Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Oh boy, do I love Libba Bray.

She’s a feminist, an activist, and a realist when it comes to writing. And I just can’t get enough! 

I’ve been a long time reader of hers, and this is the most recent book that she’s published. Most of her novels are period pieces, and this certainly isn’t an exception! It’s based in the roaring ’20s and is full to brimming with parties, glamour, civil rights, and the paranormal. The novel follows Evie, a girl with big dreams living in a small town, who showcases a rare ability one night while playing with an Ouija board. This begins a butterfly effect that takes Evie on the wildest ride of her life. To New York City where the Ziegfeld Girls grow strong and the prohibition falls by the wayside, all the way to the darkest depths of an upstate home that sits dilapidated and humming with disembodied voices. Evie is forced along a path that introduces her to her very own dark side where she must fight demons of all kinds.

The family and friends that find themselves along this same path bring so much to the novel as well. I love Bray’s writing style, because never is the book about one single character. She includes the lives and backstories of so many characters, which in turn creates very rich, detailed worlds that you can just fall into. 

Both on an educational level and an entertainment level, this novel is a 10/10. I used it as a primary source in one two essays for my masters degree (both very different essays, I assure you 😉 ) and scored atleast a 98/100. Bray created a beautiful written fantasy/paranormal/historical novel all wrapped into one, and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you!

Family Dinner Sunday: Spontaneous Edition!

Hey guys! So, we all have busy weeks and busy schedules, so sometimes, plans go awry. This weekend, my friends and I decided to go see the movie Guardians of the Galaxy instead of our normally planned dinner. Spontaneity is the spice of life, am I right? So we went to our local movie theater, got dinner and drinks, laughed our butts off, then came home and had a little wine and cheese spread. All of the cheese and other nibbles were courtesy of my friend Matt, and since it was so last minute, I had to quick choose which wines would go best with the snacks! Gotta love a challenge 🙂

image (6)So here we are with some of the beginnings of the fixin’s. He brought two types of goat cheese, one was filled with fig, also aged sharp cheddar (that’s the one covered in the black wax; it used to be my favorite kind of cheese!), brie, pate, pear paste, apricot paste, hot pepper jam, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and crackers! And forgive me for not getting such beautiful pictures, but I wanted you all to see just how easy it is to pair food and wine. So I had to document the night!

As you can see above, we had already decided to pour a glass before we got chopping and plating.

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Triscuits are classy… right?

image (4)Matt was a super sport! We had a good time putting everything out and snacking. I decided to go with a Prosecco, a nice frizzante (which means the bubbles are smaller and there are more of them!) Italian sparkling wine, and a Californian Pinot Noir. It’s quite hard to find a Pinot Noir that doesn’t pair well with platters because they tend to be light and very agreeable, and Prosecco and cheese are like matches made in heaven!

So here, you can see a fun, spontaneous picture… my roommate may be derping out, but whatever. It’s the only picture I got of the two bottles of wine. I decided on the Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir and Mionetto Il Prosecco. They were both so delicious, always make sure you chill your sparkling whites!

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Thanks everyone for reading, I hope you learned something cool today and maybe even got a laugh out of this. Life doesn’t need to be planned out, sometimes it’s fun to just go with the flow and see what you can do to make it memorable. And when you’re surrounded by friends and loved ones, it can only get better!

Love,

Morgan

 

 

Book Review: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Here it is, fine people: my first book review for you all. I want to one day be able to make these into vlogs for your viewing pleasure, but that will come soon enough 🙂

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I chose this book for many reasons. One: It is my favorite. It is by far my favorite book by my favorite author ever, and I will undoubtedly tell the world this. When/If I find something that strikes my fancy better, I will let you all know, but this book strikes a cord with me that I feel should be shared with the world. Two: One of the best characters in written history was born in these pages. Three: There’s a lot to learn from this novel in terms of friendship, loyalty, love, politics, and family. Basic character growth from adolescence to adulthood, I suppose!

Let me start off first by telling you a little about the author. Jonathan Stroud isn’t as well known in the states as he is abroad. He’s an English author with a very rich background in all the ins-and-outs of writing and publishing. He also has a hugely varied resume of published books that range from children’s books to young adult, from fantasy to mythology. He’s seriously a jack of all trades. And not only his is writing entertaining… it’s intelligent.

And this book certainly does not disappoint! The story is about a sort of twist on modern day living in which England still remains the leading power in the world. They’ve managed to maintain this because of their proficiency in magic; mainly the politicians controlling powerful spiritual entities that carry out all of their dirty work from assassinations, to civilian control, to war. The book follows two main characters: Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. Nathaniel is a young boy in the throws of learning how to be a politician and learning how to control spirits. Bartimaeus is one of the spirits in question; a sarcastic, witty, one-for-all Djinn who Nathaniel comes to summon one day. This book follows their journey together; through distrust and disloyalty, through trials of strength and knowledge. Both characters are challenged and changed, and on the most quintessential of levels.

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One of the things I loved most of all about Stroud’s novel is the level of historical inclusion and character driven growth. Yes, the story is so action-packed and doesn’t seem to have a hint of downtime, and yet the characters are such essential parts of the story that you can’t help but feel such a strong bond for each one of them. Even when you disagree and hate what they’ve decided to do! I think this is a surefire sign of success for Stroud.

This book has been out for a very long time, but I wanted to introduce you all to something that I found beautiful and heart-wrenching as well as something you can learn from. I hope you all have found this helpful 🙂

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Love,

Morgan

Hole in the Fence- Coffeehouse fun!

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Well guys. I’m really sorry that I didn’t catch this right away, but somehow in between me pressing the post button and the site actually catching on, all of my text had been deleted and my picture was distorted. I’m really sorry about that!

I’m extra sorry about it because this cafe was awesome, and everyone should know! It’s located out by Colby-Sawyer College in the New London area of New Hampshire (holy News!). I just stumbled upon it, and it looked more like a bistro from the outside, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But as soon as I walked in and heard “Hotel California” playing and saw the decor, I was hooked. The menu was awesome, too- it really caters to the college crowd, offering pizza and other simple meals, but it advertised that all their dairy was local and their coffee beans were from specific places abroad (they favored based on type, obviously). And they made their own whipped cream and gluten-free baked goods! I was hooked! I treated myself to an iced cookie dough mocha with soy milk and basked in the beautiful sunlight outside. It’s really a special place to visit, if you’re ever out in that neck of the woods!

Family Dinner Sunday: Featuring Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Justin Obtuse Dessert Wine

Hey, everyone!

As most of you may know about me, I work in the wine industry and am fairly new to it. Being a couple of years in, I’ve gotten to know the basics, and I’ve finally started out experimenting with wines and trying new things. Especially in terms of the food and wine pairing category!

I will never pretend to be an expert, but I’d love to share some of the things I’ve learned and tried, and would love to take you all along this wonderful journey of pairing and enjoying the simple things in life 🙂

I decided to ask my little friend family to be my guinea pigs. Who doesn’t want to try some nice food and wine combinations? I want to try to keep them somewhat themed and simple, so that all of you can see first hand just how easy it is to awe with just a little tips and tricks.

For the first Family Dinner Sunday, I actually made a larger menu than I had previously planned on. I’m a novice cook (at best!) and really, really, love to bake. So the main feature of this meal was our dessert wine and the cake I decided to pair along with it. Since the cake was a little bit of a hassle, I worked on that first, and decided to do something simple for dinner. Here are the two recipes I used:

Slowcooker Chicken Ceasar Salad Sandwiches

La Bete Noire, or Flourless Chocolate Cake

With both of these, I had the wine in mind first, instead of the meal. These were just simple, easy American dishes with fun twists that made them just a little out of the ordinary! 🙂

The Shredded Chicken Ceasar turned out nice and yummy, but the only thing I would suggest is not cooking it for four hours if you’re using a 5-quart slowcooker. I know the recipe says that’s okay, but it definitely should stick to only 3 if that’s the size cooker you have. Ceasar is also reportedly a favor hard flavor to pair with wine (lemon and anchovy? hu?). However, with the chicken and the cream base, I figured a nice oakey chardonnay would still have some power over the flavors, and luckily I was not wrong! Me, my boyfriend Jay, and our friend Matt (who are two of the biggest wine buffs I know) all agreed that it paired really well. And they even went back for seconds!

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I added a little plate of mixed herbs and greens, avocado, and sliced cherry tomatoes. I baked up some sweet potato fries, too, which paired SO well with the Chardonnay as well. Creamy foods go well with creamy wines, guys!

Noms!
Noms!

And to top it off, I oh-so proudly delivered the belle of the ball: a nice flourless chocolate cake to go with Justin’s Obtuse dessert wine. This wine came in the little 375mL bottles and is such a steal (in NH it’s $9.99) for its quality. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon wine, but the way they make it is just how Ports are made. It was phenomenal! It was still nice and sweet, but still very crisp with a lot of Cabernet flavors. It didn’t taste like a traditional dessert wine because it wasn’t so heavy and syrupy. It paired beautifully with the cake, which the boys loved (and my boyfriend isn’t a chocolate lover, either).

Only three ingredients! And the book I am currently in love with <3
Only three ingredients! And the book I am currently in love with ❤

So easy, the cake was only three ingredients! I even made myself a little drink while I was waiting for the cake to cool 🙂 What’s better than some cream liqueur in your coffee? Next time, I’ll have to cook with wine so I can sip that as I go. The back of the Obtuse bottle said that it paired well with souffles and truffles…

Who am I kidding, I can’t bake a souffle, yet! When pairings like this get thrown your way, and you know there’s no way in hell you can do something like that, then don’t be afraid to improvise. Essentially, this whole night was an improvisation; but I had a goal in mind! I knew something rich and chocolatey would pair well, so I just kind of ran with that small tidbit of info.

Couldn't resist taking a bite... or five
Couldn’t resist taking a bite… or five

Same Place, New Name!

I know it’s still the growing stage, but I wanted to let you all know that yes, the name of the blog has changed! It’s officially a title that encompasses what I want to share with you all: traveling, stories, books, and all things in my life! I hope you all enjoy this transition with me. Expect a story soon and a new edition to the page. 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Hey guys!

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning with this Blog 🙂 I just wanted to let you all know that you haven’t been neglected! 

I have some awesome plans in the works; expect some fun info on book reviews, publishing tips, and more fun local coffee shop reviews! I also have something special up my sleeve concerning my own personal stories. So stay tuned!