I now cook from my favorite books.

Get ready for this.

I’ve been to Hogwarts. No lie. Here’s proof.

Now that you’ve caught your breath, I’ll continue. Last October, my friend and I travelled across the country to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Just saying that makes me homesick. For Hogwarts. It was entirely wonderful and totally worth it. But our very favorite part was the Butterbeer.

I can’t even remember how many $4 cups of pure magic we had.

So yesterday, I wisely chose to skip my run and go see my sweet sister-in-law and try to make my favorite piece of Florida.

Here’s where I found the recipe. Thank you Pinterest.

The result? Drumroll please.

Pure joy in the form of whipped cream mustaches.

We continued by watching the first two Harry Potter movies. It was a dream date.

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Goodreads Quote

So I subscribe to the Goodreads Quote of the Day.  This quote was a confirmation for me.  Especially since I have been so disappointed in some of my recent book choices.  I need to find books that make me feel like this…

“Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.”
Ezra Pound

Beautiful Chaos – #3 in the Caster Chronicles

Beautiful Chaos – #3  in Caster Chronicles

By Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

3 *** = Good, may not be for everyone

We are back in the, very well written, southern town of Gatlin.  So well written you can smell the peach pie, one of the reasons I continued with this series.  Ethan and Lena are trying to find out how to put the Order back that Lena has thrown off in the last book.  She has been the first of her family to chose if she is a dark or a light caster.  She has split her Seventeenth moon, thus setting the entire Caster community and mortal world in a tale spin.

Everyone in this town, mortals and casters are feeling the effects of Lena choice if they know it or not.  The mortals are experiencing extreme heat and plague like issues.  The Caster’s powers are all out of wack and uncontrollable.

The series touches on so many different aspects of this caster world that I am starting to get really confused.  I feel like the authors may have too many ideas and the first two thirds of the book is a lot of chasing down random theories of how to fix all the problems.  It is a little scattered and while interesting a bit of a chore to get through.

While enjoying some of the aspects of this series,  I have begun to really question why I read.  I know I love a great story with twist and clever turns.  Its the excitement that the next book will bring that next exciting adventure.  So I have continued on with this series.  Not being blown away with how this story is being executed.  But mostly, by the draw of the characters I am so involved with, that I can not keep myself from reading what happens next.

Overall, while the end of this story is a huge cliff hanger, I was a bit disappointed.  I expected to have learned a little more by the end of the book.  But we were given a pretty rushed end and of course the promise of a number four.

So most likely I will read the next installment, and hopefully it will be a little more focused and fulfilling.

The Maze Runner Trilogy

This book is best accompanied by a 20 oz. latte (with whip cream, of course) and a muffin - as are all books. Also note the "Pendragon" book in the background. To be reviewed soon. Eeeek.

The Maze Runner Trilogy (“The Maze Runner,” “The Scorch Trials,” and “The Death Cure”)

By James Dashner

4 **** (almost 5)  = Can recommend; Great; Overall enjoyable

I may be a bad friend.

For Christmas, I gave my buddy, Erin, the first book in “The Maze Runner” trilogy (also called “The Maze Runner”). I had just finished the trilogy and was anxious to spread the wealth of yet another series set in a dystopian future with political undertones.

To be honest, they reminded me of “The Hunger Games,” minus an ending that sent me into a 2-week blue funk.

However, I have been receiving texts like this ever since:

“I’ve spent the last five minutes trying to talk myself into getting out of bed and walk up to my dark bathroom. I’m too scared of grievers.”

And this:

“Oh my gosh. I just read the part about Ben and the graveyard. I am never leaving my bed.”

I had kind of forgotten that the book was a little scary. I had forgotten that there are violent, mechanical monsters (grievers) that sting their fleeing victims, sending them into insanity. I had forgotten that there was quite a lot of death and chaos. I had also forgotten that I had let Gaby borrow this book a year ago, then urgently told her NOT to read it after I finished the second installment, “The Scorch Trials.” I don’t think she would have appreciated the death and despair.

Now I remember.

I just finished reading the last book in the trilogy, “The Death Cure,” but seeing as we haven’t reviewed the first two books, I thought I’d review the trilogy as a whole.

Here’s the set up:

Thomas wakes up in a box with no memory and only the knowledge of his first name. This box ends up being a lift that transports him into the Glade, an expanse that turns out to be the center of a huge shifting maze, inhabited by a group of teenage boys who at one time all found themselves in the same situation as Thomas.

This “Lord of the Flies” community is spied on by little bugs with the word “WICKED” engraved on their back and haunted by grievers who roam the maze.

When Theresa, the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade, shows up with the message “WICKED is good,” the desperate plans to escape the maze begin, as does the investigation to discover exactly what WICKED is and why Thomas and the other boys ended up in the Glade fighting for survival.

The trilogy follows Thomas on this journey. Throw in some telepathic communication abilities, a fast-spreading epidemic that leads to insanity and death, and a mysterious company that seems to be behind it all, and you basically have the Maze Runner trilogy.

James Dashner did a masterful job at writing characters that are easy to root far, as well as some that give you the heebie-jeebies. Each chapter seems to end with a cliff-hanger, making it incredibly difficult to put the book down.

But, my favorite aspect of the trilogy is that at the end of the very last book, I felt so satisfied. In my mind, the ending was right. I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time reading into the wee hours of the night, allowing myself to get emotionally invested in fictional characters.

I would highly recommend this series. Now, let’s be clear. This series is incredibly intense and does contain characters and situations that are fairly disturbing. If you’re particularly sensitive to those things, I’d pass this trilogy up. That’s why I didn’t give the trilogy five stars. It’s not for everybody. I think Erin will be fine. Gaby, I’m not so sure.

I also found out that this was on our local high school’s reading list. It’s probably okay for 17 or 18 years olds, but I wouldn’t hand it to anyone younger. There’s no sex or language (although they do have made up swear words that the Gladers developed that are tossed around freely), but in my opinion, the books are too intense and potentially troubling for kids.

Gaby’s TO READ list!

There are always so many options in the library and bookstores.  It completely overwhelms me sometimes.  It has always been helpful to ask what friends were reading or looking forward to read.  Goodreads has really helped me in my search and to keep track of books I am looking forward to reading.  I just thought I would share some of the books in my physical TO READ pile.  I have a digital TO READ pile on Goodreads if you want to check it out too … TO READ!

READING: Beautiful Chaos (#3 in the Caster Chronicles) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

TO READ: (Presented by my Nerd Mickey Vinylmation Miss Sara got me! 🙂 )

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (by request of my 11 yr old, she said it was great.  Don’t know how I missed reading it.)

World Shaker by Richard Harland

Hourglass by Myra McEntire (This is a re-read, I loved it so much, I sped through it the first time.  I have been dying to read it again! Sign of a good book!)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ( by request of my husband, 662 pages seems a bit daunting, but I will give it a try)

So what is on your TO READ list…anyone want to share?

“The Hunchback Assignments” by Arthur Slade

“The Hunchback Assignments”

By Arthur Slade

4**** = Can recommend; Great; Overall enjoyable

I had two plans for this weekend: read and watch the Broncos vs. Patriots game. Not at the same time of course. I wouldn’t do that.

However, three minutes into the third quarter, this is what happened.

I started to read. The game was just too painful.

I’m not ready to talk about it. Let me just say that TEBOW HAD NO PROTECTION FROM HIS OFFENSIVE LINE! There. I’m feeling better already.

The good news is that I finished my book, and unlike the Broncos defense, it was solid. (I’m done now. Promise.)

I picked up “The Hunchback Assignments” by Arthur Slade randomly last week at the library. I was bored and feeling risky.

The book is loosely, and I mean loosely based on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo. Okay, so I haven’t exactly read Hugo’s classic, but I did read the Wikipedia synopsis, and I have seen the Disney movie. So, I’m basically an expert now.

The book is set in late 1800s England and follows Modo – a shape-shifting hunchback who is raised in seclusion until he’s 14. At that point, Modo enters London and begins investigating several disappearances of prominent members of society.

Slade writes some pretty intriguing characters. I love Modo. My heart breaks for Modo as he tries to accept his deformity and earn the love of the mysterious Mr. Socrates, the man who adopted him as an infant and coldly raised him to be his agent. There also is Octavia Milkweek, another young agent who accompanies Modo on much of his investigation, but is kept from his true identity due to his shape-shifting abilities. I’m sure you can see the potential of a complicated romance brewing.

And then there’s Tharpa and Mrs. Finchley, the only two people who have truly accepted Modo as he is. Oh, and there are some pretty gnarly villains too.

The book is easy to read and moves quickly through the plot. I love that. It doesn’t feel like a single page is wasted.

“The Hunchback Assignments” is only book one of three, and there’s much to be determined in ensuing books. I’m hoping Slade will reveal even more about his mysterious characters, particularly Mr. Socrates and the villains, Miss Hakkandottir and Dr. Hyde who seem to value scientific advancement at the expense of human life.

I’m pretty anxious to pick up book two from the library. I actually was going to get it today after church, but I’m snowed in. And when I say snowed in, I mean there’s maybe an inch of fresh snow on the ground. Welcome to Washington.

Beautiful Darkness – #2 in Caster Chronicles

Beautiful Darkness – #2  in Caster Chronicles

By Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

3 *** = Good, may not be for everyone

I have such a hard time reviewing books like this.  First, it is definitely a typical paranormal romance, which is one of my guilty pleasures.  Second, there are some dark parts of this book, which could turn off some readers. Third, I can’t say there is anything OUTSTANDING about this story, but for some reason, I want to know what happens and continue the journey.

So, I have a soft spot for those lovers who are against the odds.  This story is a continuation, (#2) of one of those romances, that has Lena and Ethan against the dark caster odds.  The paranormal in this book is Lena who is a caster.  Caster is another word for a warlock/spell caster type person.  She has avoided deciding (or being claimed) if she is a dark (evil) caster or light (good) caster, in the first book, Beautiful Creatures. (To read my Goodreads review, click here.)

We join this couple trying to figure out their relationship, mourning the death of Lena’s uncle and her figuring out if she is dark or light.

While I enjoyed the Caster lore and Ethan’s development of a purpose more than the mortal boyfriend.  I found some of the lore hard to follow. I am not really sure I completely understand how they got through the climactic scene of this book.  That kind of bothers me.

I do really enjoy some of the characters like Link (Ethan’s best friend), Liv ( New friend from the Library) and Amma ( Ethan’s Vodoo nanny).  I do feel like I want to know the fates of these characters in next books.

Some of the spells, Vodoo and darkness make it a bit dark and this may be an issue for some readers.

Overall, I want to know what happens to Lena & Ethan.  So I will read the next book, but this is a pretty typical YA series.  Nothing that is going to blow your mind.  It is entertaining and a journey I have enjoyed.

We are almost ready!

So there are some great reviews and info on the way!  We can not wait to get this started and we are SURE you are dying to hear “Our two cents” on new releases and books in the library!  Keep a look out for more posts!