Monday, October 30, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Title: Conversion
Author: Katherine Howe
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: July 1st 2014
Source: Won

Book Description:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prep meets The Crucible.

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?


I had such high hopes for this one. I love American history, and have special interest in Salem. I have an entire shelf dedicated to books- both fiction and nonfiction- on the subject. So when a retelling young adult book caught my eye, I was so excited. Boy, what a let down.

The main character was the absolute worst. She's demeaning and shallow and so self obsessed it's ridiculous. If she's supposed to be relatable, then I don't want to meet the girl who sees herself in Colleen. Every word that left her mouth was either snotty, judgmental, or about herself. I couldn't take it for long. The more she talked the less I cared about her and the book.

And the other characters, as well as the plot, are so bland that I can't tell you anything about them. Other than it was set in a prep school, and there's your sterotypical "preppy girls" who show up in every other book that involves a private school in the young adult genre. There's some Salem outlines and references, but it wasn't chilling, or haunting, or anything else that I expected upon reading the blurb.

I don't recommend it. Props on the cover art though. It caught my eye and I really like the design of it.

Maybe if you went to a school like this, with people like this, you'll relate to it more than I did.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [103]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.


In My Inbox

Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction by Erica Garza [Thanks Simon & Schuster]
Batman, Volume 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles by Tom King [Thanks DC!]

In My Mailbox

Thanks so much, WordFire Press!

Happy Halloween, guys!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini College Review: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Title: Carmilla
Author: J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Format: Paperback, 108 pages
Pub. Date: September 5th 2000
Source: Amazon

Book Description:

A classic Victorian vampire novella, which influenced Bram Stoker's later treatment of the vampire mythos in Dracula.



I had to read this book for my vampiric fiction course in college.

This is a short story, with a short review to match.

I honestly had never heard of this story prior to this class, which surprised me because I've been reading vampire books since I was little. It's underrated, and I'm glad the course made me read it.

This is a short horror story with vampires that pre-dates Dracula. It's engrossing. It's a bit slow moving, but it's so the creeping, haunting tones can slowly wrap around the stories. This is a female driven book that shows vampirism in a different light than other books of the time. It's seen as queer, and beautiful, and soft, and therein lies the chill of it.

It's worth reading if you like horrors and vampires. It's only like 100 pages so it won't take very long to fit it into your reading schedule.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: Temptation by RL Stine

Title: Temptation
Series: Fear Street
Author: RL Stine
Format: Paperback, 407 pages
Pub. Date: July 10th 2012
Source: The Book Depository

Book Description:

Cruel Intentions meets The Vampire Diaries in this sexy packaging of a classic vampire duology from bestselling author R.L. Stine.

In this collection of three fan-favorite stories, the vampires of Sandy Hollow crave the summer months. Summer means plenty of beach tourists…and plenty of fresh blood after months of deprivation. But this year the Eternal Ones have decided to spice things up with a little bet: The first to seduce a hot date of the human variety, and then turn him into a fellow creature of the night, wins.

The catch? In order to successfully turn their prey, they must take only three small sips of blood on three different nights. If they take too much blood on any night, the human will die and the bet will be lost.

The setup sounds simple enough, but things quickly get complicated—especially since each vampire is just dying to quench her thirst...



Ah, good old RL Stine. How I missed you.

When I was a kid, Fear Street books were my absolute favorite thing. They made me love reading, and love horror. And vampires. And creative death scenes. After reading a book I didn't particularly care for, I decided to re-read something familiar to me to wash the taste of bad book out of my mouth. Then, I remembered that I had this one. I've read it, but not in this current edition. I was hoping it would stand up to the tests of time, as I haven't read these books since high school. It didn't let me down.

Temptation is in fact three stories in one. It contains Goodnight Kiss, Goodnight Kiss 2, and a bonus short story called The Vampire Club. Each of these GK books has been published individually as Fear Street Super Chiller books, and they've also been published in a different anthology edition. But during the Twilight-y vampire craze, it got a more modern look, and I'm here for it. I recommend reading the books back to back, but they are able to be read individually too.

These books are the perfect amount of nostalgia for a 90s kid like me. It's a familiar feeling, because I've read so many of his books, when I read an RL Stine story. They're easy to read, yet they're not lacking in creativity or details. I swear, RL Stine comes up with more death scenes than anyone else I read. I appreciated the notes that WEREN'T nostalgic when I read it the first time. It's a "contemporary" book, in that it's set in the 90's. So, no cell phones. There's wrist watches. He gets his film developed at a photo store. It made me so happy and reminiscent, and for that I'm grateful.

The characters are relatable. Well, as relatable as vampires can be, I guess. There's quite a big cast, but they're given enough attention that you can differentiate them all, and they're all given unique looks and personalities.

And then of course, the vampires. They're the old school kind. The ones that don't sparkle. They turn into bats. They sleep in coffins with the dirt of their homelands. It was so nice to read a vampire book where no one is googly-eyed in love. They're kicking vampire butt and taking names. (Let's ignore that Gabriel, a vampire, is the first "book boyfriend" I remember having. I loved his dark features and his really overly dramatic vampire speeches. Puberty is weird, okay?)

The short story at the end is a nice little bonus. Like an after dinner mint for the vampire bloodbath that's taken place for the previous 400 pages. It's quick and to the point, and features different characters than the previous two works in this collection. If Goodnight Kiss were a TV show, this short story would be the bit that happens dramatically before the commercial.

If you remember reading Fear Street or Goosebumps; you should read this. Prepare to crave an Ecto-Cooler, some Gushers, and that really cool Creepy Crawlers lab kit that made candy bugs and slime (that I never got for Christmas, I might add). If you like vampires that are more traditional and more cheesy, like I do, these will be right up your alley.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cookbook Review: State Bird Provisions by Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski, J.J. Goode

Title: State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook
Authors: Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski, J.J. Goode
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 17th 2017
Source: Ten Speed Press

Book Description:

The debut cookbook from one of the country's most celebrated and pioneering restaurants, Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions in San Francisco.

Few restaurants have taken the nation by storm in the way that State Bird Provisions has. Inspired by their years catering parties, chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski use dim sum style carts to offer guests small but finely crafted dishes ranging from Potato Chips with Crème Fraiche and Cured Trout Roe, to Black Butter-Balsamic Figs with Wagon Wheel Cheese Fondue, to their famous savory pancakes (such as Chanterelle Pancakes with Lardo and Maple Vinegar), along with a menu of more substantial dishes such as their signature fried quail with stewed onions.

Their singular and original approach to cooking, which expertly blends seemingly disparate influences, flavors, and textures, is a style that has influenced other restaurants throughout the country and is beloved by diners, chefs, and critics alike. In the debut cookbook from this acclaimed restaurant, Brioza and Krasinski share recipes for their most popular dishes along with stunning photography, and inspire readers to craft an unforgettable meal of textures, temperatures, aromas, and colors that excite all of the senses.



This is a really multi-faceted book. There's a ton of variety when it comes to the recipes. There's full dishes, but also drinks, and even more basic staples like butter and jam. I really enjoyed just how much you could learn to make on your own from this book.

The book is divided into sections by broad categories, with smaller recipe breakdowns within each sections. The sections include an introduction, The Savory Larder, The Savory Recipes, The Dessert Larder, and The Sweet Recipes.

Each recipe is prefaced with a nice informational paragraph, explaining why the recipe is included, how it's relevant to State Bird Provisions, and how the cooks are connected to this food. It sets a nice tone that's both full of useful tips, but also reflects how much the chefs care about their recipes. There's a lot of personal stories about the chefs and what led them to cook the way they do, which I thought was nice, though a bit too long at times.

The recipes have short, un-numbered steps that are pretty straight to the point. There are a lot of photos, which I also really appreciated. The photographs that are included look great.

This book really has something for everyone. At the beginning, there's a lot of basic recipes for kitchen staples that most people just buy, including pickles, jams, and even butter. As the book goes on, the recipes get more complicated and have more steps and more ingredients.

Also, this book is crazy long, and has a TON of recipes.

Some of the recipes that I'm most interested in include Spiced Guinea Hen Dumplings with Garlic Chives and Aromatic Broth, Sweet Corn Tres Leches Cake with Cloud Cream and Blueberry Compote, and Carrot Mochi with Pickled Carrots, Carrot Vinaigrette, and Pistachio Dukkah.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 23, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini College Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Format: Paperback, 287 pages
Pub. Date: April 7th 2009
Source: Amazon

Book Description:

A searing, post apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, an when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. they have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food--and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story fo a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.



This is a novel that I had to read for my apocalyptic fiction course in college.

Okay, so I'm the only person on the planet who doesn't like this book. Well, it's not that I didn't like it. It's that I'm utterly indifferent, one way or the other. Which is why I settled on three stars- eh.

It's boring. There's no character connection or growth. There's a lot of moments where I was left thinking "Oh something's going to happen!" but that thing never came. It's dry and vague and I don't feel like I took anything away from this book at all. I know I read it, but I can't even highlight any things that happen, because it's just not memorable.

I'm the outlier here and I know that. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction, by all means, read it. But I wouldn't have finished it, if I didn't have to for the course.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Spotlight & Giveaway: How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton

Title: How to Catch a Monster

Authors: Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton

Release date: September 5, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

About the Book:

How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace & Andy ElkertonSourcebooks Jabberwocky Publication Date: September 5, 2017 A USA Today Bestseller! From the creators of the New York Times bestselling How to Catch a Leprechaun and How to Catch an Elf! There's a monster in my closet, with claws, and teeth, and hair, and tonight, I'm going to scare him! He lives just right through there... Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that’s been so scary night after night! But what if things aren’t what they seem and our monster isn’t scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of strangest sort?

Get it Here:

Amazon | BN | Book Depository | IndieBound

About the Authors:

Adam Wallace is a children’s writer and cartoonist living in Australia. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling How to Catch series and Only You Can Save Christmas. Andy Elkerton is a children’s book illustrator based in the United Kingdom.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [102]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

It was another small week this week. That's a good thing though- my computer is acting up and I'm so bored.

In My Inbox

No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day by Tracy Bloom

Thanks Bookouture!

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide: How to Find, Record, and Preserve Your Ancestor's Grave by Joy Neighbors

Thanks F+W Media!

How is your week going? Any Halloween plans? What are you being this year?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN REVIEW: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Series: Between #1
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Format: Hardcover, 360 pages
Pub. Date: August 15th 2013
Source: Purchased, HPB

Book Description:

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.



Oh goodness. What did I just read?

I was super excited to finally get this book. I remember when it first came out and people were losing their minds for it. I was drawn in by the hype, not to mention the super intriguing title and the pretty cover. I shouldn't have judged it by that.

I could rant about this book for hours, but instead I'm opting to take the short, sweet high road version.

I'll start with the positives first, because there are some positives. The writing is absolutely beautiful. The author does a fantastic job in describing the setting and the characters. The writing is slow at times, in a style reminiscent of southern gothic novels. It's lyrical and haunting, and more than once I found myself internally complimenting a passage.

But that's all I've got.

Some of the reasons why I didn't enjoy this book include: instalove, adults that don't seem to know/care what's going on ever, terrible side characters (the awful brother, the "slutty" neighbor), and lots of questionable decisions by everyone involved.

A pet peeve (that's admittedly nitpicking) is that they refer to each other as brother and sister. Is this a regional thing? I've literally never called my sister "sister" in conversation.

The end was super disappointing too. The bad guy (maybe?) turns into a Batman/Scooby-Doo villain and reveals his whole origin story and plan. There's a lot of threads left untied at the end, and it ends in a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, I wasn't interested enough in the characters to pick up the second one any time soon.

There's a lot of people who really liked this book, so maybe it's just a case of "it's not you, it's me". If you like instant romance, paranormal powers, and gothic writing, maybe you'll have better luck with this than me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

HALLOWEEN GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY: The Perils of Growing up Werewolf by Andrew Buckley!

Title: The Perils of Growing Up Werewolf

Author: Andrew Buckley

Publication date: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Tantrum Books

About the Book:

Being a werewolf is no picnic. Colin’s constantly hungry, spends a ton of time shaving, and fights to keep his emotions in
check to avoid turning into a giant, drooling, hairy, smelly, howling wolf. But Colin's not the only creature hanging
around the town of Elkwood. Vampires, zombies, goblins, ogres, and other questionable visitors and their various
shenanigans have got everyone on edge.

Colin just wants to live a normal life, date, and get his homework done on time. But the town of Elkwood needs him. So
when a secret government organization asks for his help, will he be able to control the animal inside, or will he give in to
the perils of growing up werewolf?

Get It Here:

Amazon | TBD | B&N | IndieBound | iBooks | Kobo | Chapters | BAM | Google Play

Guest Post: The Road to Publication

My road to publication was a bit of a twisted and weird one. Though in speaking to other authors, I’ve learned that the road is rarely straight. Sometimes there are sharp drop-offs, occasionally there are short cuts, and on rare occasions you may even find a cow blocking the path entirely.

I completed my first and second novels before I even got a whiff of a publishing contract. I was of the mindset that the only way to publish a book was to get a literary agent first so I dedicated all my query-writing energy to that method. After over a hundred rejections I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing with my life. Yes, it took at least a hundred before I started questioning myself. It was one agent in particular who, in a rather nicely written rejection letter, suggested I build myself an online presence. And why not? Facebook was getting bigger and bigger all the time and the celebrity use of Twitter had turned the micro-blogging platform into the next step in the evolution of social media.

I built a simple website, stating exactly why I’d done so and I started blogging about pretty much anything including writing, book reviews, movie reviews, quirky fiction pieces, and more. I also started using Facebook and Twitter in a rather aggressive manner. I met some amazing people and made friends who I’m still in contact with today. For a while I was part of an entire group who had come together simply because we thought the movie version of ‘Howard the Duck’ was so stupid that it was hilarious. I also started contributing to a writing blog called Curiosity Quills. I’d met the owners, Lisa and Eugene, on Twitter and we shared a similar sense of humour. I lost contact with them for a year or two when I was writing my second novel, and when I re-connected they’d become an indie publishing house. Although I’d started to get bites on my work thanks to switching to sending queries to publishers instead of agents, I still didn’t have anything solid. Curiosity Quills ended up signing both novels, DEATH, THE DEVIL, AND THE GOLDFISH, and STILTSKIN. A year after signing with them, I started working for them as an acquisitions editor, reviewing queries, and shortly thereafter as the Acquisitions Manager (a position I still occupy). I later worked as the VP of Operations and re-structured their production department before returning to the Acquisitions Manager role in 2017.

Through working with the CQ team, I met my amazing literary agent, Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group in New York. Mark loves quirky humour (and cats) and in 2014 he signed me as a client for any future works, introduced me to my second publisher (Month9Books), and has represented me ever since. Three more releases later, and a fourth under contract, and I’m honoured, humbled, and happy to be a working author in what’s become an extremely challenging and competitive industry. The HAIR IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES series, published by Month9Books/Tantrum Books (part of the Georgia McBride Media Group), now has two instalments published with the third coming in Fall 2018 and I have two other works in progress.

While it’s been a long road (I started writing novels in 2002, but wasn’t published until 2012) it’s been extremely educational and the only thing I can say is that perseverance in this industry truly pays off. It may not happen today, or tomorrow, or next week, or five years from now, but if you stick to doing what you love and you do it to the best of your ability, you’ll get there in the end. Just be prepared to deal with the occasional cow in the road.

Other Books In the Series:

Follow the tour:

Click here!

About the Author:

Andrew Buckley attended the Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film and Television program. After pitching and developing several screenplay projects for film and television, he worked in marketing and public relations, before becoming a professional copy and content writer. During this time Andrew began writing his first adult novel, DEATH, THE DEVIL AND THE GOLDFISH, followed closely by his second novel, STILTSKIN. He works as an editor for Curiosity Quills Press.

Andrew also co-hosts a geek movie podcast, is working on his next novel, and has a stunning amount of other ideas. He now lives happily in the Okanagan Valley, BC with three kids, one cat, one needy dog, one beautiful wife, and a multitude of characters that live comfortably inside of his mind. Andrew is represented by Mark Gottlieb at the Trident Media Group.

Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook


One (1) winner will receive a Werewolves The Pact Game (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini Review: Southern Fried Wiccan by S.P. Sipal

Title: Southern Fried Wiccan
Author: S.P. Sipal
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: March 24th 2015
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

Cilla Swaney is thrilled to return stateside, where she can hang up her military-brat boots for good. Finally, she’ll be free to explore her own interests—magick and Wicca. But when she arrives at her grandma’s farm, Cilla discovers that life in the South isn’t quite what she expected. At least while country hopping, she never had to drink G-ma’s crazy fermented concoctions, attend church youth group, make co-op deliveries...or share her locker with a snake-loving, fire-lighting, grimoire-stealing Goth girl…

…Who later invites her to a coven that Cilla’s not sure she has the guts to attend. But then Emilio, the dark-haired hottie from her charter school, shows up and awakens her inner goddess. Finally, Cilla starts believing in her ability to conjure magick. Until…

…All Hades breaks loose. A prank goes wrong during their high school production of Macbeth, and although it seems Emilio is to blame, Cilla and Goth pay the price. Will Cilla be able to keep the boy, her coven, and the trust of her family? Or will this Southern Wiccan get battered and fried?


This review will be short and to the point, because I hate to give one star reviews.

I didn't care for the main character. She was super judgmental of people from the get go, and she was always whining about something. It was super off putting, and before long I wasn't concerned about her story or what happened to her.

There weren't enough Wiccan components for me. I wasn't expecting wizard spells and magic (the way some other readers seem to have, for some reason) but, I was expecting more of her development, based on the title and blurb. It was mostly just teenage YA stuff you've read before. As a pagan myself, I was disappointed.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [101]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

It was a small week this week. Just as well, it's been raining so much.

In My Mailbox

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen signed

Thanks Scott & Ensconced in Lit !

Hard Justice by April Hunt

Thanks Forever!

How is your week going? Any Halloween plans?

Friday, October 13, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: The Cellar by Natasha Preston

Title: The Cellar
Series: The Cellar #1
Author: Natasha Preston
Format: Paperback, 347 pages
Pub. Date: March 1st 2014
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out….



Note: I didn't read it while it was on wattpad, so I will have no comparisons.

I'm really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I was sucked into the story from the beginning, and it held my interest until the end. I did have some issues with it, but overall I'm glad that I read it.

I'll start with the positives. It was creepy. It wasn't very realistic feeling, but it was still a creepy story. The life described in the cellar was unsettling to say the least, and the fact that Clover (the captor) was so non-chalant and kind of white bread was what made him creepier to me. He could just be some guy. Anyone on the street. And that's worse.

I'm not generally a fan of when books split into alternate POVs, but it served its purpose well in this book. It rotates between three characters. The first is Summer/Lily, who is the main character and the girl who is kidnapped. The second is Lewis, her boyfriend. And the third is Clover/Collin, the captor. It's interesting to see how each person is reacting to this event, and I think the voices were distinguished well from one another.

The story telling was pretty good. Preston kept me interested in the story with some mild twists and turns along the way, and the cellar and the other girls who are in there just get more disturbing the longer she's in there. The book feels haunting and hollow.

But there's some negatives. My biggest issue was the main character, Summer. She has what I call "Piper Syndrome"- that is, she's the least interesting character in the cast, despite the fact that she's the main character. I wanted so much more about Clover. I wanted more about the cellar and the other girls and the hows and the whys. She's just kind of blah in comparison to all the other things going on in the story.

I didn't care for her personality much either. She's kinda dumb. She does things even though she knows she shouldn't, and then is surprised that there's consequences. You walk alone at night even though people told you not you and bad things happened. The girls in the cellar said "he'll be pissed if you do that", she does the thing, and then is surprised when he is in fact pissed. There's also a lot of crying. A lot of it. I was sympathetic for a while (I mean hello, I'd cry if I were locked in a weird murder chamber too), but it was mentioned tooooo much and it grated on my nerves.

Her boyfriend really annoyed me at times too. Keep in mind that these characters are all teenagers. He gets angry at her parents and her brother and the police for not doing enough, that he can do it himself, he can find her. I understand feeling angry and out of control, but if some teenage dude hinted that he cared more about my daughter/sister missing than I did, I'd be furious and he'd no longer be in my house.

The ending was also a bit of a let down. It all kind of fell flat *insert sad trombone music*. I just learned from reading book info on here that apparently there's a part two to the story, maybe it gets cleared up there.

The Cellar isn't my favorite story about locking girls in a room. (Is that a weird sentence? I feel like that's a weird sentence.) But, it was an entertaining enough read that kept me wondering what was going on until the end.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Title: The Isle of the Lost
Series: Descendants #1
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Format: Hardcover, 311 pages
Pub. Date: May 5th 2015
Source: Won/Publisher

Book Description:

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that's been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon's eye: the key to true darkness and the villains' only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it...who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent's daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon's eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen's daughter, Evie, doesn't know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she's a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal's little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he's not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon's eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil's son may not be bravest, but he's certainly clever. Carlos's inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon's eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon's eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She'll just need a little help from her "friends." In their quest for the dragon's eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain't so bad.



Upon watching the "Descendants 2" film on the Disney Channel a few months ago, I suddenly remembered that not only does this book series exist, but that I had a copy of the first book.

So, away I read.

Ultimately, this was a pretty quick read that held my attention really well.

I like the concept of having a new yet familiar world, filled with new yet familiar faces. The children of the most infamous Disney Villains all live, study, and survive on the Isle of the Lost. I thought that Melissa de la Cruz did a really good job of world building the island. It was vivid and descriptive, and it answered a lot of questions that I had (from seeing the movie before I read the book). I also liked that she took four separate villain children and gave them four distinct backgrounds and life experiences, though they're all from the same small place, and shoved them to work together. It was interesting to see how relationships changed and grew, and to see how they all interacted with each other, especially since they all know the heinous things that each of their parents have done in the past.

There are a lot of callbacks to Disney films in this book, and I adored that. If you were a fan of Disney animated classics growing up, there are a lot of familiar characters that make appearances, and you get new insight into some of the motives of these movies.

There's a little tease of a romance, but it doesn't really come to fruition in this first installment of the series. I hope that changes in the other books. There's also not a lot of description of the "good" enchanted land of Auradon; I assume that will come later too.

The only thing that really didn't vibe well with me was the personalities of the four villain kids who are the main characters: Jay (son of Jafar), Carlos (son of Cruella), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen), and Mal (daughter of Maleficent). There was a lot of time dedicated to explaining what the sins of each of their parents was: what they had done to be villains, how they had failed, how mean they were. All fair explanations, but... We know. We saw what happened in the films. It's not something that needs to be constantly readdressed like "Oh remember Jafar wanted the lamp!?" We need to know more about who the villain children are, and I never really got a sense of who they were, on their own. Perhaps this changes when they no longer have such strong, imprisoning ties to their parents in later books, but in this book it seemed lacking for the kids, or redundant for the adults.

Like I said though, I enjoyed this book. It was a fun, nostalgic read that took me back to all the Disney books that I loved as a kid, and still love now in adulthood. It's a great book for kids and young teens who still love Disney, or who like series such as Ever After High or Monster High.

I look forward to continuing the series when I track them down.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cookbook Review: Valerie's Home Cooking by Valerie Bertinelli

Title: Valerie's Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family
Author: Valerie Bertinelli
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 10th 2017
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

As the current star of her Food Network show, Valerie's Home Cooking, and co-host of the network's Kids Baking Championship, as well as having spent years acting on television, Valerie Bertinelli has made a name for herself in households across America. But to really know Valerie, is to spend time in her kitchen.

Inspired by her family's cooking legacy, Valerie specializes in showing fans how to make dishes their own families will love that are for the heart and soul. As she often says, there's a story behind every recipe and Valerie shares them in this gorgeous cookbook, where home cooks will find more than 100 recipes that are easy to make and innovative--they're just as fresh, vibrant and down to earth as Valerie herself. Many of these classic comforting recipes have an original twist like Bloody Mary Tea Sandwiches, Lobster BLTs, Quick Rotisserie Chicken Gumbo, and S'mores Popcorn. These mouthwatering dishes will become your go-tos, whether you're having breakfast or lunch on your own, friends are joining for last-minute cocktails and small bites, or the whole family is coming together for a hearty dinner and dessert.



Honestly, my interest in this book stems from seeing Valerie Bertinelli on various shows on the Food Network channel. Overall, I think this is a pretty good cookbook that's bound to have a recipe for everyone to enjoy.

The recipes in this book are organized by meal/course, making it pretty easy to navigate. The chapters include Rise and Shine, Getting Through the Day, Happy Hour, Around the Table, A Side Note, and Finishing Sweet.

Most of the recipes have photos with them, which is helpful. Some of them could have been a little better quality, but that's nitpicking a bit. This book seems really good for a beginner. The steps are numbered, and the language is very conversational like "hey, see this carrot, cut it" which makes it easy to follow. Part of the home cook appeal to this book, at least to me, is that some stuff is not scratch made. That is, things like caramel sauce in a jar, frozen blueberries, jarred giardiniera and other "normal people" ingredients are used throughout. It's easier and more likely that I'll cook with this little cheats included.

I appreciate the little personal stories, and that there's photos of Valerie cooking some of these dishes throughout the course of the book.

Some of the dishes that sound the best to me include Bloody Mary Tea Sandwiches, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Shrimp with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce, and Savory Horseradish Panna Cotta.

All in all, I think this is a really approachable cookbook that has a lot of yummy sounding dishes in it. The instructions are clear, the photos are pretty good, and there's a good amount of variety.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 9, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini Review: The Witching Hour by Silver RavenWolf

Title: The Witching Hour: Spells, Powders, Formulas, and Witchy Techniques That Work
Author: Silver RavenWolf
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 8th 2017
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

The Witching Hour--that moment when every fiber of your beings says, "This is the time to do the magick, the ritual, the enchantment for what I need." It could be dawn, a misty twilight, or the deepest, darkest inky night. It's a time when all of your being urges you to get up, get moving, and get working! Confidence that you can easily step from the problem at hand to the success that you desire seething around you. And you know, to the depths of your soul, it is time for magick! The moment of your own power has matured!

This is a book of magic--formulas and techniques for working with herbal blends and powders, techniques for connecting to the ultimate oneness of universe, inspiration for deepening your magical work and seeing your intentions become real changes in the world.



Ah, my old friend Silver RavenWolf. We meet again. My enjoyment of this particular author is hit and miss: some of her books I absolutely adore and take front and center stage on my shelf. Others, not so much. This one fell pretty safely into the middle for me.

The organization of this book is really, really disjointed. It's a bit all over the place, and makes it hard to read. The tone comes off as a bit one true way: that this is how you should do it, because I say so.

That said, there's a lot of useful information in this book. I personally found RavenWolf's herbal information to be very informative and inclusive. There were things here that I learned, and the material was explained in such a way that it was easy to understand, even when you don't have the best working knowledge of herbs and plants. I also found her moon charts and explanations to be really well thought out and detailed.

In addition, I appreciate that her work is cited, so you can research topics further if you so choose. It gives the book a more scholarly tone.

It's a good book maybe for beginners, because there's a lot of introductions and explanations, sort of like a Witch 101 syllabus. That said, I still learned some new things, and I'm not a beginner. So, you may appreciate this book more than I did, even if you're not so new.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: A Year and a Day of Witchcraft by Deborah Blake

Title: A Year and a Day of Everyday Witchcraft: 366 Ways to Witchify Your Life
Author: Deborah Blake
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 8th 2017
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

Connect with your witchy self every day using small, easy, and fun practices. This book features quick and meaningful ways to integrate witchcraft into your daily life, inspiring you to take your magick to a new level whether you're a beginning or experienced practitioner.

Deborah Blake guides you on a journey through the Wheel of the Year, providing witchy wisdom, affirmations, spells, questions to ponder, and much more. From connecting with nature to connecting with deities, A Year and a Day of Everyday Witchcraft explores a variety of modern Pagan practices to help you get more in touch with your personal path of witchcraft.



I think this is a great concept. I love the idea of having little "witchy" things to do each day. I'm a list following, schedule-making type person, so having something that applies to paganism really appeals to me. This is the type of book I'd really like on my shelf. Plus, look at the cover art- would that darling black cat lead you astray?

This book has a little bit of everything. As the title suggests, includes 366 daily exercises that pertain to witchcraft. Each day has a theme, and a little lesson. The tone is very approachable, which I think would be helpful to those who are just starting out along their spiritual paths. Because these ideas are generally pretty short, I think it'd be a good way to dip one's toes into the magick pool, so to speak. It's also time considerate, so even if you don't have a huge amount of free time, you'll be able to reflect on or complete most of the "try this!" activities on each day.

I also really like that the author gives suggestions, not orders. One thing that really, really turns me off from pagan books is when the author speaks as though they are the One True Knower of All Things and that their way is the One True Way or You're Not a Wiccan or whatever path. It happens far more often than you'd think, given that this branch of spirituality tends to be wider in its forms of expression. Blake is the opposite, the tone is very "hey, you could do this, but if you'd rather do that instead, go for it". It's a refreshing tone, that is well appreciated and didn't go unnoticed.

The "try this" suggestions that are listed, one per day, are really widely varied. They include tasks that are more directly spiritual like candle lighting and prayer, but also creative arts such as writing poetry and coloring. There's also a good mix of "self-help" type ideas, like organizing lists for yourself and topics for self-reflection.

A few of the suggestions are a bit less than accessible. There's one day, for instance, that suggests walking around a shop to find crystals. Not everyone has access to such places. But, I suppose that's where the "suggestion" part comes in- I plan on scrolling Amazon and counting that.

All in all, I plan on getting a physical copy for myself. I'm always one of those "new year resolution" people who always has these big dreams but then gives up in a week when the holiday glow has worn off. Hopefully, this will be a successful resolution to follow this book for a year.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: I Am Bat by Morag Hood

Title: I Am Bat
Author: Morag Hood
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 5th 2017
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

I am bat.
I love cherries. They are juicy and red and delicious and...
My cherries! Some of them are missing.
Who took my cherries? Was it YOU?

Join the grumpily adorable Bat as he searches for his missing cherries in this vibrant and hilarious picture book.



This is an okay book, but I was left a bit disappointed.

I adore bats, so I was really excited to see one as the main character of this picture book.

I'll start with the good things first. The art work is really cute. It's full of bright colors and cute fonts. I also really like Bat himself. He has good facial expressions that match well with the text that is alongside it.

But there's... Not really a story arc. It ends really suddenly, and you're not given a lot to go off of. I understand that this is a kid's picture book, but that still doesn't mean there shouldn't be some sort of plot.

So, this was cute, but not really a great story. If you or your kid loves bats like I do, it might be worth it for the cute pictures. But even for a picture book, this is a super quick one that won't take long.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 6, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Mini College Review: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Title: Fledgling
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Pub. Date: January 2nd 2007
Source: SIU Bookstore

Book Description:

Fledgling, Octavia Butler's new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted - and still wants - to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human.



I'd like to preface this review by saying that apparently I'm the one person who hasn't read Butler's book, Kindred so I have no prior experience with this author's writing.

Moving on, this is a book that I had to read in my vampire literature course in college. I had really hopes for it. Theoretically, it's everything I love. Vampires? Good. Science fiction? Good. These two things blended together in Fledgling ? Meh. I didn't feel it.

It's kind of dull. When I think of the word vampire, I think "intensity". Whether it's a horror plot, or a love plot, vampire novels tend to be heavy-handed more than lacking when it comes to plot and characters. I thought for sure this book would be intense, because twisting together science-fiction "how did I get like this" type plot lines with the vampire mythos sounds like a fantastic time. But instead the writing is dry, uninspired.

It's also creepy. Not in the vampiric respect so much as the main character, who has the personality/mind of an adult, is in the body of like a ten year old girl. Sex and romantic interest are involved, and it's creepy. I understand that the mind is not young, but when you're playing this book in the movie theater of your brain while you're reading, it's a little girl doing very not little things with a grown man. Which... I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, ew. On the other hand, vampirism is supposed to be kind of gross, and this is just sort of a twist on the same creepy factor vamps give off. Maybe it's a wash.

Despite my lack of enjoyment in this story, our class was able to cultivate a lot of good discussions from the issues presented in this writing, on topics like what it means to be submissive, sexism, racism, as well as a bunch of comparisons to the other vampire books we read in this course (which included Dracula and Carmilla). There's a lot of good themes that are in here... I just wish it was more interesting so that I wanted to dig deeper into the text.

It's an okay book. I'm glad it's just one and not a series. If you're looking for a tame read with creepy and science fiction undertones, go for it, but I want a little more *pop* in my vampire books.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! Review: The Geeky Chef Strikes Back by Cassandra Reeder

Title: The Geeky Chef Strikes Back: Even More Unofficial Recipes from Minecraft, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Twin Peaks, and More!
Authors: Cassandra Reeder
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 15th 2017
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

The Geeky Chef is back with even more delicious, real-life recipes from your favorite sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, TV shows, and video games. Discover the foods you've always wanted to taste from realms like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to The Legend of Zelda, Firefly, Minecraft, Final Fantasy, and more.

In the Geeky Chef Strikes Back, author Cassandra Reeder has imagined the delicious foods in these faraway worlds and created recipes that are sure to transport you to galaxies far, far way. So if you've found yourself craving Pumpkin Juice from Harry Potter, Lingonberry Pancakes from The Big Lebowski, Norma's Cherry Pie from Twin Peaks, Wife Soup from Firefly, or the White Dragon Noodles from Blade Runner, then look no further. With easy step-by-step instructions and fun theme photos, these creative recipes are perfect for your next big viewing party or your standing reservation for a party of one. Fantasy foods are fantasy no longer!



Cooking? Awesome. Fandom cooking? Even better. I'm really grateful I got to read this.

The book is divided into sections based on type including an introduction, non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic drinks, appetizers snacks and sides, soups and stews, main courses, cakes and cupcakes, pies and tarts, and other desserts. It makes it easy to navigate, based on what sort of food you're in the mood for.

Let's talk about the good first. I really like that under each recipe title, it tells you whatever video game or show that the recipe came from. Beneath that, for every recipe there's a little paragraph that explains the context such as what episode in what season, or why the food is relevant to the plot, things like that. The recipes are in short, concise, numbered steps and for almost all the recipes there's a color photograph of the finished project. They're themed to the show/fandom, which is pretty cute. There's also adorable little doodles in the empty white spaces that fill the book out a bit more and make it seem a bit more whimsical. There's a mix of recipes from video games, television, and film.

I also really appreciated that when a recipe called for meat or animal product, the author offered up substitutions on how to make it vegetarian friendly. There's also a bunch of tips sprinkled throughout the recipes.

It's really a good book for beginners. First, you have the numbered, easy steps and all the photos. But quite a few of the recipes are also a bit of a "cheat", like using canned cherries or Cocoa Puffs.

At times this book kind of had a weird tone at times (I know it's a cookbook, hear me out!). There's a recipe from Doctor Who, in which the author explains in a way that makes it sound like she's annoyed, how many fans ask her for a Jammie Dodger or Jelly Babies recipe. Like, THESE THINGS ALREADY EXIST! ...So? So do a few of the other recipes in the book (Pumpkin Juice, for example). That doesn't mean you can't make your own version; my Pinterest feed is filled with "homemade" versions of Oreos and Poptarts. It just seemed a weird thing to put in there. It was also a little weird when she talked about My Little Pony and how a show for little girls turned into a show for adults... But then she only really talks about bronies. I mean... Little boys watch it, and so do adult women. Just weird.

Anywho, back to the good. Some of the recipes that I'm most excited to make include Ambrosia (The Sims), Herring and Pumpkin Pot Pie (Kiki's Delivery Service), and Dauntless Chocolate Cake (Divergent).

Other than the weird nitpicks that I've mentioned, this is a pretty good cookbook. For me personally, it was a bit video game heavy, but it's impossible to nail everyone's fandoms exactly. From Breaking Bad to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there's recipes here you're bound to get the reference to, and that you'll want to eat. It's approachable for any cooking level. It's great if you host viewing parties, or a theme party, or even Halloween (which is why this is included in my Halloween countdown!). It's a book for the nerd cook in your life, and it's one that I'd use in my kitchen.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.