About Carol

Carol likes to read for fun. Her reading material tends to be fluffy, funny, and/or frivolous. If she were stranded on an island with only one author's books she would take Dave Barry. She obsessively records what she reads and what she wants to read on GoodReads.

Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley

genesis girl jennifer bardsley

Blanca’s parents never posted baby photos of her on Facebook. They never taught her to ride a bike, or took her to Girl Scouts, or even walked her to school. They’ve never even taken a family photograph together. That’s because Blanca’s parents severed all lines of communication when she was very young, choosing to offer her up as a Vestal postulant.

Blanca has been raised her whole life at Tabula Rasa, a boarding school/cloistered academy of sorts that raises children to be supplicant and free of all technology. She’s been training her whole life to be a Vestal, essentially an internet virgin incapable of making decisions for herself. In a world where technology has moved away from handheld phones and literally into the user’s hands in the form of tech implants, Blanca and her classmates are extremely valuable. No one outside the school has ever seen them or a photograph of them.

When a Vestal graduates from Tabula Rasa at eighteen, corporations bid on them. They will purchase Vestals to serve as product spokespeople. A Vestal’s image has never before been released on the internet, and now the corporation owns everything about their likeness. Consumers find Vestal families depicted in advertising campaigns as trustworthy, wholesome, and believable. Even though everyone knows how a Vestal is made, the corporations still sell so many more products and services when a Vestal is involved in the ads.

I’ll let Blanca explain it:

For a Vestal, a clear Internet history is the most important
thing. Without that, I’m nothing. Our elusive privacy is what makes us valuable. I’ve watched our class shrink from two hundred eager postulants to a graduating group of ten. The infractions were usually unavoidable: their memory was spotty, their temperament was bad, or worst of all, they turned out ugly. But once in a while, somebody was thrown out because of an online transgression. Everyone left is bankable. Ten perfect human specimens who could sell you anything.

Still with me? This is a dystopian society in which technology has played a key part in the destruction of the human race. In this world, brain cancer has killed off many of the previous generation thanks to radiation in cell phones. That’s why tech implants in fingers and hands have become popular. People no longer have to hold the tech to their heads. But it also makes it easier for someone to sneakily take a photograph of someone, which is why Vestals aren’t ever allowed outside of Tabula Rasa’s lead walls.

That is, until the day our book begins, when someone manages to break into the underground parking area of Tabula Rasa as Blanca and her friend Fatima are attempting to get into a vehicle to take them to their auction. Blanca is stunned, horrified and not sure what to do. I mean, our girl immediately fights back in the form of kicking the photographer and trying to prevent him from uploading her image. But with her image potentially out there for the world to see, she fears no corporation will want her, no one will bid on her, and she’ll be let go with her whole life up til now being a big waste.

Corporations aren’t the only entities that can bid on a Vestal. There are also private bidders, and a Vestal purchased by one is considered to have “gone Geisha.” That’s because the speculation is usually that a Vestal purchased by an individual will actually be treated like a wife or husband, rather than an employee.

Genesis Girl brings a fun-house mirror up to our current society obsessed with technology and asks: what if tech was everything? What if we put some serious value on those who don’t use technology and are truly present in every conversation? The book also kept turning the tables, forcing both Blanca and the reader to repeatedly change their perception of Blanca’s identity. Will she go Geisha? If so, does that mean she will be forever stigmatized? Will she even be bid upon or thrust back into the cruel world with no notion of how to operate even the simplest computer? What will happen to her Vestal friends? And what is going to happen to that rude guy who took her photo on the first page of the book?

You guys, I usually don’t like dystopias and it’s rare that I can get into a Sci-Fi novel. But I completely loved Genesis Girl. In fact, I had a few chapters left last Sunday when I snuck it into The Paramount to finish at intermission. Genesis Girl is the start of a series, which you will be happy to hear once you read the ending and are left wanting more! More Blanca! More of the crazy world depicted! More secrets revealed!

The author of this insanely addicting book, Jennifer Bardsley, is more than just a debut author. She’s even more than just a Pacific Northwest/Snohomish County author. She’s the genius behind The Herald’s weekly parenting column, I Brake for Moms. Yes: her words break out into the world from right here in Everett! She was kind enough to send me an advance copy of the book, as well as some awesome bookmarks that we’ve put out in the teen area for you. She has a huge following on Instagram, where I first connected with her. As I was writing this she posted a video trailer for Genesis Girl that you need to go watch right now! And she recently gave us a peek into the life of a debut author via this article in The Herald.

What more could you possibly want? Read Genesis Girl and I guarantee you will want the next book in the series.

641.84: A Tale of Two Burgers

pornburger

I. Love. Burgers.

At any given moment I would like nothing more than to sink my teeth into a couple of juicy, almost sizzling patties smothered in cheese, grilled onions, and topped with a slice of tomato and crispy thin bacon. I think Jimmy Buffet said it best:

I like mine with lettuce and tomato
Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
Well, good God Almighty which way do I steer?!
Apparently you steer toward the actual Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant in one of seven states (sadly, not Washington…yet).

So it should come as no surprise that two recently acquired cookbooks have sent my heart into a tizzy, not just because of all the cholesterol it’s now anticipating.

Pornburger: Hot Buns and Juicy Beefcakes by Mathew Ramsey is not just the winner for ‘Best Title of the Year’ in my mental book awards. It’s a mouthwatering cookbook perfect for summer evenings spent around the grill. I literally salivate every time I open the book. This cannot be stressed enough. Do not read this book on an empty stomach. You have been warned.

Glad we got that out of the way! Pornburger has some incredible basic and not-so-basic burger recipes to satisfy both your burger cravings and your need to create something magical in the kitchen. Ramsey calls the book “an ingredient-driven Choose Your Own Adventure-style experiment, where all roads lead into the mouth of burger madness.” And it’s true! You are the boss of your own burger recipe. You can mix and match sauces, condiments, veggies, pickles, buns, etc.

You’re not limited to just ground beef patties either. Venison, pork, lamb, chicken (ground or fried–yes, fried chicken!) or even lobster can be your main attraction. There’s even a great recipe for a veggie burger that looks so much better than those sad frozen pucks you buy in a box.

And don’t stop there! Make your own pickles and condiments and wow the pants off of your dinner party (not literally–though, whatever floats your boat). Some examples include mustard caviar, pumpkin aioli, bacon jam, relish, and even bacon peanut butter. Why I haven’t made that last one yet is obviously a major oversight on my part. There are also recipes to make your own buns and breads, as well as sides and drinks sure to compliment your creations.

But wait, there’s more! While Pornburger is everything I’ve ever wanted in a burger cookbook, I’m also a rabid fan of the TV show Bob’s Burgers which just recently aired their 100th episode. Since the first episode was broadcast, my friend and colleague Jennifer was on my case to watch that show. “You’re going to love it!” was a phrase I heard until my ears bled. Like a fool I resisted until about season 3. She convinced me to give it one episode and if I didn’t love it, she’d never mention it again.

Reader, I loved it to pieces.

If you’re not familiar, Bob’s Burgers is both the name of an animated TV show and the name of the burger restaurant featured in the show. The Belcher family runs this small burger joint in a small seaside community on the East Coast.

Smash-cut to two years later and the world has been gifted with the publication of The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers. For those in the know, Bob keeps a daily burger board behind the counter. Each day on the show the burger of the day changes, and there’s usually a dad pun involved in the name. Well, the geniuses at Fox decided that they should take all those pun-burgers and turn them into actual recipes.

bobs burgers with beefsquatch

What better way to introduce this cookbook than to replicate the Beefsquatch episode (season 2, episode 9)? Bob gets cast as a TV chef on a local morning show, and Gene steals the show as the burger-mad Beefsquatch. The recipe for that episode’s Bruschetta ‘Bout It burger is on page 25.

I know what you’re thinking. The pun burgers on Bob’s Burgers are so simple, why would I need a recipe to create them at home? I see where you’re going but I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. Or, just not right. Not only do the recipes go into greater detail than Bob’s burger board could ever hope to go, the recipes are actually funny to read.

Here’s a great example. It’s the Don’t You Four Cheddar ‘Bout Me Burger from the episode Linda-Pendent Woman (season 3, episode 13). Behold the description ahead of the ingredient list:

How many cheddars are too many in a burger? Science doesn’t know yet. This burger handles four safely and deliciously. The all-beef patty is stuffed with two different cheddars, cooked in bacon fat, and then topped with two other completely different cheddars. Throw some crispy bacon on it along with lettuce and onions, and call it a beautiful, fantastic, cheesy day.

The recipes are all peppered with Bob’s humor in this way. Fans of the show will recognize the way he drops those dad puns and how sometimes he even goes back to emphasize them, in a ‘see what I did there?’ sort of way. Reading this in Bob’s voice adds another layer of hilarity to the process.

You vegetarians will enjoy the veggie burger recipes inside. I have been pleasantly surprised to find veggie-tastic recipes in both of these burger books, and I hope you’ll find something you enjoy making and love to eat.

So there you have it: a porn burger and a pun burger. Not only do these cookbooks provide mouthwatering hunks of deliciousness, they’re also some of the few cookbooks I’ve run across that are actually a joy to read cover-to-cover. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a grill that’s begging for my attention. I just need to put a DVD in first and tilt the speakers toward the sliding door.

Picking Up Your Dropped Haikus

JUNE-JULY 2014

April is National Poetry Month and this year to celebrate we asked you to create a haiku. We shared some on our social media, and had a virtual poetry slam on April 30th. Now comes the best part: seeing all your hard work in one place.

Before I present the list, I wanted to thank you all who sent us a haiku. Some of you sent more than one–how awesome is that?! Not everyone included a title, but if you did I bolded it.

I do need to disclose that a couple aren’t posted here because they did not meet the 5-7-5 syllable arrangement of a proper haiku. So if you don’t see yours here, I do apologize. Perhaps you’d consider sending us a revised haiku? I will post adjusted haikus at a later date, so please do send them in!

I made a few haikus into graphics because it’s easier to share them on social media that way. It doesn’t mean that those haikus were better than the others. It just means I had a readily available image template that fit that particular haiku theme. And when it comes to social media, the easiest path is the one most traveled.

One final note about the haikus: with the exception of the haikus I turned into graphics, which I am spreading evenly throughout this post, I am posting the rest in the order that they were received. If I had to rank them by how much I love them they would all be on one line together because they are all equally awesome.

Okay. On with the show!

There is Nothing Like a Book:
Hanging by a hook
There is nothing like a book
Nothing in the world
–Gerry Provencher

Air smells sweet

Your File:
Your file was so big
It might be very useful
But now it is gone
–Chris

Windows Crashed:
Windows Seven crashed
I am the blue screen of death
No one hears your screams
–Chris

Untitled:
Discover new worlds
In the pages of a book
Adventure awaits
–Rachel Wallis

Books:
From my books flow words.
In paragraphs and chapters
I immerse myself
–Liz Hawkins

Spring Fever:
Spring makes my blood rush
With the need to read and read
And then maybe nap.
–Kathleen Komos

Apartment Life:
Cockroaches frolic
In cubpoards filled with goodies
They touch all my stuff
–Ron Averill

100 Years After the Everett Massacre:
How I’m trespassing?
All I’m doing is sleeping?
Unlawful camping.
–Ti Burtzloff

Haiku Day is April 17

A Good Book:
The words draw me in
Time and space are forgotten
Even chores must wait
–June Carriere

May I help you?
Sitting at the desk
Ready to help you. But still
You walk by. Self serve?
–Alan

Untitled:
I want to do this
Keep calm and drop everything
And read a good book
–Leslie M.

Haiku posted to Twitter

Untitled:
The sun shines brightly
Yet I am inside today
Reading a good book
–L. M.

Untitled:
Do you like to read?
I love reading and writing.
You should ALWAYS read.
–Summer Bailey

Untitled:
Butterflies are great.
Watching them flutter around.
Butterflies are cool.
–Nicole DeSoto

View From My Window:
A Spring green sea of
Trees, accented by splashes
Of milky white blooms.
–Orion Lyonesse

skeins of cirrus clouds

ABCs:
One slim vapor trail,
Like God’s own finger, letters
Across azure skies.
–Orion Lyonesse

Above It All:
Pigeons, crows, and gulls
Wheel and bank upon the breeze,
Reaching for the clouds.
–Orion Lyonesse

Grind:
Daily grind, coffee
Only partially offsets
Daily grind, endless
–Ronnie Maier

Unrequited:
Plaintive meowing,
Desperate for attention.
My cat ignores me.
–Ronnie Maier

Untitled:
The Morrigan comes
To show more of herself through
Reading and learning
–N. Harrison

Untitled:
I like to eat pie
Pie is really delicious
Do you like pie too?
–Ava Baker Olsen

Untitled:
The news is in haikus
My personal gift to you
Thank you for the views
–Kaisen

Summer sun

Untitled:
Imagine a world
Write it down for us to read
Forever a book
–Thomas Rubatino

Haiku:
Haiku Day is fun
If you can count to seven
Haiku fabulous!
–Gloria H.

Piggy:
My love, my anguish
Miss Piggy with attitude
Green envy and pride
–Kermit Frog (Gloria H.)

Spike:
Spikel-un-feickel
Un-ween-dog-eickel, my heart
Original weens
–Gloria H.

Yoga:
Downward dog, bend stretch
Namaste, Shavasana
Pigeon pose, creek, crick
–Gloria H.

Buddy:
Farrah hair, nose job
Best rescue I got for free,
Black and tan Dachshund.
–Gloria H.

Untitled:
Among all the books
I close my eyes and whisper
A new adventure
–Susan Hile

sending all my love

I Didn’t Sign Up For This:
Enveloped in pain,
I lay limp and contorted…
Yoga, boot camp style
–Maryanne Giolitti

Tick Tock:
Writer tapping nose
No song, poetry or prose
Tick tock, writer’s block
–Maryanne Giolitti

Virtual Walk on Hoyt:
Cool, gray asphalt roads
Traffic noises would be mild
Online, indoors–dry!
–Frank T. Morgan

Untitled:
By hook or by crook
Go to the stacks and just look
To find a great book
–Chuck B.

Untitled:
Just starting this job
Tomorrow is a big day
Hope I make it through
–Regina

Untitled:
Oh my mighty moon
Let me bask in your glory
For you are divine
–Lavanya

Passage:
Green shading deeper
Blue, faint now vivid, from gray
Winter wanes, spring gains
–Ed

Untitled:
That paperback smell-
Adolescent memories
Disguised as a book
–Karin Larsen

Untitled:
All symmetrical
Legos at the library
So satisfying
–Lindsay Steele

Untitled:
Help, I can’t find it
Let me look that up for you
It won’t take me long
–Maryanne Giolitti

Untitled:
Open the blank page
Imagination fills page
Magical story
–Lauren H.

Untitled:
Writers and readers
Use books and libraries to
Keep each other sane
–Staci B.

Untitled:
Reading classic books
New releases are out now
There’s something for all
–Lydia

Untitled:
April celebrates
National Poetry Month
This is a haiku
–Leslie M.

To Read:
To read is to be
Inside the pages, I see,
Hear, touch, taste and smell.
–Liz Hawkins

Untitled:
I love a good book!
When the words come together,
Then it all makes sense
–Eden

Are they truly real-Glorious colors livingin Skagit tulips (1)

Untitled:
Wandering through shelves
Many book choices for me
Like a candy store
–Kyle Vold

Untitled:
You don’t want to know
Pottawatamie Hippo
He’s a wanna be!
–Margaret Remick

Smart Heart Start:
Reading makes you smart
Also less alone of heart
That’s just for a start…
–A. Ward

Reading:
Reading, so active
My imagination needs
A gym membership
–Tessa Borrego

Surrounded:
Surrounded by shelves
Words fill the pages of books
Lost in the story
–Lydia

My Grandmother, Elle:
Smart, classy, lady
Exceptional character
Values good coffee.
–Alicia MacDougall

The Slow (and Indeterminable) Demise of Seattle Windshield Wipers: A Tale of Friday Rush Hour:
Rubber drags on drop
-spritzed glass like teeth scraping tin.
When will your death come?
–Chelsey Slattum

For My Librarians:
Haiku just for you
Who shelve the books I adore
How can I thank you
–Larry Maass

Pacific NorthWet:
Does it ever stop
I said when I first came here
Referencing the RAIN
–Larry Maass

Banned:
The dog stands outside
Denied access to knowledge
Just for eating books
–Larry Maass

Untitled:
What do you see when
Your eyes are closed by your mind
Is open to all
–Larry Maass

Under F for Flight:
Dropsy popsy do
Read a little birdy book
Celebration flight
–Yvonne Davis

Untitled:
Do you like to read
Reading is so important
You should ALWAYS read
–Summer Bailey

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlock holmes a study in brimstone by denning

Oh em gee, this cover is gorgeous! Here’s another straight-up book review all thanks to the power of advance reader copies from our publishers. Thanks, publishers!

Let me just start this review by saying that Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning is one of those books that Sherlockians will either love or hate. Spoiler alert: I completely loved it!

Our story begins in a way that will seem familiar to most Sherlock fans: Watson is back in London after being injured during the war in Afghanistan and is desperate to find a place to live. Through a chance meeting with one of his old connections he learns about a man who needs a roommate. His name is Warlock Holmes and he is a consulting detective who sometimes works with Scotland Yard. Thus the literary world is gifted with another first meeting of Watson and Holmes.

Things start out pretty normal for Dr. John Watson. He feels lucky to have landed a roommate who only asks for a one-time payment of just one sovereign for the rent. Things get even better for Watson when Holmes chooses the smaller of the two bedrooms as his own. So now we have a war veteran staying with a successful, if eccentric, consulting detective. Their companionship slowly evolves into a friendship, but even so, Watson is initially clueless as to what he’s gotten himself into by handing over that sovereign.

From the beginning though, it’s clear to the reader that this Holmes is unlike any other Holmes we’ve met before. It’s not just the fact that his name is Warlock and we highly suspect (especially after reading the blurb on the book cover) that magic flows through this Holmes. It’s more like we’re realizing for the first time in literary history that Watson is the one well-versed in deductive reasoning and investigative expertise, especially when it comes to handling evidence correctly at a crime scene. Holmes, on the other hand, seems a bit…distracted. Easily distracted by things that Watson cannot or will not notice, things that seem to have very little if anything to do with the crime being investigated.

Soon enough Watson discovers Holmes’s not-so-well-kept secret: he’s got the magic touch. The spirit of Holmes’s nemesis, Moriarty, is trapped inside his head. And Holmes can command demons to do his bidding. This would normally be a shocking scandal worthy of the penny dreadfuls, but in this Victorian society there are certain creatures that, though not embraced by society, live among them. For example, here’s our cast of characters:

warlock holmes character blurb

Yup! Inspector Lestrade is a vampire, aided by an ogre. Most of Scotland Yard is uncomfortable around Lestrade and Grogsson, if not downright terrified of them. But their record for closing cases (with Holmes’s help, of course) keeps them on the payroll despite others’ misgivings.

I’m laying all this out there to illustrate a point. While this could easily be some weird standalone parody of one of the most famous friendships in literary history, it is instead a faithful retelling of Sherlock Holmes–just a little twisted. And sometimes smoking. Because, ya know, brimstone and stuff.

True to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original format, Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone is composed of several short stories. The first is the longest by far, but it kind of needs to be since it’s setting up the world and the characters. Despite the length, that story flew by for me, as did the others. I actually pouted when I was finished, and was a little bummed out to leave that world behind. Luckily for me this is just the first book in what I hope is a very long series, with Warlock Holmes: the Battle of Baskerville Hall  heading our way in May 2017.

So take a chance on something new! Let me know if you want to read this or not, and definitely get back to me if you end up actually reading the whole thing. I am desperate for people to talk to about this book that will be published May 17th.

Catastrophic Happiness

catastrophic happiness catherine newmanWant to hear something weird? I love reading parenting books, but I’m not a parent. How-tos, essays, memoirs, cartoons, pretty much everything except those photographic encyclopedias that help you diagnose your baby’s latest rash. No. Thanks!

Seriously though, it doesn’t take a parent to appreciate these books and I think reading some of the how-to books makes me a better aunt. The memoirs, however, are what I pick up when I want to see the world through my own mother’s eyes and imagine how different my life would be with littles. I usually go for funny, but I can also handle cute and heartwarming. And I found all of that and more in Catastrophic Happiness by Catherine Newman.

If you read Real Simple magazine you probably recognize the author’s name. Newman is the etiquette columnist and always handles readers’ questions with grace and verve. Yup, sometimes the answer is that you have to stand your ground and be firm with your mother-in-law/child/spouse/co-worker/florist. The same holds true for parenting, which makes me still hold out hope that the editorial staff will eventually let Catherine write a parenting advice column.

Catastrophic Happiness isn’t like most parenting memoirs I’ve read–and trust me, I’ve read a bunch. Most focus on what it’s like to start parenting life with your newborn. Babies and toddlers can provide endless entertainment and joy, so the plethora of anecdotes usually proves meaty enough for a book. Or several.

This is exactly why Catastrophic Happiness is so incredibly awesome. We get to share in the trials and tribulations of the not-so-cute phase of raising kids. The book starts out with Catherine’s son Ben and daughter Birdie already starting school and it follows them up into the start of their teenage years. These are the years that can get messy, or distant, or strained, or just plain…blah? I’m not really sure, but for some reason they aren’t usually the focus of a book. But this is definitely a mistake, as Catherine proves chapter after chapter.

I laughed. I cried. I read so many passages out loud to my husband that I should have contacted the publisher to see if they would let me record the audiobook. Catherine Newman has a particular way with words that will have you writing down quote after quote. She turns a phrase like no other. I wanted to include a passage to illustrate what I mean, but publishers get a little bit Genghis Khan about comparing quotes from an advance reader copy to the finished product, and our finished copy hasn’t yet arrived. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!

Catastrophic Happiness hits bookshelves on April 5th, so there’s plenty of time to get a copy for your mom/sister/wife/cousin/friend for Mother’s Day. Regardless of whether or not you’re a parent you should read this one, to yourself or out loud to someone you love.

A Study in Charlotte

a study in charlotte brittany cavallaro cropped

I am notoriously bad at straight-up book reviews, but I’m going to try my darndest with this one, dear Reader, because it’s so far the best book I’ve read all year.

No joke.

First of all, you need to know a little secret about the publishing world. Publishers sometimes provide advance copies (read: still need some editing and might differ slightly from the final published version) to reviewers in exchange for generating some buzz about that title. Their hopes are that if you like the book, you’ll write about it or tell your friends, and that will increase sales. And while it’s true that we’re just barely beating the publication date on this one–it’s out in libraries and bookstores everywhere tomorrow–I knew you would appreciate hearing about it before your friends.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is another spin on Sherlock Holmes, but one that is both a unique and fresh turn from all the others in recent memory. This YA book takes place in a world where Holmes had a child, who then went on to start a line of Holmeses that eventually gives birth to our Charlotte. Watson’s great-great-grandson, James (please don’t call him Jamie) follows in his ancestor’s footsteps as the narrator of this story. He’s an aspiring writer who happens to be good enough at rugby to get a scholarship to the Connecticut boarding school where Charlotte Holmes attends.

James has been kept apart from Charlotte his whole life, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming somewhat obsessed with the idea of her. After all, their predecessors were world-famous detectives who were also best friends and flatmates, made household names thanks to a novelist by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle. But their families don’t always see eye-to-eye, so James has been left to his imagination when it comes to Charlotte. All that changes when he starts the new term at Sherringford and immediately comes face-to-face with the girl of legend…who doesn’t really seem to want anything to do with him. In fact, she is livid when he punches a classmate in the guise of defending her honor. She can defend herself, thank you very much. And it turns out punching the guy wasn’t such a smart move, anyway, when he’s found dead the next day and all eyes are on James.

The police are called, and James’s estranged father tries to get himself involved in both the case and James’s life. Neither effort is appreciated. But it’s just the impetus our heroine Charlotte needs to join forces with James and discover who the real killer is.

Charlotte mirrors some of her great-great-grandfather’s mannerisms and habits. She has her own chemistry lab in a storage closet, a condition of her attendance at Sherringford. She is seriously antisocial, only mingling with peers during the weekly underground high-stakes poker games she runs out of her dorm’s basement. She doesn’t appear to process regular emotions the same way most of us do, forcing bystanders to sometimes suspect her of being aloof, snobby, or uncaring.

And just like her predecessor, Charlotte occasionally turns to drugs for the heightened senses that can help her focus, though she’s since traded in the heroin for prescription pain pills. The darker side of our heroine was well-written, portraying an addict who hasn’t quite kicked the habit but does rub her healed track marks reflexively whenever she’s faced with something particularly challenging. There was a lot of effort put into her backstory, showing us how she dealt with working with Scotland Yard from a very young age and how that’s shaped her development.

I won’t give it all away. You’ll have to pick up a copy and read for yourself what I am calling a totally rad retelling of the world’s most favorite detective. It’s a story of secrets, betrayal, and friendship you won’t soon forget.

We’re hoping to start reviewing more books in advance of their publication dates, so stay tuned for more book buzz from your favorite bloggers here on A Reading Life.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Valentine’s Day

my love-hate relationship with valentines day

When I was a little girl, Valentine’s Day was a special time. The green and grey corridors of my school would be awash in reds, pinks, and whites. It was an intense pop of color among all the grey plaid jumpers the girls wore and blue shirts and pants the boys wore. The teacher would lead us in crafting a box where classmates would dutifully deliver Valentines designed with She-Ra, He-Man, Rainbow Brite, or G.I. Joe. It was fun to pick out what I’d give my classmates, and even more fun to read through them all at the end of the day and see if I could read anything into the one I got from my secret crush.

Oh, to be 8 again!

As I grew older, the appeal of the day lost its luster. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoyed putting out Red Hots candies and Sweetarts, but it seemed that there was a ton of pressure on adults to get it right, and it all boiled down to the bottom line. How much money did you spend on your honey? Did you upend both of your lives for the entire day to make ‘A Grand Gesture?’ No? Well, then you’re obviously not in love like you thought.

Ahem. BS!

All of these feelings were reaffirmed when I met the man whom I now call my husband. “Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday manufactured to sell greeting cards, flowers, and chocolates,” he said as he handed me all three of those things on our first Valentine’s Day together. In a bold move that later solidified our mutual affection and everlasting bond, I asked why he bought me stuff if he thought it was all bull. He did it all because it was expected. Once we compared notes and realized we both would rather celebrate milestone dates in our relationship (first date, wedding anniversary, etc.) we ditched the Valentines and never looked back.

Whether you’re like my husband and me and eschew this holiday, or if you count down the days until you can surprise your honey with the biggest box of chocolates imaginable, I have some books that will appeal to your Valentines sensibilities.

be mine sally j shimBe Mine
by Sally J. Shim
Guys, you really need to stop buying us ladies those giant red heart boxes of assorted chocolates. They’re never as good as we think they’ll be, and there’s always at least one variety that makes us gag. Why not make something instead? From adorable greeting cards to eye-catching garlands, this book will become your go-to resource for everything Valentine’s Day. Your sweetie will be impressed and amazed when you present him/her with an in-your-face pop-up card or a personalized message in a (tiny) bottle, complete with confetti hearts and an honest-to-goodness cork sealing the deal. The supplies are easy to acquire (you crafty people may already have a lot of them already) and the instructions are clear and easy to read. Just a little bit of time with some scissors and glue will impress your Valentine more than some random card you grabbed at the market on the way home from work. The thoughtfulness and effort you put into any of these projects will show your love in a way a store-bought something can’t.

one pan two plates carla snyderOne Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder
Sure, for Valentine’s Day you could make a reservation at a favorite restaurant, and wait before and throughout the meal for your food to arrive because you are eating out on one of the busiest nights in the restaurant industry. It’ll probably cost a pretty penny (more, if you’re going the valet route with the car) and depending on where you go, the atmosphere might not be quite as intimate as you’d hoped. Instead, why not cook at home? You can cook together, which is an activity that can actually be fun and bring you closer together. Or you can surprise your lovey with a home-cooked meal that will be just the perfect amount for the two of you. Most, if not all, of the recipes in One Pan, Two Plates are so quick and easy to make you’ll probably want to keep making these recipes all year long. All recipes include a beverage pairing and ways to make the meal more filling. Sauteed pork chops with sweet potato, apple, and mustard sauce is tart and flavorful and takes 40 minutes. Balsamic turkey with artichokes and eggplant caponata marries some really complex flavors and is ready in just 30 minutes. You get the idea. So tie on that apron and get cooking!

tinder nightmares unspirationalTinder Nightmares
In the grand tradition of Richard Benson’s F in Exams and F This Test comes Tinder Nightmares. Benson compiled some of the most outrageous and ridiculous answers college students used on tests and exams. Now the infamous Unspirational shows us the absolutely absurd side to the dating app Tinder. I mean, assuming there’s a side to Tinder that isn’t absurd. Granted, I’ve never had the need to swipe right since I was married years before Tinder was invented. But it doesn’t take a seasoned Tinder user to appreciate the cluster of stupid in this book. It’s full of bad pickup lines like “Hey, did you fall from the sky? Cuz you look like a dead bird.” You’ll also find bizarre date ideas like “I would take you on a date to Popeye’s for some light appetizers. Then, I would bring you back to my place for some TV dinners, grape soda, and two hours straight of Full House!” I like to think these are trolling texts, but I’ve met enough people to know that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

This year I decided we shouldn’t let Valentine’s Day slip by unnoticed. That’s why my husband and I have plans to see the Deadpool movie on February 14th. We’re going to pig out on movie theater popcorn and puns courtesy of Mr. Sir Deadpool, Esq. Then we’re going to go back to our place for a jointly-prepared, mutually agreed upon home cooked meal, and we’ll follow it up with binge-watching old episodes of The League. Because that’s what romance means to me.❤