Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1) – Janet Evanovich

Wicked-Appetite-Janet-Evanovich.jpg

via Goodreads

Lizzy’s special talent is cupcakes. She can make anything well (with the exception of gravy), but her cupcakes are something magical. Literally. Or at least that’s what the big blond stranger standing on her doorstep keeps telling her. He also insists that it isn’t her only talent. Lizzy is a finder, one of only two in the known world, and Diesel needs her help to find and contain the SALIGIA stones before someone uses them to bring about Hell on Earth. Oh yeah, and magic is real, there’s a vampire-looking guy stalking her, some guy dressed in tights trying to maim her, a cat named Cat, and a very rude monkey named Carl. Together, Lizzy, Diesel, Cat, and Carl might just save the world. Maybe. If Lizzy doesn’t die or lose her magical powers first.

I’ve been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s work for a few years now, ever since someone convinced me to read the Stephanie Plum series set in Trenton and the surrounding parts of New Jersey, my home state. The Lizzy and Diesel series takes place in the same universe, with the addition of magic. In fact, Diesel even makes a few appearances in Stephanie’s life in the holiday novellas!

Wicked Appetite is set in the Boston metropolitan area. Lizzy has just inherited a house in Marblehead from her great aunt and started working at a bakery in Salem. Everything is hunky-dory until Grimwolfe Grimoire and Diesel (no last name) pop into her life and shake things up. Suddenly her life is in danger, spells are being cast, and people are acting very weird. The book moves pretty quickly, and Evanovich’s dialogue is always snappy and entertaining. Evanovich is a master at making the reader feel at home in her books. Her descriptions are so realistic that I often imagine being able to drive to Massachusettes and, using only this book, find every location at which something takes place within its pages.

Wicked Appetite is a great introduction to the series, in which each book describes the search for a SALIGIA stone, an ancient artifact said to contain great powers and represent one of the seven deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth. Or, more precisely, Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, and Acedia: SALIGIA. I would recommend Wicked Appetite to anyone excited to learn about a new city, looking for a little spontaneous romance in their life, or who enjoys witty banter. Wicked Appetite is right up your alley. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 12 or so, due to some adult themes.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Wicked Business
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

Pottermore Sorting: Hogwarts and Ilvermorny

Hogwarts Ilvermorny

Sources: Harry Potter Wiki – Hogwarts
Harry Potter Wiki – Ilvermorny

*Please note that I am not breaking down/explaining what each house represents in this post. You can find all of that information on Pottermore.com if you feel so inclined, rather than be forced to read it in its 100th reiteration here.

When J.K. Rowling, the author the wildly popular Harry Potter book (and film!) series opened up a website for Potterheads (fans of the series) in April of 2012, everyone immediately headed over to be sorted into their Hogwarts houses. The website was interactive and users worked their way through the stories, earning points for their house towards the House Cup that was awarded each year. I remember taking the quiz for the first time and finding out that I was a hat-stall. I answered the last question and was presented with a screen that asked me to choose between Gryffindor and Slytherin. I was pretty sure that was just the result it gave everyone because after all we were supposedly playing through the book series, and that’s the decision Harry ultimately makes. (I chose Gryffindor. Go Lions!) It wasn’t until I was scouring social media later that I realized people were actually being sorted into other houses. I had always wanted to be in Ravenclaw, and I remember taking the quiz about ten times before it finally put me in Ravenclaw instead of Gryffindor. I never got the hat-stall screen again.

When the site went down for renovations last year, I was sad, to say the least. But low-and-behold, January 28th, 2016 brought renewed hope. Pottermore was back up and running, but it looked very different. Gone were the interactive game, the dueling, and the House Cup. What we did get, however, was a ton of backstory and fleshy bits (aka my favorite parts) about the world of magic. Most importantly, we still had a Hogwarts sorting quiz. The unfortunate part of that being that it was a new quiz and a lot of people were upset by it, having already identified themselves by the houses they had originally been sorted into. I, luckily enough, was still sorted into Gryffindor (hooray!), though I was not a hat-stall this time around.

June 28th, 2016, heralded a new surprise for Potterheads: a second sorting ceremony. This one for the American school of witchcraft and wizardry, Ilvermorny, who’s backstory was revealed the same day. I took the Ilvermorny sorting quiz and became a Pukwudgie. Then I immediately scoured social media to discover what this meant. Since taking the quiz, I have discovered a few things. First was a post that I discovered via Twitter, discussing the potential correlations between Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses. I reblogged it on Tumblr, and you can also find the original post here. Thanks much to Layne Morgan for putting that together. The second, which I found more recently, was an article that showed where users from each Hogwarts house ended up in Ilvermorny. It’s quite interesting! You can find that over at Hypable.

Mostly what I discovered is that Pukwudgie and Thunderbird are the most popular across the Hogwarts houses,  and almost no one is in Wampus. Because of all the data floating around, I felt the need to do some research of my own.

I took each quiz 6 times, and these are my results:

Hogwarts:

Gryffindor: 3 times
Ravenclaw: 2 times
Hufflepuff: 1 time
Slytherin: 0 times

Ilvermorny:

Horned Serpent: 3 times
Pukwudgie: 2 times
Wampus: 1 time
Thunderbird: 0 times

With Hypable’s article showing 36.3% of Gryffindors ending up in Pukwudgie and the same percentage in Thunderbird, I’m somewhat surprised by my findings. As far as the Hogwarts sortings go, I already mentioned that I was a Gryffindor who used to dream of being a Ravenclaw, so is it really a surprise that I got Ravenclaw a few times? In terms of what some Potterheads term ‘hybrid houses’, I’ve always been a Gryffinclaw. I found the singular Hufflepuff sorting interesting because my sisters were sorted into Hufflepuff in the original sorting quiz, so I guess loyalty just runs in the family.

*Please note that to take the quizzes you must be logged in to Pottermore.com. You can create an account for free using your email address.

Have you taken the sorting quizzes yet? What house(s) did you get? Let me know in the comments here or over on Twitter @Amanda_HHC.

Until next time,

Amanda

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter et Sorcerers Stone

Source: Goodreads

Harry Potter lives with the most ordinary family, his aunt Petunia, uncle Vernon, and cousin Dudley Dursley in Surrey, England. He attends an ordinary school and eats ordinary food. Except, nothing about Harry is ordinary. Strange things happen when he is around. Dudley and his gang chase him and he’ll suddenly find himself on the roof of the school. A snake at the zoo tries to talk to him. He gets a bad haircut and his hair grows back over night. Harry doesn’t really pay attention to these things, but they seem to bother his aunt and uncle. Then the letters arrive. Each one addressed to Harry’s bedroom in the cupboard under the stairs. Before he can read them, his uncle tears them up and burns them. But he can’t keep them from Harry forever. This first book in the Harry Potter series follows our titular character as he goes from ordinary to extraordinary and learns about his true past and his famous future.

Those of you who are Harry Potter fans will probably say that this has been the lamest intro to the series ever, but I’m trying not to spoil things for people who haven’t experienced it yet. Sure, the Harry Potter series has probably been spoiled 1000 times over for everyone who hasn’t read it by now, but just in case it hasn’t, I won’t be the one to spoil the magic.

This is my first time re-reading the Harry Potter series since I was about 7 and my mother started reading the books aloud to my brother and me. We read the first three back-to-back and then the last four as they came out. It was a truly life-changing experience. You could say that I was part of that generation that grew up with Harry. So, at this time in my life when I am working towards writing more myself, I thought it would be a good idea to re-read some of my favorite childhood books. Obviously, I’m starting with Harry Potter because the 8th story is being released at the end of the month.

Not having the read the books in nearly 20 years (it’s 17, but it’s close!), I didn’t realize how much I had forgotten. I was one of those annoying people who, after seeing the films, would pick apart everything that was different from the books. ‘The Dursley’s should have blond hair’ I’d say, and my family would roll their eyes and tell me to get over it. The more I watched the movies, the less I remembered what had been changed from the books. But delving into Harry’s magical world again after so long had just the same effect it did on me the first time around. It was awe-inspiring and wonderful and amazing. Just how I remembered. Knowing how it all ends doesn’t make me not want to read the series. In fact, it makes certain passages have even greater meaning.

There is a passage on page 99 when Ron is lamenting having to live up to his family’s expectations. He says that even if he does well, it won’t be surprising because it is expected. As I read this, I just wanted to reach into the book and give him a big old hug and tell him what the future holds. He’s going to be amazing. They all are, they just don’t know it yet.

Getting back into this series is so much fun, and I can’t wait to dive into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soon! As far as recommendations, go this is an obvious YES. The series as a whole teaches so much tolerance and understanding that it should be a mandatory read for everyone, especially in this day and age when the world is dealing with so much hatred and violence.

If you are looking for something family-friendly and interesting to read, Harry Potter is a go to. There is such a wealth of content that everyone from the ages of 5 to 105 will enjoy it and learn something from it.

If you want to follow along on my journey to The Cursed Child (the 8th story!), you can catch up on my reviews of the other books below as I post them.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

24 Things I’ve Learned at 24

24

 

Today is the two-year mark since The Curio Street Blog‘s conception. It’s also my 24th birthday! So to celebrate here are 24 things that I’ve learned in the last 24 years:

1 – Failure happens. The most important thing you can do is to try again.

2- Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay. You won’t like everyone either.

3- Be kind always. You can never fully know another’s situation.

4- Don’t answer a question if you’re not sure what is being asked.

5- Always call your family.

6- Visit whenever possible.

7- Jump at  the opportunity to travel.

8- Always carry a good book.

9- If you hate it, leave it.

10- If you love it, keep it.

11- Always sort your laundry.

12- Always pack a first aid kit.

13- Pursue your goals relentlessly.

14- Keep track of you money.

15- Fresh air and sunshine can cure almost everything.

16- What they cannot, a good night’s sleep can.

17- Be open to trying new things/meeting new people.

18- Stick to your morals/values.

19- To have a friend, you must be a friend.

20 – Your parents are probably right.

21- Your siblings and cousins are your built-in best friends. Never miss an opportunity to hang out with them.

22- DREAM BIG.

23- Never stop learning.

24- Always believe in miracles.

 

Until next time,

Amanda

After Alice – Gregory Maguire

After-Alice-Gregory-Maguire

via Goodreads

Gregory Maguire is most well known for his retelling of The Wizard of Oz which has become a hit Broadway musical: Wicked. He’s also done retellings of Cinderella in the form Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Snow White in Mirror MirrorAfter Alice is his version of Alice in Wonderland.

I have to admit, I have never read Wicked, and I began Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and hated it. In my opinion, Maguire likes to make the stories darker and twistier than they already are, and while I love 90% of Cinderella retellings and even all of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I just could not cope with everything that was happening to the poor characters in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

Needless to say, I was very apprehensive about After Alice, but since Alice in Wonderland is already pretty twisty and full of nonsense I thought that there probably wasn’t a whole lot he could do to make it make less sense than it already did. For the most part, I was correct.

After Alice bounces back and forth between Alice’s friend Ada, who follows her down the rabbit hole and spends the whole book looking for Alice, her only friend, and Alice’s older sister still in Victorian England, Lydia, who is dealing with the fallout of both Alice and Ada having gone missing while Charles Darwin is paying a visit to her father, accompanied by a handsome young man whom Lydia rather fancies.

You do eventually get a third point of view from Siam, a slave boy Darwin’s friend has brought with him from America and is trying to adopt. Siam gets into trouble with Lydia, who locks him the spare sitting room, and Siam enters Wonderland through where? You guessed it! The looking glass. I loved that this part was included.

Anyway, Lydia’s chapters are supremely boring. She is the very quintessence of a 15-year-old girl who is trying too hard at being grown up for her own good and not really acting grown up at all. In many ways, she is the exact opposite of Wendy from Peter Pan. She flirts shamelessly with Darwin’s friend and becomes insanely jealous every time something happens to impede her flirtation. She doesn’t really care that Alice and Ada are missing, only that she is blamed and tasked with finding them.

Ada’s chapters are interesting, but they go too quickly and there aren’t enough of them. When you first meet Ada, she is barely an outline of a character. The eldest child of a pastor, thrown to the wayside in favor of a younger, colicky, brother. Ada wears a huge back brace that makes it difficult for her to walk. When she falls down the rabbit hole, she loses the brace and discovers the wonders of being able to walk without 15 pounds of metal on her back. As she learns to walk normally, her character becomes colored in. She is often thinking about what Alice would do, in part because she is actively looking for her friend, and in part because she looks up to Alice as the imaginative one in their friendship. It is not until more than halfway through the story that Ada acknowledges that maybe she has some imagination too, and that it doesn’t all belong to Alice. After this, she becomes increasingly intelligent, though maybe she was all along and just didn’t show it because she was the sidekick friend until now.

The first half of the book, I would say, was not enjoyable. The second half (especially the last quarter) got much better, even though we got less and less time with Ada and Siam in favor of the nonsense going on with Lydia. Throughout the story, I felt that Maguire’s Wonderland was very different from Lewis’. In the original story, Alice wanders through Wonderland and meets different characters and goes through big doors and small doors and is washed away by her tears, etc. In After Alice, Wonderland wanders around Ada. She lands in the forest, and a room builds itself around her. She walks through a door and ends up at the beach, then suddenly she is in a very slimmed down version of the flower garden, and she goes through another door to the Queen’s garden, where she is only briefly before going through another door to the court where Alice is on trial. The Jabberwocky scene was very well done, despite Alice fainting in a supremely un-Alice-like way. Somewhere in the middle Ada goes to a zoo and ends up in one, passes the tea party, meets a troop of performers, and answers everyone’s burning question: “Why is the raven like a writing desk?” like it’s not the hardest question asked in the history of Wonderland. In fact, it is the only question to which Alice doesn’t know the answer in the original story. The fact that Ada does shows just how far she’s come as a character.

Despite Wonderland wandering around Ada, she doesn’t seem bothered by it, but barrels on through to continue her search. It’s almost as though Alice is so weak that she is trapped in Wonderland and must live by its rules, while Ada is so strong that she lives outside of space and time in Wonderland and can bend it to her will. This is especially evident in the Jabberwocky scene at the end.

Overall, I would recommend After Alice to fans of Alice in Wonderland and other readers who are deep thinkers, but I would preface it by warning them that much of it is boring and must be slogged through. I think though, that in the end, it was worth it.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

Source: Goodreads

Z: A Novel of Zelda Ftizgerald tells the story of Zelda Sayre, a rebellious southern belle who falls in love with army officer and soon to be famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It chronicles their life together, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, in much the same way that Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife does for Hadley, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, Hadley makes a couple appearances in Z, as the events of their lives intertwine in more than a few ways.

I purchased this book within weeks of finishing The Paris Wife in 2014. I couldn’t wait to compare their stories and look at life in the 1920’s.  Then I became distracted by other things and a whole year went by with Z sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I finally picked it up I wasn’t excited anymore, but I felt that I should read it before I bought more books. The beginning of Z was rather confusing because I expected it to start with Zelda as a child or young woman and instead it began with a letter she was writing to Scott late in their marriage. In addition, I didn’t find Zelda very likable at the beginning. She came across haughty and spoiled with just a touch of naive rebelliousness. I worried that the book would be boring because I disliked her, and then I felt bad about disliking her, and it spiraled from there. I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for 6 months, at which point I finally gave in and decided to finish it because I hate leaving things undone.

As the story progresses, Zelda matures, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Being in her mind throughout the story you can feel her growing and – thankfully – becoming for likable. As Zelda and Scott’s marriage deteriorates, Zelda gains unimaginable strength of character and becomes one of my favorite people. She is truly a Renaissance woman. She is a painter, a dancer, and a wonderful writer despite being pushed continually into using Scott’s name on her work. She single-handedly saves their family from ruin at the expense of her own sanity, and then she puts her life back together again. Zelda Fitzgerald becomes a true paragon of a strong woman, and I am thankful every day that Therese Ann Fowler chose to share this version of her with the world.

Living through the ups and downs and twists of a marriage that spans wars and depressions, fame and hospitalization, love and hatred, Zelda is the one holding together not just her own life, but Scott’s as well. Until the very end, she is his biggest supporter as well as his biggest critic, and he is only the better for it.

Probably the part that intrigued me the most was the summer everyone went to the beach because this period of time appeared in both Z and in  The Paris Wife, but from the different women’s points of view. Having read The Paris Wife, in which Zelda and Scott were very minor characters and hardly mentioned, it was fascinating to see Ernest and especially Hadley from Zelda’s point of view in Z. To Zelda, Hadley is a very important person, and someone she strives to understand and even somewhat emulate because of her strength during Ernest’s betrayal. The whole section just made me love these two women even more.

By the time I reached the conclusion of the book, I didn’t want it to be over. The beginning had been explained and I understood the point of starting at the end, since in many ways Zelda’s life came full circle. I would highly recommend Z to anyone who liked The Paris Wife, and to anyone and everyone who enjoys period pieces. In fact, I would recommend that every woman (or just every person, really) should read this book and The Paris Wife because they are just so educational and inspiring and strengthening that I think everyone could gain something from their pages.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars