Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.

Review: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

A very wise friend of mine once told me to judge a book not by the quotes on the back cover, but by who said it. So you can imagine my expression as I picked up The Goose Girl and saw Stephanie Meyer’s quote on the front cover *rolls eyes* (only kidding, Twihards). But then I flipped it over to see the New York Times Book Review call it “enchanting”, which so happens to be one of my favorite words, so there was that.

From the back cover:
“Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue. She spent the early years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the swans. Then, a colt was born with a word on his tongue–his name, Falada–and when Ani spoke it, she found the key to his language, too. But as Ani’s gift grew, so did others’ mistrust of it, and soon her mother felt she had no choice but to send her away to be queen of a foreign land…”

This description only covers the very premise of the book, which I like! No spoilers. But I didn’t really know what to expect plot wise. Without giving too much away, I’ll let you know that the story is largely centered on treason, friendships, and loyalty, chronicling Ani’s journey to and sojourn in the new kingdom, Bayern, and the traitors who accompany her. I can only sing the praises of Shannon Hale’s writing. She writes so eloquently with vivid imagery but not so much that you get distracted from the action. This is a really, really great read. Fairytale retelling with princesses and magic? Count me in. Luckily, there are three more books in the Bayern series! I’m reading them all.

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Review: Fledgling by Mark A. Cooper

Like most 90s children, I thought a part of my soul was put in a horcrux died after finishing the Harry Potter series. I suppose that’s expected after you spend half of your life anticipating the release of the next book. It took me a few years to read another YA book. Tragic, right? It started with the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson and everything Sarah Dessen and Richelle Mead and rereading Lemony Snicket and Narnia. Maddy, step away from the YA section. (Don’t worry, I didn’t tap into my Judy Blume collection.)

Then I turned 24 and thought why stop now? That’s when I found Fledging: Jason Steed by Mark A. Cooper at my local library. I had read great great great reviews on Goodreads and have been wanting to read it for months (months!) with no luck finding it in any bookstores. So I read it, today, and loved it.

From the back o’ the book:

“Jason Steed is just like any other kid…except that he’s a martial arts expert, skilled pilot, and a member of an elite British military group called the Sea Cadets. When a routine training exercise goes terribly wrong, Jason finds himself in the middle of a deadly secret mission. Can he use his expertise to help stop a nuclear war?”

After reading so many YA books with werewolves and vampires and what not, it’s so refreshing to read about a superhero human kid who doesn’t have supernatural powers (did I just say that?). But seriously, I was on the edge of my seat. Jason Steed is one tenacious 11-year-old spy. The story is original, moving, and action-packed with good twists. It’s a tale of adventure, friendship, bravery, and loyalty. There’s even a little love story! Two thumbs up.

approved by Wills

source

Any other shameless YA addicts out there? Come forth. Tell me what to read next.

Pumped Up Kicks

Topping the list of things that make me inordinately happy are new running shoes. I like retiring the old pair, the worn out, raggedy, memory-filled pair. My last shoes went through a lot. They carried me through stressful work days and a really hot marathon. They ran all over Boston. And Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, Allston, Brighton, and Brookline. They ran on the Charles River, around Jamaica Pond, through the Emerald Necklace, and to the ocean.

Like most runners, rarely do I branch out in terms of trying new shoes. I wore the Asics 2100 series for 10 years before switching to a more lightweight Nike Lunar Elite at the beginning of this year. In addition to a new pair of Lunar Elites, I picked up the Nike Free 3.0’s. Let’s just say I’m never going back.

I’m excited to see where these take me. We’ll be together for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler and the Chicago Marathon this fall, in addition to perhaps a half marathon or two this summer. More to follow re: training plans and the like!

What is everyone training for? Is anyone watching the Olympic Trials? I am, as always, in complete awe.

Martha’s Vineyard.

Hi everyone! How was your MDW? Full of friends and BBQs and celebrations? I hope so!

I was quite lucky this year. My cousin conveniently planned a wedding in Martha’s Vineyard. While a far-off destination for my Wisconsin-born-and-bred family, I am a mere hop skip and a ferry ride away from the island. So when the bride announced their plans to wed in MV, I said why yes, I can make that work.

Pretty island view.

We stayed in a quaint little cottage on Narragansett street near Ocean Park with a seaside view. Oak Bluffs is a charming town full of boutiques and general stores.

Off the main street, Circuit Ave, you will stumble upon a storybook village full of gingerbread houses.

like this one!

and this one, too.

And then there was the wedding. Twas beautiful. Hard not to be in this magical setting, right? The ceremony took place at a small church followed by an impeccable reception at The Blue Canoe on the waterfront. I can’t wait to see the photos, especially because the photographers, Jonny and Michelle, were extraordinary. Check out their work as Paper Antler and learn about their mission to shoot 50 weddings in 50 states, raising money for She Dances along the way.

Black Dog Tavern

Back soon!

Maddy

A Very Merry Unbirthday

Tomorrow I turn 24. Between celebratory mid-week drinks at Eastern Standard, last night’s surprise party at Lolita, and this morning’s breakfast at Deep Ellum, you could say my friends have been spoiling me. Just a little bit.

But let’s talk about books. Yesterday was a Penguin delivery day. My will power died when I saw the latest additions to the Penguin Threads series, which were released at the end of April. Art director Paul Buckley commissioned yet another brilliant artist (Rachell Sumpter) to embroider the cover designs of The Wind in the Willows, Little Women, and the Wizard of Oz. Since the latter two titles are among my all-time favorite classics, I needed them. (I use the term “need” loosely but you know what I mean.)

On dresses

I used to know how to dress myself. It all stemmed from an innate love of fashion that peaked in college and dwindled post-graduation. For six months I wore a khaki safari costume (yes, I’m blaming Disney World), which was nice for those indecisive mornings where you can’t put together a cohesive outfit for your life, or when you rip your tights, or when you’re feeling lazy. Who, me? 

But I used to love clothes at one point in time. Honest, I did. I loved writing about clothes and even went to Boston Fashion Week. I have sketch books full of designs dating ten years back.

This hit me because I’m going to a wedding at Martha’s Vineyard in three weeks and finally had a reason to shop. The bride told me the dress code is “casually elegant”, or maybe it was “elegantly casual”, so naturally I had no idea what to look for.

Now, I’m only telling you this because I found my dream dress today, which made me want to kick my heels in the air and skip home through the waves of Red Sox fans, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Last weekend I wasted countless hours mulling over less attractive options and brooding about my fruitless efforts when I could have been reading Potter for the umpteenth time, or learning how to cook something (you know, from scratch), or doing anything else for that matter.

But today I found it, my tulip-skirted, cap-sleeved, shimmery, floral frock:

And now I can carry on.

 

Cake Batter Blondies

It may be cold and rainy here in Boston but my apartment smells like cake batter and that’s what really matters (am I right?). Rarely do I stop what I’m doing to run, literally, to the grocery store. But guys, these did it. Cake and rainbow sprinkles? Yes, please. To boxed mixes everywhere: you don’t know you’re beautiful.

Gracie’s original photo (camera presently on the fritz)! B-e-a-utiful.

ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cake mix and sprinkles in a large bowl, then mix in the oil and egg. Add the milk slowly just until the batter is combined – you want it to remain as dense as possible. Place better in a greased 8×8 pan or 8-inch cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or just until the edges turn golden. Let cool for 20 minutes before cutting because the gooey center needs to set. The result will be a decadent, cake-batter texture.

Enjoy!