Currently Obsessed With: June 2015

Currently Obsessed With is a once-a-month (but sometimes more) feature where I talk about my favorite things from the last month.

Currently Obsessed With

June has been really hot, and it makes me want to do less stuff than normal!  I’m eternally grateful for air conditioning, and no humidity, because curly hair and humidity do not get along.  But I’m really looking forward to July, because of the Knit And Crochet show (which I’ll talk about in a little bit).  And August 1st, I’m going to a Harry Potter party, which will be so much fun!  Putting together a costume will keep me busy this month.

Crochet: 

I haven’t been crocheting a lot, but I have been working on that dish towel I mentioned last month.  Other than that, I haven’t been working on anything.  It uses a shell stitch, which is hard to see in this picture, but I think it would work really well with a light color, with something variegated or even with stripes.

Crochet- June 2015 Dish Towel

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’m going to the Knit & Crochet Show.  Since it’s in San Diego this year, it’s super-easy to go, and I’m taking a couple of classes, so that will be fun too!  I’m definitely looking forward to going, and it’ll be fun to buy yarn!  And learn new crochet things.  I already got my pass, getting me into the show floor, and I just need to pick up the badge holder I got (because I know I’ll have a hard time finding my pass), and I also get a goody bag of some sort.  I do need to bring yarn and other crochet supplies, and not surprisingly, I have yarn for one class.  But not the other one, because it requires fingering/DK/sport weight yarn, and, of course, I don’t have any of that yarn.  But still, yarn!  And learning yarn things!  It’s very exciting, and I will definitely have more on that later!

Books:

It hasn’t been a huge book-buying month, but I did buy The Color Purple by Alice Walker…because it was 9 cents (yes, really) on Kindle, and I just couldn’t pass it up!  I’ve wanted to read it for a while anyway, so it was well worth it.  I also got Joyride by Anna Banks from Audible, and I’m excited about listening to it.

I’ve been checking out books like crazy from the library, and I love that they have a library card for your keychain.  It’s awesome! I know it’s not that hard to pull out my wallet to get my library card, but somehow, it seems easier to get my keys out.  I know it makes no sense, but it’s still awesome.

T.V./Movies:

I’ve been watching Gray’s Anatomy like crazy!  I don’t even remember watching Season 1, but according to Netflix, I did, because I started at Season 2.  I’m on season 10 already, and there were a bunch of things I had completely forgotten about!  It’s changed a lot- I mean, of course it has, because it’s been on for a long time, but it’s amazing how much the show has changed.  I can’t believe it!

I did watch a few episodes of Sons Of Anarchy, and I don’t know how I feel about it, but I’ll give it until the end of Season 1 to see if I want to keep going with it.

I’m always looking for t.v. recommendations, so feel free to comment if you have any suggestions!

Around The Internet:

So many things!  I think I’m sharing a few most of what I pinned this month, but a few things I couldn’t pin. You can check out everything here.

Book Riot always has really interesting posts, but there were a few I really liked: this one about how to analyze white characters in book reviews, this one about being a Harry Potter house counselor, and this post about why it’s important for boys to read books about girls.  The one about spoiler alerts is interesting, but I also felt a little bit like there was something wrong with people not liking spoilers.  I don’t know if that was the author’s intent, but that is how it came across.  Let’s just be cool with other people’s preferences, whatever they are, okay?  Also: I love that this post pokes at how escapist thrillers are horrible for readers, and it reminds me of a lot of the things that romance readers hear.  And this post about reading habits based on your Hogwarts house further confirms that I am a Hufflepuff.  But Ravenclaw is also scary accurate too, and if I weren’t Hufflepuff, I’d want to be in Ravenclaw.

There’s an awesome post over at Dear Author about what books are.

I love this post over at The Perpetual Page-Turner about not being too old for YA.

I really want to try Death Wish Coffee.

This interview with Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is amazing, and got me a little teary-eyed.

The New York Times has an interesting article on the link between the bacteria in your gut and your mood.

The Midnight Garden has an interesting blog post about fandom and criticism, especially in relation to recent episodes of Game Of Thrones.

This proportional map of the world’s largest languages is fascinating.

The History Of Tampon is easily the most interesting thing I’ve read in a long time.

And the final thing I want to share: awesome library cards.

Music:

I haven’t been listening to a lot of music, and I haven’t been in a big podcast mood either, but I have wanted something to have on in the background, so I’ve been re-listening to the Parasol Protectorate series.

I will leave you the one song I have been listening to- Align by Aby Wolf, which was the Weather on a recent Night Vale episode, and I love it so much that I really am going to have to get her full album.

Have a happy weekend!  And happy July 4th to everyone in the U.S.!

Nail Polish Talk: The June 2015 Recap

Nail Polish Talk is a once-a-month feature where I talk about all things nail polish- from the colors I wore to the colors I got.

In June, I wore Nellie (with Adele as a top coat), Octavia, Sam, Farrah, and Hazel.

Nail Polish Project- June 2015 Collage

Technically, Nellie (by Julep) was a May color, since it was the week of May 31, but I decided to talk about it in June, since most of the week happened in June.   I love Adele (also Julep), which is one of my favorite top coats, and I wish it weren’t a retired color, because that makes me not want to wear often because I don’t want to run out of it.  I wasn’t sure about Nellie, because it’s fuschia, and fuschia is not a color I normally go for.  But I liked it a lot more than I expected, especially with Adele on top!

I also wore Octavia (Julep), which I like!  It’s a dark indigo, but pretty, and I really want to wear it again.  Other than that, I don’t have anything else to say about it.

Next was Sam (it’s Julep, and part of June’s Maven box, so we’ll talk about that later).  It reminded me of a highlighter, and it was more green than it was yellow.  I like it, but I didn’t love it, and I might wear it again.  It’s described as limeade, which is fairly accurate, but on the website, it did look more yellow, so I was surprised that it was more green with some yellow.  What I also thought was interesting was that depending on the light, it sometimes looked more yellow, and sometimes it looked more green.

I also wore Farrah, which I wasn’t sure about at first, but I actually ended up liking it a lot.  It is pretty muted, which I have a tendency to not do with my nails as far color goes.  It’s more grey/stone-colored than lilac, and it goes on very sheer.  It took me three coats to get the color you see in the picture, but two would work if you wanted more coverage.  One would work if you just need a little bit of color or if you need something neutral.  I think, if you work in a place where something like Sam wouldn’t go over well, Farrah actually would work.  I was surprised that it was probably Wednesday before it chipped a little (Thursday the chipping was much more noticeable), considering I had a couple layers of base coat, three of Farrah and a top coat, and overall, it also a pretty forgiving color so if you mess up, it’s not obvious.  It doesn’t look great with pale skin, but again, if you need something neutral/muted, this is a good choice.

And lastly, I wore Hazel (not surprisingly, it’s by Julep).  So, it’s supposed to be a bronze/violet duochrome, but unfortunately, the bronze didn’t show up when I actually put it on.  You could see a little bit of it in the bottle.  It looked pretty, and I really felt like that this week, so that’s what I went with.  I can’t stop looking at it, and I’m glad I wore it because I want to wear it again!  It kind of reminds me of that gold leaf stuff but in purple.  And it’s shiny, which can be really distracting but I don’t care, because I love it!

Maven- June 2015

As for the Maven box, I got Sam, which I already talked about.  I also got Isabela and Jacqueline.  Sam is the only one that was in my usual It Girl box, but I wasn’t into the other two colors, which worked out well, because I really liked Isabela and Jacqueline.  I hope they’re as pretty as they look.

July’s box should be interesting since I opted to get the mystery box they had!  I’m a little nervous about it, but it was either than, or opt out since I wasn’t too into the colors (or the beauty products they had for the month).  I also got a couple of add-ons, which is rare, but I really need a base coat, and one of the colors looked pretty, so I figured I’d go for it, especially since I had some Jules that I could use.  I like their version of a rewards system, and once or twice, I’ve had enough to get a free box or two…not lately, of course, but maybe I’ll get to the point again someday.  I really can’t wait to see what I end up getting!

Happy July!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

This is a fun one!  I’ve definitely read some great books this year, and if the books I read in the second half of the year are as good as some of the ones I’ve read so far, it’s going to be really hard to  pick just 10 for a favorite books of the year post.  These are my favorites so far.

TTT Favorite Books Collage 2015.1

  1. Ash by Melinda Lo.  Of the books I’ve read by her, this is one my favorite, and it’s such an awesome take on Cinderella.
  2. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie.  I am so looking forward to reading her other books after reading this one. She can tell a story!
  3. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.  I loved the magic and Sunny is such a great character.

TTT Favorite Books Collage 2015.2

  1. Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.  Amal is someone I’d definitely want to be friends with, and I wanted to come to her defense so much.
  2. Prudence by Gail Carriger.  Her books are always so much to read, and Prudence was no exception!
  3. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.  I liked it so much better than Code Name Verity, and it’s such a heart-breaking story.

TTT Favorite Books Collage 2015.3

  1. Throne Of Glass by Sarah J Maas.  I can’t believe it took me so long to read this one!  And I’ve heard such good things about A Court Of Thorns And Roses that I’m going to have keep reading, and soon!
  2. Breaker by Emma Raveling.  This is such a heart-breaking but good end to one of my favorite series.  I’m really sad this series is over,  but also glad I read the book.
  3. The Truth About Air & Water by Katherine Owen.  Tally and Lincoln’s story is far from over, and I really need another book to see how things turn out for them.
  4. Prisoner Of Night And Fog by Anne Blankman.  I feel like this one is different than a lot of other WWII books out there, in that it actually takes place before WWII, and it’s about someone who’s family was in Hitler’s inner circle.

Audio Book Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Shadow Study CoverBook: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder, Narrated by Gabra Zackman

Published February 2015 by Harlequin|11 hours, 28 minutes

Where I Got It: I got the audio book from audible.com

Series: Soulfinders #1, Chronicles Of Ixia #7, Study #4

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.

Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.

As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked Shadow Study!  When I found out there was going to be another book set in this world, I was so excited because I really like this world and the characters.

It was really nice to see what was going on with Yelena and Valek, which, of course, means we got to see what was going on with Ari and Janco.  We even got to see how Opal (who appeared in the Study series, and later had her own series) was doing, which was nice.

What really stood out to me was Valek’s story.  The book alternates between Yelena and Valek, with a few chapters narrated by Janco.  Janco’s chapters were fun, and it was nice to get inside his head a little.  And it was nice to spend more time with Yelena, who has to deal with all sorts of stuff, mostly in regards to having her magic blocked.  We’ll get to that later, I just want to talk about Valek first.

But it was Valek’s story that really stood out.  He’s a very feared assassin, and I’m glad we finally got to see a more detailed life story for him.  We see more about his assassin training, and I liked seeing his memories, and how it all started coming back to him in a time when there were a lot of things going on.  I love Yelena, but I found myself wanting to get to Valek’s story, because I could not get enough of it!  Especially with some stuff going on with the Commander.

Speaking of the Commander, I did like seeing how he and Valek met, and became friends.  And with certain things that are revealed…you know that’s going somewhere interesting, and will have a massive effect on Sitia and Ixia.  (At least, that’s what I think, if things go in a certain direction).

I am also curious about Yelena’s magic, and the fact that it’s blocked.  I have no idea what could be causing it, and it is quite curious.  I did like seeing how vulnerable it made her, and how she was so dependent on using that not having it was hard.  I really have no idea what’s going on, but in this case, I think it’s a good thing, because it really makes me want to know what happens next.  I know this is vague- which is because I don’t want to spoil it- but I wonder if a certain thing we learn at the very end of the book is connected somehow.  It’s a weird feeling/thought I had, and I am very, very curious about how that will change things.

We also meet some new characters, but the one that stood out the most was Onora.  There is a lot more to her than we see, and I really want to her story…and if she and Janco will end up together.  Actually, I think I would like that, because they seem good together.  I think they would be good together, like how Yelena and Valek are good together.

And I have to talk about the narration, because it would be silly not to, especially since I listened to the audio book.  I’m really glad that Gabra Zackman is narrating this series.  Well, I’m assuming she is, but there doesn’t seem to be any information about the other books yet, but changing narrators after 4 books would be weird. Anyway, I really like her narration, and I can’t picture anyone else as Yelena.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  Shadow Study makes me so glad that we’re getting another book about Yelena and Valek, and it’s so nice to see more of them!

Book Review: Unraveled by Gennifer Albin

Unraveled CoverBook: Unraveled by Gennifer Albin

Published October 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux|209 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Crewel World #3

Genre: YA Dystopic/Fantasy/Sci-FiBlog Graphic-What It's AboutAutonomous. Independent. Dangerous. They tried to control her. Now she’ll destroy them.

Things have changed behind the walls of the Coventry and new threats lurk in its twisted corridors. When Adelice returns to Arras, she quickly learns that something rotten has taken hold of the world and Cormac Patton needs her to help him reestablish order. However, peace comes at a terrible price. As the Guild manipulates the citizens of Arras, Adelice discovers that she’s not alone, and she must let go of her past to fight for mankind’s future. She will have to choose between an unimaginable alliance and a deadly war that could destroy everyone she loves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked Crewel, but as the series has gone on, I’ve liked it less and less.  I’m not really sure how I feel about Unraveled- I’m definitely all over the place when it comes to this book!

I really was expecting more of a showdown between Cormac and Adelice, and the previous two books really made it seem liked the ending was going to be something big and action-packed, and I feel like we didn’t get that.  I also felt like the ending was rushed, and while it’s ambiguous/open-ended, I still feel pretty confident in how things will turn out for a couple of the characters. I also wish we saw more of what life was like after the people in Arras made their way to earth.

It’s also pretty slow-paced, and nothing really happens until you get to maybe the last quarter of the book. Maybe that’s why I felt slightly disappointed with how things ended.  I wanted to see Adelice fully use her abilities (old and new) and I felt like we didn’t really get enough of that in the book.  She seemed different somehow- I know she wanted to protect her sister, and who knows what happened while she was gone (months in Earth time, years in Arras time), and now that I think about it, part of me wishes we got to see part of that.

Still, I just love the idea of weaving too much to hate the book.  Part of me is glad I read this one, just because I wanted to know how it all ended, but there is part of me that maybe thinks the concept worked really well in the first & second book, but not so much in this one.  Something about this one didn’t feel as convincing as the previous two, and I kind of lost interest, which makes me sad, because I really wanted to like it so much more than I did.

Things are resolved enough, but not as much as I wanted- it felt like things were introduced, only to be never heard about again, and it makes me wish that the book were longer (or that there was another book in the series, maybe more books would have helped).

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  Unaltered was okay, and sadly, it wasn’t the ending I was expecting.  Which is unfortunate, because I really love the premise of the series as a whole.  I wish I had more to say about Unaltered, but I really don’t.

Book Review: In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out CoverBook: In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-The-Counter Look At At The Fast Food Chain That Breaks All The Rules by Stacy Perman

Published April 2009 by Harper Business|345 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Business/FoodBlog Graphic-What It's AboutThe untold story of the renegade burger chain that evokes a passionate following unlike any other.

In fast-food corporate America, In-N-Out Burger stands apart. Begun in a tiny shack in the shadow of World War II, this family-owned chain has stead­fastly refused to franchise or be sold. It is a testament to old-fashioned values and rem­iniscent of a simpler time when people, loyalty, and a freshly made, juicy hamburger meant something. Over time, In-N-Out Burger has become nothing less than a cultural institu­tion that can lay claim to an insanely loyal following.

Perman uses her investigative skills to uncover the story of a real American success story. It is not only a tale of a unique and profitable business that exceeds all expectations, but of a family’s struggle to maintain a sustainable pop empire against the industry it helped pioneer, internal tensions, and a bitter lawsuit that threatened to bring the company to the brink.

This is a lesson in a counterintuitive approach to doing business that places quality, customers, and employees over the riches promised by rapid expansion. In-N-Out Burger is a keenly observed narrative that explores the evolution of a California fad that transformed into an enduring cult of popularity; it is also the story of the conflicted, secretive, and ultimately tragic Snyder family who cooked a billion burgers and hooked a zillion fans. As the story of In-N-Out Burger unfolds, so too does the cultural history of America as influenced and shaped by car culture and fast food.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

As a Southern Californian, I’m super-familiar with In-N-Out but not the story behind the company or the family that owns/founded In-N-Out, so when I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to read it!

Parts of the book were completely fascinating, but overall, it was just okay for me.

I think it’s important to note that Perman was unable to talk to In-N-Out, but she did interview a lot of other people, as well as look at Census Bureau records.  Unfortunately, I’ve returned the copy back to the library, so I couldn’t tell you all of the work she put into researching, but what I’ve mentioned is all I can remember as far as that goes.  Still, she had plenty of material to work with, but it would have been really interesting if she could have interviewed the family.

It is a really interesting look at the coupe who started In-N-Out, and it’s as about them and how the company because the company we know today as it is about the fast food industry.  What really stood out was how important the quality of ingredients were, and how Snyder had a really good relationship spanning decades with the vendors.  What also stands out is how important good customer service was, how important good wages and promoting from within are, and how important it is to do something really well.  And that staying small is really important too.

I didn’t know that they were such good friends with the Karchers, the family that founded Carl’s Jr., but it was interesting that they saw each other as colleagues and friends, not competitors.

It is more business-y than I was expecting, and that made it a little bit hard to get through at times, especially when Perman was talking about the trusts put in place to make sure that it stays in the family.  I also think that it’s a book a lot of people might find interesting to some degree (even people who have never been to In-N-Out) but I think it’s devoted legions of fans will find it super-interesting.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  While there were a few interesting things in the book, it was more business-y than I thought it would be, and the book did get bogged down in that.

Book Review: Help For The Haunted by John Searles

Help For The Haunted CoverBook: Help For The Haunted by John Searles

Published July 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks|362 paperbacks

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction- Horror/Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

What It’s About: 

John Searles’s Help for the Haunted is an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and ultimately, a daughter’s discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery.

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving’s beloved novels, Help for the Haunted is that rare story that brings to life a richly imagined and wholly original world.

What I Thought:

I was really intrigued by Help For The Haunted, but it wasn’t what I expected.  It was okay for me, and it definitely had its creepy moments, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

I think the biggest problem is that even after a couple days after finishing the book, I couldn’t remember much about it.  Other than her sister being sent away to a school to “help” troubled kids (read: her sister was sent away because she’s lesbian) and her dad wanting to keep doing his work even though her mom didn’t want to, not much stands out.  Her sister also doesn’t really seem to care about Sylvie at all, and I can’t help but think that Sylvie would be better off without her.

I vaguely remember the ending, which was boring and didn’t quite fit with the rest of the book.  It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and while I don’t know what would make for a better ending, I also didn’t care for it, because it seemed so random and out of place.

The book also jumps between past and present and quite frequently, I found myself confused about what was past and was present.  I also wish we saw more of the actual help for the haunted, instead of the aftermath of everything that happened.  I mean, you do sort of see it, but not really.

My Rating: 

2 stars.  It didn’t really capture my attention, and I thought I’d be getting a very different story than what’s described in the summary.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite TTT Topics

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Blog Graphic- Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Favorite Top Ten Tuesday Topics From The Last Few Years

In honor of Top Ten Tuesday’s 5-year anniversary, we’re talking about our favorite topics from the last few years.  It’s been so much fun participating every week, and I get to think about books in a different way because of it.  It’s also fun to see what everyone else comes up with, and it’s made my TBR pile so much bigger! 3 years, and 164 top ten lists later, these are my favorite Top Ten Tuesday posts I’ve done.

  1. Top Ten Random Bookish Thoughts, written May 2015.  This one was a freebie post, and it was fun to list some of the random bookish thoughts I’ve had.
  2. Top Ten Books For People Who Like The Iron Fey, Part One (written July 2012) and Part Two (written March 2015).  Part One is my most popular post ever, and that inspired part two several years later.
  3. I love this post about my ten favorite bookish memories, originally written back in February 2013.  It was fun to talk about some of my favorite memories when it comes to books.
  4. Ten Songs That Make Me Think Of Books was a freebie post (where we get to pick our own topic) that I wrote back in May 2014.  I love listening to music when I read, and some songs make me think of books so much that I had to do a post about it.
  5. Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit, written in October 2014.  Books make me want to travel, which is good since I can’t afford to right now (having enough time off is also important, so there’s no way traveling is going to happen any time soon).
  6. So, there’s my favorite books from the last 3 years (written March 2015), my top  ten all-time favorite authors (written April 2014), and my top ten favorite books before I was a blogger (written April 2013). These 3 posts are grouped together because I feel like it shows how much my taste in books have changed since I started book blogging, and how that will continue to change in the years to come.
  7. Also, some of my favorite blogs that aren’t book related.  That list has changed quite a bit since I originally wrote it back in May 2012, but it was still fun to write.  Maybe I should do a more updated list.
  8. Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Being A Reader And A Book Blogger, written in February of 2014, probably has changed since then, but my life has changed a lot since I started book blogging.
  9. Top Ten Book Covers I Want As Art, originally written in May 2014.  I don’t pay a lot of attention to covers, but sometimes, you can’t help but want some covers hanging up on the wall as art.
  10. Top Ten Gateway Books & Authors On My Reading Journey, originally written in April 2014.  Some authors and books have been pivotal in my reading life, and that would not be the same if it weren’t for these books and authors.

And of course, some honorable mentions: the seasonal TBR posts (I’m mood reader and almost never follow through on them, but it’s still fun to write), the beginning/end of year stuff (it’s fun to look back and ahead), ten childhood favorites I’d want to revisit (I totally want to go back and read some the books of my childhood/teen years but it’s also scary because what if they don’t live up to how I remember them) and the characters I’d love to have at my lunch table.

Book Review: Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash CoverBook: Ash by Malinda Lo

Published September 2009 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|264 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: none

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

What It’s About: 

Cinderella retold

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

What I Thought:

I really liked Ash!  This is the third book I’ve read by Lo, and it’s my favorite of the 3 I’ve read.  It makes me want to read Huntress (a book, also by Lo, set in the same world as this one) even more…and I kind of wish I had read Ash before Huntress, but at least there’s re-reading, right?

Anyway, I love this re-telling of Cinderella, and there was something about the overall story that reminded me of the remake of Cinderella that came out a few months ago.  There are some differences of course- the main one being the romance, which is much more obvious in the movie.  For me, I got the sense that the relationship between Ash and Kaisa was just beginning, and it’s more towards the subtle side and I loved that in this world, no one cared, which I think is so awesome.  Ash is much more than a lesbian re-telling of Cinderella- it’s a very vivid and rich fantasy world.

It makes me wish there were another book set in this world, that’s how much I like it.  I liked Ash as a character and Sidhean was an interesting and unexpected take on the Fairy Godmother.  I liked it, though, and it fit in with this world so well.  I also liked Gwen, a servant, and she was so nice to Ash.  I feel like she and Ash would be good friends.  And I was surprised by Clara, one of Ash’s step-sisters, who seemed like she was the kinder of the two sisters.  At the very least, I think she has it in her, unlike her mother or sister.

My Rating: 

4 stars.  I liked Ash so much!  It’s one of my favorite fairy tale re-tellings, and it makes me want to read more about the original Cinderella story and how it’s different in different areas of the world.  It’s such a great re-telling of Cinderella, and I recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: Charm And Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm & Strange CoverBook: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Published June 2013 by St Martin’s Griffin|216 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars…

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. 

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable. 

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. 

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

What I Thought:

I’ve heard some really good things about Charm & Strange, but I had a hard time getting into it.  It was definitely frustrating to read, and it was confusing, and Win/Drew is definitely unreliable as a narrator, which is actually one of the things I liked about the book.

Since Win/Drew is so unreliable, you’re not sure what to believe or what’s going on, and that’s always interesting to me, but this was a case where my own confusion overshadowed everything else.  Win/Drew had to deal with some horrible things, most of which weren’t said outright, so you have to come to your own conclusions about what happened…and even then, you’re not completely sure if what you think happened was actually what happened.  At least, I have my ideas on what happened, but only in the vaguest sense, s if you’re looking for specifics, you’re out of luck.  And this is definitely one of those books where everything makes more sense by the end of the book.  Which is fine, but it’s not something I’m a big fan of in general.

I did like seeing what happened in Win/Drew’s past, but the mystery surrounding it made it hard for me to empathize with him.  It is an interesting way to deal with something so tough, and I don’t blame Win/Drew for trying (unsuccessfully) to move on.  It just didn’t work for me.  It was definitely drawn out and becomes obvious, and there’s something about it that makes me think of Liar, which I read and thought was okay.

I think I would have preferred that the issues be faced head on, instead of shrouded in mystery, because not knowing didn’t work in the vague way that the story was told.

My Rating:

2 stars.  Mostly because it’s an okay story, but also because I really can’t work up any energy to actually care.