Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: The Old Magic of Christmas

Title: The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year
Author: Linda Raedisch
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 8th 2013
Source: Netgalley and Llewellyn Publications


Four and a half stars, rounded up.

The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year is a book chock full of stories of different Christmas traditions across the world. From witches to elves to what Saint Nicholas would really do to naughty kids, this is a book that anyone would learn something from near the Christmas season.


I'm going to start this review off by saying that I know next to nothing about worldwide yule traditions. Other than the UK and America, my knowledge was limited. I say "was" because it's definitely not the case anymore. Linda Raedisch filled this book to the brim with knowledge and stories. I especially loved the attention to Norse tradition, since my individual studies have been more turned to that route lately in general.

Each story is told in a way that stirs up images of sitting around the fireplace and listening to a ghostly story while the snow swirls around outside in the twilight. It's true that most of these stories are dark and even creepy, but I think that's what makes it so intriguing and interesting. It's a nice break from anthropomorphic snow men and singing reindeer. These myths and legends are things people believed in, and while creepy, is kind of awesome.

In addition to such stories, the author also includes tasty recipes to share with you and yours, as well as some crafts for the holiday season. The directions are clear and easy to follow, and often have visual representations to help you along the way.

I know not to judge a book by its cover, but just look at it. I adore this image. It conjures up all the feelings of the season, and I love it.

This is a book that I would definitely keep bundled away with my Christmas collection and reread each season. To those interested in history, myth, or who even just want their Christmas with a side of witches and elves, this book is the one for you.

Thank you to Netgalley and Llewellyn Publications for my copy.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [22]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. I think I did okay in resisting my ebook compulsions this week, and even got a few in my mailbox. I love getting mail. It's like a little Christmas in my dorm room. OH. And I got a super awesome care package from my lovely girlfriend, Emily. She spoils me ya'll. Shall we?


Rude Bitches Make Me Tired by Celia Rivenbark
Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir by Michelle Theall


Red Velvet and Absinthe by Mitzi Szereto

In the Mail:

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Signed! Thanks, Rachel!)
Crimson Groves by Ashley Robertson (Signed! Thanks Ashley & Jennifer!)

And my super awesome surprise from Emily... And yes, that is a Lord of the Rings/My Little Pony mash up shirt.

Whatcha get?

Mini Review: How Not to Be a Dick

Title: How Not to Be a Dick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide
Author: Meghan Doherty
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 1st 2013
Source: Netgalley and Zest Books


Three stars.

This book is a quick read of advice for the modern person on how to act better in a variety of situations. Like most people (I assume, anyway), I was intrigued by this book because of its awesome title. But for me, the rest of the book wasn't as awesome.

This is due in large part to the fact that I have no idea who this book is supposed to be marketed towards. I initially thought it was just an adult satire, spoofing the old primer books. But then I realized it was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group. Children's. I don't want my children to be reading advice on how not to be a "dick." And sure, I got a few chuckles out of this, but it's not laugh out loud funny to the point where it's for adults. My guess is that it's aimed for young adults, even though there's advice included about being a boss and more adult themed sitautions.

That being said, the advice is solid, and the examples and illustrations did make me smile. This book at the very least will be amusing to the reader, and will probably teach them a thing or two, no matter the age.

Thanks to Netgalley and Zest books for my copy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Katie Alender
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 24th 2013
Source: Netgalley and Scholastic Press


Two stars.

Colette is a junior in high school, and this school trip to Paris is just what she needs after her dad leaves her mother and family behind. She'll be there with her popular girl friends, and knows that she'll have a blast. That is, until murders start popping up all over Paris. Colette keeps spying a costumed woman who resembles the title royalty, and she, alongside a boy that she meets, must try to halt the danger.


I was so excited when I received this title through Netgalley, but unfortunately, I was left disappointed.

-I didn't like any of the female characters. Not one. From the beginning few chapters, I was already against the protagonist, which is never a good thing in a book. She's obsessed with what her friends think about her, and actually gauges herself on a scale- she's prettier than one friend but not the other, and skinnier than one but not the other, so that she's the perfect addition to the trio. Never mind that they should judge on personality, just making sure that a friend doesn't out-hot you. The fact that she is acutely aware of this, and knows that the queen bee she's "friends" with could "unfriend" her at any point but continues to hang with her anyway is both discouraging and sad. She also thinks that people are only nice to others because they want something out of it, instead of just genuinely wanting to do good. I didn't enjoy reading about her.

-It wasn't scary. Mind you, I am aware of the fact that this is a young adult title. But based on the blurb, as well as the fact that serial killer is right in the title, I expected at least a shiver or an aloud, "Oh that's creepy." But none came. It wasn't all too creative, which surprised me because I really liked this concept for a story.

+ I am a sucker for a French backdrop, and this is no exception. It just sounds like such a pretty place, even when there are almost comical headless serial killer ghosts running around murdering people. It's probably by setting and the romantic interest alone that I finished this book.

+I do like the cover. Don't be fooled by it, but I do think that it's very catching and I openly admit that it's what drew me in at first.

All in all, this seems immature to me, even for a young adult book. The characters were cookie cutter and the killer was not scary, but the French setting and the romantic interest in this story help the plot plunk along. If you like paranormal stories that aren't scary, pretty French scenery, or books with a "Mean Girls" type cast, then maybe you'll like this more than I did.

Thanks to Netgalley and Scholastic Press for my copy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Title: Covet
Author: Tracey Garvis-Graves
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 17th 2013
Source: Netgalley and Penguin Group


Five stars.

Claire always thought that her marriage could overcome it all. She had a great life to be thankful for. A nice house, two beautiful, healthy children, and a husband who worked hard to provide for the family. Even when Chris is out of work for nearly a year, he and Claire weather through the "for worse" part of their wedding vows as Chris spirals into a dark depression that not even Claire can help to brighten. But things grow more complicated when Chris accepts a new job that has him traveling so much that the kids- as well as Claire- become more accustomed to life without him than with him. Tensions grow higher when Claire befriends a ridiculously attractive police officer named Daniel while doing some design work for his department. He listens to her, spends time with her, and gives her the attention that Chris has long ago stopped spending on her. She loves Chris, and loves spending time with Daniel, but is she willing to risk it all by breaking her lifelong vow to her husband?


Tracey Garvis Graves- you have done it again you beautiful writer you. Covet, with its hauntingly insightful prose, has launched this author onto my auto-buy list.

+The writing itself is gorgeous. Tracey Garvis Graves has this great ability of creating a sad, almost ominous tone throughout the book, even when happy moments were happening. The details are well written and almost enchanting- it is very easy to lose yourself completely in this story.

+I thought the characters and their development were both realistic and relatable. I think that everyone in a relationship, at one time or another (and whether they'd like to admit it or not), has thought about what would happen if they were to cheat on their partner. The author of this book delivers a great representation of the many emotions that arise in a failing marriage and a tempting new friendship, from confusion, adoration, heartbreak, lust, and everything in between. There's also a very interesting group of side characters that kept me curious throughout the story.

+This book is written from three alternate points of view, rotating between Claire (the protagonist), Chris (the working husband), and Daniel (the hot cop). Though I'm normally not a big fan of changing POVs, Covet uses this technique perfectly. I was never left confused or wondering who was narrating.

+I really, really liked Claire. I like that she had a flaw, being diabetic. It added another layer of complexity to the book, but also made her seem a bit more human, and fragile. Too often I read books with ridiculously perfect characters that blend together. Claire stands out to me. She's also a great friend and mother, without being overly matronly or sickeningly sweet. I rarely connect to female characters, despite being female, but I was by Claire's side every step of the way.

+I enjoy that this book has romance in it without being too vulgar or crass. It's more like a gentle tease and I find that in stories like this, that is a far better approach.

+Look at that cover. Just look at it. Stunning.

-The only real criticism that I have about this book is that I would have liked more insight from Chris and Daniel. I'd have liked to see more of their thoughts and learned more about their motives and feelings. I completely understand why there were more Claire chapters, but I'd have liked a bit more.

All in all, Covet is a book that is worth every bit as much hype as her earlier book, On the Island, received. It takes a gritty, ever-present topic and brings it to the reader in a gorgeously sad way. I cried at the end with no shame, and I hope to read more from her in the future. (Especially if she chooses to give the other wives in this story a moment to shine.)

Thank you so very much to Netgalley and Penguin Group for my copy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [21]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. This was a small week for me, thankfully. I'm behind on my reading!


Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti, Garrett McCord, Michael Ruhlman
Celebromancy by Michael R. Underwood

What did you get?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex

Title: The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex
Authors: David Borgenicht, Joshua Piven, Ben H. Winters
Format: Hardcover, 419 pages
Pub. Date: March 5th 2013
Source: Quirk Books


Four and a half stars, rounded up.

The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex is just as it sounds. This guide book is over 400 pages that cover the broadest possible range of topics that one in the dating game could use help with. Using both humor and fact, this handbook has an answer to any possible problem that could arise from the first date to marriage and beyond.


This book, ya'll. Oh my god. It made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, that's true. But I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would. I'll definitely be keeping this book on my shelf for when I have my own love crises in the future. (Not if, but when.)

+This survival handbook offers a lot of really useful advice, some of which I actually used today. This information includes (but is nowhere limited to) how to open a bottle if you have no bottle opener, how to heal/treat passion wounds like bites and scratches, how to unlock a pair of handcuffs if you lose the key, and how to move on from a break up. To those of you wondering, you can in fact use a deadbolt lock slip to open a bottle of tasty Samuel Adams seasonal brew, Octoberfest. I highly encourage only doing this in a dormitory where 21+ year olds are allowed to have alcohol, as I am. Yay college, and yay to the authors for solving a problem I didn't know I'd need to solve.

+This book also has heavy sprinklings of humor, such as how to date a vampire, strange animal mating habits, and even an "it's not you, it's me" form letter. This guide is peppered with illustrations to help the reader get the most out of the advice that's being given, whether serious or hilarious.

Honestly, this book is just one big treasure trove of information. Men and women alike can learn something from it, and even if you don't learn anything (unlikely), you'll at the very least get a laugh or two. If you ever find yourself confused by the action of your spouse or the opposite sex, unsure of how to call off a date, or even just want some tips on basic stain removal and wound treatment, this survival guide has something for you. This book does contain sex advice, but it's not explicit. I would totally recommend this.

Thanks so much to Quirk Books for my copy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Cherry Money Baby

Title: Cherry Money Baby
Author: John M. Cusick
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 10th 2013
Source: Netgalley/Candlewick Press


Three stars.

Cherry is a typical small town girl. She lives in a trailer with her dad and brother. She works at a local fast food place where she is the best damn burrito roller in the business. And, she has a sweetheart who lives right next door. She never really gave much thought about the rich and famous, until a celebrity causes her world to change in a whirlwind. Cherry has to decide on what she really wants in life, and with who.


This was an okay book, it just wasn't what I expected.

+I did like that Cherry was proud and content with her small town life. It was a nice change from the trend of books lately, where those from the sticks long and dream about life in the city or about a life of fame and fortune. I also appreciated that she had quite the vulgar mouth on her. I swear too, and I think it's weird when books with characters who SHOULD be swearing don't.

-I just didn't really connect with any of the characters. They weren't badly written or vaguely described or anything, I just personally didn't seem to particularly root for any of them. Cherry kind of irked me a bit because she kept referring to herself as a crazy girl- kind of a red flag in my opinion.

-The ending left a lot to be desired. It seemed a bit too predictable. Though this story did have an original plot line, I did feel like a lot of the elements were a bit on the predictable side as a whole.

This wasn't a bad book. It has some really funny moments, and a strong female lead who is vocal and proud of where she comes from. It just didn't connect with me and won't be a book that I remember as time passes. I think a lot more people will like it way better than I did, so check this book out for yourself.

Thank you to Netgalley/Candlewick Press for my copy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: Cheeky Spanking Stories

Title: Cheeky Spanking Stories
Authors: Rachel Kramer Bussel & Various
Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Pub. Date: October 16th 2012
Source: Rachel Kramer Bussel


Four and a half stars, rounded up.

Cheeky Spanking Stories is a collection of over twenty little morsels of writing all centered around the central theme of spanking. The tales inside this book range from hardcore to light and sweet, and involve men, women, and every combination of them in every orientation. Whether you like your spanking stories delivered with a crop, a paddle, or a good old fashioned open palm, Cheeky Spanking Stories has got something to satiate.


I love the concept of having a collection of erotica stories all centered around the act of delivering a good smack. It lets you know what you're in for throughout the book... But only just. Each individual author takes the idea and runs with it, making each story unique and kinky in its own lustful way.

It goes without saying that there will always be stories that I love and ones that I'm not so crazy about. That's sort of to be expected in an anthology such as this. With that being said, my top three selections deserve a special shout out in my review. The first is Mermaid by Teresa Noelle Roberts. This story features two very lovely ladies, a pretty shoreline, and more than a little rope. The writing was detailed and intriguing, and the unique story line stood out to me. I also really enjoyed Bitch by Elizabeth Silver. It's a story about a sexy, no-nonsense Domme and the new plaything she gets to explore. I felt that the Domme was written really well (which I tend to be picky about in my readings). And last, was the story Marks by Rachel Kramer Bussel, which follows a couple at an adult resort and a very tempting beauty with inviting marks on her perfect bum.

The stories I didn't like so much were either due to a pairing that I'm not so fond of, or more commonly were written from a perspective that I don't enjoy (mostly second person).

Also, I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but just look at it. It's so cute. I love it!

All in all, if this kink is one of yours, this is a great little collection of stories to enjoy and fuel your fantasies further. Fans of Rachel's anthologies definitely won't be disappointed with this one. If explicit sex, kink, or homosexuality bother you, then don't pick this one up.

Thank you so much to Rachel for my copy, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [20]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. This is a massive week. Netgalley finally approved a bunch of old requests that I'd forgotten about. I received quite a few packages in the mail, including a mega care package from my super amazing sister back home. You have been warned!


All I Want Is You by Elizabeth Anthony
Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart by Jennifer Barclay
Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille
Ham: Slices of a Life: Essays and Stories by Sam Harris
Waterfell by Amalie Howard
The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa
Made of Stars by Kelley York

Won [Physical copies]:

Exposure by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes (signed!)
The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex by David Borgenicht, Joshua Piven
Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field by Donald Driver
Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater (signed!)
Pretty When She Kills by Rhiannon Frater (signed!)
Pretty When She Destroys by Rhiannon Frater (signed!)
The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano, Sophie Blackall
Biting Bad by Chloe Neill
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers by Dav Pilkey (signed!)

From the Author:

Anything for You: Erotica for Kinky Couples by Rachel Kramer Bussel (signed!)

As you can see, I also won that cute vampire earring/necklace set! (Thanks Rhiannon!) And because my sister loves me, she sent me some of the books that had been sent to my home after I'd already settled in my dorm. And she added tons of delicious things because she's awesome:

Review: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

Title: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden
Authors: Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge, Sandy Gluck
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 10th 2013
Source: Netgalley/Rodale Books


Five stunning stars.

Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell bring the best of their dessert recipes together in this cookbook, taking simple, comforting, and familiar dishes and giving them a modern, elegant twist. The duo is well known for making cheeses, soaps, and honey on their property of their historic home, and can be seen on the Cooking Channel. In this dessert cookbook, they bring the recipes from their family, and bring it to yours.


I absolutely loved this cookbook. Though admittedly unfamiliar with the brand, these recipes have made a fan of me. This book is a great tool for any home cook, and can help elevate your dishes into something stunning.

The first thing that struck me in this cookbook is the photography. As my regular readers know, if a cookbook doesn't have pictures in it, I'm highly unlikely to even give it a second glance. That was definitely no problem here. Between the photographs of the food and the shots of the estate, this book is aesthetically pleasing from cover to cover.

Another aspect of this book that I found a bit unique is that in lieu of listing recipes in order of course, this book is divided into the four seasons. I found this far more helpful. With fall just around the corner, I was able to flip to that section to find new inspiration for the upcoming weeks and harvests.

And then of course, there's the recipes themselves. They sound (and when pictured, look) stunning. The instructions are easy to follow, and each recipe has room for additional notes, so that you can make your own adaptations or changes. Each recipe also includes a little back story of the dish, and why it is included in the book. This helped to give the cookbook that warm, hearth-y feeling of home. The desserts that popped out to me the most in this book were the orange-chocolate pots de creme, diablo food cake, lemon lavender squares, and concord grape pie. It should be noted that there are several basic but delicious recipes for things like the perfect pie crust, cookies, and yellow cake.

If you enjoy cooking or baking, this is a great collection of recipes to own. The recipes are homey and delicious, and run the gamut from basic to complex in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Thank you to Netgalley and Rodale Books for my copy.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Taste of Home Recipes Across America

Title: Taste of Home Recipes Across America: 735 of the Best Recipes from Across the Nation
Author: Taste of Home
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 12th 2013
Source: Netgalley/Reader's Digest


Three and a half stars, rounded up.

Taste of Home is perhaps best known for its delicious and not-so-complex meals to enjoy in your kitchen. Taste of Home: Recipes Across America includes 735 recipes spanning from coast to coast. This book is divided by region, and has a wide variety of recipes including dips, entrees, drinks, and so much more.


This is a pretty sturdy collection of recipes that any cook would utilize as a reference were it on their shelves.

+I really enjoyed that this book was divided by region as opposed to course or ingredient. I tend to personally look for broad topics like "southern food" as opposed to something specific, so this worked perfect for me. In addition, it helped to fuel a little bit of home pride when I got to my region, the Midwest.

+When I buy a cookbook, I have to be able to see what the end result will look like. Fortunately, this Taste of Home collection has a lot of pictures for its recipe, which gives the cook a bit more of a guide to look to while they're cooking. Not to mention the pictures themselves were great looking, making even simple or even unappealing dishes look delicious.

+So many of these recipes sounded good to me, that I bookmarked dozens to come back and prepare. Recipes such as Lobster-Stuffed Beef Wellington, Chorizo-Stuffed Turkey Breast with Mexican Grits, and Concord Grape Pie intrigued me, and sound delicious.

-+That being said, a lot of these recipes are repeats, having been previously posted in either Taste of Home magazine or online. So they might have sounded delicious and looked it too, but it will be a bit of deja vu to regulars of Taste of Home. Contrarily, if you don't save recipes from online or magazines, this is a great collection to keep them all together.

-+ Part of this book's charm is that it's peppered with fun facts and tips about the various cities and regions of America, correlating with the recipes. I'm not up to date on a lot of such Americana, so a lot of these facts were fun or interesting to learn. However, I can't vouch their accuracy, based on one "fact" about Wisconsin. Sheboygan, Wisconsin is known for their delicious brats, served on a hard roll as opposed to a usual bun, butter, and often with two sausages in one bun (double brat). The fact states that ketchup is a common Sheboyganite ingredient. But my girlfriend is a Sheboyganite, and if I even thought about putting ketchup on my brat, she would put me in a Chicago Bears jersey and drop me off in Green Bay for such a crime. Much like a Chicago style hot-dog, putting a ketchup on it is a mortal sin to most*. (*apparently, it's a debatable topic. Wisconsin politics, am I right?)

-I also found that some of the recipes in here were taking up space of recipes that could be more useful. Some basic things- like banana splits, ham sandwiches, and peanut butter-fluff (fluffernutter) sandwiches- don't need recipes.

All in all, I'd put this book in my collection, since I'm not a regular Taste of Home reader and love the concept of a regional division. However, it did have a few issues that the reader should take note of.

Thank you to Netgalley and Reader's Digest for my copy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Magical Fashionista

Title: Magical Fashionista: Dress for the Life You Want
Author: Tess Whitehurst
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 8th 2013
Source: Netgalley/Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.


Three stars.

Magical Fashionista: Dress for the Life You Want is a book that serves to educate the reader on how to dress in order to get the life they want. Using basic fashion advice in tandem with magick elements such as the Wheel of the year and astrology, Whitehurst teaches how one should build their wardrobe in order to build a better outlook and confidence.


This book is a solid fashion guide, but at the end of the day it really just didn't teach me as much as I had hoped.

A lot of this book read as common sense to me, such as how what you wear can change how others view you, how "dressing to impress" is an ideal that rings true, and that wearing a pretty or sexy pair of underwear can change how you feel about yourself.

However, once the more magickal elements came into play, this guide became more informative to me. I appreciated that Whitehurst gave fashion advice for each element, and for each Wheel of the Year sabbats. While I knew what colors were symbolic of each of the aforementioned, I didn't realize that things like textures or fabrics in particular could help to harness more desired energy. There are also blessings that are given throughout the course of this book, which I thought was a nice touch to truly becoming a "magical fashionista."

I also really liked that the author made a point of mentioning how to dress down when one wants to be invisible. I know that I personally don't always want to confidently stand out in the crowd, no matter how pretty I may look. It was a nice mention that I think a lot of other fashion experts would have probably left out.

Plus, the cover of this book is really pretty. It's catching to the eye and is a good visual representation of the advice tucked within its pages.

I think that those who are looking to get the full potential out of their wardrobe and more fashionable pagans than I would get a lot out of this little self-help guide on being a more powerful you.

Thank you to Netgalley and Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. for my copy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Title: Conjured
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2013
Source: Netgalley/Bloomsbury USA Children's Books


Three and a half stars, rounded up.

Eve doesn't remember anything. Where she came from, what her name is.... Or what she saw that has marked her as a target for a paranormal serial killer on the lose and has her enrolled in the witness protection program. But she's special, and they know it. She questions little about what her agents Nicki and Malcolm tell her... That is, Until things don't start adding up. When a friend mentions painful truths and her memories start adding up, she'll have to decide once and for all who she can trust, whose side she's on, and who she truly is before it's too late. The time for her destruction is counting down.


This book took me by surprise, to say the least. It has far more paranormal/fantasy aspects than I had anticipated, and I enjoyed it. This book is also strange, to put it mildly. It was a weird, enticing form of bizarre that kept me turning the pages.

This book is told through third person perspective, until Eve shifts into one of her memory "visions" from before she was in the program, where it turns to first person. I have to say that normally changes like that are confusing for me, but Durst wrote them well enough so that I was able to follow the flow of the story and Eve's thought process.

The detail in this book is amazing. I was able to conjure (buh dun tsss) up images of the worlds described with ease, and found myself wanting to know far more about them than the plot gave me. I also felt that the characters were well described, but I felt like information about them was missing. I wanted to know more of their history and their allegiances. Like Eve, I felt like I was being kept in the dark with certain explanations. My favorite character was probably Zach, who is shamelessly honest, loyal to a fault, and who never really stops talking and spouting useless facts about trivial things.

I felt this plot was definitely unique. I kind of suspected what was going to happen based off of clues given by the author throughout the story, but I didn't expect the explosive climax that I was given. Almost all of my questions were answered by the time the book came to a close. It did feel a bit blurred and rushed in parts near the end, but I didn't feel like it really impacted the plot too much.

The entire book has this confused, dark tone to it, I assume to match Eve's confusion with finding out who she is. It seems like no one can be trusted, and that bad things are always eminent. This tone, mixed with the notion of "living dolls" gave this book a mega creepy feel, not unlike the book Coraline. I enjoyed it, in an eerily discomforted kind of way.

This book is one that will stand apart to me based on its concept and spooky writing. Fans of YA paranormal/fantasy books with a hint of romance and a dark tone to it should pick this book up, for sure. If changing perspective or flashbacks bother you, this might not be up your alley. If Sarah Beth Durst ever decides to write a novella telling more about these new worlds or the ill fated carnival, or writes another story regarding these characters, I would definitely read it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA Children's Books for my copy.

Review: Call of the Jersey Devil

Title: Call of the Jersey Devil
Author: Aurelio Voltaire
Format: Paperback, 331 pages
Pub. Date: May 28th 2013
Source: Gifted by The Little Pink Book Boutique


Four stars.

There are far worse things lurking in New Jersey than The Situation. Like for instance, the gateway into Hell. A witch who has taken to resealing this gateway when needed finds herself in the woods with a motley crew of assistance: five misfit teenagers and one bitter has-been Gothic singer. It will take all the strength they have to get rid of the worst thing to come out of New Jersey since the Real Housewives- the infamous Jersey Devil- and not everyone will make it back alive.


This book is exactly the kind of writing that I expected of Voltaire, who is one of my favorite (if not favorite) musical artists. This books caters to the goth kids that grew up reading things like Goosebumps and watching Lovecraft films but never outgrew the need for creepness. Creepdom? Ah well. This book turns the goth kids into the heros instead of just the side freaks or the venomous, judgemental bad guys that they're normally portrayed as. This alone makes the book stands out and gains my favor.

This book is an equal mixture of urban legend, horror, comedy, and what the fuckery. The descriptions, while very well written and graphic, are disgusting in the best possible way. The creatures that emerge from the pit of hell are putrid, and Voltaire makes sure that you know it. I often found myself making a facial expression not unlike a first grader talking about cooties- tongue out and nose turned. But, these horror elements are well broken up with bursts of dark comedy that people with strange senses of humor, like myself, will find hilarious. I also really enjoyed a lot of the song and movie references that this book contained. (I also secretly got really excited when I read the title of the book in the prose. It doesn't take much.)

For me, the characters are what make this book one that I'd read again. AJ is a black kid who plays it smart and gets the hell out of there (no pun intended) when demons and devils start rearing their ugly horned heads. Prudence is a very pretty gothic girl who struggles with self image. Stuey is the pudgy type who worships an obscure goth musician. Ari is a girl who never speaks. Villy is the aforementioned obscure goth musician. And Alistair is a loud mouthed, foul, hilarious Satanist who tries to open Hell in the back of a Spencer's Gifts. Villy was probably my favorite character, since I felt he had the most history and the most character development throughout the story, but Alistair wasn't far behind. I admit, he made me laugh (sometimes at him, sometimes with him) for different reasons entirely than Voltaire had planned. I had a boyfriend who was a loudmouthed not-very-educated-about-Satanism-Satanist who was also an asshole. So when Alistair loses his head, I couldn't help but to applaud.

This book contains a few illustrations as well, helping to show off more of Voltaire's well-rounded artistry. My personal favorite is of Alistair (page 171).

My only real negative point about this view is that the ending left me wanting a bit more. I'm not really sure what I would have changed or ended, but I was left with a bit of disappointment when I saw that the story was over.

All in all, I think that this is a book that horror comedy fans will eat up. Be warned that this book contains graphic descriptions of monsters and anatomy, and contains adult language. If sex, gore, or Goth kids bother you, than it's probably not for you. This debut book from Aurelio Voltaire definitely delivered, and I look forward, as always, to his next project. If you haven't checked out his music, I sincerely hope that you do so.

Thank you to The Little Pink Book Boutique who gifted me a copy of this book.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [19]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. I didn't request many Netgalley titles but got approved from old requests. It never ends I tell you!


Her Wicked Sin by Sarah Ballance
Come Undone (Rock Hard #1) by Madelynne Ellis
You Are Mine (Mine #1) by Janeal Falor
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Forbidden Fruit (Under Mr. Nolan's Bed #1) by Selena Kitt
Yank by Selena Kitt
Vitriol the Hunter by Billy Martin, Brent Allen
My Little Pony Mane Tales Volume 1 by Thom Zahler

From the Author:

Mentality by Ceet The Author


Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon signed!
All Our Pretty Songs (All Our Pretty Songs #1) by Sarah McCarry Signed!

What about you?

Review: Bullying Under Attack

Title: Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies & Bystanders
Authors: John Meyer, Emily Sperber, Heather Alexander, Stephanie H. Meyer
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2013
Source: Netgalley & HCI Books


Four and a half stars.

Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies & Bystanders is a collection of real life stories put together by the publishers of TeenInk magazine. This book approaches a hot button issue, bullying, with a three prong approach, featuring stories from the view points of all three parties- the bully, the victim, and the not so innocent bystanders.


I have to say, no matter how much I read about bullying, be it cyber, physical, or otherwise, I am always blown away. I'm a logical person. I know that these things go on in the world, unfortunately. But books such as this one help me realize how much I took a safe learning space for granted. Teens and kids all over the United States, and the world, are dreading going to school on Monday because it's another week of hell. I can't imagine that feeling, since school was always my safe haven. I'm thankful now, in hindsight, that the (shockingly) public schools that I went to never really tolerated bullying. I'm not going to be so bold as to say it didn't happen at all. Sure it did. But we were always relatively vocal, or maybe our bullies were weak. I'm not really sure.

Reading the stories of these teens who are brave enough to share their stories with the public also makes me grateful that my classmates never chose me as a target, since I was a perfect one- an overweight pagan LGBT goth who smoked and was poor. I never let any of those things define me, and no one else tried to make them define me, and it makes the harsh reality of bullying so much more dramatic for me. Have I been called fat or a dyke on occasion? Sure. But nothing to what these kids have faced.

In addition to narratives about bullying, Bullying Under Attack also features poetry, photography, and other forms of art. I often found these just as sad as the stories, the pain of those who put it to canvas is evident.

What really broke my heart is how many of these stories center around LGBT kids. It's a fact that LGBT kids are more often bullied than their straight peers, but to hear these stories straight from the victims' mouth is an entirely different experience. I have to take this space to say to anyone being bullied, LGBT or otherwise, that it does get better. And if you happen to be a teacher, please take it seriously. The amount of accounts in this collection that have teachers and principals who ignore their suffering is deplorable.

Though this book contains a lot of pain and confession, there is a unified theme of these stories: inspiration. There are victims that stand up for themselves, bystanders who realized how much they were hurting people by staying silent, and bullies that realize how immature and hurtful they were and stop their bullying ways. It carries a message of unity, that if everyone just communicates and works together, bullying can stop and everyone can feel safe.

At the end of this book, there is an extensive list of organizations that readers can turn to if they are being bullied to get help or even just realize that they're not alone. This list also includes books and movies on the topic of bullying. I think this is a very helpful resource to include, and sincerely hope that those who need it will utilize it.

I also found that this book had great variety. In addition to the different "roles" of bullying that were represented, things such as orientation, race, and religion were also well spread throughout the collection, making it a well-rounded book of narratives.

The only thing that I had a hang up with is that some of the submissions included in this collection seemed to be less of stories and more along the lines of just statements of opposing bullying. While I agree wholeheartedly that bullying needs to stop, those bits didn't really add any insight and kind of broke the flow of the other submissions.

Anyone who was every bullied can learn something from this book. Anyone who has bullied can learn something from this book. Anyone thinking that they're innocent while staying quiet can learn something from this book. I especially recommend it for high schoolers, middle schoolers, and teachers of any grade level. Bullying is serious. Words you shoot out without thinking can stay with someone for life. And once you post something on the internet it's there forever. Cyberbullying is still bullying. This book contains some serious topics like suicide, self-harm, sexuality, eating disorders, and mild profanity.

Thanks to Netgalley and HCI Books for my copy, and thanks to the contributors of this book. You're all very strong for telling your stories to the nation.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mini Review: Six Women of Salem

Title: Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials
Author: Marilynne K. Roach
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2013
Source: Netgalley & Da Capo Press


Four stars.

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials delivers exactly what the title promises. Roach focuses on the witch trials of (arguably) the six most famous women of Salem: Tituba, Rebecca Nurse, Ann Putnam, Mary Warren, Bridget Bishop, and Mary English. The groups is a mixture of the accused and those doing the accusing.

I think this is a great book for someone who already has an interest in history or specifically the Salem witch trials. Because of the nature of the topic, there are a lot of dates, connections, and courtroom talk that does give this book a "textbook" type feel throughout. But it's all relevant if not important information that paints a more detailed picture of this point in our country's history.

One thing that really helped to break up this sometimes monotonous book was the use of fiction. At the start of introductions of characters and throughout the book, there are short fictional passages of how their life could have been like. This writing was really detailed and dramatic- I'd actually be happy to read a fiction book set in Salem if Roach ever decides to publish one.

All in all, this book is chock full of information and offers new insight into these trials. Historians and those with an interest in Salem would find this book particularly helpful. To those who have no prior history or interest in this subject, this book throws a lot of information at you and is a bit dry in parts. Because I study Salem in my free time, I found this to be a solid and informative read.

Thanks to Netgalley and Da Capo Press for my copy.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: When the World Was Flat

Title: When the World Was Flat (and we were in love)
Author: Ingrid Jonach
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2013
Source: Netgalley/Strange Chemistry


Three stars.

Lillie's life is relatively normal. She's a small town girl, with friends she's known forever, in a school where everyone knows everyone else's business. But her world comes crashing down when a new boy moves to town. He seems eerily familiar. Between this strange newcomer, horrible nightmares that she can't quite understand, and the return of a schoolmate who moved away years ago, the landscape quickly seems to be changing. Slowly she learns the truth behind her dreams and why Tom is so familiar... But is it too late for her in this world?


Ugh. Every once in a while a book comes along that I just don't know how to rate. There are aspects of this book that I adored, and others that made me almost give up on the book entirely. I guess the good and bad even out to a three for me.

Let's get my negative rants out of the way first:

I hate the protagonist. Lillie is a girl that I would never knowingly be friends with. It's no wonder she's invisible and average at her high school- she's judgemental and unpleasant. She's constantly remarking to herself over how big of a slut her "best friend" Sylv is, because she wears short skirts and makeup. And then there's the other "friend" Jo, whom she refers to as being masculine and that some makeup wouldn't kill her. But it's not just these characters. The goth/emo girl in her art class is automatically called a potential serial killer. She turns up her nose at the nerds who are into manga and D&D like she's so much better, when she makes a point of ho humming about what an average person she is. She's hypocritical about her feelings for her mother, an eccentric hippie/bohemian type, as well. One minute she's thinking about how big of an embarrassment her mom is, with her tie dye shirts, odd herbal remedies, and praying to a variety of gods. And yet, when she has nightmares she turns to her mom and her dream dictionaries, uses the oils in her bath, and drinks the teas to calm herself. Lillie's whole outlook on everything is negative, until she meets Tom, and thereafter her existence is defined by having a boy in her life. She also somehow manages to get drunk on one sip of alcohol. I know she's in high school, but, bull.

This book was a very strange mix of stories that I've heard before and originality all jumbled into one. It's an odd mixture of Doctor Who, Twilight, Slide, and The City of Masks, with some original influence. By definition I shouldn't have enjoyed this book...

But for some reason, I did. As much as I don't like Lillie, I wanted to know how the story ended, and why she was having the dreams, as well as what her connection to the new boy Tom was. I also rather liked the side plots that were happening to her friends. Somehow, Sylv, Jo, Tom, Jackson, and even her mom helped me to press through this story until the end.

There's a dark tone (other than Lillie's outlook) that haunts the writing of this book, that gives the whole thing the sense that something really bad is going to happen. The details were well written, though in my opinion too much time was spent on clothes and the like.

I could go on a tangent about the science aspect of it, but, it's a work of fiction inspired by a theory. I understand that liberties are to be taken.

I wish I could explain why I liked this book, despite the fact that I find more flaw in it than good. I just liked it.

If you're a die hard sci fi fan, I wouldn't read this. But if you're into YA insta-love fantasy, maybe this book is for you. There's slut shaming and judging that goes beyond typical high school drama, but for me the intrigue of the plot was enough for me to keep with it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Strange Chemistry for my copy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Nine Fold Heaven

Title: The Nine Fold Heaven
Author: Mingmei Yip
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Pub. Date: June 25th 2013
Source: Author, Mingmei Yip


Five stars.

The Nine Fold Heaven is a continuation of the novel Skeleton Women. In this next book, Camilla, Shadow, Rainbow, and even Jinying and the notorious gang leaders return. Camilla is left in the aftermath of the downfall of Master Lung, in a pool of uncertainty and speculation- Is Master Lung alive, and what of his son? To further tempt Camilla, she has heard rumors that even her own son may still be alive. Though once bitter rivals eager to claim the coveted spotlight in 1930s Shanghai, Camilla and the mysterious magician Shadow must now work together to free themselves from the seedy underbelly of the lives they lead, and nothing- not gangsters, superstition, or even the law- will stop Camilla from achieving her agendas, both hidden and in plain sight.


I was ecstatic when Mingmei Yip contacted me to review The Nine Fold Heaven, since Skeleton Women was one of my favorite reads of last year. I have to say that I definitely was not left disappointed.

The author's gift for narration and prose is one that I rarely come across while reading, a cool and refreshing change from my normal books. It wraps around the reader's thoughts and demands attention in its beauty and detail. There is a melodic, dark tone to the entire novel that I cannot quite explain, leaving the writing with a vibe somewhere in a mixture of a song, a meditation, and a story. This work is also sprinkled with quotes from books and poems, as well as Chinese sayings and proverbs, that help give this book a tone of unique mysticism that sets it apart from others. And then there are the elaborate details that whip up vivid images of Chinese life. Whether in a five star restaurant or a slum of Hong Kong, I was easily able to lose myself in the world that Camilla lives in.

As an English speaking reader, I also greatly appreciated that non-English words were italicized. I was easily enough able to learn their meaning based on the context, but it was a simpler process because my attention was drawn to them.

The plot of this book takes many twists and turns, and often times I found myself utterly unknowing where it was going to lead me next. When Camilla is self-reflective or plotting, the writing appropriately slowed to a more leisurely, tranquil pace. But when gangsters, masterminds, and murder take their place in the story, the pace quickens to one full of action and suspense that left me quickly turning the page to find out what happened next. More often than I'd care to admit, I was pleasantly taken aback by a change in story development.

Like Skeleton Women, The Nine Fold Heaven is full of strong female characters, and I don't read nearly enough books where this is the case. Whether it is the meticulously trained Camilla, the cunning and elusive Shadow, or even the little orphan Peiling, each are headstrong and smart in their own ways. My personal favorite is the journalist, Rainbow, due in large part to her "army" of Pink Skeleton women, who obtain her information from the four corners of Shanghai and beyond.

Emotions run strong throughout the course of this book, and there are a lot of them. The love of a mother. The desire or romance of a lover. The desperation of one fallen on hard times. Even the wistful memories of love and memories long past. I felt so many things while reading this, sometimes more than I could name and definitely more than I could even comprehend at times.

Another aspect of this story that I thoroughly appreciate is that there is no cut and dry good versus evil. Everyone is a little bit of both. There are "bad" people who unexpectedly do good things, and there are "good" people that are forced to do bad things do to dire situations. Because there is no clear villain, this story has an added layer of realism and grit that give the story more depth.

Though this is a continuation, and I recommend reading Skeleton Women first, it is not required. Back story is provided throughout enough that this can work as a stand alone. For anyone interested in gangsters, strong female leads, Chinese history, or beautifully woven narration, The Nine Fold Heaven is a must read. This is adult fiction, and does contain brief profanity and adult situations. This is the second book I have read of Yip's, and it definitely will not be the last.

Thank you to Mimgmei Yip who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Mini Review: Calculated Exposure

Title: Calculated Exposure
Author: Holley Trent
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 2nd 2013
Source: Netgalley/Lyrical Press, Inc.


Three stars.

Photojournalist Erica spent the past several weeks overseas, hoping to find some inspiration for her new photographs. It's by complete accident that she runs into mathematician Curt when his godchildren accidentally bump into her in Ireland. And what's more incidental is that not only is Curt gorgeous, but he lives pretty close to her back in America. The attraction starts quickly, but both Curt and Erica keep secrets tucked away that risk all that they have.


The long and short of it: This book just wasn't for me.

I didn't really feel connected to any of the characters, at any point of the story. That fact alone made this hard for me to keep up with the plots at hand, because I wasn't emotionally invested in the drama nor the romance aspects that I know I was supposed to have been. Also, the places that they've been and lived, mixed with their individual cultures, all just kind of muddled to me after awhile.

The romance aspects were decently written, but for me they stayed warm as opposed to sizzling hot. That being said, I do love the cover, and it's steamy enough to have initially interested me in reading the story.

Nothing about this novella was badly written or outlandish, but it just didn't click with me personally. I'd definitely take another stab at reading this author's work, however. Fans of romance would probably enjoy this book.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: College Cooks

Title: College Cooks: Simple Ingredients, Easy Recipes, Good Tasting Food
Author: T.C. Stephan
Editor: Danielle Carlson
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 1st 2012
Source: Netgalley/Cool Eatz Publishing


Four stars.

This cookbook is geared for readers who are either going off to college for the first time, or are at least on their own for the first time. Using the back story of how these six collegiate friends started learning to prepare food for themselves, this is a lightly written collection of simple, easy to follow but nonetheless delicious recipes for those of us who are afraid of burning or slaughtering something as simple as Ramen.

Even in the introductory pages, there is a lot of useful information. One of the things that I thought was a good idea was the recipe key, or the little symbols posted at the top of the recipe that easily identify it as cheap, vegetarian, and things of that nature. They also go over measurements, how long it's safe to keep certain foods, how long to cook meats, culinary terminology and even a section on microwave safety. All in all, the intro is a great 101 class for those who don't frequent cooking.

And then of course, there are the recipes. They're divided into categories: Breakfast, Sandwiches, Salads, Soups, Pastas, Dinner Entrees, Roasted Chicken (10 Meals), Side Dishes/Veggies, Desserts, Salad Dressings, Dips/Spreads, Sauces, and Marinades. There's also a final section of sample menus. They vary from easier dishes, such as pancakes and BLTs, to more laborious foods like lamb chops and risotto. A picture is included of each recipe, which is a huge plus for me. I hate when I can't get a glimpse of the end result for some comparison.

The recipes are easy to follow and well written. They also do a great job of discussing how and when you can use your left overs to make a new meal. The book is also peppered with (no pun intended) tips and tricks on how to elevate or ease the cooking process.

As a college student myself, I have to say that this is a solid guide for those who are just realizing that they have to, in fact, learn to cook for themselves. I'll be keeping this nearby on days where I can't be bothered to go to the dining hall. I did find a few of these recipes to be too simple, but I'm biased. I'm not new to the kitchen, and I respect that a lot of people who'd pick this up are. So if you're moved out and wanting to learn how to make tasty, simple things so you don't starve or overdose on Ramen, this is the book for you. If you're a well seasoned cook, there's no need for this one.

Thank you to Netgalley and Cool Eatz Publishing for my copy.