4 TV Shows to Binge Watch

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I don't know about you, but all of the shows I watch are currently on break, and it's making me sad. The two times a year this happens (summer and winter) is usually when I start looking for new ones, and binge watching them. You would think I would try to pace myself, make sure I don't run out of stuff to watch again, but no. First of all, if the show is good, I'm too impatient to find out what's next, but also the internet is dark and full of spoilers—I try to get through the episodes before anyone spoils some major recent event for me. Anyways, I figured some of you may be in the same situation, looking for shows to watch, and I have a few suggestions.

Shockingly, my all-time favorite show Game of Thrones is not on this list. I thought I've talked about it enough already, and you know by now that if you're not watching it I'm worried about your priorities. But here are four other shows I think you should check out:

Vikings

OK, more people need to know about this one. I think it doesn't get enough buzz because it's on the History channel, and people dismiss it based on that. Trust me, this show is so well made, the actors are great, the setting is beautiful, AND it's historically accurate. Obviously, this show is about Vikings, but particularly Ragnar Lothbrok—a legendary Norse ruler. There are a lot of fun and strong characters in the show, and you can read about all of them elsewhere, but beware of spoilers—the show follows legends and historical findings very closely. I started watching this show to have something to hold me over until Game of Thrones comes back on, but ended up marathoning though both seasons in a little over week. Now I need something to hold me over until Vikings comes back as well...

Orphan Black

I don't really know how much to tell you about this one. Basically, it's about a young woman named Sarah, who sees another woman jump in front of the train. Sarah manages to see her face, and realizes they look exactly the same. After the incident, she decides to look through the woman's purse, and investigate who she was and what kind of life she led. Along the way, Sarah realizes that she may have more "twins". I'm going to leave it at that. If you don't know what the deal is—just go with it. If you've heard what the show is about—don't worry, there is plenty more to discover. Orphan Black has it all: great writing, great acting, interesting characters, and a fascinating plot. I can't wait for it to come back on this spring!

House of Cards

I've already mentioned this show in a TV show favorites post last year, but I have to say, the closer it gets to season 3 the more excited I am. If political dramas are your thing—you must check this out. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright deliver powerhouse performances, and the show has so much intrigue—I just can't get enough of it. It's definitely a show that builds towards the later episodes, but the buildup itself is brilliant. This show alone makes my Netflix subscription worth the money. Season 3 is scheduled to be released on February 27th, and you best believe I'm not available for social interactions that weekend.

Hannibal

Have you seen The Silence of the Lambs? Yup, it's about THAT guy, but a younger version of him. The show centers around Will Graham, who is an FBI investigator, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter—a brilliant forensic psychiatrist. Think of a darker, more twisted take on Dexter. This show is a very suspenseful psychological thriller that doesn't need to rely on withholding information from the audience. You know what's happening, you know where this is going, and that makes it even more interesting—the writing is excellent. The show's eerie ambiance adds to the suspense, and if you didn't think Mads Mikkelsen was creepy enough in Casino Royale, you're in for a treat. I haven't watched the second season yet, but I can't wait to marathon through it before season 3 starts this summer. 

Have you watched any of these? What are your favorite shows to binge watch?


Never Fade | Book Review

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As promised last Sunday, today I'm talking about the second book in The Darkest Minds trilogy—Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken. I always approach sequels with caution because most of the time, in my experience, the best book in the series is the first one. Imagine my surprise when I found myself loving Never Fade more than The Darkest Minds (reviewed here). No spoilers ahead. 

Never Fade continues Ruby's story, but now she has to also deal with the difficult choice she made earlier. It's obvious right away that she has changed as a person: she's not as naive, she's tougher, she is determined to get what she wants, and willing to make sacrifices. Of course, she's not made of stone, so her struggle between being efficient in reaching her goals and being compassionate is one of the most interesting things to witness. It's also frustrating at times—there were moments when I wanted to shake her so she would  finally allow her humanity to come through. What I also loved is seeing Ruby slowly get more comfortable with her powers, try to use them, master them, and not be afraid of what she can do. 

There is a lot of character development in Never Fade for almost everybody, which is always great to see. There also are a lot of new characters, which kind of overwhelmed me in the beginning. Because of this, it took me a bit to get into this book—I was immediately thrown into action, while I was still trying to figure out who was who. Speaking of action, there is a lot of it, and it's just as good (if not better) than what was happening in The Darkest Minds. I would say the book really picks up after about 20-25%, and after that it just keeps going strong. The pacing worked really well for me, and there was only one part where I got a bit annoyed with the drama between Ruby and her love interest. Nothing to consider a big issue though. Overall, I thought the plot developed really well, and there were a few very strong scenes that got my heart racing or got me emotional. The cliffhanger at the end isn't as frustrating as the one in The Darkest Minds, but it's still a very good one—I'm very excited to find out what happens next.

As I've already mentioned earlier, I loved Never Fade, and enjoyed it even more than the first book in the series. I can only hope that the final book is just as good—the bar is set pretty high in my mind now. I was originally planning to marathon through the series, but I'm taking a little break before reading the last book—I know I'm going to be sad when it's all over, and I'm just not ready for that yet. 

Have you picked up The Darkest Minds trilogy?
How did you think the second book compares to the first one?


Inspired by... Night Film

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If there was ever a novel that leaves an impression, it's Night Film. Marisha Pessl really knows how to set the mood, and keep her readers at the edge of their seats. This mystery novel takes many twists and turns, messes with your mind, and takes you to some weird and dark places. I loved it! If you want to hear more about it, I have a video review at the end of this post. 

When I started thinking about a manicure inspired by Night Film, I immediately knew a flat color wasn't going to cut it. Just like the novel's eerie feel, Essie's For the Twill of It is a complicated shade that's hard to place: it's a shimmery gray that reflects green and purple. As for my accent finger, red plays a big role in the book, as it's the color of the coat Ashley (the girl whose suicide the main character is investigating) was last seen wearing. The red I used is from the Revlon Sun Candy duo in Lava Flame, but obviously, any vibrant red will do. Finally, the bird had to make an appearance. If you have read Night Film, you already know the significance of the symbol, but if you haven't—it has to do with a film director from the book, Stanislas Cordova. His fans, who call themselves Cordovites, "have adopted the symbol of the red bird, which makes a fleeting appearance in each of his 15 films: a symbol of stark beauty, the human impulse for freedom, and in the face of unimaginable horror, the possibility for transcendence."

If you want to know more about the novel, check out the video below!
Is there a book that has been inspiring you lately?


The Darkest Minds | Book Review

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It's been a while since I've picked up a YA dystopian series, and this book was definitely a spur-of-the-moment decision. The premise of The Darkest Minds appealed to me very much—superpowers and special abilities are definitely having a moment in my reading life, but I have to say, this is one of the best YA dystopian novels I've read so far. Let me tell you all about it (no spoilers).

The book takes place in the US, after the country has been devastated by an epidemic. A mysterious disease has killed off most kids, but those who survived have developed special powers. As you can imagine, the government doesn't need a bunch of kids with superpowers running around, so they are taken from their homes into what essentially are concentration camps. The official word is that the kids are getting rehabilitated, but in reality they are viewed as freaks and there is no "cure". Our protagonist is Ruby, who is taken at the age of 10, and has spent 6 years in one of these camps.

Something that really sparked my interest about The Darkest Minds is how the powers are treated: the kids and teens are classified in colors—green, blue, yellow, orange, and red, each representing the type of power they have. Because the story is told from Ruby's point of view, we don't really get a clear explanation of what these mean right away—we have to figure it out along with Ruby. What's also interesting is that the same type of power doesn't necessarily work the same way with every person who possesses it.

There is A LOT of action in this book: the events just keep coming, and there is generally a lot of tension. The only thing I wished for was more when it came to the discussion about government and society. There was a lot of potential there, and when the author did touch on those subjects it was definitely thought-provoking. As for the characters, almost everyone grew on me. I also thought the relationships and attitudes were realistic—at least that's how I imagine things would work out. At some points it can be easy to dismiss Ruby as naive or annoying, but it's important to remember that she didn't grow up in a normal environment—as someone who has been in a camp since 10, she wouldn't exactly be your normal and reasonable 16-year-old.

The only reason I didn't absolutely love the The Darkest Minds is that the middle part felt a little flat to me. I loved the first third of the book, as well as the last third. I think the pacing was very consistent throughout the book, but I thought the events in the middle just couldn't compare to everything that happened at the beginning and the end. That being said, the middle was still very solid and action-packed.

Overall, I really liked The Darkest Minds, and it goes without saying that I'm continuing with the series. Keep an eye out for my Never Fade review next Sunday!

Have you read The Darkest Minds? Who are your favorite characters?


Five Things Friday: My Most Anticipated Books of 2015

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I never thought I'd be the person to look forward to new book releases. Generally, I don't really care about when the book came out—I read whatever I feel like reading, whether it's a new release, a critically acclaimed favorite from decades ago, or a classic. That being said, ever since taking an interest in BookTube, I've somehow become reasonably up to date on upcoming books. Out of curiosity, I sorted my Goodreads to-read list by publication date, and discovered that I have about 20 unreleased books on there. Furthermore, there are very clear priority books on that list—the get-it-on-release-day type of priority. Imagine that! Here they are, in no particular order:

Armada by Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One (check out my gushing over this book here) will have a new book out this summer. Need I say more? I'll be honest, the synopsis sounds a bit close to Ender's Game: Zack is picked up from school by mysterious men, only to discover that the video game he has been playing is actually a training program for gamers to eventually defend the earth from an alien invasion. It so happens that the invasion is coming, and Zack needs to prepare for battle. According to Goodreads, "he'll uncover the truth about the alien threat, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he's been thrown into." I mean, does that not sound familiar? Still, I'm incredibly excited for the book, and I trust the author to make this book an amazing experience. I've seen a few different release dates for this, but July seems to be the month. 

 

A Darker Side of Magic by V.E. Schwab

You may remember me talking about Vicious a lot recently (see my post and review here), so it's no surprise that I'm pretty much sold on anything that V.E. Schwab writes. This novel sounds like it has in interesting world setup, with four different versions of London. Take a look at this description: "Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now." Magic and travel between parallel worlds? Sign me up, I love the sound of this! A Darker Side of Magic is coming out pretty soon in the US, on February 24th, and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon (which I may or may not have taken advantage of already...)

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

OK, so technically this book is already out, but as per usual, I like the UK cover (photo on the left) more than the US one. As a result, I'm waiting until it becomes available on Book Depository.  As far as the novel itself, I've heard a few people say it's a must-read for anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl (which I did, very much). The book is about Rachel—a pretty happy individual who commutes on the same train every morning. One day she sees something shocking, something she shouldn't have seen, which changes EVERYTHING. That's literally all I know about The Girl on the Train, but I'm intrigued. I think with mystery novels it's best to go in knowing as little as possible, so I'm not going to do any research on this or look up any reviews—I'm going to patiently wait for my copy, and see what I've gotten myself into. If this sounds interesting to you, and you don't care much about the cover, you can order this book from Amazon in hardback or Kindle version.

 

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Here is the genre this book is described as: decopunk pulp science fiction alt-history space opera mystery. Wait... WHAT? I feel like that alone is reason enough to read it. Radiance is apparently set in Hollywood, but one very different from our own, because it's also set in a different solar system. From the description (and judging by the beautiful cover), the book has a lot to do with film making: "Aesthetically recalling A Trip to the Moon and House of Leaves, and told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film." This sounds very unique, but also a bit complex, hopefully in a good way. It looks like the book comes out on my birthday—August 18th, which I'm taking as a sign, and definitely treating myself to a hardback copy. Radiance is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Last, but certainly not least, there is a historical fiction novel I'm very much looking forward to. The Nightingale is set at the dawn of WWII, in France, and it " tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France—a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women." It's quite possible that this book is one that will rip my heart out and serve it to me on a silver platter, but I can't stay away—I need it in my life. The Nightingale comes out in a little over two weeks—on February 3rd, and I'm considering pre-ordering it on Amazon, because I'm pretty sure I need it that very day.

Have you heard about either of these books? What books are you looking forward to reading this year?


Impression Blend 2015: Goals, Changes, and YouTube Channels

Let's address something obvious: I haven't written a beauty post in almost 3 weeks and haven't posted a beauty video in almost 4. Now, don't be alarmed, I'm not here to tell you I'm quitting beauty products, I'm just on a bit of a hiatus with that. In the past year, I've learned a lot about myself, especially about what I like and don't like when it comes to blogging/YouTube. So let me tell you my plan for what's going to happen here on Impression Blend and on my YouTube channels this year.

The YouTube Channels

I'm going to start with the easy part. As you know, I have two channels: ImpressionBlend for book and movie talk, and MariannasBeautyRoom for beauty talk. Though I'm currently taking a bit of a break on the beauty channel, I have full intentions of posting regularly on both. I don't always share my videos here on the blog to avoid redundant "here's a video" posts, so make sure you are subscribed. I'm having a lot of fun with my ImpressionBlend channel, so I will continue posting book and movie reviews, monthly wrap ups and TBRs, as well as have some occasional discussion videos. As for my beauty channel, it's going to be my primary beauty talk destination—I will not be doing beauty reviews on the blog anymore (more on that later). So expect my videos there to feature more product reviews, swatches, and first impressions. For both of my channels, the goal is to make 2 videos a week on each, which may take a bit for me to work up to, so for now I'll leave it a bit more vague: 1 or more videos a week per channel.

The Blog

Alright, this is where the biggest changes will happen. If you have been following me for a bit, you may have seen my Inspired by... posts, and those are actually my favorite beauty related posts to write and photograph. Those will become a more prominent part of my blog, and most likely the only kind of posts that will actually feature beauty products. The rest of the posts will have to do with books, and film/TV. I know some of you are here only for beauty reviews, and I'm sorry if that's bad news for you, but I have to also think about what's fun for me. I do hope you give this new format a chance, stick around, and continue reading my blog! I appreciate every single one of my readers. As far as frequency, you can expect 3 posts a week from me here.

The Reading Goals

Why is this a separate subject here? Well, because I love reading (as you probably already know), and as someone who blogs and makes videos about books, I feel like I need to set some goals for myself. In 2014 I attempted to read 50 books (tracked via Goodreads), but I didn't quite get there—I read 42, and you can see them all on the right. This year I'm attempting 55, which I'm also going to track on Goodreads, but to make things even more fun for myself I will see how far I can get within the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. I've created a separate page on my blog, so you can see all of the goals and my progress in one place: you can check it out here, and it will also be linked in my blog menu on top of the page. I also have a few authors I really want to explore this year: 

  • Neil Gaiman—someone who sounds right up my alley, and someone I've heard so much about. I can't believe I've never read anything by this author!
  • George R.R. Martin—I've started on The Song of Ice and Fire series, but I've only read A Game of Thrones so far. I'm determined to catch up on the other four books this year!
  • Rainbow Rowell—can you believe I'm not on the Rainbow Rowell bandwagon yet? I especially want to check her out because I need some lighter contemporary books on my list, or I will get overwhelmed by all of the fantasy and sci-fi.
  • Patrick Ness—I'm pretty sure every single book of his is on my TBR currently, and I didn't even realize this. I'm starting with A Monster Calls, and after that moving on to the Chaos Walking trilogy. 
  • Brandon Sanderson—so many people recommend this author as a master of fantasy world-building! I absolutely have to check out his work, and I'm starting with Steelheart..

Sorry for the long post, my friends :) I hope you're as excited about these changes as I am!
Do you have a blog pr a YouTube channel? Are you making any changes this year?


My 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2015

Fact: I am big on lists. I am also big on movies. Naturally, I make movie lists: for the ones I want to see, for the ones I've seen, for the ones to buy, for favorites... You get the point. Of course, I already have a list of movies to watch for 2015 and it's not short. There are so many exciting films coming out this year! I thought I would share my top 10 with you today. This list is in the scheduled release date order, mainly because I can't rank movies I haven't seen (and some don't even have a trailer out yet). Also, if you want to know what movies were my favorites in 2014—there is a video at the end of this post for you.

American Sniper 

Scheduled release date: January 16
Watch the trailer here

When I first saw the trailer for this film, my heart was pounding. This looks like a hard film to watch, but also an amazing one. Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper is based on Chris Kyle's autobiography—a memoir of a US Navy SEAL with the most recorded sniper kills in US military history. From the trailer, this looks like a performance of a lifetime for Bradley Cooper, and the film definitely has a strong emotional core. It came out in a very limited release at the end of 2014, but it's getting a much wider release in January. I'm extremely interested in this film, but also slightly terrified of its potential emotional impact.

Jupiter Ascending

Scheduled release date: February 6
Watch the trailer here

On a COMPLETELY different note, I've been seeing trailers for Jupiter Ascending for a really long time now. It was originally supposed to come out on July 25, 2014, but got massively delayed (which is concerning). This is a sci-fi film, written and directed by The Wachowskis—the people who brought us The Matrix (1999) and Cloud Atlas (2012). The trailer looks epic, to say the least, but the fact that this film has been pushed to February makes me worried about its quality—we all know what kind of movies come out in the beginning of the year. Keeping my fingers crossed for this one, it better be as good as it looks.

CHAPPiE

Scheduled release date: March 6
Watch the trailer here

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, who is known for District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013), this film looks like it's going to be packed with meaning and metaphor. It's set in the future and is about a robot who is designed to learn, think, and feel, but of course that doesn't sit well with everybody. This movie has a really impressive cast as well: Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sigourney Weaver. CHAPPiE has definitely been on my radar ever since I first saw the preview for it.

Insurgent

Scheduled release date: March 20
Watch the trailer here

OK, you may think I'm losing my mind here, but I actually AM excited about the Divergent (2014) sequel. Here is why: to my surprise, the first movie was very decent. I thought the cast mostly did a great job (I'm still not on board with Theo James as Four), I really enjoyed the way the story translated onto the screen, the action sequences were fun, and I really liked the soundtrack as well. Don't get me wrong, the movie wasn't perfect, and some of the dialogue was cheesy, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. My hopes are up for Insurgent, even though the trailer confused me quite a bit—maybe I need to revisit the book.

It Follows

Scheduled release date: March 27
Watch the trailer here

I don't normally get excited for horror films anymore, but this one really caught my attention.  From the trailer, the film looks like an intense thriller, and not something that relies on horror movie cliches and jump scares. It's unclear what is actually going on there, but I think that's kind of the point of the story. There are so many bad, generic "scary" movies these days—I'm really hoping this one doesn't disappoint.

 

Ex Machina

Scheduled release date: April 10
Watch the trailer here

Sci-fi movies are apparently my thing this year. This one looks like it's somewhere between Her (2013) and CHAPPiE, or at least that's what I've picked up from the trailer. Ex Machina is a directorial debut of Alex Garland, who has written screenplays for films like 28 Days Later (2002) and Never Let Me Go (2010). There is something about the trailer that really grabbed me, and I'm very happy to see Domhnall Gleeson in a movie again.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Scheduled release date: May 1
Watch the trailer here

Does this film need an introduction? I don't think so. Marvel fans, rejoice! I can't tell you how many times I've watched the trailers for this one—they look so good! I'm getting worried that I will get my expectations up too high, but Marvel has been killing it at the movies lately, so I'm sure this one is going to be nothing short of awesome.

Spectre

Scheduled release date: November 6
No trailer available yet

You guys, there is a new Bond movie coming out this year, and I can't tell you how excited I am about this. Sadly, there is no trailer available yet, but the cast alone is worth talking about. Of course, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, but we also have Christoph Waltz and Ralph Fiennes here. I mean, come on! November is far away, but I can't wait to at least find out more details about this film.

The Hateful Eight

Scheduled release date: November 13
No trailer available yet

Another exciting film without a trailer—this one is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (which is why I'm excited, his name is enough). I know absolutely nothing about this movie other than what the IMDB blurb gives me: "In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive?" The cast looks promising as well: Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Tim Roth

Knight of Cups

Scheduled release date: TBA 2015
Watch the trailer here

I'm going to be honest, I have no idea what this film is about. The trailer makes me think it's some kind of twisted love triangle (?) situation, involving Christian Bale, that's somehow a self-discovery journey. Right?... I can't find a sensible synopsis anywhere, but look at that cast list! That has to be some kind of amazing-performers-in-one-film record.

What 2015 movies are you most excited about?
And, if you want to know about my 2014 movie favorites, check out the video below!