December 9, 2016

FOF Book Club: Geist


For October's book club, we read Geist (Book of the Order, #1) by Philippa Ballantine. Here's what I thought!

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Geist (Book of the Order #1)
by Philippa Ballantine
pub 9/29/10 by Ace
Adult - Fantasy
Geist was high fantasy and paranormal rolled into one and I personally haven't come across that combination often, if at all. It was simultaneously awesome but also kind of rough in the beginning to get my bearings. We're thrown into a world where the Order of the Deacons protect the kingdom against geists which can possess humans (think Exorcist) but can also manifest corporeally. If it sounds like a lot to take in, it is. There are different types of deacons and different kinds of geists but what's clear is that the author has created a unique, vast world I wanted to learn more of.

The most powerful deacon in the Order is Sorcha and she finds herself saddled with a new partner Merrick, a novice Deacon. Together they've been sent to an isolated village aide their fellow brethren against violent geist activity. And not that this should surprise anyone, but nothing is as it seems. There's political intrigue, magic and deceit. Once the book found its stride (aka I got most of the details straightened out), I was hooked. While Sorcha is your typical badass fantasy heroine, she's also multi-faceted. She struggles between what she's been taught and what she sees on the mission. Then she struggles even further when she and her partner meet Raed Rossin, a man considered to be a Pretender to the throne and the bearer of a terrible curse. Her training tells her to hate him but their chemistry says otherwise. (Ship alert!)

Overall, I was impressed with the first book in the series and I'm definitely planning to continue it.

Book Club Questions
For every series we read, we'll be answering the same three questions at the end of our mini-reviews.

Favorite book | Since I've only read one, the answer is Geist.
Favorite character | Sorcha, followed closely by Raed.
Would you read more from this author? | Yes! I already have the second book out from the library.

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For those of you who read the series with us, 
what did you think?

Also, make sure to check out Alexa's thoughts on the series!


December 7, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Velvet Hours + Alterations


pub 9/6/16 by Berkley
Adult - Historical Fiction
Received from Tandem Literary
The Velvet Hours was inspired by the real discovery of an abandoned Parisian apartment. Alyson Richmond takes facts, theories and her own imagination and gives it a spin that truly intrigued me from start to finish. It's told between two perspectives, in two different times. There's the present with Solange Beaugiron, a young woman living in Paris when Europe is on the brink of war. She starts to regularly visit her grandmother, Marthe de Florian, who shares the details of her life with Solange. Marthe is the other perspective and we get to see first-hand what her life was like as a sophisticated courtesan. Both women are fascinating and different. Marthe blazed her own path and while it's one most people may not be quick to boast of, she owns her life and every decision she's made with intelligence, poise and flair. In comparison, Solange lives more quietly but no less passionately. She's curious, smart and an aspiring writer. We learn each of their dreams, heartaches and romances. But most of all, I loved their relationship. That bond between grandmother and granddaughter is very close to my heart and that's probably what stuck with me the most.

Do I recommend? Yes! If you love reading Paris, history and family, I would recommend checking this out.

pub 12/6/16 by Bloomsbury Spark
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received from pub via Netgalley
I can't resist a book based on Audrey Hepburn or any of her movies so when I found out that Alterations was a retelling of Sabrina, I had to read it. It's a modern take in which aspiring-chef "Sabrina" is now fashionista Amelia Blanco. When her grandmother enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship, it means two things things: incredible opportunities and a chance to "get over" Ethan Laurenti. Her family lives on their estate as employees but Amelia has always hoped he'd be her boyfriend one day. Luckily, this internship is exactly what she needs. We get to see her meet people with similar interests and watch her come into her own style. I actually wish more time had been spent at fashion school. We kind of breeze through her classes and the transition between days felt jarring at times. Honestly, before I knew it we were back in Miami and while Amelia is certainly more confident, she goes back to mooning over Ethan. Until she agrees to help Ethan's awkward but geeky-cute brother Liam create a fashion app. It's when Amelia and Liam's friendship blossoms that I felt a bit more invested in the book. Still, I knew how the story would go (having seen the movie) and I didn't mind that at all but, I did feel like something was missing. It was cute enough but I just felt like there were a lot of missed chances to give Amelia's character more substance, not to mention learn more about her family and friends and even the Laurentis themselves.

Do I recommend? It was okay. I didn't dislike it but I didn't quite like it either.

December 5, 2016

Must Have Apps: Productivity & Travel


When Sunrise, my go-to calendar app for years, shut down over the summer, I knew I had to find a new one. Luckily I did (which I'll share in a minute!) but I ended up re-evaluating a bunch of my go-to apps to see if there were other better options. Turns out the answer was yes! I wanted to focus mainly on productivity and travel because aside from the usual social media stuff, those are the apps I use the most.

Timepage by Moleskine (calendar)
I tried five different calendar apps and not a single one stuck. (Note: Google Calendar is actually another great option but I use it specifically for work.) Then I found Timepage! It has a beautiful interface that displays a week and month view seamlessly plus there's a ton of options to make it your own.

Bear (notes)
I loved Simplenote for years but the lack of functionality started to bug me. Why couldn't I bold text? Or add a link? I wanted something in between Simplenote and Evernote (which I've never liked) and found Bear. It's got the best of both worlds and the design is great.

Deliveries (package tracker)
I used to use Slice which I always found clunky but I didn't see any other options so I stopped looking. Then my coworker told me about Deliveries and I've been using it ever since. It's a bit more manual because you have to add each package you want tracked but it's got a great interface and overall works much better.

Wunderlist (lists)
I made the switch to Wunderlist a while ago when I realized having notes and to-dos in ten different places wasn't working. I still love it and haven't found anything else comparable. I even started putting reminders in there (instead of using the Apple Reminders app). Plus I like that I can collaborate on lists too.

Penny (budget)
Again, I've tried a bunch of apps for this like Minted, Spendbook and Wally but they all felt like too much work. Penny is really simple and while I was skeptical of linking my accounts, it's actually great. It shows me my spending habits on a daily/week/monthly basis, reminds me of upcoming bills and I can get a quick view of all my accounts.

GoodReads (books)
Do I even need to explain? The app has come a long way and while there are still improvements to be made (can we please be able to see quotes?), it'll probably always be my go to for looking up books and tracking my reading.

Hopper (airfare predictions)
Even though I look at different sites for prices, Hopper is what I use to watch flights for specific trips I'm planning. As we speak I'm watching three right now! I pretty much just wait for the app to tell me "buy now" and I've definitely saved money since using it.

Flightview (flight tracker)
This is such an ugly app but man oh man is it useful. When I had to travel a lot at my previous job, I wanted a way to track my flights: what gate, was it on time or delayed, what terminal would I land in. This has it all! Since then, I never travel without adding my flights on here the night before. I did try to find a nicer looking app to replace it but nothing worked quite as well.

Airbnb (homestay)
If you haven't tried Airbnb yet while traveling, I can't recommend it enough. After I used it two years ago for San Francisco, I've booked Airbnb instead of a hotel on almost every trip since. Obviously you have to be careful about your selections but I've had nothing but good experiences and you save so much money!

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What are your must have apps for productivity and travel?