Notes to my younger self…

To Amanda at the age of 5: You’re not sneaky, and you’re a bad liar. Don’t even think about those cookies. Also, don’t get distracted by that boy. Learn to block soccer balls from hitting you in the face instead.

To Amanda at the age of 6: Congratulations, you’ve found your calling. Have fun thinking it’s not a viable option for the next 20-odd years.

To Amanda at the age of 8: The world is not ending because you’re moving, and you have a lifetime of friends to make. Just Breathe.

To Amanda at the age of 9: I realize you’re totally freaking out about puberty, but trust me, it’s not that awful.

To Amanda at the age of 11: Be friendly! Don’t moon over that boy too hard, he’s not the one. Have fun.

To Amanda at the age of 12: Not all middle school girls are this awful, trust me. Be strong. If you try, the worst that can happen is you fail. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

To Amanda at the age of 14: Chill, girl. Stop judging people based on the high school movies you’ve seen. You don’t know their history.

To Amanda at the age of 15: Don’t wait until the last minute to write those history papers. Don’t wave to that boy, you’re going to – congratulations, you tripped. It won’t be the only time today. You forgot to bring that note to school for a reason. Let It Goooo. In fact, just let ALL the boys go this year. Let them goooo.

To Amanda at the age of 16: I know you love history, but didn’t I tell you at six that you found your calling? This isn’t it. Also this is the best prom.

To Amanda at the age of 17: Fall down ten times, get up eleven. God won’t give you a situation you can’t handle with his help. Don’t let others dictate your actions. Peer pressure is an illusion. Be kind, and don’t ask stupid questions that you know will piss people off. Don’t moon over that boy too hard, he’s not the one. Communication is key. Also, your parents are totally not going to let you move to Colorado, but apply anyway.

To Amanda at the age of 18: You’re not missing anything, so focus on your schoolwork. Also, science is not your calling. Also, you’re going to have your favorite job while you’re here. Also, 36 hours at THON is not good for your ankles.

To Amanda at the age of 20: You’re making the right decision. There are so many good things waiting for you.

To Amanda at the age of 22: That friendship is not worth the drama. Let it gooooooooo. Just say no.

To Amanda at the age of 24: You won’t BeLIEVE where you’ll be living and what you’ll be doing this time next year. Oh… you guessed right. Okay then.


To Amanda at the age of 25: Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. Chase your dreams ferociously. Don’t give away your shot.

TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #2

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Source: Wikipedia

 

Season two is just as action packed as season one was, but with a whole new level of danger and some serious plot twists. The 22 episodes feel as though they are 122 because there is just so much plot. The continued love triangle between Stefan, Elena, and Damon is strengthened by the appearance of Katherine and her scorn of Damon’s love. Katherine’s love for Stefan, however, threatens to ruin his relationship with Elena. Add to that a lot of werewolves and even more vampires than season one, and you’ve got yourself the makings of an apocalypse. Kind of a heavy subject for season two, but it is handled very well, and the tensions are at an all-time high for literally every character. If there is something that can go wrong in someone’s relationship, it does, often with interesting consequences. I was overall very impressed with where the story went, and how the characters developed (especially Caroline, who really came into her own this season!) and I can’t wait to see how it continues! See below for a more spoiler-filled recap.

 

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Season two picks up where season one left off, with Katherine making her first appearance in Mystic Fall with a splash, turning Caroline into a vampire and telling Damon that Stefan’s the one she’s always loved. Throughout the season, Damon tries to hide how wounded he is by this fact, though it often rears its head in unexpected ways and leads to a few surprise deaths. Mason Lockwood is exposed as a werewolf after Tyler has to scare him off from nearly killing Caroline while she is making out with Matt in the woods, and Caroline and Matt’s relationship hits an all-time low.

We eventually find out that Katherine is in Mystic Falls because she needs a rock that she has been trying to hide from someone for over five hundred years and that she is using Mason to get it for her. Elena and Stefan pretend to be hitting a rocky patch in their relationship in an attempt to keep Katherine from killing anyone else, but it backfires. Elena finds out that she and Katherine are doppelgangers, and that one of them needs to die in a ritual sacrifice to either free the vampires to walk during the day, or to free the werewolves to change (or not change) whenever they choose. Jeremy tries to get Tyler to tell him about the werewolves and this rock that Katherine is looking for.

Everyone decides that Katherine is no good and needs to die, but instead, they end up locking her in the tomb with her special rock to rot. After getting kidnapped and introduced to someone referred to as an ‘original’ vampire, Elena is rescued by Stefan and Damon. She later visits Katherine to get the whole story about the doppelgangers and tries to find out if the ‘original’ vampire is who Katherine was running from.

 

Bonnie makes a new witchy friend, who fakes helping her destroy the special rock after Bonnie, Stefan, and Jeremy go to great lengths to get it back from Katherine in the tomb because he needs it to get his sister back from one of the original vampires.

Tyler accidentally kills someone and becomes a werewolf, and gets close to Caroline as she tries to help him through his first full moon. Mason disappears, but his friends Jules shows up in town with a group of werewolves who want the special rock to free themselves. Tyler initially goes along with their plan until he finds out that they plan to kill Elena.

The original vampires show up and take over everyone’s lives, the eldest, Klaus, deciding they should do the ritual sacrifice. It turns out that it won’t free vampires or werewolves, only himself. Klaus was cursed by a witch and the ritual will set him free. He planted the sun and moon curse story so everyone in the world would search for the special rock he needed. Caroline, Tyler, and Matt nearly die. Aunt Jenna, Jules, and Bonnie’s witchy friend’s sister die. Elena nearly becomes a vampire, but her birth father saves her. Damon is bitten by a werewolf. Stefan makes the decision to join Klaus and leave Mystic Falls behind. Elijah disappears. Alaric moves in, to act as legal guardian for Elena and Jeremy after Jenna’s death. Elena kisses Damon because he is dying.

 

***END OF SPOILERS***

 

 

I am still totally team Damon. Stefan is just too possessive and restricting. He judges Elena really hard for wanting to put her life before those for whom she cares, calling her a coward. Basically, Stefan fights until the last minute and then gives up, while Damon lets Elena do what she wants until he feels he must do what he must to keep her save and mostly alive.

Favorite Episode: Episode 01 – The Return

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Sequence, #1) – Susan Cooper

 

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Photo by Amanda_HHC

 

 

Simon, Jane, and Barnabus Drew have just arrived in Cornwall for a summer holiday with their parents and great uncle when they discover a mysteriously hidden passageway to a long-forgotten attic in the house they are staying at. Among the relics and dust, they find what could only be a treasure map. In following the ancient clues, the Drews attract the attention of other treasure hunters, determined to get the prize for themselves in the name of an evil known only as the Dark. As Simon, Jane, and Barney unravel the secrets of the map, they realize the treasure is more important than they ever could have dreamed, and might even be related to the true history of King Arthur.

 

I was gifted The Dark is Rising Sequence as a Christmas present from my parents over a decade ago and loved them. When I set out to re-read all of my childhood favorites this year, I knew this series needed to be on my list. Cooper’s writing is simple enough that my young mind could comprehend it, but it is also complex enough to still make the story enjoyable as an adult.

Admittedly, I don’t remember much from my original reading of the book beyond that it had a theme about King Arthur and Merlin, and that I liked it, so re-reading these is nearly as entertaining as it was back then. I have always loved anything to do with King Arthur and Merlin (Guinevere and Lancelot not so much), so those themes in the story are my favorite. As a child, it was fun to read about people near my own age getting in on the adventures, rather than reading about yet another 16-year-old protagonist who needed to go save a princess or a kingdom or slay something. The Drews are not ‘special snowflakes’ in any sense. They make mistakes, and that is what allows the story to wander where it does and come to the conclusion Cooper had planned. The book does move a little slowly, and the characters’ minds wander so that we get more description than is strictly necessary. Most of these descriptions help build other characters in the reader’s mind, however, and for younger readers, it would make perfect sense that these descriptions would be needed. After all, we can’t all have ready-made villains in our heads to slap names on at the drop of a hat. What I am trying to say here is this: There is a lot of description, but it is not altogether unwelcome.

The scenery, seen through Cooper’s world-building, is wonderful. No matter where I picked up in the book, I could almost feel the Cornish winds whipping across the headlands and hear the sea slamming against the rocks of Kemare head as the tide rushes in. The characters each have their own personalities and accents, making each an interesting little nugget of eccentricities to mine for.

I have no idea where the rest of the series will take me, but I look forward to diving in!

 

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

P.S. The covers featured are from a reprint of the 1986 box set edition. The edition was printed in 2000, but as far as I can find, these covers are no longer available.

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising (Review available 10/10)
Book #3 – Greenwitch (Review available 10/31)
Book #4 – The Grey King (Review available 11/21)
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Review available 12/12)

The Little French Bistro – Nina George (T: German-English by Simon Pare)

The-Little-French-Bistro-Nina-George

Source: Goodreads

 

 

Marianne feels lost after 41 years of marriage. After a failed suicide attempt she heads to the Breton coast on a whim and leaves everything she knows behind. Once in Kerdruc, Marianne faces not only the daunting task of learning a new language, but also an internal battle that will define her life and determine her fate.

 

Having absolutely adored George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, I couldn’t help but pick this book up from my local library as soon as it became available. As with her earlier work, the main character has already lived a full life, yet yearns for something that remains a mystery to them. For Marianne, this means diving into the possibilities of who she would be without the parameters of the life she has built thus far. With an edge of mystery ever present, the reader is introduced to the townspeople of Kerdruc and it’s surrounding artisans, each of whom has their own story to tell.

There were many layers to The Little French Bistro, and I think that is what makes it feel whole. Marianne’s life is just the tip of the iceberg, under which resides love, loss, myth, magic, and good food. The villagers of Kerdruc will never be the same after Marianne has touched their lives. While I personally feel the ending is open to interpretation, the journey our heroine takes carries quite the heavy message that lives on long after the pages and words have run out.

Recommended for ages 16+ due to adult content.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Grand Relaunch – Announcements!

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Welcome to the new site!

If you’ve been here before, welcome back!  If you’re new, hello! Nice to meet you! I think you’re going to like it here.

If you’re a returning reader, you may have noticed the name change: I think it fits the image and purpose of the blog much better than the old one. There are a bunch of new things headed your way, and I can’t wait to share them!

 

First off, I wanted to let you in on a surprise – the book I reviewed last week, The Alchemists of Loom,  is on sale right now as an eBook for 99¢! (get it here) The sale runs through May 7th, and it’s all in preparation for a read along being hosted by the author starting May 8th and running through the end of the month. You can find the schedule of events for the read along, as well as a GIVEAWAY of The Alchemists of Loom in hardback(!!!), in the dedicated facebook group.

99-loom-promo

Now is the perfect time to jump into the world of Loom, because later this week myself and the rest of the Tower Guard (A.K.A. the Elise Kova street team and fan club) will be bringing you the cover reveal of the next book in the Loom series: The Dragons of Nova!

If you happen to devour The Alchemists of Loom as fast as I did and you need more of Kova’s work to hold you over until The Dragon’s of Nova releases in July, her Air Awakens series eBook box set is on a Kindle Countdown Sale this week as well, meaning the sooner you purchase, the cheaper it is! This is in preparation for the publication of the last installment in the Golden Guard TrilogyFarmer’s War, on May 2nd! (TOMORROW!!!) (pre-order here) The Golden Guard Trilogy is a prequel series to Air Awakens.

And if you are into Goodreads giveaways, they’re doing The Alchemists of Loom AND The Dragons of Nova right now! These are in addition to the hardcover giveaway of The Alchemists of Loom associated with the read along.

Elise Kova, as you would know if you read my Life Log from a couple months ago, is just the sweetest, and I’m very happy to be able to help her out by spreading the word about her work! Please check out her stuff. You won’t be disappointed!

 

In other news, what else can you expect to hit the blog in the next month?

  • Weekly book reviews
  • A film review (or two!)
  • An update on grad school and my future plans!

Also, the monthly goal check-ins should resume this month!

If you haven’t had a chance yet, feel free to click around the new site and check it out. I think I got all of the links updated, but if something isn’t working please let me know so I can try to fix it as soon as possible. Enjoy!

 

Until next time,

Amanda

 

The Alchemists of Loom (The Loom Saga, #1) – Elise Kova

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Source: Goodreads

 

Ever since the fall of the resistance, Arianna has been working in the shadows to bring down the Dragons who ruined her world. In the city of Dortam, she is known as the White Wraith, a ghostly figure who even the dragons fear, an organ thief who sells to the highest bidder. Stumbling across a wounded dragon in a back alley is as close as she comes to having a good day. Cvareh is determined to help bring down the Dragon King and establish a new order. Stealing the King’s schematics and fleeing the sky world of Nova is just the first step on his journey to the Alchemists Guild. Now he just needs someone who understands this strange, grey, ground world of Loom to get him there.

 

I first heard about this book on Booktube, the corner of YouTube run by book bloggers, authors, and publishers where you can find anything and everything you want to know about books. Anyway, I first heard about The Alchemists of Loom from Sasha Alsberg of ABookUtopia, Regan of PeruseProject, and Lindsay Cummings. Their fantastic recommendations put this book pretty high up on my radar, and I was already planning to buy it when I passed a random Barnes & Noble here in Boston at the end of February and saw a poster of the cover in the window.When I went in to get a better look, it turned out that the author was there for a signing that was starting literally at that very second. Naturally, I purchased the book and then headed up to the area where the signing was.

When I went in to get a better look, it turned out that the author was there for a signing that was starting literally at that very second. Naturally, I purchased the book and then headed up to the area where the signing was. Let me tell you, Elise Kova is awesome. It was a small group, which was great because it was my first book-related event ever, and we all got to ask questions and chat freely. You can check out the post I wrote about it here.

Ever since the event, I’ve been dying to read The Alchemists of Loom, but I already had a bunch of other works scheduled for reviews and things so it wasn’t until I hit a reading slump this month that I finally gave in and picked it up, schedule be damned.

I really liked it. And not just because it was recommended by other reviewers whose opinions I trust, or because I met the author and she’s pretty awesome, but because the story was fresh, and new, and exciting! And even though I was thrown into this world I’d never been to before, with new words and things I didn’t understand for, like, 100 pages, it was totally immersive and relatable. Resistance. Revenge. Class Systems. Guilds. There is so much going on in this world that the only way to learn it is by complete immersion. As readers, we would get nowhere if Kova stopped to explain what things were every other paragraph. Instead, you learn about Loom at about the same pace that Cvareh (pronounced Sah-var-ay) does, which works perfectly with the timing of the plot and the development of the characters. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this as anyone’s first dip into fantasy because I there is a lot going on and you will get overwhelmed if you don’t have some sort of background in reading the genre.

The only gripe I have is about a scene near the beginning in Arianna’s apartment in Dortam (pg 44 in the hardcover). I feel like an action is missing – like something got deleted accidentally. Right after an item is exchanged, one of the characters is suddenly across the room walking somewhere. Maybe I’m just confusing myself, but when the item exchange happened I pictured the first character standing in one place watching to see what the second character’s reaction would be, not giving them the item and then continuing to walk across the room. It just didn’t feel like a natural progression and I had to reread the scene like five times to figure out what happened.

The book overall was just totally engrossing. I devoured its 382 pages in 2-3 days. I enjoyed learning about the characters, the pacing was good, and the plot compelling. I definitely recommend reading this to anyone who enjoys their fantasy with a dose of steampunk (although this is more of the magically powered than steam powered variety). I can’t wait for the next two books in the series!

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

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