Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Three Books, Two Challenges

I finished the series Fairy Tales by Eloisa James.  I'm also using these books to complete the "A book that is a retelling of a classic story" requirement for the Read Harder Challenge.

The Duke Is Mine (Fairy Tales, #3)The Duke Is Mine by Eloisa James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Duke is Mine is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea. It has the heroine showing up in the middle of the rain storm, not looking at all like the lady she is supposed to be, and there is  scene where she sleeps on a pile of mattresses and feels something uncomfortable but it's not a pea.  I really enjoyed this retelling and thought that the hero and heroine were a really good match. I liked them both and how they were upstanding enough to want to please their families but realistic enough to know that it wasn't at all possible to deny their feelings for one another.

The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, #4)The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Ugly Duchess is a retelling of The Ugly Duckling.  Like the original the heroine is though to be ugly and not pretty enough to be duchess to the duke. They completely bungle their marriage and spend a number of years apart.  She goes off to France to become a beautiful swan and he becomes a pirate. I would have liked this story more if a lot of the middle had been cut out of the story.  Some of the animosity between the two main characters felt forced in order to fit to the retelling.

Once Upon a Tower (Fairy Tales, #5)Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once Upon a Tower is a retelling of Rapunzel. I like how there are a number of references to the original fairytale throughout the story (this is done in other books in the series, but I liked these the best).  The heroine quickly marries a Scottish lord and is thrust into his life. Up until his marriage the Duke thought he had his life running like a well-oiled machine. It's not until these two are forced to realize that they both can't have it their way, that love prevails. It just takes a jealous husband and a wife who has locked herself away in a tower to play her cello in peace.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Read Harder - Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade

This full challenge is to pick A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade.  I took a look at the lists and while there were a few books on there I would read, nothing struck me as "Read me now".  Then I took a look at the Drama category of the Pulitzer Prize and decided on the 2008 winner.

August: Osage County (TCG Edition)August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, talk about a dysfunctional family!  I didn't know much more than it was a story about a dysfunctional family from the promos for the movie (which I haven't seen yet.).  It took me a little bit to get a handle on who was who in the family, I had to keep flipping back to the character list.  I would love to see the stage setup, it describes a stage that is broken up into multiple levels and rooms of the Weston house.

The story centers on the disappearance of Beverley Weston and the way his family deals with the fallout of disappearance. His wife, Violet,  is a pill popping addict. His three daughters are all facing issues in their lives and this forced family time just makes the issues worse. Barbara, the oldest comes back from Colorado with her husband and daughter. Her marriage is in trouble and her daughter is a 14-year-old pot smoker. Ivy is the daughter who never left home and the daughter most abused (due to proximity) by Violet. The youngest daughter, Karen, comes home with her older fiance.

It starts off with a 'typical' dysfunction and quickly builds into OMG levels of dysfunction. By the end of the play you start to think the dysfunction can't get any more and I'm pretty sure if this play went on the level of these people are crazy would rise as well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review - Graphic Novels in Gotham

I was never a big Batman fan. Thinking back I think my only real interest stemmed from the influence of a cousin and when our time spent together lessened so did my interest in The Dark Knight.  I kept a fascination with Harley Quinn and Mister J, but besides that, really didn't care.

With the new movies and my introduction to Lil' Gotham, I've had a renewed interest in the city of Gotham and it's inhabitants. I've a new appreciation for the city and what goes on there so these two new volumes really peaked my interest.

Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham AcademyGotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Welcome to the top prep school in the city.  Like everything in Gotham, it's not normal my any standards.  There are some weird teachers, talk of a ghost haunting a building and what looks like a mysterious cult on campus.  All Olive wants is a quite return to school after her bad summer break, but she doesn't get the quite time. She's thrust into the middle of the ghost hunt, along with her ex-boyfriends little sister, her new frenemy, the school's dealer of goods and some other interesting 'friends' she meets along the way.

I can't wait to keep reading to see what else is going on at this place.  Oh did I forget to mention that Bruce Wayne is a big benefactor and has his eye on Olive. Yea, I'm wondering about that too.

Batgirl, Vol. 1: BurnsideBatgirl, Vol. 1: Burnside by Cameron Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know for sure if this Batgirl exists in the same universe as Gotham in Academy, but in my head they do. While all that weirdness is going on at the school Barbara is dealing with her own set of weird circumstances in Burnside. Burnside is a suburb of Gotham and a bit more light and trendy than the city proper.

While this is titled Vol. 1, from what I understand it's really just a new arc in the Batgirl story and this story feels that way. You're dropped into a story that has been going on and it's a bumpy start. Things smooth out and everything was really interesting. I can't way to see how Barbara does living in Gotham's version of Brooklyn.

I received an ebook copy for an honest review from Netgalley. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

TBR Pile Challenge - Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Against the TideAgainst the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book wasn't what I expected, I was thinking it would be about military intelligence and Lydia's job of translating. This was part of the story, but the bigger story was about the hard work at getting people to stop using opium and the fight the opium addiction that seemed to be very common during the time period.

Lydia is orphaned when her father's boat doesn't return to port one day after she gets done school.  Growing up in an orphanage, she is scared of ending up back in those low points in her life. She keeps everything uber organized and Alexander loves to mess with her. Every time he visits the office he moves something on her desk. They have both been warned off each other, but they are both really attracted to the other. They start working together, Alexander needs a translator and Lydia is the best in Boston.  This leads them into trouble. All the trouble in this book is pretty much Alexander's fault and he makes up for it, but it still bothered me.

I loved Lydia. She's independent and prideful and flawed. She saved this book for me, I wanted to keep reading to see how she would solve the problems Alexander put in front of her.  She needed his help, but in the sense that everyone needs someone in their corner.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Read Harder Challenge - A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure

A photo posted by Amelia (@litjrzygrl) on

These four books were a mix of two things I enjoy, Harlequin romances and bull riders/riding. True Harlequin romances are my guilty pleasure. I feel they are kind of cheesy and very predictable, but sometimes you just need a light read.

These were all reissued version of older books by Tina Leonard. While they all feature bull riders I was upset that there wasn't more talk about bull riding. Added on top of that there were a few scenarios that did involve bull riding that just didn't seem plausible.  They were enjoyable reads for the escapism. I gave all four books three stars.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Weekend Cooking: The James Beard Cookbook

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

My cookbook collection rests on the foundation of two cookbooks, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and James Beard's American Cookery.  These two books were so overused by my father that they easily open to some recipes.  These are the cookbooks I learned to cook from and ones I go back to when I want basics. As much as I love these cookbooks this version of The James Beard Cookbook feels like a simplified version of the one I own.  This book is filled with the same writing style, a conversational tone that feels like a friend teaching you a favorite recipe.

The format is simply broken down into sections. He shares a basic recipe and then variations. As someone who loves pasta, I paid special attention to the pasta section in the cookbook.  He broke this section down into the pasta and then the sauces.  First you make the homemade noodles and then you can pick from a number of sauces to accompany your creations.

I didn't make homemade pasta, but I did make one of the sauces this weekend.  I love pasta with garlic and oil, yet I've never made it at home.  I needed a quick and easy lunch for myself and a friend and this two serving sauce was perfect.   There are a lot of two and four serving recipes in this book which I love. I'm so tired of having to cut down a recipie from 6-8 servings. We're two people in this house, we are fine with four servings (one each for dinner and lunch for the next day).

Today was rainy and dreary and kind of cold for the first day of June. I have made polenta a number of times, but never just a basic batch.  All my past attempts have included adding milk and butter and cheese. I grew up on stories of my grandfather standing at the stove stirring and slowly adding cornmeal to a pot mixing until he had the perfect consistency.  Tonight, I made polenta in this way, simply adding cornmeal to salted water.  It was a last minute idea of a meal so I didn't get to make homemade sauce, but believe me it will be done in the future. It was a warm filling meal for this stormy night.

This book is a great addition to my collection and I suggest it become an addition to your collection too.

I received an ebook copy from NetGalley for an honest review.