April 22, 2014

Review: Witchfall

This series is awesome - I love it! Princess Elizabeth + witches = happy reader. This is why I love this series: the magical element with a touch of historical fiction.

And that book cover?! That is a cover that would make me pick this book up in a bookstore or library.

Title: ‘Witchfall’
Author: Victoria Lamb
Pages: 336
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Available: NOW at your local library/book store
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Her darkest dreams are coming true.

In Tudor England, 1555, Meg Lytton has learned how powerful her magick gift can be. But danger surrounds her and her mistress, the outcast Princess Elizabeth. Nowhere is safe in the court of Elizabeth's fanatical sister, Queen Mary. And as the Spanish Inquisition's merciless priests slowly tighten their grip on the court, Meg's very dreams are disturbed by the ever-vengeful witchfinder Marcus Dent.

Even as Meg tries to use her powers to find guidance, something evil arises, impervious to Meg's spells and hungry to control England's fate. As Meg desperately tries to keep her secret betrothed, the Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, out of harm's way, caution wars with their forbidden desire. And with her most powerful enemy poised to strike, Meg's only chance is a heartbreaking sacrifice.

My Thoughts:

Lamb does not disappoint in this sequel. I was even more invested in Meg than ever—and my heart pumped harder in this novel than in the first.

We are thrust back into Tudor England when Mary is still on the throne and Princess Elizabeth is still her prisoner. Throughout the novel, I waited for the death of Mary. And waited. And waited. Because I knew that the solving of all of Meg’s troubles would happen with the crowning of Elizabeth.

But, there couldn’t be a third book if Lamb gave it to Elizabeth in this novel. So, I still wait. But be on notice Lamb: I except Elizabeth to be crowned in book 3. I might cry if she is not.

After all, Queen Mary’s England is dangerous. And it gives me the heebes. And really, I love Queen Elizabeth. Give it to her already.

Okay, back to the sequel.

Meg is at court with Princess Elizabeth, but all eyes are on them. One misstep and all is lost. Meg has to mind her Ps and Qs and plays her role well, but is that enough?

When Princess Elizabeth takes ill, and accusations of witchcraft land in her rooms, the plot takes a scary shift. The last think Elizabeth needs is this to happen—and she needs to convince her sister to stop the silliness.

But now Queen Mary has taken to her chambers, awaiting the arrival of her little prince. An arrival that will not happen as Queen Mary is not pregnant but sick with cancer. Again Lamb, where is this woman’s death?!

So Elizabeth has another plan, get to the King. He can stop the accusations. But, does it work? After all, people will talk when they see him conversing with a woman that many in England feel should be put to her death. How will Queen Mary feel about her sister taking time out of her day to spend time with The King? And can the witch craze begin to step away from Princess Elizabeth’s household, and off the back of Meg. Or is there a traitor among them, waiting to oust Meg at the first chance?

And how does Marcus Dent play into all of this? After all, Meg “banished” him in the last book. Or did she?

One thing I really enjoyed was the growth of Meg’s character. She continues to build into her power, while trying to conceal who she really is, and the bond she shares with Princess Elizabeth seems unshakeable.

I also enjoyed how Lamb built the plot’s tension throughout; sometimes making my heart beat a little faster because I was so afraid for Meg. The pacing is spot on, giving readers a story and characters they can invest in. And I do feel invested in Meg. While Meg is the star of this series, there are other characters that enhance the story (besides Princess Elizabeth) that bring fear, love, jealousy, horror, and more to the page.

Twists, turns, surprises, and more wait on the pages of this delightful read. It is one of my favorite reads of this year. I love all things historical fiction that deals with Tudor England, especially when witches are a part of it. And this is fastly becoming a favorite series of mine.

Do I recommend this book?

I enthusiastically do! Especially of readers of historical fiction (with a touch of magic), this book series needs to find itself into your life.

Let’s talk about books—what’s the best historical fiction novel you’ve read lately?
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

April 21, 2014

Review: Don't Even Think About It

Since her 'Magic in Manhattan' series, I have been a fan of Mlynowski's. She has a style of writing that I enjoy, full of imagination and interesting plot ideas.

Her latest YA novel is no exception. 

But, I have to say that I am not a fan of the cover. I just don't think it does the novel story justice, at all. I wouldn't have picked this up if I saw it in a bookstore or library. But you  should.

Title: ‘Don’t Even Think About It’
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Pages: 336
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Available: NOW at your local library/book store
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

We weren't always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn't expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we've kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what's coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.

So stop obsessing about your ex. We're always listening.

My Thoughts:

What would happen if you were a sophomore in high school and were able to read the thoughts of those around you? Would you use your newfound power for the betterment of society—for yourself?

This is what Mlynowski explores in her latest teen novel.

Mlynowski’s tale follows a classroom of sophomores, all in line to receive their annual flu shot. But something about this batch is off; something goes wrong, and as the kids start to discover that they can read the minds of those around them (and vice versa), the fun begins.

From minor “cheating” in the classroom to a showdown at a birthday party, there is a little something here for all readers.

Parts made me laugh; parts made my heart thump; new friendships were formed; others were torn apart; and I found myself turning the page to see how it all ends.

What a fun read. I found the plot to be interesting, engaging, and fast moving. From the moment those kids stepped into the nurses office until the end of the story, I was hooked—and ready to read the consequences of their new power.

And there were interesting on-the-page play with this idea. Especially when a school cafeteria comes into play; after all, isn’t that where all the awesomeness usually happens in high school? And dances. And parties.

I mean, they are in high school. They are mostly fifteen. Their lives are more a mess than anyone can imagine, but when that is no longer a secret, when those surrounding know every thought, detail, secret, how do the characters cope? How can they grow and bring the story to a head?

Well, Mlynowski does so flawlessly. She has characters that teens can identify with in some way, and she has an engaging idea that can keep those teens hooked into the story, contemplating their own thoughts, details, secrets. What if those in their own classes knew all that was happening, and they were powerless to stop it? Oh the horror—and I think this is what most teen readers will find most intriguing.

For me, I read it as a reader as well as a teacher. I just cannot imagine what would happen if students could read my mind, or if I could read theirs. Yikes!

I was curious to see how all of this was going to end and I had many questions while reading: would they be discovered? is it a weird science experiment gone wrong? could this really happen? And my final thought: this is why I don’t get a flu shot. I would be the one who would end up with a batch of Spidermanesque funk and end up with some weird “power” I don’t want.

I think that is about all I can say without revealing important plot points—and there are a lot in this book.

While the cover is adorable, I really don’t think it fits the plot. It makes it appeal more to girls, and I feel like this is a unisex book. The boys’ thoughts are on the table just as much as the girls’ thoughts. They are equally humiliated, and interesting. Their ups and downs match that of the girls, and they seem to get equal page time.

Publishers should really think about that when putting covers on books. If I was a teen boy, I wouldn’t touch this book with that cover. But boys, I think you would enjoy the storytelling too. Just wrap the cover with a brown paper bag, like back in the old days when we did that. It will be okay. And you will read a pretty interesting tale.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely. I recommend this to all fans of Mlynowski, but also readers of Stephanie Perkins and Elizabeth Eulberg. Mlynowski has a smooth style to her storytelling that is approachable for a variety of readers, and this plot is engaging enough to keep readers from tween up invested in the characters and the story.

Let’s talk about books—what’s the best novel you’ve read lately?
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

April 19, 2014

Happenings in Hodgensville - Stitch Fix

This box makes me happy

I am stepping away from the typically book review and sharing a piece of myself with you. For this month, I'm sharing my passion for a new element I've added to my life.

A few months ago I was out shopping with a friend of mine. She mentioned that she has been working with Stitch Fix for a while, a personal on-line styling service. We spoke about it for a while, and after visiting the website, I thought I would give it a try.

I am in my second month, and I will say that I LOVE IT! I really love it. I love it so much that I want to share it with you.

What IS Stitch Fix?

Stitch Fix is an personal styling service that charges you a $20 styling fee—a fee that is immediately put toward any purchase you make. You fill out an exhaustive survey on your body type, what you like to wear, what type of pieces you would like to receive, your favorite styles to wear, how much you’re willing to spend, etc.  I did say the survey was exhaustive, right?

They “schedule” your box, and you wait. Upon arrival, you will find five pieces—one is usually an accessory—that you can try on at home and decide what you want to keep.

There is a pre-paid envelope in your box, so anything you do not want to keep can easily be placed in and dropped at your local post office.

It really is that simple. And, if you love all five pieces, you not only have the $20 styling fee toward your purchase but also receive a 25% discount on every piece. BUT, only IF you purchase all five items.

They also have an amazing referral program. You can share your referral link to Facebook and Twitter and on your blog and receive $25 credit when your friends/family/referrals receive their first Fix. (Mine is located at the bottom of this post.)

What I love about it is this—as your check out on their website, you tell them if you’re keeping the piece or returning. Then, they ask you specific questions on the style of the piece, the price, the fit, and any additional comments you wish to make. About every single piece.

For my second box, I was very specific in my comments on how the pieces fit, what I wanted to see in my box next, etc.

Here is why I really love Stitch Fix:
1.    I love to shop but am sometimes too busy.
2.    I love clothes and always want to add pieces.
3.    I am completely intimidated about trends and how to dress my body.
4.    I enjoy having pieces chosen for me from CA, giving me something fresh and new I might not find locally.
5. They send styling cards for each piece, showing you how you can wear it in the day as well as evening. Love. This.

Here is why my husband loves Stitch Fix:

1.    He doesn’t have to go shopping with me as often.
2.    He doesn’t feel the pressure of helping me pick out pieces.
3.    He loves to see how excited I get when I see my box on my front porch.
4.    He enjoys seeing what is waiting for me in my box too—because he knows my love for clothes.

Sharing my April Fix

Here is what was in my April box—enjoy!

The packaging is so adorable. The envelope contains my styling cards, a note written to me about why the pieces were picked, and the invoice. 

opening the box
Here are the styling cards. I love these. They are a great way to see how I can style the pieces to fit my own personal style. I also love that they give both a day and a night look. I love looking at these before unwrapping the tissue paper to see what has been picked for me.

I keep ALL of my style cards

I find unwrapping of the tissue paper as exciting as Christmas morning. I mean, I know I already know what is IN the paper, but it is still fun to see it and to know that someone picked out the looks just for me. I am especially pleased that box of my boxes have been a 100% hit with me. 

style cards + looks = happiness

So here are the looks, unwrapped. The shirt is an exact replica of a dress I received in my first box. I love that maxi dress, not something I would've picked out on my own, and those jeans and shirt are an absolute win. Now, I was nervous about having pants sent to me. I am very picky about my pants, but I decided to give it a try. If you count, you see four pieces. 

love all of these

 My fifth was a necklace, again a piece I wouldn't have picked for myself because of its size and color. I have a bulging disc in my neck, and I was concerned. But, I put it on and it wasn't near as heavy as I expected. I didn't have an issue at all the day I wore it.

The necklace of awesome
The necklace was picked to go with the jeans/striped shirt look you see above. What a wonderful color combo. I never would have paired a navy blue striped shirt with that necklace. I wore the entire look to school and received numerous compliments.

seriously love these jeans
This was my absolute favorite look. Those jeans are soooo comfy. The fit was absolutely perfect. The cuff is sewn, which is nice, and on the left leg it has that "worn" look (I think that's what it's called.) I am a jeans/shirt kind of gal, and the look was a 100% win with me.

can't talk jeans without talking back view
I really love the look of my butt in these jeans too. Anytime I find a pair where my butt looks firm, I am sold. Yep, I went there. But ladies, we all know that the way our butt looks in jeans is the most important part, for most of us.

I loved the dress and the shirt, but as a I said, I had that shirt as a dress already. I kept the shirt because financially, it was cheaper to keep all 5 pieces than to keep the 4 I loved and to return the shirt. It was like the shirt was free with the 25% discount, so I kept it, and I've worn it. I love the material and the color (navy blue with white polka dots). 

The only piece I haven't worn to work yet has been the dress. It has been too cold or rainy to have it make an appearance. I am hoping for beautiful weather this coming week so I can wear it. 

As a whole, I am in love with Stitch Fix. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my next box scheduled for May. If any of you are interested giving it a shot, visit their website. If you click on this link, I will receive $25.00 credit when you receive your first fix, and I know my husband will be ever so grateful to you.

Do any of you already do Stitch Fix? Do you blog about your styles? If so, leave me a link below so I can "pin" it to my Pinterest board. 

Happy Shopping!

-      The Hodgenator