Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic  June 26, 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic (#1)

by V.E. Schwab.

A Darker Shade final for Irene A Darker Shade of Magic is the tale of many Londons. In each of several parallel universes, there exists a version of the city of London. Travel and commerce and magic used to flow between them unhindered. Now Gray London is magicless, White London is gripped by cruelty and power struggles, and only Red London remains a haven of life and magic. No one speaks about the downfall of Black London, and travel between the realms has been cut-off, except for a very select few who have the power to travel between.

Kell, from Red London, is one of only two of his kind of magician who can make the crossing. Officially, he carries correspondence between the monarchs of the neighboring Londons. Unofficially, he smuggles artifacts between the worlds. As one might expect, eventually he carries something he shouldn’t, and finds himself neck-deep in a plot full of treachery and magic that was supposed to have been lost with the fall of Black London. Chance leads him to cross paths with Delilah Bard, a pickpocket from Gray London dreaming of larger adventures- like magic. They form a tenuous alliance, working to stay alive and unravel the plot before the remaining Londons fall the way of Black.

This was a fun read! The world setup was unique, and the distinct atmosphere of each London really seeps through in the writing. Kell and Delilah are engaging characters, if not the most complex. And for once the book doesn’t get bogged down in predictable romance. The plot was a tad obvious in places, and certain things hinted at for subsequent books were also a bit heavy-handed. But overall I found the world and happenings interesting, and enjoyed the read. I will probably pick up the next book, just because this was refreshingly different from your normal fantasy read. And I’m curious to see if I’m right about how certain plot elements will develop. 😉

I give it 3.5/5 stars.

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Half a King

Tuesday Treasure Trove  June 23, 2015

Tuesday Treasure Trove

Things of Note:

Not too much of note, it’s been mostly life as usual around here. We had some friends try our homebrew wine and they deemed it enjoyably drinkable, so that was pretty nifty. Some new tour date announcements from one of my favorites bands has brought up an entirely new bachelorette party idea and I’m pretty excited about it. Wedding plans continue apace; I’m knocking out all of those little details. This weekend we officially hit 90 days until our wedding – eep! Exciting and OMG-inducing all at once. But mostly it’s just been work and wishing all of this wet, rainy, humid weather would go away. We have weird scary mushrooms in our flowerbeds because of this nonsense! Gimme back my Texas sunshine.

What’s new in your world lately?

Recipe: Strawberry Banana Smoothies  June 19, 2015


While I was in Ohio, I made these for my mom almost every day. Her chemo diet is pretty restrictive, and finding new tasty ways to get her the nutrients she needs while keeping to the allowed food list was a challenge. Luckily, this was a go! And delicious, to boot. And filling enough to serve as a mini meal mid-afternoon. It’s a win all around, really.

And none of this nonsense about this being a milkshake and not a smoothie (ahem, Tim). It’s fruit and yogurt based! There’s a bit of milk, but not enough to call it a milkshake. It’s that sweet zone between smoothie and milkshake, also known as where deliciousness lives.

And yes, those are Christmas glasses. My mom’s house doesn’t discriminate on glassware by season. 😀

Strawberry Banana Smoothies

Makes 2 tall glasses.

  • 2 bananas
  • 4-5 good sized strawberries
  • Half a container of Yoplait yogurt, strawberry flavor*
  • 3 scoops frozen yogurt, vanilla flavor*
  • A healthy drizzle of honey
  • Milk, enough to fill roughly an inch in of the bottom of your blender once other ingredients are in it

*You can use low-fat/non-fat versions of these for even healthier smoothies. I use lactose-free versions, since I want yumminess without an angry stomach. That was also good for my mom, since chemo can make you more sensitive to regular dairy.

Really easy, guys:

  1. Throw everything in the blender.
  2. Blend on ‘smoothie’ setting.
  3. Pour into a glass, add a bendy straw (optional but recommended for fun factor), and enjoy!


What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?

Tuesday Treasure Trove  June 16, 2015

Tuesday Treasure Trove

Things of Note:

While I was in Ohio, my friend Liz told me she had snagged us tickets to see Ben Folds live. The concert was last night, and it was AWESOME. He did goofball commentary, played some new stuff, but also played a lot of his older stuff, including my all-time favorite love song/song of his: The Luckiest. There was total fangirling going on. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and a good break from reality. Not a bad way to kick off the week. :)

Have you had an awesome Monday lately? Do tell!

Book Review: Uprooted  June 15, 2015


by Naomi Novik.

uprooted Uprooted is the story of Agnieszka, a seemingly normal girl from a village in a seemingly quiet valley. Except the valley is the frontline in the battle between the evil that lurks in the Wood and the mysterious wizard known only as the Dragon, who keeps the Wood at bay. Every 10 years, a village girl is conscripted to serve him in his tower. Everyone expects that this year it will be the beautiful Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend. It doesn’t play out that way, of course. Nor does anything else. The wizard and his tower are not as terrifying as they seems, the Wood’s evil is not as simple as it appears, and Agnieszka herself is not as normal as she thought. What follows is one part fantasy-adventure quest, one part coming of age story, and one part romance.

And all parts awesome! Can I get an amen for standalone fantasy that is done this well? It’s one book (not a series), is beautifully written, and managed to surprise me several times while still ending perfectly. Agnieszka as a narrator and a character is compelling and personable. The portrayal of the wizard is spot-on: we feel Agnieszka’s initial terror while suspecting (rightly) that it will not last. The change and development in their relationship was wonderful to read. Some of the minor characters were a bit less fleshed out, but still served their purpose admirably. I loved that this felt like a Russian fairytale in many ways, but was a completely new story. I could’ve used a bit more backstory on Baba Juga and the queen, but overall it was a thoroughly good read. I enjoyed Novik’s Temeraire series well enough, but this book I loved.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy with elements of YA and romance!

I give it 4.5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday Treasure Trove  June 9, 2015

Tuesday Treasure Trove

Things of Note:

Well, I’m back in A-town, and getting back into the swing of things. Yesterday was pretty much email and errands/chores. Today is back to actual work work. I’ve got a meeting with a new client this afternoon who wants to do something artsy (yay!), and will be gearing up for some more changes to my profesh site in the near future. This year I’ve been slowly trying to tweak and nudge my design business in a new direction (or at least a more focused one) and I’m finding that takes lots of baby steps and small adjustments, which will hopefully add up to big changes. As with most things.

Have you ever tried to change the direction of your business mid-course? Or have you found any read-worthy links this week you’d like to share?