Tom Yum Soup

I once tried a home hot pot and loved it so much that I decided to just make it over stove top. My favorite was the Tom Yum. I buy the paste and add some lime leaves, galanga slices (if I don’t have it fresh/frozen, I use the powder), lemon grass, whatever veggies I have on hand, and beef or chicken stock. Instead of vermicelli noodles, I use udon. I’ve tried it with rice noodles as well but I prefer the udon. As far as veggies goes, I often make it with broccoli and green beans. I also like it with shredded cabbage and/or bok choy but husband doesn’t like either so I don’t tend to use them unless it’s only me eating it.

I’ve made seafood versions with shrimp, crab meat, and tilapia. In this version, I used sea bass. I’ve also tried it with thin slices of red meat and that wasn’t bad. My my favorite is just with tilapia.

I love this soup because it’s easy and quick to make, and it tastes great, especially on cold wintry days.

Book Review: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain

Title: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain
Author: E.M. McIntyre
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Middle-grade
Year Published: 2015

Date finished: April 9, 2021

The Phantom of Faerie Mountain, by E.M. McIntyre is a young adult/middle-grade fantasy story about a fourteen-year-old girl named Abby who finds herself in a world of magic and mystery.

This was a really fun read! Abby is a curious girl with a big heart. She’s not afraid of danger and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. She also learns some secrets about her own family and herself.

This is a great story for young readers. It would also be a great bed-time story to read to the little ones. The dangers, the friendships, the talking dog, etc. all play an important role in Abby’s journey. I really liked Rory’s character. I loved his accent.  

Who should read this: Everyone. It’s the kind of book that takes you away from reality and into a fun magical world. There’s no gore or deadly violence so all can enjoy it.

FF XV: Kingsglaive

I’m late to the game but I’m so glad I came! I watched Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV and loved it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This was something husband and I watched because we ran out of Netflix movies to watch. I know about the Final Fantasy games but have never played a game. I’ve watched music compilations of past stories and enjoyed them. I’ll have to share them in a future post, but for now, I’m gushing over this one.

The whole CGI animated movie was fabulously done. I also watched a clip on how the movie was made and enjoyed that too. My favorite character is of course the protagonist, Nyx Ulric. He was asked by the king to protect Princess Lunafreya. The relationship between them was slightly hot. I got the feeling that Nyx liked her but had to hold back. She also liked him too but because of duty, she held back too. That’s just my take. The fight scenes were beyond words. They were so beautifully orchestrated.

Here are two compilation I loved by youtubers. The first one is of Nyx and Lunafreya and the second one is mostly Nyx but with more of his fighting. The music set to these compilations fit the feels perfectly.

Book Review: Jonathan’s Vows

Title: Jonathan’s Vows
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Literary fiction
Year Published: 2021

Date finished: March 30, 2021

Jonathan’s Vows by Mark Lages is a literary fiction novel about a young man who is about to get married and is writing his vows. In the process he reflects on his life. The story begins with the wedding and leads to the honeymoon, to buying his first house, to having his first child, and so on. There is sort of a chronological order to this story yet includes stories that are out of order. And, it’s written like a memoir yet includes a second person point-of-view: his wife. This is uniquely done.

I loved this book! The style is very different from anything I’ve read. Lages took something so simple and created this beautiful story about a man’s journey through life—through ups and downs. In the end, you’re left feeling like life is okay. If you’re ever too hard on yourself, read this book. It will make you see yourself in a much kinder way. It put a smile on my face. I laughed at times and sympathized other times. It’s wonderfully written.

Who should read this book: Everyone. It’s a book that we can all learn from. There are no lessons to teach and there are no end goals. It’s a simple story about one man’s life, yet there is so much to get out of.

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Grimdark
Year Published: 2019

Date finished: March 25, 2021

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a dark fantasy about a sort of princess, known as the Reverend Daughter, and her guard/soldier/protector. They were invited to an event where the game was about who wins and who dies. The soldier, Gideon, initially had no interest in being a part of this. She had her own plans to escape the House, but the Reverend Daughter found a way to keep her from leaving. The event was super brutal and extremely gory.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about this book:

  1. The writing is beautiful. The prose is very unique and left me completely amazed.
  2. The relationship between Gideon and the Reverend Daughter was superb. It starts out with both women detesting each other. One would not give in to the other. With the Reverend Daughter having most of the control, she was able to force Gideon to do as she says. The two eventually began to understand each other and eventually got on good terms. I thought this was nicely done.

One thing I want to point out is that the style of writing can be difficult to understand. I found myself looking up quite a few words. The story style reminds me of Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s a very complex storyline with layers and a lot of characters to remember. The world was fascinating. It’s got swords, magic, skeletons, trains, futuristic things.

I really enjoyed this book. I believe the relationship leaned toward LGBT, but it wasn’t in-your-face. I didn’t get that impression at all. It was subtle. You knew, but it wasn’t forced.

Who should read this: All lovers of fantasy, magic, future worlds, and horror and gore. The worldbuilding is extravagant. It’s a really amazing book.

March 2021 Playlist

With all that’s been going on in our world, I’ve found myself visiting an old song by Hillsong United that seemed to have helped ease the anxiety. My father-in-law was also admitted to the hospital a few days ago and underwent a triple heart bypass. His situation reminded me of my own dad’s heart surgery five/six years ago. My dad passed away last August from a brain hemorrhage, but I still find myself talking about him like he’s alive. There are days when I’ve accepted that he’s passed, but they are rare. I will get over this. The photo above was taken at a Hillsong concert in 2019 I went with my husband and sisters.

“Nothing Like Your Love” by Hillsong United

Other favorites this month:

“Aura” by Matias Puumala

“Against the Odds” by Matias Puumala

“Smell of Desire” by Enigma

This was a strange mix of music. You could say the same for the movies/tv shows I watched this month:

  1. Colony (dystopian apocalyptic)
  2. WandaVision (sci-fi/fantasy)
  3. The Truman Show (90’s dark drama movie…watched it twice!)
  4. Sonic the Hedgehog movie (sci-fi)
  5. Bridgerton (historical romance)

Book Review: I, Robot

Title: I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre: Sci-fi
Year Published: 1950 (first published)

Date finished: March 17, 2021

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a science fiction story about a reporter who interviews a robopsychologist named Susan Calvin. Dr. Calvin’s main role was to study interactions between robots and humans. The book contains nine different stories that are connected via this interview with all of the stories having something to do with how the robots are programmed to follow a certain set of rules in order to live among humans.

This was a great read. I can’t believe I haven’t read any of Asimov’s work being that I love reading, writing, and watching all things science fiction. I liked how all the stories were connected and had their own themes yet were about Dr. Calvin’s analysis. I loved the surprise in one of the stories. I had no idea “he” was a robot. I also like how Dr. Calvin can prove how a robot is really a robot. The robots physically look like humans and act like humans and the only way to know for sure they are robots was to use her method.

Who should read this: This one is a classic and I recommend it for everyone. It’s great for debate and conversations.

Book Review: Dark Lover

Title: Dark Lover      
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Erotica
Year Published: 2018

Date finished: March 10, 2021

Dark Lover by J.R. Ward is an urban fantasy erotica romance about a vampire named Wrath who was asked to turn a half human half vampire woman into full vampire. Before he even considered doing the job, he’d already fallen in love with her. There’s more to the story but this is basically what I got out of it.

The romance came on quickly. There was no doubt between Wrath and the woman. The erotica was subtle. I’ve read erotica where the erotica was the focal point. Not so in this story. There’s a relationship.

Overall, I enjoyed it. This was my first urban fantasy vampire romance novel. The only other vampire story I read was I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, but it was in a totally different genre (sci-fi apocalyptic dystopian) so the two can’t be compared. Dark Lover was a fun and fast paced read. What I liked most about it was the relationship. It was refreshing to read something in the romance area where the couple didn’t fight with each other. Wrath was very protective and a gentleman—something I haven’t read in a long time where romance is part of the plot.

Who should read this: If you’re into romance/erotica romance, hot and steamy guy, and a world where vampires are the norm, this is for you. The writing is excellent and easy to read. It’s the kind of book you want to escape into.

Book Review: The Mask Falling

Title: The Mask Falling (Book 4 of The Bone Season Series)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Paranormal Sci-fi
Year Published: 2021

Date finished: February 7, 2021

The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon is the fourth book in the paranormal sci-fi, The Bone Season Series. After her recovery, Paige Mahoney finds herself working for a new group of people in what is known as the Domino Program. In her quest to learn more about the events to come, she takes the chance and goes against the group’s directives. Chaos ensues both in her choices and events she wasn’t aware of. The story ends in a cliffhanger.

I enjoyed this book. I also really liked that Warden was in the background. Initially, I wanted more of him, but I think Ms. Shannon sprinkled enough of him that it didn’t feel too overpowering or not enough. It was perfectly done. There were quite a few new characters thrown in that really helped move the story along. There were also characters from the previous books that I was happy to see again.

Who should read this book: Anyone who’s into paranormal sci-fi/fantasy, romance, action, dystopian societies. It’s a great book to escape to with excellent world building and unique characters. Even if you’re not into paranormal, I think you’ll find this book enjoyable.

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrick Backman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Year Published: May 5, 2015

Date finished: December 29, 2020

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman is a story about a 59-year-old man who’s done with life after his wife died and after he was replaced at his job. He comes across extremely grumpy. He’s irritated by strangers and the neighbor who keeps coming to his house asking for help. He attempts suicide multiple times, but his neighbor always shows up at the right time. At first, it’s hard to like him because he’s pretty grouchy and rude. However, there’s a reason for it. The backstory is interwoven throughout the story to create a character that’s understandable, relatable, and likeable.

I enjoyed this book. Sometimes, no matter what you do, life is just not fair. That’s Ove’s life. He just wasn’t blessed with a lot of luck and happiness and he still turned out to have a big heart.

Who should read this: Anyone searching for meaning in life, wondering about their own life, or just want to enjoy a book about love, friendship, and lessons.