Category Archives: Full Reviews

Latest Reads

It’s been a while since I’ve done any reviews, and there have been a few already released this year that I loved, so let’s remedy that, shall we?

20161029_212450

First up – THE MUSE by Jessie Burton. It’s completely different from her first book, THE MINIATURIST (you can find my review here) and totally works on its own. There is a freedom and something like joyous abandon in the voice and prose that goes beyond Odelle and Olive – the primary characters and narrators. Yet Burton hooks it all together through the mystery of the painting, of the Schlosses, of Isaac and Teresa. You won’t find magical realism here like existed in The Miniaturist, because it doesn’t need it. It’s compelling, gorgeously written, and I think has more of Burton in it than her first book. I’d give it a 4 out of 5!

 

Kameron Hurley’s THE STARS ARE LEGION is up next. If that cover doesn’t make you want to buy it, I honestly don’t know what to do with you. It’s an inventive sci-fi of world ships (actual whole planets!), and brutal women who have their own hidden agendas. Like the levels of Katazyrna, I know I’ll have to re-read it two or three more times before I truly get all the details and intricacies built into it. If you like Hurley’s other series, especially the Bel Dame Apocrypha books, you’ll enjoy this. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, also!

 

The last one I want to talk about is Aliette de Bodard’s THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS. Because Asmodeus needs a bit more room to be doted on =).  You like fallen angels, magic, and dragons? Good. Read this. Actually, read book 1 first, then come back.

The House of Binding Thorns picks up shortly after the events of HoSW, when Madeleine is returned to House Hawthorne and, unfortunately, under Asmodeus’s thumb/dagger. There’s a lot to love in this book: a deeper, longer look at the Dragon Kingdom under the Seine, and their growing interactions with the houses; Asmodeus marrying into the Dragon Kingdom; the Annamite community that makes the best of the magic-ravaged city, away from the Fallen; a glimpse back to House Silverspires; the introduction of a Fallen who has stayed out of the war and conflict between the houses, making a life with the one she loves on her own terms.

Oh, and Asmodeus kiss scenes. *swoons*

Seriously, read it. Madeleine deserves a medal, or something. We get a much better understanding of Asmodeus and what he cares about. Overall: gorgeous writing, lovely characters, and an amazing world I’ll come back to again and again. HoBT gets a 4.8 out of 5 from me!

 

The next books up on my TBR are THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas, DREAMS OF THE EATEN by Tex Thompson, CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber, and INFIDEL by Kameron Hurley. Are there any particular books you all *gestures wildly* are excited about releasing this year? Books I can add to my ever-growing TBR shelves?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Full Reviews

Meatballs

I have a confession to make – I love my crock pots.

There’s nothing more relieving than throwing a bunch of stuff in a slow cooker, doing nothing to it for the next six or eight hours, and then getting a complete meal or side dish out of it. Perfect for the lazy or those who have more productive ways to spend their time.

Part of my NaNo prep this year was finding ways to spend that free time more wisely. Over the last year I discovered I didn’t set enough boundaries for my writing time. So I fixed that – made a schedule, ran it by the husband, and bam. Writing time protected whilst still making time for chores and snuggling furkids.

I would’ve cut workout days too but alas, I’m doing pretty well on all the weights and it gets me out of the house. Massive amounts of free time + me = more ways to procrastinate and make excuses. I apparently need some kind of pressure other than just a word count goal, and leaving the other parts of my routine in place helps that feeling of having to fight for writing time.

Thinking about exercise led me to food. Workout days felt especially tight and stressful having to cook something after getting back from the gym. Hour at the gym, hour for dinner, then cleaning up, showering… it cut into my writing time pretty regularly.

Crock pot meals became the perfect solution.

Honestly, crock pot dishes are great for any week that’s going to be hectic.  I usually make a double batch of whatever recipe, ending up with ten to fifteen Tupperware containers worth of dinners for the rest of the week. Chili and pot roast are our go-to dishes. We’ve done pulled pork before too, but it takes a bit more manual labor than just portioning everything out to containers.

Of the three recipes I picked for NaNo this year, my favorite dish is one that will be on our menu probably every month. Behold- Honey Garlic Meatballs!

I kid you not, this is the best slow cooker recipe I’ve found to date, so I have to share. It knocks chili out of the water. Massacres pot roast and pulled pork. Makes potato soup look like thin and milky gruel. And no, that’s not because my recipes for those other dishes are bad – the meatballs are just so good.

They’re savory, a little sweet, and the garlic scent is mouthwatering. (If you don’t like garlic, I feel sorry for you.)

It’s pretty cheap to make, too, for as many meatballs as you get. You can get 32oz bags of frozen meatballs for $7.99/bg at Kroger. Many of the flavor additives are probably already in your cupboard. So let’s round up – for $20 you get a giant crock full of meatballs. Make a big batch of mashed potatoes (also an easy crock pot dish!) or rice to go with it, and you’ve got dinner (plus some lunches) that will likely last you a full week.

They’re great for work potlucks too, just sayin’.

So, for anyone in the final throes of NaNoWriMo fighting for ways to optimize your time – look into doing batch meals like this. Many of the recipes take 30 min or less to get going in the crock, and then you don’t have to worry about cooking for close to a week. Spending an hour for dinner per day may not sound like much, but when you consider that half of that time(maybe more) is often just cooking the meal, there’s a good chance stress will manifest just from other everyday things. Seeing how dirty the counters are, dishes piled in the sink, floors needing to be swept, TPS reports due… and feeling like it all falls on your shoulders alone. A crock pot meal won’t necessarily solve those other stressors, but it may keep them from being triggered in the first place.

 

What time saving practices did you put into action for NaNo? What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

Leave a comment

Filed under Foooooood

Food Journal – Top 5 Restaurants in San Antonio

Remember that last post a few months ago where I talked about a food blog? Well, here it is!

Brief preface and/or disclosure – I have been to San Antonio exactly once in my life. In April. For three and a half days. Naturally we couldn’t try every restaurant, but picked based off of general TripAdvisor consensus and friends who live in the area. So if you get all butthurt because your super favorite isn’t on this list, let me know in the comments and I’ll try it out the next time we go.

 

#1 Ácenar

This was my favorite of the entire trip. A good friend recommended it as the one place on the Riverwalk that wasn’t overpriced or over-exaggerated, and she knew what she was talking about. The patio had a nice breeze coming in from the river, and a vibrant albeit relaxed atmosphere. Fantastic food and service, delicious margaritas. Just go, right now.

Acenar - Spicy ShrimpSpicy Shrimp – hubby’s dish. Not spicy in the least, but definitely creamy goodness.

Acenar - Duck CrepesDuck crepes –  I don’t know what’s happening on the top of it, but boy, that cheese was something else. It had a sweetness to it that brought the whole dish together. The corn crepes didn’t give have any chalk-like taste or texture that I usually get from corn tortillas.  This is definitely on my list of must-eats whenever we go back to SA.

 

#2 Bakery Lorraine

This little bistro/bakery is one of many gems nestled in the increasingly popular Pearl Brewery area. It’s quite the hot spot for lunch, so be prepared to wait for a table if you get there late. The sandwiches are huge — my husband and I split a Rueben (or some other such roast beef sandwich) and were almost too full to go to Cured (see #3). In addition to breakfast and lunch, they have a number of different pastries and baked goods. Make sure you try the macaroons!

Welcome to Pearl

I didn’t get any pictures of the building or food itself, so you’ll just have to trust me. Don’t skip this place on your next San Antonio trip.

 

 

#3 (Tie) Azuca & Cured

Ok, you got me. I couldn’t decide which of these I liked better. DEATHMATCH!

IMAG0033

Entry to Pearl, not Cured.

Cured – another neat little establishment in the Pearl Brewery area. Inside its brick walls, industrial-style lighting, and warm hardwood floors give it a cozy yet modern vibe. You can see their charcuterie meats hanging in a glass case right when you walk through the front door, and they don’t disappoint. Our favorite was the Mortadella and a citrus marmalade accompaniment. We also tried the Blue Ribbon Burger; it looked a little small, but is the perfect size for a second lunch.

Graffiti = awesome.

Azuca – offers another take on Mexican/Latino food. It’s not in the immediate downtown/River Walk area, which makes it a good choice if you want to try a less touristy place. Like #1 and #3, they have a diverse menu – pork belly, ceviche, and paella are just a few examples. Fair warning, you probably won’t have any room for dessert.

 

 

#5 Boudros

We went back to the River Walk for this one. Mostly because I’d read they had tasty drinks, and it wasn’t far enough into the trip that I was tired of drinking. I tried the Strawberry Caipirinha first, but it was a little too tar. Not enough strawberry. The Prickly Pear Margarita, though… well, have a look.

Prickly Pear MMarita

 

Almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

Food-wise, the Gulf Coast Seacakes we split as an app rivaled the oysters from Ácenar. Past that, I honestly don’t remember what I had. But even if you don’t go for the food, you have to go for the Prickly Pear Margarita!

 

IMG_1595

 

 

Skip it – La Fonda on Main

While it’s a lovely restaurant with wonderful service, the food really didn’t impress me. Compared to the other places we experienced the days prior, La Fonda doesn’t offer anything new or different. It has your standard Mexican fare – enchiladas, chile relleno, etc. – but nothing that sets it apart. The locals love it, so be prepared for the place to be packed and loud the entire time.  It’s a good place to get your feet wet in Mexican cuisine, but otherwise I’d recommend skipping it for better flavors around the city.

 

 

IMG_1517 IMG_1525 IMG_1534

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Foooooood

Book Review – Schism by Laura Maisano

Behold! I have returned from San Antonius, land of river and tree and cement, and FOOD. Food like this –

 

It looks pretty enough not to eat, but don’t kid yourself. You will eat it, and then you will thank me later.  But we’ll have to save all the delicious reviews of grub, because today my friends, I have another review for you. Today, I’ll be talking about Schism, the new book-baby of my friend Laura Maisano.

 

The art therapy crap hasn’t done squat for Gabe Jones. A thousand sketches of his fiancée can’t bring his memory, or her, back to him. Nothing on Earth can. His past lies in another dimension, a world just out of sight.

 On campus, another student unknowingly shares Gabe’s obsession with the fourth dimension. Lea Huckley must prove this world exists. The monsters from the other side attacked her parents and fled, getting her folks locked up in the loony bin. Finding evidence is the only way to free them.

 She and Gabe strike a deal to help each other out, and together they manage to open a door to the world of Gabe’s true origin. She’d use him for proof—if she didn’t already care too  much.

 While Gabe tries to reconcile his feelings for Lea and his re-discovered memories of his fiancée, a much more sinister plot unravels. He uncovers his history, just in time to become the  unwilling linchpin in a conspiracy to start a war. His memory holds the secret the would-be conqueror needs to get the upper hand, the final riddle. Gabe must protect the riddle at all   costs, even if that means leaving Earth, and Lea, behind for good.

 

I’ll just admit it now – I love Lea. Seriously. She’s spunky, witty. An exceptionally loveable nerd who doesn’t give two shits how crazy other people think she is. But additionally, she isn’t dependent or constantly fawning over the guy she likes. Lea steals the show for the first half of the book.

Gabe, at first, feels simply there. It’s difficult to put into words; he’s actively helping Lea and hanging out with his roommate, but it was difficult to connect with him. It’s almost like his struggle to deal with his emotions, caused by the loss of his fiancée and memories, creates almost a fugue-like layer that keeps the reader at an arm’s length. But it’s glorious when that barrier disintegrates. His pain, anguish, love and above all, self-acceptance, become all the more real. Suddenly it’s not a college guy putting one foot in front of the other to get beyond loss and grief, but an otherworldly Winged whose life could keep multiple worlds balanced. As much as I love Lea, Gabe’s character arc might just be my favorite part of the book.

The twist is the other contender. I won’t spoil it, but it is quite fantastic. And it’s not just the contents of the twist, but how the reader is misdirected to not even consider it a possibility.

Though the story is mostly solid as a whole, there were some hiccups. The riddle is mentioned fairly early in the story, but not explained. Once we find out it’s hiding a relic called “the Stand,”  we have to grapple with what that means too. Only Nor seems to know what it does, which is a little strange considering the number of other councilmen entrusted to keep it’s location a secret. How does Illirin not have an archivist that can at least speculate on the Stand’s possible power(s)? Nor’s accomplice (a wizard who shan’t be named) also comes across a bit oddly. From their private conversations, the wizard sounds older, at least close to Nor’s age. It’s a bit jarring when his identity is revealed. Human or no, I’m still half expecting him to shed his normal form and… well I can’t really say without spoiling the twist!

As if parallel worlds, a brilliant dame, and a blue-skinned boy weren’t enough, Schism also throws Arthurian mythos into the mix. It, too, felt a bit rushed or glossed over, but I can look past it for now; tying Lea and her wizard nemesis to Merlin and Morgana was not a main part of this book’s plot arc. So for now all I’ll say is, “Cool!” and just watch that thread more carefully in the sequel. Definitely looking forward to see Lea getting more involved in saving both worlds!

 

That’s a wrap! I think I’ll take Tex’s advice and go back to Crimson Son for the next installment, just have to read it again. For some reason my brain didn’t quite know how to feel about Spencer on the first read-through.

Oh and if you’ve been hanging around this whole time waiting for more food pictures, don’t worry. I’ll get a post up about my excursion too!

Leave a comment

Filed under Full Reviews, Writing and Reading

Book Review – One Night in Sixes by Tex Thompson

So shame on me, I’ve had Tex’s debut novel since its launch party, read it shortly thereafter, and am just NOW getting to the review. Still trying to find my blog-stride here, bear with me.

Appaloosa Elim is a man who knows his place.  On a good day, he’s content with it.

Today is not a good day.

Today, his so-called “partner” – that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has ridden off west for the border, hell-bent on making a name for himself in native territory.  And Elim, whose place is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home again without him.

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day, but Elim’s heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

I was surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. Westerns are not my thing. Though it does retain an air of the old west with dust and sand, horse sales and gambling houses, it didn’t take long for those preconceived notions to get trampled by Tex’s world. Sixes, the primary setting of the story, is beyond the reaches of what one might consider civilized law. The city plays by its own rules, and only those “in the know” seem to decide who gets told how to play.

The characters are another plus. I wanted to punch Sil in the jaw for the first half of the book. Then Tex takes this unlikeable guy and turns him around. The entitled brat realizes what danger he’s put them in, and he makes a good attempt to the salvage the situation he caused. Elim acts as a good foil. I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. But his perseverance, and trust in Sil, get us through the latter half of the story.

The one [eensy] downside I can note is that once in Sixes, I found myself unable to keep up with the secondary characters. I was reading so quickly to see what happened next that I couldn’t keep track of everyone. The relationships between the Sixes inhabitants, and where they stand on the social ladder, are not explained very well. Or it’s entirely possible I missed the links there in my fervent reading frenzy.

Without spoiling anything, the ending got me. I guess everything else I read around the time had a HEA, and put me in the mindset that all would turn out well. No such luck here. Since this is the first book of three, though, I’ve got a lot of hope that Elim will catch a break at some point.

Book two of the series, Medicine for the Dead came out this week, so I’m excited to get the next piece of Elim’s story. You can find out more about Tex and her book-babies on her website: http://www.thetexfiles.com/p/works.html. Give it a shot!

To sum up other news, my February NaNo extension was somewhat successful. I wrote another ~37,000 words. Most of which were for a new beginning third. There will be a lot of cutting and stitching together in my future. We also adopted two cats (kittens, really) earlier this month. Next time we will think long and hard about getting young’uns, or make sure we bring them home at the same time. Oy.  They are starting to get along, but it has been a slow, stressful process.

Want to help pick the next review I post? Have at it! The ones on my list so far, are: Premonitions by Jamie Schultz; Clariel by Garth Nix; Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier; Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews; The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley; Crimson Son by Russ Linton; Night Broken by Patricia Briggs.   Leave a comment with your vote!

Until next time, write on!

3 Comments

Filed under Full Reviews