Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Bookworm's Corner #5

The Bookworm's Corner is weekly updates on anything bookish! What I've read through the week, any books I've bought this week that I'm super duper excited about, recommendations lists, book news - whatever! This is where the Bookworm wades in.

What I've Finished

Bone Gap by Laura Riby
YA, mythology retelling
4/5 stars

In the small Illinois town of Bone Gap, strange things are afoot. One day, a Polish girl named Roza entered the lives of brothers Sean and Finn - and then she was gone, like so many others in their lives. Everyone is convinced she just left. But Finn knows differently. Finn saw the strange gray man who moves like cornstalks in the wind. Finn saw him take Roza. And Finn will do everything he can to bring back the girl his brother loves. Even if no one believes him. When I first started reading this book, I was confused as all hell. Magic realism is a genre that I'm still getting used to, and I'm not sure I ever will. So throughout the majority of Bone Gap, I scratched my head and declared it one of the weirdest books I had ever read. But I was curious to see how it would end. I wanted answers. More than halfway through, I suddenly understood that it was a loose retelling of the Hades/Persephone legend. And suddenly everything made sense. This book isn't being marketed as a retelling, and maybe it's an accidental retelling, but thinking of it as one clears up all the nigglies and puts some sense into the weirdness. And this realization pushed the rating up to a 4-star rating, where it might have been as low as 2 stars. The characters are all very fascination and interesting, and as I got to know Roza, I became emotional invested in her and Sean. I never was invested in Finn and Priscilla "Petey", though I loved Petey's no-nonsense and Finn was just an oddball. If you're looking for a weird, engaging, surprising read, look no further.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
4/5 stars

Something is amiss in London. A creature stalks the dark streets, tormenting young, gentle Lucy, leaving strange bleeding marks on her throat. His presence sends the inmates of a local sanitarium into a frenzy. The only way to hunt this creature down before he destroys anyone else may lie with strange Professor Van Helsing, who studies lore and legend and the accult. But even he may be no match for the creature. I really, really wish there was a way I could have read this book having no clue what was going on. What was it like picking this book up the first time it was published, before it was a classic and had been destroyed with numerous bad movie adaptations? Dracula is spooky and deliciously Gothic. The narration style - through journal entries and letters - is extremely effective, and the insane asylum an absolutely perfect touch. I dearly wish someone would make a movie that is actually close to the book, because it's chilling and creepy and awesome.

 Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass: #3
YA, fantasy
3/5 stars

Celaena Sardothian, the King's assassin, has been dispatched to a neighboring kingdom to assassinate its royal family. But Celaena has other plans. She's looking for answers - about herself, her inherited power, and how to destroy the ruthless, cruel king of Adarlan. But a monstrous army is amassing and Celaena is running out of time. I knew that this series would eventually impress me. The world building was too good from the beginning not to; I just can't stand Celaena. However, we follow several characters in this third installment, so we actually spend very little time with Celaena. And with Celaena being separated from her love interest, Chaol, I was able to appreciate everyone. The world building continues to impress me, and the plot is getting thicker and more complicated and more engaging. I even found myself liking Celaena just a tiny bit in the end. Once she faces her inner demons and stops being pathetic and broken down, she is pretty awesome. I only hope her awesomeness continues. And as always, the ending pulled a twist that was totally epic. I can't wait to see what happens next; I'm officially hooked to this series. It lived up to expectations in the end.

What I'm Currently Reading

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan: On page 259
Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales: This week, I read N/A
Anderson's Best-Loved Fairy Tales: This week, I read N/A
Wolfsblood by Hazel West: On page 216
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling: On page 363
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie: On page 175
- Antigoddess by Kendare Blake (just started)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day #12: Hanging Out With Myself

Today I needed time to myself. So I decided to make a date with me. ;-) As a reward for completing a side job, filing my taxes, and getting through a boat-load of emotions, I had a day out in town. Just me and my music and a cool breeze through the car window.

There were two major used book sales going on in town today, so I hit the first at ten o'clock, then hung out in downtown until the next one opened. I visited a used bookstore I haven't been in for a while, popped in and out of some antique shops, and stopped by a local tea and dessert parlor to enjoy a cup and a nice fresh brownie - as well as a couple of sheep-shaped dark chocolate Easter truffles (oh my gosh, those were good!). It was so nice to sit in a window seat and read while sipping some hot orange spice tea.

After that, I walked down to the last book sale. In total, I came home with 20 books. All of them ranged from $0.50 to $2.00. There was some great finds. And when I got home, I just felt so much better. Relaxed and happy and excited and refreshed. I've spent the rest of the day recording videos, shifting my bookshelves to make room for the new books, and moving my hedgehog downstairs - as the weather is turning warm and sunny and my bedroom is just getting too hot for me and him to sleep up there.

I had a funky week, but I feel loads better now. And tomorrow I might be going to the beach!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day #11: Traveling Fool

When I was little, I dreamed of nothing else but traveling to distant places and seeing things (okay, I also dreamed of owning my very own private library). As I got older, I craved this more and more, but the means seemed unattainable. During what I call my Dark Days (when I was pessimistic and depressed and negative), I totally despaired of ever seeing anything outside of Washington and Oregon. And to be honest, I haven't even seen much of those two states.

Life seems to have new plans for me; or maybe it was its plan all along. I'm turning into a traveling fool! This weekend, I spent the night up in Seattle with some friends, where we ate at Bambino's and then went to Seattle Swing (pictures will follow this Friday). It was awesome. I thought I would be dead Monday morning, as I stayed up until 12:30am, and then had to get up at 7:00am to drive back for work. The exhaustion didn't hit me until today, actually.

At the end of April, I'm spending five days in Nashville, Tennessee. Well, actually, one day in Nashville - where I'm going to attend the launch party for YA author Sharon Cameron's newest book at Parnassus Books. Then I'm heading to Kentucky to visit relatives. But I'll have quite a bit of time in Nashville before the event, so I'm hunting up things that bookworms need to go see - as well as coffee shops and places to eat. Recommendations are so very much welcome, by the way!

At the end of May, I'm heading to BookCon in New York City for five days! I'm going to get lots of site-seeing in while I'm there. Museums, bookstores, and as many ethnic food street vendors as I can possibly find. And since I'm staying in a historic art deco hotel, I'm totally doing some hotel explorations!

I'm probably going to do a day trip to some places in Oregon and Washington that I have been to, but have never actually explored. Like Port Townsend, Astoria, Port Angeles - just to name a few. It'd be awesome to go to Yahats again, too. What I really want to do is do a bookstore/library tour of Washington. How fun would that be?!

And next year, I want to road-trip to the LindyHop Festival in Houston, Texas, and the year after that - a pony tour of Iceland. If things really line up and I have a job at the prosecutor's office next year, these traveling dreams will be even more likely.

Rewards really do come to those who wait. You just have to accept that if it isn't happening yet, it just isn't the right time. But your dreams and wishes will happen - eventually. Mine certainly seem to, and I don't think it's just because I'm "one of the lucky ones."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Bookworm's Corner #4

The Bookworm's Corner is weekly updates on anything bookish! What I've read through the week, any books I've bought this week that I'm super duper excited about, recommendations lists, book news - whatever! This is where the Bookworm wades in.

What I've Finished

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Twilight Saga #1
YA, paranormal, romance
1/5 stars

Bella is recently moved to Forks, Washington - one of the rainiest places on the Pacific Northwest. She's prepared for a dull life in the small town, settling into a new school and making new friends. What she doesn't expect is to fall head over heels for the mysterious Edward Cullen - a young man with a very dangerous secret. There is absolutely no logical reason why I read this book. So I won't even try to explain; I read it and that's the end of it. It was, predictably, absolute torture. I went into this book with an open mind - I really did. I was prepared to let it speak for itself. Forget my preconceived expectations and all the gripe and hype surrounding it. I was giving this book a fighting chance to prove itself to me. The writing immediately hit me as some of the worst I've ever read, There was simply nothing to like about Bella; she was one-dimensional at best. It irked me that she liked books, her clumsiness was not endearing, and I just wanted someone to kill her. Edward is a classic stalker/abusive boyfriend, and any of the side characters could have had some potential if I hadn't been reading about them through Bella's perspective. Alice and Carlisle were kind of awesome, and as I read the book, I could do nothing but moan over all of the missed opportunities. If only this author had told someone - anyone else's - story other than Bella's. Carlisle has an awesome past! Or Alice! I would have loved to read Alice's story. Why couldn't we have gotten her as a protagonist instead? In short, this book did not defend itself well.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments #3
YA, fantasy
3/5 stars

Clary's only hope to wake her mom from her self-induced slumber lies with a mysterious warlock in Idris, the capital city of the Shadowhunter world. But Jace is afraid that the Clave with use Clary's special abilities as a weapon against the impending war with Valentine. Meanwhile, secrets come crashing down around them as Valentine's web is woven tighter and tighter around them. This is the volume that everyone has told me things start to go downhill. And I chose to read this simultaneously with Twilight. Very. Bad. Idea. However, my general opinion of this series continues, even after this book. I really, really like the general concept. Simon, Luke, and now Sebastian do make it easier to bear the annoyance that is the romance between Clary and Jace. When the book wasn't focusing on that, I enjoyed it. And if Jace wasn't causing so much romantic tension, I would even like Clary. But I really dislike Jace; he's pouty and moody and "oh, pity me." And of course, with Clary and Jace being brother and sister, the romance is all levels of awkward. It's a little sad, in fact, when the only halfway romantic relationship in a book is the gay couple - and even that relationship feels like molestation is taking place. But I like the storyline itself well enough to continue on.

What I'm Currently Reading

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan: On page 259
Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales: This week, I read The Glass Coffin
Anderson's Best-Loved Fairy Tales: This week, I read The Galoshes of Fortune
Wolfsblood by Hazel West: On page 216
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling: On page 363
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie: On page 175
Dracula by Bram Stoker: On page 383
- Bone Gap by 174

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sweet & Sour: Emotional Overload & Launch Parties

Sweet & Sour is a weekly feature where I talk about one "sweet" thing that happened - and one "sour" thing. Because life throws us lemons and cookies! But because bad news should always come first, we're doing this in reverse order!

The Sour

I have been running nonstop for the last three weeks. Despite my love of being busy, hanging out with friends, and just always having a full schedule, I am still an introvert at heart. And introverts need at least one day every week for Alone Time. However, I haven't had that 24-hour Alone Time in 3 weeks. I knew an emotional volcano was going to erupt; I had hoped it would happen after the weekend - more specifically, after Sunday - but it didn't. It happened a few nights ago. On retrospect, though, it's probably better to have had it happen before my big night out to Seattle Swing. And at least I knew that I just needed to let it happen and I would feel a lot better. I don't know about "lots better," but a little calmer, at least. Now I'm just bone tired.

The Sweet

YA author Sharon Cameron has personally invited me to come to the launch party for her new book Rook in Nashville, Tennessee! And my grandparents are offering to pay for the plane ticket, provided I spend some time with them. Whether or not I take them up on that offer, if my boss gives me the okay, I am going to Nashville at the end of April, and I am meeting Sharon Cameron!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day #10: Running On Empty

So I really do love being busy. There's nothing more satisfying than looking at my calender and seeing full days. But while I have fun getting out and doing things, I am still an introvert at heart, and introverts need a day to be by themselves and recharge. I especially do, because I will never say no to another social engagement if I have time to squeeze it in. And the ending result of being an introvert who doesn't turn down invitations? I don't get nearly enough rest and then I crash.

I'm hitting my crashing point.

The last two weeks were busy as all hell. My off days from work were taken up with shopping errands, which are almost most exhausting than work. My mornings have been taken up with another side job that is (thankfully) coming to an end this week. I've had something going almost every Saturday evening, so my usual Pajama Day has been interrupted. I have had so much baking and cooking to do for various occasions and events and club meetings, I have been finalizing plans for my visit to New York and BookCon, which has been both fun and a burden.

And, to top it all off, my car broke down right when I needed it. Some friends and I are going swing dancing up in the Big City this weekend, and I was supposed to be the third driver. While parents are scrambling to find a new car, I'm desperately trying to get used to carpooling to positively everywhere again. It's no fun.

I can feel The Crash coming. I know it'll happen, and there will be tears and maybe some screaming. I need to let it take its course. I only hope I don't get so tired that I can't enjoy the big plans I have this week.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Czech Poppy Seed Bread

This recipe is courtesy of See Aimee Cook!

I loooove poppy seed bread. I always have, and I used to make muffins and loaves from the box mixes all the time. But I really don't like making things from boxes. So I decided to try out this recipe. I couldn't believe how fluffy my batter was, and how perfectly moist the bread turned out. This is incredibly good and I'll never go back to a box again!

1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour (the original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups flour, but I found that it made it too dry)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the poppy seeds, honey, and water for 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cooled poppy seed mixture to creamed mixture, and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream and vanilla extract.
  3. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, beating well.
  5. In a small bowl, beat together egg whites until stiff, then fold into batter.
  6. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9-inch tube (or bundt) pan. Bake for 40 minutes (the original recipe says to bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. I baked mine for 30 minutes, checked it, then added on an extra 10 minutes. This cooked it perfectly. It's a good idea to cut the time in half, then add on 5 or 10 minutes as needed, checking after each time)
  7. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. The bread will collapse a little; that's all right. Remove from pan and cool totally on a wire rack. Slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar!