Book Review

Book Review: When the Moon Was Ours

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When the Moon Was Ours
Written by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press.
Page Count: 288 pages.
Tea Pairing: This Caramel Cream tea from Adagio perfectly matches Miel’s favorite cookie called alfajores, a Latin-American dulce de leche concoction. Want a recipe? Check it out here!

No one in town really knows a lot about Miel and Sam. Miel has the ability to grow roses from her wrists and some say she was born from a water tower. Sam paints moons and hangs them from trees to illuminate the neighborhood. No one knows where he and his mother originated from or why they left.

Despite all of this, they aren’t the most mysterious ones in town. The Bonner sisters hold a strange sort of magic – they’re able to enchant and lure any man they want. Except for Sam. When Miel is threatened and blackmailed, will she protect herself or the boy she loves?

4.5

Anna Marie McLemore’s book, When the Moon Was Ours, is such a beautiful and important text. Written poetically and with a lot of heart, this story gives us something I have shamefully never seen before in a novel, young adult or otherwise:

A character who is trans.

I don’t want to give too much away. I think there’s so much magic to this book that needs to be discovered by the reader. But there are teens that feel alone in their sexuality and I think it’s our closest form of magic that we have books like this available to help heal wounded readers.

(This book isn’t getting enough love, you guys. I will scream it from rooftops if I must.)

There are other lovely things in this book:

  • When the Moon Was Ours points out that those things that make us different, those strange metaphorical roses growing from our wrists, are the same things that make us beautiful.
  • It lets us know that even those people we revere as perfect are not so flawless. And it informs us that even they are struggling.
  • This book offers us a magical world that seems oddly real and familiar at the same time.
  • It features a cast of characters who are POC, something we don’t see nearly enough.

I found the end to be a little forced, hence the 4.5 star rating, but other than that? I was madly in love with this book. It was so clever and so profound and I’ll be returning to this book again, I guarantee.

What’s everyone reading? Leave it here! I’m going to be doing a throwback to Fangirl this week (complete with recipe!) and then I’ll be diving into a couple of ARCs that I’ve received.

(Including ARCs about vampires, teens with Asperger’s, and a meditation book for middle graders. And maybe John Green’s new book if I have the nerve.)

Keep reading!

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!

Tea Review

Tea Talk: Athena Blend – Adagio Tea

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(Not thrilled with that picture. My apologies, my loves!)

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Name: Athena Blend
Flavors: Almond oolong, green chai, blueberry
Book Pairing: The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

(This blend was given to me courtesy of Adagio Teas in exchange for an honest review.)

Fun fact of shame: I hate green tea. Hate it. Hate it. And I wish I didn’t because green tea has so many health benefits but for whatever reason, I can’t get into green tea.

And then I met this blend.

This blend is so light and calming. You really get the tang of the blueberry with every sip but it isn’t at all an overpowering flavor. I drank it hot but I might just have to ice it next time – I can absolutely see it being refreshing on a hot day (and this autumn has already been way too hot for my tastes).

I’m very guilty at taking a few sips of tea and then forgetting about it. This cup, I downed in a few minutes. It was just that good that I couldn’t let it sit for too long. I was really uncertain about trying this one. The flavors are not at all something I’d usually go for. In the end, this blend ended up being one of my favorites.

Take a risk with this one, my friends. Be warned, the site says that it does have a rather high caffeine content. Probably shoulda checked that before I made a cup at 9:30 at night with work the next day. Whoops. But let’s face it, this tea might make staying up until 4 am worth it.

You might also want to take a risk with the above book. I first read it a few years ago but I might have to reread it to write about it here. If you’re at all a fan of mythology, you’ll love this look into the relationship between Achilles and (one of my personal faves) Patroclus.

Have a great week, my loves. A book review and some more tea reviews are headed your way this week!

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!