Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: Blood Countess by Lana Popović

Title: Blood Countess
Author: Lana Popović
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 28th 2020
Source: Netgalley/Amulet Books

Book Description:

A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula

In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Bathory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.



I absolutely adored this book. I am 100% the target audience that this book was aiming for. I don't know what exactly that says about me, but, here we are. I went through a phase in junior high and high school where I was consumed by the history of Elizabeth Bathory. I did a big end of year paper on her, read countless books (both fiction and non-fiction), and soaked it all up.

The fact that this historical legend has been turned into not only a young adult book, but one that has a romance (sort of) and an LGBT one on top of that, makes my heart happy.

But, don't get me wrong. This isn't a happy story. Bathory is believed to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. And it shows in this book too. There are scenes of punishment and torture in this book that are pretty brutal. If you're sensitive to that sort of thing, this is NOT going to be a fun time for you.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Elizabeth and Anna, and watching it shift and evolve from something flirty, to something passionate, to something twisted and poisoned and toxic. I was as captivated by Elizabeth as Anna was. She is elegant and regal and has such a seemingly lovely life, filled with feasting and beautiful dresses and music and parties. It's a life Anna- nor myself, obviously- has never known before and I too found myself wrapped up in the luxury, despite the red flags and ominous clues to suggest that Elizabeth is not the good person that she may seem, no matter how beautiful she is.

The actual writing of the book is well done. The settings were vivid, the characters were well developed and different in tone and voice. The dialogue was well paced and flowed well.

I can't quite put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much. It held my attention, and I think I read it in two sittings total. It was captivating, albeit in a terrible, monstrous way.

The only reason this is at a 4.5 stars instead of a five is the ending. It felt rushed and a little too perfect. It didn't match the flow of the rest of the book, in my opinion. It was a bit disappointing that it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would be. It felt very neatly tied up like there was a page limit, and I wish it would have went on a little longer.

I don't know who to recommend it for. There's violence, there's lesbianism, there's murder, there's alchemy. If that sound like your idea of a good read, than you might be in luck with this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my 100% honest review. Thanks, Amulet Books!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Series: The Ghost and the Goth #1
Author: Stacey Kade
Format: Paperback, 281 pages
Pub. Date: May 10th 2011
Source: Little Library

Book Description:

Alona Dare–Senior in high school, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen three years in a row, voted most likely to marry a movie star…and newly dead.

I’m the girl you hated in high school. Is it my fault I was born with it all-good looks, silky blond hair, a hot bod, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing? But my life isn’t perfect, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—is there anything more humiliating? As it turns out, yes—watching your boyfriend and friends move on with life, only days after your funeral. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re saying about me now that they think I can’t hear them. To top it off, I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. I don’t know where I go when I’m gone, but it’s not good. Where is that freaking white light already?

Will Killian–Senior in high school, outcast, dubbed “Will Kill” by the popular crowd for the unearthly aura around him, voted most likely to rob a bank…and a ghost-talker.

I can see, hear, and touch the dead. Unfortunately, they can also see, hear and touch me. Yeah, because surviving high school isn’t hard enough already. I’ve done my best to hide my “gift.” After all, my dad, who shared my ability, killed himself because of it when I was fifteen. But lately, pretending to be normal has gotten a lot harder. A new ghost—an anonymous, seething cloud of negative energy with the capacity to throw me around—is pursuing me with a vengeance. My mom, who knows nothing about what I can do, is worrying about the increase in odd incidents, my shrink is tossing around terms like “temporary confinement for psychiatric evaluation,” and my principal, who thinks I’m a disruption and a faker, is searching for every way possible to get rid of me. How many weeks until graduation?



Well, I more or less got what I expected based off of the cover and the back blurb. This book is a fast read that's pretty predictable and not all that deep, so there's not too much to think about, nor is it something I'm particularly going to remember a week from now.

Alona Dare (yes, that is her name) is the wooooorst. She's shallow. Like, insanely shallow, and judgmental. Girls who kiss a guy must be whores and sluts. Every straight guy wants her, and she doesn't think every lesbian in the school wants her, she knows it. She calls Will a goth (uh, not even remotely?), a psychopath (cool insult bruh), and more than anything else, a freak. Wanna know what her supporting evidence is for him being a freak? He wears a hoodie. With the hood up, inside. Are you not clutching your pearls yet? Well get this. He also wears headphones. A teenager with headphones! Burn the freak! It's also super gross that she's friends with a guy that in her own word grooms young girls to sleep with him before he leaves them. Popular or not, it's super skeezy.

Now, I understand I'm supposed to not like her. This book is, at its core, a reverse "It's a Wonderful Life" where Alona gets to see how much better off everyone is when her rude, shallow ass is dead. Then she changes for the better for a better afterlife. Or she's supposed to. I didn't think she really changed that much. She might be nicer to Will but she's still insulting and rude, even as she's helping people. I expected a better arc for her and I was left disappointed.

Will Killian (yes, his name is Will Kill) is the most likable character in this book and is its saving grace. He's empathetic and a little brooding and mysterious. He has a whole web of secrets and masks to wear and it was admittedly interesting to see where his arc goes. His ability to hear and see ghosts, dealing with his father's suicide and the hospitalization of a friend, a doctor who might not have his mental health in mind after all, tangled with the weird and new feelings he has for the very dead cheerleader. There's a lot to unpack there and I think Kade did a pretty good job with this character. I get why Alona got attached to him.

As much as I have issues with this book, I actually liked the romance element. I liked that Alona and Will learned from each other. Alona gave Will some confidence and helped him get out of some trouble. Alona learned to be a little bit nicer and that her bullying actions did in fact have consequences. I liked seeing them warm up to one another and despite my overall "ugh" feeling of this book, I was rooting for them.

And then there's Joonie. Joonie is Will's one Goth friend. She is written as so unbelievably over the top as a "Goth" that it seems to be the only descriptors given to her. She doesn't really have personality, only traits that seem to be copied and pasted from a Wiki article about "Gothic Subculture". All I could picture in my head was Henrietta from South Park, which made all of her scenes hilarious for reasons I guarantee the author did not intend.

Like a lot of other contemporary set books, this one has a lot of pop culture references that really date this book. She makes references to Johnny Knoxville's (seven Razzie award nominated) version of The Dukes of Hazzard. She watches Joonie go to a MySpace page. There's just a LOT of oughts imagery here that I guess now works as a past setting, but since I was a teen in those years brings back definitely un-contemporary flashbacks of nostalgia.

I have to admit, the author does have my attention. I'd read the second book in this series if it came into my possession, though I won't be seeking it out. I'm just intrigued enough with where the Will/Alona romance is going. But, I don't really recommend this book. If you're into cheerleaders getting hit by a bus or fluffy books that don't take any brain power to get through, maybe you'll like it more than I did.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Format: Hardcover, 328 pages
Pub. Date: February 5th 2015
Source: Xpresso Reads

Book Description:

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Near the little town of Fairfold, in the darkest part of the forest, lies a glass casket. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie prince that none can rouse. He's the most fascinating thing Hazel and her brother Ben have ever seen. They dream of waking him - but what happens when dreams come true? In the darkest part of the forest, you must be careful what you wish for...



My girlfriend picked this book for me to read. I warned her that I have never read a fairy book that I loved. I was hopeful that this would be the one that broke my streak... But unfortunately, it follows the same pattern. That's not to say this book was bad. It wasn't. But when I closed the book, having finished it, the only thought I had was, "huh." And then I reshelved it and picked up something else to read almost immediately. It's maybe worth nothing (since I know she's a bestseller and lots of folks love her) I had never read a Holly Black book prior to this one.

Conceptually, I absolutely adored this book. The idea of the horned boy in the coffin in the forest is captivating. I love the idea of a contemporary town where weird things happen and everyone in town knows that "ah yes, must be the forest folk." I loved the idea of a strong female character, a knight no less! I appreciated that so much of the book focused on the sibling pair of Hazel and Ben, and I appreciated the LGBT representation of Ben falling in love with Severin.

I also love the cover, though I know that has nothing to do with the story. And, I'll admit, after doing some Googling this book has some absolutely gorgeous fan art that I love.

So much of the writing was well done. Descriptive, flowery, detailed. Things that I look for in a fantasy novel.

But.... I was so bored through so much of it. And it hurts me to say that, because I wanted to love this book. Hazel was pretty unlikable to me. She was forever kissing people for no real plot. I felt like the kid in Princess Bride. She was very tell and not show. She didn't do anything that angered me and I don't think she's the worst. I just didn't find her particularly interesting- and that's saying something when she's living a double life as an Elfen knight!

It felt sort of fragmented. Not hard to follow, but more patched together in an odd way. It's mostly Hazel's perspective, but every once in a while another character gets a chapter, but with no regularity or pattern. They mention how their parents are artists, and how they weren't super great at being parents. But then there's a mention that they were downright neglectful, and there's no real expansion or closure about it. Thing just sort of get mentioned now and then when convenient.

The bad guy comes off almost as a cartoon villain. The sort of bad guy who announces his betrayals and master plans and then is shocked (insert Pikachu face) when the plan is thwarted. Don't worry though, Mystery Inc gets to the baddie before too much damage is done. Then there's the name.... The monster that is sad is named Sorrow. The name of one of the bad guy's assistants is Grim.

There was so much potential in this book, and there were plenty things about it that I liked... Ultimately, it just wasn't for me. If you're a fan of Holly Black's, of fairy related stories, or strong female leads. This may be a book that you enjoy more than I did- it seems that plenty of other people absolutely adored it. I hope that's the case for you too.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal

Title: Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery
Authors: Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
Pub. Date: October 12th 2017
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

“Internetainers” Rhett & Link met in first grade when their teacher made them miss recess for writing profanity on their desks, and they have been best friends ever since. Today, their daily YouTube talk show, Good Mythical Morning, is the most-watched daily talk show on the Internet, and nearly 12 million subscribers tune in to see the guys broadcast brainy trivia, wild experiments, and hilarious banter (not to mention the occasional cereal bath). Now the award-winning comedians are finally bringing their “Mythical” world to the printed page in their first book.

A hilarious blend of autobiography, trivia, and advice, Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery will offer twenty ways to add “Mythicality” to your life, including:

Eat Something That Scares You
Make a Bold Hair Choice
Invent Something Ridiculous
Say “I Love You” Like It's Never Been Said
Speak at Your Own Funeral

The goal of these offbeat prompts? To learn new things, laugh more often, and earn a few grown-up merit badges along the way. Heartfelt and completely original, this book will be the perfect gift for anyone looking for a fresh dose of humor and fun.



This is by far the best YouTuber book that I've read. I always try and give them chances and I'm usually left disappointed with the result. I was so happy that with Rhett and Link, this wasn't the case. The Book of Mythicality is an odd book, but in a good way. It's their YouTube show, Good Mythical Morning , in a nutshell. It's a mix of history of Rhett and Link's relationship over the course of the 30+ year friendship they've forged, advice, just for fun sections, and a lot of photos and personal notes. It's a very wide mix, but it all gels together well to be pretty on brand for them.

For me, the photos were the coolest part. That's not to say the advice and writings aren't good- they are! But when you watch the same two dudes every weekday morning, day after day, for years you get attached to them. Seeing personal artifacts and pictures opens up the door of who they are and what made them, well, them. It was cool to see how much they've changed and what they've been through.

It's written with a lot of humor, but more importantly, a lot of heart. It's clear from the tone of the writing in this book that Rhett and Link really wanted to share this book with the world. It reads like something they are really happy about and proud of- I think this is something that sets it apart among other YouTuber books too. A lot of them have felt forced or uninvolved, like they're simply fulfilling the obligation of their publishing contract.This book feels so genuine and sincere, that it's impossible not to smile and take the advice to heart, even if it is something silly like "eat something that scares you" (something they know all too well, if you're familiar with their program).

If you are a mythical beast, then I think you'll like this book. If you've never watched Good Mythical Morning.... I honestly have no idea if you'll like it or not, haha. It's a quick read that's easy to stop/start/read little bursts of now and then.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Mini Review:
Alice in the Country of Hearts by QuinRose

Title: Alice in the Country of Hearts, Vol. 1
Series: Alice in the Country of Hearts #1-2
Author: QuinRose
Illustrator: Soumei Hoshino
Format: Paperback, 367 pages
Pub. Date: June 26th 2012
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Kidnapped by a handsome man with rabbit ears, Alice Liddell finds herself abandoned in an odd place called Wonderland and thrust into a "game," the rules of which she has yet to learn. Alice, ever the plucky tomboy, sets off to explore and get the lay of this strange land, intent on finding her rude kidnapper and giving him a piece of her mind (and her fist). But little does she know that she's wandered right into the middle of a dangerous power struggle involving just about all of Wonderland's attractive, weapon-happy denizens. And the only way for Alice to return home is to get acquainted with the lot of them?! How in the world will she manage that and still manage to stay alive?!



I love Alice in Wonderland, in all of its forms. If there's a retelling, a story inspired by Alice, or anything of that sort, I'm going to read it. In this case, it was the manga inspired version.

It was a really cute, fast read. The characters are all very charming. I really liked the twists on the characters we all know and love.

The illustrations were very pretty and complimented the writing well. One of my normal issues with manga/graphic novels is that I tend to find that you don't get a whole lot of story. That wasn't the case for Alice in the Country of Hearts. I thought it had a good, well paced plot that was mirrored by these illustrations.

Alice was likable and spirited, and held her own despite being in such a confusing place. There's a lot more romance in this version than the original, and an interesting twist of what those in Wonderland's heart is really made of and what makes them tick.

I look forward to reading the other episodes of this series and seeing where else it goes from here.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Title: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike
Series: Pretty Deadly #1-5
Author: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrator: Emma Ríos
Format: Paperback, 120 pages
Pub. Date: May 13th 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

TKelly Sue DeConnick (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) and Emma Rios (Dr. Strange, Osborn) present the collected opening arc of their surprise-hit series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

"It's a perfect match for the gorgeous, dizzying artwork in a sumptuous palette-overlaid panels add intricate choreography to fight scenes, and detailed, whirling splash pages beg for long-lingering looks. Couple that, along with a handful of Eisner nominations, with a multicultural cast of tough-as-nails women who all fight for their own honor, and this is a series to watch out for." - Booklist

"It's ambitious and challenging (two qualities that are not often valued, but that probably should be), under a façade of violence and sacrifice. Rio's art is lush and detailed, and is more than capable of keeping up with the far-reaching story." - PW



What an odd series of graphic novels to review.

I didn't really care for this series. It felt all over the place and disjointed. It was hard to follow, even if conceptually it's a cool idea. There's a lot of things that are never really explained (like the narrators) that we're just meant to accept without thinking too much about.

The artwork, however, is beautiful. It's haunting and dark and eerie, and does way more than the writing does with progressing the story. Some of the panels are cool enough to be prints in their own right, in my opinion.

I don't know how many of these books there are (note: a quick look on Goodreads tells me that in fact there are ten volumes), but I have absolutely no interest in reading any more of these. While the feminist-gothic-spaghetti western type plot seems like a good idea in theory, it falls short on every level, and doesn't really get to the nitty gritty of any of these categories. It's just sort of.... Artsy and different solely for the purpose of being artsy and different. The characters aren't given much depth, so it's hard to feel attached to them, no matter how cool their artwork is.

I'm not really sure who I recommend these books to. If you like westerns with a slight gothic flourish or dark-inspired graphic novels, this might be for you.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stacking the Shelves [113]

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's been awhile but here we go!



Eversea by Natasha Boyd

It was another quiet week here for me. What about you?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2020 Romance Bingo Challenge

I don't do too many challenges these days as my blog is slowly poking along as I get back to it...

BUT I will be taking part in the 2020 Romance Bingo Challenge hosted by Blodeuedd & Carole at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell.

If you're interested in joining this challenge, you can check out their post to sign up and see the rules.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Title: This Lie Will Kill You
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: December 11th 2018
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Clue meets Riverdale in this page-turning thriller that exposes the lies five teens tell about a deadly night one year ago.

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens each played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true.

Now, they realize they’ve been lured together by a person bent on revenge, a person who will stop at nothing to uncover what actually happened on that deadly night, one year ago.

Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free?
Or will their lies destroy them all?



I've read other books by Chelsea Pitcher before and really enjoyed them. The S-Word got a five stars from me, and The Last Changeling got a four star rating from me. I so looked forward to reading this one too, but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting, and I was left disappointed. The blurb for this book claims that it's "Clue meets Riverdale". Well, I enjoyed Clue but have never seen Riverdale, but if it's anything like this, I'll be scrolling by that on Netflix.

The descriptive writing in this book was very good, and what I've seen from Pitcher in the past. Vivid, world build-y, it makes you feel like you're in the room with these characters. But unfortunately for me, that's where the good writing stopped. I didn't care about any of the characters. The way the chapters alternated between characters felt fuzzy and disjointed, and not in a way that seemed to amplify the "whodunnit" vibe of the story. The story itself was malodramatic and unrealistic (yes, I know it's a fictional book) and made me roll my eyes more than want to turn the next page.

The beginning had potential. It was a good balance of intriguing and creepy, luring you in to want to play the game alongside this cast of characters. But about halfway through the book, it felt like someone else started writing entirely. It became even more choppy and rushed, and didn't feel like the same tone at all. Probably because at this point, the "whodunnit" had already become "oh they dunnit" with a lot of pages left to go.

This wasn't what I hoped for at all. There's some genuinely good writing in here but it's hard to find. I liked the concept and idea for the plot, but found it a strange mix of over the top and boring.

I received a copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Title: Bloodsucking Fiends
Series: A Love Story #1
Author: Christopher Moore
Format: Paperback, 300 pages
Pub. Date: June 1st 2004
Source: Goodwill

Book Description:

Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up under an alley dumpster with a badly burned arm, an aching neck, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her.

Making the transition from the nine-to-five grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowlings is going to take some doing, however, and that's where C. Thomas Flood fits in. A would-be Kerouac from Incontinence, Indiana, Tommy (to his friends) is biding his time night-clerking and frozen-turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful undead redhead walks through the door ... and proceeds to rock Tommy's life -- and afterlife -- in ways he never imagined possible.



This isn't the first book by Christopher Moore that I've enjoyed, and I got exactly what I expected out of Bloodsucking Fiends: something irreverent, hilarious, quirky, and somehow immature in a mature way. This book helped me get out of a reading rut, and for that I am grateful.

One thing that I absolutely adored about this book was all the characters. They're all distinct, so even though there's quite a big and colorful cast of characters, I was never confused or left wondering who was who. The lead character, Jody, was my kind of person. A little bit of an ass kicker, a little bit bossy, but a little bit afraid and vulnerable. I was rooting for her. And then there's her minion of sorts Tommy, who was such a boy but in the best way. She's trying to figure out the meaning of her new life as a vampire, and all he can think about is sex and how cool it would be if she could turn into a bat. It sounded pretty realistic, as far as imaginary conversations about vampirism go. All of his co-workers are quirky, one is a liar, one is a holy man, one is a lady's man, one homeless man has the respect of the entire city. They get into all sorts of shenanigans at the night shift at the grocery store, and even those scenes are pretty funny, despite not having much to do with the main plot. I appreciated that the smaller arcs and storylines got their due.

The way that Moore wrote his vampires was interesting too. Everyone knows that every author who writes about vampires will have their own version of what "vampire" means or will put some twist on what their characters can do (like sparkles, regrettably). Moore's version was pretty standard. They can die, but also it's not that easy for them too, they can see auras around people and have heightened senses. What I liked about how vampires are treated in this book is that Jody and Tommy have no freakin' idea what's going on. They check out all the books that they can find about vampires and make a check list to see what she can and can't do when compared to other vampires (can't: turn into a bat, can: survive being locked in a freezer).

One thing that was a little bothersome for me was the assumed familiarity with San Francisco. I've never been there, I've no idea what most of the buildings or neighborhoods there are called, and apart from a few that everyone knows (the bridge, Chinatown, the house from Full House, you know the important stuff), I've got nothin'. Sometimes I had to double check some things with a quick google to get a sense of what they were talking about, like the Pyramid.

I recommend this to fans of Moore's other works, to people who want a vampire book that isn't about two teenagers in forbidden romance, and people who can appreciate jokes on topics like murder and necrophilia. If that sort of comedy isn't for you, than neither is this book. I look forward to reading the next book in this series to see what misadventures Tommy and Jody get into.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Review: Amish Friends Gatherings Cookbook by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Title: Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Gatherings Cookbook: Over 200 Recipes for Carry-In Favorites with Tips for Making the Most of the Occasion
Author: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Format: Spiral-bound, 224 pages
Pub. Date: June 1st 2019
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

New Compilation of the Recipes that Bring the Amish Together

Brand new, from New York Times bestselling author of Amish fiction, Wanda E. Brunstetter, is a collection of over 200 recipes that are great for taking along and sharing where people meet to worship, work, and play. Included are tips for traveling with and serving food as well as personal stories of how gatherings are at the heart of the Amish community. The well-organized book boasts contributions from Amish and Mennonites from across the United States. Categories include Beverages, Snacks, Breads and Rolls, Salads, Side Dishes, Main Dishes, Desserts, and Feeding a Crowd. Encased in a lay-flat binding and presented in full color, home cooks from all backgrounds will want to add this cookbook to their collection. Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Gatherings Cookbook is sure to become a treasured resource.



What a charming little book. It puts me very much in mind of the types of cookbooks that I seek out at things like estate sales and thrift stores. The ones that were made by a book club or Girl Scout Troop or 4th grade class in ring binding with little plops of stains on pages that show they're well loved recipes.

This book is exactly as the tagline describes; over two hundred recipes designed for gatherings of families and friends. The book is divided more or less by course: Beverages, Snacks, Bread & Rolls, Salads, Side Dishes, Main Dishes, Desserts, and Feeding a Crowd. There's also the usually present indexes in the back of the book. In between each of these categories of recipes, there's nice little stories that highlight something about Amish life, like going to church or the work ethics. They're interesting insights into the community that complement the book well, and are informative.

This book has full color, glossy photographs sprinkled throughout. There are not photos for each and every single recipe, but, there's at least one per page generally. I appreciate this, because I like knowing what I should be expecting when I make something.

In the same vein as the Girl Scout cookbooks that I mentioned above, each recipe is listed with the name and location of the person who has submitted/created the recipe, giving it a more loved vibe, because each and every recipe was hand selected to share with others. I love that.

That said, there weren't a ton of recipes in here that I bookmarked. A lot of them were pretty standard to me- cheese balls, punch, dips, sheet cakes. That's not to say they're not useful, but they're not something I'm in need of. Or, recipes that start with things like already made tubes of biscuits, instant cake mix or tinned fruits.

Some of the recipes that I did bookmark include: Potluck Potatoes (page 75), Chicken Gumbo Casserole (page 91, mostly because I'm intrigued.... How is Velveeta, Miracle whip, and cream of mushroom soup gumbo?), Frogmore Stew (page 94), and Church Sugar Cookies (page 136).

I think this will have something for everyone, but if you're the sort who makes hot dishes, casseroles, and gelatin based salads and desserts, I think this book will be right up your alley.

I received a copy from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Pub. Date: October 18th 2007
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

He consumed her with that kiss, leaving no question that whatever was happening between them was meant to be—that it had always been meant to be…

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.



I know this book is really polarizing for a lot folks, and that a lot of people have strong feelings about it. I'm just not that passionate about it, so this is going to be a really basic review. I have not seen the Netflix adaptation.

I think this book has a good concept. I liked the way that it was formatted, both by using the tapes as a way to hear Hannah's story and by using the tape deck functions (play, pause, rewind) as a way to tie in Clay's narrative and response to her stories.

I will say that this book held my attention. This is probably the fastest that I've read a book in quite a while. It was both intriguing and haunting. I found myself wanting Clay to keep listening and going forward with the tapes, but I also hesitated each time a new person was mentioned, unsure if I actually did want to know what happened to Hannah.

I think I would have appreciated this book when it came out. 2007 would have been freshman/sophomore year of high school for me, when I myself would have been in the throes of my worst depression and high school angst. To me it seemed, melodramatic yes, but also quite realistic. I never questioned the teenage voice that it's written in, and all of the things that happened seemed like they very easily could have been real. That's something that I don't find a lot in a lot of high school books, especially where parties are involved.

I felt connected to the characters, which was sort of weird, considering that Hannah is dead. But the same way that hearing Hannah's voice makes Clay a little jumpy because it's like she's alive again, because her narrative is so strong on the tapes, you feel like you know her. And I felt for Clay, who had to hear so much and continue on with the little chain letter type set up.

I don't think I'll ever read this book again, but I'm not mad that I read it. I don't really recommend it to anyone either- I'd hate for anyone to be influenced by the topics here. If you're suicidal, or have been impacted by suicide, I do not think that this is the book for you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mini Review: Everyday Enchantments by Maria DeBlassie

Title: Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings
Author: Maria DeBlassie
Format: Paperback, 200 pages
Pub. Date: October 26th 2018
Source: Author

Book Description:

Spellbinding meditations on conjuring your own bliss. Everyday Enchantments is a love letter to the magic of everyday life, the sweet moments and the profound that we often overlook in our hurry to get from one place to the next. This collection of essays reminds us to escape into the ordinary, find beauty in a simple cup of tea or rereading a beloved novel and joyfully let our world turn upside down when synchronicity strikes in the form of wrong turns down forgotten lanes and unexpected midnight conversations with the moon. Everyday Enchantments is a study in what it means to live deliciously, joyfully, and magically. And it's an invitation to conjure your own bliss, because, let's face it, we could all use a little more magic in our lives.



This is a quick little read, a book of short collections of thoughts about every day life.

I will say, that this book to me was very soothing. It's comprised of these little "everyday enchantments" that act almost like guided meditations. They're realistically written with a sense of calm and coziness that make it appealing to read. Because the book is divided into these little fragments, it's also very easy to walk away from and read a little snippet at a time.

I think that if there were an audiobook of this, it would be very peaceful and full of ASMR, and I would enjoy it very much. I think reading it loses a little bit of the meditative type tone, as opposed to hearing it.

Because this is written from the author's day to day life, not all of it was very relatable. I might, for example, know the familiar scent of coffee as I make breakfast on a Saturday morning, but I'm from the land of ice and snow and don't relate to a lot of the daily goings on in New Mexico.

I also know that this has nothing to do with the content of the book, but I adore that cover. Even that conjures up cozy images and draws you in.

If you're looking for something that might work as a grounding tool or for something to calm you down, I think this is a good option for you. You'll certainly relate to some of the enchantments, and might look at some things with a new sense of appreciation.