Category Archives: Reviews & opinions

Trying new things and seeing how it works. **DISCLAIMER: I am no expert… just a person with thoughts.**

Book Review: Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow is a thrilling novel full of horror and passion. The story follows two characters: Dominika, a Russian, and Nate, an American — both tangled in the dangerous world of spying for opposing countries.

Dominika is dedicated, passionate, thrill-seeking, and short-tempered. And Nate is a fiery man who is very clever and intelligent. He is more logical and levelheaded, although still has a deep heart.

Dominika was born with a special gift: her extraordinary vision that lets her see the color of people’s auras. When music plays, she can see distinct notes right in front of her eyes. Her ability to see music is what makes her such a talented dancer.

“Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they ‘jumped in the air’ and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much.”

After graduating high school with a particular admiration for history and political debates (due to her strong patriotism,) she attends ballet school in pursuit of becoming a professional ballerina. However, Dominika’s career plans are halted when a jealous couple on the team plots to break her leg, thus destroying her capabilities as a dancer.

“In young adulthood she had learned to cope with the buistvo, the mounting rage, but now she let it grow, tasted it in her throat.”

Following the tragic, sudden death of her father, Dominika is approached by her uncle  with an offer to essentially become a Russian spy. Desperate and lost, Dominika feels she has no choice now but to accept. From here on, her loyalty will be tested: to her country, to her family, to her dignity and principles, and most importantly to her own self.

Dominika attends Sparrow School, where she trains to become an official “sparrow.” Here, is where she is taught in depth about the art of seduction. Sparrows use not just their bodies, but their magical charm and quick wit, to gain precious information for the Russian government.

“This school, this mansion secluded behind walls topped with broken glass, was an engine of the State that institutionalized and dehumanized love. It didn’t count… it was training, like ballet school.”

The trials and tribulations Dominika goes through prove her strength, as the harsh reality sinks in that being strong is her only option if she wants to survive. Too late to back out now. At one point she witnesses a man get brutally, painfully murdered, as his blood spats on her body.

Finally, Dominka meets Nate, her next assignment. Nate seems to always have a deep purple aura, presenting honesty and calmness. Her mission is to recruit him for Russia, while Nate has a counter-mission to recruit Dominika for the USA.

“Dominika played it slow, indifferent. She was correct, reserved, a conscious counterbalance to his shambling American informality. She constantly told herself not to be so nervous. When he looked at her she knew from his expression that he was unsuspecting. He doesn’t know what this is, she thought with a thrill. The CIA officer doesn’t know who he’s up against.”

Although Dominika is successful at capturing Nate’s attention, she quickly realizes that he is different from anyone else. Her feelings build, yet her loyalty to Russia remains firm. As the two get to know each other, Nate notices how triggered and defensive she is when criticism of the Russian government comes up.

“God, she’s serious, thought Nate. Typical Russian, afraid of putting a foot wrong. But he liked her reserve, her underlying sensuality, the way she looked at him with her blue eyes. He especially liked the way she pronounced his name, ‘Neyt.'”

It is not long before Dominika questions the intentions of her team. The murder of an older fellow sparrow, who she saw as her future-self, is the final straw. Dominika can no longer hide her fury as she goes on another date with Nate. At this point, she realizes that she actually has more trust for this American stranger than she does for her own country, even her own family — most especially her evil uncle. And so, she confesses her identity to Nate, who in turn tells her to join his team.

“It’s just that you should learn to get high on something other than adrenaline,’ he said.

“‘You mean like wine?’ she said, and threw the wineglass against the wall. ‘No, thank you. I prefer adrenaline.'”

At this point, the trouble has only just begun. The pair work well together with a rare, strong sense of trust in one another. Still — they know that they cannot let their passion for each other get in the way. Yet of course, passion persists and finds a way to make things very messy…

I really enjoyed this book. This lengthy nearly-600-pager took me a while to finish, although I’m a slow reader anyway. There were some parts that seemed drawn out and skippable. But there were also many parts that had my eyes glued to the pages. The story is intense and shocking.

***Photos used from the adapted film***

Wish Wednesday ~ my dream haunted house

I’ve already shown you my dream house; now it’s the perfect time of year to show you my dream haunted house. Be careful and don’t get spooked!

Here we go…

This is the living room, where we burn sage and talk to the dead. No need for TV — ghosts are much more entertaining!

This is the kitchen, where we boil frog legs and craft toxic potions.

Now make your way through the hallway and watch for the spiders…

Welcome to the master bedroom!

Many guestrooms to stay in, if you’re brave enough…

Or perhaps this guestroom is more your style?

Many bathrooms as well, like this one…

Or this one…

Here is my altar, where I cast spells and predict the future.

Of course a haunted house is incomplete without a black cat. Here’s where she chills — when she’s not chasing around ghost mice.

Thank you for visiting. Enjoy the backyard gazebo on your way out. Don’t worry if you hear screams coming from the woods, that’s normal!

*all pictures from Pinterest*

Throwback Thursday ~ Melanie Safka

One of the best musicians from the late 60s/70s was the underrated Melanie Safka. She performed at the legendary Woodstock 1969 and was the first female artist to have three singles reach the Top 40.

Melanie Safka covered some classic artists of her time such as Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, putting in her own unique sound and making it even better. “Ruby Tuesday,” I believe was meant to be sung by a woman. She took “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and added some spunky female pizzazz, making it stronger and more powerful.

As a talented song-writer, she wrote some extraordinary masterpieces. She is best known for her song “Brand New Key,” which she wrote by herself in about fifteen minutes. The song is cute, catchy, and carries a nostalgic 1930’s vibe to it. “For somebody who don’t drive, I’ve been all around the world // Some people say I’ve done alright for a girl.”

Yet she wrote more than just bops. Melanie Safka was ultimate hippie-inspiration, as she used her platform to make political statements and voice her unpopular opinions. She has always been a big believer in peace, individual rights, animal rights, environmentalism, equality, and feminism. Melanie labels herself as a libertarian and dissociates herself from both the democratic and republican parties.

“What Have They Done to My Song, Ma?” is another big hit of hers. The song is about the corruption of the world, how innocence is twisted and exploited into profit. “Well if the people are buying tears, then we’ll be rich someday, Ma.”

“I Don’t Eat Animals” is not only political but also somewhat humorous. “I don’t eat white flour, white sugar makes you rot // Oh white could be beautiful, but often, it’s not,” she sings as you can hear laughter from the crowd in the live-recorded version. Melanie sings about being vegetarian — very straightforward. “I don’t eat animals, I want nothing dead in me.”

“Peace Will Come (According to Plan)” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” are also favorites of mine. They promote peace and encourage hope.

Melanie Safka is one-of-a-kind and deserves to be remembered and celebrated long after her time. Her positive impact on the world through music exceeds any other male artist.

Try-it Tuesday ~ MONQ Essential Oil Pens

MONQ is a personal water vapor diffuser (pen) consisting of a variety of essential oils (nicotine-free, drug-free). Essential oils come from plants, and have therapeutic affects. For example, lavender makes you feel calm.

MONQ pens are a new way to experience aromatherapy. Instead of smelling, you are inhaling. Well, more like “breathing” than “inhaling” — they are not meant to be sucked, but naturally breathed in through the mouth and exhaled through the nose.

“Happy” contains fennel, thyme, and vanilla. I absolutely love the sweet vanilla taste. It really does make me feel lighter a bit more cheerful. It is a perfect balance between calm and alert.

“Sleepy” contains chamomile, kava, and lavender. It won’t knock you out, but certainly gives you that cozy feeling. Perfect for winding down right before bedtime.

“Love” contains cacao, davana, and siam wood. Apparently these have aphrodisiac properties.

I find MONQ pens to be a great, simple and portable, way to use aromatherapy. I like the way it makes you feel more conscious of your breath. It is a soothing stress reliever.

Dollar store haul ~ HALLOWEEN decor

One of the best parts about Halloween season is the spooky atmosphere! As a little girl, I would always insist on getting new decorations every year because we had to have the coolest and scariest house on the block — it was a must!

I recently took a trip to the dollar store: on the hunt for some festive decor. I was not disappointed. The dollar store is the best place to find a cheap surplus of halloween decorations. You won’t find anything crazy like fog machines or strobe lights, but you will certainly stumble upon some hidden gems…

Orange-and-black garland ~ you can get creative with this: hang it up, drape it across, wrap it around…

Halloween wall hanging ~ this could go for like $20 at Target

Witch sign ~ how do I join?

NO TRESPASSING tape ~ this is perfect for doors

Skeleton hanging ~ this thing creeps me out

Skeleton hanging ~ same thing except this one is cute

Skeleton wine glass ~ feel fancy while you drink vampire blood

Pumpkin hanging ~ that classic jack-o-lantern face

Spiderweb ~ looks like this purple widow caught a cat in her web…

Try-it Tuesday ~ charcoal toothpaste

Charcoal comes with many health benefits. It removes toxins, improves skin, aids in digestion, and also whitens teeth. Lately charcoal has been super trendy and can be found in almost anything now: face masks, body scrubs, vitamins, ice cream, and more.

I tried charcoal toothpaste. I used a brand that only uses natural ingredients, so there was no foaming agent. It’s weird to see my teeth turn black.

Overall I found it to be a pleasant teeth-brushing experience. It was similar to brushing with any other “natural toothpaste,” the charcoal didn’t have any strange taste or texture to it.

Try-it Tuesday ~ Fire Elixir

The Fire Elixir is a potent herbal cider that can be diluted with another drink or consumed like a shot. It’s made up of organic apple cider vinegar, horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, and raw honey.

It comes with many health benefits such as strengthening the immune system, clearing sinuses, stimulating circulatory system, and reducing inflammation. It also provides a burst of energy and helps you feel awake — therefore best taken in the morning.


Fire Elixir has a very strong, almost nasty, taste to it. But it actually does feel really good. It reminds me of alcohol because I take it like a shot, it has a harsh taste, and leaves me with a warm feeling in my stomach — except it widens awareness instead of diminishing it.

I was surprised that it truly made me feel awake. Certainly not as strong as caffeine, still gave me a decent boost of energy and alertness.

In conclusion…

Fire Elixir is harsh and invigorating in the best way possible. It could potentially serve as a healthy alternative to caffeine. I would recommend it to anyone who can handle spiciness.