Book Recipe

Bookish Recipe: Alfajores

Finding that memory was as bright as catching trees bursting into bloom. It was a memory from when Miel was barely old enough to make them. After that, she would turn three, and four, and the roses would come, and they would take everything. But she could hold on to this, her hands and Leandro’s pale with sugar and flour.

Alfajores de nieve, coated in powdered sugar so each looked made of winter.

She didn’t have Leandro anymore, or his hands, smooth and dark as finished wood. But she had Sam, this boy and his brown hands.

Miel pulled her eyes from the knotted carpet, and looked up at Sam. “I think I am hungry.”

“Yeah?” Sam’s smile was slight, but without caution. “Anything in particular?”

Miel pushed herself up on her hands, her body stiff as if she’d slept on it wrong. “Have I ever shown you how to make alfajores?”

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I can say with absolute confidence that Miel had every right to believe these little bites of winter would cheer her up. Alfajores, small confections from Latin America, are the perfect bite of butter, confectioners sugar, and dulce de leche. They’re versatile, fun, and downright adorable.

I found the recipe here over at Chowhound and though I was nervous I would mess up somewhere, they’re a pretty simple treat to recreate. Some tips!

  • Make them your own. I used a 2-inch fluted cookie/biscuit cutter and mini star cookie cutters in the middle.
  • The 2-inch cookie cutters were a good idea because the recipe says it makes 12 cookies. I ended up with 24?
  • The dough, when you roll it out after it’s been chilled, will be crumbly. Don’t fear! Add a little flour and be patient. It will mold back together.
  • Consider adding some lemon zest to your dough. It will complement the flavors wonderfully.
  • The flavor of brandy is very subtle. I bought a bottle just for this recipe but I’m sure you could substitute another liquor if you don’t have any.
  • You might want to invest in rolling pin rings like these from Amazon to ensure a more even dough. You’ll get an even bake and a more successful cookie if the dough is rolled out to the same thickness.

Those are really all the tips you need! These will make another appearance in my home. If you’re having a sad day? Follow Miel’s advice, fire up your oven, and start kneading that dough. These will cheer you up in no time flat.

My review of When the Moon Was Ours is coming soon. I know, I’ve been saying this for a while now. But when I write the review, it’ll truly be over. And I’m sad about that.

Keep reading!

Essay, Ramblings

The Hero Complex and the Importance of Representation in Young Adult Literature

Whilst I make my way through some good reads (and reread some old favorites sorry couldn’t resist whoops), I’ve got some thoughts.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism lately about the hero protagonist in young adult literature. While I want to say that I get the criticism, I don’t. Sure, we need to celebrate our run-of-the-mill characters. Our average-Joes. I’m not saying they should be ignored.

What I am saying, however, is that all teenagers and all young adults and, honestly, all humans are the heroes of their own stories. Why can’t they be written as such?

There are young people in the world *raises hand* who suffer from mental illness. We struggle with our minds. Like Jacob wrestling the angel, we are in constant battle for control over something that should be so simple — our brains and our own thoughts. And yet, we have unpredictable moments of weakness. We have moments where we hear these voices that tell us how unimportant we are. How replaceable we are. How burdensome we are.

And then there are books. I think of how there are books in this world and I sigh with relief. I can’t begin to list how many books have saved me. Book lovers abuse books so often, too! We let them sit on our shelves for years and years and years to collect dust and wait and pine for us. Like a loyal dog, they’re still there waiting for us, even after we’ve cheated on them with newer, prettier, thicker tomes.

Okay, Lauren. We get it. What does this have to do with heroic protagonists?

Ever go to a Harry Potter midnight premiere? (Aww, remember those days?) People dressed up. People carried wands. People proudly wore their house colors and showed off their collected merchandise. And every single nerd attending that movie and/or book release felt immortal. We felt powerful. We felt brave. And we understood how valuable we were.

Harry Potter was the Boy Who Lived. He was special at Hogwarts. It didn’t matter that he lived under the stairs in his muggle world. Here, in this new and magical place, he was revered and irreplaceable.

And so too are the young people reading these books.

Being a young adult is hard enough. You’re stuck between being an adult and being a kid and so others either treat you as though you have to carry the world on your shoulders or as though you’re the one who needs to be carried. Add a feeling of invisibility, a sense of insignificance, and the rising diagnoses of mental illness and it’s clear to see that students are in need of some reassurance and comfort.

While I applaud students who seek out literature that is beyond their reading level (I was totes that kid. Let’s face it, I’m still that kid.), they should have an option to read — well, whatever they want, really. I’m sure students can find heroes in classic literature. I remember feeling inspired by Jane Eyre and her independence as a young(er) reader. It’s possible.

But imagine a reader picking up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe after they’ve begun to identify as someone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Imagine a reader who has only seen white heroes in the media finally finding someone who looks like her in The Wrath and the Dawn series.

Imagine a reader feeling incredibly anxious and depressed due to recent events involving police brutality and coming across The Hate U Give.

The protagonists don’t even need to be wand-wielding wizards to be the heroes of their stories (although, have you read El DeafoNot enough people are talking about a graphic novel about the beloved deaf superhero). And when students begin to see books as a mirror into their own worlds, they respond in a far more positive way. These books stick. And when books stick, we create better readers.

Let’s create a world of better, more inclusive books.

All right. Enough of my ramblings. I’ve been under the weather the past couple of days so expect a lot of tea reviews this weekend.

Like, a lot.

Keep reading, my loves.

Giveaway

Hooray for YA Annual Giveaway!

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It’s here!

So I have the best birthday in the world. October 13th happens to be, according to Parks and Rec, Treat Yo’ Self Day. So on my birthday, I like to treat a follower to a special prize bundle. You will receive:
– A $25 tea voucher courtesy of @adagioteas. A big thank you to them!! (They’re the best, please check them out.)
– A bath bomb of your choice from @lushcosmetics.
– The candle of your choice from @frostbeardmpls.
– The book of your choice below $15 from Book Depository.
– And a one month subscription to @pagehabit – each box goes to helping child literacy!
TO ENTER:
Comment on my Instagram image with how you plan to treat yo’ self on October 13th.
– You must be following me on Instagram.
– A bonus entry if you follow me here on le blog.
– A bonus entry for tagging friends. One bonus entry per tag.

DISCLAIMER:
– Aside from Adagio, I am providing all the materials in this giveaway. Don’t sue me. I’m pretty poor.
– This giveaway is open to people in North America only. Lo siento. Check back, I do another giveaway later that’s open internationally.
– You must be 18 or older.
– You must be willing to share your address with me so I can send you your prize.
– As so much of this is based on what you want, please understand it may take a while as I need to order items first.
That’s it! Best of luck!

Book Review

Book Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy

 

DSC_0774Tash Hearts Tolstoy
Written by Kathryn Ormsbee
Published by Simon & Schuster
Page count: 367
Tea Pairing: Yerba Mate for those times when Tash needed a meditative moment. New to yerba mate? Try this sampler from Adagio to find your favorite. And don’t forget – there’s a honey sale going on as we speak!

Natasha Zelenka, nicknamed Tash, is an aspiring film creator. With the help of her best friends and some willing novice actors, Tash produces a webseries titled Unhappy Families based off of one of her favorite Tolstoy novels. It’s her dreamto go to Vanderbilt and study filmmaking. And when her webseries gets a shout-out from a popular YouTuber and a nomination for a Golden Tuba Award, her dream is likely to become a reality.

Even better, her nomination means she has a chance at meeting fellow YouTuber Thom Causer, a boy she’s been flirting with since they discovered each other’s channels. But can she keep her friends as her focus shifts to her successful webseries? And how will Thom react to her confession that she’s a romantic asexual?

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I’ll be honest, this book is a little slow in the beginning. It took a while for me to get into it.

(Which, after the fact, I found a little cute because you know what other books take a while to get into? Literally anything Tolstoy has ever written.)

But once you get into it, there are so many beautiful things about this book:

  • An asexual protagonist. Let me repeat for the people in the back. An asexual protagonist. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book with an asexual protagonist and her story is so accurate. Her confession of her sexuality (confessionS, actually, as people who come out never really come out once) is often met with confusion and misunderstanding and sometimes even anger. But we have something wonderful here. Tash sticks to her guns and never once sacrifices her happiness or her comfort for a boy. She knows who she is, she spent a long time getting there, and her message is that you should never sacrifice yourself for someone else. Such a great message for teens.
  • The theme of friendship and family. Ormsbee has every reason to let Tash pursue her dreams and leave behind everyone she knows, especially when things in her family grow tense. But Ormsbee lets her readers know that it’s so much braver and better to stick with the ones you love.
  • The message that our idols aren’t perfect. Yeah, Tash hearts Tolstoy (it’s right there in the title). But one of my favorite scenes includes her admitting that in all actuality, Tolstoy was a pretty crappy guy. Perhaps that’s why I had trouble getting into this book. Tash would wax poetic about how amazing Tolstoy was and I knew better. That scene was such a moment of redemption for me and it doubles as a great message for readers.

Ormsbee’s book truly surprised me in the end. I’m going to miss this one. And I really wish there was a Tea Time with Tash vlog because I would totally watch it.

(Let’s face it, I’d watch Unhappy Families too.)

Give this one a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Read on, my friends!

Book Review

Book Review: Love and Gelato

Remember when I said I’d review Tash Hearts Tolstoy first?

I lied!

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Love & Gelato
Written by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse
Page count: 400
(Image from Amazon. As it was an eBook, I was unable to take a picture of my own (darn black & white Kindle).
Tea Pairing: This chocolate chip tea from Adagio goes perfectly with Lina’s love of stracciatella gelato. Best of all, Adagio’s having a honey sale this month! Get it while it lasts!

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So I found myself dog-sitting on Saturday night for my cousins and their literally perfect wigglebutt. I brought probably seven books with me (yes, for one night of dog-sitting, don’t judge me) and yet, for whatever reason, I abandoned my previous books and picked this one up instead.

It was raining (my favorite), my cousins’ house is stocked full of tea (by the way, beloved cousins, I stole your tea), I had a sleeping and snorting beagle asleep in my lap, and I had a book about Italy, gelato, romance, and family. Needless to say, it was a pretty perfect evening.

My perfect evening extended into a perfect weekend because I did not put this book down. As you can see above, it’s 400 pages. I finished it in a day and a half.

Love & Gelato follows teenager Lina as her entire life is uprooted to Florence, Italy. After her mother’s death from pancreatic cancer, the idea of leaving behind everything she’s known is unthinkable.

Add to this the idea of moving into a cemetery with her previously unknown father and things go from unthinkable to unbearable. With her best friend back in America and her mother gone, Lina feels isolated. Only through reading her mother’s journal does Lina discover who she truly is and where she comes from.

What is it about this book that I like?

Awesome Stuff:

  • I like how Italy was portrayed. Fun fact, I was reading another book about Italy (and I am so embarrassed about it, I won’t even leave a title) (*cough*HarlequinRomance*cough*) and the descriptors in the other book were dreadful. Great. You can say Buon Giorno. Fantastic. But in Love & Gelato, I got a far better sense of Italian scenery and ambiance. Not perfect, mind you. The Duomo is a beautiful structure in Florence and I could’ve used more detail but I found it suitable. I love any book that fascinates me enough to instigate a Google search.
  • There’s a moment where girls help girls. One girl had no reason to help the other and yet she did. I love that in literature, especially in YA literature. Girls compete; women help each other.
  • I like the theme of identity. By learning about her mother, she understood herself.
  • It’s a cozy read and when you’re sitting on a couch listening to rain and snuggling a snorting beagle, you need a cozy read.

What Could Be Better:

  • There’s still that theme of ‘girl vs. girl.’ In this generation (and every generation, actually), we need better. We need girls defending other girls instead of tearing each other down.
  • It’s a bit predictable. Not sure if it’s intentional but the reader figures out the twist after about 3 pages. The protagonist figures it out about 70% into the book (ah, Kindle percentages). So by the time she gets there, you’re practically screaming, “FINALLY.”
  • There were some inconsistencies. Why would [insert character name here] have a picture of [insert other character name here] hanging up if he/she felt that way? It doesn’t really make any sense. If he/she (can you tell I’m trying to avoid spoilers here?) was really that awful, so be it, but then that picture wouldn’t exist.

But all in all, this book truly was one of the best parts of my weekend. It’s very sweet, very cute, and very helpful to those coming to terms with loss. I recommend it highly.

I can 100% promise that my next review will be for Tash Hearts Tolstoy. I’ve got some feelings about that one, my friends.

What are you reading this weekend? The weather’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing color, and it’s the perfect weather for reading.

(For those of you in the path of the hurricanes, please be safe and know we’re thinking of you. I’ve got a few donations coming your way. As someone who fought with Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, I understand a bit of what it’s like. My thoughts are with you.)

Read on, my friends!