July 8, 2018

Book Unhaul Challenge

This is a tag started by BooksandLala (you can see her video here) that was floating around BookTube a few months ago. These days I basically always need to un-haul books (seeing as I keep buying new ones from Book Outlet!) so I thought I'd use this fun tag as an opportunity to get some more shelf space in my room.

Books un-hauled:

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Chataine's Guardian by Robin Hardy
Heist Society & Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
The Bailey Game by Celia Rees
Shizuko's Daughter by Kyoko Mori
Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin
Oblivion by Kelly Creagh
Death by Denim & Death by Latte by Linda Gerber
The Drackenberg Adventure & The Philadelphia Adventure by Lloyd Alexander
Places I Never Meant to Be edited by Judy Blume
A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman (illustrated by Cathy Brigg)
Midnight Magic by Avi
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin

July 5, 2018

Short & Sweet: The Jewel

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

So that ended on an abrupt, cliffhanger ending! I liked the sudden reveal, though, as I had been wondering if there was more to that character than met the eye. Glad to see I was right! Overall, this was a decent "dystopian lite" read -- overly dramatic and sappy in spots, with a protagonist who (at this point anyway) is still a bit too passive for my liking, but the premise of surrogates for the upper classes is an interesting one and I enjoyed watching the power plays between the members of the royal class. There are definitely some chinks in the worldbuilding and plotting, and questions raised in my mind that were never answered (spoiler, highlight to read: for example, why didn't Violet use Lucien's arcana way more often when she was having a confidential discussion? She just seemed to forget about the tuning fork until it became convenient for the storyline!). The writing is simple and accessible, making this an easy read.

3.5 stars.


Wrong About the Guy: A Rambling Review

Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik

I feel like this "retelling" of Emma was a pretty loose one, making a lot of changes and cutting out some elements that I think were important to the original storyline. Spoiler, highlight to read: for example, Harriet Smith had Robert Martin in the original. Who/what was her Robert Martin here, or was he just removed completely? There were some characters in this retelling that didn't appear to have counterparts in the original Austen tale, and yet didn't really add anything.

The George-Ellie relationship was cute, although I felt surprisingly little chemistry/tension between them until Ellie realized how she felt about him. I think there were probably moments that could have been played up a lot more, to ramp up the romantic tension.

I liked Ellie's voice, and it seemed quite true to the original Emma's character — somewhat superficial and self-centred, but with a good heart and a willingness to admit her faults and try to change. I also thought the storyline involving Jacob was an interesting addition that felt quite realistic.


July 1, 2018

Short & Sweet: Everything You Want and The Distance Between Us

Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup

Somehow, I found the protagonist Emma's voice to be both relatable (perhaps to a younger self of mine) and annoying. She often came across as immature and self-absorbed, albeit in a pretty believable (for that age and time in her life) sort of way. Still, eventually her voice and way of seeing the world began to get on my nerves.

3 stars.


The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

This was a cute contemporary read, although I do prefer On The Fence of the Kasie West contemps I've read so far. Picturing the doll store was a little creepy (just me?), and I was not the biggest fan of Caymen's voice. I get that she was under a lot of pressure, and took on more responsibility than most teens her age would, but she made some pretty immature decisions, and her snark sometimes slid over the line from "sarcasm" into "bitter." A little more backstory to explain why she and her mom were so biased against rich people would have been helpful; as it was, that particular "obstacle" felt kinda forced. I did like Xander most of the time – I enjoyed that he was confident without being belligerent, and that he was very supportive of Caymen without pushing for more from her. 

3 stars.


May 13, 2018

Bookish Teas

A while ago I was contacted by someone from Adagio Teas, offering me a gift voucher to purchase some of their products and review them. Since they have a bunch of bookish-themed teas, I jumped at the chance! I purchased the following:


Lizzy Bennet (Pride & Prejudice) -- masala chai & blackberry & pu erh dante & raspberry leaves


Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice) -- earl grey bravo & cream & chestnut & chocolate chips (of course I needed to get Lizzy & Darcy as a matching set!)

Mr. Jack Robinson (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) -- Mambo, Peach & Masala Chai


Elixir of Life (Harry Potter) --  Strawberry, Vanilla, & Hazelnut


 Belle (Disney) -- caramel, summer rose, ceylon sonata, apricots

Eugene (Disney) -- hazelnut, chocolate chip, masala chai, cloves

Shieldmaiden (Lord of the Rings) -- white peony, caramel, & ginger (this was a gift for my sister, so it's the only one that I haven't tried myself)

I really liked the variety of bookish- and fandom-themed teas that Adagio offers! The artwork for some of the teas is also very attractive (*points up* like pretty much every tea that I selected).

Inspector Jack Robinson, relaxing with a mug of his signature blend
As for the teas themselves, I found that I need to brew them longer (for several minutes), use a larger amount of tea leaves, and smaller mugs than usual in order for them to be strong enough. (I am not a fan of weak tea!) Of the teas I tried, Mr. Jack Robinson and Belle stood out as having the most distinct flavours -- the Jack Robinson tea has an interesting pop of peach amongst the masala chai (different, but it works!), and the Belle tea -- while not my usual style -- has sweet caramel and floral rose flavours that come through very clearly.

The interesting combinations of flavours drew me to a lot of these teas; however, in some cases, the unique flavour added to the mix wasn't really detectable in the actual drinking of it. While I quite enjoyed the smoothness of the Mr. Darcy tea, the chestnut flavour was too subtle; the hazelnut flavour in the Elixir of Life was overpowered by the strawberry. Most of the teas, though (even the weaker ones), smelled delicious!

Overall, I'd say that these teas get points for creativity of flavour combinations (and how they connect to the corresponding character/fandom) and artwork, but in terms of strength of flavour, they are kind of hit-and-miss. I would check them out again, though, both to try out some different flavour combinations, and to collect some more super cute tea tins featuring my favourite characters!

I'd also be interested in creating my own custom blends on their website... maybe some more Jane Austen-themed ones?

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