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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January Beauty Boxes: ipsy and Topbox

Instead of having separate beauty subscription posts, I’m going to start blending them into one.

So first up, let’s take a look at my ipsy January glam bag!

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This month’s glam bag was pretty great actually. Sometimes I’m worried that I won’t use a lot of what’s in the bag, or it’ll be a toss-up, but I’ll probably be able to use most of these products. As someone who is learning guitar, I can’t ever keep my nails long. But I do like to try and make them appear pretty with top coat. So the Ciaté London Gelology Top Coat is not going to go to waste. I’ve also really been enjoying the Rimmel London Lip Conditioning Balm by Kate Moss, which is super smooth, and the Naked Cosmetics Mica Pigment in Desert Sunset #02 has been a great eyeshadow for me.

I’m going to try to experiment and use theBalm Cosmetics Bahama Mama as an eyebrow filler, because that’s the only way I’d see myself using it. But that would get a lot of use for me. The only product I don’t think I’ll use is the Manna Kadar Cosmetics Paradise Blush, because my face is already really red and if anything, I try to appear paler. So I stay away from blushes.
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Next up is my January Topbox. I was a little iffy about Topbox after last month, when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever use anything in that bag, but this month rectified my love of the subscription.

The first thing I noticed was the complimentary Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water & Makeup Remover, which was awesome. I also got very excited about the Voesh New York Pedi Mud Masque in Olive Sensation, which I tried the other day and loved. I’ve never used a masque product before, so it was definitely fun to dip my toes into that (pun sort of intended). And also, I happily added the Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat to my collection.

Serum and skin products really make me wary, because I believe you’d have to use a lot of them to see a difference, if they work at all. I honestly believe a lot of them are just goop you put on your face and hope for the result you’re looking for. So I’ve tried the Darphin Intral Redness Relief Soothing Serum once, because redness is an issue for me, but I’m wondering if I’ll ever see an effect.

Also I got the exact same Manna Kadar blush as I’d got in my ipsy glam bag. And… I still don’t use blush, so I’ll donate these to a friend or something.

But overall my January beauty subscriptions made me really happy, and I’m excited to see what February has in store!

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The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins: Book Review

The You I've Never Known

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 608
Publish date: January 24, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

I am a huge Ellen Hopkins fan. I loved the Crank series, and Identical is probably one of my favourite books ever. So when I heard she had a new book coming out, of course I had to read it. As soon as I opened it, I fell straight into Hopkins’s wonderful writing style and found it hard to put the book down.

The You I’ve Never Known tells two stories: The first is about Ariel, a girl who has grown up jumping home to home with her fairly abusive dad, staying with whichever of his latest women will keep them for a few months. When they finally settle in with a woman who looks like she could be something special, Ariel allows herself to make new friends, and falls for her best friend, Monica. The second story is about a girl named Maya who got pregnant when she was sixteen and got kicked out of her house by her Scientologist mother. Luckily, her soldier boyfriend proposed to her and they started a life  together.

As I will say again and again in Hopkins reviews, I love her writing style. It is very literally poetic. Not only is it a unique way to write a novel, but it also makes me as a reader feel better about reading 600 pages when I can fly through 150 of them easily in an hour. I also really enjoyed how the theme of the book really wrapped into the title, “The You I’ve Never Known” being a side to people you never expected to see – a large part in the case of Ariel, as she questions her sexual identity as bi and the validity of liking different things about different people at the same time. I really liked the way Hopkins portrayed Ariel and this internal struggle, because it felt very real, as something I have gone through before.

But this book didn’t get a perfect 5 stars from me, and here’s why: every Ellen Hopkins book that I’ve loved has a great twist. I love spending the entire book trying to figure out what it’s going to be. But the summary on the back of the book sort of gives it away. Luckily I didn’t read that far into it and just jumped into the book knowing nothing, but I read it afterwards and could see how that would ruin the story a little bit. Also, once I figured out the twist ending and it was revealed to me, there was another 200 pages to sift through. I understand it was important to not just end at the twist and have that development of the aftermath, but it could have been condensed a lot.

Overall, the book still earned 4/5 stars from me, and if you’re a fan of Hopkins or want to read a YA book that’s a little twisted, I highly recommend you don’t miss out on The You I’ve Never Known.

The You I’ve Never Known is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Portal 2: Game Review

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Publish date: April 19, 2011
Rating: ★★★★★

Let me be frank with you guys. Portal 2 is the first video game I’ve played from beginning to end. I’ve seen some gameplay before, and I knew I liked the post-apocalyptic storyline, so I figured I’d give it a go. I finished it maybe a couple of months ago, and I’m already itching to play it again.

Portal 2, for those who aren’t already familiar with the series, is a puzzle game. You’re a test subject in a scientific lab setting who has to perform tests using portal guns that allow you enter one portal and come out of another on the other side of the room. You’ve got a friendly robot, Wheatley, who’s trying to help you escape, and returning enemies from the first Portal, who will make you chuckle uneasily.

It’s a great game for beginner gamers like myself, who are still getting used to the controls, because there are no do-or-die moments. You have time to contemplate puzzles and get used to “thinking in portals”. Sometimes the puzzles can be frustrating, but once you get used to what you can do with a couple of portal guns, it gets fairly straightforward.

The storyline and characters are what makes this one of my favourite pieces of media. The test centre has been out of use for, who knows how long, and you’ve been under for quite some time, making everything just a little bit eerie. The characterization and dialogue we get from both Wheatley and GLaDOS is unsettling, satirical, and pretty hilarious; I found myself laughing out loud through most of the cut scenes.

The fun addition to the game in Portal 2 is that it includes a co-op campaign – although I haven’t played through that one yet.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi, satire, puzzles, and portals, I highly suggest you play Portal 2. I loved every minute of it.

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The Strays by Emily Bitto: Book Review

The Strays
Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 290
Publish date: January 3, 2017
Rating: ★★★

I picked up this book because it sounded very interesting to me – modern artists in 1930s Australia? I was curious to see what the characters in this book would be like, and how my love of art and the bohemian-esque lifestyle would tie in.

The Strays is told from the perspective of young Lily, who explains how she got extremely wrapped up in her best friend, Eva, whose parents were modern artists at the time. When Lily’s parents are going through a hard time, they send Lily to stay with Eva’s family for an extended period and through this, we glean what Eva’s parents’ lives are like – and the lives of their friends who have also come to live with them.

For me, the positives and negatives of this book sort of weigh equally, so I’ll start with the positives. I loved the writing style. Bitto captures the world of Eva and her artistic family very well. She “paints the picture” very vividly – pun not entirely intended – of Eva and Lily’s friendship, of Eva’s father’s career, and of all of their artist friends’ lifestyle that includes lots of drugs, alcohol, and living for their work. There were parts of this book that really captured my attention – mostly ones that included Eva and Lily spending time with Eva’s sisters, or the parts that illustrated the problematic relationship between the girls and their mother.

On the negative side, I found the protagonist to be really lacking. Lily just seems like an empty vessel through which Eva and her family’s story gets to be told. She doesn’t really seem to have a personality of her own. So when the story starts to develop and show how this artist life has affected them all differently as they grew up, I didn’t really care how it affected Lily at all.

On the whole, I did enjoy reading the book, but I definitely enjoyed reading the sections about Eva and her sisters more than I did about Lily and her family. If the summary sounded at all interesting to you, I recommend you give it a go. It’s not even 300 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read.

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

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Additions to My Game Library

Since the last time I wrote about video games, I’ve purchased a few more for my shelf and actually finished a couple of them! I’ll post some full reviews soon, but here are the games that I’ve added to my library.

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I’ve been a fan of the Guitar Hero series since I had Guitar Hero 1-3 on my PS2. It was a staple in my high school gaming experience. Well, I decided to put some of my Christmas money towards adding the party edition of Guitar Hero Live to my library. And I love it. I like the real people in the play-through, making me feel way more epic than just pressing buttons in my bedroom. I also love the idea of TV mode, where you can play whatever songs come up on  various channels – keeping the game interesting far after you complete all the setlists.

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Rayman was another huge one in my childhood – played this one on my N64. So I was really excited to pick up a copy of Rayman Legends. I’ve played a couple of levels so far, and am definitely way more interested in the regular platforming levels as opposed to the auto-scrolling levels. It’s given me a reason to put this game down for now, but I will for sure come back to it!

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STICK. OF. TRUTH. I am such a fan of South Park, and had really no idea what I was getting into with this game. I wasn’t sure what to expect. And honestly, that’s the best way to go in. I finished it within a couple of days – and I mean finished as in, I collected everything and didn’t just rush through. I’ll write a more complete review later, but this game was AWESOME. I’m definitely going to replay it sometime soon, and if you’re a fan of South Park, I recommend you give it a go.

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I’d never heard of Rocksmith before my boyfriend mentioned it, but I’m so glad he did. I took guitar lessons through high school but haven’t really tried to progress since then, and have been losing my ability to play. Kind of stuck at the “simple chords” level. I’ve played this game a couple days in a row, and it’s incredible. You plug in an electric guitar and it teaches you how to play. There are technique lessons, games to strengthen your skills, lessons how to play specific songs, leveling up as you get better and leveling down if you’re having troubles – it’s so helpful and has turned teaching myself how to play into less of a chore! I love it.

Have you played any of these? What are some of your favourite games that I should add to my library?

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