Thursday, October 24, 2019

Brief Thoughts: The Visitor

The Visitor

by Amanda Stevens
Book 4 of Graveyard Queen

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

My name is Amelia Gray.  I'm the Graveyard Queen.

Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead.  Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve.  For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings.  Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.

Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle.  For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead.  Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity, and a future with my love, John Devlin.

If I wanted to be honest, it was truly the writing and the mystery of Kroll Cemetary that drew me into this book.  Amelia's destiny and her hauntings as well as Devlin's mysterious secrets were really second string.

While I've liked Amelia in the past, I'm not entirely sure that I'm feeling a whole lot of character development in her, despite the new twists that her character is taking on in this book.  At the same time, I'm still not really all that enamored of John Devlin either.

The romance between them is even harder for me to relate with, if only because Amelia's obsession with Devlin, as well as their mutual attraction to each other seems to be the only thing linking them together.  They don't talk to each other, they keep secrets, they don't even trust each other.  Their relationship has always felt one-sided.

I enjoyed the moments that Amelia spent at Kroll cemetary with Dr. Shaw, or even discovering little clues left her by the blind ghost who looks like her.  In contrast, I didn't care much for the scenes whenever Devlin was around with her, save for a few moments when they seemed to be able to talk freely with each other.  I feel like the two of them could make a great team if they would just stop keeping secrets or learn to listen to each other.

But the writing is beautiful as usual, and the series' overall conflict continues to be intriguing, and you get drawn into Amelia's world readily.  Just for the writing style and the atmosphere of the book alone, I gave a higher rating.

Halloween Bingo 2019

Friday, October 18, 2019

Quick Thoughts: Dreamer's Pool

Dreamer's Pool

by Juliet Marillier
Book 1 of Blackthorn & Grim

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear.  Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada.  There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais.  He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love.  But Oran discovers letters can lie.  For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma.  Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help.  To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

Dreamer's Pool, to be honest, while written well with Juliet Marillier's style of magic and lore, also sort of tended towards the predictable.  It's a usual plot device of Marillier's to give away the plot twist from one of the tales or stories told throughout the book.  And so it wasn't hard to figure out how everything would turn out in the end.

As has been quite typical of Marillier as well, this first book in the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy involved a lot of world building and set-up.  A lot of traveling happened, and I'm not entirely sure that things started picking up until about halfway through the book.  At least, for me, I didn't start getting really interested until halfway through the book.

So while I enjoyed the book, I still had a hard time with it, not only because of the slowness of the plotting, but also because of how hard it was to really relate with any of the characters.  Blackthorn tended towards more bitter than I felt like she needed to be, and I found I liked her more when she wasn't constantly thinking about how she could betray the new chance at life that Conmael gave her by going back to her need for revenge.  I didn't mind her being a cranky old wise woman (who was hardly old by biological age standards), and I liked her role as the local wise woman.

I'm much like Blackthorn in that I hate being crowded and I like my privacy.  But I think that, as much as Blackthorn and Grim seem to understand the way that the fey work their magic, they don't seem to understand that there might be a reason for the seven year restriction that Conmael has given her.  If Blackthorn went back for her revenge at this stage in her new chance at life, she'd probably just end up back in prison again.

Anyway, the only reason I even gave this book a higher rating anyway was because of the last half of the book.  It certainly did end up drawing me in all the way, and if only we could have stuck with Blackthorn's and Grim's POVs, I think I would have enjoyed the book in it's entirety a lot more.  I sincerely was more interested in their journey, and instead found Prince Oran kind of frustrating to follow.

I also found our "villian" more overpowered than was believable.  Lady Flidais's behavior was never acceptable nor was it normal, so I'm surprised that no one ever called her out on it, save for Oran in private.

Of course, without Oran's POV, there probably wouldn't be a whole lot of story.  Maybe if this book were written in third person, things might have been a bit different?

Nonetheless, the end of the book left me wanting more, and so I will definitely be jumping into the next book when I get the chance.

Halloween Bingo 2019

Quick Thoughts: Pocket Apocalypse

Pocket Apocalypse

by Seanan McGuire
Book 4 of InCryptid

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Endangered, adjective:  Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.

Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice.  Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges.  Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own.  The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground.  Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.


I surprisingly found this book more enjoyable than the previous one, and I'm not sure if it's just because I've warmed to Alex and Shelby.  For certain, it had nothing to do with the Australian cryptozoologists, the Thirty-Six Society--I didn't like them at all and felt like they all either needed a reality check or a good whack in their heads as a collective.

Neither Alex's nor Shelby's characters are any more fleshed out than they were in the previous book, but I think what really did it for me was all the lore about lycanthropy in the InCryptid world.  I liked learning about how the lyncanthropy-w virus worked, all the new twists to werewolf transformation that Alex talked about, as well as learned about as new surprises were revealed throughout the book.  What I DIDN'T like was how the Thirty-Sixers had a problem and refused to take the expert advice of someone who knew how to handle werewolves.

And even as Alex proved again and again that he was right about what he was telling them, they still continued to treat him like he was some sort of delusional crazy, disbelieving him and even being overly suspicious despite the fact that his own life had been in danger so many times, trying to save others.  I'm in agreement with Shelby--if I'd have come to Australia with an intent to help and ended up being treated like some sort of crazed criminal, unwelcome and unwanted, I would have gotten on the first plane back out of Australia, and screw the survival of a bunch of jackasses who think they know better.

Outside of all of the above, I DO wish that we could have seen more of the cryptids in Australia.  As the series suggests, Australia is an isolated ecological cesspit for all sorts of fun and new types of living creatures, both cryptid and non-cryptid.  I loved meeting the yowie, and I loved watching the Tanner girls get schooled about how they treat their local sapient cryptids.

Now if only Alex could help school the rest of the Thirty-Sixers about how to cooperate with the rest of the sapient cryptids, maybe life on Australia for the cryptozoologists will be easier.  Of course, on the other hand, I have my misgivings about the fact that an outsider had to teach the Thirty-Sixers this lesson, especially since, by all rights, I'd assumed that at least one person or another would have figured out how NOT to treat the sapient cryptids as monsters.

If a huge organization like the Covenant of St. George was able to produce a few dissenters, I'm surprised that a less restrictive organization such as the Thirty-Six Society hasn't yet.

Anyway, I know the next book goes back to following Verity, but further along the line, I wouldn't mind returning to Australia and visiting with one or another of the Tanner sisters, especially Raina, whom, while I did have issues with at first, ended up warming up to her.

Halloween Bingo 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Some Thoughts: Firelight


by Kristen Callihan
Book 1 of Darkest London

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented.  Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities.  Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man.  Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride.  Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime.  When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied.  Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue.  For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Hmm... so going by what I recall of the prologue novella of this series, detailing some of the scattered tangents between Miranda and Archer before Firelight's story line...  I'm not certain this book really came off the way I'd been expecting it to.  I guess I'd been expecting something maybe a bit darker, maybe a bit more paranormal... maybe some more explosive fiery goodness...

Firelight is most definitely more romance than it is anything else.  There was an appropriate look into Archer's dark thoughts and Miranda's own misgivings.  There was a murder mystery.  There was even the typical society happenings.

I guess what I'd hoped to see was more of Miranda exploring her dark secret--her ability to summon and control fire.  And maybe I would have liked for Archer's dark secret to not have been dragged out for quite so long, only to be stuffed with a lot of sweet nothings spoken between Miranda and Archer about how much they love each other despite their secrets... BEFORE they even knew each other's secrets.

So yes, as a romance, this wasn't a terrible one if you can overlook some of the insta-lust, the insta-love, the over-intense possessiveness between our main characters, as well as their inability to think past their libidos for a good percentage of the book.  Also, even for the fact that, having read Ember, you KNOW that Miranda is not a young virgin, she certainly does act like one and I found myself wondering if the story was being rewritten or something.

Meanwhile, for that entire first half of the book, I'm not entirely sure I really understood what was actually going on in the romance between Miranda and Archer.  Their relationship came off kind of standard and boring, to be honest.  And it isn't until halfway into the book, when Miranda stops being meek, that their relationship starts feeling more sure-footed.

On that note, the excitement DOES start about halfway into the book at that same time that Miranda stops being meek, with more exploration of the murder mystery, the secrets pertaining to the West Moon Club and Archer's past, and then Miranda even starts taking charge of herself by hopping into the investigation.  This then eventually leads to Miranda's powers of fire manipulation making more of a show.  Because for the first half of the book, I'd wondered if we were going to capitalize on one of the biggest plot devices of this book at all when Miranda's powers are only ever mentioned in passing by her and her sisters.

But at that point in the story line, I think everything starts getting interesting.

There's a great premise in this book, as well as in this series, and by the end of the book, we've been introduced to the next book's main hero, who is obviously a werewolf, what with his references to the moon, and emphasis on his super strength and fast healing abilities.  I'm not entirely sure that our author was all that subtle about that, and I sort of wished she had been, because those mentions all seemed kind of forced.

Anyway, despite the slowness of the book's beginning, I rather enjoyed the book.  Save a fix for the pacing of the conflict, I think this could have been a great book, and I'm curious enough about the rest of the Darkest London world to continue on.

Halloween Bingo 2019

New York Weekend!

As promised, a quick run down "photo journal" of our family vacation in New York!  Above is the checklist I created for myself leading up to the vacation weekend, which was actually quite helpful... and pretty to look at with all the colors!  I had fun just planning what to pack and finding things to do and places to eat in New York.


We flew into New York on Friday morning, with a connection flight through Dallas, landing at the La Guardia airport around 4:30 P.M. eastern time.  Along the way, we met up with the rest of the family--my eldest brother and his wife in Dallas, Texas; my youngest brother from Kansas City, Kansas.  The hotel we stayed at was the Sheraton, located right dab smack in the middle of Flushing Chinatown, which was super nice, because that meant we would run into shops and restaurants everywhere, right outside of the hotel.

And now, I didn't think to take a photo of the hotel, but it was pretty nice.  My parents, my youngest brother, and I stayed in a connecting set of rooms, one of which was a suite and the other was a regular hotel room.  For convenience sake, we decided to keep the connecting doors propped open, and the four of us just hung out in the living room each night and each morning.  It was kind of nice, and it was kind of like having a small apartment.

Meanwhile, my elder brother and his wife, and my other younger brother and his wife, stayed in another set of connecting rooms similar to the ones we stayed in, but on the floor above ours.  Because they seemed to want more privacy, they DID NOT keep their connecting doors open.

Anyway, on our first evening in New York, we spent walking around Flushing Chinatown.  Our first stop was the New World Mall Food Court for dinner.

This is by far the largest food court I'd ever seen, and according to my brother, one of the largest Asian cuisine food courts in New York.  Basically, all the food shops were lined along the entire perimeter of the lower level of the mall, with a lot of rectangular tables scattered in the middle of the room.  There were a lot of dumpling shops, a couple Japanese places, some Korean places, and some Taiwanese places.

We ended up all buying a few things from different shops and attempting to meet back at a table.  The idea had been to share what we got so we could all try different foods from different places.  But because of how crowded the place was, it took a long time before we could find a spot to accommodate all eight of us.  By then, my youngest brother had already inhaled his bowl of udon noodles, and didn't care to try what everyone else got.

We really didn't even find a spot, and eventually just nudged away others who were sitting near the spot we decided to congregate at--stealing chairs, squeezing into the table... etc....

I bought a thing of jumbo takoyaki (octopus balls), and some fried beef buns from a shop in which I couldn't figure out how to read all the Chinese characters.  Unfortunately, no photos either... I liked my food too much and ended up eating all of it before even thinking about pictures.  Of course, apparently no one else was interested in my fried beef buns or my octopus balls...

After this brief dinner, we headed out into Chinatown to wander around and walk off all the food.  Below is a photo I took of a roast duck and roast meats restaurant, which is most definitely a staple of almost all Chinatowns I've ever been to.  Mmm... yummy hanging roast duck...

If you've ever been to any of the Chinatowns in America, you'll notice something standard, and I don't mean the abundance of Asian people wandering around.

Every Chinatown I've ever been to on all of my previous trips have always been a bit rundown looking.  There are crowds everywhere, and there's a feeling of old buildings, and old-fashioned business fronts.  A lot of the shops don't even take credit card, preferring to take cash only.  A lot of the menus are hand-written.  A lot of the restaurants seem a little less than cleanly polished.  It's a very cozy, homey feel, and despite sometimes finding them a bit messy, a bit dirty, or a bit chaotic, I also find them very familiar as my parents have always taken us to the Chinatown areas in each city we'd vacation in, if there was one.

Flushing Chinatown is no different, and there is definitely a lot of crowding.  And while all the shops are unique on their own, to be honest, if you've been to one Chinatown, you pretty much get an idea of what all the other Chinatowns in America will look like.

But one thing is for certain, there is no lack of restaurants for seafood, spicy foods, dim sum, and bakeries.

We ended our first evening by stopping at a dessert place that served a lot of ice cream stuff.  The top photo is my baby brother's egg waffle cone and ice cream with mango, caramel and whip cream topping.  The bottom photo is my vanilla ice cream topped with lychee, and while you can't really see it, there's also a mix of tapioca and lychee flavored jelly cubes mixed into the ice cream.

All was yum.  I took four Lactaid to help soften the impact I knew eating ice cream was going to make.  Fortunately, this was our last stop before walking back to the hotel, so at least if I was going to have a bad digestion night, I'd be in the hotel by then.

On a side note, the Sheraton hotel we stayed at had a lot of Chinese channels, which made my dad very happy.  He spent the rest of the night watching some Chinese news before going to sleep.

The next morning we headed out to Manhattan for some more exploring, starting in Times Square!

My parents were quite excited about riding the Metro in New York for the first time, so wanted a photo to document this moment.  Aren't they cute?  The two dudes to the side are my older brother and youngest brother.

I live in a very flat city, so sky scrapers are still an awe-inspiring sight for me.  The above is the building where the New Year's ball drop takes place.  If you look all the way up top, you'll see the 2019 ball.  My brother took a better picture, but I couldn't coax it out of him in time to publish this post.  He'll probably send it to me after this post goes up.  I may or may not update.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law (a fellow Friends fan), told me that there was a Friends 25th anniversary thing going on the same weekend we were in New York.  Unfortunately, she said that by the time she'd realized it, tickets were already sold out, so here's a photo to commemorate the Friends event I couldn't really go see.  Darn...

On the other hand, we did go into a lot of other shops, including a place call 'Line Friends' which housed a lot of BT21 goods, including loads of stationery.  Being a stationery nut, I was like a kid in a candy store.  So here I am, posing next to one of the BT21 characters holding my stationery haul.

Anyone not familiar with BT21--they are a set of cutesy anime characters drawn by the Korean boy band, BTS, and ended up becoming a pretty big hit.  Of course, I didn't even really know about them until I saw a random YouTube video about trendy, fun stationery that involved the BT21 stationery.

And so here is my stationery haul, which includes a lot of sticky notes, some washi tapes, and a pencil baggy.  (I also included in this picture some washi tapes and small sticky slips that I'd bought from a different store, just because I'd promised my BFF that I'd send her a picture of all the stationery I bought in New York.)

We also walked into a Disney Store where I bought a notebook as a souvenir for my friend.  We ended up having to go to a Gap for my mom, whose nose and ears were getting so cold we bought her a warm wool hat.  New York was pretty chilly during this weekend, and even in spite of all the walking we did (we all clocked an average of 20,000 steps Saturday and Sunday each), it was still pretty cold.

Our next stop was the Rockefeller Plaza where we got some lunch of Chinese pork burgers to go, wandered into a Nintendo Store, then went up to The Top of the Rock.

Isn't that a nice view?

I bought some magnets, a couple key chains, and, of course, a metal bookmark from the gift shop.

By now I've already clocked over 10,000 steps and it was only a little after noon.  But there would be even more walking ahead of our little group.  My elder brother said something about not realizing we'd be done at The Top of the Rock so early, so then we had to improvise and find other things to do.

So we ended up walking until we got to Central Park.

Before entering the park, we came across these statues of horses.  At least at first I thought they were three different horses, but as we got closer, I wasn't entirely sure what this was and I didn't notice a plaque or anything explaining the work.  Strange looking, interesting, and the second pic, I didn't get a good one, but it kind of shows the horse's innards.

We walked along the trail of Central Park and followed it all the way to the fountain above.  Along the way, there were hot dog stands, pretty much every few feet, and around every corner.  I ended up buying a bag of honey roasted cashews... just because, even though the price of that two ounce bag of nuts could have gotten me a whole can at Wal-mart.

But whatevs... vacation.

Again, a lot of crowd, a lot of people... and apparently Central Park is a hot spot for wedding photography, because, by my count, there were at least six couples, their bridal parties, and photographers wandering and posing around the fountain.

And then there was also a guy singing the same song on repeat off to the side.

After making it to this part of the park, we were all pretty pooped and ready to head back.  I hadn't realized how close to evening it was until my brother mentioned that we would head back to Flushing, rest up and then get ready for dinner.  It was nearing five in the evening by then and would take about forty-five minutes to take the Metro back to Flushing.

Dinner that night was a place called 99 Favors, which is a hot pot and Korean BBQ restaurant.  Food was great, but the problem with all-you-can-eat places like this is that you really DO take the all-you-can-eat too literally.  I might have over stuffed myself with more meat than I needed.

But you can't go to a Chinatown without trying their hot pot restaurants.  Anyone who isn't familiar with hot pot or Korean BBQ...  The concept is pretty much an experience-based deal, where you cook your own food at your table.  With hot pot, they give you flavored soup broth in a pot at your table where you can dunk your raw meats or veggies into and boil until cooked, then eat.  Korean BBQ is the same concept, except it's mostly meats, and you grill your food.

It's just a lot of fun.  The pot of red broth in the photo above under the plate of raw beef, is my kimchi broth, which was both yummy and pretty spicy, and I liked it a lot!

The rest of the night was spent lamenting the fact that I ate too much food and had a hard time sleeping.  Meanwhile, my father had somehow bought a bag of Cheez Doodles at some point the night before... and even though I was full, I couldn't resist eating a few doodles...

Sunday morning saw us heading out to Manhattan again, this time with no actual destination in mind.  But first, we wandered to a nice dim sum place in Flushing for breakfast, stopping at a place called Joe's Steam Rice Rolls.  These are basically really thin crepe-like rice flower rolls with different meats and toppings wrapped inside, such as BBQ pork, shrimp, curry fish balls, or beef or pork.

After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro again and ended up going to visit the 9/11 Memorial first thing.  Along the way, I finally learned how to figure out the subway lines and trains, and which train lead to where, how to figure out which stop you were getting off on, and such.  Google maps had a lot to do with my new found understanding.

In place of the original World Trade twin towers are now two pools, lined with plaques with the names of all the victims lost during the tragedy.  Between the pools is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which we didn't get a chance to go into.

One of the signs next to the pool notes that a rose is placed under the person's name on the day of their birth date.  I thought that was a nice touch as a memorial.

One World Trade Center

We sort of just spent some time sitting around the memorial and reflecting and just hanging out.

I couldn't help buying another bookmark, along with a set of mini magnets.  At the same time, I went ahead and made a donation to the memorial.

After leaving the 9/11 Memorial, we just started wandering with no real destination.  Sunday never really had an itinerary, and we soon found ourselves in a lot of random places around Manhattan.

We stopped for lunch at Joe's Pizza.  I believe this is a Sicilian with spinach.  It was pretty good.  But huge!

And I took a random picture of a pigeon art... just because.

This is a statue of General Sun Yat Sen in a small park that looks like a playground for senior citizens.  There were tables scattered about with chess boards etched into them where a lot of the grandpas and grandmas were either playing chess or playing poker.  Another group were hanging around listening to some music and dancing some old fashioned Chinese dances.  Another group brought their own karaoke set and were singing with each other.

After this, we wandered into the Manhattan Chinatown.  Fun fact:  There are three major Chinatown areas in New York--one in Queens (Flushing Chinatown), one in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn.  We have yet to visit the Brooklyn Chinatown.  Flushing is a mostly Chinese culture Chinatown.  Manhattan is dominated by the Cantonese.  It was kind of nice to walk into a sweet shop in the Manhattan Chinatown and actually understand what someone was saying to me.

Not that I don't understand Mandarin Chinese, but my main language is Cantonese (next to English, of course).  So while I always responded to the people in Flushing in English, I happily responded to the shopkeepers in Manhattan in Cantonese and bought some sweets.

We soon ended up in Little Italy, and so my sister-in-law could use the restroom, we stopped in at Caffe Palermo and ordered some sweets.

I ordered some bombolinis, which just seemed like filled doughnuts--two were regular vanilla cream, the other two are hazelnut chocolate cream.  They were pretty good.

My brother ordered a lobster tail pastry, which seemed to be crispy puff pastry-like with a ricotta cheese filling.

We also ordered a cannoli and a creme brulee... which got eaten too quickly for photos.  Sorry guys.

More wandering later, we decided to head back to Flushing, but ended up stopping off at Grand Central Station on the way.

The ceiling of Grand Central Station

Outside of the station, we found that there was a parade going on right in front of the New York Public Library.  It took a while for me to realize that this was a parade celebrating the Polish community in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, as interesting as the parade was, the streets were blocked off, which meant that we couldn't get into the library without going around somehow.  So I contented myself with taking a picture from the outside.  Ah well...  This just means I'll have to come back to New York another time just to see their library... and maybe eat more food, because there were a lot of little food places in Chinatown I didn't get to try yet.

And speaking of food... are you guys ready for this?

We went to a Cantonese seafood restaurant after getting back to Flushing.  Seafood soup started the dinner off.

Abalone and Sea Cucumber

One of my personal favorite seafood dishes is abalone, and add onto that sea cucumber and I'm a very happy person.  It was just unfortunate that this dish was a bit skimpy on the abalone.  But it was still good.

Ginger Scallion Lobster

Ginger Scallion Lobster is one of the most standard Cantonese seafood delicacies.  My coworker told me she felt the need to eat my phone when I showed her the picture.  Isn't it pretty?  =D

Peking Duck

Peking Duck is something I've only ever had one other time previously in Toronto... where, to be honest, I remember it being much better.  The roast duck here was good, but it could have been roasted a bit crispier, and, in fact, should be crispier for Peking Duck.

Peking Duck is a pretty popular Chinese dish where the duck is roasted to a crisp, then sliced into very thin pieces.  You then eat it with either steamed buns, or in the case of traditionalists, a thinner crepe-like bun, adding some hoisin (seafood) sauce to it, and eating it like a little roast duck slider sandwich.  In fact, the traditional way of eating Peking Duck has the the wait staff actually slicing the duck into thin pieces right at your table so you can see, hear, and smell how good and crispy it is.

Singapore Stir Fried Rice Noodles

My mom actually makes this dish regularly at home, so we wanted to try it here at this restaurant, and the truth is, I wasn't all that impressed.  Mom's is definitely better.

Red Bean Sweet Soup

If you will recall, I wrote a post for the 24 Festive Tasks last year talking about a lot of different sweet soups, which are an Asian cultural dessert.  More than anything, sweet soups are an inclusion at a lot of Cantonese restaurants, and I've been to several where you always order a sweet soup to conclude your meal with... and if you didn't, they'd bring you a sweet soup, free of charge anyway.

It's kind of like how some Chinese restaurants bring you a fortune cookie to go with your bill... but this is better.  You get a small bowl of sweet soup, because the Chinese believe that it's important to have a balanced set of flavors.  So after all of those savory dishes, a sweet soup and some fruit (yes, they brought us watermelon slices, too!) is a great way to end dinner.

I don't particularly like Red Bean Sweet Soup myself, but I also don't say no to free food unless I absolutely don't want to eat it.

So that was New York, the first family vacation we've had in a long time since everyone started working and moving away from home.  My parents always took us on little trips each summer when my brothers and I were just kids, still in school, and those are always memorable.  We even talked about it one night at the hotel while playing Tetris on one of my brothers' Nintendo Switches.

So I felt like we made a pretty good run of New York for just a short weekend trip, and the truth is, I feel like we could have used an extra day or two.  My mom had wanted to go to the Queens Botanical Gardens, and I wanted to visit Flushing Meadows, specifically the site of the two Worlds' Fairs that had taken place their.  There were also a couple museums that I would have liked to see.

And then maybe in the future, when we get a chance to visit New York again, I'd also like to see a Broadway show.

But for now, I think we managed to get a lot done in just one weekend.

On a side note, I don't fly well and have really bad motion sickness; I also never truly sleep well during vacations.  I'm still catching up on sleep and tired as heck.  I always find it interesting how you sometimes need a stay-cation at home to recover from a vacation away from home.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this insanely long post!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Monthly Wrap Up -- September 2019

September seemed to come and go quite quickly, and now October is already into its second week.  As far as reading goes, I made decent progress for Halloween Bingo 2019, but at the rate that I'm going, it doesn't look like I'm likely to get a reading blackout by the end of the game's two-month duration.  Of course, that probably won't stop me from continuing forward just to finish reading all the books I'd like to read for Halloween Bingo.

In other news, I've been offline all weekend because my family and I just got back from a nice family vacation in New York!  It's been a long time since the entire family (my parents, my brothers, and I) have gone on an actual vacation together.  Visiting my elder brother in Texas, or my younger brother in Kansas City doesn't really count.

It wasn't a very long vacation and was really just the weekend, starting Friday and ending on Monday, but I feel like we still got a lot of things done, visiting Flushing Chinatown, Times Square, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and generally just spending a lot of time walking around Manhattan and Flushing.  I even sort of learned how the Metro works, though it was a bit confusing at first.

Anyway, I'm planning a bit of a photo-journal-esque post to go up over the weekend.  I've been too tired from the vacation activities to really want to do anything but lay around, read, and be a vegetable.  So while I DID finish two books this weekend, I've written no reviews, and it took a while before I was even able to motivate myself to get back to blogging.

Hopefully, I'll get back into my normal rhythm soon, as I have two reviews that need to be written, a Halloween Bingo update post I want to get published, and one written review that needs to be edited and posted.  I also have a lot of clean-up to do, and have so far only gotten as far as doing my laundry.

Meanwhile, here are a few teaser photos, just in case I don't get around to my New York post this weekend.

Times Square

The View from The Top of the Rock

9/11 Memorial

99 Favors Hot Pot and Korean BBQ Restaurant

Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea with Cocoa

Meanwhile, the pups also had a long weekend, having to be boarded at their respective pet hotels.  We got back into town nearing midnight, and so picked them up early the next morning.  After they both got a bath, Baby and Bear just kind of pooped out and had their nap time.

As much as I loved the vacation, it feels very good to be home.  The doggies seem to feel the same way as well!

September Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

On Hold until after Halloween Bingo.

Currently Reading

September Reading Stats

Total works read:  9
  • 8 print/e-book novels
  • 1 audio book

Average rating: 3.56 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  4 books // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
    • (2) Ice by Linda Howard
    • (3) Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
    • (4) Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
  • Lowest Rated:  3 books // 3.0 Stars
    • (1) The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
    • (2) Mercy Strange by Alisa Woods
    • (3) Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Series I started reading:
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Low by F.C. Yee
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • Darkest London by Kristen Callihan
Series I completed:
  • None
Series I have made progress on:
  • Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • InCryptid by Seanan McGuire
  • Legal Magick by Alisa Woods

Favorite reads:  So I had a lot of 4.0 Star books in September, which makes me really happy.  Each one of those books were wonderful, and of the four I listed above, I'd say that my favorite was Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James.

Disappointing reads:  My lowest rating was 3.0 Stars, which doesn't really mean anything since that's still an okay rating in my book.  I still liked the books I read and listed as my lowest rated books.  So if I had to choose one that kind of disappointed me, it would probably be Alisa Wood's book, Mercy Strange, simply based on how much I've liked all of her books so far as guilty pleasures.  Mercy Strange just didn't do it for me.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


  • Did not meme this month!

Other Posts

Coming Up In October

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

So my Halloween Bingo plans definitely changed, and some of the above books I'm tentatively wanting to read for the game.  Each of these books has a spot I can place them in, I hope, but if not, I've still got one more Transfiguration Spell in my hands.  But since I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to get a reading blackout anyway, I'm not too concerned.

As stated above, I've got some posts I'm prepping for post, hopefully throughout this week and the weekend.  I'm still on a vacation hangover, so the chances that all of my blogging plans will be dashed is very high.  It's possible I'll just keep reading and then do one big long update at the end of the month.  That's my mood right now, truth be told.

2019 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017 / 2018)
See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

(updated as year progresses by month)
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December