The Elements of Pizza, by Ken Forkish

Let’s face it.

Who doesn’t love pizza? My health nut mother in law said she’d break her celiac diet for a good slice of NY style pizza. Even my nearly vegetarian friend would love a slice of roasted veggie pizza. Pizza is a great vehicle for all sorts of flavors. It’s a comfort food.

Pizza

I snatched up The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish when I found it because hubs and I have been trying for years to make a proper slice of pie at home. Let’s just say that we’ve never actually accomplished this. Elements breaks it down to the crust and teaches you how to make that perfect base.

This book is going to go great with that 100$ outdoor pizza oven I plan on making when I buy my own house. Flipping through the pages there were a number of great recipes for pizzas, from simple bianco (cheese) pizzas to the White Owl, a winter vegetable pie. I can’t wait to try some of these recipe with hubs and enjoy our own homemade slice of pizza.

Honestly, it kinda brought me back to my love for magical realism a la Sarah Addison Allen. Magical Realism with food! This book might inspire a future story revolving around a pizza parlor, a girl, and a story woven like that cozy crochet blanket on the back of your couch (only, this one was made by your cool aunt that knows how to do this sick ombre effect).

Disclaimer: I did receive this book for free from Blogging For Book in exchange for a review. That does not affect my view or opinion of the book itself.

In Which I Devour All The Books And Rate Them

So, we all know that I cope with life by picking up a book. Fiction is usually better than reality and a lot of the time I’m telling myself that it’s a learning experience (because my ass isn’t in that chair writing fiction).

I’ve been seeing a lot of people raving about The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, getting Lunar Chronicles fanart and tumblr snippets all over my pinterest, and thought I’d see what all the hubub was about.  It was a really quick read, taking me all of a day, but that might just be the way that I read books.

All at once.

Cinder

I picked up Cinder. It’s about a young cyborg girl dealing with cyborg racism in a super futuristic Chinese republic. She’s an orphan taken in from Europe, stranded with a resentful stepmother after the husband passes away from a plague-like disease. SO many moments in this book nearly brought me to tears and I do not sad cry. I just don’t.

Much of this book focuses around the Republic’s attempt to cure the plague-like disease. Since cyborgs are seen as inhuman or having lived past their due date, there is a cyborg lottery in which the winner becomes a plague test subject. The winner is involuntarily injected with a freaking horrible disease.

The premise and the setting were kind of cool, but about halfway into the book things just became too much for me to take in. There are magic people living on the moon. That’s where an evil sorceress queen comes from, her heart set on destroying Cinder from the first moment she sees her. I have to say, I saw the plot twist at the beginning of the book.

Still, I might pick up more in this series.

Holly Black

The next day, I opened The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black. I have already read the Tithe series and Spiderwick by her and really loved both so I knew that I would love this as well.

I wasn’t disappointed. Hazel Evans is a girl that lives in a town surrounded by Faeries. It’s just a fact of life. Just like the Horned Boy in the glass coffin in the forest or the double edged gift a faery bestowed upon her older brother. Hazel wants to save both of them. She wants to save the whole town.

But, she’s just a messed up girl who can’t stop kissing the boys. That is, until the Horned Boy is no longer in his glass coffin. Hazel thinks it is her job to put everything right as the world falls in around her head.

I honestly loved this book so much that I might order my own copy of it to keep. Maybe it’s because I love anything about the fae. Maybe it’s because I love it when girls can be knights, too. Anyway, this makes me want to find The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and the Curse Workers series by Holly Black.

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Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

Of all of the Ghibli movies Howl’s Moving Castle has got to be my favorite. I’ve re-watched it over and over again and I plan on getting a quote from it tattooed on my body at some point in time. When I realized that it was a book, it became even better.

Castle

During my visit with my BFF in Portland we went to Powell’s Books, a freaking MASSIVE bookstore. I wanted to move in, but that’s beside the point. It took some looking, but I finally found Howl’s Moving Castle. I read most of it on the long flight from West Coast to the East Coast, finishing it just the other night.

The book is so little like the movie, I was surprised. I can’t say that it was a bad surprise. Instead, I see these as two separate things, one by Jones and another by Miyazaki. I adored this and plan on reading it to my children someday.

Sophie is the oldest of three daughters, destined to never make anything great of herself and she takes that destiny to heart. Yet, when the Witch of the Waste wanders into her shop, mistaking Sophie for one of her sisters, the curse changes the course of her destiny. Now burdened with old age, Sophie loses a lot of her inhibitions and fears.

This is how she finds herself in Howl’s castle, talking to Calcifer the fire demon. They make a deal, he’d break her curse and she’d set him free. Only, she would have to fulfill her part of the bargain first and she doesn’t even know where to begin. Her journey leads her across the world and even into Wales, in some points.

This was the kind of book I’d read to my kids and I plan on grabbing more by Jones to add to my collection. The book and movie deviate a lot from one another after Sophie finds herself in Howl’s castle. The book Sophie has a lot more magic and a lot more spunk, honestly.

It’s 3.99$ on Amazon Kindle right now. Give it a look.

Altered, By Jennifer Rush

Altered

I received this book quite some time ago from BookCase.Club and it sat, patiently, waiting for me to read it. Science Fiction just didn’t draw me in as well as fantasy did, but last night I realized that I needed to read something. I needed to rekindle my love for any and all books. I used to read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on.

So, I pulled this down and cracked it open at last. The beginning had me questioning myself. It opened with a lot of description and nothing of any sort that really pulled me in. Anna was so bland that it was hard for me to root for her. I felt this way for a while so I’m not really sure when that changed and love began to creep in. I didn’t want to put it down to go to bed last night. Even when my hubs got out of bed for his customary bowl of night time cereal, I opened it back up.

Anna is the daughter of a scientist in charge of a secret experiment in the middle of rural New York. Under her house are four boys, test subjects with no memory of the people they were before the experiment. Nick hates her. Cas can’t stop moving. Trav is a fount of knowledge. Sam? He’s the one that draws her in. She knows that her heart belongs to this mysterious boy behind the glass, the one that she sneaks down to see in the middle of the night.

When The Branch comes to retrieve their test subjects, chaos erupts and before she knows it Anna’s own father is urging her to escape with the boys. Her life spirals out of control from there and the mousy girl that she had once been falls away, leaving a lot of questions.

While it began slowly, I fell in and didn’t want to come back out of this book. Rush cleverly mixed careful plot weaving with a number of riddles, leading the characters into action and intrigue. No one is who they seem to be in this book and, as a writer, I enjoyed that I couldn’t predict every plot point.

If you see this in the store or at the library, definitely give it a chance. It feels neatly wrapped up on it’s own, but there are two cheap prequels on Amazon and another two full books, one about Nick and another about Anna, if you want to keep the series going.

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What I Read in December 2015 (And maybe January 2016)

After Nanowrimo I kind of had a falling out with writing. I pushed on into December, but lost the fire not long after. I fell into a kind of writer’s block that was accompanied by depression. I threw myself into reading thinking that there was no better way to learn to write than by example.

It began with Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series. I threw myself into the fun steampunk series, emptying Christmas gift cards into procuring the rest of the series. I wasn’t let down, as you probably know. There are vampires, werewolves, dirigibles, and, of course, Picklemen. 51K4NcinI2L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

There was just enough money left on a gift card to pick up the kindle version of Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys. This doesn’t have the same fun that Carriger’s YA books had. It was more of a slow introduction to a very mysterious world, several of them. Steifvater introduces us to a group of teens somehow bound to one another by a magical, Celtic king.

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I haven’t picked up the rest, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.  I fell in love with Blue’s strange, mismatched family of psychics. I fell in love with Adam’s desperation to become more than his upbringing. I found my own little brother in Ronan. I think this means I need to renew my library card.

I’ve been eyeballing Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows for-practically-ever. I’m beyond thrilled that I found the print version and hubs bought it for me. It is beautifully designed and what’s on the inside is devilishly good. The reader follows six criminals through the biggest heist of their life and all of the ghosts of their pasts in the world that Bardugo built in the Grisha series.

Six-of-Crows

My only complaint was the ending. It’s not even a complaint really. It’s more a growl of frustration. Be forewarned. This is most likely not a stand alone novel like I had assumed. If it is… well, then I’m going to throw it very, very hard…. at Bardugo.

Somewhere in between these books I ran out of cash and turned tot he unread pile on my shelf. I must have picked up Unbreakable by Kami Garcia in the sale section of Books-a-Million back in Maryland and forgotten. I remember wanting it, thinking of it as a YA Supernatural. With nothing else to read, I thought “what the heck” and pulled it.

Kami Garcia/Unbreakable
Kami Garcia/Unbreakable

I wanted to love it. I wanted to defeat awful monsters and see some really kick ass girls. She worked on Beautiful Creatures and I remembered loving that book.

Nope.

The protagonist loses her mother to a vengeful spirit and finds herself pulled up with a group of kids whose families have sworn to protect the world from ghosts and demons. Sounds cool, but falls woefully short. Everything happens so quickly that character development feels very lack luster. One moment the protagonist hates her love interest and the next she’s swearing her love for him.

I was beyond frustrated with this book. It had potential. It had bones, but there was no flesh on the bones to breathe life into the story. I felt the protagonist’s dismay at being normal amongst all the weird, but Garcia let the romantic story take center stage and it ran away from her.

Carriger, Steifvater, and Bardugo did really well with their recent YA books. Choose Carriger for fun and espionage. Choose Steifvater for mystery and magic. Choose Bardugo for story weaving and world building.

 

Review: Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger

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Source: Amazon

If you keep up with the blog, you’d know that I received a box from BookCase.Club not too long ago. In it, there was a YA book by Gail Carriger (who has replied to all of my tweets!) called Etiquette and Espionage.

 

Here we meet Sophronia Temminick, the youngest daughter of a very large family. She’s not like her sisters. She’s more apt to dismantle a mechanical servant to see how it works than drool over the latest glove fashions from Italy.

She’s not at all excited to be sent to a finishing school, but it was her mother’s last ditch attempt to refine her daughter. What young Miss Temminck doesn’t know is that she’s to be a covert recruit for a school that does much more than teach her to curtsy properly.

Sophronia herself is surprised at how quickly she takes to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School. From here Sophronia befriends a Lady raised by Werewolves, the daughter of a spy and an evil genius who is better at flower arrangements than throwing knives, and a dark skinned boy in the engine area called Soap.

I was sucked into this mildly steampunk world with fantastic creatures. Werewolves can’t fly. Vampires are “tethered” to places or people. Not only were these fun, new takes on what we already love, but the characterization of everyone in the books felt real and individual.

The first romp through this world, with it’s evil geniuses and “Picklemen,” a society with a distaste for the supernatural, drove me to purchase the next three books in digital format. young Sophronia grows from a troublesome tomboy to a proper lady with not only a sharp mind, but a dedicated network of friends and enemies of her enemies.

I think that I finished each consequential book in the space of a day. The first book took a while to really draw me in, but I spiraled out of control from there. Obviously.

All in all, if you’re new to Steampunk this is a fun read to begin with. Caarriger also writes the Parasol Protectorate series as well as a new series, Imprudence. I’m saving up a bit of cash so I can dive into those next.