Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Haul, or the One with Early Holiday Gifts (to Myself)


No vlog this week, since I ate enough pie to feed the entire population of Southern California and cannot find the energy. But I got quite a few books this week, both for myself and from lovely blogger friends.


Books received:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Naturals by Jennifer Lyn Barnes
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
World After by Susan Ee
Blackout by Robinson Wells (thanks, Molli!)
A signed Shadowlands by Kate Brian (thanks, Lili!)

GINGER PICS! Plus a picture of the glorious apple pie I made.








Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, or the One With the Turkey on Monica's Head


Happy Thanksgiving, lovely, wonderful internet people! Even though a lot of you aren't American, I still include you in my Thanksgivaganza because I'm thankful for you, and you deserve happiness and pie, which if you think about it kind of is happiness, really.

I hope you get to spend today with someone you love, or that you get to eat something you love (I almost wrote that as "eat someone you love"--that you probably shouldn't do). Me? I'll be having a delicious Thanksgiving meal with my dad (we're going out to eat at a FANCEE PLACE--super nice not to have to cook this year, as it's just the two of us). But oh, will there be food. There will be so much food. Luckily I, like Joey Tribbiani, take Thanksgiving eatery real serious and always come prepared.



Then we'll come home and eat the homemade apple pie with creme fraiche ice cream I made. I will give deep and devout thanks that the Pilgrims and the Indians managed to make nice for at least a whole meal so that the apple pie could come into creation.

Then I will binge watch all the Thanksgiving Friends episodes, because you've got to have a tradition, right?



Because TBS loves me, they're running a marathon today of all the Turkey Day episodes, starting at 10 am! Don't miss it! :)

So happy Thanksgiving, awesome nerds! I'll be back either tomorrow with a review or Saturday with a book haul, depending on how deep my tryptophan coma is. Personally, I intend to eat so much that I swell up like an Aunt Marge Macy's Day Parade float.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!




Monday, November 25, 2013

Top Ten Bookish Things I'm Thankful For


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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. My bloggy friends
More than anything, I'm thankful for my blogging friends. I'm not even going to list all of you, because I'll forget someone/don't want to rank you accidentally/there are so many! But I mean YOU, if you're reading this. YOU, YOU, YOU. YOU ARE THE BEST. I'm so thankful to have made so many friends through blogging with whom I get to fangirl on Twitter (and who let me fangirl and don't run away screaming. "Oh, God, Gillian's screaming about book boyfriends and puns in all caps again. Just... back away slowly. Maybe we can subdue her with chocolate"). I'm thankful to have gotten to meet some of you in person, and I'm even more thankful that I get to meet more of you next year! WHAT HAVOC WE WILL WREAK.

2. Authors
Obviously, there would be no books without authors. So I'm thankful to all the talented people who write the characters and stories we love. But mostly, I'm thankful to the awesome authors who interact with their fans through Twitter and Tumblr and the like. I'm thankful to authors who make us all feel like one big community, and who remain friendly and accessible and awesome.

3. BEA
BOOK EXPO AMERICA. It was maybe the greatest experience I've ever had, no exaggeration. I'm so thankful that it exists, that I got to go, and that I get to go next year. NYC, get ready for me! Me and my two suitcases are coming for you!

4. J.K. Rowling
FOR ALL THE THINGS. For showing me and so many others what magic was, what fandom was, for making us readers at a young age, an old age, and any age, for creating a world we could all escape to whenever we wanted.


5. Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce's books sparked my love of fantasy and feminist lit (and for writing the first romances I ever swooned hardcore over). You keep writing kick-butt ladies and kick-butt kissing scenes, Tammy.

6. Jane Austen
I would literally have no middle name without her (my middle name is Elizabeth after Lizzy Bennet. Hollaaaa). Okay, I would, but it would be something far less awesome. Her words and her books occupy a huge portion of my heart and helped shape me as a reader.

7. The blogosphere
YOU GUYS. You guys make everything about this worthwhile. What could be a stressful, time-consuming, exhausting experience is made wonderful and enriching because of all the wonderful bookish people in it. I'm thankful for all of you!

8. The inventor of gifs
I'm a little mad at you for insisting it's pronounced "jiff" (No.), but seriously, there would be no way at all to express my bookish feels without your blessed creation. The entire internet thanks you.

You're still wrong about how it's pronounced, though.

9. Publishers, publicists, agents, editors, book designers, assistants, copy editors, marketing people, etc.
Basically, anybody at all who contributes to the production and distribution of books, who so generously give out books to bloggers and treat them so wonderfully and create the things we love. I'm thankful for you and your hard work!

10. My UPS man
For continuing to bring me book packages that weigh as much as well-fed children.

11. The barista at the Starbucks I go to to read and write reviews
For not even flinching that one time I asked him to add two shots of espresso to my Venti dark roast (it was that kind of a day). (I am not thankful for your co-barista, whose eyes widened in alarm. I am so sure I'm not the first person to ever do that.)



12. Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins, and Jennifer Lawrence
Thanks for showing that women and women-led, women-starring media can dominate pop culture and be seen as legitimate. Also, for making the braid I force my hair into on days it won't cooperate cool.

"Oooh, cute Katniss braid!"
"Thanks, I haven't washed my hair in three days!"

 

Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel


Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
Goodreads 
Release date: November 5th, 2013
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: #a in the Palace of Spies series
Source: ARC
Rating: History comes alive in a charming and fun mystery led by a hilarious heroine.

17165966

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...

History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.



Palace of Spies is a surprisingly fun romp through history, and most of that is due to our fearless heroine, the hilarious and spunky and delightfully feminist Peggy. I laughed out loud many a time, because she's just a treasure, honestly.

"Mother already harangues me for overmuch reading. 'A book won't teach you how to produce good sons, Olivia.'"
"That just shows she hasn't read the right books."

It should be more widely publicized that the nimble-fingered creators of lady's attire are raised entirely by she-wolves.

Palace of Spies, originally titled A Most Dangerous Deception, is set during the reign of George I of England. Confession time: British history is my jam. My lady jam. I read all the Horrible Histories I could get my nerdy little hands on as a kid (READ THEM. Know them. Love them) (I especially loved The Gorgeous Georgians, which is about this period on history). I geek out over anything that has to do with a bunch of stuffy, bewigged royals embroiled in PLOTS and SHENANIGANS and the like. It is my thing. If it is not your thing, Palace of Spies just might be the book to make it your thing. Or it will continue not to be your thing, and that will be very sad for you, because it is the best thing.

I really wish they'd kept the original cover and title.

Anyway. The plot requires some serious dispension of disbelief: Peggy, and orphan raised by her wealthy aunt and uncle, gets cast out of her home and somehow gets entangled in a far-fetched plot: she will replace the deceased Lady Francesca Wallingham as lady-in-waiting to Princess Caroline, wife of the Crown Prince, aka George I's son. The catch? She has to pretend to be Lady Francesca! And, yes, it's quite ridiculous that people who knew Francesca ever believe for a moment that this girl who is NOT Francesca, just resembles her, is Francesca, but once you sort of get past that, this book becomes a delight. As Jessie from Ageless Pages Reviews said, "It's like historical Miss Congeniality." Lady Francesca might have been murdered, and she was definitely up to something. And undercover Peggy is going to find out!

 

AND NOW A LESSON FROM ME:



British history is my thing, so I wasn't confused about the historical backdrop of this story, though from what I've read of other reviews, some people are. I actually thought the information was conveyed rather well, though you have to wait a little while for all the pieces to come together. When Queen Anne, last of the Stuarts, died, the crown passed to George of Hanover, the nearest Protestant relation and a large, pasty German man (for reasons, the ruler of England must be Protestant). James Stuart, another family member, got ANGRY and said HE SHOULD BE KING even though he was Catholic and ineligible. But at least I'm not German! was James' logic.

Anyway, Peggy comes into a court that's alive with deceptions and Jacobean (TEAM STUART!!!) plots trying to dethrone the Hanoverians (TEAM GERMANS!!!). Peggy just stepped into a hot mess, basically. She'll lose her life if her deception is uncovered, and she'll lose her life if she doesn't (or if she does!) figure out was Francesca was up to. Plus she's got to be a perfect lady-in-waiting, which means she has to stand all day in corsets, and that's just the worst. Plus, Francasca had a paramour who also seems to be involved in things. Plus there's a handsome artist Peggy feels a connection to who also might know THINGS. Plus Sophy Howe, one of the other ladies, has it out for her. Plus Princess Caroline might know more than she's letting on.

It's a fun, charming ride full of mystery and surprise reveals. Peggy is one of my favorite heroines. The girl is amazing--so witty, so funny and with the best attitude about everything. Only one in a million could do the things she does, but I totally buy it. I'm very excited for the sequel, because for me, this type of book is just what the doctor ordered. If you want your history served with a side of hilarity, give Palace of Spies a shot. It truly brought history to life, and even better, it was just a great read.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Haul, or the One With the Pretty Cover


No vlog this week, as I only got one book, but it's a good one! Also, I'm seeing CATCHING FIYAHHHH today, and my excitement knows no bounds. I think I'll probably start crying during the previews just thinking about the fact that the movie will start at some point. I'm a marshmallow.



Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

Science fiction! False virtual realities! Corporations GONE BAD! Mysteriessss! I read the first couple chapters, and this seems totally intriguing. Plus, I LOVE the colors on the cover. Such pretty. Very wow.

Some Ginger pictures for science.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Baking the Books: Defiance by C.J. Redwine




 Welcome to Baking the Books, where I bake things inspired by my favorite novels! Since I do a lot of reading and a lot of baking, it was only a matter of time before the two things overlapped. It's just part of my evil plot to get books involved in every single aspect of my life.

Previously on Baking the Books: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

I've been wanting to bake Defiance by C.J. Redwine for quite some time, because there's a dessert of such importance in it: sticky buns! *fights away the tears* Oliver, Rachel's honorary uncle, makes her sticky buns all the time just to show he cares. The reason I didn't write this post earlier was because I'd never made sticky buns before. I was intimidated! Until I found out that there are easy ways to make them. So these sticky buns are no-knead, no nonsense buns full of sticky sweet deliciousness.  I DEFY you not to like these sticky buns! *dies of own cleverness*



Now, I left off the pecans because a) I didn't have any and b) I prefer my buns without. But I'm sure it's ridiculously tasty with some caramelized pecans on top.



Ingredients:

Dough:

6 3/4 cups or 7 3/4 cups flour* (see below)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
4 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1.2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (butter tastes better)

Glaze:

1 cup brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (optional)

Filling: 

1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

*Basically, this recipe is all about ratios, so the volume of flower is super important. If you measure flour like I do, by dipping your measuring cup into the flour canister, then sweeping of the excess, use 6 3/4 cups. If you sprinkle your flour into the measuring cup, then lightly sweep off the excess, use 7 3/4 cups.

Assemblage:

Combine all the dough ingredients, in the order written (6 3/4 cups or 7 3/4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast, 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water, 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil), into the biggest bowl you have. The bigger, the better! Stir to make a sticky, sticky dough.

 

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 2 hours at cool room temperature. Go read a book or something. Go read Defiance! So you can cry your way through eating these sticky buns when they're done!

 

After the dough is all risen and puffy, refrigerate it for at least in hour, preferable several. It makes the dough less sticky and more firm, so you can work with it. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Related: Harry Potter Pumpkin Pasties

When you're ready to make the sticky buns, make the glaze. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 stick butter, and 1/4 cup honey. Bring it to just a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Make sure everything is dissolved together. Pour the glaze into a prepared pan. Very important. Butter or grease or spray your pan!! You can use a round nine inch pan, like I did, or a rectangular nine by thirteen.

 

To make the topping, mix 1/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

One a flour dusted surface, roll 1/3 of your dough--the rest can be kept in the fridge to make a second or third batch, or can be frozen (directions later)--into a rectangle, roughly 15" by 10". Genrously sprinkle the filling on top. Starting with the long end, roll the dough into a loose-ish log. Cut the log into eight pieces.**

 

***THIS is the point at which you can freeze the dough. You'll want to freeze it only after you've rolled it out, sprinkled the filling, and rolled it back up. Wrap tightly and store for up to two months.

Space the buns in the pan, and lightly press them down.

 

Cover the buns and let them rise until they're really puffy, about an hour. Go read some more of Defiance. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the pan and bake the buns for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until they're golden. Watch your oven, as each one is different.



Remove the pan. Turn it over onto a prepared surface--either a cutting board or platter lined with parchment paper or tinfoil, or a rack set over a piece of parchment or tinfoil. This is going to be messy and sticky.

 


DIG IN! They're really good right out of the oven, though they might burn your face off. But who needs your face when there are sticky buns in the house??


ENJOY!! If you've got any suggestions for which books you'd like me to bake next, please let me know in the comments!