30 December 2011

BOOK REVIEW - The Rivals by Daisy Whitney

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.

The Rivals is the sequel to Daisy Whitney's debut novel The Mockingbirds, which was released last year.  I received an ARC of The Rivals for review.  The Rivals will be released on February 6, 2012.

The Rivals picks up at the beginning of the new school year after The Mockingbirds ended.  This year, Alex is in charge of the Mockingbirds.  Right as the school year begins, she is confronted with a case that is different from anything the Mockingbirds have handled before- an alleged drug ring that students are using to cheat.  Throughout the book, Alex must confront both friends and enemies, decide who is being truthful and who has been lying to her, and come to terms with her role in the Mockingbirds as well as her standing with her friends.  Alex is more mature in The Rivals, and I felt as though her decision-making in this book was more rational and less emotional than in The Mockingbirds.  Of course, being as this book takes place in high school, there is still a touch of romance, friendship problems, and growing pains.

Overall I was very pleased with The Rivals.  The characters grew well in the aftermath of the events from The Mockingbirds, new characters were introduced, and new layers were added to returning characters- even some more minor ones, such Ms. Damata, the music teacher, which added depth to the plot.

Daisy Whitney deals with difficult issues in her books, but in a way that is approachable to young adult readers.  In fact, I think the real lesson in The Rivals has less to do with the surface "don't use drugs" issue, and more about how to make informed decisions with the information presented to you and how to deal with the aftermath of choices you make.

I would highly recommend reading The Rivals (and The Mockingbirds, if you haven't read that)!  Whether you're a YA reader or not, these books have a lot to offer.

FTC Disclaimer:  I received an advance readers copy (ARC) of The Rivals for review from Hip Scouts, a program of LB-Teens and Hachette Book Group.  All opinions expressed are my own.

28 December 2011

Purex Triple Action Laundry Detergent

I received the new Purex Triple Action laundry detergent for review from Purex Insiders.  This is the first time I have ever used Purex brand laundry detergent, as my parents have used Tide for as long as I can remember.  However, I am always open to trying new brands of products, so I welcomed the opportunity to sample Purex's new detergent.

I was not at all disappointed!  In fact, I felt as though the Purex Triple Action freshened my clothes better than any detergent I have used in the past.  Oftentimes, I find that my laundry is "clean", but still smells bad even after washing it.  Some of that probably has to do with the fact that I wash my clothes in a dorm laundry room using really old machines.  But, my clothes smelled clean after washing them with Purex Triple Action in the dorm washing machines!  I sampled the Mountain Breeze scent.  It wasn't overpowering at all- my clothes smelled fresh, but not "perfumey" in a way that would clash with the scents I wear as makeup.  My usual laundry detergent is unscented, but I found that I actually prefer the scented Purex detergent.

Here's what Purex says about their Triple Action detergent:
"New Purex Triple Action leverages the best parts of our current formula, combined with new additions, to deliver great cleaning plus improved brightening power... Like all of our current detergents, new Purex Triple Action has been specifically formulated to work in both traditional and High Efficiency (HE) washers."
Overall, I was very happy with my experience using Purex Triple Action.  I will definitely continue using it, because it leaves my clothes smelling clean and looking great!

FTC Disclaimer:  Purex provided me a free sample of their new Triple Action laundry detergent in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

15 December 2011

Holiday Cards from Shutterfly

Shutterfly has a fantastic collection of holiday cards this year!  For the past couple of years, I have ordered my holiday cards from Shutterfly, partly because they have a huge selection of designs, and partly because I always seem to have a promo code for the Shutterfly website.  When you combine those two, it only makes sense to order from there!  Below you can see the holiday card that I will be sending out this year~ how adorable! :)  I can't wait until my friends and family see it!

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

FTC Disclaimer:  In exchange for posting this, Shutterfly will send me a coupon code that I can use towards my next purchase.  This has not affected my post in any way.  All opinions expressed are my own.

REDBOX 12 Days of Deals and Prizes (a Smiley 360 mission)

I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in a Smiley 360 mission to promote Redbox's 12 Days of Deals and Prizes.  You can find out more about this mission here.

First of all, if you haven't heard of Redbox before, here is a description, taken from the campaign homepage:
Renting more than 1.5 billion discs to date, Redbox is America's destination for movies and video games. With more than 28,000 locations nationwide, Redbox is the fun, fast, easy way to rent the latest new release movies on DVD or Blu-ray Disc® and the top new releases of family video games. Featuring up to 200 titles and 630 discs, Redbox is a fully automated video rental store contained in 12-square feet of retail space. With more than 68 percent of the U.S. population living within a five-minute drive of a Redbox kiosk, Redbox is where America rents movies and games.
I love Redbox!  My family rents movies from there all the time, because there is a Redbox kiosk in most of the grocery stores near my house.  Since it only costs $1 per night to rent a movie from Redbox, it's a much more economical way to watch a movie than buying the DVD or seeing it in theaters.  In fact, in some cases my family has waited for a movie to be released through Redbox before watching it since paying $1 to rent a DVD is much cheaper than paying for five movie tickets.

$1 is a great price to rent a DVD, but this holiday season, Redbox wants to make things even easier by giving away coupons towards their DVD rentals.  Their promotion is called 12 Days of Deals and Prizes.  By texting "FUN" to 727272 once per day from now until December 24, you'll receive back in the form of a text message a code that can be used for money off of your next rental from Redbox- anywhere from 25 cents to $1 off.  If you're lucky enough to get a $1 off code, your movie will be free!  You'll also be entered for a chance to win other great prizes from Sony, Wii, Barnes and Noble, and more!  So why wait- start participating in Redbox 12 Days of Deals and Prizes today!

You can find Redbox on Facebook.

FTC Disclaimer:  I am participating in a mission through Smiley 360 to promote Redbox 12 Days of Deals and Prizes.  In exchange for my participation, I received one code for a free movie rental at Redbox.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own and have not been altered in any way by my participation in this mission.

08 December 2011

Product Review: Physicians Formula New! Shimmer Strips Fashionista Eyes shadow and liner

I was lucky enough to receive the new Shimmer Strips Fashionista Eyes eyeshadow and liner from Physicians Formula for review.  This product is part of their new Shimmer Strips Eye Enhancing Shadow and Liner collection in Univeral Looks.  Physicians Formula makes products especially designed for sensitive skin, by using hypoallergenic ingredients.  Their products are fun to use, but don't irritate your skin- perfect!  I have used face products from Physicians Formula before, such as their primer, but I have never used their eye makeup before even though I have considered it in the past.  That is why I was so happy to receive the Shimmer Strips Fashionista Eyes eyeshadow and liner to try and review!

I have always liked wearing purple eyeshadow.  It's a color that just tends to look good on me, so it's my go-to color for eye makeup whenever I need to wear it.  So, I was pleased that the Fashionista palate contained mostly purple shades.  Besides a wide array of purples, there was also one strip of gold and one of black.  While these aren't colors that I usually wear, I think that they complimented the purple nicely and can add a dramatic flair to the look if you choose to apply them.

The shadows and liners are actually divided up on the palate into three looks- natural, playful, and dramatic.  However, I strayed from the recommended grouping of colors and put together my own look using the light purple and gold from "playful" with the dark purple from "dramatic".


I don't wear makeup every day, but I was eager to try out this eye shadow, so I donned it yesterday, when I was out and about going to classes, my internship, and other events.  When I first put on the eye shadow, I was initially worried that the color wasn't bold enough to stand out on my face.  Turns out that was just because of the horrible lighting in my dorm.  When I moved in to brighter light, I loved how the colors looked on my face!  I used a light purple and dark purple on my eyelids, and then added some gold in the corner of my eye for some more pop.  I thought it looked fantastic (though maybe I'm a little bit biased).  Normally when I do wear makeup, I tend to mix colors from different palates to create a more interesting look.  But since the Shimmer Strips from Physicians Formula are coordinated to be mixed and matched, I was able to put together a fun, creative look without going to a bunch of different shadows and worrying that the might not look good once on my face.  The eyeshadow lasted all day and didn't even seem to fade as the day went on.  I applied it around 10 am, and when I got back home at 10 pm, it was still bold and visible, as if I had just put it on.  I was surprised, since makeup usually fades long before 12 hours is up- but that just attests to how fantastic Physicans Formula products are!

I actually got a lot of compliments on my look yesterday from a random assortment of people who said that they liked my eye makeup!  All of my worries that the colors might not be bold enough were for naught- people sure noticed!  Overall, I am excited to keep using my Shimmer Strips Fashionista Eyes collection in the future, and I would highly recommend this product to anyone with sensitive skin who is looking for a fantastic cosmetics product to try.

You can find Physicians Formula online, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

FTC Disclaimer:  I received Shimmer Strips Fashionista Eyes eyeshadow and liner collection for free from Physicians Formula.  The choice to write a blog post was my own, and all opinions expressed are my own.

08 November 2011

BzzAgent Campaign - Aliyah has a Kindle!

I recently joined the most amazing Bzz Campaign yet- for the Amazon Kindle 3!  (I've written about BzzAgent here in the past, so check out that post first if you don't know what BzzAgent is.)  That's right- BzzAgent sent me a Kindle 3, for free, to sample & spread the word about!  Now that I've had it for a few weeks, I thought I'd share my opinions.

The Kindle was pretty easy to set up, though I did use the guide that came with the Kindle to help myself out.  You can charge the Kindle either through the USB drive on your computer, or by plugging it in to a regular outlet (mine came with an adapter that allows me to switch between the two; these are also available for purchase if your Kindle does not come with one).  I left mine to charge for most of the day while I was in classes, and then in the evening I went about putting things to read on my Kindle.

I wasn't ready right away to pay for books to load onto my Kindle, but I did have some PDF files that I needed to take to class.  I decided to put those on the Kindle and see how things worked out.  After skimming through the guide, I realized how easy it is to add PDFs to the Kindle.  All you have to do is drag the file to the "Kindle" drive, and it's loaded!  I was so glad it was easy to save the PDFs onto the Kindle.  Now, instead of printing 20+ pages of articles each week, I can bring the articles I need on my Kindle and save my printing balance for other things.  The one thing I did not like about reading PDFs on the Kindle was that you can't adjust the text size.  Instead, you have to use the zoom function, which took some getting used to.  But once I did get used to using the zoom, it was super convenient to read my PDFs on the Kindle.

I also realized that my local library allows me to check out Kindle editions of library books.  How cool is that?!  I'm away at school, but I can still read books from my home library on my Kindle!  It's a great way to read books that I wouldn't buy, and that my school library doesn't carry.  Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about reading a book on the Kindle as opposed to a print edition.  I've only read two books in non-print format before, and only because I was so desperate to read them that I found them on the Internet instead of waiting to get them from the library.  I found it difficult to read for too long on the computer screen, and I was afraid that the Kindle would be a similar reading experience to that.  I was mistaken!  It is very easy to read from the Kindle screen since it is not lit like a computer screen.  It really does look like you're reading from paper even though it is a digital screen!  I can also read outside in the sun without there being any glare on the screen like there is when using a computer outside.

Another thing that initially took some getting used to was the fact that the Kindle screen is only wide enough to display one page of text at a time compared to the two page spread of a print book.  But the Kindle can turn pages so quickly that it does not affect my reading experience at all. 

I also love that the Kindle as such a long battery life.  In over 2 weeks of having my Kindle, I've only charged it once, and that was only because I needed to plug my Kindle in to my computer to upload a book, not because it needed charging.

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Kindle.  The reading experience, though not identical to reading from a print book, was not as drastically different as I had expected.  The screen itself was easy to read from, and even when I spend a lot of time reading a book on the Kindle, I don't get a headache, and my eyes don't hurt.  I can even read outside with no problem!  While I still think I prefer reading books in print when I can, the Kindle definitely fits into my school life much more easily.  It fits into my purse and is much slimmer and lighter than a typical book.  Plus, since my school library and the public library in town don't have a wide selection of the books I like to read, the Kindle allows me to read the things I want to even when the libraries don't carry the item.

I would recommend the Kindle to anyone with a busy, on-the-go lifestyle that loves reading but can't figure out how to fit it into their life.  The Kindle is just the thing that will allow you to fit reading back into your life!

Update 1/26/12:  I posted an updated review of the Kindle Keyboard after using it for a few months!

BzzAgent provided me a Kindle Keyboard as part of a Campaign in exchange for providing my honest opinion on the product.  I was provided no additional compensation in exchange for writing a positive review.

23 October 2011

Couponing at Target

I had a great shopping trip at Target today!  Target is one of the best stores to coupon at, because they allow you to combine store and manufacturer's coupons for the same product (called "stacking"), so you can save even more money.  I usually try to do this 'when I can', but this weekend I actually planned out a shopping trip to see how much money I actually could save.  It worked out well!

My haul from the day!
Here's what I got!

Febreeze Air Effects, $2.50 (reg $2.69)
Febreeze Set & Refresh single, $2.50 (reg $2.69)
manufacturers coupon:  $2/2 Febreeze products

Dove Ultimate Go Fresh deodorant, $3.49 (reg. $3.84)
Dove Ultimate Go Fresh body mist, $3.49 (reg. $3.84)
promo:  buy deodorant, get body mist free
manufacturers coupon:  $1/1 Dove Ultimate Go Fresh deodorant or body mist

Suave Professionals touchable finish hairspray, $2.74
Suave Professionals volumizing mousse, $2.74
manufacturers coupon:  BOGO Suave Professionals dry shampoo or styling product
Target coupon:  50¢/1 Suave Professionals product
Target coupon:  50¢/1 Suave Professionals product

Covergirl Lipslicks lip gloss, $4.99
Covergirl Eye Enhancers 4-kit, $4.84
manufacturers coupon:  $8/2 Covergirl face products
Target coupon:  $1/1 Covergirl product 
Target coupon:  $1/1 Covergirl product

Another bonus to couponing at Target is that even if you are getting an item for free, you can use a coupon on it.  That's why I could use two Target coupons on for my two Suave Professionals items, even though I technically was only paying for one.  I could have also used a coupon on the free body mist I got with my deodorant purchase, but I only had one coupon with me and not two.

I paid $8.52 for everything I got, and saved $20.96 between sales & coupons- a total savings of 71%!  Though I do love couponing and getting things for free, I rarely keep track of how much I am actually saving.  That might change in the future!

18 October 2011

BzzAgent Campaign - How "Smarterer" are you?

I recently joined a BzzCampaign for a new website called Smarterer.  Smarterer allows you to take tests about a wide variety of different websites, applications, and programs, and then share your scores- if you choose to- online (Facebook, Twitter, your blog) or even on your resume.  The tests are scored similarly to the SATs (I know...bad thing to compare to!) in that the points are on a scale of 800.  After answering only 10 questions, you can get an accurate score.  The more questions you answer, the more your score can improve.  Because there are always more questions being added to the tests and more people taking them, you do need to answer more questions on each test in order to prevent your score from decreasing over time.

So far, I have taken tests for BzzAgent, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger.  It's fun to see how well versed I am in these websites that I use every day!  I realized that I know a lot about BzzAgent, and not so much about Twitter!  In fact, I'm at the top of the leaderboard for the BzzAgent test at the moment, with a score of 797.  Based on your score on each test, you also get classified as "smart", "smarter", or "smarterer".  Right now I am "smarter" about Twitter and Blogger, and "smarterer" about BzzAgent and Facebook.

As I said earlier, you can share your scores on your blog.  My scores are in the left-hand sidebar- check them out!  The only problem that I have with this feature is that, since the scores are shared through an HTML code that you have to post yourself, and not a widget, the scores you share don't automatically update.  Therefore every time you take a new test or answer more questions, you have to go back to your blog and update the HTML code.  Update 10/19/11- I was mistaken on this!  The scores do automatically update!  Update 10/20/11- But if you take a new test, your score won't automatically add until you update the HTML code.

Overall, however, I've been extremely pleased with Smarterer.  The quizzes are fun, and the competitiveness of vying for a spot on the leaderboard keeps me returning to the site at least a few times a week to take the quizzes.  I've participated in a few "online-only" BzzCampaigns over the past few years, and Smarterer is the first of those campaigns that I've really enjoyed participating in!  I definitely recommend joining Smarterer and trying it out for yourself.

Smarterer is a free service.  I received an early invitation to the site from BzzAgent.  Since then, the site has opened to the general public and can be joined for free.

14 October 2011

Science students utilize critical thinking, too

Science students utilize critical thinking, too is an opinions letter that I submitted to my college's daily newspaper in response to an article earlier this week that contested that science majors don't use critical thinking skills- that only liberal arts majors do.  My piece is going to be published in today's paper!  I usually don't get irked enough about issues to write about them, but this article bothered me just enough that I decided to say something about it.  Besides the initial article itself, the specific quote from the article saying that only liberal arts majors use critical thinking was the paper's quote of the day!  Unbelievable...  As a student doing both a science major (molecular biology & biochemistry) and a liberal arts major (French lit), I really do see both sides of the playing field, so to speak, and I think it's fair that I voice my opinion on the subject. :)  PS- It's cool to be "officially" published!

13 September 2011


I have been a BzzAgent since May 2010.  What is a BzzAgent, you may ask?  Good question!

BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth social marketing company.  In a nutshell, companies hire BzzAgent to market their products to a certain demographic.  BzzAgent then gives the product to certain members of the site (the Agents), who typically receive the product to sample (usually, a full-sized sample!),  coupons to give to friends & family, and a BzzGuide with information about the product and some ideas on how to share about it with others.  And it's not "no-name" companies that use BzzAgent.  Some companies that have used BzzAgent for Campaigns in the past have been Orbit gum, Scrubbing Bubbles, Hanes, Maybelline, Keurig, and Dr. Scholl's!  These are reputable companies that want to promote their newest, coolest products to you.

My very first campaign, way back in July 2010, was for Orbit gum.  It was a ton of fun to participate in!  That summer, I was working at a day camp, and I was able to share coupons for free Orbit gum with a bunch of my co-counselors.  Since then, I've also participated in campaigns for Maybelline lip color, L'Oreal eyeshadow, TresEMME shampoo, and Water Bobble.  Now, like any product you might try, I wasn't a fan of everything BzzAgent sent me to sample, but I had a lot of fun trying out all these new products anyway!  (And I still use my Water Bobble nearly every day- it's sitting right here on my desk as I write this!)

Just last week, BzzAgent started an awesome new program called the Daily Bzz.  Now, in addition to being selected for Campaigns based upon demographics as in the past, there are certain campaigns that are open for this new Daily Bzz program.  You get to be as creative as you want to tell BzzAgent why you deserve to participate in the Daily Bzz Campaign.  And these campaigns are the really awesome ones- such as Campaigns for a Kindle, Cuisinart blender, and The Help.  I've been having so much fun with the Daily Bzz Campaigns I've participated in so far!  My "creative" entries have all been videos- linked here for the Kindle, here for MiO, and here for the Cuisinart blender.  The Daily Bzz is open from 11am-6pm each weekday.  Then, BzzAgent looks at all of the entries, picks their favorites, and lets you know the following business day if you've gotten into the Campaign.  I've been SO lucky with this so far, and gotten into the Kindle 3, MiO, AND Cuisinart campaigns!!  That's right- I'm going to be getting all three of these products, totally FREE, just in exchange for talking about it!  Did I mention how AWESOME BzzAgent is?!

So, do you think BzzAgent is for you?  Great!  Just go here to sign up and get started today!  Make sure to answer all the surveys that are provided for you, and you'll get invited to a campaign in no time!

11 September 2011

9/11/01- Ten Years Later.

9/11 is one of those days in our lives that we will never forget.

10 years ago I was sitting in Mrs. Groninger's 2nd period social studies class.  She got a phone call from her husband.  I remember her saying that she would never answer her phone in class, and the first time her phone rang, she looked at who was calling but didn't answer it.  Then it rang again, and she picked up because she figured if her husband was calling then it must be an emergency because he knew that she would be teaching.  She took the call in the hallway, and then came back into the classroom and put on the TV.  Her husband was a truck driver and had heard the news on the radio as soon as the first plane hit.  He wasn't sure how the school was going to handle the news, but wanted to make sure that she knew what was going on.  Mrs. Groninger told us that there was an emergency in NYC.  We watched as the second plane hit the second tower.  Towards the end of the period there was a school-wide announcement asking the teachers not to put the televisions on.  Mrs. Groninger kept the TV on for the rest of our class anyway, but shut the door and told us not to tell any of the other teachers that we were watching the news.  Third period I had English.  That teacher refused to put the TV on because of the principal's announcement.  He talked a little bit about what had happened but tried to run a normal class otherwise.  I remember being especially scared because my dad had gone into NYC for work that day.  That was the first thing I thought of when I heard the news.  I didn't know where in the city he was, just that he was there and I didn't know if he was even alive at that point.  Later in the day I called my mom and found out that my dad was a few blocks away from the World Trade Center but that he was fine.  When I got home from school I watched news coverage of the attacks for the rest of the afternoon.  My mom didn't want me to watch it, until I told her that I had already seen the news in school.  I think she was more bothered by the coverage that day than I was.  I just needed to watch it to process what had happened.  My dad couldn't get home that night or the night after, since all of the tunnels out of NYC were blocked.  He stayed at my aunt and uncle's house in the city and came home the next day.  Even though I talked to him on the phone, until I actually saw him, I didn't believe that he was okay.  I slept with one of his polo shirts for the two nights he wasn't home, and kept it with me for days after he came home.

10 September 2011

My last first football game =[

I've been in marching band since my freshman year of high school, and now, 7 years later, I am starting my last season of marching band ever.  Last Thursday was my last first football game ever. It was definitely a day filled with emotion.  Seeing the freshman so excited for their first ever college band performance, while the seniors were a lot quieter and, while happy to be performing, also sad to be starting their last season in marching band, was such a shocking disparity because as a freshman I could not ever have imagined the emotion I would feel that day.  From the moment I put on my uniform that afternoon, the one thought that kept running through my head was that it was the beginning of my last season ever in marching band.  I know all of the other seniors were thinking the same thing.  The emotion we all had was evident.

Each year at the first football game, running out of the tunnel for pregame brings tears to my eyes.  The overwhelming emotion of seeing tens of thousands of people watching you perform is indescribable until you are actually on the field.  This year was no different for me- in fact it was probably the most emotional pregame show I've ever had, even more so than my first game freshman year at Rutgers.  Unlike previous years, I knew exactly what to expect running out of the tunnel.  And I knew that it would be my last time ever feeling that first-game-of-the-season rush of emotion.  I got chills as I saw the packed stadium for the first time, and I bit my lip so I wouldn't cry and would actually be able to play the show!  I had tears in my eyes during the whole pregame show (but I wasn't crying so much that I couldn't play!).  And I made sure to march the best pregame show of my life.

I think maybe the hardest part of it all was knowing that years and years from now (and even next year), students in the marching band will be running out onto the field for the first game of the season, but I won't be a part of it anymore.  All I can do is make the most of the time I have left in marching band and hope that this season is the best one ever.

Seniors <3

28 July 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Wither by Lauren DeStefano

I've been wanting to read Lauren DeStefano's WITHER for ages now but it always seemed to be checked out of the library every time I went.  Well, I finally got to the top of the waiting list recently and boy was it worth the wait!

Warning- Spoiler Alert!

From the very first page, the world that Lauren DeStefano created drew me in.  Unlike many dystopian worlds, the world of WITHER seemed highly believable given the social circumstances.  Even though not all of the characters were in the same situation, they each were affected by the virus in their own way.  I could really feel the desperation and fear of each character.  What really was interesting to me was that since all of the characters were feeling similar emotions, their reasons for feeling that way became one of the most important parts of the story.  For example, Rhine, Jenna, and Linden both felt fear living in the mansion, but none of them were afraid of the same thing.

I also felt like Rhine's character was very genuine.  As a young woman myself, I constantly found myself thinking, What would I be feeling if I were in Rhine's situation right now?  And the answer was always, Exactly how Rhine feels in the story.  DeStefano did a fantastic job capturing the real, raw emotions of a trapped teenager in fear for her life.  While I've never been in a situation like Rhine's (thank goodness!), I simply could not imagine myself feeling any differently than she did.  As a female reader, it was refreshing to see a female lead not immediately give in to the social pressures around her.  The fight in Rhine, given her circumstances, made her seem very real, and made her story memorable.

But of course- this story is not just about Rhine.  Who can forget about Gabriel?!  Even though he was in the text less than Jenna, Cecily, and Linden, as a character I felt as though he was second in importance only to Rhine.  His transformation from an obedient servant to a young man with fire inside of him was the most moving part of WITHER.  His story showed that it's possible to fight what you've been taught if you want something different.  As a counterpart to Rhine, it is interesting to see their stories unfold in parallel.  On one hand, you have Rhine, who knows from the get-go exactly what she wants (even if she does waver occasionally), and just needs a way to get it.  On the other hand, there's Gabriel, who doesn't like what he has but takes a long time to come to terms with the decisions he needs to make.  Rhine and Gabriel are really the two characters who provide uniqueness and voice to WITHER.

And the ending...well...if this was a stand-alone book, I would have hated the ending- very cliché.  However, knowing that WITHER is just the first book of a trilogy, the ending was fine.  It wasn't very exciting, but it (almost) works as a cliffhanger for book two (FEVER, due out 2/21/2012).

I definitely definitely recommend WITHER to anyone with even the slightest interest in YA dystopian novels.  If you haven't been hooked in the past, read WITHER anyway!  It doesn't have crazy apocalyptic events like some other dystopians, and the believability of the plot makes WITHER the perfect quick read!

18 July 2011

Mischief Managed!

A huge piece of my childhood ended in the wee hours of Friday morning, when I finished watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in theaters.  I'm sad to see it end, but at least I feel that it ended right.  I don't care how cheesy it sounds; the Harry Potter series was a huge part of my life growing up and made a huge impact in many ways.  There are plenty of experiences that I can honestly say I wouldn't have had if it weren't for Harry Potter.

Like any truly obsessed Harry Potter fan, I wrote fanfiction.  I'll bite, here's the link.  My fanfiction-writing phase didn't last too long, but I got quite a bit written during my stint.  I was sort of pulled into this by my high school friends, who stuck it out way longer than I did.

Around the time I was 13 (so, beginning of high school-ish), I came across and subsequently joined d69.  If you were obsessed with Mugglenet.com as I was at that point, you might remember a bunch of people who posted comments with (d69) after their name.  I was one of them...not quite an original member, but I joined pretty early on.  Down the road, I ended up as a moderator of the d69 forums and then an editor of the d69 website.  This was still going strong up until around the time the Deathly Hallows book got released.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I also had a rather lovely Harry Potter theories website...well, actually three of them, for some reason- either I kept forgetting passwords, or usernames, or whatever.  This was truly where my Harry Potter obsession lay.  Theories, theories, theories!  (And using my oh-so-impressive HTML that I learned in freshman year of high school advanced computers ;-) )  I don't remember exactly when I stopped with the website (around the time of the release of book 6, I think), but it lasted long enough......

that when Amazon announced a contest to find the biggest Harry Potter fans to act as "kid correspondents" before the release of Half-Blood Prince, I made sure to enter!  And, I won!  This was really the 'opportunity' I was talking about.  I was not only interviewed for newspapers both locally and out-of-state, but I even was able to travel to New York City to visit Scholastic and be interviewed for NBC!  Even now, six years later, I think of this as one of the best things that happened to me- and all because of Harry Potter!  In my audition tape for the Amazon contest, I talked a lot about my work with d69 as well as my own theories website, and that's really what got focused on after I won the contest.  Everything tied together in the end... middle.

So, yes, I'm going to be a bit nostalgic now that the Harry Potter era is really coming to a close.  For me, it extended far beyond just some books and movies.  Through my websites, I met a huge range of awesome people.  Though we don't all stay in contact regularly anymore, every once in a while someone will pop by the d69 forums to just say hi...  And of course, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had as a member of the Amazon Kid Correspondents panel is something I'll never forget.  (My Gryffindor robe that I've worn to the last few movie releases?  It was a gift from Scholastic after my interview.)  So while it's time now to say adieu to Harry, the one thing that will never leave is everything that this magnificent series has brought to my life.  Thanks.

27 May 2011


^What happens when my sister and I get bored and decide to use the Internet and our limited Photoshop skills.
(This is also now my desktop background.)

Original image:

Personally, I think outer space is way more fun ;-)

24 May 2011

summertime soc

For me, summertime has always been a time for thinking.  The only time of the year when I am essentially free to do whatever I want.  Or, to do nothing at all.  There are no obligations creeping up behind me (or at least, way fewer than during the rest of the year).  On one hand, it's great.  I can be much more relaxed.  Instead of worrying about making sure everything gets done that needs to, I can breathe and take a break.  On the other hand, it leaves me too much time to think.  Free from all the stresses of school, my mind wanders.  And being the kind of person that I am, it wanders to everything that could possibly stress me out during summer vacation.  The thesis application that I really should have just gotten done during the semester.  MCAT and GRE prep.  Booking airline tickets and train tickets and hotels for my upcoming study abroad/Europe trip.  Besides that, being home in itself is stressful.  My parents aren't used to having three kids at home, and I'm not used to having to answer to my parents about everything I do.  Things have always been...tense...at my house, and while me going off to college should have at least helped prove to them that I'm an adult and can take care of myself, it's seemingly done the exact opposite to my parents.  Now that I think for myself, they're slowly losing the control over me that they so enjoyed for the first 17 years of my life.  Yes, I've finished three years of college now, and I've been living away from home for three years, and while I have a rational view of the world, I'm not afraid of it.  No, my parents haven't really accepted any of this and so things are especially tense.  More thinking...what can I do so this will all calm down?  In some ways, I miss the stresses of the semester, where I was forced to stay focused and not let my mind wander in all these different directions.  Maybe that's what gets me through the majority of the year- the sheer fact that, if I get too distracted, I'll fall.  And I can't let that happen.

18 May 2011

Freebie How-To: Free Product Coupons

In order to save money on shipping costs, some companies opt to send free product coupons instead of mailing an actual sample of their product.  Once the coupon comes in the mail, you simply take it to the store and 'buy' the product for free.

There are definitely some advantages to getting free product coupons, even though it takes a little bit more work to get your freebie.  The main advantage is that you will get a full-sized product for free instead of a sample-sized one!  Because many products are not available in travel sizes at major retailers, your coupon will be valid for a full-sized product.  Another advantage is that because most products are available in different varieties (ex, different scents or different flavors), you have more of a say in exactly what you get for free.  This in turn helps the brand, because you are able to pick out a product that you're interested in and that you might purchase in the future if you like the freebie.

It's really up to each individual brand whether they choose to send a coupon or a product sample.  As such, there are not many specific websites that I can list here where you can find free product coupons.  One website that does make free product coupons available, however, is Kraft First Taste.  If you sign up for this website, Kraft will occasionally make coupons available to get their newest products for free.  The only disadvantage is that you'll have to install a coupon printer to get these coupons as most of them are not available by mail.  Other companies will send coupons by mail- so if installing a coupon printer is not something you want to do, don't worry!

Other free product coupons may be available as prizes from instant win games.  You may also be able to get them by writing to companies whose products you (1) use often and love, or (2) have had a problem with.  The companies may send you coupons to either thank you for your comments or to appease you if you've had an issue with their product.

Here is a small list of some free product coupons I've gotten recently:

Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo or Styling Product
Pampers Kandoo bathroom wipes
Clairol Nice 'n Easy Color Blend Foam
ThermaCare Heat Wraps
any El Monterey frozen food product

11 May 2011

Freebie How-To: General Free Samples

General free samples are the easiest and most common kind of freebies available.  Companies offer trial-sized samples of their products in order to promote their product to as many customers as possible.  These samples may come directly from a company, or from a major retailer that sells the product.

Stores such as Walmart and Target regularly offer samples.  Their availability and specific offers vary, but you can usually find something on these sites.

The P&G Brand Sampler from Proctor and Gamble is similar to the trial-sized free samples that you can find, but when you register for the Sampler, you actually can get a small box of trial-sized products, and occasionally coupons as well.  This is available approximately four times per year.

When companies offer free samples, they will often announce them on their Facebook pages.  This means that if you like a brand or use it often, you should "like" them on Facebook!

Other times, smaller brands (as opposed to the well-known ones that you see all the time in major retailers) will offer free samples of their product in order to try and expand their consumer base.  It's not easy to come across these samples yourself, as some of the websites might be pretty small, but websites like It's All Free Online (FB:  Free Samples, TW:  @NewFreeSamples) and Free Stuff Times (FB:  Free Stuff Times, TW:  @fstimes) will list these samples as they become available and are found.  They will also list samples from the major retailers, if you don't feel like searching a bunch of places for them yourself!

Here is a small list of some samples that I have gotten recently:

Maybelline NY FitMe Foundation
Secret Natural Mineral Deodorant
Degree with motionSense Deodorant
Zapzyt (an acne treatment)
Orville Redenbacher's Pop Up Bowl popcorn

09 May 2011

Freebie How-To: Part 1 ~ An Overview

I'm going to do a series of blog posts about free stuff.  The more people I talk to about my free stuff obsession, the more people I find who are surprised that it's even possible to get things for free.  This first post is a general overview of different types of freebies that are available.  Each of these categories will get its own post later on.

1) General free samples
These are the typical free samples that you can get in the mail.  When companies want to promote their products, you can usually get a small sample of the product.  This often also comes with a coupon so that if you decide to buy the product, you can also save money!

2) Free product coupons
Instead of mailing out samples, some companies opt to mail you a coupon good for a free product.  You take the coupon to your local store and redeem it to get your free item.  This saves the companies money (since it is cheaper to mail a coupon than a sample-sized item), and, you get a free full-sized product out of it!

3) Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing samples
Sometimes, you can get free full-sized products to sample.  These samples often come from word-of-mouth marketing sites.  In exchange for the free product, you are expected to talk about the product to friends and family once you have used it.  The hope is to not only create a new customer out of you, but also out of people you interact with.

4) Instant Win Games (IWG)
Instant win games are one way to get more expensive things for free.  While a lot of IWG come out around holidays, there are always some out there.  While it's not a guarantee that you will win anything, when you do win, the prizes are typically worth a lot more money than anything you can get for free by other means.

5) Facebook/Twitter
Brands have Facebook and Twitter pages as a means of interacting with their consumers.  These brands often provide coupons to their fans/followers, and even will have contests for bigger items from time to time- such as gift cards or product freebies.

6) Hosted Parties
Another vein of websites, similar in a way to WOM, is hosted parties.  Companies provide products for the host (you) as well as samples for your guests and sometimes, activities for your party as well.  Then, you host a party which incorporates the product you are acting as an ambassador for.

7) Free Books
I'm listing this separately from the other types of samples because there are publishers and bookstores that will mail readers new releases for free in exchange for a short review.  These are geared towards both children and adults.  While the options of books to choose from is not always huge, it's a fun way to try something different.

8) In-Store freebies
Occasionally, companies will offer in-store promos where you can go into their store and pick up a free product.  While sometimes you have to purchase something to get the free item, this is not always the case.  There are plenty of times where the item is totally free, no strings attached!

9) Miscellaneous
Other ways to get things for free include calling or writing to companies and asking for coupons or samples, and using coupons while you shop.  This last post of the series will include a variety of other ways that you can easily get things you use often for free (or almost free).

I will probably post this series as 1-2 posts per week for about 6-8 weeks.  Enjoy!

07 May 2011

Trying not to think ahead

In just under 36 hours, I will finish my last final of junior year of college.  I'm actively trying not to think about the fact that next year will be my last year at Rutgers, that a year from now I will be the one thinking about graduation and looking forward to the rest of my life.

On one hand, I'm excited and thankful to be in this place.  Since getting to college, I've been worried about not being able to complete my majors on time due to the sheer number of credits they take.  Now, I'm down to three classes and two one-credit seminars, plus a thesis.  And that's it- then I am done.  A part of me is really happy about this.  I am finally sure that I can finish both of my majors on time, so, no more worries about not finishing in four years, and having to worry about paying for a fifth year of school.

On the other hand, I can't believe that I've already been at Rutgers for three years.  The time has just gone by so quickly.  I volunteer as an academic adviser for incoming students; the past two weekends I have helped these students pick their classes for their first semester at college, and think ahead about their major options and career goals.  As I talk to these students, experiencing a small taste of the college life for the first time, I can't help but think about when I was in their shoes three years ago.  Like them, I was overwhelmed and apprehensive of all the choices in front of me, and struggling with the freedom that Rutgers was shoving at me.  Now, I am on the other end of that spectrum.  I know what classes to take, what I am interested in, and I have ideas in place for my future.  It's amazing how much can change in just a few years.  Suddenly, I am the one people are asking for advice.  I know something about all the craziness that is Rutgers University.  And one year from now, it will all be over.

I don't want to think about it too much; after all, I still have a year left that I want to take full advantage of.  I'm excited to continue working in my lab, and give a greater time commitment to research.  I can't wait for marching band season to start up again in just a few months- and the fact that it will likely be my last ever just makes it all the more special.  And even now, I am looking forward to seeing my friends again in September that I won't see all that often over the summer because South Jersey is too far away from everything else in this state.

At some point, I'll have to come to terms with the fact that next year is the end of my Rutgers undergraduate career.  But...not right now.

24 March 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Okay, I usually review a book first before I give my recommendation on it, but not this time.  Graceling was amazing.  The moment I finished the book, I logged on to Twitter and wrote "Kristin Cashore's GRACELING is one of the best books I've ever read. Quite possibly *the* best. Wow."  And that just about summarizes how much I loved reading Graceling.

Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Warning:  Spoilers may follow.

For a fantasy novel, I was pleasantly surprised that Graceling was so character-driven.  Katsa is such a strong main character, and her personality is clearly expressed.  It is her actions, primarily, which drive the story.  She is a well-rounded character, with definitive likes and dislikes, ideas, and her own unique way of interacting with those around her.  From the very first page of the book, the reader is exposed to Katsa's unique and strong personality.  Of course, like anyone, Katsa has her flaws.  She is young, and still learning how to control her powers, so at times she is very impulsive.  However, these flaws just add to her depth as a main character, and provides for the reader just one of many reasons to want to keep reading Graceling.  Will Katsa overcome these fatal flaws in order to save the kingdom?  Or will they get the best of her and cause her ultimate downfall?

Another huge character component of the book is the relationship between Katsa and Po.  Unlike many relationships found in YA fiction novels, theirs seemed very real.  It was definitely not love at first sight for the two of them!  Throughout the entire novel, both characters must work to learn how to trust each other.  This is really the crux of their entire relationship.  At different times in the book, Katsa and Po learn new things about each other, and each time, one or the other of them must decide how this new information will affect their relationship.  Katsa and Po's relationship is, in fact, the overarching plot line that stretches from the very first page of Graceling to the last, and in its own way, affects every other plot point of the book.

I am not going to go in to too much more detail about Graceling here- if you want to know more, you'll just have to read the book yourself!  While it is fairly long, Graceling is not a difficult book to read and it is absolutely worth your time.

Book summary (inside dashed box) courtesy of Amazon.com.

21 March 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia

I received Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia as part of an ARC tour from Good Golly Miss Holly.  This was the first ARC tour I ever participated in, and it was a really fun experience!

Unfortunately, the book itself was not quite so pleasant.  In fact, Dreams of Significant Girls is the first book that I'm reviewing on this blog that I did not finish reading.  After starting and stopping the book close to five times, I finally gave up on reading it about less than 100 pages in.

It seemed as though Garcia was trying too hard to create a unique voice for each of the three girls by separating each of their stories into separate sections.  I did not like this setup as it became very redundant when each character retold the same event from her own point of view.  This is why I prefer books with one narrator; it is an easy way to avoid such redundancy and it keeps the book moving at a better pace.

In addition, I felt like Garcia gave me no reason to care about her characters.  The reasons she gave for the girls spending time at the summer camp seemed weak, and even in the part of the book I read, I had a hard time coming up with reasons for the events that took place except for the fact that something has to happen in a book.

Though I only had a week to read this book (as part of the rules for the ARC tour), I am sure that even if I'd had years and years to read Dreams of Significant Girls, I would not have finished it.  Garcia may have been trying to imitate The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but that series was written much, much better.

Dreams of Significant Girls will be released on July 12, 2011- although I really would not recommend reading it.  If you are looking for a coming-of-age type story, there are many better ones out there.

15 March 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Cat Patrick's debut novel, Forgotten, from Hip Scouts.

Warning:  Spoilers may follow.

This book is about fifteen-year-old London, who can remember the future, but not the past.  Every night, her memory resets, and the only way she has to know about the previous day is to read her notes about the events that transpired.  Then, London starts having a recurring memory about a funeral, which starts around the same time that she starts dating Luke, the new kid at school.  London must make some difficult decisions in order to better understand this memory, her past, and her future with Luke.

I really enjoyed this book, although it was a lot different than I expected it to be.  From the title and the description, I thought it would be a very fluffy, "chick flick" sort of story.  I was very wrong!  While those aspects were definitely a part of the plot, the main piece was a lot more psychological and required much more thinking.  This actually came as a pleasant surprise to me.  I like not knowing exactly what is going to happen next in a story, and that was the case with Forgotten, for sure.  On that note, however, nothing that happened was completely unexpected.  The sequence of events all made sense, it was just not necessarily what I saw coming.

I do have to comment on the fact that the cover image shown here is not the same cover as is on the ARC I read.  The cover of my copy is a lot more flirty, with playful shadows and a more comical font.  I think that in this case, the design of the cover definitely would influence my preconceptions of the plot.  I guess the fact that the cover of my copy sported pink butterflies, versus the actual cover with cracked, ominous-looking block letters, changed my expectation of the story.  However, after seeing both covers I think that the one pictured in this blog post (which is the actual cover that will be printed, as far as I can tell) fits the book much better.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a page-turner novel.  I finished the book in three days, and it only took me that long because I started reading it right before I wanted to go to sleep!  When I finally had some free time during the day, I spent upwards of three hours straight finishing the book because I just could not put it down!  There was no good stopping point, because the story was so action-packed.  With all of the surprises Cat Patrick has put into each chapter, this book can be a quick read if you want it to be, or a slow, analytical story on the other hand.  Either way, I'm sure you will enjoy reading Forgotten, which will be released on June 7, 2011.

11 March 2011

Even more FREE :D - BzzAgent and Maybelline lip color

Apologies for my lack of posting over the last month.  It seems as though this semester is going to be crazier than I expected, so I will probably be doing the majority of my posting during breaks.  Like now!

While I'll be sure to update with an even larger "free stuff" post once I get home this week and pick up all of my free samples that have come since January, I have one exciting freebie to share right now!

I've been a member of BzzAgent for about ten months and I just got my second "real stuff" campaign this week!  ("Real stuff" means that they actually sent me products in the mail, and didn't just base the campaign solely off of the internet.)

For those of you who don't know what BzzAgent is, it is one of the leading word-of-mouth marketing sites.  Companies use BzzAgent to spread the word about their hot new products by sending samples out to consumers.  It is then up to the Agent to learn about, use, and talk about the product they've received.

My new campaign is for Maybelline SuperStay 24 2-Step lip color.

This product is designed with microflex technology so that it will not become flaky even after you wear it for an entire day.  The two-step process includes the lip color itself, which is the first coat, and a conditioning balm- the second coat- to add shine.

I am not one to use lip color on a daily basis, and even when I dress up I usually just wear lip gloss.  However, I was willing to give this product a chance anyway.

I tried the Forever Chestnut shade, from the Naturals shade family.  This lip color comes in four shade families- Reds, Pinks, Plums, and Naturals.  I did not want something that was too bold or bright, so I opted to use the brown.

I found that if I applied it lightly, the lip color blended well with my natural lip tone.  While you could tell that I was wearing lip color, it was not too loud of a color, which is exactly what I was going for.  I also liked that my lips felt moisturized and did not ever feel dry through the course of the day like with other lip colors I have tried in the past.

Unfortunately, the color itself did not last for 24 hours.  Right now my lips look pinker than usual, but not anywhere close to the brown shade I started with this morning.  It's been just about 15 hours since I put the lip color on in the first place.

Overall, as someone who does not often wear lip color, I found this product to be a nice addition to my minimal makeup routine.  It blended nicely with my natural skin and lip tone and gave me a subdue yet beautiful look for my day.

You can try Maybelline SuperStay 24 2-Step lip color for yourself with this $2 off coupon!

Also, I would highly recommend BzzAgent for anyone who loves trying new products for free!  While you're not guaranteed to get campaigns, BzzAgent is working hard to improve their company and I've noticed recently that there are a lot more opportunities becoming available.  Definitely check it out! =D

Disclaimer:  I received samples of Maybelline SuperStay 24 2-Step lip color from BzzAgent.  This review is my own opinion and I am not being compensated for publishing this blog post.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...