Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sparkling Reviews | $500 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway

Give Sparkling Reviews some bloggy love and, while you're there, enter for a chance to win a $500 Amazon giftcard! Ends March 10th, so hurry!

Sparkling Reviews Follower Appreciation Day Giveaway

Head on over to Sparkling Reviews and enter for a chance to win...
A sparkly new Ipad 2!
A leopard-print Kitchen-aid mixer!
A MacBook Pro!
$1,000 Coach Giftcard!
$500 Best Buy Giftcard!
Kobo Vox e-reader in your choice of color!

And the big daddy prize...

An Apple Giftpack! MacBook Air, iPhone 4s, iPod Touch 32 GB, Apple TV, and an iPad 3. Yeah. Huge.

Ends March 10th at midnight, so don't wait! Good luck. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Easy Canvas Prints Review & Giveaway

Easy Canvas Prints, a company that puts your photos on canvas. A pretty easy concept, when you think about it, but there's something really exciting about it all he same.

For this review, I'll break it down into the ordering process and the product.

Ordering: Okay, this site is super easy to navigate. Total no-brainer. You can create a canvas with an uploaded image (you can even snag a photo from your Facebook account) in less than 5 minutes by first choosing the size, which range from 8x8" to 24x36" and all clearly priced, then loading your image (there's a handy meter which tells you whether your image is of high enough quality to be printed), then just follow the easy steps which follow and voila. Your very own, one of a kind canvas. The only downside I could find while ordering my canvas was that you couldn't change the orientation of the canvas from portrait to landscape. I had to rotate the image on my computer and reload it. But aside from that, it was really an easy experience, and the hanging hook on the back is oriented correctly to the image.
Another important thing to remember is that when you scan a photo that's maybe not so great--like, say, my parents wedding photo--the pixel count will be high enough for the quality-widget to give you the go ahead, but the image itself won't be good enough for printing. This is what happened to me the first time I placed my order. The good news: Easy Canvas Prints emailed me promptly saying that my order was on hold and why. They suggested that I choose another picture and gave me clear instructions on how to either change the picture or go ahead with the printing. I chose another picture and the canvas arrived three days later. I was very impressed with the service.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a digital image from your computer is that the screen is luminous but a canvas is not. Shadows might not seem like a big deal on your computer, but they sure show themselves clearly in print.
Which brings me to...

Product: I was pretty excited to see my canvas when it arrived, so I tore into the box, at which point I became even more excited. This was much more than I was expecting. I don't why, but I wasn't expecting the image to be so vibrant and clear. It's really an excellent product.
I have now ordered a total three canvases from Easy Canvas Prints (one was a prize, the second was for review, and the third we bought as a Christmas present for my parents), and I am really very pleased with each of them. When my review canvas arrived and I unpacked it, I was a bit distressed; the canvas was noticably loose on the frame, but by the next day it had tightened up. I can't explain why this was, but it mended itself; so if you order one and it arrives a bit loose, don't fret, just give a day and see what happens.

Now for the giveaway!
One lucky reader will win one 8x10 canvas with their picture of choice.

Open to residents of the continental US (company's request)
Giveaway will run from 1/1/12 and will end at 12:00 am on 1/14/12
To enter fill out the Rafflecopter form below (please do not leave any personal information in the comments)
Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner will be picked.
Note: If you Like Easy Canvas Prints on Face Book, which is worth 1 point, you can get 50% off your next order and free shipping! So really, everyone's a winner here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Take On: Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck

In the third installment of the Tiger series, Kelsey Hayes pushes through the pain of lost love and strengthens her friendship with Kishan1. Despite his strong feelings for her, Kishan has agreed to be her ally in helping her reunite with the man she still loves2. Together, they seek to help Ren regain his memory and begin the search for the third magical gift—an object of power that will help break the curse that causes them to live part of their lives as tigers.
They board a luxury yacht3 and seek Durga's aid once again, who supplies them with her golden weapons. With Nilima, Mr. Kadam, Ren, and Kishan at her side4, she soon learns that the task ahead will be even more difficult than the others. Confronting a dark magician, multiple dragons, and terrifying denizens of the deep seems easy when compared to facing the daunting task of stitching up her heart...
...and the synopsis goes on and on and on, but that's the gist of it.
 Tiger's Voyage was... well, the first thing that comes to mind is how much I laughed while reading it. I mean, it was a riot. Was it a comedy? Um... well? No, not really. This is straight up paranormal romance. There is a girl (we'll call her Slug-Baby). There is a guy (two of them, actually) that are cursed to spend a portion of their day as tigers. There's love. Lots of it. And kissing. Lots of it. Actually, too much of it4, but at least they never do anything more than kiss. Aside from sleeping in each others beds like a bad episode of Dawson's Creek. Oh, yeah, and there's a quest, or in this case, a voyage5.
 I've heard this series described as Twilight meets Indiana Jones, and that is actually a very accurate blurb. The love story aspect is somewhat convoluted and one sided, I'm not actually certain that Slug-Baby loves either guy or just doesn't want to hurt either one's feelings. And the adventure is so much fun, full of traps and quests within quests, and puzzles and pitfalls. Houck really has a knack for classic story telling as she reveals in some of the truly bizarre settings and challenges that the trio face on the voyage. It's the story telling, more than anything, that keeps me coming back to this series.

 But I know what you're wondering most of all: "Why do you call Kelsey 'Slug-Baby'?" Gather round, my friends, and I'll tell you the tale of how Slug-Baby got her name...
 Kelsey was once a real girl. She was alone, in a sad sense, since she had lost both her parents in a car accident, but she had a polite, vegan foster family to care for her. Then, one day, a marvelous thing happened: the circus came to town! Kelsey decided to work at the circus, and her vegan foster parents encouraged her, though they would miss having her around to babysit while they jogged.
 So Kelsey, who was still Kelsey at this point, packed up her hair ribbons and her grandmother's quilt and moved to the circus. Such nerve! There she met a white tiger who seemed sad and alone. She felt for the tiger, all stifled in his cage, and began to spend time with him. Kelsey discovered that he enjoyed Shakespeare, because who doesn't, really? So she read to him, and the tiger was happier for it.
 Kelsey and tiger became friends.
 One day, a rich, Indian man came to the circus asking Kelsey if she would accompany the tiger to India where the rich man wished to rehabilitate him. Kelsey asked her vegan foster parents what they thought about her, a naive high school grad, traveling to a foreign land with a complete and suspiciously rich stranger. They thought it swell.
 So Kelsey, who was still Kelsey, traveled to India.
 Fast forward. Surprise, the tiger is a man! And he loves Kelsey, who is becoming less of a Kelsey everyday. And the rich man is not evil or creepy, he's polite and encyclopedic! And also immortal!  
 Fast forward yet again, and there's another tiger-man! And he loves Kelsey, who is even less of a Kelsey than before. He doesn't care that the girl who was Kelsey is in love with his own brother. He wants her. So he steals her kisses, even as they work to save the brother she loved first. And the girl who was Kelsey finds that she likes him too. Her tigers are perfect and bronze and handsome and brave and they take care of her in marvelous ways! They defend the girl who is no longer Kelsey from enemies and tuck her into bed. They make sure that she's eating and shield her from sadness, as best as they can. They love her even when their love brings her to harm and do everything for her as if she had no arms.
 Slug-Baby is born.

 So, obviously, this is not a dashing tale of equality, although Kelsey does perform some brave and clever feats now and again, mostly when her tigers aren't quick enough to stop her.
  And this isn't a wonderful and swoon-worthy love story, either. Love is...not this. Love is willing the good of another, and I just don't see that in the way Kelsey leads both of the brothers on or the way that they fight for her affection and cause her great turmoil and confusion.
 But it is entertaining, especially when read critically.

I give Tiger's Voyage 5 zombies for the story telling parts where marvelous things happened, and 3 zombies for the rest of it, which equals...
...4 zombies.

i am
zombie girrrl
& this was

1. I believe it's pronounced kih-shin, both with the short I sound.
2. If you write it, it must be true. Kishan was a cad in book the second, Tiger's Quest, but he made a miraculous recovery and is now the better man, in my opinion. Hurray for the power of love and edits.
3. "Luxury" is an understatement. One of the things that keeps me reading this series is the extreme opulence. The yacht was more like a private cruise ship and Kelsey always gets the best of everything. I wonder if that bothers Nilima? Anyway. Everything is described in excruciating detail, but I find it entertaining how very rich and detailed the environment is. It's like taking a tour. In fact, the detail almost moves this one out of Paranormal Romance and into Fantasy, except for the amount of kissing [see footnote #4].
4. I wound up skimming a good portion for the book. Kissing just doesn't make for good reading, especially when it's paid the same amount of detail as the setting. I literally skipped two pages that were dedicated entirely to one kiss. Plus, there was one really creepy kissing scene. Like, really, really creepy. Like, "please don't let this be what girls find dreamy" type creepy.
5. A voyage being a quest which takes place on the water.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Read Dangerously Read-A-Thon

This will be where I update my reading progress as well as participate in the mini challenges. Stay tuned!

Day 1: I didn't get off to a spectacular start. I only read one chapter: Chapter four of Theology of the Body for Teens, to be exact. It was really interesting, and I enjoyed the discussion that ensued immensely, but I really meant to have had more reading under my belt by this point. Now, if this were a crochet-a-thon, then I'd be golden! I'll just have to hang up my hook for the next two days and play catch up.

Day 2: I read most of The Dead-Tossed Waves, staying up till nearly 1am. I wasn't able to finish it, though, as my eyes were crossing with fatigue.

Day 3: Finished The Dead-Tossed Waves! It was awesome. Not as scary as FoHaT, but there was more... feeling, I think. Definitely more of a love story.
I'm now reading FEED by Mira Grant, another of my favorite zombie books.
Mini Challenges:
Challenge #1: fail
Challenge #2: fail
Challenge #3: Describe the book you're reading in 7 words.
Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan: Gabry must face her fears and live.

i am
zombie girrrl
& i have
some reading
to do

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Take On: Paper Town's by John Green

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night, dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge, he follows her. Margo's always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she's always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they're for Q. Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.
So, I'd read one of John Green's books, An Abundance of Katherines, and I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I was a bit leery about reading another of his books, lest it be inferior in awesomeness and somehow taint the happy memory of the first. I don't know why I develop these weird reading phobias, but I do, and they keep me from reading really good books for too long.
And, yes, Paper Towns was a really good book.
But before I get to that, because it's important to me (and a lot of readers I know and respect), I'll break it down by content:

Language: There were a LOT of GD's. Just about every character said it, and it was said a good number of times1 throughout the book. Other than that, there were also a lot of S's and D's and the like. I cannot now recall if there were any F-bombs dropped on this beauty because I generally skip over them without even absorbing their presence.
There was also rather a lot of sexually crude language of the ignorant-teenage-boy variety.

Sexual Content: There was implicit language and one scene where it nearly happened, though not to a main character, but (thankfully) this was a pretty clean book in that respect. In fact, Q was a relatively chaste guy, and I really loved that about him. Virginity was, however, viewed as a thing to be lost or given away outside of marriage. It must be said, though, that John Green never uses sex lightly nor for no greater reason than to thrill the masses or sell more books. He is as thoughtful in his use of more-mature content as he is with his trademark wit, and there is always a lesson to be learned--that usually being that physical intimacy does not equate to emotional intimacy. I have a great deal of respect for John Green because he accepts, and even embraces that he, as a writer, has a responsibilty to his readers.

Violence: More of the ignorant-teenage-boy variety with a dose of psychotic bullies.

Okay, on with the show!
I've been watching a lot of Vlogbrothers lately, and it got me thinking about some things that John used in this book, such as how Quentin said, in my all-time favorite quote,
"You can't divorce Margo the person from the Margo the body. You can't see one without seeing the other. You looked in Margo's eyes and saw both their blueness and their Margo-ness."
Notice the use of "you"? You didn't look in Margo's eyes, Quentin did; and if you did look in her eyes, I somehow doubt that you would see all that. John pointed out this phenomenon in Catcher in the Rye saying that Holden referred to you because it was too painful to say I when recollecting his youth and the girl he innocently held hands with.
Quentin seemed to be deeply infatuated with Margo, or at least the idea of Margo, yet he couldn't bring himself to say, "When I looked in Margo's eyes." It cost too much for him to admit that he, himself saw these things when he looked in her eyes, because he thought he could never be with her.
But that's not what makes this my favorite quote, that's just what makes this quote interesting in the framework of the story. What makes it my favorite is that everyone hopes to be seen this way. Despite all the work we put into our appearance--makeup, hair, skin care, clothing, likes and dislikes, all the time and energy, conscious or unconscious, that we spend on cultivating an image--what we really want is for someone to look past the strategically engineered facade and see our souls shining through our countenances2.
This quote and this line of thought, our ideas of people and how far short they fall of the real person, is really what the entire book is about.
As Quentin sets out to find Margo physically, he is also trying to find the real Margo--a window amid all the mirrors--and along the way he finds a bit of himself: What really scares him and how brave he can be, what kind of friend he is, what kind of friends he has3, and how to look through the cracks in the facade to see the light within. Also, how much minivans rock.
I give Paper Towns...
...4 1/2 zombies!
This is really a beautiful book. John Green is one of my favorite writers because of his truly unique style and wit and his uflinching honesty. I got this from my library, but I'll be looking to add Paper Towns to my personal collection.

i am
zombie girrrl
& i'm
really not
you only think
i am

1. It occurs to me that "a good number of times" is a really poor phrase in this instance. O Language, thou hast failed me!
2. And there's that "you" again. I suppose it's a sort of survival mechanism.
3. I'll tell you now: Q has the awesome kind of friends. Another of John Greens' talents lies in creating amazing friends for his protagonists.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Read Dangerously Read-a-Thon

This post is very important. This post means I am an official participant in...

This read-a-thon is only a small part of an even bigger event at All By MySHELF, celebrating Ren's 20th birthday. And everyone knows: big event + blogging = PRIZES!

Here are the important details about the read-a-thon:

The Read Dangerously Read-A-Thon will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday, August 11, and end at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 13. There will be mini-challenges on each day, so you'll have something to amuse yourself during your reading breaks. You can participate on all days or just a few, whatever you feel like or your schedule allows.
But that's not all! Everyone that participates in the read-a-thon will be entered to win $15 to The Book Depository! One winner will get their choice of any already released as of August 20) YA book, and because it's BD, the contest is open to anyone that lives in one of these countries. And if you say Zombie Girrrl sent you, we'll both get an extra entry! All you have to do to be eligible for the giveaway is sign up for the read-a-thon and post an end of day update on one of the read-a-thon days. Yep, that simple.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go sign up!
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