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Poison Can be Addictive…

Hemlock by Rue Volley is a really unique, fun read for Young Adults. I was lucky to read an ARC of the novel from NetGalley. I really enjoyed the story line as presented. There were some things I really loved about this book and some things that irked me. The story is about Rook Dagger, a 15 year old burgeoning necromancer (born to human parents), who goes to a magical boarding school to learn how to control her powers and quickly gets in over head.


Interesting/Unique concept – I like the concept (beyond the normal forbidden teen love) with various groupings of supernatural all going to boarding school together with eventual placement into the worlds of magic.

Fun characters – The characters that are fleshed out are believable. There’s a lot of syntax and behavior that is completely teenage and even adult behavior that wouldn’t be out of place in a normal life.

Introspective Teen perspective – While Dagger goes through a lot of teen angst, she at least is observant and thinks about the why’s of people and their actions. I appreciate this because frequently I feel teens are written and just confused and keep doing stupid things without thinking because hormones. I think this also plays to this character’s upbringing, being secluded with her mother, so she is probably a little more introspective than others her age.

Playlist – I have seen this concept in a few books lately. I like the idea that you can put music on or at least familiarize yourself with the themes/feelings of a novel by reading or playing the songs that vibe with the story.


Story pace is choppy – Story beings with a vaguely dreamlike slow beginning, then it jumps all over and speeds out of control. As a result, I’m left with a lot of questions about how we as the reader are getting to the end of the book (which of course is a kinda cliffhanger).

Gaps in story – This goes hand in hand with the choppy pace. There’s all this detail at the beginning placed into what are non-pivotal scenes, then the story speeds up and there’s no information for why these gaps are happening. Flow of the story feels off. There are also things clearly referenced in the book that we aren’t told about yet, so it makes you feel like you’ve missed something, but it is just because the author is blatantly foreshadowing about something that will become important past book 1.

Tunnel Vision – The author created a world I’d like to know about, then zeroes in on the love story and the whole thing gets a little predictable from there on. I just felt like while the writing was great, there’s just so much backdrop, backgrounds, details set up that get literally forgotten. Felt unbalanced.

Beginning of series – This is clearly book 1 of a series, so the author leaves you with an unfinished story.

Included other works – 20% of the pages in this book have nothing to do with the story. There’s introductory chapters of 2 additional books, which seems weird. I wouldn’t want to pay for an intro chapter, I’d prefer more of the original story.

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Fairy Tales Revamped

I am a sucker for fairy tales. Give me a novel approach/revamping of fairy tales and you’ve got a captive audience!  The Thief of Cahraman by Lucy Tempest is a well done re-imagining of the Aladdin tale.  The book only contains the first 1/3 of the story, but luckily for me (and you), the rest of the story is published. To make the delightful story better, there are hints and tie ins from other tales that promise to make a widely elaborate world stitched together from the fabric of different tales.  Very much ala “Once Upon A Time”, which I also very much enjoy.

The  Thief of Cahraman is a tale of a thief who gets forced into pretending to be a princess to have access to the castle.  Throughout trying to obtain her objective, which will free her family and allow her to leave, she has the adventure of the lifetime.  In a story which takes every scrap of skill, impulsiveness, and heart, the reader will see how Adelaide (the thief) fares in her quest.

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Lady Hotspur

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Graton is a superb read. The author creates a familiar but unique world and then unleashes an epic story within. I really enjoyed this novel. I found it fun, refreshing, and immersive, which is really all I can ask for.  I was really excited that the entire storyline happened in a single book, because one of the biggest trends of modern publishing (last 6-10 years or so) is to make everything a series. Which works if you 1) are popular enough to warrant it, 2) are an established author, or 3) already have the entire thing written but don’t want to publish it at once. Most of the time you get the beginning of a series that is never finished and therefore are left with only part of a story. This book doesn’t do that!! Besides making the right call to put the entire story in a single volume, this story is great! I really enjoyed reading through the various character POV and learning how they think and interact in the story.

Lady Hotspur follows a trio of warriors, Hotspur, Hal, and Banna Mora. These women are knights, princes, and firmly believe standing up for their own beliefs.  Mora is the heir to the throne when Hal Bolingbroke’s mother overthrows the current king and replaces him as queen.  Now Hal, who has always been content to live her own life, has to shoulder a whole new set of responsibilities that thrust her firmly into the limelight and perhaps take on a role she isn’t sure she can do a good job at. Despite the change, Mora is convinced she still is the best choice to rule, even if she has to take the throne by force.  Hotspur is the quintessential knight, allowing her own moral compass to guide her sword and her loyalty. The changing of the ruler stirs up the destiny of the trio, showing up in the prophecies of the stars. As Hal, Hotspur, and Mora go through their own journeys of growth and exploration, their destinies are slowly being revealed.


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Beginner Crafting

I just got early access to “First Time Embroidery and Cross-Stitch” by Linda Wyszynski.  As the title suggests, the book provides an introduction into information that you’d need in order to get started with freehand embroidery, crewel embroidery, and cross stitch. The book is adequate. I understand that the author has undertaken a daunting task, these are historical crafts with a lot of history and variation over continents.

The embroidery section seems straight forward and very well illustrated. I do wish there was more projects though. There are only 1-2 projects for each example and they are pretty basic. They also are kind of unfinished. The examples are pretty dated as well. I have seen so many cool applications for these crafts, it is disappointing to see them limited to flowers.

Cross-stitch is the only craft in the book I have experience in and as a result, it also feels like the least explained craft.  They go through the several stitches of cross stitch, but they leave out the variety of counts that cloth comes in, the different number of strands one is suggested to use depending on the fabric count, the various  types of coloring systems (DMC is not the only item out there). I understand not inundating the new user, but I don’t feel like these instructions even begin to explore the fun of cross stitch.

Most projects don’t really take the learning of the craft as the focus. They all have the embroidery and cross-stitch as an accent which means most of the instruction is assembling instead of focusing on the practice/learning of the craft. Overall I wouldn’t buy this book, this information is already present in many forms on the internet with better projects and more detail.

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A Bright Jewel of a Story

I just finished “A Jewel Bright Sea”, by Claire O’Dell. It is coming out in the beginning of September.  An undercover slave, Anna Zhdanov, has to find a stolen artifact quickly and in return will earn her freedom.  However, nothing is as it seems, not even the artifact, and her adventure causes her to land among an unlikely group of allies who are not what they all seem.

The story jumps right in about 1/3 of the way through the plot line, so that at first I thought I had missed something. However, the author does a great job of spinning out the pertinent facts throughout the first section of the book so that the reader is caught up to speed by the time the plot gets going. While it isn’t my favorite way to jump into the story, it is good in this case since the background takes place far away. The reader skips all the tedium writing about travel when nothing happens.

This swashbuckling adventure is rather great! It has a lot of action and several plot twists keep the reader engaged about what is going on and what everyone’s real motives may be. I enjoyed that not even the narrator was free from spilling more secrets and motives that make them part of the uncertainty.

I recommend this book! It was a great, fast read that made me search out more by this author because of how enjoyable her world creating and characters were!

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I recently read “Toxic” by Lydia Kang and found it fascinating. The book is mostly told in the first person from the main character’s perspective with occasional parts from the male lead. It starts out a little odd, but as the story progresses, the narrative becomes important and sometime necessary, since the main character spends a lot of time alone.

The story takes place on a living space station that is failing. The main character, Hana, has lived her whole life on this ship, and never met anyone other than her mother and the ship. She’s a secret since she isn’t supposed to exist. The novel opens when she gets up and her mother never shows. She learns the ship has been evacuated and she is now left behind.  A research crew sent by the company who engineered/owns the ship has specific objectives to study and figure out where the ship went wrong and why. This research is a one way trip they are well compensated for.

Once on the ship, they encounter Hana and everyone is on a wild adventure of a lifetime.

I loved the advances in science imagined by this book.  There are a lot of new and neat concepts I’d like to see more of.  They are well fleshed out for what the book actually needed, and was a fun way to see science advance that wasn’t super technology/computer based.

“I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”

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C2C Demystified

Fiber art has really exploded in the last 10 years. With this comes a great influx of creativity and people expanding the boundaries of what is possible. Being a prolific and expert knitter/crocheter, I’ve been really impressed with the expansion going on. One particular feature that has been really fun to see is the Corner-2-Corner method of making items.  This crochet method essentially gives you the ability to create your item one small block at a time. These blocks are square, which means you can turn images into a fun 8-bit style and make intricate patterns easy. You can use this for everything from adapting cross-stitch patterns to creating your own graphs and images for custom work.

The book “Corner to Corner Crochet” by Jess Coppom does a really good job of taking all the fiddly bits of information about this style of crochet and makes it very easy to read and understand. This is important because while you get some information if you were to buy a pattern or watch a tutorial, this book really goes in depth and explains how to use all the resources at your disposal. In addition, Jess created some really fun and creative projects to try! They range from some small washcloths  to a complex colorwork sweater/poncho combo.  Jess has also done a good job using widely available yarns which make the replication of her projects much easier. It also cuts down on the cost since many of these “big box yarn brands” will have much easier requirements to take care of the item and keeping it look good. Overall I think this book does an excellent job making sure people can figure out the technique and keep up with them as they become seasoned pro’s.

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New Take on Magic

I really enjoyed this story. It would fall into a YA category for me, as the main characters are rather young. This is reflected in a lot of the dialogue and decisions. The overall story is fun and has exciting twists and turns.

I would have given this 5 stars if the storyline was a little more developed. There are points where I feel like we are rushed along without really knowing the characters and the situation, we’re just supposed to catch up. It is a fun quick read that had me thinking about the realities of magic and how frequently wishes can go wrong!

“I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”

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Anita Winds Down

Serpentine by Laurell K. Hamilton.  What can I say about it? It is an excellent book. This is the latest story in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. This is #26…which just is incredible! It made me think back to how much growth the title character, Anita, has gone through since book 1. This is in part because the book is very introspective. The character is in therapy and working on her impulsiveness, especially her destructive impulsiveness. Since she rarely does anything alone, a lot of her honeys are also in therapy and it is nice because they are all a little damaged (ok, a lot) and they are working on themselves and their relationships. I like that aspect because while most people just think therapy is for huge problems in a relationship, Anita helps to show that it is also a good thing to help you work on yourself, which can really help out your relationships.

I really enjoyed this book because it was a little slower paced and managed to focus on the main set of characters. The premise is that Anita and crew go to Edward/Ted’s wedding. Of course they manage to put their foot right in some supernatural nastiness. Does it ruin the whole wedding? Olaf makes an appearance, we see Micah being less than perfect (finally!), and learn a little more about all the other Horsemen. I admit that Anita really does get a cast of thousands at times, so a smaller locale outside the circus made me a little happier. Overall I now am excited for another one and will go reread at least the last 10 books!

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So I received a bounty of ingredients from a friend recently, they work for a kitchen that was closing for a couple of weeks and they cleaned out their walk-in and just gave away the fresh food, as they would be bad before the kitchen reopened. So I am staring at a fridge full of heavy whipping cream, green onions, pears, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and sour cream. What to do, what to do?

Sour cream is easy, goes in baking, mexican food, dips, etc. Everything else posed challenges to use up before it went south. Here’s my adventure in Pears.

I have about 20 bosc pears. They are old enough to not look super pretty, but for the most part firm and crisp. In searching for inspiration, I came across “pear butter”. As I am a fan of apple butter (growing up in New England it was very common), I’d thought I’d give pear butter a try.  I ended up using this recipe that allowed me to use the crockpot. Summers are hot, and turning on the stove for a few hours needs to be avoided, as paying for the heating of the stove and the cooling of the house simultaneously makes me feel a little ill.

I followed the recipe, except I used allspice instead of pumpkin pie spice and used less sugar.  I know it makes me weird, but I don’t really like the pumpkin pie spice blend outside of pumpkin pie.  It is soo distinctive in my head that it makes it immediately jump to pumpkin pie, which isn’t what I was going for here. The sugar was really reduced to 1 cup. I just wanted the pear-ness of it all to come out, and I know that pear can be a delicate flavor. Also, shout-out to the author of the recipe , Tammi (I assume), she handled the haters on her comment page with a patience and civility I don’t think I could match.

Score: Used up 10-11 pears, had a delicious and easy result!

After everything was cooled down, it was absolutely enchanting! But I still had pears left, so the saga continued.

The second pear recipe was a Pear Custard Pie. So easy and it worked well! Served as breakfast all week. The real star of this recipe is that you don’t have to do a crust! The custard really does firm up and take care of itself. Also I love cooking in cast-iron, so this combined two things I like! As I pretty much can’t follow a recipe exactly, I did add 1/2-1 more pear than the recipe required (I have a lot to use up!), but the custard did still nicely balance it all out.

Score: 4 more pears down, leaving me with 5.

The last recipe I found to use is a pear bread. I figured, well you can flavor those fruit breads with anything, so why not? I ended up using a recipe for Cardamom Pear Bread  because that sounds absolutely yummy. And the picture (posted for your pleasure) just looks awesome.

Cardamom Pear Bread with Almond Glaze is the perfect quick bread to make for brunch or a holiday breakfast! The flavors of warm, citrusy cardamom, juicy pears and a sweet almond glaze will have you grabbing a second slice! | www.reciperunner.com

So the recipe doesn’t actually call for much pear usage (1 cup), but the pears had been sitting for a spell and by the time I peeled and cut off all the bits I didn’t like, it used up most of the remainder. The 1.5 left were just kinda too soft (I hate mealy pears), so no big loss. This recipe I followed, but more like followed the spirit of. Now, I will caution you, if you are not an experienced baker, follow recipes! I have been baking since I was about 4-5 and so I frequently know the consistency of batters I’m going for, what can and cannot be substituted with impunity, and how to compensate for more/less of certain ingredients.  I substituted all-purpose bleached flour (King Arthur) for the whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup sugar for the 1/3 cup honey, 1 egg and a little meringue powder for the 1 egg+1 egg white suggested, and cut my pears up into slivers instead of shredding them.  I also used some homemade lemoncello for the pear juice, as my fresh pears didn’t have juice and I don’t keep juice in the house.

My batter was a little thicker/tighter than I knew it needed to be. But I planned for that. I put 1/2 the batter into the pan, spread it well, then added about 1/4 cup of my pear jam. Swirled that around with a spoon, keeping away from the edges, then added the remainder of the batter, leveled it out, then added a few more spoonfuls (so exact, I know) to the top and swirled some more!

The bread cooked the same amount of time listed in the recipe and is moist and delicious. There was a little leakage of butter out here and there, but a quick run around the edges of the pan with a butter knife while it was still hot seemed to take care of it sticking to the sides. I didn’t line my pan with parchment, because I don’t like to and my loaf pan is non-stick, so I’ve never had problems with it sticking to the pan. If you are worried, add the parchment.

That’s it! All done with pears. Let’s see what I do with the rest of it! Or really hope what I do with the rest of it is interesting enough to warrant a post!