Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Descriptive Book Words That I Love

I love the top ten prompt this week! We are to list words or phrases (most likely found in a book description or blurb) that makes us want to buy a book, maybe even right that very moment. Here's a few I like:

Top Ten Words/Phrases That Make Me Want to Buy a Book

1. a haunting and chilling tale
2.  epic... anything
3. a soap opera-y saga
4. the curse of the forbidden love
5. full of quirky humor
6. a magnificant medieval adventure
7. saturated with court intrigue
8. there's a dark and mysterious stranger
9. a rockin and rollin music mash up
10. complicated by a many-layered plot

I could go on....

Can you imagine a book, one book, that would be described by all those words I've listed? Wow. 

What words would be on your list? Write a post and link up over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

Book: Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, sort of chick lit?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: Review
From: NetGalley (released April 30, 2013)

When I heard somewhere that Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls and now Parenthood fame) had a book coming out I was all over that in an instant. I checked NetGalley and sure enough, there it was! And then I was even approved to read it!

The big question... can she write as well as she can act? My answer? Yep!

Here's the story of a girl trying to make it big as an actress in New York. It takes place in the mid 90s so it has a bit of a fun "retro" feel to it. (Can the mid 90s be retro already?) This girl, Fanny, has some spunk and humor about her that makes people quite like her, but she is still struggling in the acting world.

I found it fun to see what a person goes through in this industry when they are just starting out. From taking acting classes, to performing showcases where agents are recruiting  to running here and there for auditions and appointments. It sounds pretty grueling.

And I read just yesterday in the ET magazine that Lauren Graham wanted to make the point that in the 90s there were no cell phones, so everyone relied on their answer machines to get messages, which could be at times a bit iffy. And frustrating.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the story. Fanny and her friends were very likable and there were lots of funny moments and lots of heart felt moments. I felt her frustration and was really rooting for her to get her big break!

The little bit of romance was fun too. It's one of those kinds were she ends up with a guy that she thinks is most awesome, but we the readers know that the real true perfect guy is someone else and we are like, Hey Franny! Can't you see what's going on here??? And we are holding our breaths hoping she does see it in the end.

Ah...the end... my only complaint! It needed, like, another chapter to REALLY wrap things up! More more! I needed more!

Bottom line: I totally enjoyed this book! Lauren Graham, is there anything you can't do?

Other Reviews:

Little touches of truth and humor collected to add up to lovely book. From The Bluestocking Society

Someday, Someday, Maybe is everything that was great about “Gilmore Girls”: snappy writing; believable friendships; realistic, scathing dialogue. From Write Meg!

It has it moments of great charm but it also has some stuff I just didn't care about. From A Girl, Books and Other Things

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Currently: Sad and Glad

(written Sunday afternoon)

I am sad that I didn't get to participate in the readathon yesterday, but I am glad that I spent a bunch of time with family: a Japanese festival, shopping, going out to eat, etc.

I am sad that I didn't get to participate in World Book Night this past week, but I'm glad that I can try again for a chance next year! 

I am sad that I didn't find time to go to Writing for Charity yesterday either, but I'm glad that the authors do this event and I will try for next year!

I am sad that Malcolm got voted out of Survivor, but I'm glad Cochran is still there!

I am sad that April is almost over, but I'm glad that June is almost here.

I am sad that school is almost over, but I'm glad that school is almost over......

I am  GLAD I finally got to see Jurassic Park 3D in the theater, but sad I couldn't get more family members to come with.

I am glad that I got Quintana of Charyn, but sad that I haven't had more time to read it and actually concentrate on it.

I am glad that it's getting warmer, but sad that it means stifling heat is just around the corner.

I am glad that I finally had some ideas for blog discussion posts, but I'm sad that I already forgot them all because I never stopped long enough to write them down.

I am glad that we have a Trader Joe's now, but sad that it's still too far away to shop at frequently.

I am glad that no one got hurt today when my son decided to spray pepper spray in the house, but I'm sad that I wasn't here to witness the ensuing excitement!

I am sad that my daughter is going away tomorrow for two months, but I am glad she is going to have an awesome experience studying in Spain!

I am sad that Facetime doesn't work on my Android phone, but I'm glad that it DOES work on the kids' ipods and the husband's ipad!

I am sad that we won't see her (my daughter) for two months, but I'm glad that we get to go pick her up and meet her in Madrid!

Wahoo! Here's to the happy and sad things in life!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: Diary of a Single Mormon Female by Aleesa Sutton

Book: Diary of a Single Mormon Female by Aleesa Sutton
Genre: Memoir
For: Review
From: ebook sent by the author

When I first heard the pitch for this book, I was skeptical. Mostly because I'm not single and perhaps I wouldn't relate. Also, because I'm always worried about "Mormon" books and how authors will portray the church, depending where their head is regarding the church at the time of writing.

But I accepted anyway and thought it might be an interesting one to check out.

Of course, once I started reading, I was pretty much hooked. Turns out, I actually could relate quite well, not necessarily the state of singleness and the experiences found therein, but pretty much everything else.

This book is just what it says it is... a diary. The author takes excerpts from her own diaries and journals as she was growing up and shares them. Brave brave thing to do! She starts out showing us her boy craziness at the age of ten and it goes from there, growing in craziness all through her teen and high school years. It's very fun to read these happy and naive journal entries from a girl who knows everything is going to work out to be happily ever after. It sounded exactly like my own journal.

In between all her entries we get little snippets of her now current feelings regarding what she wrote then... the hindsight is 20/20 thing, you know? These little observations are pretty funny, a little sad, quite cynical at times, but interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, we move to college years and all the dating and ins and outs of love she goes through. Somehow, she manages to get through all of BYU without getting married, something most of us don't manage  And now she has that feeling... now what do I do? It's fun to see her figure out her life from there and all the experiences she has, which, at the time she may have felt a little bitter about or at least frustrated with, and yet I hope looking back she can see all the things she accomplished and all the life she has been able to  live... because she is single.

Bottom line: In the end, I had a really fun time reading this book!

Other Reviews:

I was laughing on nearly every page because of how real Aleesa’s experiences are to life as an unmarried member of the church From Of Munchkins and Manuscripts

Chapters include: "The Hunk of Burnin' Love"; "Was I Weak-Butted?"; "Who Talks About Grandpa's Migraine Headaches on a Dream Date??"; "Virgins, in This Day and Age!" and "Do You Think I Have Nerves of Steel?" From GoodKindles

One woman’s story about coping without Mr. Right in a church focused on marriage and family. From Pauline Wiles

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Authors Pick Five: Josh Hanagarne

Please welcome to my blog, Josh Hanagarne, author of The World's Strongest Librarian! (My review here.) I was so very anxious and excited to ask him my favorite author question, with him being such a book connoisseur and all.

The question:

  What five books are most important or influential to you?

His answer:

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

This is a book I both love and hate. It is the only book I can think of that rattles me so badly, but that I can't seem to stop returning to. Emotionally, I'm only up to reading the whole thing every few years, but not a month goes by that I don't pick it up and reread passages and paragraphs, despite knowing how shaken they'll leave me. Why? I don't know. And that's what keeps me coming back.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Nothing has the potential to age more poorly than humor. So when I pick up Don Quixote and something on every page makes me laugh and it was published over 400 years ago, I'm in awe. I doubt people will be laughing at my jokes 400 years from now.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Just about all of my opinions and ideas about humor can be traced back to this book. This is the book that taught me that it's rare to have humor without an element of sadness in it. I read Confederacy every year, because it feels like a new book to me every time.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

I love words. I love language. Catch 22 better illustrates how meaningful (and meaningless) language can be than any other book I know.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

The first Vonnegut novel I ever read, and the one I know I'll be rereading for the rest of my life. I don't think kindness is ever a mistake, and Slaughterhouse Five is a book about what happens when we fail to be kind to one another. I'm hopelessly clumsy when discussing this book, but it gives me goosebumps every time. 

Doesn't that make you want to add every one of them to your TBR? Thanks so much for participating, Josh!

For more about Josh, here's what he has to say about himself on his blog:

The short answer: just some guy.

  • I’ve got a pretty simple philosophy of life.
  • Take care of your mind and your health
  • Protect your family and make sure they have what they need
  • Help who you can help
  • Laugh as often as possible
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Distrust the humorless
  • Nobody understood human nature better than Mark Twain
  • There’s always a way to be compassionate
  • Every situation can be improved
Not too profound, but it works for me.
Other places to find him: Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Book: The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Genre: Memoir
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
For: Review
From: the publisher Gotham Books (book to be released May 2, 2013)

First a little background story:

So one day someone at work (at the Orem Library) sent out a mass email which said, "Hey everyone! Here's a fun librarian blog you might like. It's by a guy who works at the Salt Lake Library!".... or something like that. Two things caught my eye... first that he's a blogger of bookish things, so why did I not know of him!?? (I mean, really.) And second he's a librarian at a (sort of-ish) local library.

And then, when I clicked on the link provided, the blog post up top was suggesting two wonderful book blogs to read! And those ones I WAS familiar with. So now I really wondered why I hadn't stumbled upon his blog before.

So I looked around the blog and loved it. Very fun stuff, lots of library stories, lots of book recommendations, quite funny and just lots of things that made me happy. And also, there was a bit about the fact that he had written a book that was coming out soon. Cool, I thought. Sounds like a fun book, I thought. But that's all I did, just the thinking.

Then, only a week or so later I get an email from the publisher wondering if I'd like a copy to review.  Are you kidding me? I was so excited! I couldn't say yes fast enough. Because, did you pay attention above? Blogger! Librarian! Local!

After it arrived, I put away all other books I had going and read this one in just a couple of sittings. It had me from the first page and spoke to me on many levels.

In the book, Josh talks about his growing up years, how his mom instilled in him the love of books and reading, how he started having tics around age six and how those tics turned into one of the worst full blown cases of Tourette's Syndrome ever, and how he finally figured out that he could manage it by lifting weights, and how he struggled to decide what he should do with his life and then he settled on working in a library, tics and all, and add to that his and his wife's struggle with infertility and how his family and LDS faith got him through so much of the drama, and yet how he still struggles with it all...the tics, the church, etc.

Add to all that an abundant dose of humor and you've got a really fun and inspiring story.

So how do I relate to these stories? Of course I related to the love of books and the love of libraries. I also could relate to all the Mormon church stories, and the upbringing there... very very familiar situations, even the wondering bits. I love how he portrays the church in a good yet realistic light. I loved, totally loved the library patron stories even though in my job at the library, I don't deal with patrons, but I sure hear about those that do! Funny stuff! (Beware some harsh language during these stories, he quotes the lovely patrons directly!) Even the Tourette's I can relate to, having extending family members who also deal with this. The only thing that was unfamiliar territory was the whole lifting weights thing, which I found fascinating in its connection to the Tourette's.

In fact, the whole melding of all these elements make for a fascinating memoir of this basically ordinary guy who just happens to be an LDS weightlifting librarian with Tourette's!

And did I tell you it was funny? Even with the hard things he's gone through, he weaves humor in and amongst all the stories. Awesome.

Bottom line: I loved it, every bit! In fact, I'm quite sure it will end up on my top ten of the year.

Other Reviews:

None of the topics that he covers are supposed to be funny but I found myself snort laughing throughout much of this book. From The Relentless Reader

Josh’s memoir is thoughtful, heartfelt, often hilarious– and unsparingly honest. From Pages of Julia's Blog

As I read the last word of this memoir, all I could do was close my eyes like a happy, contented reader and think, "Yes." From The Well-Read Redhead

Being a librarian isn’t about knowing just about books, but learning how to deal with all walks of life. From As the Page Turns

But do yourself a favor- when this book comes out in May, buy it, read it, love it, and recommend it to anyone you know. You won’t be sorry you did. From GenerationgBooks

Words from the strongest librarian himself:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Liked....

...More Than I Thought I Might

....or something like that. 

Yes, so this week's list prompt (check it out and link up over at The Broke and the Bookish) is to list books we didn't like as much as we thought we would OR books we liked MORE than we we thought we would. So, for my list I'm going with the second, though, I want to say that I knew I'd like these books, but I thought they would just be, you know, the normal liking, when in fact, they turned out to be a much more powerful thing, even bordering on loving.

So maybe I can call this list "books I knew I'd like, but it turned out I loved!" OR "books I liked better than normal" OR "books that everyone liked and I figured I would too but then I ended up LOVING them more than everyone else seemed to love them!"


Anyway, the list:

1. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
2. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
4. Finnkin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
5. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
6. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
7. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
8. About a Boy by Nick Hornby
9. Room by Emma Donoghue
10. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Yep, so while these books didn't necessarily surprise me, it did surprise me how much I took to them and added them to all my favorite lists immediately! I love it when that happens. Know what I mean?

What's on your list today?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review and Book Club Report: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Book: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Genre: YA (or more likely NA) Contemporary with a twist
Rating: ★★★★★
For: Book Club
From: my own precious signed copy that I don't remember where I bought

We decided last year to read this book for book club since many of our members where familiar with The Book Thief  but not this one. So, it was time they were all introduced to this one too! For me, it was the third time through it.

For those who haven't read it yet, this is the story of a young man living in Australia and his handful of friends. They don't do much of anything except play cards. One day, after foiling a bank robbery, Ed Kennedy starts getting cards with clues on them in the mail. The clues lead him to different people who seem to need his help in some way. So, he has to figure that out and then help them. He gets better and better at this and starts to thrive on the feeling it gives him to be part of something greater. As it goes on, the people that need helping get closer and closer to home. Suddenly, the "game" gets very very personal.

In my first time through (review found here) I was a bit shocked by the abundance of gritty language and all the sex thoughts (tame though they are) in our main character's head. I think many people who read this book  for the first time notice these things and are a bit surprised  Thus, the reason why I, and many others, find that it shouldn't be marketed as YA. The new New Adult category would fit it well though I think. Anyway, despite that, the first time through I was blown away by the message of the book itself.

The second time through (review found here) I remember falling in love with Ed Kennedy and realizing that he really is quite the good kid, and wow, the difference he makes in people's lives is so cool, but really the coolest thing is the difference he makes in his own life. The character development from beginning to end is powerful.

THIS time through the thing that stood out most to me was all the beautiful things... the stuff Ed notices. He really can see life in a whole different way that makes you, the reader, become aware of how awesome the people are around us. For instance.... eating ice cream, swinging legs when your feet don't quite touch the ground, walking hand in hand with a young child after playing on the swings, watching a girl running barefoot in a race, the sweet relationship between a husband and wife and their kids. Paying attention to these small beauties around us I think is another big lesson to be learned from this book.

Bottom line: Of course, I STILL love it! Beautiful writing, beautiful message.

What the book club thought:

  • Everyone seemed to enjoy that the story was about REAL stuff. Real life, real situations, real people. And ordinary normal every day people.
  • We had one guy in attendance and he said the sex thoughts were really quite tame considering what's going through a 19 year old boy's head at any given time!
  • We loved The Doorman! Ed's sweet but stinky dog! We remembered that Markus Zusak told us when he came here two (wow!) years ago that this dog was in another story that he scrapped, but he had to save the dog and he ended up in this story.
  • We loved how Ed was forced to get to know his friends better through the tasks he had to accomplish. We found it crazy that he could be spending so much time with them, but not really know them until this experience happened. Made us wonder about our own friends and how well do we know them, or not.
  • Some people are bugged by the strange twist at the end, where the author breaks a pretty big writing rule! However, this book club crowd seemed to enjoy it! Some of them, after a bit, admitted that they didn't catch it! (I didn't catch it the first time through either!) And so we explained and then everyone was like... OH. MY. GOSH!!! So awesome.
  • Everyone enjoyed the fact that Ed and his friends were forced to confront their problems and actually solve them instead of continuing to ignore and gloss over everything. 
  • But mostly, we all love the message of this book... which is to serve other people  that everyone has a story, that we need to be involved in what's going on around us. Or, to quote from the book: "Everyone can live beyond what they're capable of."
Bottom line: I think it was a success at book club!

Other books mentioned , talked about and being read by our book members recently:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Furies of Calderan by John Butcher
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Some Day, Some Day Maybe by Lauren Graham
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Gave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Jekyll Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
World War Z by Max Brooks

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Authors Pick Five: Milda Harris

Awhile back I had my first ever request by an author to participate in my Authors Pick Five feature! Awesome. This author, Milda Harris, also blogs and participates often on the very popular Top Ten Tuesday meme which is where we "met." Since then, I've read one of her books, Doppleganger (review here) which I found to be quite fun!

Anyway, here are her answers to the big question:

What five books are most important or influential to you?

The Five Most Important and Influential Books To Me
By Milda Harris

The five most important and influential books to me are:

1.      The  Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew #2)  by Carolyn Keene: I read this book in grade school and one of the big reasons I remember it is because it was the first library book I ever checked out. It was also the first real mystery book I ever read. I really enjoyed it and it was my introduction to the idea of a female teen sleuth. Now, I write my own teen female sleuth series, staring Kait Lenox and starting with Adventures in Funeral Crashing.

2.      Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery: This book and the series it starts is one of my favorites. Anne is such a great character. She has such a wild imagination, she’s smart, and eventually she becomes a writer. As a kid, I loved to make up stories in my head and I found a kindred spirit in Anne. Later, when I read the book again, she also became a hero. She wanted to write and so did I! It was who she was and in part, she helped me realize that’s who I was too – a writer. 

3.       The New Girl by R.L. Stine: This was the first book that I read in the teen horror genre. I happened across it sometime in junior high. It was on my cousin’s bookshelf when I was spending the night. I could not put it down and spent the rest of my time at my cousin’s reading instead of hanging out.  This is also one of the genres I now enjoy writing. R.L. Stine really is a master of it. My book The New Girl  Who Found A Dead Body is sort of a shout out to RL Stine and this book.  

4.       Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella: I read a lot of mystery and horror for a long time and then I came across a new genre I loved with Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic. I now like to write some of my stories in a similar fashion because everyone has the kind of moments that Becky in Shopaholic  has – where you make a fool of yourself or spend too much on a credit card or hide your bills in a drawer or what have you. When they’re not happening to you, those moments are hilarious and fun. I like to write about those sort of funny moments now too, even if they might be in the middle of one of my Funeral Crashing mysteries or in my sci-fi horror novel, Doppelganger.  

5.      Switched by Amanda Hocking: There was a tie for fifth place in my mind with this book and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but Amanda Hocking won out. Believe me, it was a close call. Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen, herself, are both big inspirations. Okay, that would definitely be number six. Still, if I really look at it, Switched marks a turning point in my life. What’s funny is that I actually haven’t read Switched yet, although it’s burning a hole in my Kindle app, waiting to be read. That doesn’t matter, though. When I think Amanda Hocking my mind immediately thinks of Switched which is the first book of hers that I read about. The reason it’s inspirational is that Amanda and her books inspired me to take a chance at being an indie author while I looked for a bigger publisher. She did what I hope to do – find readers who really enjoy my books…even if I have to do it on my own. This book is a symbol of that to me. 

Thanks so much Milda for participating! You've got some fun answers for sure!

On her website, Milda describes herself as a Chicago girl who ran off to Hollywood to pursue a screenwriting dream! She has a dog named after a piece of candy (Licorice), was once hit by a tree (seriously), and wears hot pink sunglasses (why not?). Between working in production on television shows like Austin & Ally, Hannah Montana, and That's So Raven and playing with her super cute dog Licorice, she writes young adult murder mystery, horror, paranormal romance, and chick lit novels.

Be sure to visit Milda on Facebook, on Twitter and on her website.

Book Review: Doppelganger by Milda Harris

Book: Doppelganger by Milda Harris
Genre: YA paranormal
Rating: ★★★☆☆
For: Review
From: ebook bought at Amazon

Yet another book that slipped on in under the radar! Actually, this author approached me awhile back to participate in my Authors Pick Five feature and I said, sure! (See that post here.) But first I wanted to read one of her books, which I found easy (and cheap!) on Amazon.

This story is about a high school girl (named Citrus) who discovers when she gets to school that day that she is already there! Well, someone who looks like her, exactly like her. This freaks her out of course and she can't figure out what's going on. She pulls aside her boy crush and they, together, try to understand what's going on, who else has been "taken over" and what they should do about it.

It's a fun quirky story. I found myself going up and down in my interest level, however. I think it is best suited to a bit younger, perhaps even MG crowd. This girl, Citrus, is quite the character! We are so very much in her head and are privy to ALL her stream of conscious thoughts! Sometimes I found that to be fun, and sometimes it became a but much! She asks herself question after question, and repeats her thoughts over and over and over. She is, shall we say, going a bit crazy with this weird experience she is having!

So, for me, the first bit was fun and moved quite quickly, then the middle lagged a bit, and then the end was quite exciting and crazy and contained quite the twist that I did not see coming at all. That was great! And now it makes the story much more interesting and poses the question, how the heck will they deal with THAT?

Because, of course, then it ends and there are more books! Of course!

Bottom line: A fun quirky read geared for the younger teen set.

Other Reviews:

This is a great book for those who love and remembered the Animorphs. From Lizzy's Dark Fiction

I would recommend this book for a quick read, but be aware you will walk away wanting more. Which is both a good and bad thing. From The Book Maven

I am not exactly sure if we are dealing with a paranormal element or a sci-fi. I was intrigued the whole time just trying to figure that out. From Paranormal Wastelands

The action is in perfect balance with Citrus's amusing internal dialogue. From YA Reviews and News

Friday, April 19, 2013

Making Markus Zusak's Crescent Cookies

Last night was book club and as always I enjoy trying to find something fun and different to serve for food. Sometimes I try to be creative and make something that connects to the book. Sometimes I'm just lazy and make whatever is easiest.

This time, as I was planning for the evening, I remembered that years ago I ended up with a book called The Book Club Cook Book. (I was probably supposed to do a review of  it, so consider this post that review. It has TONS of awesome books, authors, recipes and ideas!) And then I remembered that it has a recipe submitted by none other than Mr. Markus Zusak himself! It's paired off with The Book Thief, of course, but since these cookies really are the author's specialty (and not something specific to The Book Thief) and since we were discussing his other well-known book, I Am the Messenger, I decided that they would work just fine for our evening too!

Anyway, it was quite the ambitious adventure and so I thought I'd share the experience.

First, these are called Vanilla Kipferls, or to English-ize them up a a bit... Crescent Cookies. Mr. Z's family makes them at Christmastime as they are a tradition passed down from his German and Austrian parents. The key ingredient is hazelnut meal.... something I don't see commonly on our grocery shelves!

So, the first thing I did was to track that down. When I googled it, I found that Bob's Red Mill brand makes it, and I'd remembered seeing some of those specialty flours on the shelf, so I went to that store and had a look. The flour section didn't have it, but YAY! The health food aisle did! And it was $15 dollars for less than one pound! Awesome!

Then I could see that I needed one or two whole vanilla beans. I had never bought one, or even seen one before! I googled, and they looked like long dried up tuberous things! I had no idea where to look. I looked in spices, in produce, in beans. Nothing. So I asked Twitter! And a IRL neighbor of mine happened to see it and told me she'd seen them in the grocery store right by my house.

So I went to look, and only found them after asking a cashier who then tracked down the guy who actually has that section of the store memorized. It was in the spice section by the way, and there were two beans in a little spice jar... for $12. Awesome!

Now, it was time to make them!  Here are the ingredients (because I know you are going to also want to try this at home!)

For the cookie bit:
1 3/4 cups flour (the normal all purpose kind!)
1 1/2 cups hazelnut meal (it only used about half of my little tiny package!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and add to all the dry ingredients, and then mix it... by hand WITH your hand! for 8 to 10 min. And believe me, this part took awhile. Those are some long 10 minutes! (Someone at book club suggested using a mixer would add air which would help it to meld together. Perhaps?)

Then you form them into the crescent shapes, which sounds easy enough, but it was hard since the dough was very dry and crumbly and felt like trying to mold very dry sand into a shape. Here's the instructions from the book: Pinch off small pieces of dough and mold gently between your palms to form 3 inch ropes. thicker in the i middle and tapered at the ends. Fashion each piece into a crescent shape and place onto prepared, greased cookie sheets, leaving a generous 1/3 inch in between, because they will spread a bit while cooking.

I loved the word fashion. That is where I got hung up in my experience. Oh boy. It took awhile and lots of patience! (I ended up just molding the shape right onto the cookie sheet and smooshing the heck out of it. My first ones are a little round and my last ones were a little flatter. And if you google images of this cookie, you can see what they are REALLY supposed to look like. I can see this is something that would take some practice! Hopefully it's not just me!)

So then you bake those for 15 to 20 min. in a 350 degree oven and take them out just as they are turning brown. I waited a bit too long for one of my batches I think!

While they are cooking you make the vanilla sugar that's to be sprinkled on them afterwards.

For the vanilla sugar bit:
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 to 2 whole vanilla beans

Put the sugar in a food processing bowl, cut up the beans (crosswise) into 1 inch pieces, and add to the sugar. With a stainless steel blade, process until the beans are blended into the sugar, for about 15 seconds. Strain the residue of the beans out, then sift the sugar onto the still slightly warm cookies. Oh wow, it smells so good about now! (Note: I think I was unduly cautious about the sprinkling of the sugar... I think if I were to do it again, I would be much much MUCH more generous!)

And there you have it! Markus Zusak's Christmas Crescent Cookies!

They were really yummy by the way.

Besides that, it was a fun endeavor!

What fun things have you tried making for book club? Let me know if you decide to give these cookies a go!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Classics Club April Meme: Favorite Literary Hero

The question this month for The Classics Club is a good one, and a hard one. I want to ponder and answer, but I think it's going to be a struggle!

“Who is hands-down the best literary hero, in your opinion? Likewise, who is the best heroine?”

So, let me refer you to my fictional hero Pinterest board...we'll start there, shall we? Here's who I have listed:

Captain Wentworth
Samwise Gamgee
Gilbert Blythe
Edmund Dantes
Mr. Thornton
Mr. Darcy
Colonel Brandon

(And since my board is "fictional" and not necessarily "literary" I also have:)

Hans Solo
Malcolm Reynolds
Indiana Jones

Hmmm... my board is really just a beginning, is it not? Ha. Funny to see what struck my fancy when I thought of this idea and started the pinning!

But after looking at my meager list, I lean toward Samwise as my choice for "hands-down" best hero. I did a Character Connection post on him quite awhile back and here's what I said then:

I don't think there's a single other literary character that can match him in loyalty, faithfulness, steadfastness and pure courage. He is amazing. I love him with all my heart.

Yep, I stick by that assessment!

As for a favorite heroine? This one I haven't considered as much as the hero question. Does she need to have accomplished something heroic? Overcome great odds? Taught us something valuable and long-lasting? 

Elizabeth, though we love her, doesn't really fit that description. Jane Eyre maybe, if we think of the things she had to endure in her early life. Anne Shirley taught us how to look on the bright side of life and have fun. Anne Elliott might work also. But none of them really stand out to me! I don't know... who would YOU pick for a "hands down" best heroine?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Book: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA Paranormal
For: Review
From: NetGalley (book released on April 30, 2013)

It took me a bit to get into this one (I think because I'm not used to reading the next book in a series so close to the first one and all the catching us up on the story business is...yawn... annoying!) but once I was into it, I was INTO IT!

I'm telling you, if you think you are sick of vampire tales, you need to give this series a try. You've still got your "good" vampires, but you've also got your very very bad ones! This book is filled to the brim with blood and guts and gore. So if that freaks you out, maybe you should actually give this a second thought!

But it's also filled with really awesome questions about our humanity, and what makes us who we are. And who to trust and who not to trust, and oh, all sorts of deep pondering thoughts!

So this book does start pretty much where The Immortal Rules leaves off. (Beware mild spoilers for the first book here!) Allison is off to find and rescue her sire who has been captured by a ruthless vampire who wants  revenge in a big way. Along the way, she is joined by an unlikely helper, a helper and companion that really made me nervous!

Anyway, when they do find him, it turns out that now in order to actually get him, they first have to find the cure. Sound familiar Vampire Diaries fans? But, wow, it's a hard task and I found myself pretty much breathless and gripping the book during it all!

It's an awesome exciting read, but I knocked it down a star rating because of the torture scenes. I have a really hard time with them, and there were many in this story. And I suppose those scenes are part of the breathless, gripping ride mentioned above, but they are really hard to take, you know? What's your take on torture??? :)

Anyway, and then it ends with one of the most terrible cliffhangers ever! I mean, I wasn't shocked necessarily at the ending, and yet, argh!! Now I have to wait?

Bottom line: For vampire loving readers, this series and this book, are fabulous.

Other Reviews:

If you aren't familiar with this series, it's a plague-based dystopian/post apocalyptic storyline with vampires-- and not the cuddly kind. From Popcorn Reads

Full of extremely graphic scenes, and an ever moving plot, The Eternity Cure is sure to satisfy fans all around the world and leave you screaming your head off for more! From Bloody Bookaholic

...this book is packed with bleakness, darkness, and doom. It practically reeks of death and destruction. It is after all, a post-apocalyptic novel. Crumbling sidewalks. Dilapidated buildings. Rabid vampires roaming the streets. Creepy and scary. Post-apocalyptic perfection! From The Fairytale Nerd

Lots of adventure in this one, with some surprising plot twists! Sarren is crazy bad, but Ally can hold her own (with a little help from her friends). From Alexia's Books and Such

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Favorite Bookish Scenes (a quiz)

Today's top ten list over at The Broke and the Bookish is a REWIND...or in other words, I prompt we missed or want to do again. And, actually, I'm not sure we've done this prompt, this one I've chosen to do, before. I may have just made it up. Which in that case, it's actually a "freebie" instead of a "rewind!"

But no matter. What I've got here for you is some of my favorite bookish scenes. Can you guess them? Answers are hidden at the end.

Top Ten Eight (sorry I got too tired) Favorite Scenes from Some Favorite Books
(taken from both old and new books)


After a silence of several minutes he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began. "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." Her astonishment was beyond expression. She started, colored,  doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her, immediately followed. 


He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one, then in both his own. "You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt  I cannot say more. Nothing else that is being would have been tolerable to me in the character or creditor for such an obligation  but you; it is different I feel your benefit no burden." He paused, gazed at me, words almost visible trembled on his lips  but his voice was checked  "Good night again, sir. There is no debt,benefit, burden, obligation , in the case." 

"I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some time; I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you, their expression and smile did not" (again he stopped) "did not" (he proceeded hastily) "strike delight to my very in most heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies, I have heard of good genii, there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, good night!"


When he sees that I didn't hear him, he leans forward to my ear again. I can't think of the last time I was so close to another person. I can feel the rise and fall of his chest when he breaths. His words are warm in my ear: "Are you afraid?"  I don't know what I am right now, but it's not afraid  I shake my head. He takes my ponytail in his hand, his fingers touch my neck and then he tucks my hair into my collar, out of the reach of the wind. He avoids my gaze. Then he links his arms back around me and pushes his calf into Corr's side. Corr springs into the air.


He took the offered hand eagerly. "It wasn't particularly good of me at all. I was pleased to be able to do you some small service. Are we going to be friends after this? Have you really forgiven me my old fault?"

 She laughed and tried unsuccessfully to withdraw her hand. "I forgave you that day by the pond landing  although I didn't know it. What a stubborn little goose I was. I've been, I may as well make a complete confession, I've been sorry ever since." 

"We are going to be the best of friends," he said jubilantly. "We were born to be good friends. You've thwarted destiny long enough."


The world was a formless blur, and yet something was there, moving, and suddenly the pressure on her legs was gone  The massive DORD machine flew across the room, the world rang in her ears. Strong arms pulled her clear of the wreckage and she tried to focus. Someone was holding her, carrying her, checking for wounds. 

"Thank you," she coughed. Her voice was so quiet she could barely hear herself. She clung to her rescuer tightly, "I think...he got away." 

"I'm right here. "


She swiped her sweaty hand on her pants. He got back into his stance, but only for a moment before he straightened and tossed his blade aside. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"I can't concentrate. I thought I could do this." He put his hands up in defeat.  "Can't." Then he came closer. She didn't think her heart could beat any faster, but then it did, faster with every step he took toward her, until it hammered against her chest, making her breathless when he stopped right in front of her. Her wooden blade rested on his chest. She started at it, her heart in her throat. She stared at the way it pressed into his shirt. 

"I've been watching you and him. Wanting it to be me training with you." His shoulders came up. "I don't want to do it now." 

"Why?" Her voice was high and thin. He smiled, a flash of shyness, before he leaned close. "There are other things I'd rather do when I'm alone with you. "

Time to step off the edge. "Then do them."


"But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so composed  for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and comfort here today. I think you were sent to me by Heaven."

"Or you to me," he says. "Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other other object."

"I mind nothing while I hold your hand. I shall mind nothing when I let it go, if they are rapid."

"They will be rapid. Fear not!"


The music hits low. The voice reaches high.

It's the music of hearts again, but much better this time, and we move and turn and her breath places itself on my neck. "Mmmm," she moans gently, and we dance on the path. We hold each other. At one point, I let go and twirl her slowly.  She comes back and it's a small, small kiss she gives me on the neck when she returns.

I love you, I feel like saying, but there's no need for that.

Answers hidden below (simply drag and highlight over the space):

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
5. Partials by Dan Wells
6. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
7. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
8. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Did you get them? Some were easy, yes? Some maybe not so much? Did I include any of your favorite bookish scenes? What scenes would you include in your list?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Currently: Lazy Sunday

(written Sunday afternoon)


** This week, we've been stuck on a new-to-us singer. His name is King Charles. Have you heard of him? His look reminds me of Prince, but his sound reminds me of nothing I've really ever heard before. Take a listen to the two songs that have been stuck in my head all week long and tell me how you would describe them:

** I'm anxious because Muse posted their concert date for our part of the country. I didn't buy tickets...yet. I'm pondering. I'm not sure who I would go with. My kids, except for my 14 year old daughter, are no longer interested. This is strange to me.


**We bought the Les Miserable movie and hope to watch some of it some time today. It will be a re-watch for some of us but a first time through (the new movie anyway) for a few others. I think it will be fun to see it again at home. I look forward to the very first scene. I thought it was awesome.

** Loving Survivor lately! Oh boy, this last tribal council had me biting my fingernails big time! And I can't get enough of Cochran and the funny things he says. He is the coolest!

** I've been watching more season six Dr. Who. One episode freaked me out (Night Terrors) and one had me in tears at the end (The Girl Who Waited) and I'm anxious for more about River Song and all that is being revealed about her! And I'm jealous of you all that are currently watching the new shows!


** I'm reading many things at once right now. It's a bit crazy. I just finished The Eternity Cure, sequel to The Immortal Rules, which comes out in a couple of weeks. Wow, that was a crazy one! Much blood and guts!

** I'm also half way done with I am the Messenger. Did I tell you? I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. :)

** Still working my way through Vanity Fair... about a chapter a week! Ha!

** Also reading an ebook that was brought to my attention by fellow blogger also author, Milda Harris. This is a strange book which I'm not sure how I'll review when the time comes!


** I wrote some letters back to some of those that sent me letters during Letter Month. Sill making my way through that stack! AND I got a lovely sweet postcard from Kelly yesterday. Yay!

** I don't seem to be doing very well with writing those Life Story posts like I wanted to. They are a lot of work.


** HEY!! We'll be having our first monthly Bloggiesta Twitter Chat this Friday! Come talk about how your blogging has been going since Bloggiesta a few weeks ago!

**  I messed with my header yet again!


** lots of spinach
** we are making cookies today to take to a missionary.
** don't let me forget that I bought sweet potatoes to cook sometime soon.
** a Smoky Jack Panini from Jason's Deli


** I have permed my hair yet again.
** The lawn, almost, needs mowing.
** I've been washing quilts.
** The mice really really stink.
** The son had a fun band gig this weekend.
** And that's it for now I suppose!

Have a lovely lazy Sunday afternoon!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

Movie: Jack the Giant Slayer
Genre: Fantasy
Starring: Nicholas HoultEwan McGregorStanley Tucci
Rating: PG-13
My Rating: Two thumbs up!

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. A perfect mix of romance, adventure, fairy-telling and quirky-ness. It reminded me somewhat of The Princess Bride in a way. There's a farm boy, and a princess and a really wicked adviser to the king with his over-the-top silly side kick, and of course there's some giants (The Princess Bride only has one!) and.... a really cool bean stalk (instead of the Fire Swamp I guess!)

The story is a fun take on Jack and the beanstalk, as you probably know. There's a cool back story to the giant lore told through a fairy tale that's read early on to both our characters, Jack and the princess. They (the giants) have been banned to the sky forever! But then, one day, when Jack is trying to sel his horse and cart and ends up with beans instead, which then, one accidentally grows, which suddenly transports the princess to the sky (Why is the princess is by the beanstalk? You'll have to watch the movie!) and she is lost up there!

Now, of course, she must be rescued!

Meanwhile there's the adviser dude who has his own agenda, because he has access to a magic crown which will cause the giants to fall down and worship him. How can he use this to his advantage? Yes, it's not good.

Ah, such a fun movie! I loved it. Ewan is awesome as the dashing king's guard dude, and Nicholas Hoult makes a most perfect Jack! And the giants are pulled off with some really cool special effects, complete with a sweet nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger  Many inside jokes I probably didn't get.

And the end? With the crown? Just made me giggle! Such a fun twist!

Bottom line: If you are in the mood for a simple, fun adventure with a bit of quirky-ness, don't miss this one.

Here's the trailer if you  haven't seen it:

Oh, now some observation on recent previews:

What movies have you seen and loved lately? Which new ones are you especially looking forward to?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: ★★★★★
For: Fun
From: Got it for Christmas a few years ago

It seems like everyone's been talking about this book for such a long time now, and I don't know why it took me so long to get to it, but I finally decided it had to happen, regardless of all the other books stacked up. And you were all right! It was a quick weekend read and I loved it all!

Just in case you are one of the few that hasn't read it yet and would like a little summary, it's about a very unique girl named Karou who is an art student in Prague (I've never read anything that made me want to visit Prague, but this book did it!)  She seems to be a bit adrift and alone, except for her few friends. She does have a family of sorts, but they are pretty much monsters/demons.... part human and part animal, and she must keep them a secret from her "real life." They live in an in between world, neither here nor there, accessed by portals all around the world. Karou helps them out by doing errands, the nature of which she doesn't at all understand, through using these portals.

Shortly after the book starts, these portals are marked and destroyed by the seraphs... also known as angels, the mortal and eternal enemy of the demons who raised Karou. This, of course, nearly destroys Karou herself  and when she happens to see one of these angels, sparks fly, and it's not the good kind! Well, at first anyway.

Wow. The plot is intense and the world making is amazing! We are taken all over in time as we learn the back stories of these two characters, first from Karou's point of view and later from Akiva's (he's the angel.) Sometimes the story shifts to a different time and world altogether, but it all comes together in the end and never once was it disjointed or confusing or jerky.

The writing is beautiful and rich and passionate. I loved that this is one of those "use your brain" type YA books. You will not find fluff here! But you will find a fascinating, mythical story full of dynamic and interesting characters. Awesome.

Bottom line: LOVED it!

Other Reviews:

Highly original and ambitious, Daughter of Smoke and Bone really surprised me. From Book Twirps Book Reviews

For readers who believe that magic should always have a cost, this system is for you. It’s simultaneously gruesome and elegant. From Dear Author

I got lost in these worlds. From The Introverted Reader

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the kind of romance I loved as a Teen–and still do. sigh. From Omphaloskepsis

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heads Up! It's a BOOK BOMB!

Today we are book bombing local popular and prolific scifi/fantasy author David Farland (aka. Dave Wolverton)! Please join the fun and buy his book today! This VERY today! That's what a book bomb is, you see, when lots of people buy the same book from the same place (Amazon) in order to spike the sales of that book, usually for a good cause.

The cause in this case? This author's young son has been in a terrible long boarding accident (those things should be banned, we've had a run in with them ourselves and it was DANG scary) and while he's expected to pull through (which is a miracle in and of itself) the hospital costs will be astounding. And do you think authors have much medical insurance? Of course not.

So the idea is, we spike the sales of this book today, which causes it to rise in its Amazon rank, which causes more people to buy it later, which in turn, helps out the family. Does this make sense at all? I figure, what's $8.00 to me really and if it turns out it that it truly helps them, why not?

For a much more complete explanation of how book bombs work, click to Dan Wells' blog for today where he explains it all very wonderfully.

The book is called Nightingale  and I've had my eye on it for some time now, so for me this is a no brainer. It's a YA fantasy and I know that many of you love this genre, so why not give it a try!?! Today's the day!

To by the book, Nightingale, using Dave Farland's affiliate Amazon link, click here. 

To learn more about the son, Ben (what happened, how he's doing and the fund raising efforts), click here and here.  It scares me to read this! The familiar saying, "there but for the grace of God go I" totally comes to mind!

Anyway, book bombs are a fun way to participate in the bookish community and to put your money where your mouth is regarding our awesome authors. So, let's do this thing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Some Pre-Blog Favorites!

Even before I blogged, I read a lot of books. Luckily, I started keeping track of them several years before I started blogging. Why it didn't occur to me to keep track of them even sooner, I have no idea. I think I was in denial of the obsession. I really wish I knew, though, what I read even further back!

But in looking at some of my lists from pre-blogging days, here's what I would consider some (SOME!) of my favorites from those years. (As you can see I cheated, yet again, and made two lists!)

(Pre-blogging days for me means early 2007 and before... more than six years ago.)

Ten Favorite Books from Pre-Blogging Days: Literary Fiction/Non Fiction, and Etc.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A Fine Balance by Rohintin Mistry
Pope Joan by Donna Wolfolk Cross
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Most of the above books were read with my online book groups (I was participating with a classics group and a one called The Book Spot which read all sorts of things, mostly literary fiction.) A few of them I read with my new, baby book club, the one that is now nine years old next month!

Ten Favorite Books Pre-Blogging Days: YA

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Beauty by Robin McKinley

Many of the above books were read in preparation for the scholastic book fairs that I helped to run for several years. Or, they may have been purchased at the book fair and read later. Or, in case of the The Goose Girl, it was read in preparation for Shannon Hale's visit to our library, and I had no idea who she was!! 

Many of the books I loved pre-blogging days I've since re-read, mostly with my own book club. For the most part, I didn't list those here. The Book Thief, however, needs to be on ALL my lists though, right? So I left it there!

What did you read and love before you blogged? Do these books bring back lovely memories for you, like they do for me? Let me know in comments and then write up a post and join the huge linky list over at The Broke and the Bookish!


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