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To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin (Early Review)

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What a cover! *dreamy eyes* Caitriona Wallace, or Cait, is a chaperone for Jamie and Alice Arrol on their “Grand Tour” of mainland Europe from Scotland. Their final stop is Paris, where they meet Émile Nougier, one of the engineers who designed the Eiffel Tower for Gustav Eiffel. Chapters alternate between Cait and Émile; the transition is smooth, not confusing, and done very well. Cait and Émile are attracted to each other but haven't spent enough time together to pursue it. After the Grand Tour, they go back to Scotland but Jamie soon decides that he must be an apprentice with Monsieur Eiffel (also a small character in the book, very fun), and his uncle agrees to finance the move if Alice also goes and Cait agrees to be their chaperone once again. Plenty of other things are going on, but the driving force of this book is Cait and Émile wanting to be together but life getting in the way.

I really, really loved this book. I was nervous while reading because I was afraid the ending wouldn’t suit. You know the kind; where the whole book (or trilogy. Ahem, Hunger Games and Red Rising) is so great but the lackluster ending ruins all those hours you spent reading and enjoying the book. This totally could have been one of those but Beatrice Colin really pulled through.

There are also several fun minor characters or mentions in this book: Gustav Eiffel, as I mentioned; Degas, Surat, and other artists, musicians, and writers. So neat! The ending is quiet and great all at once. The feel of the book overall is slower but still very interesting. So, buy it, borrow it, just be sure to read this lovely book.

5/5 Stars

This book will come out on November 29th, 2016.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Curse on the Land (Soulwood #2) by Faith Hunter

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In the second book of the Soulwood series we see Nell in her first PSYLED investigation after a group of deer and geese are found behaving oddly, then all die.

Throughout the book there was a minor storyline about Nell's land; I was glad to finally see her get somewhere with that at the end of the book and stop casually wondering what was wrong with it and saying she'd deal with it later.

Overall, I really liked this book. It advances some great stories, gives us a hint at the furure of Nell's possible love life, and we see Ricky Bo kind of finally catch a break. I know a lot of people do NOT like Rick, but I have a soft spot for him for some reason. If you like the Jane Yellowrock series, definitely give this one a try!

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

4/5 Stars

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen

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I would like to start this review off by saying that this was written by one of my most favorite authors and despite the following review, I still feel that way.

This book was written well. It has a good general story going on and a great description/feel of the book. 99% of the characters and interesting and complex. My mind is completely, 100% in 1800's Texas when reading and I love it.

But I strongly dislike the main character. There may be slight spoilers going forward.
I really liked Nettie. She had a tough life, worked hard, and despite being confused and not simply knowing a lot of things, she had a good idea of what she was and what she wasn't. As Wake of Vultures progressed, Nettie went back and forth about what it meant to her to be a girl. She had been dressing as a boy for some time, but still physically felt a girl (that we could tell, for the most part), and even had a crush on a boy. What she wasn't was a girly girl; no dresses, no clean and proper, no weakness. She was a strong person and I think it would have been awesome to explore what it would have been like to be a strong-willed bi female who dressed like a boy and liked to break horses in the Wild West.

But instead we had to jump on the trans bandwagon and turn Nettie into Rhett, who is not a very nice guy.
Leading to the decision to become Rhett, Nettie toyed with the idea of maybe females don't have to be what she thought they did all her life, even maybe making peace a little with the idea of being female. I don't feel like she actually felt like she was born in the wrong body, and if she did then this really should have been made more clear in Wake of Vultures and Conspiracy of Ravens leading up to the switch. I read it as Nettie not wanting to put in the effort to explore what it means to her to be a girl and push or break boundaries, but as a scapegoat of not wanting to put in that effort and instead just switching teams because it's easier. It really seemed like the easy way out.

Once Nettie became Rhett, Rhett turned into the jackass kind of guy I think would be running around on a horse out west in the 1800's. He ends up sleeping with three different people, keeping each one a secret from the others and setting himself up to really hurt people who care about him, and this really bothered me. It's like he turned into all the men who treated him like shit is whole life. He started thinking with his imaginary penis instead of staying focused on his quest to save people's lives and stop all the bad guys.

I also feel that the fact of Rhett being "The Shadow" should have been discussed more leading up to the end of this book, because it actually plays a decent part in this story. I re-listened to Wake of Vultures before reading Conspiracy of Ravens and I don't recall it being mentioned much there either. It seemed to be a suddenly important part of the story.

I gave this book two stars because I still feel like it is a good story and has all-but-one great characters. If you're looking to read a book specifically with a trans element, I suppose this would be as good as any other and it certainly is unique. I am sad to say that I probably won't be reading any more books in this series, but I strongly recommend any other books by Delilah S. Dawson (Lila Bowen is her pen name), especially the Blud series.

2/5 Stars

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain (Early Review)

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After reading The Red Notebook and The President's Hat I was so, so excited to find out that Antoine Laurain had another book coming out. French Rhapsody is about a letter inviting a band to come in for a meeting with a record later... arriving 30 years after it was sent. We are given insight to the lives of the members of the band, along with some of their spouses or significant others. I think the bones of the story are good - it still has that magical outline (in a non-supernatural way) that I've come to expect from Laurain's books, but I was lost several times while reading some of the meat of the book. There are some political undertones that seem to nod to the current situation going on with the upcoming election in the U.S. (I don't know if this is intentional or coincidence) and the characters go on these rants that just made my eyes glaze over. I would wake up a page or two from where I last remembered reading and when I went back to reread what I had missed, and I had in fact missed nothing.

I can't say I would recommend reading this book, and I won't be adding a physical copy to my bookshelf. I do still adamantly recommend his other two books, don't let this one deter you from them!

3/5 Stars

This book will be release on October 11th, 2016.
I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My (Part Time) Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo (Early Review)

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I really, really enjoyed this French memoir. After the death of Lisa's mother, who she was very close to, she has a difficult time deciding how her life will look/be now that she is gone. Lisa ends up buying an apartment in Paris and splitting her time between there and New York, where she works for a magazine. Once she decided her life really needs a major overhaul, she quits her job to focus on freelance work and making herself happy.

This was a great story of self-discovery, but it didn't "wow" me as much as I thought it would after reading the spectacular intro. She writes of realizing she had been waiting for others to give her permission to be happy and the way she writes it really connects you. I feel like I've been doing things like that in certain areas of my own life and I was excited to see what she had to say about it, but it seemed like she inserted a summary or resolution at the beginning of the book when it would have been much more fitting at the end. Despite this, I did enjoy the book. It is a wonderful story of the ups and downs of moving to the City of Light and settling into the person you are.

I definitely laughed out loud a few times when reading this book. My favorite is when she describes trying to have a conversation with Parisians - she says she hears something along the lines of, "I like the fawfaw faw. Faw faw." Haha!

4/5 Stars

My (Part Time) Paris Life comes out on October 11th, 2016.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris (Early Review)

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All the Little Liars is the latest book to come out in Harris's Aurora Teagarden Mystery series. It is book 9 and coming out after a twelve-year hiatus. I was so excited to get an advanced copy of this!! Overall, the story wasn't bad, but I do have a few issues with the book. Firstly, even though book 8 came out in 2004 and it is now 2016, book 9 picks up right after the last one with hardly any time passing. I feel that this is just too much of a gap (in real life) to make the next book feel like it really comes right after the last book.

This book also felt like it should have been a novella to ease back into writing/reading Roe's world, or had something else going on with the story besides just Philip (Roe's younger half brother) missing. I feel like the other books had a bit more going on and that this one felt like things were dragging.

Lastly,  the writing just didn't live up to what I have come to expect from Charlaine. She kept doing this thing where she would have Roe explain this big long theory to the reader then say that she explained what she just said to Robin, the police, etc. It made reading awkward and it just didn't flow like her books usually do. The dialogue was also very stilted, like the writer was nervous to be writing it and used textbook grammar and replies. It needed more contractions throughout and more natural replies (especially from Roe's mother). One of the teenage characters actually said, "As if!" which would have been fine 20 years ago but not now.

It was very disappointing and not at all what I expect from Harris, especially after an amazing ending to the Midnight, Texas trilogy that wrapped up just a few months ago. Despite this, I deeply love this series and recommend it to anyone interested either in mysteries/cozies or Harris's other work.

3/5 Stars

This book will be released on October 4th, 2016.
I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Book Club Murders by Leslie Nagel (Early Review)

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Oakwood Mystery Series #1

A series of murders in Charley’s hometown leaves the local police department - and the members of the Agatha’s Book Club - at a loss for the motive, killer, or what ties the victims together. Charley’s unusual relationship with a detective on the case makes trying to help him challenging once she discovers that the murders mirror scenes from classic mystery books being read for the Agatha’s Book Club. The Agatha's book club includes Kitty, Ronnie, Kelly, Wilson, Midge, Lindy, Charlie, and Frankie. All women, but I thought the number of "man" names was oddly high.

Set in Oakwood, Ohio, we closely follow Charlie, Frankie, and Marc as they all work together to try to solve the murders going on. This is a really fun, cute, cozy mystery. It’s not perfect but I still really liked the story and absolutely couldn’t put it down until it was finished. I am definitely keeping my eye out for more books in this new series.

4/5 Stars.

This book will come out on September 27th, 2016
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Few of My Favorite French-Themed Books

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Ever since reading Amy Thomas's Paris, My Sweet, I have been obsessed with French memoirs. Before that book I had no idea I would be so interested in part of the non-fiction genre. Not all of these are non-fiction, but I wanted to share a few of the Frenchy books that I have enjoyed reading the most. For a more comprehensive list, I have a Goodreads shelf of all the "French" books I've read.


1. Seven Letters from Paris. This memoir made my heart so happy. Samantha goes from a divorce to completely turning her life around and into something she loves. I can't wait for the follow-up to come out!


2. How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are. When I first read this book, I hated it. It came off as slutty and a bit trashy. I originally listened to it on audiobook, and I don't know what made me listed to it a second time but I was able to look past the parts I didn't like (or get a different interpretation of them) and find the good bits. Since the second listen, I have listened to it a third time, borrowed it from the library to read in book-form (beautiful photos and layout!), and purchased a physical copy for my bookshelf bedside table.


3. The Red Notebook. This is Amelie in book form. If you loved the movie I can't imagine not loving this book. It is whimsical, romantic, and Parisian. Read it.


4. Bright Lights Paris. I borrowed this book from the library when it first came out and liked it so much that I asked for it (and received) for Christmas last year. It is going to be a book I lean on heavily when planning my Paris trip for January 2017. It breaks down several different neighborhoods of Paris and talks about style in that area, along with stores and food.


5. French Women Don't Sleep Alone. This is one of the most mis-titled books I have ever read. This book is so much more than for single (or married...?) women looking for love. It has tips for both single and attached ladies, and many of the pieces of advice for meeting men can be used to meet friends in general. This book teaches you that you should always look and feel your best, buy three (matching) paris of underwear for each bra, to spend more time bathing and less time on your hair, and many more great lifestyle suggestions. This is another one that I have listened to 2-3 times on audiobook and just purchased a physical copy to make notes in.


6. Paris Letters. This is another great Parisian love story. Read my short review here.



7. To Capture What We Cannot Keep. I have a review coming out closer to the release date, but I'll just say I love it and I strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for it at the end of November.

Paris Part Trois

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Well... I booked a trip to Paris for my 30th birthday in January. I have to admit that even before I bought the plane tickets and reserved an apartment I had a running list in my head of things to do on my next visit and as soon as my trip was confirmed I started planning even more. My souvenir list is almost out of control and I still have four and a half months to go. A few of my must-visits include Père Lachaise Cemetery, Laduree, and a few Amelie spots.




One of my biggest resources has been the blog Chocolate and Zucchini, written by Clotilde Dusoulier. Clotilde has an amazing map of Paris noting the restaurants she is into (which she updates regularly). She also has a great post on 12 foods to bring back from France. After the plane and a place to stay, the very next thing I booked was a walking food tour of Montmartre with Clotilde!




Jordan from Oh Happy Day has a post dedicated to what to wear in Paris in the winter, which will be insanely helpful for me since we'll be going in January. She also has many, many great posts filed under her Paris tag.




French Truly has a very helpful video on how to shop in Paris. Actually, most of her videos are very fun and informative and I recommend checking them out. If you're in Seattle, she hosts the very fun French Truly Salon at SIFF once a month. I went to the August event and hope to make the October one.




Another one of my favorite Paris resources is the blog Les flâneries d'Aurélie, or Aurélie's Strolls. She also has a very lovely Instagram where I anxiously await her new posts!




Two books currently on my bookshelf that I can't wait to read are Stories in Stone: Paris and A Guide to Mystical France




I made myself stop planning the Paris trip and finish planning the Florida trip that we leave for in, oh, three days. :-)

Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

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Poison or Protect; Gail's newest novella, most recent release...

Here we get to know Presha from the Finishing School series. It is not necessary to have read any of her other books; this is a stand-alone novella, but it makes it so much more fun if you have. Additionally, if you haven't read any others, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Presha is a widow four times over and currently working a job for Lord Akeldama in the country. That is to say, the job is in the country, certainly not Lord Akeldama. Presha went to a special finishing school that focused on espionage and her specialty is death by poison. She's always been prideful of keeping to herself and not letting anyone else in, but she meets someone on this excursion that challenges her resolve.

This novella is classic Gail; if you like her other books you will like this. The big difference is this novella has many more sexy times than we usually see.

5/5 Stars

Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell (Early Review)

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Letters from Paris is a delightful read. I found myself thinking about the story and characters while away from the book; It felt both homey and exciting at once. Claire has gone to Paris in a sort-of soul search. She has just left Chicago and her boyfriend to go back home to Louisiana, where her mammaw doesn’t have much time left. With her last breath, Claire’s grandmother strongly encourages her to go to Paris in search of answers to a family mystery. 

Claire is known as “Chance” by her family. Nicknames are great, but sometimes she is referred to both “Claire” and “Chance in the same sentence. It read clumsily but definitely got better the further into the book you go. Once in Paris, Claire finds herself working as a translator in Moulage Lombardi, a decorative mask-making shop. For most of the book, the story was an interesting-but-not-perfect read. Some of the writing in the beginning seemed more a late draft rather than a finished product but thankfully it was only slightly distracting and I could still enjoy the story. The ending, however, was very exciting and took a twist that I didn’t see coming. It’s actually one of the more surprising twists in a book that I’ve read, but looking back I could see the clues earlier in the book. The ending definitely brought the book from “good” to “great” for me.

5/5 Stars

This book will come out on September 6th, 2016.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Strike by Delilah S. Dawson

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Strike is the follow-up to Hit, a book about an evil banking corporation taking over the US government. We saw Patsy leave her mom, her only family, to try to get rid of her medical debt. The whole book take the fact that debt, credit, and the medical industry is fucked up and slaps you in the face with it. In Strike, Patsy and Wyatt meet up with a "freedom" group who are fighting against the banks. Unfortunately they turn out to be just as bad, just for different reasons.

I love the way that Dawson writes. She gives you so much detail and information without feeling like you're being given all this stuff you have to remember- she makes learning her worlds so much fun. Strike is definitely a YA novel, so is Servants of the Storm (another favorite of hers, my review here), and the Blud series is adult and one of my favorites EVER (first book here).

4/5 Stars

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

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~ *OH MY GOOOSH* ~

I don't know where this book has been hiding or why everyone on the planet isn't talking about it, but it is FABULOUS. I had not one second of boredom and many, many fits of giggling. I was a bit surprised at first at how similar it is to Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series or Delilah S. Dawson's Blud series (sassy Victorian spinster for the former and Victorian circus for the latter; P.S. Both are great, if you haven't read every book by both of those authors get on that), but I think it compliments them nicely rather than copies them. Veronica Speedwell is a bit more advanced in her worldliness (she sleeps with men out of wedlock, but only foreign men) than Alexia is and Stoker is a nice combination of Connell and Crim, all of them loving a lady who is ahead of her time.

I really feel that the dialogue and wording is fitting for the time, when listening to the audiobook I felt as though I  had time traveled and was eavesdropping on someone's really exciting life. Oh, speaking of an exciting life, our Veronica is a lepidopterist (a butterfly scientist who goes on expeditions)! HOW FUN! It is a really very cute element to this story. I just can't gush enough about it.

The twists and turns in the story were all very exciting. In the beginning, Veronica's remaining guardian dies and she is left all alone in the world. She doesn't know who her parent's are or where they're from. A German baron shows up at her cottage and persuades her that she is in danger and that she must come to London with him (she is not stupid, originally she accepted his office to London because she planned on using it as a free ride there so she could get to an expedition, but he convinced her on the ride there that he knew something about her past) and he ends up leaving her with Stoker while he gets a few things sorted out. The baron turns up murdered, and Veronica and Stoker end up on a quest together to find out why he was murdered. It. Is. So. Good.

Buy A Curious Beginning (aren't the covers amazing?) or get the audiobook. Be sure to read it by the end of the year because the second book in the series, A Perilous Undertaking, comes out January 10th, 2017.

5/5 Stars, duh.

Tuna Macaroni Salad

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The other night I was faced with the dilemma of what to have for dinner. It was a rare occasion that Joe would't be there, and on those nights I like to be spontaneous about what I eat. I thought pasta sounded good, but I didn't want something with cream and I didn't feel like any sort of tomato sauce. Once I thought of my mom's macaroni salad recipe I knew I wanted a variation of that. I sized the recipe way down so I wouldn't have a week's worth of leftovers and I knew I wanted something crunchy so I added a green onion. Other new additions are just a little bit of mustard and crème fraîche to add a little extra something. I also used a large can of tuna and three eggs to up the protein.

Tuna Macaroni Salad



Ingredients
  • 8 oz elbow noodles
  • 3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp crème fraîche
  • 7 oz can tuna, drained
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 green onion
  •  celery salt
  •  dried dill
  •  pepper

Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain.
While noodles are cooking, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and crème fraîche together; slice the green onion, flake the tuna, slice the hard boiled eggs.
After the noodles have cooled a bit, add the mayo mixture and combine.
Add the tuna and onion then sprinkle some celery salt and dill on top (a light dusting to the surface area), and add a little pepper. Combine and add another dusting of the celery salt and dill. Combine again.
Add the sliced eggs and gently combine.
Chill in fridge for a few hours to let the flavors come together or eat immediately, both are great.



P.S. I just spent way too long trying to find out what that thing is you have on your post to properly present recipes but I don't even know what it's called and can't find it. Any help out there? :-)

Return to the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

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First came The Little French Guesthouse, then came Return to the Little French Guesthouse! It begins a few days after Emmy's return to La Coeur des Roses, the villa she had accepted the role of manager for. She has quite a learning curve since the person doing much of her job before her left abruptly and she has never worked in the hospitality industry before.

Despite the dialogue that left much to be desired, I couldn't stop reading once I started. It wasn't an entirely joyful read, as most of it is a comedy of errors of sorts surrounding La Coeur des Roses. It is a quick, fairly light, and entertaining read that will make you really want to book a trip to the south of France. There is also a wide array of supporting characters that you can't help but love: Rupert, Alain, Sophie, Elle, and Jonathan. They almost need their own spin-off!

4/5 Stars

Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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Garden Spells



Garden Spells is a magical story about a small town in North Carolina. Sydney is back after 10 years of being away. She surprises her sister, Claire, not only by returning to get back on her feet but by also bringing her daughter, Bay. Claire still lives in the Waverly family house, keeps to herself, and works magic in the kitchen, literally. Evanelle is overwhelmed with desires to give items to people that they will somehow need in the future. Bed sheets, a lighter, two quarters, and a mango slicer are all fun things she hands out over the course of the book. This is a cozy and fun story about everyone learning to be comfortable with their true selves.

4/5 Stars


First Frost



Garden Spells and First Frost are almost the type of books I look for when I search out witchy books; I'm as into the spell part but all of the other earthy things. Like Garden Spells, First Frost is quietly magical and about people growing into themselves. It takes place 10 years after Garden Spells, with the story focusing on Sydney's daughter. Claire's daughter hasn't achieved full Waverly status yet so she doesn't have a huge part. I really enjoyed this book; it makes me want to get into the kitchen!

4/5 Stars

Chicago!

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Back in April I went on a work trip to Wisconsin and Illinois for the 10-year-anniversary of the company I work for. I never thought I would ever have a job that I would get to travel with and while my job, per se, doesn't involve travel, the company is based in Wisconsin and I work in a satellite office. I flew out there for a week of training and I went again in April. It looks like I'll be going about once a year and that is totally fine with me :-)

It was a quick trip - four days including travel time. We flew in Thursday, had a company meeting on Friday, drove to and spent the day in Chicago on Saturday with the anniversary dinner that night, and flew back to Seattle on Sunday. I spent most of the day Saturday just wandering and walking by myself, doing exactly what I wanted to do. I took an architectural boat tour, walked to the French Market, took an Uber up to Wicker Park and Myopic Books, and headed back to the hotel for a few hours of realhousewivesguiltypleasure watching to decompress. One thing I really enjoy about Chicago is how flat it is. You can walk everywhere! It's not so fun doing that in Seattle. Anyway, on to some midwestern architecture...


On Friday night, a big group of us went out to Milwaukee Ale House. Both the food and the beer was really, really good.




Gotta love those team-building games. My team won and my prize was this giant Kit Kat.






Check out the address on this church!


















And on to my beloved French Market!




You feel like you're on a Parisian sidewalk just looking at it, no? No!?



Myopic Books. I bought Outcast Volume 1, A Handmade Life, and I think something else but I can't remember.





WANT AGAIN. L to R: chocolate covered vanilla, vanilla, CARROT CAKE, salted caramel, green tea, red velvet.



Before the partay.


 Pretty much every time I'm in a bar situation I ask the bartender for something fruity. This time it got me a mangotini, and soon everyone in the room had ordered one. So good!

Sunburn from the architecture tour. It could have been worse.

The view from the "club" at my hotel. You can imagine how fun it was to try to go to sleep with a club in your hotel.


 Thanks for reading!