An Apple a Day Drives the Witch Right into Your Path…Wait

I kind of got away with that title there, but to be fair, whenever I see apples involved in literature, I immediately think of the tale of Snow White. It’s not even my favorite tale by a mile, but I will admit that some of the retellings I’ve read do bring about the need to bake something with apples inside. Winter, I’m talking about you specifically.

And yes, okay, so most apple covers don’t necessarily mean Snow White. I mean, unless you can give me a really good argument that says Twilight is a metaphor for the story of a crazed queen and her attempts to kill her more beautiful stepdaughter (but wait, wasn’t Kristen Stewart a star on both so maybe there’s the connection…argh, I’m digressing), then yeah, apple covers don’t mean Snow White.

Buuut there’s got to be an appeal to apples, right? Because poor, silly Snow likes apples. Winter happens to love ’em especially when sprinkled and baked in with cinnamon. And honestly, I love baking with apples when I can.

So there you have it. Apples. Are. Awesome.

Now that I’ve completely rambled on about dem apples, onto what I had meant to do, which was post something I had made weeks ago! (Hah, yes to backlog of baking-related posts!)

Apple Bread

Say hello to the most scrumptious bready thing ever! I’ve been saving a ton of apple-related recipes on my Pinterest to get back to later on, and eventually made my way to one I wanted to attempt. So while I procrastinated writing, well, anything (I’m sorry Meg and Tarma and and…yeah…), I baked something I could totally use as an excuse for being unproductive. Only I suppose I was productive, because I made bread.

The recipe was pretty straightforward, and the glaze was standard milk, not cream, because I didn’t really have any cream handy. (And I wouldn’t go so far as to make glaze with cream anyway, not too fond of it being too thickly sweet). I also used three apples instead of two.

And with my sister’s trusty new apple corer, peeling coring, and slicing those apples took mere seconds!

Like the recipe suggested, I split the batter up into two. I lined my bread pan with parchment paper poured half the batter in, half the apple mixture in, and sprinkled that with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then rinse, repeat. I waited 45 minutes before checking up on the bread, and let it brown a bit more before pulling it out of the oven.

Verdict: The bready middle was super moist and soft and so yum. It was a good call to split the batter so there’s plenty of apple to go around. There was a suggestion to add walnuts in, but with a brother who’s allergic to practically every nut in existence, I can safely say this recipe can do without.

Advertisements

Food and Fandom: Rephaim Chestnuts

I had planned to include this in my book review of Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season but Winter had other plans. I mean, I couldn’t exactly get myself groceries when the snowstorm pretty much last weekend. And okay, I may be exaggerating the degree of the weather, but no way was I driving in it on a darn Saturday morning.

20170107_153756_001

Anyway, that really isn’t the point. The point is, this is officially my first entry into my Food and Fiction Reading Challenge. I’ve already said what I had to say about the book itself, which I highly recommend, so I just wanted to focus a little bit on some of the foodie-things in the pages.

Chestnuts Roasting on a Rephaim Fire

boneseason

Firstly, Rephaim don’t really eat. Not in the human sense. What they feed on is more menacing, and relates to voyant aura (actually, it pretty much IS voyant aura). However, because the Rephaim do keep amaurotic (“non-clairvoyant”) and voyant (“clairvoyant”) humans on Sheol I with them, it makes sense that food is still a viable product of the society. Not only that, Paige is getting a pretty good deal out of it, considering how much Warden tends to like feeding her. I suppose his reasoning runs along the lines of keeping her fit enough to mind-fight some Emim, but I’m pretty sure he just likes watching humans eat. Some people are like that.

The boy returned with a pot of coffee. He placed the tray on the table with a generous plate of baked chestnuts, dusted with cinnamon. Their sweet smell made my mouth water. There was a vendor near the Blackfriars Bridge that sold them in the winter months. These ones looked even better than his, with cracked brown shells and velvety white insides. There was fruit, too: segments of pear, glossy cherries, soft smiles of red apple…

I plucked a chestnut from the plate, still hot from the oven. It tasted like warmth and winter.

(The Bone Season, p. 252)

Considering it’s snowing AGAIN as I look up from my computer, I find this passage highly appropriate. It also reminded me somewhat of those roasted nut carts scattered around New York City, where they often sell a pack of nuts that are either lightly salted or sweetened, depending on the vendor (and omg, the smell of roasted almonds and pecans are AMAZING). But in all my wanderings around the city, I don’t think I ever encountered chestnut vendors. Then again, I’ve never really had much experience with chestnuts to begin with.

20170114_153707

I don’t remember much of the taste of chestnuts, though after opening up the pack of peeled chestnuts, I was reminded that I actually DID try chestnuts before. That said, I wasn’t sure which ones were better, so I ended up purchasing two different types: peeled and unpeeled.

They were both ready to eat, but I wanted them “still hot from the oven” as described, so I dusted a bit of cinnamon on top and popped them into the oven for a few minutes. Then I proceeded to make tea. (Yes, not coffee, but only because I already had my coffee earlier in the day, and I prefer the comforts of tea to go with my snacks. Also, Paige mentioned having tea at some point in the book as well, so there’s that, because, you know, she’s in the friggin’ UK, lol!) On top of that, once the chestnuts were finally baked a bit, I added some dried fruit to the side. I didn’t want to get too literal, mostly because I don’t like pear and I figured an assortment of dried fruits would help me figure out which ones tasted really well with the chestnuts.

Verdict: Oh yum. They seriously did taste like warmth and winter in your mouth! That said, The cinnamon wasn’t utterly necessary, because the chestnuts themselves have a nice sweet potato-ey taste. The unpeeled chestnuts were my favorite of the two, because you got that extra smoky baked flavor after biting into the chestnut. Probably because the heat gets trapped inside, what with the shell covering most of the insides to begin with.

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

I dread typing this review because this means I have to move on and focus on a different series after this.

(Which is saying a lot, considering I’ve started a number of weighty books lately but have yet the urge to finish any of them, no matter how good they’ve been getting so far.)

(Which is to say that I’m dreadfully close to another book hangover.)

It also doesn’t help that Winter is the end of a very satisfying YA scifi series.

Note: Winter is the fourth and conclusive novel of The Lunar Chronicles series, and as much as I’m trying NOT to post any complete spoilers, this review is armed to the teeth with quotes, character squeeness, and rebels. In the event of low mental constitution and a penchant to avoid any spoilers whatsoever, DO NOT attempt to engage.


WINTER

by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel and Friends, 2015
Science fiction, fairy tale, YA
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies

winterPrincess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Jumbly Thoughts

At the rate Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter were going, I’d have been surprised if they didn’t manage to seize their happily ever afters in the way of amassing an army and kicking thaumaturge ass with a couple weapons (mental and physical), a portscreen, and a titanium limb or two.

And at the rate that Kai, Wolf, Thorne, and Jacin were going, I’d have been surprised if they didn’t go along for the ride.

The plot of the series itself is simple enough to follow: Cinder tries to raise a revolution (with the help of her motley Rampion crew and thensome) in an attempt to overthrow tyrannical Lunar Queen Levana. The plot of Winter adds to it Princess Winter’s storyline, which–if one had looked at the fairy-tale retelling pattern of the previous books–would be the retelling of Snow White. It’s not hard to know what’s going to happen next.

So as far as surprises went, I wasn’t completely taken aback by the overall plot and political atmosphere of the story. It could be construed as a caveat to the wonderfulness of the series, but to be honest, Marissa Meyer had laid quite a bit of groundwork in CinderScarlet, and Cress that it was kind of hard to throw in a super-surprising twist without completely breaking from the consistency of the story.

And yet, and yet…Meyer’s main characters continued to delight–and surprise–me in how they handled themselves.

Those Damn Rebels

princesswinterWinter Hayle – Princess Winter is described as a renowned beauty, and while beauty is often subjective, in this case, the rumors are pretty much true. Sure, she’s got three scars over her face. Sure, she’s refused to use her glamour to make herself any more beautiful in the process. But hot damn, apparently boys and girls are at risk of falling in love with her. And she doesn’t even try. I’m kind of jealous at this, not gonna lie.

The titular character, Winter is probably the least known of the heroines in the series, because she is the last one introduced. As such, it was difficult to warm up to her, and I will admit she was probably my least favorite of the four, if only because I grew attached to the other three girls way before I’d even started reading Winter. That being said, Princess Winter has her moments, and her singular attachment to her childhood best friend–a romance that I was totally on board with–was endearing and sometimes giggle-worthy.

Her disappointment over Jacin not bringing her here to confess his love was more potent than the knowledge her stepmother wanted her dead.

She does have her priorities in the right place. Yep.


jacinclayJacin Clay – Jacin is introduced in Cinder (briefly) as one of Queen Levana’s royal guards. He becomes prominent in Cress as the pilot working under the thaumaturge Sybil, and for a majority of the series, his overall motives are unknown. Turns out, though, that he’s not such a bad guy. I mean, how could he be when he’s holding a flame–and thus, an unwavering loyalty–for his princess?

Unlike Winter, Jacin’s character development started early on, so it was easier to segue into his POV in the last book. It also helped that he’s completely devoted to Winter, and uh, I kind of do have a weakness for the whole “royal falls in love with her bodyguard” thing. I blame countless well-written stories surrounding this trope. Not that I’m complaining or anything.


cress1Cress Darnel – I’ve practically spoken at great length about Cress, so I won’t rehash my squees. Suffice to say that as a master hacker and–IMO–the MVP of Team Cinder, she pretty much takes the cake in all things uncommonly badass. There’s several points in the book where without her whizz computer skills, all would be completely lost. Yet she’s not utterly perfect, and outside hacking, she does get a little lost in translation, as it were.

But that’s okay. Because she’s a fast learner.

 


“You are not discouraged?”

“It’s not in my vocabulary.”

carswellthorneCarswell Thorne – I’ve also pretty much squeed over Thorne since his introduction, but honestly, how could I not? He’s easily one of my favorite characters, because the guy just does not let up. The going could turn to absolutely dire in a singular moment, and yet he constantly thinks on his feet. He doesn’t consider himself a hero, but time and again he has managed to surprise his friends by doing something heroic. It’s admirable how he grows from being a profiteer out for himself to a man who values his friends and loved ones.

“Did you see any rice in there? Maybe we could fill Cinder’s head with it.”

Everyone stared at him.

“You know, to…absorb moisture, or something. Isn’t that a thing?”

“We’re not pouring rice in my head.”

And then, of course, there’s his continued interactions with Cinder.

“Do I have permission to take control of you first? Just your bodies, not your minds.”

“I’ve been waiting for you to admit you wanted my body,” said Thorne.

VIVA LA BRO-SISMANCING!


scarletbenoitwolfScarlet Benoit and Wolf – I’m putting these two together not because they’re one entity, but because I felt like these two could NOT catch a break. For most of Cress, Scarlet is pretty much neutralized. Which meant Wolf is pretty much neutralized as well (because those two suffer the most inane separation anxiety ever–though this is worse on Wolf’s part, since Scarlet has other shit to deal with besides being separated from her friends). While Scarlet returns to help with the revolution in Winter–and she does play an integral part where the wolf-soldiers are concerned–Wolf then proceeds to get himself in a troublesome situation. So it was like these two were pretty much going into a downward spiral of suffering that made me want to cry for their worst luck ever. LEAVE WOLF AND SCARLET ALONE, GUYS.


kaitoEmperor Kaito – Kai doesn’t have much in the way of a skill set, unless you count him being brought up as the leader of the Commonwealth. Which he has. So he’s a downright skilled diplomat. Heck, he can talk anyone into a situation in his sleep, and oftentimes he does just this throughout all four books (well, not exactly in his sleep, but all the same…). He’s a smooth talker, this skill is second nature to him. I suppose it also helps that he’s a good-looking Asian man with an already established fanbase. And a following that encompasses the eastern Earthen nations. Kai is a powerful man, and he has an acute awareness of said power.

Which is why the poor guy is constantly stuck in positions of power play against Levana. Which gives him constant use of his sass. And honestly, that sass just killed me throughout the book.

“You mean she doesn’t intend to blow me up before the ceremony?” said Kai, taking the box. “How disappointing.”

The guard looked like he wanted to crack a smile, but he resisted.

Even amidst his precariously dangerous situation, he DOES NOT RELENT.

“I don’t know,” he said. To provoke her, he added, “That was some marvelous entertainment, by the way. I had high expectations, and you did not disappoint.”

She snarled and he was glad he’d backed away.

There had been at least one point where he employed a bit of violence, and I just downright died inside. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m still dying just a bit from it.


cinderlinhLinh Cinder – As the overall main character, Cinder is who we all started with from the getgo. Sure, there’s every chance that other characters would become more endearing to readers, but I can’t help see Cinder as my absolute favorite. She undergoes a complete hero’s journey, from insecure cyborg to reluctant revolutionary, she morphs into a confident young woman who–mostly–knows what she wants to get out of her situation. She is focused and determined, and while she harbors a constant love for Kai, she’s willing to put that aside in favor of her goals. She also has a knack for bringing people together, and that in itself is a character trait that makes me admire her.

And to be honest, that one splashy scene in the throne room was effing badass and absolutely perfect.


For Everything Else…

Winter is…a long book (at 800+ pages, even I found myself cringing at the brutal word count). It is a book with a lot of characters, which brings about a lot of POVs (also cringe-worthy, considering my attention span). In all respect, it’s not a book I’d go into in search of light reading. It’s not what I’d expect from a YA book either, though yes, as I said, it was kind of predictable.

Yet taking all of these in mind, I rather enjoyed Winter–and, for that matter, the entire series–from beginning to end.

I loved the characters (honorable mention to Iko, whose unique android personality chip made me want to be her best friend). I loved the story. I loved the adventure and the romance (because ALL THE OTPs). I loved that the girls in the book are strong characters based off of fairy tale damsels, and I loved that while they do have men–and women–saving their asses from time to time, Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter are more than capable of fighting their battles and succeeding in the most amazing manner ever.

5 out of 5 cookies! And talk about that lemon cake satisfying ending. I just cannot.


winter-mahakesley