Of Travelbugs and Owlcrates

I might be biased because July is my birthday month, or maybe because I love everything about traveling to different places, but this month’s Owlcrate is most definitely my favorite of the bunch.

The theme was Wanderlust and every bit travel-worthy as anything, and let me show you why.

I was actually glad that this was the book they added into the crate, because honestly, this book sounds fantastic. A Grand Tour across Europe with what clearly looks like a sassy, fierce protagonist and his entourage. Also, much of the swag added into the Owlcrate is suited for traveling or appropriately travel-themed.

I mean, let’s talk about this Lord of the Rings drawstring bag! It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, because I’ve actually gone hiking this weekend, and now I have a drawstring bag to put all my water and hiking necessities in. I also sorta kinda feel like a hobbit, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be asking for my elevenses two minutes later.

There’s also quite a few maps! I love maps! And journals! I love journals!

I’ve also now got a cute little owl to accompany me on trips abroad, which is awesome. And Newt Scamander to take to work with me every day 😀

Overall, this was a fantastic haul, and I was glad I didn’t skip this month on Owlcrate!

Mini Reviews: Arabian Nights, The Wicked + The Divine

Whoo! Catching up on more light reading before hunkering down to the big stuff (although, yes, snort at the fact that “light reading” encompasses a partial re-read of a 1,000-page tome…). In any case, I’ve got some book mini reviews for you!

I will say that my sub-par rating for Arabian Nights is not on the stories themselves. This was mostly a skim-read, with a focus on a few stories, so it still stands to date that I have NOT read the entire translated work of Richard F. Burton. It’s also likely that I won’t, because my problem lay not in the stories, but in the archaic translation. It would be nice to have a more reader-friendly copy, if only to keep my attention span from sputtering from lack of paragraphs and the random times people broke into verse within the pages.

As for The Wicked + The Divine, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to start reading this series! Very enjoyable, albeit somewhat confusing as a first volume. I’m hoping many of my questions gets answered later on, though.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Season 1, Episode 1: Beauty and the Beast

I mentioned this a while back, where my friend and I were embarking on a fairy tale retelling podcast. And after weeks of putting our first season together, we’ve finally published our first episode!

For our first season, we will be discussing the wonderful story of Beauty and the Beast. The episode takes a look at two of the original tales and discusses the importance of roses, libraries, and invisible servants within the popular tale.

If you like fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, fantasy, podcasts, and, well, YA and NA stories, you should really check Fableulous Retellings out.

Fableulous Retellings Podcast

Click here to download Episode 1!

Meg and Mari open their first season by discussing the classic original fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast! They focus on the original and first adaptation as it is frequently what is used in modern retellings. They make their checklist to use against the five modern retellings they’ll be reviewing this season, as well as why they think the story came to exist!

Follow us on social media:

Facebook| Twitter | Instagram | Website | Email: fableulous@gmail.com

Join us every Tuesday for a new episode!

Thank you to BenSound for our theme music and VidaLovesCake for our artwork!

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Hope within a Thurible || Days of Blood and Starlight Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Dead. I have died and Karou needs to exist to glean my soul into a thurible so she can resurrect me as a monster. This book hurts so much it’s a miracle that I’VE not learned the power of invisibility (because in the book, magic is caused by a sort of pain). And OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE THEY ALL DONE.

Dead, I tell you. Dead.


DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT

by Laini Taylor
Little, Brown Books, November 2012
YA fantasy, paranormal
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Let me talk to you first about how Daughter of Smoke and Bone broke me just a bit.

A while back, I’d read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and was practically heartbroken by the end, because not only was the setup to the next book so positively cliffhangery, there was just so much sadness in the wake of so much happiness and DAMMIT LAINI TAYLOR WHY WOULD YOU WRENCH MY HEARTSTRINGS SO?!

That was three years ago. I’ve since been so utterly inspired by Laini Taylor that not only have I baked my way through Prague, I went and lived the dream. I went to Prague, and solely because I wanted to live in Karou’s shoes, even for a little while. Smoke and Bone was such an integral part of my desire to travel to fictional and non-fictional worlds, and once more, Days of Blood and Starlight delivered on that level.

The kasbah was a castle built of earth, one of the hundreds that studded these southern reaches of Morocco, where they had baked in the sun for centuries. Once, they had been home to warrior clans and all their retinue. They were primeval fortresses, proud and red and tall, with crenellations like the hooked teeth of vipers, and arcane Berber patterns etched on the high, smooth walls.

I was transported to Morocco, to its heat and desert sands, to Marrakesh and Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou. For a brief moment, I lived in an Eretzian sandcastle filled with monsters, and I followed angels to the heart of its seraphim empire in Astrae.

And by all the godstars, I’ll be damned if I don’t go to Morocco as one of my vacation destinations.

Warning: Now here’s the part where you might want to turn away if you don’t like spoilers. Because as this is the second installment of a trilogy, expect me to be talking about things happening in the first book.

Blood and Starlight continues the story of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and opens back in Prague, where most of the supernatural events occurred, making the public aware that angels exist. Talk of the blue-haired Karou continues, and in the eve of it, Zuzana wonders what’s happened to her best friend. While the media and the public eventually die down in search of the flying blue-haired girl (and onto supernatural teeth-thieves), it is not so in Eretz.

Eretz is rife with war, and it gets worse now that Thiago is back and exacting vengeance upon the chimaera’s slavers: the seraphim. On the other side stands Akiva, the Beast’s Bane, and his seraphim brothers and sisters, fighting a war that never seems to end.

If the first book was merciless in its depiction of the casualties of endless warfare, this second book takes it to a brutally higher level. Days of Blood and Starlight is DARK. And BLEAK. And TERRIBLY VIOLENT.

“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is. Look at you. You are a lord of ashes, a lord of char. You are filthy with your victory…You are lord of a country of ghosts, and that is all that you will ever be.”

I don’t think there’s a more perfect quote to describe Eretz in this story as the quote above. The world is bleak, and there’s a lot of blood spilled on both sides, painting a world where neither seraphim nor chimaera are innocent of their actions. And to top it off, Karou and Akiva are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, their parting of ways in Smoke and Bone one filled with hatred and sorrow. Honestly, I found myself putting this book down very often, because of the star-crossed lovers trope, because it’s clear that Laini was going to use everything in her power to keep these two separate in a bleak story of war where characters are hanging onto the tiniest sliver of hope.

You’re not going to find any Akiva-Karou quotes in this review, because I die inside over and over again reading those passages. DAMMIT JUST GET BACK TOGETHER ALREADY, YOU GUYS.

So let me keep going. There are characters in Blood and Starlight that get a bit more limelight. Besides Karou and Akiva, there are several little POVs that reflect the thoughts of various characters in the book. Liraz, Ziri, as well as Zuzana and Mik are given POV scenes, which adds to the story. Occasionally I found this a bit distracting, because here I am, reading and captivated by a scene, and suddenly, instead of Karou or Akiva’s POV in the next chapter, I got a fistful of other characters. I got used to it by the end, and by that point, I was actually relieved to find some of the breakage in Karou and Akiva POVs. There’s only so much heartbreak I could take after all.

“Is life worth keeping on with, whatever happens?”

“Yes,” he said, wary, thinking of the thurible, and Karou. “As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us all killing ourselves by morning.”

And can I just talk about how much I love Akiva’s Misbegotten siblings? It was hard to gauge Liraz and Hazael in Smoke and Bone, because their first appearance was out of anger and hatred for chimaera. Liraz and Hazael came down to kill Karou–as had Akiva, really–only to be thwarted by their Misbegotten brother. It was a blow to Liraz and Hazael, because Akiva was the closest half-brother they had, hence there’s a lot of tension in the beginning of Blood and Starlight. Past that, though, the twin seraphim are closer in thought to Akiva than Akiva expected, and honestly, I found this the best relationship of siblings ever.

“Neek-neek, afraid? I don’t believe it.” There was a ferocity in the tiny Zuzana that had started Virko calling her neek-neek, after a growlsome breed of shrew-scorpion known for facing down predators ten times its size.

And, of course, there’s no talking about the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy without Zuzana. Zuzana is seriously THE BEST ever. She’s a human with a healthy curiosity and a loyalty to Karou that defies worlds. At this point, she’s already hooked up with Mik, a violinist, and the two of them–mostly Zuzana–spend a great deal of their time in Prague in search of Karou’s whereabouts. The beginning chapters have some hilarious emails from Zuzana asking if Karou is dead, and I swear, without her and Mik bringing a bit of humor and wonder and excitement into this book, there wouldn’t be much of a silver lining anywhere else. (Well, maybe Hazael. Hazael was a peach, too.)

There was a note…in archaic Seraphic, in a feminine hand, and stamped with a wax seal depicting a scarab beetle: Thank you, but we must respectfully decline your overture, being more enjoyably occupied at present.

A lot of Blood and Starlight–which seems to be the case for most second books of trilogies–was leading up to an even greater conflict that would not only involve chimaera versus seraphim, but also humans and monsters, and angels against angels. I was a bit of a mess by the end of the book, because a TON of shit happens, and Karou and Akiva are forced together in light of a common enemy. Which means they’re at close proximity, BUT DAMMIT LAINI WHY ARE THEY STILL NOT SNOGGING EACH OTHER?!

Uh, okay. I got a bit heated there. Don’t mind me.

By the end of Blood and Starlight, I’m wondering many things. I want to know about Stelia, about Akiva’s explosively potent magic, and most of all, I definitely want to know how two different armies will try to coexist.

Also…I’m going to have to scrounge up some Moroccan-inspired foods at some point.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Ugh, if my ship sails and sinks by the end of the third book, I might very well be inconsolable.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Of Peaches and Upside Down Cakes

I seem to be talking about food a lot.

But to be fair, I’m on vacation and when I’m on vacation, I tend to cook and bake a lot more than when I work. It’s definitely a combination of having the time and not spending money on transport (ergo, spending that saved-up money on ingredients!).

This week, my household got bombarded with peaches. After relishing in it with some Fourth of July jello, we still wound up with too many peaches and not enough motivation to want to eat them all the time. I love my fair share of fruits, but even I can’t bring myself to stuff my face with peaches.

Up until I decided I’d bake it into a cake.

So this is what I did.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Confession, I’ve never done an upside down cake before. Well, most of the time I don’t do repeats of what I bake unless it’s one of the more popular bakes (like salted caramel or Irish car-bomb cupcakes…or toffee). But this was the first time that I’ve worked with fruit in my baking period, so it was interesting.

I got the recipe from Flavorite and didn’t really deviate from the recipe except for the sugar. One thing I will note is that I didn’t have brown sugar on hand, so I ended up using granulated sugar instead. The only thing I would have changed was the amount of batter and the lack of crispness at the top. There was too little batter to the amount of peaches I used, and the top was sweet, but had a weird peachy-gooey texture I wasn’t a fan of.

But at that point I’m just being nitpicky, because the cake pretty much disappeared within the day. So I guess it was more than just “really good”?

(At some point I’ll go back to doing book reviews, I swear!)