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2015 in review

We can’t believe we’ve been blogging for two years. We never thought we’d stick with it for six months, much less four times that. Though we took a hiatus earlier this summer to focus on our lives, this is still a huge part of who we are and what we love to do. Thank you for supporting us! If you have a WordPress blog, we encourage you to check out your own year in review.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 12/15

Tuesday

Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015

Narrowing down 110 books to just 10?! This was probably the most difficult TTT of the year. These aren’t necessarily in order—but these are the ten that were the most memorable to me.

  1. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
  2. Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
  3. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  4. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  5. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner 
  6. Angelfall by Susan Ee
  7. Soul Eaters by Eliza Crewe
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  9. Radiance by Grace Draven
  10. The Winter King by CL Wilson

L

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

TGUA canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it. – Goodreads

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that I love Gillian Flynn. LOVE her. She can do no wrong in my eyes! Until now.

First off, when this book showed up on my doorstep & I opened it, I felt SO jipped! I guess it’s my fault for not reading the fine print & actually seeing how many pages the book actually is… but seriously. This book is TINY and is only 62ish pages long. If I put my entire hand over the front of the book, it would be almost completely covered, that’s how small it is. If it were normal-sized, I’m betting it would be maybe 20 pages long. If that! Maybe this photo will help…

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Anyway! The size and length of the book itself was not even the most disappointing thing that happened. The story… it just wasn’t good. It wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from Flynn. I finished it in less than an hour and it was very, very underwhelming. I get that it’s a short story, so there’s only so much character building that can be done but it just felt like she wrote it in an hour and sent it off and was done with it. I wasn’t pulled in by the story like I usually am, I honestly just wanted to get to the end and see what twists she came up with… but there weren’t any. It was more confusing than anything. I finished reading and just sat there, not in awe but in disappointment and utter confusion about what I just wasted an hour reading.

I ended up rating The Grownup 2/5 stars on Goodreads and it honestly makes me weary of anything else she has coming out – according to Goodreads though, there isn’t anything… and maybe that’s for the best.

K

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Top Ten Tuesday: 12/8

Tuesday

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

  1. Susan Ee | I read Ee’s Angelfall series for the first time this year (and my first encounter with her work) and fell in love.
  2. Grace Draven | I picked up Radiance on Amazon and fell in love from there. I need to read more of Draven’s work!
  3. Alexandra Bracken | I read the Darkest Minds series (and then Passenger). Another author that I need to read more of, as she hasn’t disappointed me yet.
  4. Eliza Crewe | So sassy, so spunky, so different than what I’m used to reading. Highly recommend,
  5. Michelle Moran | Moran definitely rekindled my love of historical fiction this year, which I appreciate! Her ancient Egypt novels had me reading for hours at a time and unable to put them down.
  6. Stephanie Thornton | Another historical fiction author that I need to read more of. I loved her Tiger Queens book and I have the rest of her work on my TBR list.
  7. Rick Yancey | I still have nightmares (legit ones) about the different waves and aliens coming for us.
  8. Laini Taylor | Gaaaah. Such beautiful writing.
  9. Renee Ahdieh | Please, please come out with more books. Please.
  10. Sabaa Tahir | And you, too. More. Please.

L

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Princesses Don’t Get Fat by Aya Ling

17210059A fairy tale romance with a plus sized heroine and plenty of dessert.

Princess Valeria of Amaranta is fat, but she doesn’t care. All she wants is to eat a lot and lead an idle life. When it is apparent that she cannot get a husband, her mother decides to send her to the Royal Riviera Academy of Fighting Arts. For a chubby princess who has never picked up a sword, life at the Academy is akin to torture. Worst of all, the food is terrible.

When Valeria decides to improve Riviera cuisine by sneaking into the palace kitchens and giving orders, little does she know that the crown prince would take interest in her kitchen excursions. As they spend more time together, Valeria must decide whether she should become thin and attractive, or stay in the kitchens and remain fat. – Goodreads

I recently read The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling and loved it—so I thought, hell, I’m going to give one of her earlier stories a shot.

Spoiler alert: I was disappointed (though not entirely).

I was very confused about my feelings regarding this book for the entirety of it’s short read (136 pages). I would literally go from being like, this isn’t so bad to god damn it, this is pissing me off.

The worldbuilding was fun—I could picture the palace and the land, as well as the warrior princesses and Academy.

I liked the MC well enough—she was confident in herself and didn’t give a sh*t about what the others thought about her weight. She couldn’t care less about her marriageability—especially if it meant sacrificing a cupcake.

But there was my biggest problem with the story: fat shaming and stereotyping. Oh, and absurdly descriptive passages about food. I think 70 pages of this mini-book were about food.

Back to the fat shaming and stereotyping.

When Valeria loses some weight:

“She was still plump, but no longer the small elephant that frightened away her suitors in the archery contest.”

Whenever she walks:

“Valeria waddled back to the trail,”

Every other page:

“Years of dessert-eating had made her sense of smell particularly acute, and she knew well when a dessert was ready.”

I stopped clipping on my Kindle after a while because I knew I would have too many. For one, we got the point after the first few pages that she was bigger than other girls. The entire book is constantly commenting on how fat and “fleshy” she is. Nevermind that she is a badass in the kitchen—it’s simply attributed to the fact that she’s always eating and of course she should be good in the kitchen.

Why can’t we have an overweight MC that doesn’t “waddle” and focus on how lazy she is? Maybe the story could, I don’t know, focus on her badass qualities and not make the fat thing the focal point? Just a thought.

Torn because I really hated the story but still love Aya Ling’s work. So, 2/5 for me—but I will definitely be reading more of Ling’s work.

L

Thursday Things 11/12

Thursday

Look! My Harry Potter tattoo was featured on Mel Reads Comics last week. My leg is famous. 🙂

I haven’t been quiet about my distaste for all things Twilight, but I saw this post about Stephenie Meyer’s picks for a Life and Death movie… and I kind of like it?! I love Emma Stone & I’d watch anything with her in it.

Personally, I feel like all of the drama over the Starbucks red cup is stupid, and Buzzfeed perfectly summarizes my feelings with this post. Seriously people – plain red “ombre” cups does not equal a war on Christmas!!

Disney princesses + Hogwarts!!!! It’s like someone went into my head and published my dreams on paper (or the internet, same difference). Ursula as Umbridge is GENIUS.

I actually already received The Grownup from this list, and Leah Remini’s book Troublemaker as well as Shonda’s Year of Yes were on my TBR list already, but Khloe Kardashian wrote a book and Richelle Mead’s new one sounds good too so I guess my TBR list will never end. Also, did anyone else have no idea that Mariah Carey came out with a book?! No? Just me? Oh well. #bookbloggerfail

TBR

ALL OF THE YES TO THIS POST!!! You should NEVER EVER feel bad or embarrassed about what you’re reading.

K

Okay… so I’ve taken over Top Ten Tuesday (because I love it) and Kiesha has taken over Thursday Things (because she loves it)…but I’m butting here and sharing these super cute book page pumpkin DIYs for Thanksgiving!

L

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Baking by the editors of Food52

A stunning collection of hassle-free recipes for baking cakes, cookies, tarts, puddings, muffins, bread, and more, from the editors behind the leading food website Food52.

This next book in the Food52 Works series features 60 baking recipes that won’t leave you with an entire kitchen covered in flour or every bowl–dirty–in the sink. Tempting, foolproof recipes like Brown Butter Cupcake Brownies, Peach Tart, and Black Pepper Popovers are approachable enough to turn to on weekday evenings (when there is little time or patience to fuss over buttercream or pie dough), don’t call for special equipment or obscure imported ingredients, and certainly aren’t run-of-the-mill. Exquisitely photographed and with ample variations and “baking confidence” tips, this is the new go-to collection for anyone who wants to incorporate something sweet into their every day. – Goodreads

First things first — if you haven’t checked out Food52’s website, you totally should. I’ve made several of their recipes before, so I was delighted to see their new Baking cookbook as an option for my next review on Blogging for Books (not as excited as my husband, though).

After flipping through the book and oohing-and-ahhing over the pages and pages of food porn, I finally decided to try one of the simplest recipes in the book (and one that made me very skeptical): cream cheese cookies. With only five super-simple ingredients, it shouldn’t be too hard to mess up, right? Right. And spoiler alert—they were amazing. It appears that most of the recipes in the book—magic espresso browniespeanut butter and jelly sandwich cookies, brown butter cupcake brownies—are available on their website. So, why buy the book? Because it highlights their easiest, best recipes in one spot.

cookies

Bad lighting, good cookies. I sprinkled some festive Halloween orange sugar on top. Mine are quite obviously the ones on the right.

Anyway, back to the cream cheese cookies. I was able to make the batter in the time it took the oven to preheat and I only dirtied a bowl, my mixer, a cookie scoop and the cookie sheet I baked them on. Easy to make, relatively easy clean up. There was no egg in the batter, so we licked the bowl clean. Even easier.

I used a cookie scoop, so I was able to get the 24 cookies out of it. I also used the cookie scoop to keep the batter licking husband at bay.

I tried a warm cookie and a cold cookie. Both were amazing.

I can’t wait to make more recipes from this book this holiday season—I flagged at least half of the recipes, so my recipients will be set. I rated this one a 5/5 and I can’t wait to see more collections from Food52.

L

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actuallygrows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? – Goodreads

Full disclosure: I didn’t start liking this book until I was about 2/3 in. Up until then, everything annoyed me. Karou’s name. The instalove. The vague descriptions of what was going on. How obnoxiously perfect she was (FOR NEARLY AN ENTIRE PAGE):

“Karou was, simply, lovely. Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx. Beyond merely pretty, her face was vibrantly alive, her gaze always sparkling and luminous, and she had a birdlike way of cocking her head, her lips pressed together while her dark eyes danced, that hinted at secrets and mysteries. Karou was mysterious. She had no apparent family, she never talked about herself…” – Page 78, Daughter of Smoke & Bone

When Kiesha raved about this, I thought okay. I love me some fantasy. So when I spotted it on a Kindle deal, I figured $1.99 was a good deal.

I mean, now that I’m finished, I’m hooked and already into book two. But it took a while. In retrospect, though, it was a beautifully written, sophisticated fantasy book. Yes, it’s young adult, but it isn’t patronizing like some books.

At the beginning, the characters annoyed me. By the end, I realized how deep and complex they really were. It was kind of like a friendship—they might be annoying at first, but once you get to know them better you enjoy their company.

If you’re an avid hater of instalove (*raises hand*), don’t discount this book when it seems to happen. By the end, you’ll brush that dirt off your shoulder and realize that it makes sense for this story.

Once it really got going, I was swept up in the seraphim (angels)/chimaera (beast/human hybrids) mythology and history and war. It was heartbreaking, violent, hateful, and intense. You uncover tiny secrets as the books moves along, which pulls you in deeper and makes it difficult to set down.

Overall, I enjoyed how unique this book was. I wish it would have pulled me in faster, though, so I rated it a 3.5/5.

L

Thursday Things 10/01

Thursday

It’s Halloween month! Lauren and I already have our costumes planned, but if you’re still trying to decide, check out these literary costumes! I have a secret love for zombies, so that zombie librarian knocked my socks off.

Speaking of Halloween, if you’re throwing a Harry Potter themed party (or even just watching the movies), take a look at these Harry Potter drinks! I’m definitely making some, especially the polyjuice potion!

I already know you’re book-obsessed if you’re reading our blog, but if you’re as Instagram-obsessed as I am, check out this list of bookish Instagram accounts to follow – I LOVE the dog books one & I’m betting Lauren loves the cat books one 🙂

I’m sorry today’s post is so full of Harry Potter but OH MY GOSH!!! Look what’s coming!! 96 pages of color-able beautiful HP images! AH. You bet your a** this is already on my Amazon wishlist! (& yes, this deserves ALL of the exclamation points!)

K

Amy Schumer is writing a book. ‘Nuff said. NEED.

What job would you have in the Game of Thrones world? I’d be on the Knight’s Watch…all the better to googly eye Jon Snow.

I don’t like beer, but I like this concept.

L

The Blender Girl Smoothies by Tess Masters

23602690A beautiful collection of vegan smoothies from powerhouse blogger The Blender Girl, featuring photographs, flavor boosters, and nutritional add-ons for every recipe. 

The Blender Girl takes smoothies to the next level in this comprehensive guide, helping you blast your way to good health and blended bliss. These 100 creative and delicious recipes are designed to fit your every need, whether you want to detox, lose a few pounds, get energized, or guard against seasonal colds. Each smoothie has three optional boosters (like chia seeds, ginger, coconut oil, or wheat grass) that allow you to ramp up flavor, nutrient value, or both. Featuring gorgeous photography throughout, a smoothie pantry that demystifies unusual ingredients, icons to identify smoothies that fit your particular dietary needs, and strategies for achieving smoothie success, this accessible handbook makes it fun and easy to find your perfect blend. – Goodreads

I looooove getting cookbooks from Blogging for Books, and I was so incredibly excited to see The Blender Girl Smoothies as a review option! In order to truly evaluate a book, I feel that you really need to make 3-4 recipes from it—so I chose one smooth from each chapter.

There were a ton of smoothies to choose from in here—some more ballsy than others. For example, I should have probably made the Red Velvet dessert smoothie made with beets, but I was too scared.

I loved the option of add-ins with these recipes—if you wanted to toss in some minced ginger, acai powder or cinnamon to give it a health boost, you could. She recommended things that would work well with each recipe to take the guesswork out of flavors. As a person who often messes up smoothies, this was good.

One downside was the number of ingredients in each smoothie—I could see myself choosing a recipe each week, but it would become very cost-prohibitive to buy fresh produce for different daily smoothies. Overall, I rated 4/5 on Goodreads—some of the smoothies were a little too weird for my taste.

unnamedApple and Mango Madness (Clean & Green chapter)

It was very clean and definitely green. I could see myself making this often. It made two servings, so I poured one for Kiesha. She drank it for about 20 minutes and handed the mostly full glass over. “It tastes like spinach. I’m not finishing this,” she said. “It’s not bad, and I put spinach in everything, so I don’t know why I don’t like it.” So there you have it. If you don’t have the tastebuds of Popeye, don’t pour this one (for the record, I LOVE it). To each’s own!

unnamed (1)Vivid Vision (An Exotic Ride chapter)

From the this chapter, I chose the Vivid Vision smoothie, which promises to deliver “omega-3 fatty acids, the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and vitamins A, C, and E to promote ocular health and stave off age-related vision problems…”. I had to make one substitution—I didn’t have almond milk, so I used some regular ol’ cow milk. This smoothie was weird…so weird. It wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t taste the orange and it kind of tasted carrot milk. “It’s not the worst smoothie you’ve made,” was the feedback from my husband, who was my co-guinea pig.

unnamed (2)Pink Cooler (Light and Fruity chapter)

From the Light and Fruity chapter, I selected the super simple two-ingredient Pink Cooler smoothie. It was very refreshing. Feedback from the guinea pig husband? “It’s very good.” I also liked this smoothie, but I wouldn’t make a habit of making it—the sugar content is way too high for me to justify. It would be nice for a hot summer day, though. I usually toss a ton of stuff into my smoothies, so this was a nice reminder to keep it simple once in a while.

unnamed (3)Brownie Batter (Dessert chapter)

No surprise here—it was our favorite so far. “It was very good,” my husband said. When I told him that he literally said the same thing for something else, he amended his statement to “and it’s very chocolatey.” With cacao powder, frozen bananas, cashews, pecans, and cacao nibs for garnish, this sweet treat really hit the spot for a post-dinner dessert. It was definitely a healthy, cold take on brownie batter. I can’t wait to try other dessert recipes!

L

Thank you to Blogging for Books for the opportunity to read and review this book!

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