Happy May the Fourth, aka Star Wars Day! Since Star Wars is our Movie of the Month, today is the perfect day to start our new menu. Up until now, I’ve always done menus based off of classic books, but there are plenty of awesome classic movies out there too. And I think we can all agree that Star Wars is classic enough to make the cut (plus, there are loads of Star Wars books, so…loopholes!). 😉

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I make no apologies for the punny title. PUNNY TITLES FOREVER!

April was definitely a fun month for food. The Pineapple Ticking Crocodile was a particularly rewarding leap outside my culinary comfort zone. But now it’s time to say goodbye to Neverland and set our sights on somewhere even farther away…

I’ve provided the photo hint for our May menu below. NOTE: In keeping with my blogging goal for this year of including a few classic movies in our menus, this month’s menu will be based around a movie, rather than a book.

galaxy 2

Any guesses as to what our very first Movie of the Month will be, based on the picture?

If you need a final dose of Peter Pan before we head into the realm of sci-fi, swing by the book blog 101 Books to learn some Fascinating Facts about Peter! :)

 

P.S. We wrapped up our April menu yesterday by premiering our new Alison’s Wonderland Teas page (so feel free to order some if your teacup looks lonely).

“Would you like an adventure now,” he said casually to John, “or would you like to have your tea first?”
Wendy said “tea first” quickly, and Michael pressed her hand in gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.
“What kind of adventure?” he asked cautiously.
— Peter Pan

We’ve completed our Peter Pan menu, but since this month has an extra Thursday in it, we get to do a bonus post. Huzzah! This post also happens to be extra bonus-y because we’re announcing a new permanent page on the site. Double huzzah!

It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 whole months since I created a new book-themed tea blend for one of our menus. Fear not, tea lovers! We’ve got a new blend, this time with a Peter Pan theme: Second Star to the Right. It’s a bedtime blend composed of moonlight Earl Grey tea, vanilla, cream, and a sprinkling of lavender.

shooting star Wikipedia commons

Click here if that sounds delicious and you need some in your life RIGHT NOW!

 

Which leads me to my announcement: See that new tab on the menu bar, the one labeled “Alison’s Wonderland Teas from Adagio”? Now you can find all my Adagio blends right here on the blog. SO MANY HUZZAHS! Please order as many as you desire, since the proceeds from the sales help keep the lights on around here.

They make for great Mother’s Day presents too!*

 

* That was my attempt at a shameless product plug. Am I doing it right?

April is just about over, which means it’s time for my final post in the #ReadingMyLibrary blogging challenge. For details about the challenge, you can check out my challenge sign up post.

In my previous #ReadingMyLibrary post, I reviewed the first book in the Lockwood & Co. series, The Screaming Staircase. Today I’ll be reviewing The Whispering Skull, the second Lockwood book.

“Well,” Lockwood said, “if you judge success by the number of enemies you make, that was a highly successful evening.”

 

Lockwood & Co #2: The Whispering Skull

SUMMARY (from Good Reads)

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

THE GOOD

  • You may recall that when I read the first Lockwood book, I was dubious that the series truly deserved to be billed as “scary.” Despite a spooky premise, the first book read more like paranormal action than horror. I’m glad to say The Whispering Skull is much scarier than its predecessor. I still wasn’t truly frightened, but I could see readers in the target age range (middle grade to early high school) being scared by it. This is primarily because the premise of Whispering Skull is much darker than that of Screaming Staircase. Last time, the team was in a haunted house where the real threat turned out to be a living man, and a ghost girl saw fit to help them in the end. This time around, the team is hunting a deadly, soul-sucking ghost mirror and the ghost of a murderous cult leader. Pretty macabre stuff for a trio of teens. If we see more of the same in future Lockwood books, then I think it’s definitely fair to call it a scary series.
  • As a huge historical fiction fan, I was thoroughly pleased that Stroud featured ghosts from various time periods. He took great care to make them historically accurate and interesting, even if they were only in the story for a few minutes. Instead of confining himself to vague white forms that moan indistinctly, Stroud acknowledges and embraces the fact that the ghosts in his world span human history.
  • Stroud continues to provide vivid descriptions and witty banter, while taking time to delve a little deeper into the protagonists’ personalities and relationships. I really appreciated this. The strong writing was what kept me reading page-to-page, but the depth of the characters and steady expansion of their world made me eager to know what would be in store five or ten chapters down the road. The mark of a truly good book!

THE BAD

  • At first, I wasn’t quite sure whether the main plot line was supposed to revolve around the skull or Bickerstaff. The summary points to Bickerstaff, but the skull is featured heavily in the beginning (and it’s the title of the book). Eventually, they come together to form one plot, but until that point I felt like the two were competing for dominance. Maybe if Stroud had chosen a different title, I would have immediately identified the skull as a subplot.
  • Despite being much darker, The Whispering Skull didn’t give me the same I HAVE TO READ THIS ALL RIGHT NOW feeling that The Screaming Staircase did. I read the first book in only a few days, but it took me more than a week to finish Whispering Skull. To be fair, I’ve been really busy. I think my confusion about the main plot line made it hard for me to reach the same level of emotional investment I had with the first book.
  • In my review of the first book, I complained that the team member’s roles weren’t clearly defined in the beginning (George specifically). In Whispering Skull, we get to see the team working together from the very beginning. This is great, but it’s one book too late. I actually feel like the opening scenes in the two books should have been swapped. Although they were both well written, the opening scene in the second book does a much better job of communicating who does what in the agency, which would have been good information to have when meeting the characters in the first book.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I was surprised by The Whispering Skull‘s sudden plunge into dark themes, but I thoroughly enjoyed how the author approached it. The ghostly meetings and dialogue between characters were a joy to read, as always. Despite having a few organizational flaws, this book is a strong sequel to The Screaming Staircase and has me eagerly awaiting the publication of Lockwood & Co. #3: The Hollow Boy.

What deliciously dark books have you read lately?

Last week I announced that I’d be taking part in the #ReadingMyLibrary challenge for the month of April, because I love libraries…and any excuse to read more! :)

For those who didn’t see the announcement, the rule of the challenge is that you need to read at least one library book and discuss it in either a blog post, #ReadingMyLibrary main page comment, or social media post. Since I found out about the challenge just after my weekly library visit, I’ll be discussing the books I picked up that day: the first two installments in the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud.

screaming staircase

“…stop worrying about the past! The past is for ghosts. We’ve all done things that we regret. It’s what ahead of us that counts.” — Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

 

Lockwood & Co #1: The Screaming Staircase

SUMMARY (from Good Reads)

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigation Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

THE GOOD

  • Stroud does a great job making the ghosts realistic by tying them to a set of rules. They make the environment cold, drain the will to live from anyone observing them, and can’t stand iron or salt. This grounds the story and allows you to focus more on the plot and characters, rather than fixating on the premise.
  • The descriptions are amazingly vivid, especially when it comes to the ghosts. You can see detailed images of the ghosts in your mind’s eye, and they’re truly eery. Also, the sensation of “ghost lock” is described so well that you can actually feel it happening to you a little bit along with the characters.
  • The dry wit I came to love in the Bartimaeus books is back in full force. I couldn’t get enough of the snappy dialog and Lucy’s quippy narrative style.

THE BAD

  • The summary gives the impression that the book will be scary, which isn’t really accurate. True, I’m older than the intended audience, but I don’t think even my 12-year-old self would have been frightened by the book. The ghosts themselves are scary-looking and dangerous, but the plot is more of a paranormal action story. The wry attitude of the characters also does a lot to mitigate the scariness of the ghosts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it makes the subject of ghosts accessible to young readers in a fun way. However, I don’t think the publishers were right to bill it as a scary series for young readers.  The fact is, if you’re looking for a scary story, this isn’t it.
  • Despite the fact that the Lockwood agents are the main characters, Stroud doesn’t fully define the team’s roles and relationships with each other until the 3rd or 4th chapter, long after we’ve met them. Lockwood and Lucy’s roles are clear, but George’s presence confused me at first. I just didn’t know why he was around. Later, it became clear that he was a researcher who also assisted in on-site investigations. It was then that I began to see how he, Lockwood, and Lucy fit together as a group. However, it would have been better if he’d been shown in his role at the very beginning, like the other two team members.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Despite a few complaints, I think this series is off to a really strong start, and I’m looking forward to starting book two. Stroud has created a complete world that is unique, yet has all the believability of the world we know—no small accomplishment. Even though it’s only the first book, there are hints that the series will delve more deeply into WHY ghosts have become a problem, and I’m really excited to see how Stroud addresses that.

What’s your favorite paranormal book series?

spring snack gallery

It’s FINALLY starting to feel like spring around here. The snow is gone! The sun is out! And the birds are singing their wee hearts out! Singing isn’t really my thing, so I decided to show my appreciation for the sunny weather by creating 3 spring-themed kids’ snacks:

  • Nature Scene Picture Plates
  • Fruit Flowers with Peanut Butter Fluff Dip
  • and Pink Lemonade Berry Popsicles

You can check them out in my guest post at Real Life at Home!

https://cristinaandcoco.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/rmlc-komika.jpg
Seeing as I don’t have an infinite book budget, I’m a huge proponent of libraries. So it’s not that surprising that I was downright gleeful when I discovered that Stephani from Caught Read Handed and Amy from Read What I Like were hosting a library-oriented reading challenge for the month of April. It’s called the #ReadingMyLibrary Challenge, and all you have to do is read a library book and blog/comment about it! Considering I picked up two new library books just before hearing about the challenge, I was more than prepared. :)

 

For my challenge, I’ll be reading and discussing the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud (that’s right—the same guy who wrote the Bartimaeus books!). I haven’t read much YA or kid lit lately, so I decided to pick up the first two books in this series after I saw them on my Good Reads recommendation list. The remaining books aren’t available at my local libraries, but I’ll try to track them down through other connected libraries in my system.

Check back next week for my discussion of Lockwood & Co. #1: The Screaming Staircase!

 

Want to take part in the #ReadingMyLibrary Challenge? View Stephani’s sign up page here!

 

Pirates! Peter Pan wouldn’t be the same without them, particularly Captain Hook. In just the same way that Peter is the embodiment of childhood, Hook is the quintessential pirate: cruel, cutthroat, yet “not wholly unheroic.” He’s said to be the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid, but I can’t help but find his refinement and devotion to good form endearing.

This Pirate Map Pizza is our tribute to the pirates of Neverland, complete with all the major Neverland landmarks: Neverpeak Mountain in the center, Neverwood Forest to the west, Tiger Lily’s Camp to the north…and a path to some buried treasure!

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