BookTube: Top 5 Wednesday – Favorite Fairytale Retellings

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is favorite retellings and I decided to focus specifically on fairytale retellings.  What are some of your favorites?

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Kristin

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson because I love a good contemporary!  Morgan Matson’s writing is beautiful and engaging and I cannot wait for her next book to be released.  The Unexpected Everything is about a girl named Andie who has every single thing in her life planned out until her father is involved in a political scandal and everything changes.  The summary boasts the fun in finding the unexpected and I can’t wait to see what Morgan Matson has in store for these new characters.

The Unexpected Everything

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that? (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Name of the Star which is the first book in Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is the second book in The Shades of London series and it picks up shortly afterThe Name of the Star ends, with our heroine, Rory Devereaux, recovering from the events of the Jack the Ripper-like serial killer from the first installment.  She’s living with her parents, having not been able to return to school, and all of her communication with her ghost police friends has been cut off.  Unfortunuately, I think The Madness Underneath suffered from second book slump syndrome but there were still some redeeming elements, especially toward the latter half of the book.

Rory is left with a huge scar and many trust issues while she’s cooped up in her parents apartment.  She can never talk openly with anyone about what actually transpired in the bathroom at Wexford and the few friends / colleagues she can trust, she’s had no contact with and no idea of how to get in touch with them should she want to.  Early on, Rory makes the very brave decision of returning to school and instead of wallowing in self pity, she finds herself empowered by her past.  She sets out to find a purpose for herself and she willingly puts herself in new and similarly dangerous situations.  She opens herself up to a new therapist who seems too good to be true and she reconnects with some familiar faces. The Madness Underneath is a discovery period for Rory.  She’s transitioning into her new life and coming to terms with who and what she is now.

The Madness Underneath

A big reason why I did not enjoy this installment as much as the first is because there was a lot less action and a lot more internal monologue.  This also means there is a lot less of the story dedicated to the supporting characters.  I wanted to know more about Boo, Jazza and Alistair.  I never warmed up to Rory’s boyfriend Jerome and I very much disliked the ending in regard to Stephen.  It was unexpected to see the relationship form between Rory and Stephen and while I suppose it makes sense on some level, I had a hard time believing them together.  It seems more like a choice based on limited options.  My friend Cassie lent me the ARC of The Madness Underneath so I could read the original ending which was changed prior to being published and I liked it a lot more than the ending the publisher chose to use.

Final Thoughts:  The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is a disappointing follow up to The Name of the Star.  It suffers from second book slump syndrome and while it’s not completely unejoyable, it just did not live up to the excitement of the first book.  I will be continuing on with the story because there are some redeeming qualities and I feel invested enough in the characters that I want to see it through but I am not as eager to pick up the third installment as I had anticipated.

Rating 3

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades–the city’s secret ghost-fighting police–are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THE STAR, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

‘Tis the Season: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies Recipe

One of the best things about Christmas is the dessert foods that come along with it.  I love testing out new recipes each season and I’ve decided to bake a few things this year before the major Christmas cookie baking day with my mom.  I tried out a recipe for dark chocolate peppermint brownies this past weekend and I am ecstatic with the result!  They ended up being a big hit so I decided to share the recipe here.  Also, I am usually terrible at photographing food so I usually just don’t instead of posting photos I’m unhappy with but this time I used my lighting equipment and I actually got some great shots!

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RECIPE INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
6.5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped and melted
Coarsely crushed peppermint candies, very fine pieces sifted out

IMG_9695DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Grease a 9- by 13-in. baking pan; set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder into a bowl.

2. Microwave butter and bittersweet chocolate in a medium glass bowl, stirring often, until melted and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.

3. Whisk together sugar and eggs in a large bowl until blended. Add extracts and whisk to blend. Stir melted chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Gently fold in flour mixture with a plastic spatula until no streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

4. Bake brownies until a toothpick inserted 2 in. from edge comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it, 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

5. Put dark chocolate in a resealable plastic bag, snip off a small corner tip, and drizzle half over brownies. Sprinkle with candies and drizzle with remaining chocolate. Let cool until chocolate sets, 25 minutes, then cut into squares.

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(Recipe adapted from My Recipes)

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Kristin

BookTube: November Book Haul

Hello bookworms! Here is my November Book Haul minus my Black Friday purchases.  I’m going to be making a separate video to show off my Black Friday purchases which are mostly from Book Outlet.  I ended up buying not too many books in November until Black Friday hit when I ended up with a total of 32 books heading my way.  It’s an addiction guys.  What is your favorite book you got in November?

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Tea & Book Chat: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood #2)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Anna Dressed in Blood which is the first book in the duology by Kendare Blake, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

After devouring Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which is the first book in the duology, I was eager to start Girl of Nightmares because I had to know what was going to happen to Cas, Thomas, Carmel and Anna.  I’m really pleased that Kendare Blake chose to tell this story as a duology instead of stretching it out into a trilogy.  While I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood more than Girl of Nightmares, I felt very satisfied with the conclusion.  I would love if one particular thing could be addressed in a short story at some point, but overall there is definitive closure.

While the first book focused largely on Anna, the second book dealt more with Cas’s emotions following the aftermath of book one.  The pair were the perfect compliment to one another and I loved learning more about the history behind Cas’s world although I truly wished for more of Anna’s perspective because of what a strong willed and non-damsel-in-distress character she is.  Anna is a scarier read overall, but Girl of Nightmares certainly has its moments (ie. the Suicide Forest).  There seemed to be so much at stake in the second book and having already grown attached to everyone every tension-filled situation weighed heavily on my heart.  Almost every decision made in Girl of Nightmares had the potential to be life altering, and absolutely was in some cases.

Girl of Nightmares

In the first book, Anna was my clear favorite character but in the second, Thomas earned that place.  I was so invested in his relationship with Carmel and his unwavering loyalty toward Cas even when others were dismissing him.  Plus, Thomas is the perfect comic relief.  For a series that’s so beautifully creepy and terrifying, Thomas still managed to make me laugh out loud at points.  My favorite Thomas scene involved his reaction to something he ate during Cas and his quest for information.  Cas, Carmel and Thomas each bring something vital to the table and together their trio is a force to be reckoned with.  We’re also introduced to a new character whom I would love to read about in a spinoff series.  She’s an intelligent teenager who enjoys a good challenge.  She’s the kind of character who can disagree with someone fundamentally but still manage to get along with them on other levels.

Final Thoughts:  Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake provides a very satisfying conclusion for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood.  Blake continues the story with her signature imagery which flawlessly blends the beautiful with the horrific.  The stakes are high in this installment and the tension runs deep for all the characters involved.    If you’re a fan of horror and flowery language you should definitely give this duology a read!

Rating 5

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor. (via Goodreads)

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‘Tis the Season: Ridiculous Christmas Photos ft. SilverGallagher

I was so excited when I saw these adorable Christmas themed pajamas in the Target weekly ad!  I immediately texted a photo of them to Andrew and asked if he would wear the Santa ones for some photos with me.  Luckily, Andrew has known about my Christmas addiction since very early on in our relationship so he was a really good sport about participating in this photoshoot.  However, he has stated that he will never wear these again which is totally fine.  If there was ever a doubt the he actually loves me (there isn’t), I think these photos are pretty solid proof that he does.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The One by Kiera Cass (The Selection #3)

**Warning! If you haven’t read The Selection and The Elite which are the first two books in The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book, The Selection and the second book, The Elite instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

The One by Kiera Cass is the third and (sort of) final book in The Selection series.  I say sort of because a companion series has begun being released but the overall story arc four our main character America concludes in this installment.  After experiencing a bit of second book slump with The Elite, I was worried that The One would end up annoying me but I still felt compelled to finish because I just couldn’t go on not knowing whether America ends up with Maxon or Aspen.  I was pleasantly surprised while I devoured this book in just the tow days it took me to read it.  The One has ended up becoming my favorite of the three books for a number of reasons.

First of all, the stakes kept getting higer as the end drew nearer.  I mentioned in my last review that the politics in The Selection world were part of what kept me hooked as the series progressed and The One focused largely on the wider world outside the palace than on the love triangle America found herself involved in.  Threats from the Rebels, both North and South, continue to worsen and it becomes too dangeous to even step outside.  Everything surrounding the revolution is action packed and intense which causes emotions to run rampid.  I even found myself tearing up duing the last two chapters which was completely unexpected and quite frankly, makes me feel like a bit of a dork.

The One

America managed to be less annoying than she was in previous books (this is largely due to the focus she devotes to the politics of her world as opposed to her two suitors).  I even found myself warming up to her and her thought process which I had previously written off.  I felt proud of her for the way she handled scenes with her family and I started feeling confident in her ability to rule as Queen.  I also loved how the relationship between the final four girls shifted during the latter half of the competition.  People can surprise you and that is exactly what happened.  Maxon is wonderful as always and I appreciate the subtle ways he begins to defy his father.  I had high hopes for the ending of this series and Kiera Cass’s ending more than delivered.  I think I might have lost it if anything had gone differently.

Final Thoughts: The One by Kiera Cass is the best book in The Selection series beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The characters make a much stronger impression and their growth throughout the series culminates into some of the most heart wrenching, exciting and intense scenes I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  The One is more than anything I could have wished for as the conclusion to this story.  It continues to read as a fast-paced regal reality show with serious political undertones and it’s possibly the most addictive series I’ve read to date.

Rating 5

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.  (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

‘Tis the Season: Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge

I was so excited when I saw Alexa Loves Books’s Christmas mini challenge! It’s called the Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge and if you win, you get $25 worth of books from either Amazon or Book Depository!  The challenge is to pick a book character (or several book characters) and tell what you would give them for Christmas!

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Alexa already came up with some great ideas in her post so I’m going to try my best to pick different characters but there is one repeat I couldn’t resist (cough Lara Jean cough).  Here are the top 5 characters I would love to buy Christmas presents for!  Which book characters would you love to shop for if you could?

Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han)

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Lara Jean loves baking just as much as I do so shopping for her would be so much fun.  I think she would adore this pastel pink KitchenAid mixer because it would make her life easier and it completely matches her aesthetic.  Plus, a KitchenAid mixer is the ultimate baker’s dream tool.  I think Peter K. would appreciate this gift too because it would mean more sweets for him!

Cath (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell)

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Cath is a writer through and through and if there’s one thing a writer always needs (besides a pen), it’s a place to write down their ideas.  I think Cath would really like these flowery Rifle Paper Co. notebooks.  She could keep them with her when she’s traveling back home to visit her dad or when she’s sitting in class so if a Simon and Baz idea comes to her she can jot it down without having to fear it being lost.

Anna (Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)

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Anna is obsessed with film and writing movie reviews.  It would be easy to get her a notebook as well, or something banana to add to her collection, but I think she would really enjoy this film projector necklace by Betsey Johnson.  It seems like something she wouldn’t think to buy for herself but it would allow her to incorporate her favorite hobby into her everyday wardrobe.

Echo (The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey)

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Echo is a girl after my own heart because she shares an affinity for good food.  We already know she loves macarons and I think it would brighten her holiday to get a giant custom box full of her favorite flavors.  Echo is really busy trying to figure out how to stop the war between the Avicen and the Drakhar so she doesn’t have the most time to be stopping to think about food and she can eat these macarons on the go.

Hermione (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)

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Hermione is everyone’s favorite bookworm and what’s better to gift a bookworm than a set of collectible books?  I think Hermione would appreciate this gorgeous collectible set of the Penguin Drop Caps editions and they would look lovely arranged in a central area on her bookshelf to brighten up the area where her neutral colored magic books are displayed.

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Kristin

5 Fandom Friday: Holiday Recommendations

For this week’s 5 Fandom Friday I decided to throw together a little hodgepodge of my favorite holiday recommendations in 5 different categories.  I’m going to be doing a book specific holiday recommendations post next week so I thought it would be nice to compile my top favorite favorites here today.

5 Fandom Friday

1) Book – My True Love Gave To Me – This book is full of short stories set during the holidays.  It’s perfect to read during the season when you can’t devote as much time to reading a full blown novel.  I read it last year and really enjoyed it and I’m planning on re-reading it this year and writing a full review of each tale!

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2) Cookie – Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies – My mom makes these every year and I have never been able to resist them when they’re just sitting there on our table basically begging to be eaten.  It’s essentially a shortbread cookie with a scoop of raspberry jam in the middle.  I’m a sucker for raspberry anything so these have always been my holiday favorite!

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3) Drink – Gluhwein – It’s been a tradition in my family since long before I was born for my grandfather to make a huge batch of gluhwein.  It’s a mulled wine (full of tons of liquor) and can be garnished with a cinnamon stick or orange slices. It’s so delightful to warm up a cup on a freezing cold winter night and sip it while reading or watching tv.  Luckily, my grandfather has been teaching my dad and brother to brew his version for the past few years so the recipe will continue to be passed down throughout our family.

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 4) Song – Baby It’s Cold Outside – I just adore this song.  Paticularly, the She & Him version.  I play this on repeat without ever feeling the slightest bit sick of it and I love singing along and switching parts or singing both by myself if I’m alone.  Zooey’s vocals are so beautiful<3

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5) Movie – Elf – Elf is one holiday movie that I watch year round.  I love everything about it! The humor, the positive Christmas spirit message it sends and obviously Buddy’s enthusiasm and eating habits.  Andrew and I have been quoting Elf to each other since we met (a sure sign of true love if you ask me).

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BONUS

Decorations – Rolf’s – Andrew and I went to Rolf’s for the first time last year.  We spent at least 1.5 hours (it honestly could’ve been more) waiting outside in the freezing cold December weather just for the opportunity to get inside.  Rolf’s takes Christmas decorations to a whole other level.  It’s like Christmas exploded inside.  Plus, there’s gluhwein!  We’re definitely planning on going back this year because despite the wait, the experience was just perfect.

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Kristin
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