Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Book Review: Aaru: Halls of Hel by David Meredith


Goodreads Summary:  Rose is a Veda.
In Elysian Industries’ virtual paradise of Aaru, that means she’s practically a goddess. She is immortal. She is powerful. A limitless paradise is hers and her friends’ to command. They are free from sickness and pain, old age and death. She should be ecstatic over her prestige and privilege, but the gilded utopia has lost its luster.

In a reality where anything can be hers with a thought, and Rose can master any skill instantly with nothing but her imagination, to what can she still aspire? She has all of eternity to fill, but what will her purpose be? Rose adores her sweet, Latin boyfriend, Franco. She loves wiling away endless immaculate days with her friends, but shouldn’t there be more to life than mere play? Also, Rose is dogged by a deep concern for her little sister, Koren, the Elysian Industries spokes-model and reality star back in the “Before” world.

Though Koren is wealthy, famous, and idolized by millions of adoring fans, her life is spinning out of control. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and the boyfriend of her dreams, Jonas Perry, seems suddenly indifferent. Koren finds her celebrity increasingly isolating, her grueling work schedule exhausting, and the constant scrutiny of her personal life unwelcomed and intrusive. To top it all off, she has regular nightmares about the death of her friend, Kiku, and the still-at-large Magic Man who nearly stole away her everything.

Koren and Rose have more to fear from this quarter than they know. Magic Man’s obsession with the teen idol has not lessened, and he is far from defeated. With vital aid from an unexpected source, his nefarious schemes to make Koren his own and to hack the Aaru mainframe are on track and moving forward. Unless the sisters can thwart his sinister designs, everyone and everything the girls hold dear could be destroyed.

Goodreads Rating: 4.09 stars with 22 ratings
Genre Listing: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Psychological Science Fiction
Get the Book: Amazon
Goodreads Reading Challenge: 32/30
2018 reading challenge: #38, a book that takes place in Australia ( Find 2018 here and 2019's just released challenge here.)

Review:

First off, I want to thank author Dr. David Meredith for asking me to do a review of his work and sending me a copy of Aaru: Halls of Hel in exchange. This is the third of his works that I've reviewed, second in the Aaru Cycle. You can find the other reviews here: AaruThe Reflections of Queen Snow White

So, I cheated just a bit on where I placed this on the 2018 reading challenge.  There's only a small portion of the story that actually takes place in Australia, but there are two secondary characters who are from Australia. Therefore, I'm counting it. I also have no idea if Psychological Science Fiction is an actual genre, but it fits this book so perfectly.

I honestly procrastinated on starting Halls of Hel quite a bit. There's a character called Magic Man in the first book that just gave me the creeps. I knew he was going to reappear in Halls of Hel and it made me hesitant to pick it up. I will say that I think knowing that going into it helped because he didn't bother me nearly as much. He's still utterly vile, but in Halls of Hel, there's actually a glimpse into why, which I thought was interesting. 

Halls of Hel turns the Aaru system upside down when Magic Man and a mysterious man named Atem infiltrate the Elysian's security defenses implanting their own Lady of Aaru, Hel. She's programmed to create complete mayhem for the Aaru residents. I found myself really drawn to Hel as a character. She is quite literally half hate and half love, which makes for a fascinating dynamic.

You know how some books have quotes about the book from other authors? If I gave Aaru Halls of Hel one, it'd be "Creative and disturbing." The sci-fi aspect of this book is so incredibly creative. You've got people's brain scans being uploaded so that they can be preserved in death combined with how this is achieved, as well as all of the things that can be done in Aaru. On the flip side of it, you have so many topics that just one in a book could mess with readers. I actually made a list of all of the psychological/social/taboo issues I could think of that were displayed in Halls of Hel. I'm sure I didn't even find half of them. I'm pretty sure there's a slight reference to Ed Gein as well, but I could be reading too much into that. The way that Dr. Meredith has created a genuinely terrifying and cringe-worthy character in Magic Man makes me a little concerned for his sanity.  Seriously, David, are you ok?

Here's a look at some of the issues I took notice of. I'll make comments about some of them, but not all.

  1.  Death and afterlife- obviously this is the main theme of the series. Rose dies in the first chapter or two in the first book in the cycle. She gets to create a new life in Aaru, and her family still gets to see and interact with her in a way.
  2.  Religion- In both books, there is a constant battle between the scientists of Elysian and Senator James Rook, a boisterous religious politician who feels that Aaru is playing God.
  3. Racism- Gypsie Johnson's reaction to Franco, Rose's boyfriend.
  4. Gun Violence
  5. Mental illness- this is addressed periodically as Aaru was intended to be a way to cure mental illness and many residents are quarantined due to this fact. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, it makes me kind of think about the invisible wall that's put up around it mental illness and talking about it. 
  6. Rape
  7.  Substance Abuse
  8. Child abuse and neglect
  9. Murder
  10. Pedophilia
  11. Emotional abuse/ manipulation of one's emotions and feelings
  12.  The concept of having a purpose in one's life. Rose and other Aaru residents struggle with this a lot. Life in Aaru is not the same as living in the "Before" world. Purposes change if there's even one in Aaru.
  13. Celebrity Obsession- Obviously Koren becomes famous and the object of Magic Man's desires because of it. But there's also her obsession with Jonas. Our culture's obsession with reality tv. 
  14. Narcissism
  15.  Suicide
  16. Being the victim and wanting revenge or using it as an excuse vs. turning it into something productive
These are just what I noticed and could remember at four am when I was jotting my notes down. I could even be reading too much into it, or not far enough into it. Either way, it's clever, and there is a whole lot to deal with in this book. I kind of just sat there after finishing it wondering what the hell I just read. That's not an insult at all, it just made me really think. I pieced together what the final cliffhanger was going to be, and it still surprised the hell out of me. How is that even possible?

If you want an interesting, yet highly intelligent read check out the Aaru cycle. It's enjoyable, disturbing, and will make you think. Of the two books so far, Halls of Hel is by far my favorite in the cycle. I can't wait to read the next installment. I feel like I need to go calm my brain down and read Cat in the Hat or something now. 





Monday, December 3, 2018

2019 Reading Challenge



The wait is over, readers! The 2019 Reading Challenge is finally here! I think that Tress (find her blog here) and I were both really shocked at how much the 2018 challenge had taken off. I know that I definitely was! Since 2018 is wrapping up (where in the hell did this year go???), we wanted to go ahead and get the 2019 challenge ready to go! If you want to see what we did for the 2018 challenge, you can find that here.) I'll post my final update for the 2018 challenge sometime near New Years. I'm hoping to make a push for a couple more books on it still.
Here's a bit about this year's challenge. Both Tress and I really liked the format we came up with, and I don't think either of us really wanted to step away from that. She's ultra-organized, and I live in spreadsheets, so it just works for us. We really tried to make each level harder than the next, as much as we could. For me, however, I'm sporadic in reading and will get caught in a series on Kindle Unlimited and then find myself without places to put the books I read. This has already happened on the 2018 challenge, and I end up having read a lot of books that just don't fit. It's a bit of a motivation killer, to be honest.

Before even sitting down to develop the 2019 challenge, I really wanted to include a way to combat my reading tendencies. There were some topics in 2018 that I was dreading tackling, and while there are some in the 2019 challenge, (here's looking at you a previously abandoned book and political figure spots) I think there's a ton I'm really looking forward to diving into. I might actually plan ahead to do better this year. If you know me, feel free to laugh at that last statement.

The idea of how to go about this challenge is the same as last year's. There are five levels, each hopefully getting more difficult. There are 12 books in each level for a grand total of 60 books. You can complete it in order if you like or skip around. Tress tries to read in order and I definitely just jump around. Some of the categories are the same as last year, some are different. There was a handful of topics that we really liked and are broad enough that we felt good about keeping them. New to the 2019 challenge is that the last spot in each level is a free space. Feel free to use these as you feel fit. This is hopefully going to tame my binge reading that's not relevant to the challenge, and I'm guessing Tress will use it for rereads, but I'll let her talk about what she plans to do with them.

I've included a PDF that you can download and use if you like. I'm just going to make a list on the blog, so the pdf is going to look different. I'm way too lazy to do an HTML table this year. So, numbered list it is! After the list, I'll talk a bit more about which ones I'm excited about, and some of my plans for what I think could work for some of the topics.

If you'd like a PDF version to download, you can download it here.


2019 Reading Challenge



Level 1: Book of the Month Club

 1.) A book with a red cover
 2.) Read a YA fiction
 3.) A book under 300 pages
 4.) A book you got for free
 5.) Reread the first book of a series you love
 6.) Read a book that takes place during the summer
7.) A book whose title starts with the letter M
8.) Read a romance novel
9.) A book that has been turned into a TV Show or Movie
10.) A book with a title done in alliteration (example: Pride and Prejudice)
11.) A New York Time's Best Seller (Past or Present)
12.) Free Space- Pick any book!

Level 2: Casual Reader Club

 13.) A book by John Grisham
 14.) Read a Fantasy novel
15.) Read a book with a color in the title
16.) Reread a book you have recommended to someone else
17.) Read a detective novel
18.) A book with a number in the title
19.) Read a book about dragons
20.) Read a book published by Penguin Random House
21.) Read a book found on Project Gutenberg
22.) A book about an artist (fictional or real)
23.) A book that was published in 1999
24.) Free Space- Pick any book!

Level 3: Dedicated Reader Club

25.) Read book 1 in a trilogy
26.) Read book 2 in the same trilogy
27.) Read book 3 in the same trilogy
28.) Read a book recommended by a friend on Social Media
29.) A book about a Librarian
30.) A book about breaking a code or a treasure hunt
31.) Read a book by Brandon Sanderson
32.) Read a book that takes place in a large city
33.) A book suggested by https://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/
34.) A book for under $3.00
35.) A book with exactly three words in the title
36.) Free Space- Pick any book!

Level 4: Speed-Reader Club

37.) A book over 500 pages
38.) A book about time travel
39.) A book with a form of weather in the title
40.) Read a book published in 1969
41.) A book authored by a Catherine/Katherine or variant
42.) A book by Anne Rice
43.) A book from Time's All-time top 100 book list (find it here)
44.) Read a coming of age novel
45.) A book involving mythology
46.) Read a self-published book
47.) A book with the word dream in the title
48.) Free Space- Pick any book!

Level 5: Overachiever Club

49.) Read a book on a banned book list
50.) The most recent book in a series you haven't finished
51.) A book that you judged by its cover (either positively or negatively)
52.) A book that takes place in your home state
53.) A book that takes place before 1965
54.) Read a biography
55.) Read a book you've previously abandoned
56.) A book about a real or fictional politician
57.) A book set in Asia
58.) A book with a tree or forest on the cover
59.) A book with the letter Z in the title
60.) Free Space- Pick any book!


Thoughts going forward:

I feel like we did an awesome job keeping level 1 simple. I don't really have any titles that stand out to me that I for sure want to include on this tier. There's a lot of options. I think if you do this one order level 1 is a good one to get motivated for the rest of the challenge.

I think the topic I'm most excited about on level 2 is "Reread a book you have recommended to someone else." That one was Tress's idea, and it might actually be my favorite on the entire list. I have a few books in mind for this one but don't have it narrowed down to one yet. I will say I want to pick one that I've already reviewed on the blog so I can compare and contrast my thoughts. 

Number 25, 26, and 27 were the ones I was most proud of coming up with. This was another way to combat both Tress and I's tendencies to get sucked into series with nowhere to put them. There are so many options for these spots, but the idea is that you read one full trilogy for the spots, if it's not apparent. I foresee myself putting Nora Roberts books there because so much of her books are already trilogies.  If anyone needs a suggestion for "A book about a Librarian" Charlaine Harris has an entire mystery series where the main character is a Librarian. It's her Aurora Teagarden series.

I'm pretty neutral about level four. There's not anything that I'm super excited about, but nothing that I'm cringing at reading either. I actually think this level will be reasonably easy, but we'll see how it actually plays out.

I think that level 5 is the one that has the ones I'm cringing about. I'm dreading the topics of a book that you've previously abandoned, a book about a politician, and a biography. But it's a challenge, so we had to include some that seem daunting. As of right now, I plan to get through level 1 and then figure it out from there, but knowing me I'll probably go about it like I do everything; like a puppy who gets easily distracted by everything.

I would absolutely love to hear what your thoughts on both this upcoming challenge! If you went through the 2018 challenge with us, let me know how you did (or are doing.) 

Series Review of Spellbound by Annabel Chase

Series Review:


Doing things a little differently for this post. Some of you may remember that my last few posts have been an odd review of a few of the books in the Spellbound series by Annabel Chase.  The situation with this is that there are 10 books in the series, they're all around 300 pages or less, and they're all available on Kindle Unlimited. Basically, I burned through this series so quickly that I can't separate the books in my mind. I've tried, but the entire series is just one book to me. Because of this, it's impossible to do a full review of each book.

If you'd like to check out the other reviews I did manage to do, you can find them below.

Curse the DayDoom and Broom, Spell's BellsLucky Charm

The links will cover books 1-4. I can't remember ever going through a series like this. I would seriously finish one book around midnight then pick up the next book in the series. The next thing I know it's four in the morning, and I just finished another book. Needless to say, I enjoy the series immensely.

If you haven't looked into the series, the general plot is that the town of Spellbound is a paranormal town with a wide variety of residents. The species range from witches, vampires, weres, and faires as some of the more common groups to gnomes, yetis, gorgons, and many more. It's a very eclectic town, but unfortunately, all of the residents are trapped there because of a curse put on the city how many ever centuries ago. Emma, shouldn't have even been allowed into the town because of the curse.

While in Spellbound, Emma becomes a bit of a celebrity and makes friends and enemies all across town. She ends up taking over the public defender role as the Vampire who previously held the office has been murdered. In true cozy mystery fashion, despite that it's not Emma's job to solve the crime anyways- she does anyway. That's pretty much the norm for each book. There's a crime, usually a murder, and sometimes it's related to whatever case she's taking on to defend.

Also, there's a reoccurring theme of Emma knowing very little of her past. All of her family passed away, and she worked too much as an attorney back in the normal world to have friends. So each book there's a little bit more about her past and Coven, as she is a distinctly different breed of a witch than those in Spellbound. This is where I really wish there was a bit more meat on the bones in the series. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of information regarding her past, but it's given out slowly, and I just want more of it. The main plotlines, however, focus on whatever mystery is going on in town, her love and social life, and then her powers as they develop.

The off the wall details are what really drew me into this story, I think. Annabel Chase did a fantastic job of building her town up and making it seem like it could really exist. There were little things like magical shops where if you get a coffee you can get a magical shot of courage or honesty. There's a wishing store where you can conjure some items from the human world, like books. A fairy salon where you can get decked out in glitter. And of course, a pet store where you pick out your familiars. I really appreciate the details that went into making the town as much of the story as the murders and social aspects.

There is a copious amount of nerd references in the series. A good chunk of them are Harry Potter references. There's also a nod to the Craft as well as other movies. Annabel Chase does an excellent job of showing the seclusion of the town with these references. Emma is often found talking about something from the human world, and no one really knows what she's talking about.  I enjoy Emma as the main character because of how relatable she is most of the time.

Throughout the series, we get introduced to her very eclectic set of friends. Her four best friends are fellow remedial witches. For the most part, I like them, but I have a hard time keeping them straight. They all kind of blend together after a while. I also don't really understand the age of her friends. They're all younger than her by a few years, but one is 15 when the rest are in their early twenties. Them still being in remedial classes together seems like it's at the decision of the coven leader, but I don't really understand if the older girls have been remedial for several years. It's a bit confusing.

Relationship wise, Emma seems to have her pick of all the hot paranormals in town. Isn't that always the case in these types of books, though? The new girl is quirky and undercover pretty, so all of the guys must love her.  A Fallen Angel with a bad rep, Vampire with a bad rep, Good guy Minotaur, and a sleazy were-weasel that was more a cover for investigating a murder are some of the potential romance encounters. I will say that except for the latter, she had a hand in helping the guys she didn't end up with finding a relationship. At first, I was crazy with where her romantic life was going and thought the guy was a terrible choice, but he ends up redeeming himself in the final book.

Eventually the murders and the cases she's taking on as public defender feel like they take a back seat in the story. The focus is more on breaking the spell, where she came from, and the truth about who she is. Some of the details felt a little rushed, but I felt like the last book did wrap everything up in a neat little package. It ends with a way to expand the series, and there is a spinoff series called Spellbound ever after. I haven't dived into this series yet, but I plan to eventually.

Overall, I really recommend this story. It's a nice cozy mystery series with a lot of great details. Each book is a quick read, and it's obviously binge-worthy. I'm at a loss as to where to rate the books and series. I enjoyed it, but I don't know that I would say I'm obsessed with it enough to give it a five. It's definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a good read for cozy mystery lovers, paranormal lovers, and paranormal romance. It's a reasonably clean series with it being a cozy mystery. I think that across the board I'd give the series a pretty solid 4.

Blog updates:

I'm going to do a full challenge update either at the end of December or early January. I love seeing the comments on the 2018 reading challenge that people are finished with it and eagerly waiting next years! I've not done too great with this year's challenge. This series certainly didn't help. I never was really able to find places to fit any of the books. So the 2018 challenge is definitely lacking, however, I've already met my Goodreads yearly goal of 30 books. I'm actually at 31! I'm guessing I'll finish with 32.

I'm in the midst of finishing up reading Aaru 2: Halls of Hel, the sequel in Dr. David Meredith's series. This will be the third review that I've done at Dr. Meredith's request. If you want to catch up, you can check out my review on Aaru here. I'm about halfway through with Halls of Hel, so I hope to have it finished up here within a week or so.

Get excited! The 2019 reading Challenge will be posted by the end of the week. Partner in crime, Tress and I just finalized it. We're pretty happy with it, so far. We've kept the same format for our challenge, but changed some of the topics and added some new features. I think you all will really like it. If you want to catch up with Tress, she just posted her latest update for the challenge on her blog, and you can find it here.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Product Review: Paperless Post


Product Review:

Hi, Readers! I'm super excited where this blog has been taking me recently. I've been asked to do a product review for Paperless Post, an online greeting card and stationery company. The website uses their own sort of currency to pay for the cards, and they've provided some of their coins to me to thoroughly test out the product. I promise not to let that influence me though.

Most people don't know this about me, but I love stationery. I like sending cards to people, but usually, forget to do it. With my jewelry business, I send a thank you card with every order I ship. I even love receiving cards. I think it's a sweet gesture to let someone know you are thinking of them. My biggest problem is after receiving cards, I don't know what to do with them. I feel bad just tossing them, but I don't want to collect them either. E-cards are an excellent option for this, but I loathe most e-card products. So, what's an old soul to do?

Enter Paperless Post. They're an e-card company based out of New York. I think the first thing that got my attention when looking at their website is that the cards are classic and clean designs. My biggest issue with most e-cards is that they're annoying. I hate the animation and the sound. A lot of them try to be funny and fail at it. Paperless Post feels more like actual greeting cards, however. There is animation, but it's only when you open the card. When you get the card, you click on it to open. It then does an animation of it opening or flipping to be read. 

The designs shown are really classic, and the website is simple to navigate. Their specialty seems to be invitations and save the dates, which would be a great alternative to sending wedding or party invites. It's all customizable and sent directly to e-mails, which makes it simple. The best part is there are a ton of designs to choose from.  You can send the invites as a card or a flyer. Per the website, here's a breakdown of the difference between cards and flyers. 

Difference between Cards and Flyers

Before I go through the design process, I want to take a minute to talk about how paying for the cards work. This is pretty important for the design process. As I said earlier, they have their own website currency, that you can buy. Coins start out at 10 coins for $5.00 and go up to $90.00 worth. Each thing that you do with the card is going to cost coins, for the most part. I sent out seven or eight cards to toy around with how much on average cards would cost. It ranged from one coin to six coins per recipient, with six being the average. I'll explain this a bit more when I talk about the design process, but six coins will get you a lot of different design elements in the card. Math and I are arch nemeses, but I think it breaks down to about 66 cards at 6 coins each for the 400 coin pack, or about $1.20 a card. 

Coin breakdown



It's really easy to design a card, but if you don't want the more expensive options, you really have to watch what you're doing. I went around and played with designing a card and took screenshots to show everyone how to go about it. As I said earlier, each element has a coin cost, for the most part. Cards seem to be either free or two coins. There's a ton of options though. For this specific design, the card is two coins. It automatically has a backdrop and a liner, which are each an additional coin. If you want a cute stamp, that's another coin. It seems to be the same for their invites and photo cards as well. The card I had that was all of the free options possible and just an envelope. I assume this is required to send it.

Design cost in Coins

Here's a look at the design interface:


Backdrop removed.

With a backdrop


My personal preference is that I like having a backdrop. There are a ton to choose from. You can acquire them for one coin on the left-hand side. I think it looks way more finished and personalized with the backdrop, but if you're going the economy route just click remove backdrop. This option will also be on the left, kind of hidden below all of the choices. After that, you can edit the personalized text. To the best of my knowledge, changing the font and or color does not cost extra coins.

Lots of colors and fonts!


Once you finish the card, it's time to design the envelope. You can change the color of the envelope and the liner. The envelope is one coin, and the liner is an additional coin. You can remove the liner, and it'll just be the color you choose for your envelope. This is somewhere that you could easily save your coins on. Here's a look of a liner. One is automatically added to the envelope, so make sure to click remove if you don't want it! I think it looks more finished with the liner, but it's not really needed.

With a liner




Envelope options, and no liner

The next part is the stamp. I think it's pretty cute that they have stamps to choose from, but again make sure to check if you're choosing one that's free or costs one coin. After that, it's just a matter of putting in the recipient information and sending.  Here's a look at one of the custom stamps. On the left, you'll see how the free vs. coin options are laid out.


Is it weird that the stamps are my favorite?


Pros:

I really like the design choices. There are a ton of really nice options for design. They're classy and aren't annoying like other e-card companies. I appreciate that for the most part there is minimal animation, but still gives you the feel of opening an actual card. Paperless Post is a great option for sending digital invites, greeting cards, thank you cards, save the dates, and more. They even have personalized digital stationery for notes and letters. For those of you who like the photo cards, they have so many options for that as well!  Oh, and since it's digital, it's sent instantly.

Cons: 

My biggest issue is that the premium options are automatically added to each card. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with it. From a business perspective, I get it. The more coins someone spends per recipient, the more money generated for the company. If someone wants to be frugal, however, it's not necessarily a great option to have them automatically added. It took me a bit to figure out how to remove the features to get the cost down to one coin.  The flyer options seem to have more animation than the cards. My computer did not really enjoy that aspect of the website. 



Overall, it's really easy to use. I love the variety of designs and the ability to customize them. A few of the friends I sent cards to already seemed to enjoy the designs I sent as well. I'm terrible about sending cards in the mail, so I could see myself using this service in the future for birthdays and holidays. I don't know that I'd go the full six coins for every card, but it's still possible to make cute cards with fewer coins.

If you're interested in Paperless Post, head over to https://www.paperlesspost.com



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Book Review: Lucky Charm by Annabel Chase

Goodreads Summary: New witch Emma Hart is at her wit’s end and, this time, it’s not the result of her vampire ghost roommate, her snarky owl, or her feelings for a certain fallen angel. Key members of Spellbound society are acting like children, and it’s wreaking havoc on the town’s regulation-happy infrastructure. When Emma is turned invisible during the investigation, she realizes that the spell was no accident and that someone is out to silence her—permanently.
Lucky Charm is the fourth book in the Spellbound paranormal cozy mystery series.
This is a full-length, humorous cozy mystery novel.

Goodreads Rating: 4.39 stars with over 1,000 ratings
Genre listing: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Witches
Number of Pages: 190
Book in series: 4/10
Previous reviews for the series: Curse the DayDoom and Broom, Spell's Bells
Goodreads Challenge: 25/30


Book Review: 

I think it's safe to say that I'm addicted to the Spellbound series by Annabel Chase. Every time I finish one I have to dive into the very next book. I keep telling myself I'm going to read something else, but obviously, I have not. I keep staring at my unread bookshelf and mentally apologizing to it. On the bright side, I'm at least getting close to meeting my Goodreads Challenge for the year. The 2018 Reading Challenge, not so much. Which reminds me, I should probably start working on 2019's. 

A little recap on the series for those of you just tuning in: Emma Hart finds herself stuck in Spellbound, a cursed Paranormal town, thanks to Fallen Angel Daniel Starr. To boot she's found out, she's a witch and has been placed in remedial witch classes to get her up to speed, Oh, and she's also taken over the position of the town's public defender that was vacated when her vampire predecessor was murdered and became a ghost that only she can see. 

As much as I enjoyed Lucky Charm, it definitely wasn't my favorite book in the series so far. I didn't really get a good feel for the mystery at hand in this one. It felt like an afterthought to all the chaos that happened in the book. I don't even remember who she had to defend (or why) in this one. I will say that having a bunch of well-respected council members spelled to act like children was fairly entertaining. I think that Emma taking charge the way she did also really secured her place in Spellbound. 

I think what I enjoyed most about this cozy paranormal mystery is that Emma learns a lot about who she is. She gets to figure out why she's so different from the other witches in Spellbound, and how powerful she could actually be. I feel like because of this her bond with Sedgewick is strengthened. By the way that Owl amuses me. I love sassy side-kicks! 

As I write this review, I'm already mostly done with the fifth book. A new love interest is introduced in the very last part of this book, and it had me intrigued. I'm a sucker. There are ten books in this series, so far. I have a feeling I'm not going anywhere else in the literary world until I finish this series. Luckily all of the books are pretty short, and I'm getting through them in a couple of days time. It's a good series to get into if you want something to binge, something quick to read, like paranormal or cozy mysteries, want something that's slightly humorous. The entire series is on Kindle Unlimited, which is making it extremely easy for me to binge. I think as of right now, each of the books is around $3.99 each.



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Website Review: Literary Book Gifts


Website Review? Linz, you don't do website reviews! What's up? 

Well, I do today! I got asked to do a super cool thing and review a website called Literary Book Gifts. As the name suggests, they sell Literary gifts. There are T-shirts for Women and Men and tote bags! Melissa, the designer, and founder at Literary Book Gifts reached out to me and asked me to do the review. She was also kind enough to agree to a small interview and provide a coupon code for you all to shop with! If you shop at Literary Book Gifts use the coupon code LINZTHEBOOKWORM20 to get 20% off your order!

Interview

How did Literary Book Gifts get started?
Literary Book Gifts started with just a handful of designs. I had finished a Moby Dick design (different than the one in the store now) and a Dracula one as well. I considered offering the items on other platforms such as Etsy, but I eventually went with opening the website you see today.
What goes into the design process?
First I make sure that the title or author is a good fit for the collection. Next, I find either very old book covers or illustrations that I'd like to remaster or combine to get started with the design. After some remastering and making the designs print ready, I then put them in the online store.
What is your favorite item or design in the shop?
Right now I really like the F. Scott Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned Tote Bag, it's one of the few grey tote bags in the collection, and I really like the color scheme with the large red circle.
What is your favorite book?
I would have to say The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, with Harry Potter coming in at a close second!
Are there plans to expand into other literary gift items?
Yes! I have run into some product uploading limits, however, I do hope to expand to hoodies and tank tops soon. I would also love to do a literary scarf or two. If you have any requests you can always contact me directly at contact@literarybookgifts.com.
What is something you feel my readers should know about Literary Book Gifts?
Each and every design is unique to the collection. If you like anything you see, use the exclusive code LINZTHEBOOKWORM20 to receive 20% off on your order! This code does not expire.
Melissa Chan is the founder of Literary Book Gifts

Here's a look at some of the items that Melissa mentioned in her interview:


Review:

And now it's time for my review. I'm just going to be honest here, and let you know that I'm already drooling over a lot of these designs. First, I want to go over the layout and what not though. The website is super simple to navigate through and see the products. It's a very clean looking website, in a no-nonsense type of layout. I like that there's nothing to distract from the products. Account sign up was super easy, and all of the policies at the bottom of the page are straightforward and to the point. 

All of the designs I've gone through so far seem to have a lot of color options as well as sizes. The first women's shirt I clicked on goes has sizes in small up to 3xl. It also has fourteen color options.  The men's shirt I first clicked on goes from small to 5xl. It looks like it has nine color choices available. The price on shirts seems reasonable at $28 each. If $28 seems pricey for a t-shirt, please remember that these are specially designed pieces, and I imagine a lot of time went into making the design just right. You are only going to find the shirts on Melissa's website.
I'm loving the tote bag section. I have a serious tote bag obsession. The tote bags are at a very reasonable $24 for a small, which is about 13x13 inches. The bags come in small, medium, and large. The medium is about 17x15in and the large is about 18x18inches. Prices for the medium and large bags are $28 and $32, respectively. Shipping for shirts and bags is $5 flat rate, which is more than reasonable, especially if you buy several items.

So, now that we've got our basics covered. Let's talk about my favorites. I'm going to go so broke on this site.

First up, the ever classic Edgar Allen Poe design. 

This design has a lot of color options. My personal opinion is that the cardinal color looks the best. I'd probably also rock it in the heavy metal color. 

Next is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Don't worry, I'm not going through every product.) 

I feel like this one in green is necessary, though I like the look of it in black and navy as well. 

There are also some non-book designs, which I think is amazing. I'm LOVING this Beethoven t-shirt. The former piano player in me is swooning.

I had my husband give his thoughts on the Men's section. He likes the Vintage Book design.  He also liked a few other designs like Book End and Ode to a Grecian Urn




And on to my favorite section! The tote bags! Believe it or not, I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites. I'm pretty sure I would rock every single t-shirt and tote bag on this site. Especially the bags. Here's a look at some I'm obsessing over.

The Origin of Species It has a Dodo! 



The Illiad is probably my favorite tote on the site. It's so badass looking! What's she got in there? Books? a Laptop? Craft Supplies? a Dagger? Probably all of the above!

The Jungle Book tote is another fave. Between the large cat and the green, it's definitely my aesthetic. Love!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is obviously a given for me. It's my favorite classic, and probably the only one I actually reread fairly regularly. I love it on the shirt too. 



Overall, I'm loving what this site has to offer. I can't speak on the quality yet but based on the care that's gone into the website, the designs, and my brief conversations with Melissa I'm going to guess the quality is pretty awesome, like the designs. I'm definitely going to do some shopping on this site when I get a chance, and once I do I'll definitely do a review of the items. If you shop, be sure to use the special coupon code that was created for this review! Once again, the code is LINZTHEBOOKWORM20  to get 20% off, and it never expires!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Book Review of Doom and Broom and Spell's Bells by Annabel Chase

Goodreads Summary: 
Welcome to Spellbound, where paranormal is the new normal.

Emma Hart hasn’t had a moment’s peace since her arrival in Spellbound. Her fear of heights hits an all-time high when she’s tasked with mastering a broomstick. It doesn’t help that Lady Weatherby seems determined to make basic witch training feel more like the magical ninja warrior championships.

When a werewolf is found dead and Daniel is named as the prime suspect, Emma takes the initiative to prove that the angel’s halo is firmly intact, once again stepping on the hooves of the cranky centaur, Sheriff Hugo.

The heat is on as Emma struggles to get a grip on her broomstick and identify the killer before it’s too late.

Doom and Broom is the second book in the Spellbound paranormal cozy mystery series.
Goodreads Rating: 4.33 stars with over 1,100 ratings
Number of Pages: 294
Book in series: 2/10



Goodreads Summary: Welcome to Spellbound, where paranormal is the new normal.

When a sleeping dwarf is found entombed in a glass coffin and remedial witch Sophie is blamed, Emma Hart must defend her friend while trying to get to the bottom of the enchantment. The investigation lands Emma smack dab in the middle of Spellbound’s matchmaking scene, where plenty of the town’s residents are eager to find her an appropriate suitor.

Emma knows it's time to kick her witchy skills up a notch if she expects to survive Thursday night speed dating and keep sweet Sophie from a life in paranormal prison.

Spell's Bells is the third book in the Spellbound paranormal cozy mystery series.

Goodreads Rating: 4.36 stars with over 1,000 ratings

Genre Listing: Paranormal, Supernatural, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, Fantasy
Get the Books: Doom and Broom Spell's Bells
Goodreads Challenge: 23 and 24 out of 30.
Number of Pages: 274
Book in series: 3/10
Previous Review: Curse the Day

Book Review:

You may be wondering what's going on with the format above. Well, the thing is I have problems. I downloaded Doom and Broom from Kindle Unlimited right after finishing Curse the Day, the first book in the Spellbound Series. I finished the cozy mystery either late Friday night or Saturday night and read Spell's Bells until 4 am in the morning. When I finally put it down, I was about 88% finished with it. Since I read both books back to back like that they've merged in my brain, so I figure I'll do one post for them. Plus, I'm lazy.

So, as you can probably tell from the binging, I adore this series. I think I relate to Emma with the whole working and going to school full-time thing. There's a lot of details that make the town of Spellbound enjoyable to read. I can tell that Annabel Chase put a lot of effort into including a broad mix of species in her stories. I like that she's slowly getting into Emma's background as far as being a witch goes. I think that's what I want to read the most. Towards the end of Spell's Bells, there is some interesting foreshadowing going on.

Daniel's growing on me the past two books. I won't say I'm entirely for team Daniel, but he's a better option than some of the other choices that she's presented with. I do feel like she's using the Vampire friend a lot though. I can't remember his name at this moment in time. I guess he's not making a huge impact in the story if I can't remember the name.

I'm keeping this short and sweet tonight. I'm recommending the series for anyone who needs something quick and enjoyable to binge read on Kindle. The books are under 300 pages. The stories move quickly. There's good detail, but not so much that it bogs the story down. The characters are enjoyable for the most part. Interesting mysteries. I won't say they're complete shockers, but the conclusions seem reasonable. I will say that I pegged who the murder was in Doom and Broom fairly easily. I was admittedly wrong about the crime in Spell's Bells.


Here's a couple of quotes I liked from the books: 

"This was supposed to be the remedial class. We should all suck equally." -Somewhere around 12% in Doom and Broom

"I had people I cared about, then I risked losing them. In my experience, the negatives far outweighed the positives." -Somewhere around 57% in Doom and Broom

"Maybe you want to be tall, but your DNA has other plans."- Somewhere around 73% in Doom and Broom. (Also, my life.)

"Unsurprisingly, he was mistaken. I never set out to make him look like an idiot. He managed to do that all by himself." Somewhere around 7% in Spell's Bells.

""I'm warning you, Silas. Get your genie butt out of here before I shove you inside the nearest lamp.” She gave him a pointed look. “And I won’t be rubbing it.” - Somewhere around 27% in Spell's Bells. I audibly cackled at this one, I think. 


I'm giving both books 4 moons :)