Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie: This Is Not a Book Review. This is a Grumpy Rant about a Very Dumb Book.

This book was so bad, I'm not sure you even want to waste time reading the review.
You like that shiny, pretty cover? You think Bubble Girl looks interesting? HA!


Still reading? Okay. Here are the three unforgivable problems with Matched by Ally Condie:

First, it's plagued by the most godawful of YA literary conventions--a LOVE TRIANGLE. And it's not just any love triangle. It's the most hackneyed one of all: Stable Old Friend versus Dark Mysterious Stranger. Yawn. For about five minutes, Cassia is torn between Xander, her handsome, clean cut childhood buddy, and Ky, the emo boy at the fringe of her friend group who woos her with poetry. *gag* Worst of all, Cassia chooses a guy about five minutes into the story, so there isn't any suspense to keep the narrative tension going. It's just oh hey, weird dystopia is weird for the rest of the book.

The second problem? The language is painfully bland. Matched is written in first person present tense, which pretty much always sucks. And she doesn't pepper her story with many adjectives or adverbs, so everything in it is flat and flavorless. It's just a lot of terribly dull declarative sentences marching across the page, one after another, with no slang, interest, or personality. After a while, it all starts to sound like this: 

I wake up. I wear the Plainclothes The Society assigned to me. I eat one food ration for breakfast. I do the work that The Society told me to do, and then I do the Daily Recreational Activity that The Society approved for me today. I like a boy. I talk to him. He talks to me, too. Did you actually read this entire paragraph? I bet it made your teeth itch! Didn't you want to skim it so you could get to the interesting part? Reading Matched feels exactly like that.

Finally, the worst thing about this book is that there is no discernible plot or climax, and therefore no resolution. Okay, so we learn that Cassia lives in a weird society. They control what you own, tell you who to marry, and decide where you work. They even choose the day you die. Meanwhile, Cassia thinks about free will and poetry. She constantly thinks about the guy she likes, and they hike a lot. But nothing really happens. 

There is no antagonist, no major struggle, and no climactic payoff moment when the struggle comes to a peak. The reader never squirms at the edge of their seat and says Aha! Cassia's life changed in this one exciting moment! Instead, Cassia exercises free will while performing a mind-numbing task. Her choice doesn't have the result she expects, and then the book just sort of ends. Umm... what?! Matched is the first book in a trilogy, but I won't touch the rest of the series. Oh, heck no!

Did you read it and see a redeeming quality that I don't see?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Movie Awards, What? I Was Distracted by the Tulle, Art Deco Sheaths, Metallics, and Sheer Beaded Mesh!

If the Internets tell it true, all bloggers are required to dish on their favorite Oscar fashions. I'm glad to oblige! This year, some of the best dresses weren't on the red carpet; they were at Elton John's after party. I think red carpet fashion is slightly more modest than in years past, and I like that. Skin is fine, but dresses that double as works of art are just more interesting to me than limbs, limbs everywhere! My favorite dresses this year boast some combination of sleeves, floor-length hemlines, intricate beading or embroidery, and Art Deco lines. My absolute favorite dress, worn by Lily Collins at Elton's AIDS bash, has it all:
Everything about this long-sleeved gown is perfect: The combination of floral print and stripes, sheerness and shine.
Her makeup and midnight blue manicure are perfect, too. This is hands-down my favorite Oscar look.
Sleeves just make sense to me; it's February and these women are standing outside for hours having their picture taken!

Monday, February 25, 2013

“Stars will blossom in the darkness, Violets bloom beneath the snow.”

Ever since I heard about Besame's violet face powder, I've had a mean craving for all things violet. I love--love!--violet candies. There's something so decadent about floral flavors and essences, and violet is by far my favorite. Rose is bitter. Lavender is sharp. But violet has a soft, powdery sweetness balanced by a woody freshness. It reminds me of mossy forest floors and the clean smell of rain-washed grass. Right now I want to burn violet candles, wear violet perfume, drink violet cocktails, and buy a bottle of violet extract to make delicately violet flavored sugar cookies. Here's my current wish list:
Violette Divine perfume by Berdoues, with violet, sandalwood and mandarin orange notes - Source

Sugared Violet Flowers for decadently decorated cakes, from Planet Bake

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Let's talk about the second book in Laini Taylor's Smoke & Bone trilogy. Have you read it? Days of Blood & Starlight is really, really dark: The world is riven by war, the lovers are separated, the friends who delivered the first book's comedic relief are gone, and the main character is employing a very creepy magic system to bring the dead back to life. Yeah, you read that correctly.

I was simultaneously anticipating and dreading this book, because I knew it would be difficult to live up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone. And Days of Blood & Starlight is good, but it does have a bit of the second novel slump that you see in so many trilogies. That slump usually goes something like this: The first book in a good trilogy introduces you to a new world full of interesting characters, and you feel the rush of falling in love with them.

By the time the second book is released, you know the characters well. They're not shiny and new anymore, and the honeymoon is over. Except for those moments when the author does something really crazy to woo you, you feel a little bored. You love the series... You're just used to it.

Days of Blood & Starlight doesn't have that problem. No, the problem here is that the author didn't employ the brilliant technique that made the first book so enticing: She doesn't drop small mysteries like a trail of informational breadcrumbs, making the reader want to know more. In Daughter of Smoke & Bone, the discrepancy between what the reader knows and what the reader wants to know creates an irresistible tension. I tore through that book looking for answers!

Days of Blood and Starlight, in contrast, is a fairly straightforward narrative. Stuff happens, then then other things happen to new side characters, and then more stuff happens. That's not bad. But it doesn't recreate the electric tension of the first book. But wait, don't get sad!

Here's the good news: Halfway through Days of Blood and Starlight, the plot picks up considerably. Beloved characters return (No, I'm not saying who!), other characters change and grow, a wild conspiracy takes shape, and the story gets a lot more exciting. By the time I finished this book, the tension returned. I'm looking forward to the last book in the trilogy. Sadly, I'll be waiting until April 2014.

No wait, don't get sad again! Here's more different good news: For those of you who'd rather watch a movie, that's going to be an option. Joe Roth (think Alice in Wonderland) is going to produce the movie. I'm doing a gleeful happydance... My prediction that this was going to be the next Twilight/Hunger Games/insert YA title du jour is coming true!

Enough gloating. More reading!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Moonshine Nettie: Glamour, Glitter, and Rock and Roll!

Last Saturday afternoon, I visited Moonshine Nettie. OMG, y'all!!! The sisters who run Moonshine Nettie recently came to Nashville from New Orleans. Their boutique boasts a carefully curated selection of clothing, cosmetics, and accessories that represent their love of glitter, rhinestones, and vintage rock and roll. Maybe it's because I'm a mortician's granddaughter, but I love the voodoo chic vibe they brought with them from New Orleans. This place is incredible.

These glittery fascinators by Conchita Mcelwee are adorned with sugar skulls and DINOSAURS! Rawr!
I learned about Moonshine Nettie because Solanah at Vixen Vintage recently wrote about violet face powder by Besame. I love all things violet (violet pastilles are my favorite candy!), and I wanted to try it. When I learned that Moonshine Nettie is the only store in Tennessee that carries Besame, I was on a mission to visit the shop. So I grabbed my two best girl friends, and we drove down to Marathon Village.

Aren't those ruffly pantaloons on the left adorable?!
And  Moonshine Nettis is one of just FOUR shops in the U.S. that sell Lime Crime cosmetics!
Moonshine Nettie has so much more than just Besame cosmetics, though. This little shop is packed with items handmade by real artisans, not made in China. You want to wear something genuinely unique and special, made by a real artist? Come here! You'll find find Ellie Monster reworked vintage Western wear, glittery Glam Vino rings, art by Jeff Bertrand, makeup from Lime Crime cosmetics, Hove perfumes, and more.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Indian Curry, Carrot, and Avocado Soup Recipe

This soup, y'all... Oh, this soup! It's sweet, tangy, a little spicy, and packed with nutrient-rich superfoods that make you feel wonderful. It looks like sunshine and digests like a Seasonal Affective Disorder cure in a bowl. I can't get enough of it! The recipe is from Goons with Spoons. I made it exactly as described, except I left out the nutritional yeast and added a chopped chicken breast. The chicken wasn't necessary, except Keith my darling carnivore insists it's not actually a meal without meat. But oh, those flavors! Check out this partial list of ingredients:

If you make it, invite me over for dinner!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Paint by Number! A Valentines' Day Present for You

Happy Valentines' Day! Instead of gluing a construction paper heart to a doily for you, I made you some mushy-gushy paint by number templates based on classic art. SURPRISE! I love Valentines' Day. For me, it's not just excuse to spoil Keith, it's a reason to show my friends some love, too. Don't you sometimes miss decorating a shoebox to look like a mailbox and giving Saved by the Bell themed tokens of friendship to everyone in your class? Me, too!

I have no idea what we're doing tonight. Keith made a dinner reservation, and I was like, "I love surprises. Don't tell me... Lalala, I can't hear you!" But I can tell you that I made my big damn hero a ridiculous, huge, Firefly themed Valentine. And we're exchanging gifts later in the week, because we both ordered each other's gifts online, and they haven't arrived yet. My friend Lel one gave me a magnet that said, "True friends know everything about you, and love you anyway." I guess our Valentines should read "I know about your dubious time management skills, and I love you anyway." Hehehe!

Art Deco Couple by J.C. Leyendecker - Paint by Number

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt - Paint by Number

The Kiss by Harrison Fisher - Paint by Number

The Painter's Honeymoon by Lord Frederic Leighton - Paint by Number

Romeo and Juliet by Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee - Paint by Number

acrylic paint and brushes
pre-stretched canvas and carbon paper (if you want to paint on canvas)
OR a picture frame (if you want to paint on paper, optional)

Here's how to turn these pixels into paintings:

1. Pick a picture, and print out both of the corresponding templates. 

2.Do you want your painting to be bigger than it looks on the page? If so, take it to Kinko's and have your black and white template enlarged. This should only cost a few bucks, and it's a huge time-saver. If you plan to frame your painting or paint on canvas, now is the time to consider the size of your picture frame or canvas.

3. Do you want to paint your image directly onto paper? Then you're ready to begin! If you're going to paint on canvas, use carbon paper to trace the enlarged image you had printed in step 2 onto your canvas.

4. Paint! Use the colored page as a guide, and use acrylic paint to fill in all the empty bits on your paint by number map. Feel free to change the colors up as much as you like! I like to fill in the larger areas first. Take your time. Depending on the size of your painting, it might take a few days or even a week to finish.

5. Let it dry, and then frame it, hang it, and admire it!

It's my sincere hope that you enjoy these and use them to make something beautiful! Whether you're spending the day in love with some dude, in love with your friends, or in love with a cup of tea, a novel, and a cat, I hope you're in love with your life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 2013 Ipsy Bag: Fall in Love with Ipsy? Or Fall into a Black Quagmire of Eye Makeup? Yes, and yes.

Say hello to the February 2013 Ipsy bag! I hate to say it, but this is the first month that left me feeling underwhelmed when I first unzipped the bag. Maybe Ipsy spoiled me with all that fancy Urban Decay eyeliner and Josie Maran Argan Oil they sent in December and January. This month, my first reaction was Oh, look at the eye bag. Sure, go ahead and imagine a bag full of craft googly eyes.

(or just imagine the Edith with Googly Eyes tumblr)
I love eye makeup, but four of the five items in this bag are for eyes. And the mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow are all black. I can haz color?! Please? If one of the items was full size, or if one of them was a brand that I love, or if the gel eyeliner came with an applicator, I would've been more excited. But when I did the math (and found my eyeliner brush), I decided the value isn't so bad. NUMBERS DON'T LIE:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

That's a lot of Clicks.

Today I'm celebrating... Librarian Tells All has reached 100,000 pageviews!
At this point, I'm pretty sure a few people besides my Mom are reading. Hi! *waves*
100,000 kind of feels like a big deal.

Who doesn't want more gorgeous b&w Eiffel Tower images, right?
100,000 is 60.06 times the number of stairs in the Eiffel Tower.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just... let it happen."

Good morning! What are you doing this weekend? I'm so glad it's Friday, because this weekend I'm going to a Twin Peaks prom party and art show at Boheme Collectif. Think art, burlesque, old-school rock and roll, a costume contest, damn fine coffee and cherry pie, and probably about a million girls doing the Audrey Horne dance. I'm glad Keith has a reason to bust out his Agent Dale Cooper costume. He even designed an RR Diner mug for it! Hmm, I wonder if he'll refer to me as Diane all night...

Anyway, I'm perusing all of these excellent Twin Peaks goodies on Etsy and deciding whether I should dress up like a One Eyed Jacks girl, make en eyepatch and go as Nadine (wearing a wrestling singlet too would be hilarious, but NO!) or go all 90s lumberjack chic. What do you think?

Love that crazy Red Room sticker! Eight Twin Peaks stickers by KatesLittleStore on Etsy, $4.00
My log saw something that night. Margaret the Log Lady Paper Dolls by CastleOnTheHill on Etsy, $16.00

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Marissa Meyer's Scarlet Book Tour

First things first: 
Meeting authors is so FUNNY.
Oh, that's just me, my friends, and a New York Times bestselling author.
Marissa is wearing the striped dress. Isn't she adorable?
Okay, let's back up. I recently read Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Instead of writing a full review, I'm simply going to tell you that I loved it. If you like sci-fi or fairy tales, you've got to read it! Cinder takes place in the distant future in New Beijing, in a world afflicted by an incurable plague. Cinder is a mechanic, and she's really good at her work. That's probably because she's... wait for it... a cyborg! Yeah. Oh, and there's a stepmother, a prince, and a foot that falls off instead of a lost shoe. It's a very unexpected retelling of Cinderella.

I like it because it's tech-heavy, with lots of great details about cyborgs, androids, and the disease that's cutting a path through the city. The romance is a fun element, but the plot isn't weighed down by the romance, and there isn't a godawful love triangle. It's cool enough that guys like the story, too: My coworker Adam was the first person to recommended it to me. When I finished Cinder, I wasn't ready for it to end. Luckily, it's just the first book in a series. And the second book in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet, was released on Tuesday!

I was thrilled when I learned that Nashville's Parnassus Books was the first stop on the Scarlet book tour. Last night I met Marissa Meyer, bought Scarlet and a copy of Cinder for Keith's mom (because she likes fairy tales and sci-fi), and laughed a lot. Meyer is so animated and excited when she talks about he world she's created (not to mention Sailor Moon and Firefly!). I love it when talented, semi-famous people geek out like giddy fangirls. She's the kind of author I'd want to be friends with.

Marissa Meyer doesn't just write--she also has great fashion sense!
I love the striped dress, lace tights, and gold bow flats.
Here are ten things I learned about Marissa Meyer last night:
1. The first writing she ever did was Sailor Moon fanfiction, which is still online here.

2. Her first futuristic fairy tale was written for a Sailor Moon fanfic writing contest. It required entrants to choose two elements from a list and include them in the story. She chose to include a fairy tale character (Puss in Boots) and a futuristic setting.

3. She liked writing that futuristic fairy tale, and wanted to do more. Soon the idea for Cinder came to her in a half-dream. She had a clear vision of a cyborg Cinderella running down a staircase in a poofy ballgown and losing her entire foot instead of her shoe. The idea was so exciting, it woke her up.

4. She has an uncle Bob who is obsessed with Star Trek. And I don't mean he really really likes it. I mean he built a replica of the bridge in his attic. This is going somewhere, I promise.

5. She wrote the original draft of Cinder, Scarlet, and part of Cress (the third book in the series) for a local NaNoWriMo contest. The contest promised the writer of the longest entry a walk-on part on Star Trek! Her reasoning was if I win this, I'll be the coolest person in my family. *cue raucous laughter*

6. Captain Thorne is her favorite character in the series. He first appears in Scarlet, and she based him on Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds.

7. When she feels like her drafts are getting too twee, she watches Firefly to remind her of the gritty futuristic setting she's after.

8. She wrote 150,011 words for the NaNoWriMo contest, but she did not win the walk-on Star Trek role.

9. Before her agent started shopping her books around to publishers, the agent warned her that rejection is part of the business, and not to take it personally. That was on a Friday. By the following Monday, she had her first publishing offer. Marissa Meyer is a literary Cinderella story.

10. Earlier this week, she inked a deal with her publisher for two more books. The official announcement hasn't been made yet! But she did say that one of them is a standalone novel, currently titled Heartless. (Cue excited dancing from me!)

Is your interest piqued yet? *grin*
Okay, I'm going to stop gushing and start reading Scarlet
What are you reading?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier. Time Travel and Gargoyles and Ball Gowns, Oh My!

Remember how much I liked Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier? I tore through that book in a weekend and couldn't wait for the second book in the trilogy. Sapphire Blue is finally out! I liked it, but it's sooooo got the second book slump that plagues so many trilogies. For me, that slump comes from constant action and little character development. But there are bright spots: In this installment, Gwen's friend Leslie embarks upon a very interesting geocaching project. And Gwen has a mischievous new gargoyle buddy named Xemerius. When he gets too excited, he spurts water. He reminds me of my favorite line from Finding Nemo: "You made me ink!" Adorable. So let's talk about the story's good points first.

Everything I like about the first book is sill in place: 

a) Gwen is a believable teenage heroine. She's not a buttkicking kung-fu master, a wizard, or a supernatural creature from another dimension. She's a normal teenage girl who really likes watching movies with her best friend, and she's bewildered by her new ability to travel through time. And sometimes she cares more about dinner than time travel, cuz it's french fry night, y'all. I get that.

b) The Guardians are still a super-creepy, ultra-regimented secret society. They have a Knights Templar-esque clubhouse, impossibly detailed logs going back hundreds of years, a fixation with astrology and alchemy, and a vaguely defined mission to collect time travelers' blood and "Complete the Circle." I love that shit. 

c) Even though there are ominous prophesies and scary sword fights that leave Crush Boy all sliced up, the tone is very light. Xermerius' antics and Gwen's drunken musical performance will crack you up. When Gwen travels through time to meet The Bad Guy, you totally expect her to get home in time for french fry night. It's comforting.

So, what's the problem with this book?

a) It has no discernible storyline or resolution. All books must have a story arc that gets resolved, even when the book is part of a larger series. The Harry Potter books are a wonderful example: Each one is a self-contained story that makes sense and can be read alone. But Sapphire Blue doesn't have a defined story arc. It's like Hey, let's hit the ground running. Stuff is happening! And more stuff is happening! And now stuff isn't happening because the book just ended. Instead of leaving me wanting more, I felt gypped.

b)  Gwen's crush on Gideon is annoying. She's not a weak girl, but her weakness for Gideon is a problem. He runs hot and cold, alternately making out with Gwen and then ignoring her. Yeah, he's got a perfect face, but he's acting like a jerk. Stop mooning over him, Gwen! I wish there was more snappy dialogue between Gwen and her friends, and less Heathcliff style brooding over Crush Boy.

c) In most of this  book, Gwen is either traveling through time or preparing to travel through time. The nonstop action = Little character development. I think certain events (no spoilers from me!) should've elicited a stronger emotional response, or at least prompted more reflection. But this book is all action, all the time. The following illustration sums it up:
Sapphire Blue created more questions than it answered, so I'm looking forward to the third installment, Emerald Green. Hopefully it tells us important things, like what's up with Paul and Lucy? What is Count St. Germain's real background? What adorable mischief is Xemerius going to get into next? Will someone please kick Gideon in the teeth?  And what happens when one completes the circle? And hey, this is also worth noting: The first book has been made into a German movie that comes out next month. No, it's not in English, but if the trailer is any indication, it looks good! At 0:23, when Madame Rossini appears, I grinned like mad. She's perfect!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bright and Awesome Living Room Ideas for My Bright and Awesome Friends

My dear friends Stephanie and Lauren recently moved in to a darling, freshly rehabbed bungalow. I'm so glad they live closer to me now. WESTSIDE REPRESENT! They promptly christened their new home the Hausten Haus and began decorating. Their landlord just refinished the hardwood floors and gave the walls a fresh coat of neutral paint, so Stephanie and Lauren's main question is how to merge their art and furniture. I made them these mood boards because I'm a totally bossypants friend Stephanie asked for decorating advice.

My advice for these two very colorful ladies is COLOR. 
Vivid, glorious, opposite-sides-of-the-color-wheel color.

They already have a neutral brown sofa, a big wooden chest serving as a coffee table, and the Parnassus Books and Andrew Bird prints you see here. I based this room concept around the gorgeous colors in that Andrew Bird poster. They also own a rocking chair and floor lamp that would look similar to these with a coat of paint. I'm telling you, these chicks have cool stuff. Ladies, grab some spray paint! 

Other items pictured:
Blue and white Ikea Sturga rug
Blue and white pillow cover (similar)
Aqua and orange modern pillow cover (similar)

But wait, there's more!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Right This Moment

What are you excited about and inspired by right now? At the moment, these are my favorite things.

"Style is nothing without fit" - Duo Boots
I'm in love with my new Duo Boots. I struggled for years to find boots that fit my legs and my feet. After buying so many pairs I hardly ever wore because they fit badly, I splurged on some Duo Boots. I've worn them almost every day since they arrived. Duo sells boots by shoe size and calf measurement. Whether your legs are skinny or thick, you're guaranteed to get boots that don't gap or pinch. And there will be room to tuck in your skinny jeans! No matter your calf size, Duo Boots hug the curve of your calf, making your legs look shapelier. Duo is based in the UK, so shipping was a ?!#$*, but their customer service is top-notch.

Is it just me, or is the Womanity bottle design straight out of Metropolis?
Thierry Mugler's Angel perfume is my favorite bottled scent. I've worn it since I was 19, and Keith is hooked on A*Men. The last time we stocked up, I came home with a sample of Mugler's new scent, Womanity, and it's divine. On the skin it ripens into a sophisticated, sexy smell that constantly changes. I couldn't place the notes, so I checked Fragrantica, and get this: It smells like sweet ripe figs and caviar. CAVIAR!!! The combination of sweet fruit and salty ocean smell makes my mouth water. When it's time for new perfume, I'm definitely going to buy a bottle of Womanity.