Book Review: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar  April 24, 2014

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

by Jennifer Laam

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar I’ve always been a little fascinated with the Romanov family, so this was a no brainer to pick up when I saw it at the library. As Goodreads says, it’s “a compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter — smuggled out of Russia before the revolution — continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.” The book weaves together the stories of three women: Lena, a housemaid in the Romanov palace; Charlotte, a ballerina living in Nazi-occupied Paris; and Veronica, a modern-day professor of Russian history. Sometimes stories that jump between points-of-view can feel disjointed, but I’m happy to say that’s not the case with this book. A good chunk of the book follows Veronica as she discovers a man claiming to be the Romanov heir and investigates the story of a 5th daughter being smuggled out of Russia. The flashback sections following Lena and Charlotte slowly piece together the truth. I did guess the end about ¾ of the way through, but that didn’t ruin it for me. It’s well-written, with a good pace. There’s intrigue and danger and a love story or two. All in all, a satisfying read.

I give it 4/5 stars.

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar


Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night  April 23, 2014

Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night

If you’ve been around the blog for awhile (or Twitter) you’ve probably caught a mention of my insomnia. I wage an ongoing battle against sleep. And most nights, I win. I’ve figured out enough methods and tricks by now that it’s usually enough. But not always. Some nights, despite my best efforts, I just can’t. fall. asleep. Last night was one of those nights. Nothing bad or particularly stressful going on, I just could not get my brain to quiet down. So what’s running through it while I lay in bed awake? Contrary to what you might think, it’s not particularly important or stirring stuff. Here’s a random sampling from last night:

  • What is the difference between a suit and a tux? Aside from the option of tails. I mean, you can get both custom-made and tailored, so it’s not just about a good fit. Is there a difference in materials or button placement or something? Is it just a matter of needing cufflinks? If a guy buys a tux to be in a wedding party, can he later wear it as just a suit (changing the shirt/tie/etc options)?
  • Ok, so I saw Frozen this weekend. If you don’t know, the setup is that Elsa the older sister has magic and shuts herself away in fear, and younger sister Ana doesn’t find out about her powers for a decade or so. It’s just Ana and Else, their parents, and a few servants stuck in a closed-gate castle for years. And I just have to call bullshit on that whole thing. Because I grew up with 3 sisters, and there is no way that a closed door is any kind of impediment to a bored, nosy little sister. NONE. A young girl with no friends to play with and stuck inside a castle? She would’ve pestered her sister and found out within a week. A month tops. I’m not buying it, Disney.
  • Aw, the puppy and Ian are snoring in sync. (some nights this is adorable, some nights this is like the waking dead symphony of loud noise)
  • About a million ideas for the new shop, and work projects, and various other creative things. Example: If I want to offer digitally illustrated prints (and I do), should I sell them as print-at-home downloads, or physical art prints, or both? How would that work? How do I find a good art printer? How can I be sure someone won’t take the digital download and steal the design for their own purposes? Etc.
  • I want to have a ladies night at my house this Sunday while Ian is at a work party. But one lady will be out of town, and most of the other ladies I want to invite I’m also seeing on Tuesday for a coffee date. Is two lady dates only a day apart too much? I think it’s too much. I could invite 2nd-tier girl friends, but clearly I’m not as close with them if they’re still on 2nd-tier, so it would just be awkward – the invite and the hanging out at my house both. Conundrum.
  • Should I really paint my office purple? I’ve already bought the paint, but I’m rethinking/second-guessing it. It’s a dark purple, a shade I LOVE, but I don’t know if it’ll be overwhelming when on the walls. Or it could be awesome. Back and forth.

And on and on like that. As you can tell, there’s no set pattern to any of this, my brain jumps around and switches tracks like a crazy train. But there you have it. A peek into the inner workings of my insomniac brain.

Do you have insomnia? What kind of thoughts spin through your head while trying to fall asleep?

Tuesday Treasure Trove  April 22, 2014

Tuesday Treasure Trove: this week's round-up of read-worthy links.

And finally, this cartoon. A million, emphatic times:

Things of Note:

I’m in that crazy slew of tons of work that comes right before the summer slump. It’s not a bad place to be, it just means I don’t have too much time for anything else at the moment. Relatively speaking, of course. I still have time for books (there will always be time for books!) snuck in on lunch break or staying up too late. :) And the boy’s 30th birthday is coming up, so there are things and plans surrounding that. We went indoor skydiving last year, which is kind of hard to top, so it’s good he told me not to worry about topping that. Other than that, just still trying to fill up my new shop, and plugging away at regular work.

How are things in your world lately?

Book Review: Seraphina  April 17, 2014


by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina It’d been too long since I read a book with dragons! This was an excellent remedy for that. Seraphina takes place in a fantasy world where humans and (shape-shifting, uber-logical) dragons live in uneasy peace since the war that raged between them 40 years ago. Now, dragons live among the human population, in their human-like form, trying to understand the lesser race and yet not become influenced by the volatile emotions surrounding them. The title character Seraphina, caught between both worlds, has taken a new position at court right before the anniversary of the peace treaty between the two races. When a prince is murdered in a suspiciously draconian fashion, tensions run high and Seraphina gets pulled into court intrigue and interracial politics and unlikely friendships. All while hiding her own very dangerous secret. It’s a lively read, no real slow parts. Hartman’s characterization of the dragon race is interesting, and I liked how they had their own political squabbles outside of the human kingdom. There’s some romance and danger and bravery and heartbreak and family drama. Overall, a good, enjoyable read. I look forward to book #2.

I give it 4/5 stars.


McKinney Falls  April 16, 2014

As promised yesterday, some pictures! My sister was visiting from Charleston, SC last week with some friends, and one afternoon we headed down to McKinney Falls State Park for some sunshine and hiking. The bluebonnets were in bloom, the weather was perfect, and the pup was well behaved. Take a look:










Where’s your favorite place to get out to nature?

Tuesday Treasure Trove  April 15, 2014

Tuesday Treasure Trove: this week's round-up of read-worthy links.

Things of Note:

Hey all! I’m back. I pretty much slept all weekend to recover from my (younger) sister’s visit last weekend. We did a LOT. Probably some pictures coming tomorrow. Um, what else is new? I took a cooking class last night, which was supposed to be condiments and sauces, but really just ended up all condiments, which is not that useful to me since I really only use ketchup. But hey, I apparently have good recipes for homemade mustard and mayonnaise and cilantro vinaigrette now (triple ick). I’d really hoped to learn more actual sauces (marinara, marsala, alfredo, that kind of thing) from scratch, but oh well. There were some good general kitchen/using herbs tips at least. Speaking of cooking, the boy has yet to announce what recipe we’ll be tackling for Easter this year, so that could be interesting. I need to get back into trying new recipes in general; I do like it, and it’s been too long since I’ve posted a fun recipe here on the blog.

What are you up to this week?