NERVE Book vs. Movie Review

Good day fellow readers,

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This part week I have come to the decision that I need to pick up on my reading and decided that I would read one book a week for a year- that’s 52 books. As I am a usually fast reader (I can read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in about 6-7 hours) that this would be beneficial for my writing. So after going to the movies to watch Nerve I immediately wanted to read the book version because the books are always better.

Well, I am here to say that in this instance (also, in Rick Riordan’s case) that the movie was more impressive to me. For those who have not the book also hasseen nor read the book, please go out now and do so as it’s a fantastic story with a surprising plot.

Book review first- Vee is a junior outshone by her best friend, and after seeing her best friend Syd mack on her new crush she is more than a little mad and wanting to prove herself. She does a dare for a game online called Nerve that offers prizes after each. It’s a fast paced book that takes you through Vee’s dares and what all that entails.  However, the book focused mainly on the plot of Nerve rather than the characters which led to me seeing stereotypes and wishing for more depth. There is plenty of potential for romance between Vee and her partner, Ian, which definitely one of the main selling points of this book. The  question hanging over the reader’s head of whether or not Ian is who he says he is, and whether or not he’ll end up betraying her in the end. In the book it felt a little forced and I was still left wanting more.

The dares felt watered down after watching the movie, and the prizes didn’t feel good enough for what Vee and the other players had to do. Yet the premise!  This is something that could be a reality in a few years time. The internet is taking over, we already have gamer shows much like this and to combine the two into an online game as easy as truth or dare without the dare is brilliant. Jeanne Ryan, the author, used peer pressure as well as electronic information, which at times was hacked private information, to determine what would be a valuable prize to the contestants but to get into their heads.

As for the ending…There was a huge climax, but the last portion of the book ended quite anticlimactically. It wasn’t left up enough to the hype I was feeling throughout the last chapters of the book.

Jeanne Ryan constructed an interesting concept and was fairly well-written, especially for a debut novel.

The movie review- I watched the movie first and I ended up comparing a lot of things because of it. The dares has more thrill in the movie, the romance between Ian and Vee was super steamy, the twist at the end (albeit the book also has a slight twist) was more dramatic and I found myself at the edge of my seat. The movie keeps the fast pace and the main characters but it felt it related to the internet and actions that a senior in high school would take. Mind, the book was published in 2012 and that may have something to do with the impact it had on me as a reader.

I loved the production’s use of media showing the viewers a 360 view of the game as well as Vee’s perspective. Dave Franco and Emma Roberts did an amazing job at bringing chemistry to their characters and making the love story believable. The movie was even faster paced than the book with dares that made you cringe and backstory for Vee that made more sense to me.  The prize was money but it had more of a sense of realness to me to be money- a lot of money- then hand picking prizing like the author did.

The book was well-written and easy to follow but I was left wanting more. Dares that were a bit underwhelming, and the lack of character development brought the story down  for me but when the book ending took the story into the realm of ridiculous at the end with the weird room I knew the movie version was better.

I recommend the movie for entertainment and some should searching if you’re an avid internet user, and the book if you’re like me and just have to read the book version too.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

“We’ve learned an interesting rule about fame. Those who seem desperate for it are the people that others least want to see.”
― Jeanne RyanNerve

XO

-Brandy 

 

 

DIY Concrete Countertops

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After Photo

Howdy Readers,

Josh and I have been in the process of updating our house so that we can sell it all nice and pretty when the time comes. The list of projects seems to get longer with each look, however, we did finally finish the “roommate” bathroom upstairs (note: its a bathroom that only really gets use when we have roommates which at this time we do). Anyways, after all the painting and laying tile we wanted to do something to make the vanity look updated as well without having to break the bank.

As an avid Pinterest-er I found several DIY sites that talked about concrete countertops as an overlay for the counter that was already there, and bonus they weren’t expensive! If you have laminate or formica counters and want something to get you by for a couple years until you can splurge on stone, this is a really great option. The best part is it costs about $20 and it’s incredibly easy to tackle as a solo project!

As there are several concrete overlay tutorials floating around the web. I used searched on Pinterest to find the best ones (this one from  Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s body was my favorite, she also has an updated post for 18 months later). You might want to look around yourself and find a tutorial that works with your existing countertops, though the concept is pretty much the same across the board.

MATERIALS NEEDED FOR DIY VANITY WITH CONCRETE OVERLAY:

For the Ardex Feather Finish you can look on the Ardex website for local distributors, but it was easier for me to run into my local Home Depot and get Henry’s Feather Finish. It’s going to give the same results but it just depends if you want to wait on ships or whatnot. A 10-pound bag cost me only $15 and I needed about half a bag for my laundry room. So pretty cheap, right?

I used a small bucket to mix Henry’s finish and in small amounts! This stuff drys pretty quickly and if you don’t give yourself some time to spread the concrete on the countertop it will harden on you.

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Here you can see the old countertops (ek!) and the process starting. I sanded the counter first to get a rougher texture for the finish to have something to hold onto. In this case i used our electric sander for the wide counter spaces then switched to sand paper for the back edges and around the sink.

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Then we taped off the walls and the sink since those didn’t need the concrete finish. We used painters tape for this. We were also painting the bottom counter of this vanity at the same time.

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Then it was time to wipe it all down and lay the first coat. The feather finish says to use a 1 part water to 2 parts dry cement ratio when mixing smaller amounts, but I suggest only doing 1 cup water and 2 cups of dry cement per batch so that you can spread it all before it dries (any more and it tends to harden before you can use it). I also use hot water to keep the mixture for longer and found that it helped. I used a small and a wide putty knife as well as a large drywall trowel. It was nice to have a mixture of tools to work with since particular ones came in handy at different points in the job. Use the tools to spread a thin layer of concrete over the top of your countertop. It does kind of feel like you are icing a cake, but it also reminded me of using spackle to patch a hole in a wall-you use the same type of motion. Don’t worry about getting the whole surface covered on your first go, if you have a few areas that look thin, you’ll cover them with the second coat. You can see how thin my coat is in the photo.

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My second coat dried looking much thicker and then is the time I pulled out the sander and sand paper. The first coat wasn’t thick enough for me to sand, however, the second had some trowel marks and such.

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The back and bottom edges were the hardest part. Though, after i realized it was much like clay and I could mold it with my fingers I just started using them to spread the finish. Then sanded the excess off when it dried. It came off easily, and I would recommend a open window or something for when you’re sanding because it gets pretty dusty in there.  We wiped the counter with a damp sponge before each reciting of the finish.

Here’s a photo just after my third coat. It really started to even out and look like a countertop. We used a wet sponge after roughly 15 minutes after we laid the finish and molded it a little more to make it smooth and take of any lines that were left. It really made the difference and I would tell you to make sure to do this before letting it completely dry to get the smooth surface look you want.

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We removed the tape after the third coat and did some touch ups around the sink where the finish didn’t get to, and then a final fourth coat to make everything even. While we waited for this to dry we epoxied the sink for a bright finish on it and then waited for all of it to dry. We only waited 24 hours then  sanded it to how we liked. When you are happy with the coverage, you will want to do a final sanding of the entire vanity surface.  I did it by hand to ensure that I don’t remove too much of the concrete, particularly on the edges and corners.  But again, if you have significant imperfections, you may need to break out the electric sander. We left some spots rougher to keep the concrete look but you can sand it as smooth as you’d like. Then we wiped down the counter with a damp sponge to lay the sealer.

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The last step is to apply a sealer.  I recommend using a water based acrylic concrete sealer in satin finish {this is the exact sealer we used: Quikrete 873002 Concrete Cure And Seal Satin Finish}.  It gives your concrete a nice, smooth finish with a slight sheen.  It also darkens the concrete up a bit, which I like.  When you apply the sealer, it will have a milky appearance.  Don’t worry, it dries clear.  Follow the directions carefully–do not apply the sealer too thick and/or leave puddles.  Also be sure to smooth out any air bubbles.  I applied two coats. I showed a photo here which looks like bubbles but it is smooth. This shows you what it will look like before it’s dried.

On the actual counter bottom and doors we uses poly instead of the concrete sealer.

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Not bubbles but this may appear. They will dry flat and will not show.

We waited over night to paint on the second coat of sealer and then gave it three days (this was actually for the epoxy to dry but we figured we could wait for the counter too).

We then went back in and added the new faucet and doors to he counter and here is the final product.

The surface is completely smooth  with no bubbles or nicks or anything, and stands up to water. I took the photo below just to show you guys how the water just sits on the countertop and wipes off easily.

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The sealer did darken the feather finish a bit but I like it better this way. It might be a rather physically demanding project but it is totally worth it. I am impressed who nice it turned out and will be using this on the rest of my bathroom counters!  Any one think they’ll be trying it  anytime soon?

Note: Some of the tutorials do use this DIY project on kitchen counters so it might be worth trying in your kitchen. Here are a few more tutorials that I compared information from before I started.  A Beautiful Mess and A Little Green Notebook both have concrete countertops for the kitchen and laundry room.

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” -Jane Austen

XO,

-Brandy

A Peculiar Book Review Indeed

Hello my fellow book enthusiast,

Last week I went to the movies and got to enjoy the previews (who doesn’t love a good preview?) Which in my opinion is the only time that everyone gets to be a critic… Anyways, the movie for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children came up, and looked wonderful. SO like I do every time I see a good movie coming out I search for it’s book counter part because we all know the book is always better. 

I got the first one…

cover225x225 I must say when I pick it up at Barnes and Noble I was worried it would be a haunting thriller or something and usually that’s not my cup of tea. Readers, do no let the cover fool you!  Instead, this book is fantasy/adventure combined with a very unique style of photography, which made the book better than I ever thought it would be.

First off the story – Jacob Portman(main man numero uno) desires an adventurous life, much like the life his grandfather describes to him in various stories as he was a kid( cause who doesn’t love the stories we are told as kids?). However, when Jacob realizes that he can never have an adventurous life(reality check at 16, impressive), he just tries to be normal and fit in(dull dull dull). He’s not popular or extremely smart, and there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about him at all; but when his grandfather dies and leaves Jacob a cryptic message, Jacob is sent on a hunt to find his grandfather’s past and ends up traveling all the way to Wales(with his semi- rude father). Once there, Jacob discovers much more than he ever could have imagined about his grandfather and is thrown into the midst of a very peculiar situation(ha see what I did there?).

Ransom Riggs reminded me very much of Lemony Snicket. In fact, this entire book series reminded me very much of Mr. Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books not that he stole his style just the quirk and banter that Snicket has, Rigg’s also did. I loved it. Riggs also did superb job at explaining the detail of everything in the story. Even without the occasional photographs of people and things in the story, I was able to visualize the locations and details because of the fantastic descriptions.
Now, as for the photographs, they added a whole new dimension to the story. They didn’t turn the novel into a picture book or something else that we normally associate with children; rather, they added a new level of immersion to the story, with the reader being almost able to see exactly what Jacob is seeing as he looks at the many photographs scattered throughout. Take the front cover for instance. After finishing the book, I also read the back interviews where Riggs explains his inspiration for the photos and it really added another level to the photos for me. It is an amazing way to be different as an author.

I quickly finished the book and ran back to the store for the next one…

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It was good. We learn more of the Hallows, and end up in a war zone and I liked the plot ideas along with the characters. Though the pace felt medium to me which slowed things down for me. There were some parts I felt Riggs wanted to use a photo and made the story fit with the photo, and I don’t know that it worked in some parts.

The “lovebirds” (i.e. main characters) seemed odd. Mind, this is a book of odd things. I mean with the background that went along with it…odd.

But Riggs manage to pull on over on his readers with the twist at the end and leave us hanging once more, and I once again had to read the next one. Any one else happy when you read a series and you have all of them at your disposal? No having to wait nine months for the next one? Anyways…

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Oh man, was I pumped for this one! Just look at the title! Library of Souls?!

We pick up exactly where we left off and Jacob and Emma are left to hunt and search the London the side streets which held familiar sights that were welcoming while also holding the potential for danger. Eventually, Jacob and his crew meet Sharon, a peculiar Peculiar who would take them through a loop to The Devil’s Acre, “the most retched slum of Victorian England,” where their friends were taken. Share may well be one of my favorite characters in the series. Anyways Devil’s Acre (neat name) is the location of many addicted, conniving, thieving, untrustworthy Peculiars who could not “fit in” anywhere else. It is the stuff of nightmares, its mysteries dark and plentiful and its intent is deception – all-in-all the perfect location for the final show down of “good” and “evil.” In that final confrontation the young Jacob learns the power of wounds and the reality that some wounds never heal because the one harmed chooses to hold onto the injury.

The last twenty-five or so pages may be the best writing of the series. The story is brought full-circle finding Jacob back where he started. The dangers he now faces, in many ways, are the most perilous of all. His definitions of “trust,” “love,” “protection” are challenged beyond comfortable limits by those who had the responsibility to teach him those concepts and protect him by their use. The book ends with “closure” but that doesn’t stop Mr. Riggs from leaving some questions unanswered.

I would say overall it was a great trilogy, a fascinating, one-of-a-kind story. Complete with time loops, hallows, and strange yet talented children. Good versus evil is a battle that everyone can enjoy. However, it’s not your average YA novel. And honestly, I loved  how Riggs ended his last sentence- WE HAVE TIME. Perfect.

“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”
― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Please let me know if you liked the series!

Ta- ta for now,

-Brandy

FirstLife Book Review

Hello my fellow readers, 

So I recently visited my mother in Georgia and on the plane over I read the book  Firstlife by Gina Showalter.

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Since it has been awhile from my last post I thought it might be a good idea to give some thoughts. The book is about the life you live now is just a Firstlife and during it you make a choice as to where to spend your Everlife: Troika or Myriad. Think of them being different like Mother Teresa and Scarlett Johansson. If you don’t make a decision before your death and are unsigned you go to the Realm of Many Ends, a nasty place of bad things.  In the book we follow Ten,  an unsigned seventeen year old girl who has spent the last year and change imprisoned in an asylum subjected to all forms of torture and persuasion at the request of her parents, whom hope to make her choose their way. These  two “afterlife” realms are at war and both want Ten, she is something special to them both and could sway the war in either direction.

Just a quick side note- that’s a pretty interesting idea. Showalter has taken the idea of Heaven and Hell and put it into terms that not only religious people can understand but those who don’t believe in religion. Who doesn’t want something after this life? And if you had the choice? Would you choose to be with family or go your own way? Showalter gives a reader a lot to consider.

I found both Troika and Myriad have their pros and cons and Showalter did a good job of showing the reader throughout the book. I enjoyed the little tidbits of communication from Ten’s Laborers, which are like recruiters for each realm. Killian and Archer had me at odds who would win Ten over. Especially due to Archer’s womanly aspects in the beginning. That was a nice twist.  I did find myself surprised at some of the aspects and people for both realms and I myself had a hard time choosing. Of course, Ten is indecisive and it does slow the book down a little but I didn’t think it took too much away from the story.

Show alter is a pretty new writer and as one there are bound to be some awkward wordage. Overall, I found it an easy read and flew through the story. Her characters were funny and relatable as well as smoking hot (hem Killian…er Archer) and by the end I was left wanting to know more. In my opinion, that’s a mark of a good storyteller.  I am excited for to see what comes next in Lifeblood.

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

Let me know your thoughts on the Firstlife.

Til next time!

-Brandy

 

Create More Conflict

Hey Readers,

I’m in the throws of editing and find that I have been easy on my characters! So I thought I might chat with you and see if anyone else has this problem when they write. *Looks for hands* Anyone? Well, I thought I could list the seven things I do to make sure my characters are entwined in enough conflict to stay juicy.

  1. Give your protagonist two motives. Then, they must sacrifice one to achieve the other.
  2.  Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
  3. Your characters’ flaws should be a barrier in achieving  their motive.
  4. Put drawbacks on all magical or scientific objects. Let these drawbacks affect your character negatively.
  5. Let the decisions your characters make be the direct cause of conflict, even if they believed their decision would be beneficial.
  6. Your characters should be wrong every now and then.
  7. When faced with two choices, both should have positive and negative consequences.

 

Hopefully, the list helps you like it helps me. Comment and tell me your conflict tips!

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

-Thomas Paine

 

-Brandy 

 

Master Outline for Your Story

Hiya Fellow Readers!

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I have been working for longer than I would like to admit on my second draft of my novel, which is currently untitled.  I have been searching for beta readers for awhile now and I actually have more people asking me how I’ve gotten past the first draft than anything else. Well, you write. I know, I know super obvious, right? That seems to be the hardest thing for people to do. The first draft go a novel is like vomit writing for me. It’s ideas and feelings I had and I was scribbling down words faster than I could come up with them.

After taking some time away from it when it was finished, I came back and reread it. Awful, doesn’t quiet cover it. My ideas had morphed and my plot had changed. My characters grew without me, and the words on the page were still the child-like version. Draft two has been harder than actually writing the first one. The gritty details and plot holes are being hashed out as we speak, but I felt that I should share some of the things I have come across to help me along.

betternovelproject.com is just one of the many writing blogs that I follow. In this case, since I’m pushing through my second draft it’s one that I go to often for the master outline template. Now I personally wouldn’t use it before i got to this point but I think it’s important to share. Christine, the author of the blog thebetternovelproject.com deconstructs bestselling novels, and she is unbelievably helpful. Below I posted the master outline I follow. I don’t do everything or add everything to my own work but I do think she has a good view of popular novels and what they need to not only survive but thrive.

BEGIN “DREARY HOMELAND” FOR CHAPTERS 1 THROUGH 4.5 (the average separation period occupies the first 21% of the example novels)

BEGIN “AWFUL-AWESOME LAND” FROM CHAPTER 4.5 TO 19.5 (the average initiation period occupies the middle 71% of the example novels)

BEGIN “HOMEWARD BOUND” SECTION FROM CHAPTER 19.5 UNTIL THE END (the average return period occupies 8% of the end of the example novels.  The length of endings have the largest variation: Harry Potter’s ending = 3% of the novel, Twilight’s ending = 15% of the novel, and The Hunger Games = 7% of the novel)

 

I didn’t remove her hyperlinks in hopes you click on one and are whisked off to her amazing blog. betternovelproject.com is an outlet that any aspiring writer can use.

 

“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.”

–Author Unknown

 

Let me know if you liked her blog! And please comment below so I know if the master outline helped you too.

 

-Brandy

Truthwitch- My Book Review

Hell-O  Fellow Readers,

I give that intro since I am creating a few book reviews today. Happy Easter for those who celebrate- I sat on my couch and spent the day reading. It was great who those of us who do not have little babies running around. Anyways….. Don’t worry this review has no spoilers.

Truthwitch: A Witchlands Novel by Susan Dennard

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I thought the story was well written but I found the main characters a little frustrating, and the beginning slightly hard to get into. The two lead young women seemed very capable but their decision making seemed questionable. I believe the author was trying to show character growth as the consequences of actions were revealed. However the growth happened so quickly that it felt a bit forced.

I enjoyed the action. There was lots of fighting with and without magic. It felt like everyone in the world had a stake in the lives of these two friends which shows up in the decent world building. There was a lot of intrigue and some surprises. The POV is told from four people and at points it can be hard to decipher which is which. On a personal note, I dislike books that have everything in the whole world going wrong and basically throwing every possible doom and gloom thing at the main character only to have some type of minor success at the end, which is just enough to get you to read the next book. I find that type of story tiring and depressing.

This book managed to bypass that pitfall mostly by having minor victories along the way and making sure that there was some support for the main characters. There were moments of joy and optimism throughout the story. Overall, I thought the book was better than decent. It had unique fantastical concepts and creatures, the plot consists of a lot action and adventure, and the dialogue was witty. It has made me curious about Dennard’s other books that are popular among YA readers like myself. I can say that I am intrigued by Truthwitch. Definitely good enough to read the next book when it’s released.

As a side note, this review is my opinion and not to be held to any sort of standard. You could read it and hate it or love it more. I’m merely sharing my thoughts, and those are to urge you to give it a try.

“No two persons ever read the same book.”

–Edmund Wilson

Ta-Ta for now,

-Brandy 

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