TTT: Favorite Cookbooks

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a little different! The theme is food-- and since I can't think of any novels I've read recently that feature yummy eats, I thought I would share two of my favorite cookbooks with you. Adulting is difficult, and one of the more difficult parts of adulting is cooking so much food. Like I eat so much. Like three meals a day. Which, while I was in college, didn't sound like much cooking. But it is so much cooking!

Here are two cookbooks that help with that adulting problem.

There is a tradition in my family to use this classic 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook. My mom found this copy in a local thrift store a year or so ago, so now I have my own!

It's full of quasi-sexist suggestions for wives, cute whimsical drawings, and delicious recipes.

Next up, Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d'Arabian! Melissa d'Arabian is perhaps my favorite cookbook author of all time. She has never led me astray-- every recipe of hers I've tried has turned out delicious. She also does a weekly live stream on Facebook called It's Tuesday Night Somewhere where she shows you how it's possible to have a home cooked dinner on a weeknight.

That's it! I don't have many cookbooks, I rely on an amalgamation of cookbooks, pinterest, and websites to make my dinners happen.

What about you? What's your go-to cookbook? Help me with my adulting.

Dear Sunday: break please?

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. 

This past week has been manic.

This is a lovely little pond outside my apartment :)
As in hectic days and busy nights manic. My professor and I were polishing up my first paper in order to submit it to a scientific journal which meant we were pouring over every single word, phrase, figure, number, detail, theory, and conclusion to make sure that we really were ready to permanently sign our names to them.

It was exhausting! But, as of Friday afternoon, the paper was officially submitted! It's now out of our hands and should soon be in the hands of the reviewers, who hopefully will stand in shock and awe at our meticulous attention to detail.

This week my goal of doing NaNo has seemed like a silly impossible dream-- how could I possible find enough time to achieve such a goal as writing a novel?? But I know that not every week will be this busy; I'll squeeze in writing time like I always do.

I feel like I've been horribly absent on the blogsphere this past week-- even though the only post I neglected to get up was a top ten tuesday. But more than that, I haven't had time to read and comment on everyone's blog! Hopefully that'll change this coming week.

  • Top Ten Tuesday-- food related!
  • ARC Review: The Beautiful Ones
  • ...I won't promise any more ;) I'm trying to keep from feeling overwhelmed! 

That about sums it up! I've officially re-joined Twitter for the express purpose of this blog. So if twitter is your thing, be sure to check me out! 

How was your week? Hopefully it was relaxing! Things should be quiet next week for me (fingers crossed...).

Beautiful Books: NaNo '17

I'm linking up with the beautiful books tag by Paper and Fury!

In case you haven't heard, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month which takes place every year during November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month; I started NaNo waayy back when I was in high school. This year is actually the 10th anniversary of my first Nano! Which is absurd. 

When I came across this link-up/tag for NaNo novels I knew I had to jump in. I've been too busy to find to do stuff like, you know, plan the novel I'm going to write; these questions helped me think maybe a bit more about my project. This way I've got two birds with just one post. 

*sigh* have I told you how in love I am with my new lens? 

1.What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A couple of winters ago, a few friends and I were wandering down dark streets in downtown New Orleans. It was horribly surprisingly cold and we were on what ended up being like a two hour hunt for dinner. My friend had introduced me to A Madness of Angels (one of my all time favorites books) and I was struck by the mystic of New Orleans and how well it was suited for a magical realism novel. He (or I?) turned back and pointed out how well suited this city of voodoo was for such a venture. And thus this ill-fated idea was born! 

2. Describe what your novel is about!
Two friends struggle to survive grad school (what no this isn't a memoir) when one of them suddenly disappears, leading her friend to plunge into a world she never knew existed to try and get her back. 

3.What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
 If you're a writer you've probably heard some cockamany  well-intentioned advice about being concise or limiting your flowery metaphors etc etc. I started writing this project out of a desire to do the exact opposite of what I had been told was right. I spent sentences on metaphors, anthropomorphizing like there was no tomorrow and I loved every second of it.

this is a beautifully empty page just waiting for to like...plot or something
4.Introduce us to each of your characters!
Get ready for some vague answers!

MC -- our fearless main character (name still to be determined) spent her childhood believing in every stray fairy tale and ghost story. Now in grad school, her world is strictly bounded by the laws of science. 

Friend-- she's in grad school to study anthropology, but mainly to focus on voodoo, let's be honest. 

Guide -- he's still a pretty sketchy, but important, character. Summoned quite by accident he and MC mostly just yell at each other as he introduces her to the veins of magic running around her. 

5.How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
If it's not already terribly apparent, I have some outlining I desperately need to do. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the plot, but the actual writing down of ideas has yet to really happen. Also I plan on stocking up on mini-cokes and goldfish because if that isn't the snack of champions I don't know what is.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Actually getting the story out from my head and onto the page! Last year's NaNo was the first NaNo where I actually wrote a beginning, middle, and end of a novel and man, that feeling is addicting. 

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting. 
New Orleans, old decrypted cemeteries, piled high dusty thrift stores. 

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
The main character's goal is to find her missing friend. What stands in the way? Police who don't believe a 23 year old adult is really 'missing', a pissed off un-helpful boyfriend of said friend, and herself. (wooahh how deep) 

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
She comes to accept that there are mystical things all around her-- and learns how to live with not understanding everything. 

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
One of my favorite themes, stolen shamelessly from the webseries Carmilla, is when a main character boldly does what she believes to be the 100% right moral thing, and inadvertently hurts those around her and messes everything up even further. It's a theme I played with during last year's NaNo and one I hope to pick up again. 

And that's it! What about you, my fellow NaNo-ers (? nano-ites? nanos? nachos? okay now I'm hungry) What's your novel going to be about? Anyone else feel woefully unprepared? No? Just me? Well, be sure to friend me on the NaNo website regardless :) 

Review: The Oyster Catcher

The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 8/10

Fiona Clutterbuck was having a bad day. Crashing her rental van, which turned out to be technically stolen, she had a rocky start at a new life in the middle of nowhere Ireland where it rained more than should be physically possible. Oh, and add on the fact that she harbors a deep fear of water and just somehow agreed to work on an oyster farm?

The Oyster Catcher is a delightful, light hearted romance that had a well-rounded comfortable plot. It is not a typical romance novel, as the main character faces trials and tribulations both inside and outside the romantic plot. Perhaps that's what made it so enjoyable to read, even at 400 pages it didn't feel boring because the author crafted an enjoyable story full of romance and friendship and oysters and festivals and barflies (because apparently that's a word?).

I knew I had something special when, less than halfway through, the author references Dr Who. What can I say, I'm a sucker for Whovian references! That being said, this book is not that old-- 2014-- but the use of technology felt a little dated (who even has a cyber cafe anymore?). Nothing that totally dated the story, but definitely something that nagged at me.

What I loved about this book was that it was simple without feeling boring, heart-warming without feeling cheesy and comfortable without feeling simple. 

My only negative was the ending-- it felt horribly rushed, which was odd, as I don't think this book needed to be any longer than it was. It was a tapestry that, while pretty, had odd trailing ends that awkwardly knotted themselves together.

However, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice romance read. This would be a great book to bring on a vacation; get lost for a few days in a rainy Irish coastal village with a lovesick donkey and you'll be charmed before you know it.

What about you? Have you ever read The Oyster Catcher? If so, what did you think of it?

Dear Sunday: The Wedding Shoot

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. 

Okay y'all. This is going to be short. I'm still exhausted from yesterday. One of my friends got married and somehow I managed to be the official wedding photographer. OH and the church she got married at just so happened to be the church I'm the official custodian at. SO all this meant that I worked at 13 hour day yesterday between the two jobs. 

Future me will have to sort through the nearly 1500 photos (photos of everyone getting ready, the dresses, the venue, the wedding party, the ceremony, the family, the wedding party again-- in a different location-- and the reception) but present me most certainly will not. Well, except to find that photo on the left ;) 

At least now I can strike 'wedding photographer' off my list of potential backup careers. Photoshoots I can do any day-- weddings? No thank you! Wayyyy too much stress and work. But, at least I think the photos turned out and my friend will be happy.

  • Top Ten Tuesday of some sort
  • Review: The Oyster Catcher

And that's it! I'm off for some much needed rest and relaxation. :) how was your week? 

What I Read: September

I'm linking up with The Book DateFeed Your Fiction Addiction, and Cocoon of Books for this monthly review! 

isn't this natural bridge/cave so gorgeous?? I actually took this picture a couple months ago when my friends were visiting and we hiked here. 
It's that time again! That time when we all scratch our heads in confusion that somehow time keeps chugging along and yet another month has passed.

I can't say I was too surprised to see my calendar flip to October-- I was looking forwards to the (hopefully) autumn weather and September was kind of dragging along.

October is also exciting because it means that NaNoWriMo is only one month away! Ever since I decided (like two weeks ago) to do NaNo this year I've been super pumped.

Not that this has caused me to plan or plot or do anything vaguely resembling helpful activity. Of course not.

Anyway! Before I delve into the books I read during the month of September, I thought I would start a new monthly feature-- my favorite moment/event from the month.

My favorite event during September was a gospel choir reunion picnic/concert extravaganza. Last year my friend introduced me to a gospel community choir that gets together once a year, bringing in people from gospel backgrounds and people from traditional choral backgrounds. After a couple weeks of practice there is a huge concert and it's so much fun! I'm from a fairly traditional church (swaying is only allowed on certain Sundays and no one is allowed to clap) so it is a blast for me to sing gospel songs that have so much soul! Since once a year is not very often, we had a mini community choir reunion in September where we ate a bunch of food, sang some songs, and generally had a great time.

Now onto the books!

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

36153928 28186322 33019745

The Medievalist by Anne-Marie Lacy
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Best of Bunch is a new feature I'm trying out! This was a tough month but I want to say that The Oyster Catcher was perhaps my favorite-- but the ending of The Beautiful Ones helped redeem a mostly boring storyline (more thoughts/rants to come) so I was torn.

For the most disappointing read this month I had to sadly go with This Side of Murder. Like I wrote in my review, this isn't a bad book per se, I just had higher expectations for this particular author. 

Whew! Is this the longest post I've ever written? It feels like it. If you have made it to the end then congrats, I appreciate you so much :) Let me know in the comments below what your favorite read in September was! Biggest disappointment? 

ARC Review: This Side of Murder

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery
Rating: 7/10 
Expected Publication: September 26th 2017

Anna Lee Huber is the author of one of my favorite Victorian murder mystery series (Lady Darby Mystery series) so when I saw the first book of her new series pop up on Netgallery, I quickly hit the request button. To my continual surprise my requests have been granted on Netgallery and before too long, the ebook magically appeared on my Amazon fire. 

I'm torn. 

Most bloggers write a disclaimer, about how getting a book for free will not affect their review. Considering I almost exclusively read library books, the idea of getting a book for free is so natural, I don't feel the need to write such assurances of my lack of bias. However, I can't ignore my bias towards this author. Am I harsher with her because I love her other books so much? Am I expecting more from her than is reasonable? 

This Side of Murder is a well researched murder mystery with a slightly confusing plot staffed by characters who were fell a little flat. The plot could be called intricate, but to me it had just one too many turns. It was fast paced and easily held my attention, even when I was frustrated by the characters. I never felt like I knew them-- they never seemed to be fully alive. 

But the downfalls of this book were not grave. The plot was interesting, as were the characters. I was just expecting more from this author. The subject matter is much darker than her previous novels, as it details the aftermath of WWI; how soldiers who were lucky enough to return, often did not return whole. 

The style felt a tad too artless for me-- it never clicked with the deep, dark subject matter. This is, of course, personal preference. Just because I felt like it lacked subtlety, doesn't mean that a different reader wouldn't love it. 

Let's move on to what I love, shall we? I loved how well-researched this novel felt. There were so many tidbits the author included merely to help flesh out the world. The novel was very atmospheric; for whatever reason, the novel played out in my head as though it was an episode of Poirot on Netflix as it felt like an unromanticized portrayal of the roaring twenties.  

The plot had so many twists and turns that, while confusing, meant it was a hard book to put down. I finished the book as conflicted as I feel now-- it was a good, not great book, and I won't be looking to pick up the sequel. 

What about you? Have you read anything by Anna Lee Huber? If not you should definitely check out The Anatomist's Wife because I thoroughly loved that book. 

TTT: Top Five Fictional Relationships

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt was fictional crushes. After some deliberation, I came up with exactly one fictional character I had a crush on. Since a list of one book is kind of a boring list, I decided to take a slightly different spin on the prompt...*drumroll*

Et volia! Five books that feature cute, or otherwise fun, relationships.


Into the Wilderness by Sara Donait

This is a beautiful historical fiction romance book, set in late 1700s New York. While the romance moved quicker than I expected (perhaps due to the fact that this was, after all, almost the 1800s) I thoroughly enjoyed diving into this world. It's the start of an expansive series-- I eventually petered out at book 3 when the next generation starts to tell their story.


The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber

This is one of my favorite historical fiction murder mystery series which sounds like an overly specific genre like  favorite books I read in August that I finished in two days that had a dog on the cover but really I've tried a lot of novels like this. The characters made this one shine, and immediately hooked me on the series.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Is any list about romance ever complete without this book?? Ages ago I googled 'best romance novel' (this was obviously before I knew of the wonders of book blog recommendations) and this popped up at number one on some random website's list. I adore this expansive historical fiction romance which delivers not only a well fleshed out romance but also an intriguing, complex world.


The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

I found this book while making my habitual stroll past the book aisle in Dollar Tree. I'll be posting a review soon, but suffice it to say, this was a fun feel-good contemporary romance that focused on more than just the strict romance. You know how some romance novels ignore the fact that there is more in this world than simply the romantic interest? Not this one.


Best of All Possible Worlds  by Karen Lord

Annnd for my final book I have this fun sci-fic novel; it's one of the earliest reviews on my blog so I won't blather on here. Fun fact-- it was the comments of that review that I was introduced to my now hands down favorite sci-fic read of the year (?) Long Way to A Small Angry Planet. That novel is one of the very few novels I have ever convinced a friend in real life to read! ((and really all of you should read Long Way and of course Best of All Possible Worlds. Just go and read all the books please))

That's it for me! 5 books that feature cute/fun/interesting/adorable relationships. Have you read any of them? What's your favorite litarery relationship? Link to your posts in the comments below.

P.S. Did anyone notice the massive overall I did to the blog this Sunday?? It was a really spur of the moment thing but let me tell you I am obsessed with the layout. I also changed commenting systems (it should be easier to get notified about replies now!) because I believe it's go big or go home apparently.

Dear Sunday: A Chill Week

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews

What did I even do this week? This weekly series is great because it forces me to actually look back on the past week. Let's see...I had choir practice-- the odd classical piece we are working on is finally sounding vaguely pleasant and that's great, even if the silly composer doesn't understand how high us poor altos can/cannot sing; I petted the most adorable fluffy ball of fur when I came across a student walking her puppy; my youth group cancelled our weekly meeting in order to go see the new Martin Luther movie-- it was pretty good; I got frustrated teaching my students; my wrist hurt from explaining the right hand rule far too many times; I got excited when my students finally understood the concept. OH and I got the most fall picture of them all-- Canadian geese migrating south with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop. 

It's been a pretty chill week! No complaints here :)

Vigil by Angela Slatter 
Months and months ago, I heard about this book on some now-forgotten blog. It sounded right up my alley, but my library didn't have a copy. Never fear! I put a request in through the interlibrary loan system. My request was cancelled and my library told me that they were going to just buy the book and put me on hold to be the first one to read it. 

Fast forward monthhhsss and I had all but forgotten about it, until I get an email telling me that my book on hold was now ready to be checked out! I'm excited to finally read it :) 
Four posts in one week?? Who am I? It helped that Sing a New Song wasn't an in-depth review. It's a Christain devotional book and since that's such a personalized genre, I mainly just wanted to introduce the book to those who might be interested. 

(one can hope at least...)
  • Top Ten Tuesday
  • ARC Review: This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber
  • What I read: September 
That's about it for me! What about you? How was your week? Be sure to link to your own weekly recap in the comments below! 

ARC Review: Sing a New Song

Genre: Christian devotional
Expected publication date: October 31st 2017

I've always had a soft spot for the Psalms. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes dark, always lined with the silver edge of hope, I don't know why I've never actually sat down to study them in any significant way. 

So when I came across this gorgeous devotional on the book of Psalms on NetGallery, I knew I had to request it. And, in some fluke, NetGallery accepted my request and a digital copy magically appeared on my e-reader. 

Sing a New Song has commentary for each Psalm, breaking it down in sections. It talks about the theme, then it talks about how that psalm fits into the entire book in a section called harmony. The next section, singing in tune, has a verse-by-verse breakdown on the psalm. Musical notes shows how God's grace is seen in the psalm and sing the song gives suggestions on related scripture and practical application. 

Books are personal, but devotional books are even more so-- thus, I won't be writing a review per se because everyone is looking for drastically different things in books like these. 

What I liked: these devotionals were easy to read, and motivated me to start working my way through the Psalms. I loved being given additional scripture to read that related to the psalm. 

What I didn't like: On a small note, it was kind of annoying that the actual text of the Psalms weren't included in this devotional. It's not difficult to also have my Bible open while going through this devotional, but that was something that surprised me when I first started reading the devotional. Also, the Psalms can be difficult and dark and that's something that I felt like the devotional didn't always tackle. I mean yes, we can see God's grace and mercy through each Psalm but something we also see righteous anger which can be more difficult to understand. This devotional tended to stick to the easier things. 

Overall, I am grateful for this devotional book because it has motivated me to start studying and reading each Psalm. The accompanying text for each Psalm is quick enough to read that I've actually kept up with doing a Psalm every night before I go to bed. 

What about you? What's your favorite devotional book? I don't read nearly enough, so please leave your recommendations in the comments below! 

ARC Review: The Medievalist

The Medievalist by Anne-Marie Lacy
Genre: Historical Fiction, Time-slip, Romance
Rating: 7/10
Expected Publication Date: Oct 31st 2017

"I nodded, pretending to agree with him, but it was too cold and unforgiving to be beautiful."

The Medievalist is a time-slip novel, featuring a historian who gets what every historian secretly dreams of-- she gets to go back in time and meet the man she has studied for years: Richard III. (If you have no clue who that was, never fear, neither did I!) She is ripped out of the twenty first century and wakes up surrounded by the mostly gritty sometimes beautiful trappings of the 1400s. 

The Medievalist is a good novel, featuring a well-researched plot line, and a main character who grows and learns as the novel progresses. Character development might sound like a given, but believe me, it is not. A couple reviews ago, I complained about the romanticized version of the past in The Secret. The Medievalist does not suffer from this fault; it does not shy away from the dangers that women faced in this time period. Women could gain status from birth, marriage, or being the mistress of a powerful man, but without men, for the most part, they lacked power and protection. Jayne is thrown from a world of academia, into a cut-throat world where she must decide what she is willing to do for that protection. 

The chapters oscillate from being told from Jayne's perspective to King Richard's perspective-- something that I could have done without. The Jayne chapters were written well, but Richard's suffered from a stilted voice that never quite sounded right. 

Parts of this novel dragged, and sometimes I couldn't convince myself to care about the plight of the characters. However, parts of the novel flew by as I flipped the pages, eager to find out what happened next. Inconsistency, and the 'romance' kept this novel from being better. The author wrote lust better than she wrote love, which left me with two characters who did not have any reason to love each other-- there had been no time or space for a relationship to develop-- so lust was thrown in as a proxy.

I don't know much about the 1400s, but this novel felt well researched and believable-- which you kind of have to do if you make your main character a historian whose area of research was the 1400s. That being said, I might have enjoyed this novel more if I knew anything about King Richard III before going in. Even so, I was never overly confused about the political intrigue.

The Medievalist was a good--not great, but enjoyable, novel that fans of the time-slip genre should try. If you enjoy well researched historical fiction, then you might like The Medievalist.

What about you? Have you read the Medievalist? What is your favorite time-slip novel??