from the book. You know a cover has done its job well when you finish a book and just sit and think about all the ways that the design truly represents the plot, the characters, and the struggles they go through.

Red Queen Quote

Red Queen does have a stunning aesthetic, but it was also an extremely addictive read. Set in a dystopian ‘other world’ with magic/superhuman abilities, it’s the perfect combination of fantasy and futurism. I fell in love with Mare, the protagonist, the second I fell into her world. A strong female character, Mare stays true to herself and her cause despite the pull of a love triangle in the book. For anyone looking for an intense and fast-paced read, this is great.

Red Queen Quote

For Fans of: The Hunger Games, Legend, and Throne of Glass

Like This? Try These…. Arrow

Sometimes you just want to imagine that it’s possible that maybe someday someone will be able to fly, or run faster than the speed of light, or lift up a car with their bare hands. Being able to escape into a reality so unlike our own, but just similar enough that you can imagine its possibility can bring excitement. Fantasy, science fiction, and superheroes can have adrenaline rushing back into a day that was previously filled with checking emails and scrolling endlessly through an addictive, yet depressing Facebook newsfeed. These are some of the reasons that I love TV so much, especially the magical and fantastical TV shows that pull me out of my own reality into one that is filled with adventure, villains, and heroes.

Superhero movies have always been some of my favourites to watch over and over, and now with special effects improving drastically over the past 20 years film makers have been able to bring big screen action to the small screen. In honour of my intense love of superheroes, here are a few shows you can watch on the small screen to satisfy your appetite for epic villain vs. hero battles.

LTW - Super Hero TV

 

Although this next show might not necessarily be classified in the superhero genre, I feel like it has enough in common with the superhero style to qualify as an extra. Kyle XY is about a teenage boy who is found naked and wandering around the city, with no idea of who he is, where he came from, or how to interact with people (and he has no belly button). He is quickly picked up and taken to a youth facility where he meets a psychologist who realizes he is not a normal child. Kyle is then taken in by the psychologist and her family to learn and adapt to life as a ‘normal’ teenager, while trying to discover where he came from. As the series goes on you discover more and more dark secrets and conspiracies, and learn that Kyle might not be a normal human……. Intrigued yet?

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