I Love Fall Tag!

Happy October everyone! Amy from Small Budget Beauty tagged me to do the I Love Fall Tag, so of course I had to hop in (you guys know how much I love fall!). So here are the ten questions and my answers! I tag any of you who want to do this; if you’ve done this tag leave me a comment with your blog link so I can go see your answers. :)

1. Favorite Fall lip product?
Dark, vampy lip shades! I feel like October is the one time of the year when you can wear really vampy makeup and get away with it.

2. Favorite Fall nail polish?
Anything vampy! Dark burgundies and blackberries are my fave.

3. Favorite Fall Starbucks drink?
I used to really love the pumpkin spice lattes, but I guess those aren’t vegan (boohoo). I really don’t get into Starbucks that much anymore anyway–they’re expensive and crowded!

4. Favorite Fall candle?
Just about anything from Bath and Body Works. The spiced cider candles are awesome! They make the house smell so cozy and warm.

5. Favorite Fall clothing item or accessory?
Scarves and boots! I live for boot weather.

6. Haunted house, haunted hay ride, or haunted corn maze?
I went to a haunted corn maze once and it wasn’t that big of a deal. But honestly, I’m not big on intentionally scaring myself. I’d rather look at those haunted house reaction shots on the interwebz and try to guess what they’re looking at.

7. Favorite Halloween movie?
I’m not big on Halloween movies either. I went through this phase when I was younger where I was convinced I couldn’t find a horror movie scary enough to truly scare me, so I watched a ton with no effect. Then someone said if I hadn’t found a winner yet I should watch Paranormal Activity and holy crap, I wish I hadn’t. That movie has left me jittery to this day. On the other hand, I can watch zombie movies all night with no ill effects. I guess different things scare different people.

8. Favorite candy to eat on Halloween?
Chocolate and candy corn! Homemade vegan Reeses Cups are the best.
 
9. What are you dressing up as for Halloween?
I need to find out if we’ll be allowed to dress up at work. If so, I’ll be putting together some sort of steampunk outfit. But I haven’t given it much thought. If I do dress up I’ll definitely post pictures on the blog.

10. What is your favorite thing about Fall?
Everything! The way the air smells, the look of changing leaves, hot cocoa, the fall fashion…fall is definitely my favorite season.

Booktober swap!

Image Map

Happy October everyone! It’s time for a book swap! I’m co-hosting with several very lovely bloggers, Jasmine, Jenny, Katrin and Amanda; please take a moment to go visit all of them and say hi! (If you click their pictures on the swap button, you’ll go to their blog homepages.)

Never participated in a book swap before? It’s so much fun! You’ll be paired up with another blogger and get each other’s e-mail addresses so you can talk about your literary likes and dislikes. Then you swap tomes and enjoy your surprise read! Here are all the details:

  • Swap is open to all active bloggers, U.S. and international. 
  • You can elect to be paired with a blogger in your home country or overseas; if you don’t have a preference, you’ll be matched in your home country if at all possible.
  • The swap closes on October 12th and matches will be sent out by October 17th. You and your match are responsible for trading book info and shipping details. 
  • By signing up you are committing to have your swap package in the mail by the end of October! Please don’t sign up if you cannot meet this deadline!

Sign up here using the Google form.

What I read: September 2013

I got through a ton of books this month, though to be fair half of them were short mysteries, so it’s not like they were tough to breeze through! Some of this month’s picks were awesome and some were terrible, with a few in-between. As you can see, I went on a bit of an Agatha Christie bender this month, but I worked in a few other titles and genres as well.

Murder in Mesopotamia, by Agatha Christie (paperback, 240 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Hercule Poirot arrives at an archeological site just in time to solve a classic “locked room” murder of a woman who claimed that her ex-husband was stalking her…from beyond the grave? This one had some good twists in it and I thought the end had a pretty clever explanation.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs, by Agatha Christie (paperback, 212 pages). 3 out of 5 stars. Tommy and Tuppence try to solve a series of mysterious goings-on involving an elderly woman raving about dead children and a painting of a house that Tuppence finds eerily familiar. This one wasn’t quite as smooth as Christie’s usual mysteries but it had an okay reveal at the end.

Indemnity Only, by Sara Paretsky (hardcover, 184 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. I really loved Paretsky’s drama Bleeding Kansas (which I read last month) so I was hoping I’d love her V.I. Warshawski detective novels, too. In this book V.I. is a tough-as-nails private eye trying to track down a mystery client, a banker’s dead son, and a missing girl with ties to the Chicago unions and mobs. Overall, I think this series is just okay, but maybe not really my cup of tea.

Deadlock, by Sara Paretsky (paperback, 320 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. V.I. Warshawski tries to untangle the details surrounding her cousin’s mysterious death at a shipyard. Again, this was just okay.


The Moving Finger, by Agatha Christie (paperback, 299 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Oh, Miss Marple. There’s nothing better! I bolted down a total of eight Miss Marple mysteries this month. Here, Miss Marple is called in to assist in the case of some “poison pen” letters that lead to a suicide and a rash of terror in a small village.

At Bertram’s Hotel, by Agatha Christie (paperback, 223 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. This one didn’t really have the clever plotting of the typical Christie mystery and it seemed like it was pretty easy to figure out the mystery. I looked up some “best/worst” lists and it seems like this is a universal pick for one of the less impressive Christie mysteries.

The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie (hardcover, 191 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. When the body of a lounge dancer appears in a distinguished colonel’s library, Miss Marple is called in to clear his name in her death. This one had a more intricate plot and an interesting twist at the end, and since it’s so short, it’s a great read-in-one-sitting title.

4:50 From Paddington, by Agatha Christie (hardcover, 286 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Also known as What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, this is probably one of the best Miss Marple mysteries. When her friend Mrs. McGillicuddy sees a murder on a passing train, but no body surfaces, Miss Marple enlists the help of a smart maid to scope out a mysterious old estate and get to the bottom of the case. This one has a pretty smart set-up and has one of those “aha” moments at the end where you realize it should have been obvious all along who was behind the murder, even though it didn’t seem apparent at the time!

A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie (paperback 220 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Another great advance set-up. Miss Marple investigates the sudden death of a businessman found with a pocket full of rye, and tries to discern the intent and identity of the murderer using the nursery rhyme. Another “aha! Why didn’t I guess that person?” reveal at the end.

Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie (hardcover, 288 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. This is the first Miss Marple mystery and establishes her ability to solve a crime based on the smallest of details. And it’s a good thing, too, because after a man is murdered she has two separate confessions and a very long list of suspects to sort through!

Sleeping Murder, by Agatha Christie (paperback, 303 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. A young woman purchases a house and begins having flashbacks of a murder that occurred there–but she seems to be the only one who knows of any such event. Miss Marple warns her of the dangers of delving into the past, but in the end, of course, we know that everyone starts digging around in a bid to solve the crime! I felt like it was a little easier to guess the villain than it should have been, but it was still a very good mystery.

A Murder is Announced, by Agatha Christie (hardcover, 288 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. A newspaper announcement lists a time and place for a murder, throwing a village into excitement; when a murder actually occurs, however, Miss Marple is called in to piece together the unlikely events of the night and find out what really happened when the lights went out at Letitia Blacklock’s house.

Spirit of Lost Angels, by Liza Perrat (paperback, 378 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. I reviewed this title in full here. This was a great piece of historical fiction and I really enjoyed it overall.

Breaking the Devil’s Heart, by H.A. Goodman (Kindle edition, 352 pages). 3 out of 5 stars. I reviewed this title in full here. This was a weird blend of fantasy, horror and philosophy but overall I think I liked it. It was definitely thought-provoking and really makes you rethink your concept of what defines good and evil.

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (hardcover, 391 pages). 1 out of 5 stars. This was my “burn it with fire” moment of the month; I ranted at length about this title here. I’m not a fan of the Twilight series but this book made that whole franchise look like a gem.

Don’t forget to hook up with me on Goodreads here and send me your book recommendations! And remember to come back tomorrow to sign up for the Booktober swap–I’m cohosting with a bunch of my blogging besties and it’s going to be awesome.

The A to Z of books (tag)

Over the weekend Erin Celeste posted The A to Z of Books, and since I’ve been in such a bookish mood of course I had to join in! You can see her answers here. If you want to do the tag too, I’d love it if you left me a comment so I can be nosy and see your answers. :D

Author You’ve Read The Most Books From…
R.A. Salvatore–I got really sucked into the world of The Forgotten Realms and the adventures of the dark elf Drizzt a few years back. And by the time I got done, I think I’d plowed through about two dozen books set in that world!
Best Sequel Ever…
Um…I can’t really think of any sequels that jumped out at me as being really awesome. If anything, I’m usually disappointed! I guess Pandemonium (Delirium #2, by Lauren Oliver) was surprisingly good.
Currently Reading…
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Everyone made a huge deal about this book, so we’ll see if it lives up to
the hype!
Drink of Choice While Reading…
I agree with Celeste–tea! You have to have tea!
E-reader or physical book?
I get most of my books from the library, so physical. If I had to buy them all, I’d be torn–I love physical books, but they do take up a ton of room. When I do splurge, I try to only buy paperbacks to save space.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School…
Probably Four from Divergent (Veronica Roth). Tattoos, blue eyes, rough around the edges with a heart of gold. Mmhmm.
Glad You Gave This Book a Chance…
Delirium, by Lauren Oliver. I don’t usually go for love stories or YA fiction but this one was really good.
Hidden Gem Book…
Uh…not sure?
Important Moment in Your Reading Life…
Isn’t every moment important?
Just Finished…
A ton of Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie. A must-read for any mystery lover!
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read…
Again I’m seconding Celeste and saying, romance novels. I don’t mind romance alongside adventure (as in Outlander) but if it’s purely romance–no. Or chick lit–I avoid most chick lit.
Longest Book You’ve Read…
Probably one of the novels from A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin really knows how to ramble on. How will they keep filming Game of Thrones if even he doesn’t know where the story is headed next?!
Major Book Hangover Because of…
The Night Angel trilogy (Brent Weeks). I loved these books and loathed the ending. I refuse to read his new trilogy until the husband finishes it and can tell me whether the ending sucks! Still one of my favorite trilogies, though, and it’s possible I’ll read it again in the future.
Number of Bookcases You Own…
Only two (sniffle).
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times…
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
Preferred Place to Read…
On the sofa, with my electric blanket!
Quote That Inspires You…
If I look back, I am lost. —Game of Thrones
Reading Regret…
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzgerald. If you looked up “Stockholm Syndrome” in a dictionary, you’d see a picture of this book’s “hero” and “heroine”. This book should be banned. Also, I was bummed by In the Woods (Tara French)–great book, but the ending drove me mad.
(Complete) Series You Started and Need to Finish…
Oh wow–so many! The Divergent trilogy, A Song of Ice and Fire, the Outlander series…I end up waiting and waiting for the next book to come out, and I get impatient and start another series in the meantime. I need to start over and re-read the Eragon series (Christopher Paolini) from the beginning. There’s another Drizzt trilogy that I need to wrap up. The Map of Time trilogy by Felix J. Palma. The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin.
Three of Your All Time Favorite Books…
You can’t make me pick just three!!! But three that are definitely at the top would be Outlander, Pride and Prejudice, and The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins).
Unapologetic Fangirl Of…
The Hunger Games. And also A Song of Ice and Fire.
Very Excited for This Release More Than All the Others…
The next installment in the Outlander series and the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire. Seriously, George, you’ve only got another book or two to complete. Get ’em done already! Also, I just found out that the next book in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (steampunk series co-authored by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris) is going to feature none other than my hero Nicola Tesla, so if this is true I’m really excited to read it. I’ll snap up anything with Tesla in it.
Worst Bookish Habit
I’ll ignore everything around me, including ringing phones and the fact that I am hours past my bedtime, to finish a good book.
X Marks the Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
That lands us smack in the middle of my husband’s extensive Drizzt collection. If you count out his books and only count the ones I bought, you land on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I think Seth Grahame-Smith did a good job of adapting one of my fave books of all time. And I’m a harsh critic when it comes to adaptations of my favorites.
Your Latest Book Purchase
The first book in the Temeraire series, otherwise known as His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik. It’s an alternative history series featuring Napoleon and dragons. I don’t want to start reading until I clear out the rest of my list, since I’ve already got multiple series up in the air. As far as what I’ve picked up from the library (since I purchase so few books)–I finally got my hands on The Twelve, by Justin Cronin. I’m really hoping it will be as good as The Passage; sequels can be tricky business.
ZZZ-Snatcher Book (last one that kept you up way too late)
Probably one of the later installments in A Song of Ice and Fire. I got pretty attached to some of the characters and couldn’t put the books down! Also, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy was really intense. I was sad when it ended. :(

Book review: Breaking the Devil’s Heart

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; however as always all opinions are my own.


Breaking the Devil’s Heart, by H.A. Goodman (Kindle edition, 352 pages). 3 out of 5 stars. When two Observers from heaven try to recruit a demon to spy on Satan, their decision has ramifications that affect not only their own fates in the afterlife but possibly the fates of everyone else in heaven and on earth. Stewart and Layla could have been Angels, but they prefer to work with less uptight rules–hence their roles as Observers, fighting in the war of good vs. evil. They work to infiltrate Hell in order to take down The Company and end evil on earth, but the tactics they use could instead ignite a civil war in Heaven.
I don’t really know where to start with this book, except to say that it’s really different from anything else I’ve ever read. It’s kind of a blend of fantasy, horror and philosophy, which makes it sounds much more intimidating than it really is; it’s not overly long and the pacing is decent, so it’s not like you’re picking up War and Peace or anything.
That said, I do recommend reading this in chunks. At its core, the novel is about the nature of evil, and how the actions or traits we might justify as “good” can be surprisingly bad when viewed from another angle. I really didn’t know what to expect from the philosophical side of the story, but it really makes you rethink your conceptions of good and evil. I think this book is best for someone who’s open to mulling over an idea, rather than starting out with a set belief, because it really does take some thinking and digesting. I picked it up and put it down again a few times just because I didn’t want to blitz through it without digesting the thoughts and arguments made by the different characters.
If that sounds ponderous, it’s really not: it’s packaged up with a whirlwind of a story involving two Observers (like Angels, but with more of a morally grey tone) who attempt to infiltrate Hell in order to shut it down once and for all. Goodman presents Hell as a giant corporation, complete with a Stock Exchange that trades in human souls. If you’ve ever joked about having a soulless job or working in Hell, then you’ll appreciate this grim idea of Hell as a never-ending series of sales quotas and deadlines. Our Observers, Stewart and Layla, want to figure out how the demons are selling The Formula, which prompts people to evil, so that they can concoct a counter-potion and put evil out of business.
However, the actions they take have far-reaching ramifications that impact not only their own destinies, but the fates of both the souls on earth and in heaven. There were some good plot twists toward the end of the book that I didn’t anticipate, and I felt like the ending was satisfying without being smarmy. I appreciated that the book wasn’t pitched directly from the viewpoint of Christianity, atheism, or any other single viewpoint; it’s kind of an all-encompassing approach to the moral issue of good vs. evil that asks you to think for yourself instead of pinning everything on a cut-and-paste doctrine.

The only thing that really bugged me about this book, and I suspect might bug other people as well, is the assertion that people gain access to Heaven or Hell based on the number of good or bad deeds they commit during their lifetime. It’s an integral part of the plot as it relates to the Stock Exchange in Hell, but it’s such an old trope and I think we’ve all heard it trotted out way too many times in real life to embrace it in a book. Also, just my personal opinion, it seems kind of at odds with the liquid state of good vs. evil. If you do a “good” action for a selfish reason, is it good or bad? If you do a “bad” thing to achieve a better end, is it good or bad? How does this affect the “point balance” (or what have you) that determines where you end up in the afterlife? This is probably a minor sticking point but just one that’s been rolling around in my mind since I finished the book.
Overall, if you’re looking for something really different to read and want to get a little mental challenge out of your book while you’re at it, I recommend giving this title a try. It’s creative, original, and thought-provoking, and it’s certainly never boring!


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review; however as always all opinions are my own.