We’re Moving!

As a new year’s present to myself, I’ve decided to get my own domain for the blog (and in the process do a little rebranding), so this is an announcement to say that we will be moving to Purple People Readers!

We will still be posting here for another month or so, but eventually we’ll fully move to the other blog, so please go over there to follow us. We’re really excited about this new change and hope to see you on our new site!

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Book Review: The Princess of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen

princess-of-trelianTitle: The Princess of Trelian
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Series: Trelian, Book 2
Publisher: Candlewick
Hardcover: 448 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The hundred-year war with Kragnir is over, and Meg will soon be named the princess-heir of Trelian. But her connection to her dragon, Jakl, is making her parents’ subjects uneasy. Will they ever accept this dragon princess as their future queen? It doesn’t help that Meg is suffering horrible nightmares and sudden, uncontrollable rages—and with the link joining them, Jakl is feeling the rages, too. Meg is desperate to talk to Calen, to see if he can help her figure out what is happening and how to stop it before she or her dragon does something terrible…

Meanwhile, Calen is having troubles of his own. He’s far away, gone off with Mage Serek to receive his first true mage’s mark. But his marking ceremony is disrupted by a mysterious magical attack, and ominous prophecies predict a terrifying new danger. The Magistratum’s greatest enemy may soon reappear—and the other mages believe that Calen himself may have a hand in his return!

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Princess of Trelian is the sequel to The Dragon of Trelian, which I read a while ago. It continues to follow Princess Meg and Calen, emphasizing Meg’s struggle to balance her new connection with her dragon, Jakl, and her responsibilities as the heir of Trelian. Calen, on the other hand, is struggling with his desire to learn and master more of his magic while being prevented from doing so by his master, because mages with a predilection for foretelling are convinced that he will be a danger to the Magistratum.

Overall, I think this was a solid sequel. The characters are definitely growing in complexity and the pacing was well done — there weren’t any times when I was bored or I thought things were being glossed over. It has the problem of second books in a trilogy, though, where it’s really just setting things up for the sequel, and it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. However, it still manages to have plenty of action and adventure for all of that, and I enjoyed the fact that those action sequences didn’t seem so conveniently easy to get out of. One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is when the heroes are unstoppable and there’s tons of buildup to something, and then they solve it in a few pages. That does not happen in this book — the characters are sufficiently challenged with what they have to accomplish, which makes for an entertaining read.

My one complaint is the relationship between Meg and her parents. All three characters are either far too understanding or far too harsh (whichever is more convenient to the plot) at different times, and there isn’t much in the way of consistency. I didn’t mind this so much from Meg’s character, because she is growing up and is just learning how to handle herself and anticipate the end-results from her actions and attitudes, but it wasn’t explained why fully grown adults (who are rulers, no less) were acting rashly,  and it bothered me a bit.

However, I thought this was enjoyable and would have LOVED it as a pre-teen, so I think it hits the right marks for its intended audience. I can’t yet recommend the series without having read the final book, but I will say that the first two books are a solid start to a decent fantasy series.

Audiobook Review: Donny’s Brain by Rona Munro

donnys-brain-by-rona-munroTitle: Donny’s Brain
Author: Rona Munro
Narrator: Full Cast
Publisher: LA Theatre Works
Duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Source: Audiobook Sync
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The acclaimed Scottish playwright Rona Munro has created a remarkable story about a man who wakes up from a car crash with brain damage. Now, he sees the world as the person he was three years ago, when his life and loves were in a very different place.

An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring:

Jared Harris as Donny
Sophie Winkleman as Emma
Siobhan Hewlett as Trish
Moira Quirk as Flea
Paul Fox as Al

Directed by Martin Jarvis.

Donny’s Brain is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I downloaded Donny’s Brain during the Audiobook Sync promotion and finally got a chance to listen to it! I feel like the LA Theatre Works audiobooks are very much hit-or-miss for me. Obviously, I would prefer to actually watch the play and think that some are more suited than others for audiobooks, but this one worked fairly nicely as an audiobook!

Basically, Donny has been in a car accident and has brain damage. His memory has been set back some years, so he remembers loving and being married to a woman who is now his ex-wife, and can’t remember his current wife at all. And I thought some past situations I had involving exes were awkward —

This play revolves around relationships and basically how hard it is to communicate and be in a relationship. Sometimes, we guess at what people are intending when it’s not really what they mean to say or do, and sometimes we completely misremember events to make us out to be better than we actually are/were in the situation. This play goes into all of these things and involves some really interesting aspects of people not really remembering what went wrong, what went right, or what even happened. There’s even an ironic aspect of maybe the guy with brain damage remembers the most clearly, after all. It’s short, sweet, and drives the point home that when relationships don’t work out, it’s most likely the fault of both parties in some way or another.

Overall, this listening experience was enjoyable. The actors did a lovely job and having it be full cast really helped me follow the story. If you have an hour and a half to spare, I think this is worth your time.

We Made: Dijon Roasted Chicken

A few months ago, Andrew and I decided to make the plunge and commit to a wine club; we joined ClubW (now Winc), the online wine club loved and frequently recommended by one of our favorite YouTubers, Hannah Hart. When we were going through our latest shipment, we were taking a look at the chardonnay Winc promised that we’d love.

Usually, Andrew and I do NOT like chardonnay, but when seeing that it was recommended to us, we were intrigued. What could possibly be different about this chardonnay? Really, it’s the oak that gets to us. We’ve often said before that if we could find a non-oak aged chardonnay, we’d probably love it. What got us on the description was that it said it had hints of “butterscotch” in it, and while it didn’t say it wasn’t oaky, it didn’t say it was either, so we took a chance.

Winc is great, because they send you flavor profile cards for each wine you order, online with matching recipes. On the back of the tasting profile for Wayward Co. Chardonnay, there was a very simple-seeming, delicious looking recipe for Dijon Roasted Chicken that was supposed to pair well with the wine. We made a plan for making the chicken on Saturday and finally drinking the wine with a paired recipe.

It really was very simple to make — like something I could have done myself and not even needed Andrew for his cooking prowess. Though, I’m glad he was there, because I’m not sure I would have held up well to unwrapping the chicken and rinsing it off. We have food preparation gloves so we don’t have to actually touch meat, but blech. Anyway, we just got the chicken ready, rubbed some mustard on it, rubbed some vegetable oil on it, popped it in the oven for an hour or so, and voila! Delicious, delicious chicken.

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The outside looks dry in this picture, but what the mustard did was create a super flavorful crust on it that was incredible. The inside was perfectly moist and delicious (and we put a little dijon mustard dipping sauce for the dryer bits). Also, the wine totally went with the recipe! It was a great Saturday lunch and I’m so glad we’re taking advantage of this wine club thing the way we’re supposed to.

I love this part of marriage, where we get to plan something together and share what’s actually very simple: enjoying a meal with a glass  of wine. But, with Andrew, it becomes something special. Planning the meal, helping to cook the meal, working together to gather the ingredients and get the recipe right, double-checking with each other to see if the recipe makes sense and will turn out correctly. Or even just talking about how delicious the food is, and how the flavor goes with the wine and why it might work. I never used to want to get married, but now that I am, all I can be is grateful that this man is in my life and we get to share our meals and join wine clubs and plan out weekends like the one we just had.

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu.jpgTitle: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend, Book 1
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Hardcover: 305 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I remember when Legend came out and people were raving about how awesome it was. The hype was so much that when Marie Lu went to the LA Festival of Books to sell signed copies, I stopped by her booth just so I could read it and see what the raving was all about. Of course, I’m terrible at reading books right away since my to-read list is ridiculously long, so now, years later, I am finally getting to see what the hype is all about.

Legend is yet another YA dystopia, this time in a world with a militaristic/war focus rather than an we-are-a-perfect-society focus. People who are born into wealthy families are groomed for the military so they can help in the Republic’s fight against the Colonies. June is a military prodigy — she’s smart, athletic, and can think outside the box, and is being groomed for a distinguished military career. She goes on the hunt for Day — who is also smart, athletic, and can think outside the box — the Republic’s most wanted criminal who grew up in a poor district in the Republic.

When Day allegedly commits a crime that hits home for June, she goes on the hunt for him to bring him to justice. What ends up happening is that they both learn a little bit more about what’s really going on behind the closed doors of the Republic.

This book is just straight enjoyable. I love that Lu kept it simple in terms of creating her world: no factions or groups for people to be sorted into, just poor and rich; military and civilian. Because of this, I think this book gives quite an amazing commentary on society in general in terms of how poverty is viewed and taken advantage of, and how people suffer under such strict hierarchical structures.

The conflicts within this world are revealed slowly — no information dumps!!! I enjoyed that I slowly got introduced to the complexities of the government and of what went on behind closed doors. I feel like this is the main reason why I enjoyed Legend. There’s an inherent conflict and pull in trying to figure out what exactly is going on with this dystopia — when the plot needed to stop for character development, I was pulled forward by what I wanted to know about this new world.

However, this book is fairly predictable — I don’t think there was one twist that I didn’t see coming. Also, I have a pet peeve about people being in a life-or-death situation, yet romance seems to be a priority. I get the whole young adult romance angle, but it bothers me, especially from characters who are supposed to be super intelligent, even if they are young.

With that said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the narrative of the book. It’s perfect amounts of tragic and heartwarming and I am very much looking forward to reading the sequels to see what exactly is going on with all the war stuff. I’d recommend this book for any dystopia lover. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly better than many other dystopias out there.

Review: Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish – Jezebel

Andrew’s cousin got married a week ago, and when I was planning to pack for it, I realized that I do not own one wedding-worthy dress that has not been to a wedding within the past two years, so I thought it was time to buy a new one. But, buying a new dress means buying a whole lot of other things, like shoes, a wrap, matching accessories, etc.

I didn’t have enough time (or want to spend the money) on a professional manicure, so I figured I’d buy my own nail polish and do my own nails to save myself the trouble. After much deliberation and swatch-comparing, I ended up purchasing the Jezebel color (138) from Marc Jacob’s Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish line.

marc-jacobs-nail-polish-jezebel

First, I used the Formula X Prime Xcel Base Coat and then got started.

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The finished product

Pros:

The nail polish dries extremely quickly

The color is quite nice

Cons:

It is so streaky! With two coats, the polish was starting to look evenly done, but when you add any more than two coats, the color starts getting incredibly dark.

For something that’s called hi-shine, it’s pretty matte-looking when it dries. The top coat (Formula X Shine Top Coat) was wonderful for adding shine, but I wouldn’t consider the polish itself to be very shiny.

It chips fairly easily. Admittedly, I am not the best for keeping nail polish looking fresh for a long amount of time, but three days into it, and I had to retouch the tips. After five days, decent chunks of the sides and tips were gone.

VERDICT

Honestly, I’m really not sure this nail polish is worth the money. It was my first time using the base and top coats (Formula X brand), so maybe that could have done something to the polish, but after reading other reviews, I’m not sure. While it was great for the one event I attended, if I wanted to keep my nails looking great for a long period of time, that just wouldn’t be possible. For me, this was a “meh” purchase. I’ll use it until it’s gone, but I don’t think I’m going to buy it again.

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

absolutely-true-diaryTitle: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Illustrator: Ellen Forney
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 230 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is one book that I feel like I missed out on reading during my high school years, and I’ve always been sad about it; I’ve even owned a copy for at least 3 years, and I still wasn’t able to read it until recently, so finishing this was somewhat of a personal accomplishment for me. Not because it’s such a hard book or anything, but because this is a recent classic that I’ve been wanting to read for so long. It feels especially close to me, because while I am very much not related to any Native Americans, my grandfather lived in Spokane, WA for almost all his life, and he even lived on the Spokane reservation with his girlfriend for a large part of his later life, so it’s interesting to get a sense of the place my grandfather called home.

First, I have to say that this book is lovely. It’s about a boy named Junior who lives on the Indian reservation in Spokane, and he decides to go to the “white” high school to try to build a future for himself. I was able to read through it quickly because it’s a pretty easy read and it is so, so entertaining and hits on some very real, true-life events that were inspired by Alexie’s own life. It’s wonderful that this book is out there for teens to read when they’re feeling like an outsider, because the main character is pretty much the ultimate outsider in a lot of ways and reading about his feelings about that and how he deals with it is somehow comforting.

What makes this Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a success is the fact that it covers everything. It’s funny and yet incredibly heartbreaking, reflecting real life in a way that most stories don’t even come close to, which I think is a reflection of its large autobiographical influence. It comes across as honest and genuine, which is something that is lacking in fiction sometimes, and which YA fiction especially needs. The illustrations are an added bonus and give further insight into Junior’s character and his overall mood at the time he’s “writing” his diary entries. They’re incorporated well and I loved reading Forney’s explanations for why each illustration was done the way it was.

There’s a reason why this is such a classic, and I don’t know what I can say that others haven’t, except that I personally liked this a lot and think it belongs on the must-read lists of everyone, because it is such a powerful, wonderful story.