Molly Bell and the Wishing Well – Bridget Geraghty

Molly-Bell-And-The-Wishing-Well-Bridget-Geraghty

Source: Goodreads

Still grieving her mother’s death two years prior, Molly Bell is less than thrilled with the prospect of a brand new stepmother and little stepbrother. When her dad and new mom head off on their honeymoon and Molly and Henry are left at their grandparents’ farm, and Molly discovers the old wishing well where her Aunt Joan claims all the wishes she ever made came true. Molly is convinced that if she wishes hard enough, things will go back to the way they were, and she could be happy again. The consequences of wishes are much larger than Molly anticipated, however, and her selfish desires start to disrupt what happiness she has left. Now she’ll need to figure out it’s possible to undo wishes, or if she’ll have to learn how to make things right on her own.

First-time author Bridget Geraghty makes a permanent mark with this book. I was granted a copy by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and I just have to thank them for giving me this book! I wasn’t initially impressed with the very simple sentences in the first few chapters, but as the main character cheered up the sentences became more complex and I thought that was awesome. The book is written for middle-grade/juvenile readers, but it is definitely something enjoyable at any age.

The light went out in Molly Bell’s eyes when her mom died, and she’s struggling with her dad’s imminent remarriage. Her now stepmom, Faith, is nice, but it’s hard to like someone when they’re replacing your mother. Molly is also not excited about gaining an annoying little brother in Henry, and it’s especially hard to watch her family love Henry while they seemingly ignore her. At her grandparents’ farm, Molly learns hard lessons about the power of wishing which leads her in learning to accept the life she has now and loving the people she’s been given.

It’s a good thing this book is short because I sobbed through the entire thing. It was heart-wrenching to follow Molly through her struggle to find happiness again, but there was true beauty in the discovery. I highly recommend reading this. The lessons shared here are just so powerful, and I think they could be potentially life-changing for anyone who might be going through the same struggles that Molly faces.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Film Review – Midnight in Paris

Midnight-In-Paris-IMDB

Source: IMDB

I have wanted to watch this movie since it was released in 2011. Paris? Check. Artists, writers, and time travel to some of the most iconic times to be alive? Check. Great cast? Check! It just had so much to recommend it.

I should probably tell you that aside from Antz, which I hated, this is the first Woody Allen film I’ve ever seen. I swear that Annie Hall is on my list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I finally watched Midnight in Paris at the beginning of this month, and I was not disappointed. The imagery is beautiful, the premise and plot are very well done, and the intermingling of the present day with the past was just fantastic.

Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is a screenwriter turned struggling author. He dreams of moving to Paris and renting out an attic like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did in the 20’s. In effect, he is living Fitzgerald’s life in reverse, since Fitzgerald was an author and became a screenwriter. Gil’s fiancé, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, comes from a wealthy family and dreams of living a lavish lifestyle in California. She thinks Gil would do well if he would just concentrate on what he’s good at – writing and rewriting scripts for big blockbusters.

Gil and Inez travel to Paris with Inez’s parents, who are in the country on business. At dinner one evening they run into Paul, Inez’s close friend and biggest crush from college, and his fiancé Carol. Paul is in Paris to give a lecture series at the Sorbonne and invites the couple to accompany them on various sight-seeing expeditions. After each trip, Gil decides to walk home rather than cram into a taxi, and each time he walks home he comes across a Peugeot Type 176 (a car from the 1920’s) that picks him up and takes him to famous places in 1920’s Paris. Along the way, he meets the likes of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso among others.

In between trips to the 20’s, Gil makes progress with his novel and in his life, and the film ends with his decisions being made and feeling a sense of accomplishment and happiness he hasn’t had in years.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys movies about writers and time travel and love, but most of all stories of self-discovery.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 5 Stars

Triple Threat (Lois Lane, #3) – Gwenda Bond

Lois-Lane-Triple-Threat-Gwenda-Bond

Source: Goodreads

 

Lois Lane is living the life of a normal teenager for the first time ever. She has the best friends, an amazing job, good grades, and a soon-to-be-in-real-life boyfriend. Before she gets too comfortable in her perfectly normal life, however, Lois becomes the target of a mad scientist and a group of mutant teenagers determined to turn her to the dark side, and as if that wasn’t enough, she is called upon to protect the mysterious flying man from a bunch of snoopy feds that includes her father. Will Lois save the day, protect the vulnerable, and get the guy? Check out Triple Threat to find out.

 

I’ve been highly anticipating this book since I finished the second one last month, and hallelujah! it arrived early (Thank you, Amazon, for the mix-up. God Bless You). The third and potentially final book in Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane series does not disappoint.

The writing continues to be excellent. Bond knows her characters inside and out, and they remain pretty true to themselves historically as well. The romantic aspect was very well incorporated, weaving seamlessly with the mysteries at hand and complementing all of the other parts of the story rather than impeding or disrupting the plot. The new characters introduced in this installment were reliably well developed and interesting to read about, able to lend their own hijinks to the narrative.

I will admit that I was a bit confused with who the actual triple threat was because for each of the last books the title has had something to do with the plot. The summary on the dust jacket says something about ‘a trio of mutant teens’, but there are actually four teens? So it wasn’t until the end that I figured out who the group of three was supposed to be, but at least there was a group of three. Otherwise, I would be one very annoyed reader right now.

Overall I really enjoyed how Bond wrapped up the trilogy. Nearly everything got tied up nicely, and the strands left hanging allow for a sequel series or to bridge the gap to other Superman/Lois-centric works. I would definitely recommend Triple Threat as well as the entire Lois Lane series Gwenda Bond has written to anyone who enjoys a good kick-butt heroine with a dash of romantic tension (in books 2-3 mostly).

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate (The Bizarre Baron Inventions, #1) – Eric Bower

Bizarre-Baron-Inventions-The-Magnificent-Flying-Baron-Estate-Eric-Bower

Source: Goodreads

Waldo Baron’s parents are amazing scientists who invent things like super speed horseshoes and contraptions that pull people out of wells. W.B. is a little overweight, clumsy, and completely friendless. The friendless part is because his parents are so strange. The overweight part is because he loves food. Rather than getting involved with his parents’ experiments, none of which he actually understands, W.B. would rather sit in his room and read his Sheriff Hoyt Graham novels, living vicariously through the stories about his real life hero. On the day when W.B. is finally going to see Sheriff Graham in person, he wakes up to find his house floating 1,000 feet in the air, about to be whisked out of Arizona territory on a race around the country.

This charming middle-grade adventure set in the historic wild west was just released on May 16th, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. W.B., who goes by his initials because he thinks Waldo is a horrible name, is a slightly overweight kid who just wants to read his books and daydream about going on daring adventures with his hero, Sheriff Graham. He is blessed with two parents who somehow are able to create amazing inventions and withstand being stuck by lighting multiple times a year without dying. He calls them M and P. W.B. has no interest in science, mostly because it doesn’t make any sense to his 10-year-old brain.

The plot follows the Baron family on their around-the-country adventure, fueled by the appearance of Rose Blackwood, the younger sister of the notorious enemy of Sheriff Graham: Ben Blackwood. Rose needs the prize money from the race to hire some thugs to break her brother out of jail, but the Rose and Barons quickly develop much bigger problems.

A lighthearted and fun read, I would recommend this to every 10-year-old I know. The quirky characters help fuel the needed suspension of disbelief, and the H.E.A. ending sets up the family for even more entertaining adventures across the world in the 1800’s.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

May Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

Update - 5 - May

Long time no see, everyone! It’s been a bit chaotic around here for the past eight weeks or so while I was working on the new layout and format. There was no monthly update in April due to the site being down for rebranding, and I was surprised by how muddled my life became when I didn’t have you all to check-in with. It’s definitely time to reinstate the monthly updates!

April, as you know, was full of website building and logo designing. I honestly had planned to wait until July for the official re-launch, but I got really excited and carried away into web design, and before I knew it I was at the point where I needed to take the site down to do the actual redesign. Curio Street Reads has now been rolled into The Curio Street Blog, and they’ve been rebranded as Highlights and Hot Chocolate. I’ve been keeping up with the weekly book reviews, but I’ve also been debating a little with how best not to back myself into a corner. The focus of this site is writing and literature, but it’s not necessarily a ‘book blog’. I’d call it more of a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on writing, editing, and reading. This self-definition allows me to play around with other things, like film/TV reviews, recipes, and D.I.Y. bits if an idea strikes me. And that’s what makes blogging exciting: I’m the boss. I get to decide how, when, and what gets published.

May has been quite interesting so far. I signed up for NetGalley, an online book review site that connects beta readers with publishing companies. So far I’ve been approved for four ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), and reviews for those will be coming soon! It’s all thanks to you guys that I’m able to get these advanced editions because availability is all based on audience size, so THANK YOU! Y’all are amazing.

In other life news, I spent last weekend in Maine celebrating my sister’s college graduation. It’s been an amazing four years watching her excel in classes and Timbersports competitions, and I’m almost sad it’s over. But I am so SO excited to see where life takes her next, and I am incredibly proud of everything she’s already accomplished. She’s definitely more prepared for the real world than I was at graduation. The idea of job hunting scared me to death, but she’s right up there in the fray, chipping away at the mountain of possibilities, looking for a piece big enough to suit her. I know it won’t be too long before she lands somewhere fantastic.

While I’m definitely tired from all the driving this past weekend, I’m not letting it get me down. I signed up for a free 10-day trial of oneOeight, a yoga and wellness site based in Aruba, and I’m diving into meditations and some basic yoga to boost my energy levels. I was on the fence about this program back in March, but I’ve been doing a lot of research on it, and I think it’s worth the $14/mo. Many of the yogis are among my favorites, and I am definitely someone who needs guided practices. Besides oneOeight, I’ve also been tuning into Yoga With Adriene, who’s based out of Austin, Texas and has some of THE BEST beginner yoga lessons. Both websites are amazing, and I’m not really sure what I would do without them.

Writing has been interesting. My cousin, whom I watch during the day, is just over one-year-old now, and he’s decided he only needs one nap a day. Great for him. Bad for my writing. With what time I’ve had, I’ve mostly been stewing on the next scene I need to write and realizing that I don’t know my secondary characters well enough to write it. My story tends to be very involved, especially for me, though I’m sure 90% of what I’m writing will get cut from the final copy. I’m the sort of person who needs to have an entire family history back to the beginning of time for everyone. Even the characters who have no names have names, you just don’t need to know what they are for the purposes of the specific story I’m telling. So I’ve been working on some of my more prominent secondary characters, those who make prolonged appearances and need to have coherent personalities. I’ve finished four of the six people I need in order to write this next scene so far, and I think that’s pretty good. Writing backstories also tends to color in bits and pieces of country history and helps cement my world together, which always makes me feel like my work is worthwhile, even if it often seems like I’m procrastinating on the actual scene writing.

 

I think that’s all for now, so let’s take a look at how I’m doing on the goals side of things.

 

 

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
I’m definitely not writing every single day, but I’m definitely brainstorming every day, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: As my little one-year-old cousin prepares to head to daycare this summer, I am beginning my search for a full-time salary job that will allow me to get a place of my own and save copious amounts of money for graduate school.

Apply to Grad School: ACCEPTED INTO THE EMERSON COLLEGE M.A. PROGRAM FOR WRITING AND PUBLISHING, BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 2017.

2017 Goals:

Stick to My Budget: This is still going much better than expected. I’m saving but not feeling like I had to cut off my arm to do so.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Also going well! I might be able to pay off $5,000 worth by the end of the year.

Build Savings Account: My little savings account is growing! I’m pretty proud of myself, even if it’s still a relatively small amount.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: This is still a struggle, but I think I might just succeed.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: CHECK!

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HA.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: I’ve been doing so much reading that I have completely neglected my TV watching. I only watched one more episode of Stranger Things, and while I’m not really excited about it yet (maybe because I’m pretty sure I know where it’s going?), it’s still relatively interesting without being too creepy. I was also watching Chesapeake Shores, but it was only on Netflix for a month and I didn’t get to finish it. At the end of March, I speed-watched six seasons of Bones because they were being taken off of Netflix the week after the series finale aired on Fox, but I was only able to do that because I’ve watched 85% of the episodes already and just needed a refresher on the larger story arcs. Lat but not least, I discovered a show that was originally on SciFi/SyFy called Wynonna Earp and it is WICKED GOOD. I mean that. There are wicked demons from Hell. Seriously. Wyatt Earp’s family is cursed to have to kill the same people over and over again and only the heir that kills them all can break the curse. It’s a modern western/police drama and the cast and storyline are beyond diverse and it’s just amazing. Once I finish Stranger Things and Wynonna Earp, I’ll finally move on to The Last Kingdom, which there are now two seasons of. If I don’t watch Girlboss first.

Finish Craft Projects: I haven’t made any progress at all over the last eight weeks. I’m disappointed in myself.

Post Regularly: Getting a little better at this!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: So far, so good!

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Also going pretty well!

Read 50+ Books: I’m currently sitting at 24 books, but I’m looking to hit 30 before the next update goes live!

Get In Shape: Now that it’s finally warming up outside, I might stand a chance at completing this one!

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: April = 50.7 Miles. So far this month I’m right around 30 miles, and we’re only halfway through! I’m doing a lot of driving over the next couple weekends though, so it’s all going to come down to weekday walks instead of weekend exploring.

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: My ‘much smaller’ goal for this month is 4,000 words of manuscript, but that’s only going to happen if I finish these character backstories. Someday I’m probably going to release all the histories in some sort of character dictionary. I can’t wait to see people’s heads roll with the amount of information I have on every living thing in this universe. It makes me happy to know that someday I’ll get to see the awe on their faces. There’s definitely more history than manuscript at the moment, and no matter how much of the manuscript I write, I think it’s going to stay that way.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Someday.

April/May Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles Each Month: YES and ALMOST YES!

 

Run: Nope.

Yoga: I’m supplementing this with Meditation, and so far, so good!

Read Lots of Books: (* indicates finished)
April:
*Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
*Double Down by Gwenda Bond
*Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
*The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
*Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

May:
*Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond
*The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
*The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower
The Waterless Sea by Kate Constable
The Tenth Power by Kate Constable
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Write 5+ Book Reviews in May:
*Double Down
*Cotillion
*The Singer of All Songs
Triple Threat
The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate
Pretty Happy
A Conjuring of Light

Write 8,000 Words of Everest: My brain just keeps up a refrain of ‘Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first.’ It’s exhausting.

 

 

So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!

Until next time,

Amanda

The Singer of All Songs (The Chanters of Tremaris, #1) – Kate Constable

The-Chanters-Of-Tremaris-The-Singer-Of-All-Songs-Kate-Constable

Source: Goodreads

Calwyn has only ever known a life inside the great impenetrable wall of Antaris. She knows there is more to the world – after all, where else would the traders come from? but she is content with her quiet life as a priestess to the ice goddess. Then one day a man appears claiming the impossible, that he has flown over the wall. Worse yet, he claims another is coming after him who seeks to rule all of Tremaris, and who holds the power to become the master of all nine magics – The Singer of All Songs. Now it is up to Calwyn, who must summon all her wits and courage, to brave the unknown world with the help of a stranger in order to stop an evil that could destroy not just Antaris, but all of Tremaris.

 

The first book in Kate Constable’s Chanters of Tremaris trilogy is deeply satisfying and wondrously spellbinding. Her magic system is powered by song; different notes and octaves having entirely different effects, from general elemental control to animal speaking and ice forming, to illusions and healing. The world of Tremaris itself is amazingly diverse and nuanced, especially for something published over 10 years ago now.

When I read this book brand new in 2004 during a Harry Potter dry spell, it captivated me, and I probably read the whole book in a day knowing my 12-year-old self. Rereading it a dozen or so years later was just as magical, even though I had to space out my reading a little more because I no longer have the luxury of summer breaks in which to devour six months worth of books.

Calwyn is a complicated heroine. She yearns to understand herself and her place in the world, which of course is in constant change because of the adventure she embarks on, but she also has more basic desires. She wants love, she wants family, and she wants peace. Her courage is always simmering just below the surface, ready to leap to attention at the slightest provocation. As the main character, Calwyn is a bit of “Chosen One” or “Special Snowflake”, but she also contains the vast mysteries of her unknown past, her mother’s life journey, and her clearly missing father.

The Singer of All Songs is on the fence of a Middle-Grade/Juvenile or Young-Adult label. Nothing overtly sexual takes place, but there are quite a few hints dropped as to what goes down during the festival of shadows, and relationships in general. The ‘romantic relationship’, if it can even be called that, between Calwyn and Darrow is pretty much only them looking out for each other and thinking about whether they like one another or not while being slightly possessive. That’s as far as it goes in the first book anyways. I’ll need to finish my re-read of the rest of the series before I can give you an accurate report. The storyline itself lacks the ‘lesson’ which most middle-grade books contain, so I would push this one a little closer to young-adult because of that, but otherwise there’s no objectionable content for the under 14-year-olds.

The only reason I would take stars off is that I think including some of the words or tunes for the magic system would have been extremely cool. I know that’s a ton of work to create and remember, but when books come out alongside Harry Potter, readers start wishing everything was just as immersive as J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Waterless Sea
Book #3 – The Tenth Power (Review Available 6/27)

Cotillion – Georgette Heyer

Cotillion-Georgette-Heyer

Source: ThriftBooks

Kitty Charing is set to inherit the immense fortune of her scrooge of a guardian, a man who adopted her after his childhood friend, Kitty’s father, passed away. There’s only one catch: Miss Charing must marry one of the old man’s great nephews, or the whole of the fortune will be donated and Kitty left penniless when her guardian passes.

 

If you’ve never read a Regency Romance written by Georgette Heyer, go and order one right away. Heyer, the author of over 54 novels, is known primarily as the “inventor” of the Regency Romance subgenre. Unlike Jane Austen, who was technically writing contemporaries because she wrote about the time period in which she herself lived, Georgette Heyer wasn’t even born until 1902, and published her first book in 1921. Her works are unlike the Regency Romances of today in that there are actually very few romantic scenes: the books usually end with a kiss – that’s it. Today’s RR’s are more typically full of heavy romance scenes early on, and then characters dealing with the fallout.

Georgette Heyer’s stories are enveloped in the high society of the 17-1800’s, where one wrong move would get you banned from the London social season (also known as the ‘marriage market’) and ruin your societal standing in a single blow. She is well known for her historical accuracy, often explaining clothing, etiquette, and society for the benefit of the reader in ways that Jane Austen would have taken for granted that her readers understood.

 

What I’m saying is, Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances are basically the Romantic Comedies of the 1920’s-70’s. Often hysterically funny and filled with character miscommunications, a trip through a Georgette Heyer book is never anything but highly entertaining. It’s no wonder that her books sold well even during the Great Depression.

Cotillion, in particular, is one of my favorites although The Nonesuch, Bath Tangle and Sprig Muslin are close front runners as well.  Some readers may feel they need a dictionary in order to understand the period-specific talk, but it’s actually fairly simple to get the gist of the phrasing, even if you don’t know the actual definition. For example, a ‘dashed ivory-turner’ is another way of calling someone a professional gambler.

In Cotillion, we follow Catherine Charing, who believes she is about to become a wealthy heiress, as well as five of Uncle Matthew’s great nephews, four of whom remain unmarried at the time at which Uncle Matthew makes his announcement that Kitty must marry one of them. The mayhem itself is entertaining, but as always the slow turn of the romance is fascinating to watch. You’re left wondering until the last pages who she will choose to marry, if anyone at all, and in between fending off of various romantic advances, Kitty gets up to some trouble of her own.

Overall I quite enjoyed this book, even if this was my 4th or 5th time reading it. Recommended to anyone who enjoys miscommunication stories and romances.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 4.5 Stars