Monthly Challenge: Sugar Plum Nightmares!

Monthly Challenge: December is Complete!

Hey all! Here’s to a monthly challenge completed!

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I hope you enjoyed this month’s reading material, because let me tell you: I was thoroughly entertained by the two books that were chosen. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and Krampus by [Gerald] Brom were two of the most ingenious, darkly humorous, and yet frighteningly realistic novels I have ever read.

It’s funny, because without knowing what either of the books were about (besides the Christmas/thriller theme), they both ended up being very similar in terms of style. Brom and Hill both have a very dark sense of humor and specialize in writing brooding, unsuccessful, bottom-of-the-barrel characters that the audience really has to dig to find the good in. Vic, the main character in NOS4A2 is a tattooed wraith of a woman with an alcohol problem, a serious mental instability, and the bullheadedness of a psychopath. Jesse, the main character in Krampus, is a destitute musician living out of a tiny trailer with no job, a wife that has left him, and no backbone to speak of.

I loved both of these books and have become a devoted fan to both authors. I’ve actually already lent out NOS4A2 because one of my friends was so keen on reading it after hearing my review. It was such a great book, because I could feel myself becoming even more immersed in it the more that I read. The trials that Vic had to endure actually felt like my own. I felt like I was losing my mind. I considered the fact that maybe the whole story was actually a dream sequence that Vic was making up and I was being taken along for the ride. I think this technique was Hill’s clever play on the unreliable narrator. I feel like madness in characters usually makes it hard for the author to tell a concise story, but Hill also employed the use of other character’s POVs. This in turn made the story more authentic and therefore more terrifying. The antagonist in this novel, Charles Manx, is so utterly disturbing. Hill made him one of my favorite villains, mostly because I know someone like this can actually exist… and it’s terrifying. So not only was Hill’s creation of the characters just masterful, but his grip in the art of storytelling is beautiful (he managed to write a very satisfying conclusion to this book, unlike some of his dad, Stephen King’s, novels).

Brom is an author that I hadn’t heard of before, but after looking him up I realized he has a huge cult following and is, first and foremost, an artist. He used to draw for the Magic: The Gathering card game, other RPGs and movies (like Sleepy Hollow), and is the author behind the book The Child Thief. His dark artistic style is prevalent in this story, but he balances it beautifully with themes of hope and morality. Throughout the entire book, I just knew that the ending would be dark and hopeless… I was falling in love with each of his character and I figured he would take the easy way out (like some dark horror writers) and would just kill off each of the guys I was rooting for. Fortunately, I was wrong! I felt so deeply for each character, and it kept me enthralled. I kind of wish I lived in that little town of Goodhope just so I could have experienced this thrilling adventure with Krampus and his Belsnickels. I think the story style is similar to how children’s books are set up: morals at the end, the characters learn something about themselves, there is some hope at the end after all, etc…. but it definitely isn’t kid friendly, just as a word of warning.

All-in-all, a beautiful couple of books to have read for Christmas time. There was some whimsy, some bloodshed, and even some happy family get-togethers that remind the audience to be grateful for your own quirky family. There were magical creatures that promised gold or smiled their candy-cane grins, and entrances to Hell… literally and figuratively. Overall, two equally entertaining and heart-warming books that I would suggest to anyone. 🙂

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Dare to Pair: Christmas Edition!

Dare to Pair: Christmas Edition!

Happy Holiblogs, friends, and Merry Christmas!

This Dare to Pair is a little on the fun side. I wanted to make a vegan-friendly meal to pair with a hearty red wine for a traditional Christmas dinner, but as I planned this dinner, I realized improvisation is your best friend! When I think of a Christmas meal, I think of some sort of roast, mashed potatoes, and every vegetable under the sun. I took this idea and morphed it into mashed potatoes, roast asparagus, and… drumroll please… the most (in)famous tofu dinner, Tofurky!

I had never made Tofurky before, but based on its flavor profile, I figured it’d be safe to pair it with something that pairs well with actual turkey: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, and Garnacha are a few that I know work well with turkey. Riesling and Gewurtz are honestly the two biggest wines for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals- their fruity flavors balanced with spice and (for the most part) high acidity and low tannins make them super pleasing to the mild yet sometimes smoky flavor of the turkey. However, I felt like it was time to pair a red with a vegan-friendly meal, so I turned to my love of French wines: a Beaujolais!

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Roast, dipping bread, and wine for two!

Beaujolais refers to a region in France where the majority of red wines are made using the Gamay grape (the white wine is usually Chardonnay). The French are very specific in the categorization and creation of their wines. Beaujolais wines tend to be very light-bodied and low in tannin, and I got especially lucky because the vintage of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais that I paired was also more balanced in acidity than I had expected (high acidity is pretty common, but this one didn’t seem too typically acidic) . It paired so beautifully with the Tofurky and gravy, I was honestly so, so surprised. Even with the roasted asparagus, the wine didn’t lose its fruity flavor or become overpowered by the vegetable. Sometimes, starches can bring out strange flavors with light reds, but the mashed potatoes (even though they were super garlicky) were incredibly well-paired.

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Not impressed…

The only thing I wasn’t entirely pleased with was the actual Tofurky gr
avy that they provided. It tasted fine with the wine, but it didn’t really compliment the actual food… next time, I’ll definitely be making my own from scratch. I mean… look at those… lumps…

And as for the carnivore in the family, my boyfriend was actually super impressed by the whole meal! I think he liked it better than I did, to be 100% honest. Tofurky is kind of an acquired taste… I used the glaze that they suggested on the box (it said olive oil and a bit of soy sauce), but next time I’ll do something stronger (more soy sauce!) and then probably pair it with a Gewurtztraminer. I think the strong smoky flavor of Tofu and the stuffing (my favorite, dang it was good!) would be really complimentary to a spicy wine like a Gewurtz. But for a red, the Beaujolais really was the way to go, and I’d absolutely suggest that instead of a pinot noir (which can sometimes be overly fruity).

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Thanks for taking the time to hang out and I hope this inspires you to have a cruelty-free Christmas roast 🙂 Complete with a fantastic red wine as well!

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

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Bonus pic of the Mary’s Angel ornament my Grandma sends me every year 🙂 Merry Christmas! ❤

 

A Collection of Thought Bubbles: Audiobooks

A Collection of Thought Bubbles: Audiobooks

 

In honor of this month’s book review, this thought bubble is a little more of a discussion I’d like to have with you.

I’ve never been an audiobook lover. I hated listening to them in the car as a kid; it just never felt like actual “reading,” which, for me at that age, meant it was a COMPLETE waste of time. I was a purist, plain and simple. Books should be read to you as a child and only as a child, and you can’t count audiobooks as books that you’ve “read.”

To this day, I am confronted with the fact that my mindset is totally at odds with the rest of the world. The audiobook phenomenon has become a booming industry and people are clamoring at book stores to order newly released copies. Audible, the audiobook download service you can get for your phone/tablet/computer, is becoming a staple amongst all generations- most of my friends from college have audible downloaded on their phones as well as their parents.

Audiobooks always felt like cheating to me. You can’t go and watch a movie and say you’ve “read” that book it was based on or read its screenplay, so why does an audiobook count?

I’ve come to realize that this is still a hot button issue within the literary crowds. I’ve seen numerous online discussions about how “audible has me reading 30 books a year instead of 3” followed by the quick retorts, of, “that’s not reading!” It’s not literally reading, that’s true, but because of audiobooks, people are becoming more and more interested in stories/novels in general. It perpetuates movie production, novel production, and author successes. It may not be traditional, but should audiobooks be given the credit they deserve in their contributions towards the reading community?

And, in such a growing industry, there are very few standards in what rates a “good” audiobook and a “poor” one. I realized just this year that a lot of what had turned me off towards audiobooks when I was younger was the boredom that the voice actors instilled in me. I could fall asleep to the sound of their droning… they absolutely killed the excitement of the story for me.

What’s even worse is that when a book is read out loud, you can pinpoint all of the problems in sentence structure, character voice, and the author’s inability to actually tell a story (I know, I’m probably the only one here who strangely pays attention to these things). I mean, the audiobooks ruined the magic of the story for me in such a complete way that I hated and blamed them. It was a mixture of voice actor and author inconsistency that really turned me off to audiobooks.

I realized all of this when I stumbled across the best audiobook I had ever listened to (irony is the best, isn’t it…). It was of course a magical mix of masterful storytelling and skilled voice acting- Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling’s story The Cuckoo’s Calling was the audiobook that gave me hope in the future of audiobooks. It was so beautifully written and orated that I had a hard time keeping my head out of the clouds as I listened to it. I’ve listened to Harry Potter on audiobook and even then I wasn’t as enchanted as I was with this mystery novel. I’ve listened to Gillian Flynn, Lev Grossman, Dan Brown, Haruki Murakami, etc… and everything pales in comparison to Rowling’s and Robert Glenister’s expertise. Glenister has a perfect approach to voice acting for a mystery novel… not too contrived, not too peppy, he brings the entire series to life.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other well produced audiobooks. I’ve seen the lists, forums, and references that other avid readers have suggested and I have yet to delve into them. I’ve seen exultations of praise for Stephen King’s 11-22-63, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files all over the place. Audiobooks vary based on voice actor(s), production quality, sound effects, etc., and can be produced multiple times. For example, Harry Potter was first produced with Stephen Fry as the voice actor and was redone with Jim Dale.

The world of audiobooks is growing exponentially, and I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to grow my own story repertoire. Whether it actually does mean that I’ve “read” the book instead of listened to it doesn’t mean much to me as I have already put a lot of time into physical books, and I feel like I learn a lot when I listen to the composition of a sentence or paragraph. I do not seem to get the same enjoyment out of audiobooks, however, unless there is a perfect trifecta of author/voice actor/production goodness. Am I being too picky? Most likely… but in a growing industry, I think it’s okay to keep your eyes open for improvements.

I’m curious how everyone else feels about audiobooks. Do you have a favorite that I didn’t mention or don’t know about? Or do you have an even more traditional viewpoint on the literary gap between novels and audiobooks?

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Book Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Book Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Stephen King is a master of suspense. The first book of his that I ever read, was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. My best friend in middle school suggested it to me, which I immediately borrowed from the library, because I thought: it MUST be good if my friend, who knew me so well, referred it. I fell in love with writing, thanks to Stephen King, and developed a passion for psychological horror. His books were the first the made me cry, and the first that made me curious if I could be a writer.

The fact that Stephen King has continued this magic throughout the years and still writes powerful, thrilling novels is the kind of inspiration the general public needs. He loves what he does, and it shows in his stories. I love being able to pick up a book of his and just feeling his creative voice in the pages.

I was lucMrmercedesky enough to be gifted Finders Keepers for my birthday, and have absolutely devoured it. The book is the second in a series called Bill Hodges Trilogy, but one of the great things about this book is that you don’t have to have read the first book, Mr. Mercedes, to understand what is happening in this storyline.

Finders Keepers is about a man named Morris Bellamy and a boy named Pete Saubers.

In his youth, Bellamy came to adore a classic author named John Rothstein. In a fit of rage and personal affront, however, he ends up murdering the author and stealing a safe full of cash and personal notebooks. Within these notebooks are the last two stories that detail Bellamy’s beloved characters life. He is thrown into jail shortly before he can attempt to read these stories, however, and lives through his days in prison.

Saubers, a young boy from a struggling family, finds Bellamy’s stolen treasure one day, and tries to use the new-found wealth to do well by his family. He discovers the truth of Rothstein’s stories in the notebook, and realizes their worth, which eventually brings him down a path of hiding and hunting for safety.

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King is an absolute miracle worker when it comes to suspense- I don’t remember the last time I was involved in such a thrilling book that made me genuinely fearful and made me feel unsafe. The last half of the book really picked up for me, the first half was quite slow to build up. But it then made the closing much more anticipatory and really keeps the readers’ attention. It’s definitely a compelling story, and I am now eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series. I know this is somewhat at odds with the common opinion that King doesn’t know how to write endings, but this book ended incredibly. It even includes some tied up ends from Mr. Mercedes, for those of you who follow the series.

The next book, End of Watch, has not been released yet, but is currently on track for publication on June 7th 2016. I very much recommend thdownloadis book, 4/5 in terms of entertainment and style. I listened to the audiobook for this particular book, and absolutely recommend it. I’m very picky when it comes to audiobooks, and the voiceactor, Will Patton, is spot on. There were even a few parallels between this book and
his son, Joe Hill’s, book NOS4A2 that I feel are a couple of fun easter eggs for the avid reader. It’s quite fitting that I’m reading that, too, isn’t it? The Rolls Royce Wraith gets a shout out and there a few other small reference that thrilled me when I heard them.

Have fun reading if you end up seeking this novel out, I definitely recommend it!

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Monthly Challenge: Happy Holiblogs!

Monthly Challenge: December

Happy Holiblogs!

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Barnes and Noble… My weakness…

I have to admit… I’ve been looking forward to this monthly challenge since October. I just LOVE the Christmas holiday and the entire month leading up to it. I think I’ve been scouting to find the best “winter” smelling candle to douse my apartment in, just so I can feel comfort as well as cold (these temperatures are definitely not my favorite…).

I’ve known exactly what I wanted to review this month with you guys, and, of course, it has to do with twisted Christmas stories. I am a wholehearted lover of the movie Nightmare Before Christmas, but it’s honestly a very hard genre to look for in regards to books. It’s difficult to find something that has that nostalgic twinge of happy Christmas time and the same shiver of fear that comes with any horror story. That’s why, when I stumbled upon NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and saw that Krampus was coming out in theaters, I had to base this month’s challenge around stories like those.

I triedimage1 finding a book about the Krampus mythology at our local library (I honestly would much rather pick up books at the library than buy them… it supports the community and my wallet), but they literally had nothing. However, I had seen a beautiful illustrated novel at Barnes and Noble and I took that to be a sign I should just go to the store and pick it up for myself. I mean, just look at that cover. The graphics in the center are just as fantastic. This book called Krampus is written by an author named Bram, and is based on the German myth about an anthropomorphic creature that scares naughty children into being nice. Fantastic, right? Just the right amount of the good with the bad.

And NOS4A2… oh boy… I’m so happy to be able to review this book this month. This book follows a girl named Vic who discovers she has a mental ability to transport anywhere she needs to go, as long as she goes through a mystical covered bridge. She isn’t the only person in the world who has special powers, however. A man named Charles Manx can also transport places when he drives his magical Rolls Royce Wraith… but he can only go to one place: Christmasland. He never goes alone- he brings children with him and traps them in this land of imagination, and Vic makes it her mission to work out the reality behind their powers and her involvement in Manx’ messed up world.

So, I’ll be balancing these awesome stories with some healthy doses of Nightmare Before Christmas, A Christmas Story, and every Harry Potter movie that plays on ABC Family, because that says Christmas to me!

I’ll also throw up a couple of gift giving ideas and vegan baking/dessert wine pairings this month J I love December! Are you guys going to be reading anything in particular this month? Any feel-good traditions you all carry on? Can’t wait to chat with you guys soon!

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Book Review: Cormac McCarthy,another Challenge Completed!

Monthly Challenge: November

November is over and so is another Monthly Challenge!

About three weeks ago, I posted a challenge for myself and all of you readers to pick up a new book that included twisted versions/themes of this month’s most popular holiday: Thanksgiving! I decided to focus on the “food” aspect of Thanksgiving, and read two out of the three stories I had listed in the post.

I focused on books on cannibalism: The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl.

I wasn’t sure what I was really getting into with either of these books, I just knew that McCarthy was famous for his writing and Dahl was famous for his children’s books. After jumping into them, I think I finished these stories faster than anything else I had read in the past six months. I devoured The Road in two days… I seriously couldn’t put it down, and it stunted my200px-The-road NaNoWriMo goal during those days. I absolutely love McCarthy’s style of writing. The book is about a dystopian world in which the audience is left to speculate how the world and society was destroyed, while they watch a young boy and his father travel across a desolated, empty United States. The sheer descriptions of the environments weren’t too heavy-handed and the strange punctuation (no quotation marks… would be off-putting if there weren’t literally five speaking characters in the whole book) really lent substance to the story. It gave a juicy, real feel to the story that otherwise could have come off as boring or contrived. I was so happy to come across this book- McCarthy quickly became a favorite author of mine, and I’m lucky to have Blood Meridian sitting on my bookshelf to pick up next. And just as a side note, there wasn’t really cannibalism in this story. It was mentioned, I think cannibalism and dystopias go hand-in-hand, but there wasn’t anything gruesome.

Lamb to the Slaughter was also a delight to read, because Dahl turned such a short, simple story into something tense and suspenseful. He wrote 44513from a first person POV of a pregnant woman who receives life-changing news from her husband. She beats the man in the head with a frozen piece of lamb, and her cunning, psychopathic mind holds the audience from the first sentence to the chilling last. It really was an incredible read- I had rented this book from my library as it was included in an anthology, and this short story led me to read more of Dahl’s more adult stories. I would absolutely recommend this anthology to any other adult readers out there who enjoy chilling fiction.

I hope you all enjoyed this month’s challenge- did any of you read something similar or anything special this past month? I am really happy to have stumbled upon an author that I absolutely adored. When was the last time something like that happened to you?

Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige