Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Liebster Award!

I am so excited to be nominated for the Liebster Award by the fabulous Lark and Lily! The last time I got an award was when I won a ping-pong championship in 2013 (roundabout), so I'm ecstatic to have something to show for the past 6-ish months of blogging. Prior to being nominated, I had never heard of the award (or Lark and Lily, for that matter), but I'm so glad I've been introduced to both! The Liebster Award is meant to help promote book bloggers in the blogging community, and Lark and Lily is certainly a good one! So, here's the rules:




Rules
If you have been nominated for the Liebster Award and you choose to accept it, write a blog post about the Liebster Award in which you do the following:
  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Display the award on your blog by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a widget or gadget.
  • Write a 150-300 word post about your favorite blog that is not your own. Explain why you like the blog and provide links.
  • Provide 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 - 11 blogs who have less than 200 followers that you feel deserve the award.
  • List these rules in your blog post.
  • Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award
  • If you have been nominated before at any time, please share the love. Many people believe the Liebster Award is similar to a chain email/letter and it shares similarities, but the underlying idea is to help promote each other's blogs.
Questions from Nominators
1) Favorite author?
This is like asking a parent who their favorite child is. I don't really have a "favorite" author so        much as I do favorite books within an author's works, but if I had to pick one, I'd say probably Hilari Bell. I LOVE the Knight & Rogue series and the Goblin Wood (which I just posted about recently).
2) Favorite quote from a book?
Does a poetry book count as a "book book"? If so, it's gonna be this one from Rupi Kaur's "milk and honey":
 If we're saying that doesn't count as a "book book", I'm going to have to go with the oh-so-classic:
 Call me sappy. You're not exactly wrong, but you can't tell me you don't love Mr. Darcy.
3) Would you rather win an Olympic gold medal or an Academy Award?
Simone Biles. This is all.
4) If you could be any character from a book, who would you be?
I would definitely pick Will from the Ranger's Apprentice. That's the first book series I ever loved and I was OBSESSED for the longest time. I still kinda am, but I hide it better.
5) What is the last book you read that was so bad you had to put it down?
I've started lots of books and never finished them, and almost all of them have been e-books. I can't remember the title of the last one, but it was the cheesiest, worst romance story I have ever had the misfortune to download. Boy did I get out of there quick.
6) If you were in a movie, would you rather play the villain or the hero?
I spent 99.7% of my childhood loving Batman. It's too late in the game to switch sides on him now.
7) Infinite chips or infinite candy? (That you can eat without getting fat)
I was going to say candy until I remembered the world's greatest invention: ranch dip. Original Ruffles and ranch dip is all you need, my friends. 
8) Vacation to South America or Asia?
South America is sooooo beautiful, so I'd probably have to pick there. There's lots of places in Asia I'd like to go, but just picking one for a vacation, I'd pick South America.
9) Least favorite book cover?
I hate it when they remake book covers from movie shots. Like, can we just not? Please? I also can't stand when really really good books have terrible covers. If you're a cover judge-r, you might miss out on a really great read because of an awful cover. 
10) Least favorite book to movie cast?
Generally speaking, Harry Potter is one of the best-cast book to movie conversions I've ever seen, but specifically, Peeves is the worst because his movie version DIDN'T EXIST. (Yes, we're all still salty about that.)
11) Physical books or e-books?
There's something really comforting and magical about a bookshelf stacked high with your favorite reads. Also, tea and paperbacks go together a lot better than tea and e-books.


Questions for Nominees
1) If everyone in the world had to read one book and you got to pick it, what book would it be and why?
2) Chocolate chip cookies or apple pie?
3) If you could be a fantastical beast, what would you pick?
4) What book have you read that made you the most emotional when reading it?
5) Would you rather zipline or skydive?
6) What's your favorite genre?
7) If you could suddenly know how to play an instrument, which would would it be?
8) Batman or Superman?
9) What's your favorite movie?
10) Why do you enjoy reading?
11) How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Favorite Blog 
Prior to being nominated for the Liebster Award, I really hadn't done much digging into other book bloggers. It takes me so long to actually write up a post that I find acceptable that I'm usually exhausted by the time I finish. Consequently, I really had to go out and dig for a blog I'd be comfortable recommending to others. And this is how the hunt ended with The Crazy Bookworm. This blog reviews books on a variety of topics, but what really got me is the gifs randomly interspersed throughout the reviews for dramatic effect. I. Love. Gifs.

10 Random Facts 
1) I've seen every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. At least twice.
2) I've broken the same bone three times, each time on or near Mother's Day.
3) I could happily live my life with nothing but Blue Bunny chocolate sundae crunch bars to eat.
4) I really want a horse.
5) I've caught the microwave on fire because I tried to heat up an Arby's sandwich in the wrapper.
6) Vanilla chai with two sugar and a dash of milk is the world's most perfect brew for reading.
7) If I had a pet camel, I would name it Alexander Camelton.
8) I can sing all the songs from Phantom of the Opera (while hitting most of the notes) AND role hop between singers. Boom.
9) I study Brazilian jiu-jitsu and jeet kune do.
10) S'mores are life.

Nominees 
1) Thinking Like A Fangirl
2) Of Stacks and Cups
3) You, Me, and a Cup of Tea
4) Books As You Know It
5) The Life of a Mirkwood Elf

So ends the longest post of my blogging career. I hope you find some great new blogs to inspire your reading!

Edwina - Patricia Strefling

Remember that chat we had on a previous post about e-books? Well, I'm back with yet another great find! I know what you're thinking: "what in the name of Alexander Hamilton is an Edwina?" or maybe "why is the cover pic such terrible quality?" To answer the first, Edwina is a very old-timey sounding name. Like Agnes. Or maybe Ethel. As for the low-resolution cover, I'm guessing it's because few people actually bother buying a physical copy of an e-book, which means fewer available pictures for use by bloggers like yours truly. But enough about that.

Edwina Blair is a small-town librarian whose greatest aspiration is to write the perfect romance novel. Painfully practical, plain, and a little overweight, Edwina's life is as routine as her father's yearly sock purchase during the January whites sale. Contrarily, Edwina's half-sister, Cecelia, is beautiful and business-minded, believing that her success has nothing to do with her good looks and movie-star mother. Despite their differences, the two get along well aside from the occasional spat. When Cecilia books a relaxing vacation to Scotland, she naturally tries to get Edwina to go with her. Anticipating a negative response, Cecilia took the liberty of including Edwina in her plans before letting her know about the trip. Once she finds out, it's too late for her to cancel without significant cost to Cecilia, and Edwina, never one to throw away money, resigns herself to a tour through Scotland. The two are preparing to board the plane out of the States when Cecilia is called away by an emergency. Alone and inexperienced, Edwina flies to Scotland without her wordly sister's help. Once there, she realizes just how far in over her head she is: the ritzy hotel, booked by and held for Cecilia, refuses to accept Edwina in her place. The overwhelmed and exhausted Edwina faints dead away at the desk and comes to a few moments later in the arms of a very handsome Scot who was in line behind her. Aware of the ordeal facing the American and anxious to get home to his fiancee, he insists that Edwina come to stay at his home until she has recovered enough to get back on her feet. Edwina, too overwrought to protest, finds herself the guest of one Alex Dunnegin, a Scottish laird and owner of the beautiful castle Edwina is taken to.

Once situated in the Scot's home, Edwina realizes she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime; the romantic Scottish hills, handsome laird, and rich surroundings are the perfect fodder for her romance novel. Soon, however, she realizes that there's something more going on at the castle than what's on the surface.; Laird Dunnegin is constantly being called away on mysterious legal matters and there are murmurs of a tragedy not long past. Edwina tries to take everything in during her short stay, but she feels oddly remorseful when she leaves for the rest of her trip. After some vigorous touring, Edwina is surprised to find Laird Dunnegin calling on her at the hotel. A dinner meeting reveals a job proposition, one made relevant by the departure of the now ex-fiancee, but it's cloaked in secrecy. True to her nature, Edwina ultimately declines, citing her job, family, and obligations at home as the reasons she can't possibly accept. Believing the matter to be closed, she returns to her tiny apartment and routine life in Michigan.

Edwina finds that things have changed since her trip, but she's startled to discover that she's changed too. When she's fired from her librarian position on false claims, she's almost relieved to be free of the daily grind her life was before the impromptu vacation. She decides to go visit Cecelia in one of the new apartments she's fixed up in New York, especially as she's preparing for guests Edwina invited from Scotland. The guests arrive as planned, but the accompaniment of Laird Dunnegin comes as a shock to Edwina. Once again, he has a job proposition for her, but now he reveals some of the details that were in the dark the last time. Should she choose to accept the position, Edwina would act as a teacher for Laird Dunnegin's daughter, who is currently the focus of a legal dispute meant to take her away from him. His wife, who died when the child was very young, was the daughter of a rich American, groomed to take up the family business. With her dead, Paige is next in line for the business, and her grandfather intends to get her however he can. Again, Edwina declines the offer, but she realizes that the things that had prohibited her last time were no longer an issue. Aside from that, she desperately wants to help her knight in shining armor and show that his faith was not misplaced. A little nervously, Edwina accepts the position. As she uproots her life to move to Scotland, will she be able to fulfill her duties without her feelings for the handsome laird getting in the way? Will Laird Dunnegin be able to keep his daughter from the clutches of her grandfather? Most importantly, will a common bond bring the two closer than the employee-employer relationship they have now?

To be honest, this is a pretty far cry from the books I normally read/review. This is, unabashedly, a romance story. Yeah, it's got a little bit of mystery and some fun cultural tidbits, but not enough to make it anything but a romance. With that being the case, it's a teeny bit surprising that I love it as much as I do. Generally speaking, I'm the one laughing at the sappy romance cliches, but I really relate to Edwina and her struggle to find her place in the world. Her safe life is a result of her insecurities, but all it takes is one spur-of-the-moment trip to Scotland to make her realize that there's so much more to life than saving a few bucks a month by having a shower instead of a bathtub in your apartment. She's got some really fun, quirky habits and she's surprisingly funny. 

My biggest critique of this book is a structural issue. I don't know if it's because it was converted from an e-book or what, but my paperback version is LOADED with misspellings and formatting errors. Of all the books on my shelf, Edwina easily has the most errors in it, which drives me absolutely insane. As far as problems with the actual text, there are a couple of instances where Edwina comes across as really whiney, which also drives me absolutely insane. Additionally, sometimes the timeline is a little confusing; for example, a few days in Scotland translates to a substantial first part of the book, but when she returns, a couple of weeks go by in a page or two. While that actually ties in kind of well with how her life goes in general, it can still be a little disorienting.

Pros:
  • Handsome Scottish lairds with castles
  • Not your typical "beautiful girl and handsome boy fall in love and live happily ever after" story
  • Relatable characters with really great development arcs
Cons:
  • SO. MANY. FORMAT. ERRORS.
  • Not consistent in how much time is represented per chapter (awkward wording, but check the last paragraph and you'll see what I mean)
  • Really (really really really) short chapters, probably another side effect of e-book to actual book

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Gobin Wood - Hilari Bell

How much do I love this book? ALL OF IT. ALL OF THE LOVE. I have read this book pretty much every summer since the year I first signed up for our local library's teen reading program, which works out to about 8 years now. (And suddenly, I feel old.) Despite reading it over and over, I still find myself racing through to find out what happens. The primary issue within the novel, which is told from the perspective of two very compelling characters on opposite sides, is complex enough that you may very well find yourself switching between sides.There are very few books that I would recommend without having to add a caveat, and this is definitely one of them.

Makenna is a hedgewitch, or at least she will be when her mother teaches her a little more about their magic. Despite being declared insufficient for priesthood at birth because of her lack of strong magic, Makenna is content to live in their little town and learn while her mother treats the villagers for various injuries and problems. Lately, it's been getting more difficult to continue their work uninterrupted as the priests, under orders the ruler of the land received from the Bright Ones, begin cracking down on unholy sources of magic. Suddenly, goblins that had previously lived in uneasy truce with humans are cast out and hedgewitches that were trusted members of a community are punished. For Makenna, everything changes the day her mother is murdered by the very people she had served. Grief-stricken and alone, Makenna flees into the forest with nothing but her mother's precious spell books and her rage to support her.

While she tries to eke out a living in the woods, she unwittingly angers a group of goblins who, in typical goblin fashion, make her life miserable in creative and extremely irritating ways. Soon, she learns the goblin system of trading; if she sets out enough food, they'll return the pack they stole the night before or mend her broken gear. When she finally manages to capture one of them and promptly sets him free, she inadvertently gains his indebtedness to her for the unbalanced trade. Cogswhallop, for so he is called, becomes her ally and, eventually, her friend, bringing her food and providing information about the road ahead. Just when it seems he has paid his debt, he comes to her and asks for her help to rescue a goblin family that is about to be killed by a mob nearby. Despite her best efforts, she only manages to save some of the family, and the heartbreaking screams of the rescued goblins as their family burns strike a chord in Makenna. From that point on, she vows to lead the goblins in a war against the humans that mindlessly slaughter their people and betrayed her mother.

On the other side of the conflict, Sir Tobin finds himself an unwilling accomplice to a treasonous plot that would've resulted in execution for his brother, the real perpetrator. As his father's heir, the punishment Tobin faces for his supposed involvement is much lighter than the one his brother would've faced. Stripped of his knighthood and disowned by his father, Tobin is desperate to recover his honor. Soon, he is approached by Master Lazur, a priest of the Bright Ones who offers Tobin a chance for redemption; help capture the sorceress that reigns in the Goblin Wood and all will be forgiven. Unwilling to commit murder even for the return of his honor, Tobin learns that barbarian attacks are slowly but surely driving the people of the realm further north towards the wood where the sorceress and her goblins have made their new home; unless the goblins are driven out so the people can relocate, the realm faces utter destruction. Master Lazur gives him a stone from the mysterious Otherworld which, if planted close enough to the sorceress's camp, will allow the priests to scry for it and determine the location of the rebels. Tobin travels to the Goblin Wood with every intention of carrying out the plan, but the sorceress, who turns out to be a mere hedgewitch, proves to be more elusive than he expected. When he is captured and forced to live among the goblins, he realizes the issue isn't as black and white as it seems.

Have I mentioned yet that I love this book? I honestly feel like this review doesn't do it justice, but I tried. As I said previously, the issue facing the characters is a complex one with valid points on either side, which is what makes it so interesting. It's showcased beautifully by the passion of each character to their cause and the insight we're given into what they're thinking. The novel is part of a series, but the book addresses most (if not all) loose ends that are presented. I seriously can't say enough about this book, so I think I'm just going to stop there!

Pros:
  • Complex, engaging dilemma (not to be confused with "dilemna", which is apparently NOT a word. That's 21 years of my life I'll never get back.)
  • Likable, relatable characters
  • Great writing, fabulous storyline, and no iffy content! (Is this the Holy Grail of young adult fantasy lit?!)

Cons:
  • I legitimately can't think of any
  • Nope
  • Not even one

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Carnival of Souls - Nancy Holder

Okay, I know what you're thinking; "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, really? That is sooooo 90's." Yeah, it is. But you know what? So am I! Team 90's kids all the way. Admittedly, this is a bit of a departure from my usual content, but it was such a fun read that I couldn't resist.

Buffy used to be a normal girl. She went to school, had pretty average grades, and spent a little too much time at the mall. But that was before she found out that she was the Chosen One, the girl of her generation chosen to wage war against the forces of evil that make their way into our world. Since then, there's been a lot less mall shopping and a lot more vampire slaying going on. With the help of her Watcher, Giles, and her two closest friends, Xander and Willow, Buffy manages to keep her head on straight and get the job done. It also doesn't hurt that she's finally managed to get close to Angel, the vampire with a soul that's been helping her in the fight against the bad guys. Especially with all the recent slayage that's been going on, Buffy and the gang are ready for a little quality relaxation when Professor Caligari's Traveling Carnival comes to town. Yeah, sure, the owner is super creepy, no one can decide when the carnival actually arrived, and the crime rate takes a drastic trip north, but what's the worst that could happen? It's not like overindulging in some harmless carnival fun is going to suck your soul out...

When Buffy and her friends go to investigate the carnival after unexplained crimes start happening in Sunnydale, they decide the best course of action is to take in the carnival themselves. Believing the Tunnel of Love to be behind the strange behavior, they all take a trip through with a partner, but come out seemingly unaffected. After experiencing a few of the different attractions at the carnival, it's apparent that something funky is going on. Xander, who admittedly was pretty single-minded about food before, is constantly hungry, eating whatever he can get his hands on. Willow, usually shy and humble, seems to have been bitten by the green-eyed monster. Giles takes a trip back to the angsty days of his youth and Buffy suddenly decides that she's better than everyone in the town. Soon, they reveal that Professor Caligari is an ancient evil bent on nothing short of the destruction of Sunnydale and the enslavement of all its inhabitants. But with the various faults assailing the group, will they be able to overcome their own problems and save Sunnydale?

The first thing that should probably be addressed is the relation of this book to the Buffy series. If you're a huge fan of the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' series, you'll enjoy this one either way, especially with the added Easter eggs. If you've never seen or heard of Buffy, you may miss out on some of the references and a little back story, but the author was really good about summarizing plot points that are important without detracting from the current story. That being said, reading this book is like watching the series. To be honest, the writing style threw me off a little at first because it's so Buffy, and by that I mean lots of 90's phrases that have since faded into obscurity. After a couple of chapters, you get used to it and you can focus more on the plot, but boy was that a bit of culture shock initially. Admittedly, reading the book from Buffy's iconically sarcastic POV is extremely amusing, but be aware that it's not written from a dry third-person view.

As far as the actual plot, I (obviously) really enjoyed it. The whole storyline is based around the idea of overindulgence and the Seven Deadly Sins, which are portrayed as actual characters. Morally, it backs up the idea that giving in to temptation when you know you shouldn't is bad and literally gets your soul taken away. Aside from that, it uses some of your typical carnival players without over-emphasizing them. Take clowns, for example. In a horror-ish type story about a carnival, you'd obviously expect there to be creepy clowns with chainsaws or blood-sucking tendencies or something like that, and while there are some clowns, they don't play as huge a role as you might expect. Overall, this is a fun read, especially if you're familiar with the Buffy series.

Pros:
  • Carnival horror
  • Merges really well with TV series plot progression
  • Virtually non-stop comedy
Cons:
  • 90's lingo. It might as well be Klingon (in which I'm barely literate)
  • Plot is drawn out, but not excessively
  • May take away any desire to visit carnivals in the near future

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Newt's Emerald - Garth Nix

After reading Nix's Sabriel in a university literature class, I was extremely excited to see one of his novels pop up in the monthly book box I subscribe to. I was even more excited to see that it was a fantasy of manners, a term I recently learned can refer to Regency era novels with an element of magic. The book's partner in the subscription box was pretty disappointing, but I'm happy to say I sailed through this one in a day or so. Read on for the plot summary and review!

Truthful Newington lives with her cantankerous father, a retired Admiral, after the death of her mother. On the brink of her official entry into society, her father shows her the Newington Emerald, a powerful magical talisman that is to be hers on her 25th birthday. Truthful has no small skill herself, having inherited her family's magic of weather influencing. When the Admiral brings the Emerald out of its safe place, a sudden gust from a violent storm blows into the room and, in the ensuing chaos, the talisman disappears. The Admiral, shocked by what he believes to be the theft of the Emerald, falls ill and takes to his bed while Truthful vows to seek out the Emerald and return it to its rightful place. She travels to London to live with her great-aunt for the duration of the search and, what now seems less important, for her entry into London society. Once there, it is quickly decided that she can't possibly investigate as herself, so Great-Aunt Badgery, a powerful sorceress, disguises her as an absent French cousin so she can roam the streets freely. On one of her excursions, she runs into (literally) Major Hartnett, a handsome but irritating fellow who, despite seeming to be rather suspicious of Truthful (in male cousin guise), ends up working with her for the remainder of the search. As the hunt continues, it becomes apparent that there is a larger force at work than originally believed. Truthful, who finds herself falling for the dashing Major Hartnett, continues to poke around in hopes of recovering the Emerald, but when she goes to confront the villain, she discovers that she may be in over her head.

So let's chat. I'm a huge fan of Regency/magic/undercover debutante books. Obviously, this one falls right into that category so it's hard for me to not like it. Fantasy books are kind of my thing, especially when you start mixing in historical periods I love as much as the Regency Era. I also seem to have an affinity for books with strong female leads, which this one sort of is. I liked the plot, even if it was a bit simple, and the writing is pretty funny at some points; one of my personal favorites is how the disguise is in enchanted on a mustache that Truthful has to wear. In these respects, I thought it was a fun book, especially for younger readers.

There were, however, things I definitely didn't like. The first is the extremely underdeveloped romance between Truthful and Major Hartnett. Both seem to have strong feelings for the other, but there's absolutely no reason for it. In the few encounters Major Hartnett has with Truthful as Lady Truthful, he sees her as a spoiled, selfish, debutante brat, albeit it a very beautiful one. Truthful's affection can be explained more easily since she ended up spending a lot of time with him as the male cousin, but it seems to advance a little to quickly for what we're given, which conveniently leads into the next point: pacing. The whole novel seems to rush along, and although I liked a lot of the scenes, they came and went so quickly that you end up with plot whiplash.

Pros:
  • Regency Era + Magic = Fun!
  • Straightforward, doesn't require a lot of extra attention to keep up
  •  Entertaining (if not a little predictable) plot
Cons:
  • Unlikely, underdeveloped romance
  • PACING
  • A little corny at either end 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chocolate Macarons

Macarons are tricky beasts: mess up one step and the whole operation is ruined. I should know, since my first attempt was just shy of disastrous. But as I like to say, Mama didn't raise no quitter, so I pulled myself together for attempt number two. They still weren't perfect, as you can see from the cracks in the tops, but they were much better since I was able to identify where I went wrong the first time. First, make sure you whip the egg whites all the way to stiff peaks. Second, you can't possibly be too careful when you're folding the egg whites into the dry ingredients. I highly recommend looking it up on YouTube if you have any doubts as to the process. Finally, make sure you pipe the shells to the right size. The second time around, I drew forms on the underside of the parchment paper so they would all be the same size. Whatever you do, don't be afraid to try them just because they're a little more complicated! I seriously almost cried when I tasted the second batch and they were so much better. Attempting new things can only expand on your abilities!


Ingredients: 
For macaron shells
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, optional
For chocolate ganache filling:
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Nutella

Directions:
  1. In  medium bowl, sift together almond flour, powdered sugar and cocoa powder twice. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat. Slowly add sugar one tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until hard peaks form. 
  3. Sift the almond flour mixture over the whipped egg whites. Gently fold the mixture, running the spatula clockwise from the bottom, up around the sides, and cut the batter in half. The batter will look very thick at first, but it will get thinner as you fold. Be careful not to overmix! Every so often, test the batter to see if it has reached the right consistency. Do this by dropping a small amount of batter and counting to ten. If the edges of the ribbon are dissolved within seconds, the batter is ready. Do NOT mix again. If you still see edges, fold the batter a couple more times and test again. 
  4. Transfer the batter into a pastry bag with a round tip.
  5. Pipe out 1.5-inch rounds about an inch apart on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. You should get about 42 shells. Tap the baking sheets firmly on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. If you don't release the air bubbles, they will expand during baking and crack the shells. 
  6. Let the macarons rest and dry for 15-30 minutes. On a humid, this step will take longer. To see if it's ready to be baked, lightly touch it. If the batter doesn't stick to your finger, it's ready. Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on each macaron right before baking, if desired. Preheat the oven to 300 F. 
  7. Bake the macarons for 18-2 minutes. To check if they are done, remove one macaron. If the bottom doesn't stick, they're done. 
  8. Transfer to wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the baking sheets.
  9. While macarons are cooling, prepare the ganache filling. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for a minute. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and pour hot cream over them. Let it stand for a minute or two, then stir until smooth. Stir in Nutella. Cool the ganache in the fridge to thicken
  10. Transfer the ganache filling into a pastry bag and fill the macarons.
  11. Store the filled macarons in airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze the filled macarons in airtight container for up to 5 months.
Source: Sweet and Savory

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Entropy Effect - Vonda McIntyre

If you've been on my blog for any amount of time, you've probably learned that I have a slight Star Trek obsession. Within that obsession, this book is like a sub-obsession; it is hands down my favorite Star Trek novel based on the original series. Keep reading for the summary!

The U.S.S. Enterprise has been orbiting a naked singularity for 6 weeks while Commander Spock takes observations that may prove to be critical for understanding the life span of the universe. Unexpectedly, Captain Kirk receives a top-priority order to proceed to Aleph Prime, a mining colony, and weeks of meticulous observations are ruined on the cusp of proving a shocking discovery. Upon arrival at the planet, however, Kirk finds that there is no real emergency; brilliant physicist Georges Mordreaux, once Spock's teacher, is being transferred to a rehabilitation colony after being convicted of murder and the Enterprise has been diverted to take him. Mysterious circumstance seem to follow Mordreaux wherever he is taken and unexplainable bouts of hypermorphic botulism are responsible for the deaths of key individuals related to the case. Spock, unable to believe that his former teacher is capable of performing the crimes he was convicted of, tries to read up on his latest research and finds that a virus is systematically removing all mentions of Mordreaux and his work from computers universally. Mordreaux is transferred to the Enterprise along with the prosecuting attorney on the case, but Spock insists he be confined in a guarded guest cabin instead of the brig.

On the way to the rehabilitation colony, Mordreaux appears on the bridge and uses an outlawed weapon on two of the crew, killing both of them. When security mounts a search for Mordreaux and the weapon, the former is found in his cabin, seemingly unaware of what happened, and the latter is nowhere to be found. Spock, in temporary command of the Enterprise, visits Mordreaux to get his side of the story and learns that the professor had been working on time travel technology and, in fact, had sent some of his friends back in time. Realizing that time travel was involved, the two piece together the solution to the mystery of the Mordreaux that couldn't have been on the bridge and the weapon that was never found. The final conclusion reveals a stark reality; messing around with time has created a disruption in the very fabric of reality, which manifested as the naked singularity, that threatens the future of the universe with hundreds of alternate realities that shouldn't exist. With this in mind, Spock and the present Mordreaux work to reverse the damage and restore the reality that was meant to be.

As I said previously, this is my favorite Star Trek novel. It's almost like a Doctor Who/Star Trek combo because of the time travel factor. There's a major shock scene (the result of which I tried to conceal as best as I could in the summary) that may result in a few tears. We get a lot of backstory on Sulu because he does more in this novel than just sit at the helm, and, fun fact, this book is the origin of some of the information we get on him in the TV series (or so I've heard). Additionally, since Spock is the main character in this one, we get to see a side of him we don't usually get to. The other thing I love about it is the complexity of the plot; virtually nothing is what it seems to be and it keeps you guessing throughout the novel.

The main complaint I have of this book is more format-related than textual, and that is the length of the chapters. They. Are. So. Long. With the schedule I've had recently, I've had to sneak in a bit here and there instead of chugging through like I normally would, but the lack of chapter breaks made it really hard to keep track of where I was between readings. I know what you're thinking - "Why didn't you just use a bookmark?!" Well, while it is true that I have an abundance of bookmarks, it's also true that I never seem to have them when I need them. But, such is life. Aside from the long chapters, I also noticed that there are a few things that aren't really fully addressed at the end; you can definitely imply the answers, but they aren't explicitly stated. Overall, it's a great read that I would definitely recommend!

Pros:
  • Time travel!
  • Lots of interesting backstory on Spock and Sulu
  • Interesting, complex plot
Cons:
  • Really. Long. Chapters.
  • Still a couple of loose ends at the conclusion of the novel
  •  Teeny bit of inconsistency between book and TV series, but nothing major
Since this post is about my favorite Star Trek novel, I can't resist sharing my favorite piece of Star Trek fan art to go with it. I wasn't able to track down the artist, but whoever you are, you're my hero. This is some seriously amazing skill, especially considering the only art I can do is abstract. You can almost feel the emotions being portrayed here. Okay, done ranting, I'm gonna just leave it here.