September 27, 2013

Little Known Facts About Well-Known Places: Disneyland

The tapping sound coming from the Depot at the Disneyland Railroad station in New Orleans Square is a line from Walt's opening day speech ("To all who come to this happy place, welcome . . . ") in a variant of Morse code. However, early on in the park's history, the designers varied the messages, and often, for fun, they would make them off-color comments- until Walt happened to mention that his wife Lillian had been a telegraph operator and could decipher Morse code.

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Since Tyler proposed to me last Friday at Disneyland, it's only appropriate that I post a review for this book, don't you think?! :)

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It's no secret that I'm a fan of anything Disney related, so I was elated when my boyfriend fiance Tyler got me this book for Christmas a few years ago. After he surprised me with an annual pass to the Disneyland Resort in August, I dug this book out and re-read it, trying to absorb every single awesome detail. While I don't ordinarily share non-fiction books that aren't memoirs, I think this one is worth mentioning!

The Disneyland edition of Little Known Facts About Well-Known Places is full of entertaining information about all things Disneyland. When I first read this book, I was skeptical, thinking that I already know all there is to know about one of my favorite places; but I was happily surprised to learn a variety of facts, tips and secrets that I hadn't known at all! Information ranges from facts about working at Disneyland (including famous people, like Michelle Pfieffer, who used to work at the park!), history (like how the Matterhorn was the first rollercoaster to use a tubular steel track), tips (like how to tell where you are at Disneyland based on the trash can colors), and information on how to maximize your visit at the Disneyland Resort.

Do you know which teacup spins the fastest? Do you know where Walt Disney purchased the flagpole on Main Street? What common items are banned from sale at Disneyland and how much did it cost Walt Disney to build? You can find all of these facts and so much more in this priceless collection of information. I think the only thing missing is the best places to propose at Disneyland, but I'm totally biased! ;) This book is beautifully compiled with a fact or breakdown of data on each page so it's not overwhelming to read. I might even tote it around Disneyland on my next visit!

Bottom Line: Whether you're taking a rare visit to Disneyland or you visit the park on a regular basis, this is a must read for any fan of Disney! It will really help you to appreciate the talent and detail that Walt Disney poured into his dream and you will love and respect the Walt Disney Company for continuing with Walt's principles long after his passing. 5/5 stars.

September 24, 2013

Summer Reading Recap

It's always difficult for me to follow a "reading list" because what I feel like reading changes all the time. After finishing the A Song of Ice and Fire series, all I wanted to do was read mindless romantic books that allowed my brain to relax. Right now I've been craving well-written contemporary novels. Tomorrow I might want to read a Victorian novel or a memoir. So when I make a list of 10 books to read this summer and read more than half of them, I consider that a success!

The Original List:
  1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  2. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
  3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  4. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
  5. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  6. Legend by Marie Lu
  7. Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman
  8. The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
  9. Emma by Jane Austen
  10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Are there any books that I didn't cross off that you think I need to read soon? 

I can't be entirely disappointed in myself, because I did succeed in reading 18 books this summer (my goal was 15, which was lofty considering the George R. R. Martin books took up almost 2 full months for me to read! I also wanted to read at least one non-fiction (hence, Mary Beth Chapman's memoir) and while I didn't read the one I had selected, I did read four non-fiction books and one collection of short stories, so I am branching out!

Books Read in Summer 2013:

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  1. A  Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin {my review}
  2. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin {my review}
  3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin {my review}
  4. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin {my review}
  5. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin {my review}
  6. Entwined with You by Sylvia Day {my review}
  7. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 
  8. No Featherbed for Me {yes, I'm including this! haha}
  9. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
  10. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  11. Faking It by Cora Carmack
  12. Friends of Mine by Elisa Lorello {my review}
  13. Saltwater Kisses by Krista Lakes {my review}
  14. All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue {my review}
  15. Little Known Facts About... Disneyland by David Hoffman 
  16. The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
  17. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  18. The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
What was the best book you read this summer? 
I can't choose just one, but I highly recommend 1-5, 9, 12 and 17 the most!

    September 23, 2013

    Monday's Reading Recap

    Soooooo I got engaged on Friday night!!! You can read the whole story here if you want, but just for the record, I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!! If you read the story of Tyler's proposal, you will understand how amazing he is and how truly lucky I am!!

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    Consequently, I didn't get as much reading done over the weekend as I had liked, and technically I'll be finishing Ella & Micha tonight, but I'm still shoving them in here, mmmkay? ;) Obviously I'm going to be a little more lenient on my fall reading list because I'm going to be PRETTY busy planning a wedding! WOOO!!! :)

    Last Week I Finished Reading: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson. (I totally loved Anna as much as you all said I would!)

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    This Week I'm Planning to Read: The Color Pink by Parker Paige, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 

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    This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Saltwater Kisses by Kristen Lake

    What are you reading this week? 

    September 20, 2013

    All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

    What if all those people who had told Dani that the best was ahead of her were wrong? What if childhood is like summer- the time when life is at its lush peak, before everything begins to wither and fall.
    -from All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

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    Since summer doesn't officially end for another day or two, I wanted to end the season on a thematic note with Meg Donohue's All the Summer Girls. Set primarily in the (non-MTV-esque) Jersey Shore, All the Summer Girls is the story of three best friends straddling the line between youth and adulthood as they press into the next phases of their respective lives while confronting their difficult pasts. In Philadelphia, Kate is a lawyer whose fiance breaks off their engagement the day she learns she's pregnant. In New York City, Vanessa, who struggles with the fact that she traded her art career for motherhood, is dealing with her husband's "indiscretion". And in San Francisco, nomadic Dani, whose curiosity for drugs and alcohol is bordering on dependency, has just lost another dead-end job. Their friendship (that dates back to kindergarten) has struggled ever since the summer they were all 21 and Kate's twin brother Colin died. Now, eight years later, they return to the beach town where Colin drowned to support each other during their current struggles and ultimately deal with their past.

    This book might be a favorite to others, but it really missed the mark for me. There was nothing wrong with the writing; in fact, I enjoyed the dialogue, depth of characters, setting, and secrets a lot. I identified with Kate and Dani both (not so much with self-absorbed Vanessa). But even with all of these ingredients, somehow the end result was a chore for me to get through. I think the greatest issue I had with this book is that I had no emotional connection to Colin whatsoever when the author wanted me to feel as pained as Kate, Vanessa and Dani regarding his death. Yes, the fact that he died was sad, but as a reader I felt rather indifferent because I've never felt what they experienced first hand and Donohue did not equip me with the tools to understand what the women were feeling. I wish there had been a prologue or Part One that built Colin up so that I could have been shocked and pained by his death as much as the girls. My lack of a connection affected the entire read.

    Another thing I disliked was how much time was spent building the characterization of Kate, Vanessa and Dani. There are too many inconsequential details that prevent the story from moving forward. The girls don't even share the same space until 1/3 of the way through the book, and by then I was pretty resigned. By the time the story really picks up and I had gained enough feelings to finish the novel, it's already 3/4 of the way done. I couldn't tell if I was happy the story was picking up or happy that I was going to finish the book soon. I liked a lot of the ideas of missing your former self once you're catapulted into full-fledged adulthood, or Dani's struggle to immerse herself in adulthood at all; but none of that reconciled my early experiences enough for me to enjoy the read.

    I really wanted to love this book. It had a cute cover, it's about girls precisely my age dealing with the exact things my friends and I are experiencing (sans Colin), it's about friendship, and the prose is well-written (despite irritating shifts between present and past-tense). The execution, however, was disappointing and never connected for me. I don't doubt that this could be the favorite book for someone else, but it just wasn't mine.

    Bottom Line: It has all the ingredients for a great read, but it didn't resonate with me the way I think it was supposed to. Maybe if you're from a super tight knit group of friends that date back to kindergarten you would appreciate it more, but I can't recommend this whole-heartedly. 3/5 stars.

    September 17, 2013

    Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR List

    I don't know if I should consider my summer reading list a success or a failure; I read the top 5 books on the list, but the other 5 somehow slipped down the list as different books became available to me. I still exceeded my goal of 15 books (which included almost 3 books over 1000 pages), they just weren't all the books on my list. Technically there are still officially 5 more days of summer, so I have time to change that before I recap my summer reading next week. But for now, don't be surprised if you see some repeats! ;)

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    1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - who isn't excited about Allegiant? I feel like I've been waiting for this book to come out for years, but I only began reading this series months ago. It's finally almost here!

    2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - A re-read to prepare myself for the movie, another wonderful thing about this fall for which I feel like I've been waiting ages!! I didn't read this in summer like I had planned, but I'm kind of glad because I'd rather read it closer to the movie's release in November.

    3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - There has been so much buzz about this book, and with a movie in the works, I need to read it as soon as possible! I finally downloaded it for my Kindle and can't wait!

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    4. Emma by Jane Austen - I've been meaning to re-read this for years! I didn't read it in summer because it just feels like more of a cozy fall read. Emma + Pumpkin Spice Latte + cool weather = heaven!

    5. On Pilgrimage by Jennifer Lash - This book is my "pool book"; I keep a paperback in my car so that when I go to my mom's house to float in her pool I have something to read (since my Kindle Fire SUCKS outdoors!). Since the warm weather is winding down, I want to make it a goal to finish this beautiful book. 

    6. Priceless by Nicole Richie - I'll be honest: I am so curious to read a book written by Nicole Richie. It's not that I don't think she's capable, but I'm just really curious, ya know? I got this book in hardback on clearance and it's been sitting on my desk for months, so I want to get it read.

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    7. The Grimm Diaries Prequels by Cameron Jace - I was fortunate enough to win these from the lovely Laura at Semper Fi Momma and I can't wait to read them! All of the books in the series seem dark enough to read around Halloween while maintaining a fun fairy tale element.

    8. Snow White Sorrow (Grimm Diaries #1) by Cameron Jace - (see above)

    9. Cinderella Dressed in Ashes (Grimm Diaries #2) by Cameron Jace - (see above)

    10. Cinder by Marissa Meyer - In keeping with the dark fairy tale theme, Cinder sounds like a great book to read alongside Grimm Diaries. I've also heard nothing but great things about it! 

    What are you planning to read this fall??

    September 16, 2013

    Monday's Reading Recap

    This weekend, after driving past it a hundred times, I finally went into this "$1 Only Book Store" (I think that's literally what it's called) and it was heavenly! I don't know what has kept me from it for so long as it's walking distance from my house, but every single book (hardback and paperback) is $1!! They even have audiobooks and textbooks, all $1!! Here is what I walked away with for less than the price of the average book:

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    Half of the books I read last week were non-fun reads. They weren't "bad" per se (I'm always weary of calling a book "bad" because what is bad to me might be magical to someone else, and vice versa); but they were not enjoyable for me and I slumped through them somewhat begrudgingly. I didn't read as much as I wanted to because of this. Fortunately I finally got my hands on a copy of Anna and the French Kiss, a book every book blogger seems to gush about, so I've bumped it up to read this week. I'm trying to knock out as many of my Summer TBR books since summer officially ends in less than a week! (YAY).

    Last Week I Finished Reading: Saltwater Kisses by Krista Lakes, All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue, The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales, and re-read Little Known Facts About Well Known Places: Disneyland by David Hoffman.

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    This Week I'm Reading: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Color Pink by Parker Paige and possibly The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson.

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    This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

    What are you reading this week? 

    September 13, 2013

    Friends of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan by Elisa Lorello

    Music has the power to bring not only friends together, but also strangers. It bonds us in peace and love and faith and hope and joy. And it does it without asking for our ID, religion, political persuasion, or diplomas. Music was the grace in the midst of suffering[.]"

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    I know I am going to struggle writing this review because there is no way I have the talent to articulate how I feel about Elisa Lorello's memoir, Friends of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan. I also might be a little bit biased because, like Lorello, I grew up in a large family affected by divorce where I miraculously avoided less forgiving addictions and found acceptance and identity through music (let's not even get into the epically bad relationship, the fan fiction and the gay guys, mmmkay?). Through all the ups and downs, it has always been music that has kept me steady, no matter what life throws at me. But this isn't about me: this is about how Elisa Lorello's memoir transcends generation gaps and personal experiences to tell a story to which we can all relate through a medium we all know and love: music.

    From the first page, readers are acquainted with the vibrant and friendly writing of Elisa Lorello, who easily makes my short-list of favorite chick lit authors. There's just something about the way Lorello expresses herself in writing that is poignant yet relaxed, like you're listening to an intelligently witty friend tell a really great story. I happily read this entire book in one sitting because of her voice, pacing and of course, the emotional content.

    In Friends of Mine, Lorello tells her story: from her birth as a twin and the youngest of seven children, to her parents heartrending divorce; through her years as the ultimate Duran Duran super fan, and into adulthood where she endeavored through relationships and career decisions. What I found most striking about Lorello's story is that it's a story that resonates so profoundly through me because it was also partially my story, and probably yours, too. Lorello weaves together the experience of her reality with universal lessons of family, self-worth and identity easily accessible by readers across a broad spectrum. And she does all of this, of course, against the ever-present backdrop of Duran Duran, using the common experience of music to string up every thought and idea, like a beacon that guides our stories forward. (Too cheesy? Because I meant it sincerely!).

    In short: Elisa Lorello identifies music as the lifeblood, the core, the spirit, the backbone, of all of our stories, especially hers.

    Like I mentioned, I might be biased; after all, I was truly shocked to find out how much Elisa Lorello and I had in common, especially in terms of being super fans ("She doesn't even like John!" -ohh, I've been there before!). But I really think that people of all walks of life and experiences will connect with this book because of the value placed on music. Also, any book that references Sticky Hands and maintains the fading memory of Tower Records is a must-read for anyone who appreciates popular culture!

    Bottom Line: If music has been an active participant in your life, then this is a must-read (so basically everyone!). If you're a Gen-Xer, Duran Duran fan, super fan of anyone, or an awkward/formerly awkward teen girl in need of vindication, please buy this at once and keep it on the same shelf as your holy texts. 6/5 stars (can I do that? It's my blog and I just did!) 

    *Note that the print version has more pictures! I read the Kindle version, but I'll definitely be buying this in print!*

    I received a complimentary copy of this book to review, all opinions are 100% my own