Friday, January 31, 2014

The Midnight Dress

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

Disclaimer: This book has an unusual older style of writing to it. Kind of stoic almost. The writing style lends itself well to the story, but there were moments where I had difficulty placing the time period in the story due to the events and language. Regardless, I didn't end up looking up anything because I believe a well-written story should have enough contextual clues to give the essence of the story without giving too many nitty gritty details. It did, it had enough to place me somewhere that I understood the social structures/norms which was enough to give me an understanding of how the characters interact with their world. The writing style also portrayed the rougher edges of the narrator's persona well.

....that was a lot of words for a disclaimer.

...I REGRET NOTHING. To the amazon summary!

"Quiet misfit Rose doesn't expect to fall in love with the sleepy beach town of Leonora. Nor does she expect to become fast friends with beautiful, vivacious Pearl Kelly, organizer of the high school float at the annual Harvest Festival parade. It's better not to get too attached when Rose and her father live on the road, driving their caravan from one place to the next whenever her dad gets itchy feet. But Rose can't resist the mysterious charms of the town or the popular girl, try as she might.

Pearl convinces Rose to visit Edie Baker, once a renowned dressmaker, now a rumored witch. Together Rose and Edie hand-stitch an unforgettable dress of midnight blue for Rose to wear at the Harvest Festival—a dress that will have long-lasting consequences on life in Leonora, a dress that will seal the fate of one of the girls. Karen Foxlee's breathtaking novel weaves friendship, magic, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and distinctly original." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE


I must confess, it took a little bit of pushing to get into the book. I was a little annoyed at Rose at first before she grew on me. Especially when she begins to interact with Edie and Pearl (who are both very delightful characters).

The main thing with this review that I want to cover is the writing style.

I was mildly frustrated with it at first, but over the course of the book, the point-blank details really helped to incorporate the atmosphere of the story and world.

This story took it's time with it's telling, yet it was time well spent. There weren't any wasted words or phrases, there wasn't too much time spent one place and not enough in a different place.

There is also the interesting portions where the chapter begins in italics, where the present day is sprinkling itself lightly to show how the past (the majority of the chapter) slowly leads to that path.

I fell in love with Edie Baker and her fun stories.

I loved how Rose kind of slowly fell in love with her world.

I liked the book.

Let's jump back to the summary.

Rose and her father wander into town in their caravan as her father has finally decided to stop for a bit. She's enrolled at school and her father collects a welfare of some sort for being her guardian. Rose views her father in a sour light and her father is her world in the beginning.

Until she meets Pearl. Pearl is a whimsical girl of sorts who is so full of hope and belief in wonder that her charm wears away at the harder edges of Rose.

Pearl starts to prune back Rose's thorns.

HAR HAR HAR I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON. ENJOY.

Anyways.

Rose has always had a life on the road, doesn't remember her mother that well, and the town of Lenora slowly start to teach her what home could mean to her.

It's wonderful.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ghoulash

It got to the table before I remembered to take a picture.
Ghoulash!

So this might be called something different, but this is what my family calls it and it's rather delicious.....

...so now I'm sharing it with you.

It's pretty good, and pretty dang easy and if your meat isn't frozen; it can be mildly quick.

BE PREPARED FOR A DELICIOUS ENCOUNTER.

Side note: the most beautiful thing about ghoulash is that it's really easy to tailor it to specific tastes. We usually like it with a little more zing...so it gets cayenne pepper. But only a hint or else mouth flames.

So....here you are!

Ingredients:
-16 ounces of elbow macaroni
-2 cans of diced tomatoes (plain; stewed and Italian kind of work as well)
-1 4 ounce can of mushrooms (stems and pieces) **very optional
-1 pound of Ground beef (I use venison but I know it's not an option for all)
-1/4 cup of diced onion
-2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder
-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Cook ground beef (or venison) with onion and drain fat.
2. Cook elbow macaroni as described by packaging instructions.
3. Combine ground beef, tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN THE TOMATOES), mushrooms, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder in a large sauce pan (you'll add the noodles to it, plan accordingly). Cook on very low heat for about ten minutes. (I usually cook this combination and the elbow macaroni at the same time.)
4. Add cooked elbow macaroni to the large sauce pan.
5. Simmer for about five minutes.
6. DONE.
 
I usually like to make corn bread with this, but it's a hearty winter meal.
 
Happy cooking!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile



Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile (Book 2) by Shannon Messenger

I previously reviewed Book 1 in this series HERE.

First disclaimer: I surprised myself with how excited I got when I saw this book on the shelf. I want to say probably because I had a wave of nostalgia over how the first one was just such a nice book.

Second disclaimer: I'm really surprised by how quickly the second one was released. For those playing at home, the first one came out on August 6, 2013, and this one came out on October 1, 2013. ....maybe there's some secret plot at foot. I don't know. However, I didn't notice any change in the writing and the content was of the same quality as the first book.

An amazon summary, "Sophie befriends the mythical Alicorn--and puts her mysterious powers to the test--in this enchanting sequel to Keeper of the Lost Cities.

Sophie is settling in nicely to her new home and her new life in the world of the lost cities. And it helps that living at Havenfield means getting to spend time with rare, precious species--including the first female Alicorn, who shows herself to Sophie and trusts no one but her.

Sophie is tasked with helping to train the magical creature so that the Alicorn can be revealed to the people of the lost cities as a sign of hope, and Sophie wants to believe that the recent drama and anguish is gone for good.


But the secrets buried deep in Sophie's memories remain, and before long she's back in incredible danger, risking everything to find the answers to questions that could save not only her life, but the life of someone close to her..." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE


There was a lot of content to this book that I'm not going to get to in the interest of not wandering into spoiler land and in the interest of having a more concise post.

HAHAHAHA.

...

HA.

Anyways.

The book begins with Sophie running around the woods with Dex searching for 'big foot' when Sophie accidentally finds a VERY RARE female Alicorn (a unicorn with wings) and convinces it to go back to Havenfield with her. Sophie is also protected by Sandor due to her almost-kidnapping, who (slight spoiler) turns out to be a great ally in the companion sense. Sophie has a messed up break before school begins as she spends a lot of time trying to train Silveny (the Alicorn) to be integrated into the Sanctuary where the elves keep all their magical creatures. Sophie is very preoccupied with the Black Swan, her kidnappers, and what her purpose is.

...it also turns out that Sophie might be a little broken.

Sophie goes on a journey to Exile with Alden to do a mind break. Then more plot things happen. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of it because it winds smaller threads into the larger picture of the overall plot.

So my impression of the book was overall it was a nice book, there were moments that I thought were a little dragged out, but Sophie was still motivating enough to read so I finished the almost 600 page book. There were also frequent humorous moments sprinkled throughout the story as well as moments that make my emotions get all derpy with AWEEEE.

I'm a bit annoyed that the majority of the book stayed in elf world even though the title of the series is 'Keeper of the Lost Cities'. I want to see some more of the world.

I also want the 'evil organization that is not the Black Swan' to be named.

I think if the next book does not provide some vital explanations, it'll be a decider if I'll continue on with the series.

For now, I'd be delighted to pick up the third book.

Happy reading!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Just One Year

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

I previously reviewed the first book Just One DayHERE.

Disclaimer one: As with books I like, I constantly wind up asking myself, "HOW DO I TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK WITHOUT GIVING ANYTHING AWAY???" It makes blogging about books I adore challenging. Just so you know.

Disclaimer two: I went into this book with hoping that it would pick up where Just One Day left off, but I was surprised when it started when Willem left 'Lulu' (Allyson) after their one day together. However, that didn't deter me at all from wanting to read the book and after knowing how it ends, I can appreciate how it all began better.

With that being said, an amazon summary, "Just One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read.

Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began....

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .


The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE


I fell in love with this book from the get-go. Willem's voice is capturing in how he interacts with the world around him. There are very deep, emotional moments that just sneak in and stun for the next chapter or so.

There is also the lingering longing of trying to find Lulu and what she meant to him.

The book begins with Willem recovering in the hospital and having a vague memory of a girl. He knows he has to get back to her, but he can't find her. He ends up stumbling through the streets but without knowing her name, without knowing where she might be, his search is fruitless. He gets to Amsterdam where he meets with his mother to sign off the sale of the boathouse that his Father built. It's been roughly three years since his Dad died, but he's still struggling to cope with the loss. His mother also seems to be very standoff and cold-hearted about the loss of Willem's father and the state of their own relationship. Willem winds up staying with a few friends before he starts trying to track down Lulu by going to Mexico and searching through the crowds of places where he thinks she might be.

It becomes a fixation for Willem for some time as he tries to track down and recall anything he can about Lulu. There's also some events that happened in Just One Day that correspond with events in Just One Year. Some questions start to get answered. Glorious.

While Willem searches for Lulu, he begins to figure his own life out. To understand and strengthen the relationships he already has and to be less of playboy.

It's quite beautiful.

I hope there will be a sequel for what happens at the end of the book; but I'm also content with the whimsical ending provided.

Perhaps there will be more adventures to come.

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Disclaimer: I'm going to have some 'fan girl' moments during this. I've reviewed only one other book by Holly Black on this blog so far, but I'm hoping to change that as I pick up some of her other books to reread. YESSSS. Anyways.

I am under the impression that this is the first vampire novel that Holly Black has written, although I'm quite positive she's written a few vampire short stories before. So this isn't her first go at the vampire rodeo.

Did I mention there are vampires?

Anyways, an amazon summary, "Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE


I fell in love with this book. NO SHAME.

There was a great combination of survival elements, to fear, to it's own twist on vampire mythology. It also helped that Tana was a badass in the best way. She had only a handful of hiccups, but they were for the better....oh I'll just talk about the book.

The book begins the morning after a party. Tana wakes up in the bath tub and is like, "WHOAAAA....why didn't anyone wake me up sooner?" to stagger out of the bathroom and to find the house relatively deserted. Then she smells it. She gets to the living room and it's a massacre of all the party attendees; they've been ravaged by vampires. There's blood everywhere and Tana has an understandable meltdown-like moment. She stumbles around and finds her ex-boyfriend (Aidan) tied up on a bed with the company of a vampire. The sun is starting to set, her ex-boyfriend has been infected (turned cold), and Tana scrambles to save both of them by dumping them into her car. Ex-boyfriend (Aidan) in the seat and the vampire (Gavriel) in the trunk. As they scramble out of the house, the vampires that killed everyone try to snatch her, but she wriggles away.

Just as a heads up; the hardcover version is about 400 pages long, but I'm going to cut myself off at the 100 page mark because there's a lot of story that should be left unspoiled. (YOU'RE WELCOME.)

They take a journey where they get to know each other a bit better before they decide they're going to Coldtown. The US has five cities which have been walled off and deemed Coldtowns where they can put the infected and the vampires to help prevent the spread of the disease. Tana wants Aidan to stave off the infection (an almost ninety day process) to become a healthy human again. Gavriel wants to go for his own reasons.

They wind up at the last stopping point before reaching Coldtown where they encounter Midnight and Winter; a brother and sister who are obsessed with vampire culture and would like to become vampires themselves. They're bloggers who are connected on chat forums and some sort of video web site that they seem to know what's what. They too want to go to Coldtown and are thrilled with the prospect of having a ride there. The siblings are kind of an odd pair that give another perspective of the world; that the vampires are blessed and not cursed. Their disease is to be coveted, not feared, etc. Something they too would like to be. They have an interesting and kind of active role throughout the book.

All throughout the action of the main story line, there are bits of Tana's past sprinkled in like how her mother got infected and bit Tana (turning the Mom into a vampire for real) and more exposition about how vampirism works.

There's a good blend of main story, back story, action, and Tana being a badass. I also LOVED the reveal towards the end (WHICH I WILL NOT SAY) but it was wiggle my toes pleasing. Hehe.

Happy reading!

Edit (1/19/14): This was the top result for my google image search when finding a good cover photo to include for this review. ....YOU'RE WELCOME.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Death of a Kleptomaniac

Death of a Kleptomaniac by Kristen Tracy

Disclaimer: I was pretty excited to read this book. It seemed to have an interesting premise going for it. I had heard this book receive a book talk so I pretty pumped to read it. Then I started, and it had left a horrible after taste in my mouth of several other blahhhh books.

....so with that, an amazon summary, "At sixteen, Molly is a girl who's just started living-at last she's popular. But for a girl who has everything, Molly feels like she never has enough. So she steals. At least there's plenty of time to fix this last little problem.

Except Fate has other plans for Molly. Like death.
Suddenly dead and in denial, how can Molly move on when life was just looking up? Can she abandon her earthly ties or will she jeopardize her soul to stay close to her loved ones?

From critically acclaimed author Kristen Tracy, Death of a Kleptomaniac is the heartfelt story of one girl's search for redemption, a family's encounter with grief, and love's power to rise above even the most final of boundaries." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

The book begins with a kind of quirky introduction to Molly, but it starts to spiral out of control.

Some basic things we learn about Molly: she left her best friend Sadie to move up on the popularity ladder and joined a dance team of some sort. She's a kleptomaniac who's bound and determined to snag a boy for some under the sheets action. She's debating with herself between two guys (one has a tricky situation, the other is just appealing for some reason).

AHEM. Dear books that contain 'romantic aspects', YOUR BOOK DOES NOT NEED SOME WEIRD LOVE TRIANGLE. YOU CAN JUST HAVE SOME LOVE. GEEZ. Or no love. These are better options. It's annoying when I come across a love square, but I LOATHE it when books attempt a love pentagon; it just doesn't work out for ANYONE. EVER. Any more than that and I'm not reading it to begin with most likely. The sneak attack love shapes are always the trickiest to dodge!

Anyways.

So Molly becomes kind of a flat character as she 'struggles' with who she was versus who she wants to be; who she's striving to be. There are moments where she has to remind herself that what she's got now is what she wants, that she wants to keep making something of herself on a piece of paper so she'll having something to reminisce about when she's old.

But she has these moments where she seems to try the 'coast' method once more that really wanted me to smack the book about to see if that'd knock some sense into her.

VERY AGGRAVATING.

However, I'd never harm a book. So no books were harmed in this reading adventure.

When Molly actually dies (I feel this is NOT a spoiler as the title is Death of a Kleptomaniac) the book seems to take on some vague aspects of The Five People You Meet In Heaven. 

I couldn't do it.

I could not do it after having to read The Five People You Meet In Heaven and to dissect it so often throughout my high school career and then further in my college career.

Nope nope nope. Could not push through it.

It seems like instead of The Five People You Meet In Heaven it was going for the angle of The People You Stalk When You Die (That's not a book as far as I know).

So I called it quits.

It could have been awesome and full of life lessons, but there was too much unexplained struggle and the writing came across as really awkward. Any time a character had to do something it was like, "I should get out of the car. I got out of the car. Now I'm talking to what's their face some 100 yards away." Very blocky and not conducive writing.

There were a lot of little things that irked me about the book but there was nothing that compelled me to finish reading the book once it started to feel all too familiar. After about a week of trying (wasted reading time really), I had enough.

On to the next book!

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate

I'm  currently in the midst of reading The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger.



I am in absolute love with them. I quite enjoyed her YA books (Etiquette & Espionage, and Curtsies & Conspiracies), so I decided to read her adult novels as they are set in the same world. I am absolutely delighted that there are characters that appear in both series and I'm starting to piece together some of the mysteries that the two series share.

Here is an amazon link to the box set, BAM.

However, as they are an adult series, I have decided to not make a blog post about each book and to simply tell you that I'm enjoying them immensely. They share a lot of the same enthusiastic vigor that her YA books do, but they are more adult in content/nature.

That being said, they are the first 'adult' books that I've read in a while that I've enjoyed so much that I might end up rereading them after I've finished.

So if you're up for some vampires, werewolves, steam punk, and teapots; I recommend picking this delightful series up.

Happy reading!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Two of my passions got together...

...and this glorious poster happened.

Brittany at Summerland Sushi sent this wonder to me today.

I adore it.

...that is all.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Allegiant, a discussion

The return of cross-blogging! YAY!

This will undoubtedly contain spoilers about Allegiant as it's a book discussion. Please do not read on if you would like the book to remain unspoiled.

Brittany blogs at Summerland Sushi, and her blog post about Allegiant can be found HERE.
In case you missed it, my blog post about Allegiant can be found HERE.

In the following discussion, I AM THE GREEN COLOR. Brittany is THE BLUE COLOR.  


If any of the formatting is a little weird, I apologize because this was copy and pasted from a secret place where Brittany and I talk.

Without further ado, here is our discussion led by questions.


What made you want to read it?
B: I only picked this up because I read the first two books and, while I wasn’t super impressed, I at least wanted to see where the story went.

L: I enjoyed Divergent, I was okay with Insurgent, but I was looking for a storyline redemption in Allegiant.

What were your hopes and expectations going into the book and why?
B: I had none. Insurgent had been a real slog for me, so I all I was hoping for was something that was a little more engaging.

L: Storyline redemption all the way. I wanted an explanation for the ruined state that Chicago had become because the first two books built up to made it seem that almost anything could be possible. The second book had more writing hiccups and I was looking to find the vigor of the first book.

At what point did you want to throw the book across the room in aggravation?
B: As soon as they started giving history on the Gene War. I originally wanted to study genetics in college, so I have a slightly-better-than-average understanding of the basics of genes, and, for the love of all that is holy on this Earth, genes DO NOT work like the book wants to make them work.

Now, having thought about it a bit, there may be some wiggle room I’m missing. There’s a lot of talk of propaganda and the like throughout the book, and how the government has covered up past wars, so it’s entirely possible the whole thing is a farce perpetrated by the government to control the… I don’t know what.

L: The same point. If my aim had been a little worse, it would have hit a window. When the blanket explanation was just ‘LOL GENETICS’ I had metaphorical square kittens. I didn’t want to read about a government conspiracy (also the whole “I inherit my job position” is some sort of hat nod to current politics or kingdoms; still dislike it either way). I wanted something atrocious that would at least give a little more meaning to all the deaths that had already occurred in the previous books. If Veronica Roth wanted me to believe in the ‘genetic explanation’ than there should have been more emphasis on the purity wars to make it seem like a more real and relevant point. I would have found it more believable if we had been able to see the other cities, to see the residents of other places, or to even see a different science center. I would have liked a better representation of the government, more of a presence than just the scientists.

Did you think the characters and their problems/decisions/relationships were believable or realistic?
B: I think they came off realistic, although I’m always a little leary of relationships in post-apocalyptic war situations. Sometimes the personalities just don’t seem to mesh right and no one ever asks, “You know, in any other situation where we weren’t about to die at any moment, would we actually be together?” I think the answer, for Tris and Four, would actually be a no. At least not in the long term. They have some serious trust issues that never really get addressed or fixed. Yes, they talk about it, but it just kind of ends up being Scumbag Steve-style, “Of course I’ll never lie to you again. ~lies less than 3 pages later~”


L: I thought that Tris and Caleb were unbelievable for how their relationship had even happened. I don’t care if it’s her brother, the betrayal should not be forgiven so easily nor should he be trusted with important tasks. Based on Tris’ character in the previous two books, I found her character slightly believable yet still greatly dislikable.Tobias/Four seemed to become an angry paperweight. Like, “Here, hold this concept for a few chapters by being angry about it” and he did.

B: I love the phrase, “angry paperweight” - it fits Tobias perfectly. His rage was short lived, misplaced, and distracting. And then Tris would say something that would make it all better, and then go back to lying about everything.

Who was your favorite character and why?
B: I didn’t really have one, except maybe Tris’ Mom. She seemed like a strong-willed, awesome person, and I would probably read a series just about her.

L: ….I kind of liked Amar because he had a smaller role and couldn’t be ruined.

How did the book compare to the other books in the series?
B: Not any worse or any better, over all, except for the Bad Science.

L: I feel that it’s worse just because it was SO DISAPPOINTING. I wanted that redemption but it was not happening anywhere. I wanted to see more characters outside of Tris and Tobias, or even more about Tobias’ parents who were the main leaders of the warring bodies of old chicago! There were so many important people just glossed over.

What else struck you about the book as good or bad?
B: I have a hard time with Roth’s writing style, because it’s choppy and a little disjointed. She’s built a very interesting, possibly believable world (depending on where the propaganda line starts and stops), but some chapters, the writing makes it feel like I’m reading a book written for much, much younger readers.

L: I found it incredibly unnecessary to switch narrations between Tris and Tobias. I agree with Brittany wholeheartedly about the writing style, I would like to take it a step further to say that she really seemed to have lost her way in the book. It just seems like she was digging a very deep hole from the beginning. I think the book just proved that the author didn’t know how to manipulate world mechanics and brushed over any explanation with ‘because’.

However, I enjoyed the dose of reality of how emotionally removed the scientists were from the residents of Chicago whereas Tobias was very invested because he knew them personally. It seemed to be one of the few realistic aspects of human nature that was portrayed well.

Did the book end the way you expected?
B: I wasn’t expecting her to kill the main character, since that doesn’t happen often in YA, but it also felt like a completely pointless death. I’ve never bought into the idea that fiction should be “realistic” and people should die because people die in real life. I know people die in real life, because real life sucks, and I read books to escape real life, damn it.

L: I thought it was inevitable that Tris would get killed, I’m surprised that Tobias wasn’t killed as well. When the narration was split between two characters I immediately prepared for narrator murder and horrible third person perspective ending. Instead I got Tris death, and Tobias repeating the same sentiment that had been happening all book.

Were you glad you read this book?
B: Meh.

L: Eh, yes...I just wish it had been more of a worthy endeavor.

Happy book discussions!


(The formatting might be a little odd on this as it doesn't translate well to copy it from the secret place into a blog post. I don't know why, it just isn't happy about it.)