Holiday Words & Sips

It seems as though this year sprinted from start to close. So much has happened over the past 12 months, and I am beyond grateful for where I find myself in life during this holiday season.

I haven’t had as much time to read as I would have hoped (but isn’t that always the case?). But for this post – as a holiday special, if you will – I decided to share some of the books that I’ve been reading over the past month, and the drinks that I have paired with them. Note: I am still in the process of reading the books listed below, so my opinion may change as I read further.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My Thoughts: The writing is incredibly beautiful and although the sorrows shared are poignant, the language makes them feel a little less harsh. Even if you don’t typically indulge in YA fiction, I would highly recommend this novel just for enjoyment as an art form.
One Word Description: haunting.
Drink Pairing: Twinings Herbal Unwind (chamomile & green apple), served hot with honey to taste.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated to be 5/5.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My Thoughts: In my mind, characterization is Doerr’s main strong point, at least thus far. I love all things WWII, and seeing how the two main characters are coming to life thanks to Doerr’s word magic makes this book a treat to read. The pacing is a little slow at times, which is a downside, but it’s more of a “cozy” slow pace than it is a “oh my gosh when will we get anywhere in this story” kind of slow.
One Word Description: Engaging.
Drink Pairing: Leinenkugel’s Pomegranate Shandy.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 4/5.

Christmas In London by Anita Hughes
My Thoughts: I’m trying really hard to let myself just be engaged in the story, but I am getting somewhat frustrated with some quirks in Hughes’ writing style. Since it is a romance, there are plenty of times where characters kiss; however, the kisses are always described in terms of how they taste. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, not every kiss tastes like something specific like “champagne and berries” (direct quote). Also, characters never just run into each other; it’s always something like “Louisa sees a young woman coming toward her in a plaid Burberry coat and recognizes Kate” (not a direct quote). Like… does it really take someone that long to recognize another person that they are very familiar with? NO, it does not! So please stop. I do love all of the imagery though. Describing scenes and food is definitely one of Hughes’ strong points.
One Word Description: I don’t just have one word, I have two. Infuriating & entertaining.
Drink Pairing: Tazo peppermint hot chocolate.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 3/5.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
My Thoughts: I really am enjoying this book. I’m not typically one who reads a lot of humor, but over the past year I’ve discovered that I enjoy humor as long as I read it in small doses. Schumer’s book is no exception. If I read too much of it at one time, the humor does grate on me, but in small doses I love it.
One Word Description: Relatable.
Drink Pairing: Mike’s (Hard) Mango Lemonade.
Rating: None yet due to it being a current read, but anticipated 4/5.


Memory – Madison E. Grey


4/5 stars.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this book. The blurb sounds similar to a lot of YA fantasy that I’ve read, but after the disastrous attempt at reading (and enjoying) The Cabin (see my review here), reading Memory was a relief.

Ms. Grey did an excellent job of reeling the reader into the story. There were parts of the story that were less gripping than others, but overall, I wanted to find out what happened, and nothing got in the way of that throughout the story. There were a few slips in the editing throughout the book, but compared to many other YA authors that I’ve read (again, see my review on The Cabin as a direct comparison), Grey’s writing was a joy to read.

The only thing that caused me to rate this a 4/5 instead of a 5/5 was that the pacing in the last 40% of the book or so was a little rushed, and there were parts that were a little unclear. There was also a lot of action packed into the latter 40% or so, that seemed to serve little purpose but to move the story along. But again, these were not enough to be a detriment to the book overall or to decrease my enjoyment of the story.

Here is a list of what makes Memory work well for me:
* No insta-love and the romances are not the main focus of the story
* Main characters that are actually likable
* Humorous but realistic view of life/the world/the situations in which the characters find themselves
* Compassionate characters
* Not a lot of telling, but a lot of showing (YES!!!!!)
* Prose that is not clunky and a story arc that flows well

The only other issue that I have is that Memory ended on a kind-of cliffhanger that points to reading the sequel… but I can’t complain too much about that, since some of my favorite YA authors do the same.

Definitely would recommend to anyone who loves a quick, action-filled fantasy tale. Also for those who are burnt out on the typical YA protagonists and love triangles – this was a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms. Grey!

I’m still around, I promise.

Life has been super busy, you guys. In January, my husband and I and our cat and parrot moved about 600 miles away from the county where I had lived since I was in preschool. We got a gorgeous new apartment, I started working a crazy-but-amazing new job, my husband got a new job, and we adopted a dog. All within the span of two months. Things are just settling down now to the point where I’m making myself take some time to read.

(Oh, and did I mention that I’ve been pretty much constantly sick since we moved? My lungs do not agree with the new climate, even though it’s not THAT much different from where I used to live. Cough drops, cough medicine, my inhaler, tissues, Vicks VapoRub and Sudafed have become my best friends.)

Anyway, so I am getting back into reading. Slowly. Very slowly. So I’m still around, I’ll still be posting (hopefully a little less intermittently!), and I will do my best to read the books I have lined up to review! You know who you are. 🙂

One of the perks of moving from a rural area to a much more urban area is that the library here is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the small town library where the librarians knew who I was… but I am much more pleased with the collection of (physical) books that the library here has! Also, they have a reading room with comfy chairs and big windows. I don’t think there are words to describe how happy this makes me! I love being able to go there on a weekend and curl up with a big stack of books with my iPod playing, and just lose myself in a world that someone else has created. It’s one of the most soothing things I can do.

Another interesting “change” since we moved is that I’ve become more interested in nonfiction. I’ve started reading various humor authors – from Dave Barry (I like him but he is a bit repetitive) to Joan Rivers (don’t like her, too offensive on all levels) – as well as true crime (not right before bed though) and just various other books (for example, right now I’m reading Unmentionable: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners – it’s pretty interesting! although I already knew some of the things written about in it). I’m also reading a variety of fiction – on my Kindle app on my phone, I’m STILL working toward finishing Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (I didn’t like Gone Girl – I think because I took too long to finish it so I lost threads of the plot – but I decided to give Flynn another shot). From the library, I’m reading Let’s Get Lost by Ali Alsaid, Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (classic! I’d never read any Judy Blume prior to earlier this year, when I finished Forever…), and Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake. And here at home, I have Fahreinheit 451 by Ray Bradbury waiting for me as well as The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which I’m buddy-reading with my mom. 🙂

So all is (fairly) well here. I’m happy to be posting an update; I’ve missed being more active on here.

xx April.

They Mostly Come Out At Night – Benedict Patrick

Many thanks to the author for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

5/5 stars.

I am just going to make a note at the beginning of my review: this is an honest review. I’m not giving this 5/5 stars as a favor or anything like that. I don’t do that stuff.

But… Wow. Just wow. When I initially received a copy of this book, I read 70% of it in about 2 days. I knew I would probably give it a 5/5 rating, but I wanted to give myself some time/space away from it just in case I was a little too excited about it to be fair.

So I set it aside. The week or two that I meant to set it aside for, turned into about four or five months (or 6 months…). I picked it up again today, and finished it.

Why am I telling you this? Well, so you know that my 5/5 stars was not just the starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing” high that I sometimes get after reading a novel that gripped me. This is a starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing AND I WANT MORE” high that has lasted for months.

As a voracious reader as well as a writer myself, I have a very vivid imagination. As such, I don’t watch TV – I read instead. Seeing things like book adaptations on TV/in movies can be somewhat frustrating since they’re not always portrayed as I’d like to see them portrayed. I know for some people, TV is relaxing and more distracting.

Again – why am I telling you this? Because reading They Mostly Come Out At Night is like watching the action-driven portion of a movie, except you get to fill in what the characters and places look like yourself. I could completely envision myself there, with Lonan, with Artemis, with the Magpie King… fighting in the forests, running through the halls of the Eyrie, seeing the destruction in the Eyrie, seeing the darkness that overtook the forest. I could also very vividly see the more gory scenes even though they were not extremely gorily written (so the enchantment of “seeing” what I read, especially evident in this book, was not always a blessing).

I don’t entirely know how Benedict Patrick managed to write They Mostly Come Out At Night the way he did. I don’t know how this book, above all others that I’ve read in recent years, plays out in my brain like a movie, with none of the issues that watching movies/TV comes with for me. I don’t know what it was about his writing that pulled me in, but whatever it was, I want more.

I loved how myths and legends were the backbone of this book. It was not a unique idea, but the way that it was carried out was, in my opinion, unique and wonderful. I definitely recommend this to anyone, but especially those who love fantasy combined with myths/legends.

Warning, though: They Mostly Come Out At Night does have portions that are dark and sad. So be ready to be pulled into the world that Benedict Patrick has created, and be ready to feel All The Things™.

Another absence.

Hey y’all. I’m still here!

I figured I’d post and say that no, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. For those of you who are authors and have commented and received a reply from me, I have not forgotten about your books, and for those of you who have commented and have not yet received a reply – I have not forgotten about you, either. I promise!

Life has just been really busy. The time I set aside for reading took a tumble in March this year, when my partner at work quit. It’s been 25 and a half weeks that I’ve been on my own, working about 200% of what my job is supposed to require (I have gotten some help from my supervisor as well as an intern that was with me for about 10 weeks). They are currently going through the hiring process now for a new partner for me, so I hope that soon I’ll be back to reading more.

I’ve been reading a lot of different books (and of course, not finishing [m]any) – from Crank by Ellen Hopkins to Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks to Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown. And many others also.

It’s already late August 2016. Where did this year go…?

Tantalizing Tuesday!

I know that I’ve done Top 10 Tuesday posts in the past, but those have been difficult for me at times, because — depending on the topic — making a list of 10 books that fit that topic can be challenging.  So I thought of Tantalizing Tuesday instead.

What is a Tantalizing Tuesday post?

The way that I’m thinking this will work is that it will be semi-similar to a Top 10 Tuesday, in that there will be a list.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  I’ll share book recommendations here regarding books that I find tantalizing for one reason or another.  Reasons could range from “this book gave me a glimpse into a world that I really want to read more about” to “I really wished I could live in the world this book described” to “I want to read other books by this author, STAT!”

1.) The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge.

I first read this book when I was probably 9 or so.  Even now, Ilittle white horse cover 1947 remember when I was first introduced to this book.  It was an edition that was published in 1947 as the first American edition (The Little White Horse was originally published in 1946).

The Little White Horse is a children’s book, yes.  But it’s written so magically, so beautifully, that it’s suitable for any age.  Even now, 18 years after I first read it, I still can’t think of any book that I would prefer to reread.  I’ve already probably read this particular book 3 or 4 times (which is almost unheard of for me — I rarely reread anything).

Another thing that The Little White Horse did for me was introduce me to other books that Elizabeth Goudge had written.  Although I haven’t read anything of hers in quite awhile, she’s still at the top of my “authors I love” list.  This book is also one that really introduced me to the magic that words can be — the world that Goudge created in this book is one that I miss when I’m not a part of it.

2.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken.

Similar to The Little White Horse, this book by the esteemed Joan Aiken is also a children’s book, but again, to me, it seems ageless.  It’s a magical book, albeit in a slightly more frightening way (not to a “horror” lewowc illustration1vel of frightening — it’s just more Gothic in terms of the storyline than The Little White Horse is).  I remember the day I first found this book, in the children’s section of the university library where my dad teaches.  I was probably around 8 or so, and I was so excited to read this book.

Another thing that makes me long for the world wherein The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and subsequent novels) are the wonderful illustrations contained within the novel.  Some more information about Pat Marriott and other illustrators that collaborated with Joan Aiken can be found here.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was also published awhile ago; in fact, its first publication was in 1962; only 15 years after the publication of The Little White Horse.  It’s the first in a series of what Aiken called “the Wolves Chronicles,” and although I’ve read most (if not all) of the other books in the series, this one remains my favorite.  I loved the world of Bonnie, her cousin Sylvia, and their friend Simon, “the goose-boy,” and this is another book that I’ve reread many times.

3.) Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild.

Apparently, todayballet shoes cover I am in a mood to write just about children’s books that I found mesmerizing and tantalizing.  Ballet Shoes was published first in 1936; again, this was a book that I read when I was pretty young (I think I was probably 7 or so when I first read it, and like the first two books in this list, it’s one I’ve reread).

Like The Wolves of Willoughby ChaseBallet Shoes is part of Noel Streatfeild’s “Shoes series.”  Unlike “The Wolves Chronicles,” though, I loved the other books in the “Shoes series.”  For some reason, etched in my memory is how comforting this series is to read when you don’t feel very good.

Ballet Shoes is about three sisters — Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil — who are adopted by an absent-minded paleontologist that they call Great-Uncle Matthew (affectionately called “Gum”). When Gum goes off on a dig, he doesn’t return in the time he was supposed to, and so the three girls, under the care of Gum’s great-niece, Sylvia, begin to feel the financial strain of not having Gum available to provide for them.  Then, due to a strange turn of events, all three sisters become involved in dancing and acting to help support the family (hence the title), although Petrova doesn’t enjoy it.  Posy shines at ballet, and Pauline at acting, and Petrova just continues dancing and acting in order to help out her family financially.


There.  I have introduced you to three of my absolute top favorite authors from childhood.  I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of reading their books, and I dearly wish that I had been able to meet one or all of them, somehow.  They are some of the authors who were of paramount importance in helping me see the power, the magic, the beauty of the written word.

What are some of your “tantalizing” books?  Please feel free to share!!

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

Many thanks to Random House Publishing and Ballantine Books, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

I was so excited to read Playing with Fire. Seriously, over-the-top excited. And it did not disappoint. This book combines two of my favorite topics — music (specifically violin, which is near and dear to my heart since I am a violinist myself) and WWII.

I’ve read a few of the other reviews. Some say that the ending was too rushed for them to really rate this book super well. Some say that the alternating timelines, between Julia’s present-day story and Lorenzo’s life in 1944 — didn’t work that well for them.

I can see how some people may not like the ending. It did feel a bit rushed to me as well — still well-done, but it brought a lot of elements into the story rather suddenly that hadn’t been mentioned prior to the last 20% of the book or so. That being said, it worked well enough for me.

The actual story behind the piece of music that Julia found — Incendio — was chilling. Not in the way I had thought it would be, since from the beginning of the book the readers are almost tuned to be looking for supernatural stuff going on. I’ve read other books by Gerritsen, though, and was pretty sure that she probably wasn’t going to take that route. However, the explanation given at the end for what happened at the start of the book is a little unsatisfying, given how much of a build up there was to Incendio‘s story.

But even that can’t detract from my 5 star rating. I don’t know what it was, precisely, about Playing with Fire that I loved so much. But I loved it. It’s one of those books that I will happily rave about to anyone who is listening. Yes, be aware of the ending, it’s a bit rushed, but if you love music and love WWII history, then please read this!