Monday, December 31, 2012

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2012


Instead of doing a long babbling post on how my year was, I am doing a personal, yet still book-ish, review of the year in the form of this fun meme, hosted by Christine at The happily ever after:

Describe yourself: Debutante by Thomas Galvin

How do you feel: Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Describe where you currently live: A Trick of the Dark by B. R. Collins

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland #1) by Judith McNaught

Your favourite form of transportation: Moonsong (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #2) by L. J. Smith*

Your best friend is: Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell

You and your friends are: Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie

What's the weather like: Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

What is life to you: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Favorite time of day: How Huge the Night by Heather and Lydia Munn

Your fear: Torment (Fallen #2) by Lauren Kate

What is the best advice you have to give: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum

Thought for the day: My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares

How I would like to die: Awakened by a Kiss by Lila DiPasqua

My soul's present condition: Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat


fireworks_thumb

As this is it for me in 2012,
I wish you all a great and safe New Year's Eve
and
Happy New Year
in every aspect!

2012 Overview and 2013 Goals


2012 WRAP-UP:

READING:

I challenged myself to read 50 books: I read 41. I also read 8 books which I did not count among the 50 books challenge because they were either rereads or not written and/or translated into English. And it still doesn't make 50.

Rating stats – according to my Goodreads ratings, though I rated several books with half-stars:

Did not rate: 0
* not strange: 0
** a little strange: 2
*** strange enough: 17
**** very strange: 14
***** beyond strange: 8

You can see the list of books I read and their reviews HERE

I'm not too disappointed by not making my goal, though, considering the reading slumps (I'm currently in one of those, too) and other issues, together with the fact that I could find a lot of books I really liked, I'm okay with my reading in 2012. However, I will try to improve in 2013.

BLOGGING:

I took blogging a bit easier in 2012 than before. I didn't to as many memes as before, but I did try to keep up with the book and film reviews. I had some read slumps, so there were fewer reviews due to that. I joined some tours and readathons, which were fun as always. I also discovered some new blogs I love.

2013 GOALS:

READING:

I'm challenging myself with reading 50 books, so let's see if I make it in 2013. Above all, I hope I'll find more books that I can really enjoy. Quality should come before quantity, after all.

BLOGGING:

My blogging goals are very modest, basically just keep blogging. I'll try to post twice a week, mainly reviews, and an occasional meme. I might join a tour or two, and try to make a Cat Diary post, hopefully once a month.

I've neglected the social aspect of blogging lately, which I'm sorry about, so I'll try to improve in that area and comment and connect with other bloggers more.

How was you reading and blogging in 2012 and what are your goals for 2013?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
May you days be filled with love and peace!

christmas-cards

Friday, December 21, 2012

Prometheus (2012)


prometheusDIRECTOR: Ridley Scott; CAST: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender

SUMMARY (from IMDB): A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

MY OPINION:

The promo and the summary for Prometheus are rather misleading, since the film shows very little of the epic battle and discoveries they mention. There is not much of a plot either, and the characters are pretty much stereotypical and mostly flat.

Interestingly, the most complex character is the one that is not supposed to be complex – David, a robot, very well played by Michael Fassbender. Charlize Theron in a supporting role of a cold and bossy Miss Vickers does a very good job, too. The same goes for Guy Pierce. Which made me think, what on earth came over the casting staff to put such excellent actors in minor roles? Oh, well.

Some scenes in Prometheus are really gross, and I admit I looked away a few times (squid- and reptile-like aliens and crawly things are really not my thing).

The story is basically a mess, although it does have a few good points.

Here are the things to learn from Prometheus:

  • Don't dig up things that have been buried for centuries/millennia, there is probably a good reason for it.
  • Don't go places you are not supposed to go. Again, there's a reason for it.
  • Don't touch unknown substances. No need for explanation here.
  • And: some questions are better left unanswered.

Overall, Prometheus wants to deliver a fascinating story about the search for the creator of the mankind, but it turns out rather stupid. In the end, Elisabeth Shaw, the main protagonist of the film, continues to chase the answer, even though she proves her own survival depends not on the truth but on what she choses to believe, which ultimately gives her strength to go on.

3 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Despite all the hype, Prometheus is a rather mediocre film. If you like science-fiction, it might provide a good way to kill some time with, but don't expect too much.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Books I Read In 2012


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

My top ten books I read in 2012 in random order (linked to my reviews with summaries):

  1. How Huge the Night by Heather and Lydia Munn
  2. Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
  3. The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott
  4. Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James
  5. Deep Kiss of Winter ("Untouchable", Immortals After Dark #8) by Kresely Cole
  6. Debutante by Thomas Galvin
  7. My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
  8. The Collector by John Fowles
  9. A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland #1) by Judith McNaught

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Virtual Advent Tour 2012: Potica


virtual-advent-tour-05In the spirit of the season, I am participating in 2012 Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. Head over to Advent Blog Tour to see the schedule and visit other participants’ posts.


In Slovenia, the traditional dessert we cannot do without on holidays, especially on Christmas and Easter, is called potica (pronounced paw-'tee-tsa). It's basically a roll cake.

The most common is potica with walnut filling:

YEAST:

2 pkgs. dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup warm water Sprinkle sugar over yeast and add warm water. Let it stand until twice its original volume.

DOUGH:

5 cups flour (4 cups to start, adding additional flour as needed)
1-1/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum (or vanilla)
1 grated peel of lemon
Pinch of salt

Mix softened butter, sugar and egg yolks until the sugar is well dissolved and mixture is frothy. Set aside. Warm up the milk, mix in salt, lemon peel, and rum, and add to the butter mixture. Form the dough out of the 4 cups of flour, yeast, and milk mixtures. The trick is not to pour in all the milk mixture immediately; use about 3/4 to start with, then add more as the dough forms.

Beat with electric mixer until smooth and elastic. Then keep adding flour as needed, and mixing with a wooden spoon until of consistency that dough can be handled without sticking. Place dough on floured board and knead for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed to make a non-sticking dough. Place dough in a well-greased bowl; turn dough upside down to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours until double in bulk. While dough is rising, prepare filling.

FILLING:

6 cups finely ground walnuts (approx. 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb.)
1 cup finely ground golden raisins
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup thick cream (or 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
3 egg whites, beaten stiff

Mix walnuts and raisins, and grind them together to keep raisins from clumping. Combine all dry ingredients. Warm the cream and honey, and melt the butter in this mixture. Add cream mixture to dry ingredients and mix completely. Fold in beaten egg whites last. Let filling cool as you roll out dough.

Roll out dough on table covered with a tablecloth well sprinkled with flour. Roll out to 1/4" thick, 18" x 24" or bigger. Spread cooled filling over entire dough evenly. Start rolling up dough by hand, jelly roll fashion, stretching dough slightly with each roll. Start at an 18" edge and roll in the 24" direction. Keep side edges as even as possible. Continue to roll by raising the cloth edge slowly with both hands so the dough rolls itself. Dust away any excess flour on the outside of the dough with a pastry brush as you roll. Prick roll with a toothpick as needed to eliminate air pockets.

With the edge of a spatula (pancake flipper) cut off each end of roll to make it the length needed to fit around the inside of an angel food cake pan. Place in well-greased angel food cake pan or Bundt cake pan, being sure to arrange the seam where the roll ended against the centre. If you have a two-piece angel food cake pan, it is easiest to roll the loaf onto and around the bottom plate of the pan, and then lower this into the body of the pan. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in volume. Bake about 1 hour at 325 degrees.

Put cut-off ends in greased loaf pans, cover with cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in volume, then bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 325 degrees.

For a shiny crust, brush top before baking with 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. milk, OR brush top with melted butter when taken from oven.

Let stand one hour before removing from pan. Loosen sides and bottom with knife. Turn onto wire rack to remove, then turn over again onto another wire rack to cool right-side up.

Once completely cool, turn upside-down on a cake plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

The recipe found here (with pictures and another version), because I did not feel like translating my own, but it is basically the same.

Instead of walnut filling you can also make potica with hazelnuts or poppy seeds or even a chocolate one with coconut filling.

My favourite and also very common is potica with tarragon filling:

1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rum
2 handfuls of finely chopped tarragon (or to taste)
3 egg whites

Combine cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar and rum. fold in beaten egg whites and chopped tarragon.

The dough and the rest of the procedure are the same as above.

pictures_cuisine_1_2007_potica_150906

Photo found here: five kinds of potica, from top left: walnuts, poppy seeds, hazelnuts, tarragon, raisins.

Making potica requires quite a lot of work but the result is worth it. Good luck if you decide to give it a try and enjoy! 

What dessert is traditional for Christmas where you live?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Songs of the Season


AltSongsSeasonLG

Songs of the Season
Event production by Random Magic Tour
Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
December 10 – 25, 2012

Join us for a virtual round of carolling, with Songs of the Season, a fun and quirky music hop. Discover new and wonderful songs each day of the hop, handpicked by great bloggers and vloggers - plus lots of other cool things to browse.

Here's my selection for your enjoyment:

Title: White Christmas
Artist: Il Divo
Available at: Amazon | iTunes

Commentary: White Christmas is a classic and one of my favourite songs this time of year. The Il Divo rendition is heavenly, these guys truly have angelic voices.

You might also like:

virtual-advent-tour-05

December 1 – 24: bloggers sharing anything and everything to do with Advent and Christmas. My stop is tomorrow, on December 12. Schedule.

What is/are your favourite song(s) of the season? Please, feel free to share in the comments!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Book Nook #30



Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Show us something pretty!

tumblr_mdump4yPPv1qdqj18o1_500

Commentary: The arched ceiling is gorgeous, and love the big fireplace. The room is bright and airy, but still cozy. Plus, there are a lot of choices where to sit down with a book. Now imagine snow outside and it is a prefect place to spend a winter day in, reading.

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3) by Maggie Stiefvater


SUMMARY
(from Goodreads): When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their loved moved from curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.

That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be kill in one final, spectacular hunt.

Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

MY OPINION:

Forever is a great ending to the trilogy. I liked how Cole takes charge of the matters. Isabel is a bit silly sometimes, but she delivers majorly when it counts.

Sam and Grace, well, they are Sam and Grace, what else it there to say? I love their relationship, their loyalty, how they support each other and always find strength in the other person.

The story is suspenseful from front to cover, keeping the reader in the edge about the wolves' fate. Forever is somewhat open ended, yet promising a good future, which I found prefect. It  not a fairy-tale HEA, and I was sorry for the casualties, but I think the end it is fitting,

RECOMMENDATION: Maggie Stiefvater has become one of my favourite authors, although I don't read a lot of YA. The Wolves of Mercy Falls is a beautiful YA paranormal romance trilogy, perfectly concluded with Forever.

4 stars

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)


Note: This review contains SPOILERS for Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.

bd2DIRECTOR: Bill Condon; CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

SUMMARY (from IMDB): After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi.

MY OPINION:

As always with book-to-movie adaptation, I was wary before seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2. It was not as bad as I had feared, though.

Let me first do away with the things I did not like. The acting of some people is not brilliant, mildly put, but I did not really expect anything outstanding, so I could live with it. The make-up department had not improved its work much (or at all, depends on an individual character's make up) from the previous Twilight films, but I expected that, too.

As far as the story goes, it is quite faithful to the books. I found Bella's extraordinary self-control underrepresented, as well as Jacob's protectiveness towards Reneesme. The fight between them when Bella finds out about Jacob's imprinting was really underdone for something that is such a huge issue for both of them. I also missed Emmet's jokes.

One thing I dislike about Twilight films is that Bella in the films is presented as much more weak and stupid than in the books. The same thing happens in Breaking Dawn Part 2 with her shield, which is pretty crappy.

Now, onto the good things. The one thing I liked the most was also the most shocking one, only once I figured it out I was so relieved that I laughed out loud. That was an amazing job from the plot point of view.

I liked the new vampires, especially Garret, Alistair, and Benjamin. Some of the regular cast did a great job, for example Billy Burke. The scene with Jacob was priceless. The Volturi were great, too: very scary and well-portrayed.

Additionally, as in all Twilight films, the music and scenery were a treat for the ears and eyes, respectively, The action scenes were stunning and really kept me on my toes.

Overall, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a solid companion to the books, despite its flaws. If you do not expect too much, watching it can be an enjoyable experience.

3,5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Naturally, fans of The Twilight Saga will enjoy the film, even those more demanding ones like me if they squint their eyes a little.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Debutante by Thomas Galvin


SUMMARY (from Goodreads): The debutantes' ball has been a tradition at St. Rosemary's Preparatory School for the past hundred and sixty years. Held every summer, the Ball is an opportunity for the girls of St. Rosemary's to be introduced to the boys of St. Augustine's Academy for Young Men.

Brendan Clark has been in attendance each and every year. And each time he has selected a beautiful young girl, won her affections ... and fed on her blood. And then he slips away into the night, vanishing as suddenly as he arrived.

But when a ferocious vampire attacks the Governor's daughter – and leaves a pile of corpses laying at Brendan's feet – he will be forced to leave his bloodlust behind and become an angel of mercy to a girl in mortal peril.
If only she didn't look so delicious... 

MY OPINION:

Debutante is a novella, my paperback edition is just over 120 pages. I devoured it the same day I got it in the mail in one sitting. And that is a rare thing for me to do no matter how short the book is.

What I liked:

  • The dynamic plot that just doesn't let you stop reading.
  • Just the right amount of details to give you a good feel of the atmosphere and setting.
  • Vampires. I love Thomas Galvin's version of vampires. There are bad ones and good ones. And I love that the good ones aren't humanised but they keep their edge.
  • Brendan. I don't know how to describe him without giving to much away. But I liked him. A lot.
  • Charlotte or rather her development from a spoiled princess she seems to be on the first impression to…, no, I'm not telling you anything else.
  • And Mr. Galvin's distinct writing style, a bit raw (in good way), throwing in references and well-aimed sarcasms here and there.

In the end, I cannot remember anything I did not like. Debutante is a vampire story as it should be – suspenseful, adventurous, scary, gory, glamorous, and a little bit romantic, too.

RECOMMENDATION: If you like a good, short vampire read, Debutante might be just the right thing to pick up. 

5 stars

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn


SUMMARY
(from Goodreads):  Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens. Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

MY OPINION:

Children and teenagers are capable of both most noble and most cruel things. This is a novel which shows their internal conflicts when they have to decide between doing one or the other.

For Nina, the whole world is her enemy. The adults, especially men, are evil. The constant fight for survival and continuous disappointment with people she encounters drain her to the extent she welcomes the inevitable death. She loses all faith in people, so it takes a lot for her to start trusting people again and believing she is not beyond help. Basically throughout the book I just wanted to hug her, because she is a character you absolutely have to love and sympathise with.

Gustav is a heroic younger brother. His young age allows him to be less cynical than Nina, so he keeps believing in a good outcome. This attitude enables him to help them both make it through the worst.

Julien is an amazing, multi-dimensional character. He is uprooted from his home in Paris, he misses his friends and the city, and longs to be accepted by the popular kids in school. Between wanting to be popular and doing the right thing, he makes a few mistakes, not out of malice but more of an accidental teenage recklessness.

However, when Julien realises how serious things are, and learns the truth about the war, the Nazis, and the Jews, he does everything he can to not only do the right thing himself but also to convince others to do the same. I loved his approach to faith and God as resources of strength. I could relate to the simplicity of Julien's 'conversations' with God. Julien has a great advisor in his grandfather, and their relationship, as well as the kind of advice Julien gets from him, remained me very much of my late grandmother and her views, which was a great personal connection to this book for me.

There are a number of other characters, children as well as and adults, from Julien's schoolmates to his parents, worth mentioning. They each contribute an important nuance to making How Huge the Night an incredible read. Let me just mention one, the seeming antagonist, Henri. Though we view him mostly through Julien's eyes, it was fascinating to watch his development through the course of the novel.

In addition to the exceptional characters, How Huge the Night captures the atmosphere of the time very well. It depicts the lives and thoughts of ordinary people amidst the confusion, fear, and hunger. The propaganda and general lack of information made it easy to turn the blind eye and simply trust the officials. In such circumstances the selfless actions of the people helping those in need are truly noble and awe-inspiring.

Finally, another thing that I liked is the parallel the Munns draw between the persecution of the Huguenots and the Jewish people. It is a lesson on how to learn from history – Julien and others find help in making their judgement and decisions by drawing on their past as the persecuted minority, and find the compassion for those who are in the same situation at the moment.

All in all, How Huge the Night offers an amazing depiction of a small part of Wold War II in France trough its characters and plot as well as its message. As Christian fiction this novel manages to avoid being preachy or corny and still convey its message: it is important to keep faith in people because no matter how harsh the situation, people can surprise you and one can find friends in unlikely places. 

RECOMMENDATION: Fans of historical YA books will like How Huge the Night. It has sad and happy moments, and plenty of suspense to keep you on the edge. And generally, this story is a balm for heart and soul. This book is a stand-alone, but in its case I would not mind a sequel at all.

5 stars

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cat Diary (23): Autumn Entertainment


This is an occasional Sunday feature where my cat, pardon, Her Majesty the Cat, offers her more or less gracious insight into my (and her) life.

Autumn is beautiful, but it can also be boring sometimes, for example, when it rains. We had quite a bit of rain lately, so Pepca and I had to find things to occupy ourselves (read: Pepca had to find ways to entertain me between naps).

So, I did the usual things, such as chasing balls, playing witch sticks, and staring out of the window a lot. But my favourite time is when Pepca joins in the game (read: when she teases me with a piece of string). She likes it so much I indulge her and pretend to be very eager to get that piece of string she keeps dangling in front of me.

Anyway, she had some spare time, and apparently nothing belter to do, so she learned how to make gifs. So, to prove it, here is one of me perpetually trying to catch that darn end of string, hehe:

kittystringnormal
How do you spend dull rainy days?

I hope you are having fun. Stay entertained!

Till next time,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Nook #29



Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Show us something pretty!

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Commentary: Lot's of shelf-space and light, a comfortable and spacious seat, enough place for bringing a snack with you, what more could one want for a great reading spot? And i like the green walls, it is such a relaxing colour.

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Skyfall (2012)


skyfallDIRECTOR: Sam Mendes; CAST: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

MY OPINION:

I saw Skyfall last weekend and I really liked it. Although, it has taken me a while to review it because I  have no idea how to do that without spoiling it for you. So, my review probably sounds pretty vague.

I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much was that I had known next to nothing about it before seeing it, apart from the fact that it is a Bond film and all the expectations I had had from seeing the previous 007 films. Therefore, some things caught me completely by surprise, which I did not mind at all. 

The breath-taking action is worthy of the Bond franchise, and the scenery and settings are spectacular. When people (i.e. mostly Bond) are not shooting, running, jumping, etc. and things are not exploding, there is emotional intensity and British wit to keep your mind whirling. And the fact that I noticed the music should say something about how good it is, since the score is one of the things I pay the least attention to in films unless it is really good.

I love the story arc of the last three Bond films, revealing Bond's backstory bit by bit. Skyfall gives us a few interesting pieces of information in that aspect.

All in all, the almost two and a half hours of watching Skyfall were time well spent.

4,5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If Daniel Craig is not a good enough reason for you to go watch this film, then a mix of action and drama, and an interesting story, spiced up with humour and stunning visuals are definitely the things worth seeing Skyfall for.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark #8) and Gena Showalter (Alien Huntress #5)


Note: This review and the book reviewed reviewed contain adult themes. Please, do not read either unless you are an adult.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Deep Kiss of Winter contains two short novels: "Untouchable" (IAD #8) by Kresley Cole and "Tempt me Eternally" by Gena Showalter.

KRESLEY COLE delivers a breath-taking tale of a brutal vampire soldier about to know love for the first time ... and a Valkyrie aching for his touch. Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela – the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can’t be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure. Can they conquer an agony of frustration and slake the overwhelming desire burning between them?

GENA SHOWALTER puts a daring spin on a tale of huntress and hunted ... and concocts a sensual chemistry that is positively explosive.
With only skin-to-skin contact, Aleaha Love can change her appearance, assume any identity. Now she’s an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she is held captive when dangerously seductive Breean, a golden-skinned, iron-willed commander, threatens her new life – and for the first time, Aleaha wants only to be herself.

MY OPINION:

"Untouchable" by Kresley Cole

I knew Murdoch and Daniela would be awesome, and I was right. Their story runs parallel to the stories of the other three Wroth brothers –  so, from the beginning of the series – but with just the right amount of repetition. Hence, I was reminded of all the important things that had already happened, and I loved meeting all the familiar and beloved characters from the previous books again.

I felt so much sympathy for Murdoch and Daniela. They are both strong, but lonely, craving companionship and love but neither of them wants to impose on the other. They do not want to show their vulnerably by admitting how much they really care for each other. So, it takes them a while to work through it, especially since the chances of them being together seem very slim.

Daniela is partly ice-fey, and she hurts every time she is touched by someone not of her own race, which makes it impossible for her to form any kind of a love relationship. She pretends not to care, but she hurts on the inside.

Murdoch has problems accepting that his human preconceptions can no longer apply to his current situation. Also, he hates the concept of fate forcing him into something, so he fights the feelings he begins to develop towards Daniela.

Due to these issues they have a hard time coming together. However, they talk (and  argue, which was hilarious at times) about their problems, and they eventually work things out. I loved how, despite their disagreements and issues, they try not to hurt each other, at least not intentionally. They are really considerate and caring towards each other from the beginning, which makes up a sweet and warm relationship.

Overall, "Untouchable" is a touching and suspenseful story with some humour and Valkyrie snark (loved that, as always). The resolution for Daniela's and Murdoch's romance was so simple and brilliant I couldn't have seen it coming, On the whole, their love story was just prefect. Add the rest of the Wroth brothers and their wives. What more could you possibly want?

5 stars

"Tempt Me Eternally" by Gena Showalter

This is a really short novel, just over 200 pages. I only read it because it came included with Kresley Cole's novel. I was curious about it, since Gena Showalter is such a  praised paranormal romance author, but I did not like it.

A partial reason why I did not like this novella was probably because it is a part of a series, and I had not read the previous books. Therefore I was missing some background information about the world it is set in. But, this was my problem.

However, even bigger reason for not liking this book was the way the relationship between Aleaha and Breean is portrayed. It is basically all based on lust and sex, which I don't like, anyway. In addition, the sex scenes did not work for me, I had read much, much better ones. I could not feel any chemistry between Aleaha and Breean. They kept telling how much they want each other and love each other, but there was nothing in the story to support that.

All in all, the futuristic world Showalter creates seems interesting, but the romance and erotica in this novel were not my kind of thing.

2 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Deep Kiss of Winter is definitely worth trying for Kresley Cole's "Untouchable". Fans of Immortals After Dark series absolutely cannot miss on Murdoch's and Daniela's story. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat


spirit of lost angelsSUMMARY
(from Goodreads): Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her poor peasant roots.

Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancient regime. Can she muster the bravery and skill to join the revolutionary force gripping France, and overthrow the corrupt, diabolical aristocracy?

Spirit of Lost Angels traces the journey of a bone angel talisman passed down through generations. The women of L’Auberge des Anges face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

Amidst the tumult of revolutionary France, this is a story of courage, hope and love.

MY OPINION:

Spirit of Lost Angels is Liza Perrat's historical fiction debut. I have read several books set in the French Revolution era, but Perrat's novel offers a refreshing approach to that period as it does not centre on aristocracy and the revolution itself.

Instead, Spirit of Lost Angles focuses on the life of a simple countryside girl, Victorie, while only glimpsing at the main revolutionary events. It does however, very well present the living situation of the majority of the population and the horrible conditions that led to the Revolution.

Victoire is a flawed heroine. Yet, her very imperfection makes her all the more likable as a character if not as a person. Her almost cheating on her husband (she would have had there not been an interruption), vengefulness, and occasional lack of perceptiveness (despite her otherwise praised intelligence) are things I disliked about her. At the same time, those flaws make her more realistic, and because of that I liked her on the whole.

As her story unravels, Victorie finds ways to compensate for her mistakes and shortcomings (and no, I'm not telling you how, you will have to read the book to find out). Thus, she grows as a person. Generally, Victoire is a strong and endurable woman, who stands up not only for herself but also for others.

I especially enjoyed the writing in Spirit of Lost Angels. Through the first-person point of view Perrat captures Victorie's states of mind (depression, madness, anger) wonderfully. Victorie's character development is reflected in the manner of her narrative which changes from the perspective of a child to that of a sophisticated city woman and all the phases she goes through in between.

The plot seems a little far-fetched at some spots, with the people Victoire encounters and the streaks of good and bad luck, though the course of events seems generally plausible.

Overall, I enjoyed Spirit of Lost Angles. I especially liked the ending, which bears a positive note but not in the way one might expect.

RECOMMENDATION: Spirit of Lost Angles offers a great depiction of the French Revolution era from a somewhat different perspective than usually. I think people who like reading historical fiction, especially concerning French history, would enjoy this book.

4 stars

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Book Riot's Top 50 – How Many Have You Read?


You know I love this kind of lists, don't you?

So, I've come across (via Sarah Says Read's post) Book Riot's Top 50 favourite novels the blog readers voted on, and you can leave the number of the books you've read from the list there.

Here's the list:

bold – books I've read

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  17. The Stand by Stephen King
  18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  22. The PIcture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (only the first book, but I'm counting it anyway, I'm going to read the rest, too)
  25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  31. 1984 by George Orwell
  32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
  38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  40. Ulysses by James Joyce
  41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  46. Dune by Frank Herbert
  47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

That's 14 books. Hmm, I guess I have some more reading to do. :) How many have you read?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Rather Lovely Soirée – Regency Desserts

JaneAustenDay_RandomMagicTourEvent

A Rather Lovely Soirée
for
Talk like Jane Austen Day
Event production by
Random Magic Tour
Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Oct. 30, 2012

Welcome, dear guests! You've arrived at a rather lovely soirée in honour of Talk like Jane Austen Day. Talk like Jane Austen Day is an annual event, marking the anniversary of the first printing of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Austen's first published novel.

In honour of the day, we've assembled a delightful collection of interesting features on all things Jane Austen and her times. Feel free to stop in at any blog below to enjoy something interesting, and to leave your calling card (link to your blog) in the comments section of any blog, if you've particularly enjoyed your visit.

Just browse below for a delightful Austen-related tidbit offered to you by the co-hosts of A Rather Lovely Soirée for Talk like Jane Austen Day.

And here is my treat for you:

Who doesn't enjoy an apple pie this time of year? Jane Austen certainly did. She wrote to her sister Cassandra:

"I am glad the new cook begins so well. Good Apple Pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness." (17 October, 1815)

I'm sure she enjoyed an apple pie baked by this 18th century recipe kept by her sister-in-law, Martha Lloyd:

"A Baked Apple Pudding (with Pastry)
Take a dozen of pippens, pulp them through your cullender, take six eggs, sugar enough to make sweet, the rind of two lemons grated, a 1/4 of a lb of butter (melted with flour or water). Squeeze the juice of the two lemons, let the apples be cold before the ingredients are put together. Make a puff paste in the bottom of the dish, half an hour bakes it."

If you are tempted to make one for yourself, here is a modern version:

Marlborough Pie
1 1/2 cup applesauce
3 Tbs. butter, melted
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon rind, grated
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Instructions:
Blend all ingredients thoroughly and pour into an unbaked pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake another hour until consistency of custard.

marlboroughpie

Photo found here.

You can find more about this and other regency desserts Jane Austen enjoyed on this site.

Shown below, we've assembled a delightful collection of interesting tidbits on all things Jane Austen and her times. Feel free to stop in at any blog below to enjoy a sweet treat.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bookie Brunch: Trick or Treat! – My Top Five Favourite Paranormal TV Shows


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Welcome to Bookie Brunch: Trick or Treat!

On each blog stop from now through Halloween, a blogger or vlogger will have a handpicked Halloween treat to share with you - it might be a video clip, or a feature about great spooky films, a playlist of great, creepy songs, a recipe for treats, or a gallery of witches.

It might be anything! But it's sure to be something fun, so feel free to drop by each day from October 23-31, to pick up some cute treats to put you in the Halloween mood. All the treats will be added into the linky at the end of this post, so feel free to browse.

My treat for you is:
My Top Five Favourite Paranormal TV Shows


paranormaltvshows


As many of you may already know, or at least suspect, I love reading and watching about all things paranormal, so here is a Halloween-appropriate list of five TV shows I was (or still am) addicted to at some part over the last decade and a half (listed in order of airing):

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    I was in high school, so about the same age as the main characters, when it first aired and this series was one of the first things that made me fall in love with paranormal genre, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
  2. Charmed
    Three witch sisters, ghosts, demons, and angels were something I just couldn't miss.
  3. Angel
    Naturally, I equally loved this Buffy spin-off, though I still haven't seen the last two seasons. But I'm planning to have a re-watch of both series some day and then finally catch up.
  4. Supernatural
    Although I saw some episodes at its beginning, I actually only got fully caught up and addicted to it this spring. There's every monster and other paranormal entity you can imagine (and those you can't), together with an abundance of mythology, so it just doesn't get more supernatural than Supernatural.
  5. The Vampire Diaries
    And so much more than just vampire diaries. I'm pretty sure I've already raved about TVD on this blog and elsewhere quite enough, so I'm just going to shut up. Do I need to say I love it?


Trick-or-treat-TVD_thumb

Photo credit: CW, edits found here and here.

Have you watched any of the shows or read the mentioned books? If so, what did you think of them?

Also, if there is any other paranormal show/book/ book series you enjoy, please let me know, I'm always looking for recommendations in this area.

Feel welcome to express your thoughts in the comments!

About Bookie Brunch: Trick or Treat!: The first blog hop was a Bookie Brunch special event for Halloween, and it was a lot of fun, so we're just continuing the tradition. Bookie Brunch was a weekly book discussion founded by Sasha Soren, the author of Random Magic. Browse archive.

Video Week: 'Random Magic' by Sasha Soren

Also this month - drop by for Video Week: Random Magic, from Oct. 21-30, featuring an entertaining week of cool reviews and creative features from vloggers around the world. They're featuring the book Random Magic by Sasha Soren. Visit the YouTube page for the schedule in infobox.

If I had to choose a Random Magic character for Halloween, I would definitely be Winnie, because she's brave and resourceful and never gives up, no matter how tough the situation is. Also, what better costume than a quirky doodle witch can you imagine?

  winnie

Credit: Photo found here.

Find Random Magic Print | Kindle

If you stopped by for Halloween, here's what you'd find in your treats bag:

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Credit: Photo found here.

Roasted chestnuts may seem boring but this is the delicacy that makes me look forward to autumn every year. Yum!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Chapters IX - XIX


Note:
This post is more of a reflection than a review, and it contains mild SPOILERS for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. These are my thoughts on the second half of The Hobbit, you can read my review of the first eight chapters here.

hobbit_thumbSUMMARY (from Goodreads): Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

MY THOUGHTS:

In the second half of The Hobbit, Bilbo becomes more proactive, instead of just tagging along. After helping the dwarves out a few times, he becomes aware of his abilities, he realises he is more resilient than he thought, and consequently he gains a lot of self-confidence. Instead of depending on others, he becomes self-reliant.

The Ring certainly plays a part in it with its powers. It is true that the Ring corrupts people. But, as we see it in LOTR (for example, in Boromir's case) it does that through initially enhancing a person's inherent traits which it twists to its own purpose.

However, as Bilbo is essentially a good person, the Ring's power does not corrupt him as it would if he was not. Hence, Bilbo is not enslaved by the Ring's power. On the contrary, all the things that Bilbo does have only little to do with the Ring's power, only as much as it helps Bilbo reveal and put to good use the best of his features: courage, adventurousness, intelligence (common sense), and the wish to help others. Thus the Ring is 'degraded' into a sort of a placebo device – just as some people take a placebo and stop feeling pain because they think the pill helped, Bilbo, having the Ring, stops being afraid and passive, because he thinks he has the Ring to back him up (although not really).

Even though at this point, the true nature and power of the Ring remain hidden (to Bilbo and co., as well as to a first-time reader), I really like how Bilbo manages to avoid being corrupted by it. In spite of the fame and wealth he acquires, he remains modest and is happy to return to living a simple hobbit life in the Shire.

Anyway, I should stop this one-person discussion, although when I start on the concepts of good and evil and Tolkien I could go on for days.

In the end, the final outcome of The Hobbit is remarkably beneficial for the subsequent events in LOTR. Thus, The Hobbit is much more than a prequel to LOTR or a children's book. It is a vital part of Tolkien's world, perfectly incorporated into the whole.

Let me finish with some inspiring, funny, or otherwise interesting quotes I like:

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

“His rage passes description-the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted”

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

“I may be a burglar...but I'm an honest one, I hope, more or less.”

“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

RECOMMENDATION: The Hobbit makes me feel good every time I read it. It is entertaining and suspenseful, and it makes me laugh (but not cry, though parts of it are touching). If you like fantasy, this beautifully written door into Tolkien's universe is a must-read. 

5 stars

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fangs, Fur and Fey Giveaway Winner


fangsfur
We were giving away a keepsake tin of pretty art cards featuring fantasy characters. (sponsored by Sasha Soren, author of Random Magic).

fairynotes

And the winner is:

Marthalynn Rodriguez

Congratulations! You have been notified via email.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Chapters I - VIII


Note: This post is more of a reflection than a review, and it contains mild SPOILERS for The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion.

hobbitSUMMARY (from Goodreads): Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

MY THOUGHTS:

It has been a few years since I last read The Hobbit, so I decided to reread it again for the third or the fourth time or something like that. The Hobbit was the first Tolkien's book I read and I think it is a prefect introduction to the world of The Lord of the Rings.

To me, The Hobbit is a comfort read. A big reason for this is Tolkien's writing style – as eloquent and intricate as ever, but with a difference from his other works in the fact that Tolkien often directly addresses the reader. This always makes me feel as if the story was being told by a grandpa to the kids gathered around a fireplace during long cold winter evenings (of course, I'm one of the kids, ha-ha).

Bilbo is a character torn between wanting adventure on one hand and safety on the other. These are the things most people, not only children but also adults, want – to go out there and see the world and experience interesting events, but at the same time we all want to be safe and comfortable. This makes Bilbo easy to relate to.

Bilbo's adventures are scary, and funny, and astonishing. But what amazes me the most now, after numerous rereads of Tolkien's works, is that right here in The Hobbit, Tolkien already lays out all the basics of his world of Middle Earth and beyond.

As some of you might not know, The Lord of the Rings and related works initially served Tolkien 'only' as a background for the languages he invented (chiefly Elvish), and The Hobbit is a prefect evidence for it. It is all there. All the essential components, from the peoples, to lands, and history are already outlined in The Hobbit.

Let me mention just some bits of Tolkien's world I'm especially fond of and which appear in the first eight chapters of The Hobbit (here SPOILERS begin):

  • the first mention of "the Necromancer" who "is an enemy far beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together"

 

  • vivid descriptions of settings, for example of:

    "…dreary hills, rising higher and higher, dark with trees. On some of them were old castles with an evil look, as if they had been built by wicked people…" where "They have seldom even heard of the king…"

    See that mention of "the king"? So subtle, but so important.

 

  • the encounter with the three trolls – no matter how many times I read it, this part always makes me laugh out loud. It is a also a crucial event on a larger scale, for it is among troll's stolen possessions where Bilbo's sword, Sting, comes from.

 

  • Elrond and Rivendell: "The Master of the house was an elf-friend - one of those people whose fathers came into the strange stories before History, the wars of the evil goblins and the elves and the first men of the North. In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North as their ancestors, and Elrond the master of the house was their chief. He was noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as  wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all."

 

  • all the hints at an earlier history, for instance the Battles of Beleriand, the fall of Gondolin and Doriath, the battle of Dimrill Dale, and the lineage of weapons, such as Glamdring and Orcrist

 

  • Gollum: already in The Hobbit Tolkien reveals his complexity – one of an evil creature but with the trails of being, if not good, at lest less evil. Also, Gollum's manner of speaking is the best ever. I love, love it.

 

  • the portrayal of Sauron's power through the depiction of Mirkwood, and the parallels between Mirkwood spiders and Shelob and the enchanted forest river and Morgulduin

 

  • and last, but not the least important: the Ring, which promptly reveals it's treacherous nature, but, by 'helping' Bilbo seals its own and its Master's fates.

And it just gets more and more complex (and better) from here on.

All in all, Tolkien never ceases to amaze me with his craftsmanship. The way he includes all the key elements of the greater scheme of his world in The Hobbit without making it even a tiny bit confusing or boring is simply fascinating.

And so I fall in love with his genius all over again every time I read any of his works.

5 stars


A side note
: expect my thoughts on the second half some time next week.

If you have read The Hobbit, have you noticed all the connections to his other works? What are you favourite things from the Hobbit? And are you excited about the movie?

Update: You can read my thoughts on the second half of The Hobbit HERE.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaser Tuesday #20: The Hobbit

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


MY TEASERS:

hobbit"There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon; fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light."

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, p. 201

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