CURRENT GIVEAWAYS:
None right now

Friday, April 20, 2018

Movie Review: La La Land

Please note: This review was written weeks ago and originally published in my university's newspaper. 

When Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" was first released in 2016, it seemed as if there was positive buzz surrounding it on all sides. I was mad at myself for waiting this long to watch it, because it sounded like exactly the kind of movie I would give my heart to. Unfortunately, I probably could have waited another year or ten to watch it and not be missing much.

This musical romance follows a struggling actress and a bitter pianist as they fall in love and try to figure out what they are doing with their lives. "La La Land" is a nod to Old Hollywood and smooth jazz in the twenty-first century, which others may have found charming but did not sit well with me. The tone and the time period did not seem cohesive to me. Maybe it's because I feel no particular connection to jazz or classic Hollywood, but the nostalgia the movie seemed to be reaching for never quite hit its mark where I'm concerned. Instead, I felt almost jerked around as the movie flip-flopped from the modern day to a thirties vibe.

I also felt the musical numbers, overall, to be jarring. I adore musicals and I am completely on board with the singing-out-of-nowhere trope, but in "La La Land," half of the numbers didn't seem to have a good transition and weren't entirely interesting. They were well done in terms of the vocals and the music itself, but they were simple and I found myself very disengaged anytime the characters began to sing.

Now, the characters themselves were fairly well-developed and interesting. I was certainly hoping for their success as I watched. However, I wouldn't describe them as especially memorable or unique. In fact, my biggest critique of this entire film is that it seems to be lacking the thing that makes it different and memorable. Maybe the musical numbers are supposed to serve that purpose, but I didn't feel it. The story, the characters, and even the romance—it was all stale and done many a times before. Admittedly, though, I am fond of the ending.

While I am sure many people disagree with me (proven by the number of awards this film won), "La La Land" had some ups and downs but was mostly bland for me. I do not necessarily regret watching it, but I'm not exactly glad I watched it either.

My rating: 
3/5

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top Ten Backlist Books I Need To Read ASAP

(This meme is actually hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl now, but I am far too lazy to make a new graphic)

I have been an advocate for reading backlist titles for a while now. But studying abroad has given me very limited access to new releases, so my reading endeavors are going to be largely focused on backlist books for the next few months. Here are the ones I really need to get to! 


1) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - Okay, I don't know that I actually have any interest in reading this novel or series at all, but it's so popular I feel like I at least need to give it a try? I have a weird, inexplicable aversion to Sarah J. Maas, though, so I'm not sure if this will happen or not.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I think I might be the only person left on this planet who hasn't read this novel, but that will change soon enough!

3) Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry - I've been obsessed with Katie McGarry since I read an ARC of her debut years and years ago, and now that Scribd has given me access to her new series I am ABOUT IT.

4) The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - I've been really interested in this series for a while and I've heard good things about it. It definitely sounds like the kind of fantasy book I would devour.

5) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - Everyone raves about this book! And it sounds so fascinating. I can't wait to see what all the hype is about.


6) The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - I've never read anything by Kasie West, which is absurd to me, considering she writes exactly the kind of books I live for. I'm not committed to this book being my first Kasie West book, so if you think I should read another one instead, lemme know.

7) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - This is another novel I have heard everyone talk about for YEARS. I have no idea what it's about, really, or if it's even my kind of book, but I need to give it a shot!

8) Made You Up by Francesca Zappia - Zappia's newest release received a lot of love and attention, so I'm interested in giving her work a try. Also, this sounds like a heavier contemporary novel, which I always love.

9) Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - This novel sounds WONDERFUL and something that will inspire me and that I'll be able to relate to. Plus, with a film in the works, I neeeeed to read it.

10) Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo - I'm currently reading the first novel in the series, and I don't know if I'm going to jump into the sequel right away, but I definitely need to read the entire trilogy. I'm horrible at finishing series, but I can do this!

Monday, April 16, 2018

2 Brilliant, Legal Ways To Read For Free


I just want to preface this by saying this post is not sponsored in any way, shape, or form. I just wanted to share two websites that I have completely fallen in love with that a lot of book lovers out there might not know about!

1) Riveted
(That's a link--click to sign up completely for freeee!)

The team at Simon Teen has created this website full of YA bookish content, completely free to sign up. It's blog-like and features videos and exclusive information about released and upcoming YA books, as well as hosts giveaways. You can learn about books you've never heard of or books you have heard of. Whatever totes your goat.

But of course, what you clicked on this post for is the FREE BOOKS. Every month, Riveted offers a small selection of books you can read for free!

This month:


As you can see, they have full books available, and extended excerpts available for some new releases. Thanks to Riveted, I've had the chance to read some books that I really adored, such as Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone (which helped me discover Morgan Matson, who is now one of my ultimate favorite authors), Jenna Evan Welch's Love and Gelato, and, recently, Margaret Rogerson's An Enchantment of Ravens.

I try to remember to check Riveted every month to see what titles they have available! I am so thankful for this website and Simon Teen!
2) Scribd

I learned about Scribd recently, thanks to a tweet from someone in the community, and it had me COMPLETELY SHOOK. Maybe I'm the last person to hear about this website, but it really changed the game for me.

Okay, disclaimer: Technically, Scribd is a monthly subscription service HOWEVER, you can begin a two-month free trial that you can cancel at any point! And upon signing up, you get your own link so that if someone signs up using your link, you get another free month! That said, I beg beg beg you, if you choose to try out Scribd (which, again, you can cancel your free trial at any point), please use MY LINK.

Now, let's get to the more info part of this.

Scribd has an entire database of ebooks and audiobooks and other stuff, like sheet music. And it's REALLY good stuff!


That's a screenshot from my account so it's all YA titles, but they have every genre! As you can see, they have new releases available as well as backlist titles.

Scribd has been incredible for me because I'm studying abroad and don't have the same access to books that I did when I lived in the U.S. so this website is PERFECT for international readers. You can also download the app on your phone and download the titles for offline use.

You can save all the titles you're interested in to a list and you don't have to worry about how long it takes you to read something. This website has such an extensive collection of titles, I'm finally getting to read a ton of books I've been wanting to read for ages, like Shadow and Bone and Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien's Agenda.

I highly recommend checking out Scribd, and not just because I want another month free (but I definitely do, so I'd really appreciate if you signed up using my link!), but because it has made me so happy since I discovered it. I've been telling everyone about it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Broad Goes Abroad #1: The Horror Of Grocery Stores

Please note: This article was written several weeks ago and originally published in my university's newspaper, The ArkaTech. 


On February 3, I packed too many bags, said goodbye to my cat and headed to Graz, Austria, for a six-month study abroad adventure.

Exciting, right? Well, yes, but the thing about adventures is that they are often accompanied by fear and stress just as much as excitement.

I have an abundance of experience when it comes to being generally unprepared in life, but nothing I’ve experienced before this trip compares to the sense of floundering I felt the moment I left the familiarity of America. Frau Haulmark, one of the lovely German professors and the study abroad coordinator here at Tech, warned me about the obstacles I would face upon arrival in Austria, but I was nowhere near ready.

Let me just say, I’ve heard jet lag mentioned on TV and in books all my life, but I never truly understood what it was until I felt it. For the first week I was in Graz, I was tired all the time. I would be subtly smacking myself in the face on the bus so that I could keep my eyes open. That is, after I figured out how the busses work. Despite its many charms, Russellville did not allow me to develop any sort of public transportation skills. Fortunately, I’ve yet to board the completely wrong bus, but it took me a while to realize that if I would just walk across the road I could get on a bus going the opposite direction, and that I didn’t have to wait for the bus to go through its entire route before turning around. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to public transportation, but after being here over a week, I feel like I’ve mastered it (though I still sit in my seat tense, listening to each announcement with rapt ears in fear that I will miss my stop).

The most obvious issue I face daily is, of course, the language barrier, which is to be expected. The moment I agreed to this wild ride I knew my very-limited German would not be sufficient. I didn’t know, however, that for days I would listen to my stomach grumble because I would be too afraid to go to a restaurant or grocery store.

February 7 was my 22 birthday, though, so I worked up the nerve to go to a nice restaurant for my birthday dinner, and it really wasn’t so bad. Most people in Austria speak English, and most of them appreciate the effort to speak German.

Grocery stores, on the other hand, are probably the most stressful aspect of living in Austria so far. 



didn’t see that coming at all, but Austria is a country that thrives off of efficiency. I’m used to strolling down the aisles of Walmart with my friends, making friendly conversation with the cashier and smiling apologetically as I fumble to put my money back in my wallet. Graz grocery stores are not having any of that nonsense. Shoppers move swiftly through the aisles, entirely unconcerned if they get in your way and I have received many scowls when I didn’t have my items bagged and my money at the ready by the time the cashier was done ringing up my purchase. Grocery shopping here is like an Olympic sport I have not trained for.

So, of course studying abroad is exciting, but it comes with a whole slew of anxieties and problems that I am conquering one day at a time. Every day I learn something new and accomplish something unexpected. Every day I grow a bit more confident in my European life. I feel as if I’ve already come so far and I’ve only been in Austria a little over a week. I can’t wait to look back six months from now and see just how many strides I’ve made.


STAY TUNED TO HEAR MORE ABOUT MY STUDY ABROAD ADVENTURES!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Please note: This review was written several months ago and originally published in my university's newspaper.

Sequels are precarious. Most fans are looking for a sequel that develops its own, special charm while also maintaining the original film's appeal. Some fans are simply seeking another round of entertainment. When it comes to Matthew Vaughn's "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," I was one of the latter fans. I imagine anyone expecting something fresh from this sequel will be disappointed, as it contains gobs of similarities to its predecessor. Probably too many similarities. However, "The Golden Circle" is still a wildly entertaining film and, personally, that's all I was really looking for.

"The Golden Circle" is an action/comedy that throws us into the happenings of a secret UK spy agency called Kingsman. Once again, we're following Eggsy, a young, formerly-rough-around-the-edges member of Kingsman. Everything seems to be golden for him: he has saved the world, become a hotshot spy, and started dating a Swedish princess. Too bad an isolated, sadistic drug lord named Poppy has other plans for him. She gathers intel on Kingsman and does everything she can to destroy the organization, forcing Eggsy to travel to the U.S. and join forces with an agency called Statesman to defeat Poppy.

There are a handful of plot decisions that I don't agree with. Without giving anything away, there is an event in the beginning that feels like a cheap way to get the plot rolling. There are also a few major conflicts throughout that could have easily been avoided with any sort of logic or communication. The major issue, though, is that the villain plotline is practically identical to that of the first movie: a wealthy, eccentric mogul of some sort has created a large-scale hostage situation. While I don't mind most of the similarities and rehashing done throughout this film, this one does bother me. I want to see the spies facing obstacles they've never quite encountered before. Instead, they've already conquered a situation just like this one, so it's hard to feel impressed.

Honestly, though, I'm willing to overlook those grievances, because this movie is so much fun. It is absurd and cartoonish while also being intense and interesting. There are predictable moments, but for the most part (especially during the action scenes) I was never entirely sure what to expect next from this film. "The Golden Circle" never fails to take dramatic turns I could never imagine, and that's what makes this film so engaging.

What I enjoyed most about this film was the characterization and the emotional aspect. While I still feel like we could delve deeper into these characters, I felt like we got to know most of them much better than we did in the first movie. We got to know what drives some of the characters. We got to see weaknesses. We got to see their strength. We dug deeper and it made them stand out to me much more.

Though it isn't a perfect sequel, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" is a delightful, engrossing experience, and left me feeling nothing but content when I left the theater.

My rating:
4/5

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Top Ten Books I Loved But Will (Probably) Never Re-Read

(This meme is actually hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl now, but I am far too lazy to make a new graphic)

I'm quite fond of re-reading, even if I don't do it as often as I'd like. But there are some books that, no matter how wonderful they were, I can't see myself picking up again. Never say never, though!! Who knows what mood will strike me in the future?

Tbh, this topic was really tough because I was going through my Goodreads and kept saying, "Okay, well I wouldn't mind reading that one again!!" with every single book. I had to get cutthroat and make some decisions.

BUT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ANY OF THESE NOVELS FOR THE FIRST TIME YET, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!


1) Wither by Lauren DeStefano - This was a solid 4-star series for me. I binged it. I enjoyed it a lot. (Check out my review of Wither) I can't see myself re-reading it, though. It was an in-the-moment read for me. I don't find myself missing the characters or the world.

2) Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven - I rated this 4.5 stars. The romance was cute and geeky and there was a lot of body positivity represented in this novel. I just don't feel the urge to give it another go.

3) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon - Another 4-star read for me. I really loved the characters and the story and I definitely recognize how important this novel is, in terms of diversity. However, I think that I, personally, got what I wanted out of it the first time around. I can't wait to read the companion novel, though!!

4) Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler - Once again, I gave this 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed traipsing through New York in this novel (unfortunately, not in real life) and the engaging writing. This was just a quick, light read, and I will remember it fondly, but I don't think I'll be revisiting it. (My review!)

5) Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - I will always regard this series as one of my all-time favorites. It's been years since I read it, and I really don't remember much that happens in it, but I was in looove with it as I was reading. There are 2 reasons I can't see myself re-reading it, though. Firstly, that's a commitment. This series has 4 books and they are all clunkers. Secondly, I'm very afraid I won't like it anymore and I refuse to let that happen.


6) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - Lauren Oliver is one of my ultimate favorite authors. Her prose is gorgeous, and this novel is no exception. It's absolutely beautiful and it made me SOB when I read it. But I'm afraid this is the kind of novel that loses its effect after the first read. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not going to take that chance. This is one of those novels that I'm not committed to NOT re-reading, though.

7) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh - I don't know that I'd even describe this novel as good. I remember having a lot of issues/questions while I was reading, but I could. not. stop. It was such an addicting read and I ate up every second of it. But, again, I think I got what I wanted out of it the first time I read it. I have not read the second installment yet, but I want to. Even still, this novel does not have a particularly complex story, so I don't think I'd feel the need to re-read it once I get my hands on the sequel.

8) Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - Just talking about this series makes me cackle a little bit because this is another one of those series I was SUPER INTO when my reading habits were just beginning to form. I think I might hate it and cringe to death if I went back and re-read it, but I will always hold it in my heart. I do still own the entire series, though, so maybe one day I'll give it a go for nostalgia's sake.

9) An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson - This is one of my more recent reads and it was absolutely delectable. I couldn't tear myself away. I'm pretty sure I read it all in one sitting. But I just don't think it's the kind of book I'd want to re-read.

10) Just One Day by Gayle Forman - I remember really enjoying this one but also finding it a bit slow. I think Gayle Forman is a brilliant writer, and this is probably the book I'm most unsure of.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Please note: I wrote this review several months ago and it was originally published in my university's newspaper.

I’m not particularly fond of action movies. Typically, when I am watching an action movie, it loses my attention and I struggle to become invested in the characters. That said, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” directed by Matthew Vaughn, took me by surprise. A combination of action and whimsy makes for a thoroughly enjoyable film!

“Kingsman” introduces us to Eggsy, a street kid with an ugly home life and a penchant for legal trouble. After one especially messy situation, he unknowingly calls on a secret spy organization known as Kingsman. He competes with other, more qualified peers to become a member of the organization. Meanwhile, a wealthy technology mogul devises a nefarious plan to defeat Kingsman and take over the world.

To put it plainly, this movie is downright fun. Between the characters’ banter and the often-over-the-top circumstances, I couldn’t help but be entertained. 

I really respect the fight scenes in this movie, because Vaughn manages to find an ideal balance of work and play. The characters accomplish major feats of violence while also maintaining an element of humor, which prevented even me from getting bored by the punching.

My favorite facet of the plot was the competition. I was rooting for Eggsy to prove his worth and join the ranks of Kingsman. It was fascinating to see what kind of mental games the higher-ups were playing and the physical peril the characters wound up in.

When it comes to characterization in this film, I have mixed feelings. I was able to sympathize with Eggsy and my heart broke for his situation, but he was the only character I felt like I got to know on any sort of personal level. That’s not to say I didn’t connect to any of the other characters, but, frankly, when I think about the other characters we’re introduced to throughout the movie, I realize we either don’t learn anything about them, or they become caricatures instead of people. I enjoyed the characters—there is a smorgasbord of different, interesting personalities present—but, overall, they lack a level of depth that could have bumped this movie up to the next level. The underlying absurdity woven throughout the film works with most aspects of it, but the characters were just short of being believable.

Despite how I feel about the characters, this movie really kept me engaged. “Kingsman” certainly had me on my toes. My jaw fell open multiple times as I was watching, because I was never quite prepared for any of the events that were taking place.

I am eager to watch the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Hopefully we will further explore the characters and the secrets of Kingsman, because a movie as delightful as this one deserves an even more dynamic sequel.

My rating: 
4/5