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Running by Cara Hoffman: Book Review

Running

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: February 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Summary

Running brings together an ensemble of outsiders who get by as “runners”—hustlers who sell tourists on low-end accommodations for a small commission and a place to stay.

Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman who has fled a peculiar and traumatic upbringing in Washington State, takes up with a queer British couple, the poet Milo Rollack and Eton drop-out Jasper Lethe. Slipping in and out of homelessness, addiction, and under-the-table jobs, they create their own kind of family as they struggle to survive.

Goodreads

What I Liked

If you know me, you know that I read the summary of this book and jumped at the chance to read it. A cast of anti-hero characters in 1980s Athens? This book had me at ‘hello’! The story was so well-crafted and the poetic writing brought me directly into the setting. And honestly, I feel like the realism of the characters and the setting were my favourite things about reading this book.

As I began reading, I found it sort of hard to get into the book (because of my own reading slump, not because the writing was bad in any way), but once I started reading the dialogue written in Milo’s accent, or got a description of where the characters were, I got pulled right in. I think I read most of this book in one sitting – it was just very captivating.

And What I Didn’t

Like I said earlier, it took me a little bit of time to get into the book, so once I was finally drawn in, it took me some time to catch up. Otherwise, I didn’t really have anything I didn’t like about this book!

Recommend if…

  • You read the summary and went “this sounds right up my alley!”;
  • You enjoyed books like Trainspotting;
  • You want to read about anti-heroes and LGBT characters living in a place that isn’t North America (for once) (what, who said that).

Running is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Toronto Light Festival 2017

img_4608This long weekend, I headed downtown Toronto with my best friend and my sister to see the first Toronto Light Festival at the Distillery District to enjoy some beautiful art installments.

We got there at the perfect time, because the sun was just starting to go down. So we took a walk around and got a look at what the festival had to offer, while the sun was still up, and then stopped to grab a hot chocolate (which was actually delicious and totally worth the sort-of-ridiculous Distillery District pricing).  img_4599By the time we headed back to where we’d started our round, the sun had fully set and we were ready to see the art installments the way they were meant to be seen.

In hindsight, it probably wasn’t too smart to go on a weekend – the amount of people trying to file through the streets of the Distillery District was crazy. It was similar to the crowds at the Christmas Market in December. But people lined up decently to see the light pieces and it wasn’t as claustrophobic as I initially thought it would be.

img_4601The light installments themselves were incredible. They were beautiful and inspired art pieces, and I took my time enjoying them.
A couple of my favourites were the clearly ironic neon sign stating that “Nothing is so important that it needs to be made in six foot neon” (six-foot, no?), and the gorgeous angel pieces (pictured at the bottom of this post).

It was really just nice to walk around outside in the unseasonable warmth with a couple of my favourite people, enjoying the weather and taking in some of the inspiring art and culture in our city.

The TO Light Festival runs until March 12, so check it out if you have the chance!

Have you visited the TO Light Festival? What was your favourite installment?

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February Beauty Boxes: ipsy and Topbox

I got both of my beauty box subscriptions this week, and I am LOVING both of them. So let’s dive in and take a look at the products for my February Topxbox and ipsy glam bag!

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Topbox

This month’s Topbox featured a couple of lip products, and those are the ones I use most often, so that was nice. I’m looking forward to trying the Mettrum Originals Hemp Lip Balm, and I’ve already fallen in love with the Too Faced MELTED Liquified Long Wear Lipstick. I’m pretty picky with my shades of lipstick, and this one is perfect.

I’m also pretty excited to try out the Bella Aura Skincare Daily Repair Moisturizer, because I received a Bella Aura product in a previous bag, and quite liked it. And I’ve never used a product like the St. Tropica Hot Oil Treatment Botanically Infused Coconut Oil before, so one day when I’m feeling particularly experimental, I’ll give it a go.

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I love the way ipsy gets subscribers of their glam bag to review each item. It honestly makes the experience a lot better, because now that I’ve reviewed a few things, they give me more of what I actually like. So this month is my 4th bag, and I’m really happy with everything inside.

The NYX Professional Makeup Butter Lipstick (Ripe Berry) is such a smooth lipstick – although I wish I’d gotten the brighter shade of red. I’ll still wear this one because it’s a quality lipstick (NYX is my fave). I also use mascara on a daily basis and the Bellapierre Cosmetics Volumelash Waterproof Mascara I got this month is awesome!

I’m not a huge nail polish person, but I do enjoy painting my toes every once in a while, so the Trust Fund Beauty Nail Polish ($12 Latte) will come in handy when the snow melts and it’s sandal season again! And I’m also not huge into creams, but I do use facial scrub and eye cream, so I’m actually quite grateful to get the Organic Pharmacy Lip & Eye Cream and Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Daily Facial Scrub.

I’ve only had these bags for a couple days, and I’m already so excited to play around with these new products! Are you a fellow ipster? Subscribe to another beauty box? What are some of your favourite products you’ve received?

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February: Currently Reading

Guys, I am actually so excited to share with you the books I’m reading right now. Obviously not all of them at once, but I have quite the TBR pile building up, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not intimidated by the number of books sitting on my shelf (or on my “to-buy-ASAP” list). I’m actually so excited to read everything!

So here are books you can expect me to post reviews for in the next couple of months:

Running  Optimists Die First  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary  The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

The Gauntlet  When Dimple Met Rishi   One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter   Goodbye Days

  1. Running – Cara Hoffman
  2. Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen
  3. Confessions of a High School Disaster – Emma Chastain
  4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow – Susan Perabo
  5. The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  7. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul
  8. Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner

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Arkells Hamilton Homecoming w/ Frank Turner

I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of the Arkells homecoming show in Hamilton, but this concert was just as much about Frank Turner for me as it was the Arkells. So I’m going to talk about both acts equally, and hopefully I don’t ramble.

Arkells with Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
When: February 10, 2017
Where: FirstOntario Centre – Hamilton, ON
Seats: General Admission – Floor

THE COMPANY

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My boyfriend’s friend actually said he was looking for someone to go with him to this concert, and I jumped at the opportunity. I was checking out the tickets online for a while but knew no one would want to go with me, so I’d kind of accepted that. But getting to see Frank Turner in person? Heck yes! We’re both concert lovers, so it was awesome to share the experience with someone who fully appreciated it – and we ended up having a blast!

 

THE PERFORMANCE

img_4427This show was nothing short of ‘wow’.

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls were incredible, as I’d expected. Turner is a fantastic performer who was able to draw in the whole crowd – even people who probably had never heard of him and were only there for the Arkells. He got everyone singing along to almost every song, and I have had “Photosynthesis” stuck in my head for days (“I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up – and most of all I will not grow up!”). Of course, when he played “Four Simple Words”, I lost my flippin’ mind, and everyone was bopping along like crazy. Frank Turner was everything I hoped he would be, and more.

img_4451By the time the Arkells came on stage I was so hyped. I’m not super familiar with their music, but I know more songs than I thought I did! They were incredible, and you could tell the band was pumped to be back home, because they put every ounce of energy they had into every song. I was just really happy that they played all of my favourite songs. I got to bop to “11:11” and sway along to “My Heart’s Always Yours”, and dance like no one was watching during “Dirty Blonde”. Then they pulled everyone closer to the stage as they finished up the set with “Leather Jacket”. It’s been three days since the show, and I’m still on a concert high because it was so much freakin’ fun.

THE AUDIENCE

The crowd was definitely a huge part as to why this concert was incredible. It was the Arkells homecoming show. Everyone was so excited! The entire venue was PACKED full of people. I look at the photos and just can’t believe there were that many people behind where we stood.

Photo from @arkellsmusic Twitter

Photo from @arkellsmusic Twitter: HAMILTON. Couldn’t have dreamt this up better. Thank you for giving us the best damn view in the world.

Also, I’ve never had floor seats to a show like that before – in such a large venue. I’ve been to general admission venues before, but nothing like this. Standing on the floor vs. standing in the seats are definitely two different concert experiences, and I totally prefer the former. You just get pulled into the music, and you’re dancing with hundreds of other people, sharing this show together. It’s impossible not to get completely immersed in the moment – which I was.

And I needed to be immersed. I needed a night to forget the bad and celebrate the good and have a shit ton of fun with a cool human. It was just the right music at the right time in my life. I would see them again in a heartbeat.

COMPLETE SETLIST:

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls:

  1. I Still Believe ♥
  2. The Next Storm
  3. Photosynthesis ♥
  4. The Way I Tend to Be ♥
  5. Dan’s Song
  6. The Sand in the Gears
  7. Recovery ♥
  8. Get Better
  9. Four Simple Words ♥

Arkells:

  1. A Little Rain (A Song for Pete) ♥
  2. Michigan Left
  3. Come to Light ♥
  4. Ballad of Hugo Chavez
  5. Hung Up
  6. Passenger Seat
  7. Never Thought That This Would Happen ♥
  8. 11:11 ♥
  9. And Then Some ♥
  10. Oh, the Boss is Coming!
  11. Pullin’ Punches ♥
  12. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher (Jackie Wilson cover, with Frank Turner)
  13. I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover, with Frank Turner) ♥
  14. My Girl (The Temptations cover, with Frank Turner)
  15. Drake’s Dad
  16. Agent Zero ♥
  17. Kiss Cam ♥
  18. Savannah
  19. My Heart’s Always Yours ♥
  20. Book Club ♥
  21. On Paper
  22. Dirty Blonde ♥
  23. Private School (with Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls) ♥

Encore
24. Whistleblower
25. Cynical Bastards ♥
26. Leather Jacket ♥

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The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak: Book Review

The Impossible Fortress

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 304
Publish date: February 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Summary

The Impossible Fortress is about Billy Marvin, a 14-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s who is addicted to his Commodore 64. This game-coding kid and his friends discover that Playboy has released some scandalous photos of Wheel of Fortune‘s Vanna White, and they need to get their hands on a copy. The mission to buy a Playboy ends up getting a little bit out of hand, and in order to impress the guys, Billy has to steal a security code from the girl at the corner store by flirting with her. But when he learns about Mary’s mad game-coding skills and the two of them begin creating their own game, he starts to actually care about her.

What I Liked

I thought it was great how Rekulak was able to capture being a teenager in 1987 so perfectly. Billy and his friends were crude, made disgusting comments, casually bullied each other – and despite how uncomfortable it made me sometimes, it is very accurate to what it was like growing up at that time. Billy’s character felt very real to me.

I also really enjoyed reading about gaming and coding, because they’re two things I find really interesting. And while I may not be the best at either of them, I know enough to appreciate these hobbies, and it definitely kept me interested in the book.

and What I Didn’t

I honestly had a hard time staying interested in this book. If it weren’t for the plot involving Mary and the video game coding, I honestly would have put the book down. The main plot involving the group of boys trying to break into a store to steal and sell Playboys just wasn’t interesting to me – maybe because I couldn’t relate.

I was also sort of offended that this book was compared to Ready Player One when I was given a summary. That set my expectations pretty high and honestly, let me down a lot.

Recommend if…

  • You enjoy young adult books set in the 80s
  • You like reading about characters who love video games
  • You are looking for a new, light read

The Impossible Fortress is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Getaway Tour

I’ve got quite the list of 2017 concerts building up, so I’ve decided I’m going to write about them! And to me, concerts are about three things, so I’m going to focus on each of these aspects in my reviews: who I went with and the time we had, the band’s performance, and the feel of the audience.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway Tour
When: February 4, 2017
Where: Air Canada Centre – Toronto, ON
Seats: Balcony level, Row 13

The Company

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So I went to see the Chili Peppers with my dad. He’s a huge fan, and after struggling to get my hand on a pair of tickets in the presale, I knew he would probably appreciate them the most. And he did. We had a great time together! Even though we way up in the balcony of the Air Canada Centre, we had a great view of the stage and rocked out to the awesome show.

The Performance

Jack Irons and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were the opening acts for the Chili Peppers. Irons captivated the entire audience with his insane drum skills, and my dad and I left the show saying we wanted to buy a Trombone Shorty album – what a band! They had everyone on their feet dancing before the main act even came on.

But everyone was there for the Chili Peppers, and let me tell you, I don’t think anyone left disappointed. They were SO energetic and threw themselves into every song. There were moments between songs where the band just jammed for a bit, creating more of a build up than a lull, as they left the audience hanging on to hear the next hit. I was just incredibly happy to hear “By the Way” and “Snow”, and okay, I have had “Go Robot” stuck in my head since that night.

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And the show itself was so visually impressive. Even when they started playing a new song I didn’t know as well, the gorgeous light show that changed with every new tune was mesmerizing. The hanging lights did a wave and would dance over the audience in various colours and movements. I couldn’t look away.

The Audience

Like I said earlier: I had a hard time getting my hand on tickets in presale because they were selling like CRAZY. So you can imagine that everyone in the room was extremely stoked to be at the show. And they were. I have been at shows at the ACC where people in the balcony level stay seated and bop along to the band, and that upsets me because I enjoy dancing at shows. As soon as the Chili Peppers got on stage, everyone in the venue got to their feet and showed their enthusiasm.

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And it was great to hear the first few notes of “Give It Away”, or “Otherside”, and have the band almost get drowned out by the crowd of fans screaming the lyrics along. That’s probably my favourite moment at a show, and it happened a few times at this one.

It was probably one of my top 10 concerts, and if they ever come back, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to get more tickets.

Complete setlist:

  1. Intro Jam
  2. Around the World
  3. Otherside ♥
  4. Snow (Hey Oh) ♥
  5. Dark Necessities ♥
  6. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie ♥
  7. Right on Time
  8. Go Robot ♥
  9. Emit Remmus
  10. Sick Love
  11. I Like Dirt
  12. Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)
  13. The Getaway
  14. Soul to Squeeze ♥
  15. By the Way ♥

Encore
16. Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin – tease)
17. Goodbye Angels
18. Give It Away ♥

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Michelle Muses: January 2017

You know how this goes by now – here’s all the stuff I’ve been up to this past month!

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Mini-putt: Early in the new year, Luke and I went on a glow-in-the-dark mini-putt double date with our friends which was super fun! I haven’t gone in a while, and still managed to not suck.

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Skating: I went skating with a friend from work – another activity that I managed to not suck at. Which is quite surprising because I did the math, and I haven’t put on a pair of skates in 10 years. Crazy! But it’s sort of like riding a bike, and once I got on the ice, it took a couple laps of the rink before I was feeling more confident in my abilities!

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Couple-y stuff: Things with Luke have been going pretty awesome, and not to get too personal, but I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. We’ve been talking about future plans together and our anniversary is coming up; it’s just been making me Image result for heart eyes emojiImage result for heart eyes emojiImage result for heart eyes emoji a whole lot recently. Life is beginning! It’s getting exciting!

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Dinner date with bestie: I have a few besties, but it’s safe to say Sam is my oldest friend. I don’t have a lot of friends from elementary school, but me and Sam have always stuck together whether it be to play Pokemon at recess, or complain about adult life over a cup of coffee. But I haven’t seen him in forever, so finally getting to do a dinner at our favourite Toronto diner meant a lot. Also, we went shopping afterwards, and he introduced me to Lush Cosmetics – so safe to say my life is ruined now.

I feel like January was so busy, but not a lot “happened”. Well, I’m pretty stoked because February begins the fun stuff and I’ll have a couple of concerts and other fun activities to share with you in my next Michelle Muses!

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Winterlicious 2017: Insomnia Restaurant & Lounge

img_4324 When I was browsing through the restaurant list for Winterlicious 2017, I was looking for something trendy and brand new to me – someplace I haven’t been, or even seen in the city before. Glancing at the various restaurants, Insomnia was one of the ones that stood out, so my friend and I agreed to take a chance and make our reservations.

My first impression upon walking into the restaurant was that it was a really neat space. Mason jar candles on the tables and string lights on the ceiling lit the lounge, and the bar was just a gorgeous sight to see. I couldn’t wait to see if the food was as appealing as the atmosphere.

img_4328 Winterlicious menus typically only give you a few choices, so I’d decided on my dinner before I even got to the restaurant: Pulled Pork Tacos for an app (pictured above), Insomnia Burger and salad as my main (right), and the Chocolate Truffle Cake for dessert (below). Honestly, I’d thought I would get the sorbet instead of such a chocolate-heavy cake, but the drink I ordered (Purple Haze martini – SKYY vodka, blue curacao, melon liqueur, cranberry juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, grenadine, apple, lime) was pretty sweet and fruity, so I wanted something that would allow for a change of pace.

The burger was cooked well, although if I went back, I’d ask for it cooked a little less (I’m a medium-rare kind of girl). But it was really yummy! And the cake was exactly what I needed to finish off the meal. But the two best parts for me were the drink and the pulled pork tacos.

img_4329I’ve already decided that I want to go back to Insomnia, and when I do, I’m making the Purple Haze martini my regular drink. It is so deliciously fruity and tart, I loved it. I also fell so hard for the pulled pork tacos that I’d probably just go back and order a bunch of them for my meal instead of just one as a  teaser app. It was so delicious, I could have had three or four!

Overall, I was really impressed with the menu items and the relaxed yet trendy atmosphere at Insomnia. On our way out, both me and my friend agreed we’d have to go back at some point. I look forward to the day I’ll be able to visit again and have more of those freakin’ delicious tacos, or take a seat at the bar and enjoy a couple more Purple Haze martinis!

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The OA: Netflix Review

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Publish date: December 16, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

Guys I’m normally so behind on the times (no, I still haven’t watched Stranger Things). But I was immediately all up over this show. The first season is only eight episodes long, and every single one is jam-packed with quality storytelling.

The OA begins by introducing us to Prairie, a blind woman who has been missing for seven years, and when she finally returns to her parents’ home in her small town, they discover she is no longer blind. The entire series works to unravel what happened in those seven years, how she got her sight back, where she went, who had taken her… As she tells her story to a group of high school boys (and another familiar face), we also learn more about their lives and how Prairie’s story affects the way they choose to live.

I went into the first episode knowing nothing about the show except what’s revealed in the trailer (which is basically what I summed up for you just now). After the first episode, I had so many questions and I didn’t want to stop watching; not only does Prairie’s story make you want to learn more about the person who kept her captive, but it also raises questions you never expected to have, such as, “So is she like, magic, or have telekinetic powers or something?” Because it is apparent right away that Prairie is not normal.

I can’t even describe how much I love The OA in words, so I’m hoping this will do: The plotline is nothing like anything I’ve ever encountered in any other story before. The characters are all so beautifully rounded and dynamic. The way this show is shot is visually gorgeous. The emotions that were drawn out of me while watching it were so powerful.

Seeing how Prairie brought this unlikely group together, and the way her story created a bond between them made me feel so hopeful and happy, despite how weird and unsettling her story actually is in most parts.

If you haven’t watched it yet, just do yourself a favour. Be ready for some weird stuff, and get ready to have some confusing questions, but strap yourself in for the ride and I promise you’ll enjoy it.

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