Friday, 29 January 2016

"The Dark Days Club" by Alison Goodman | Book Review

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Publishing Date: January 26, 2016
Pages: 482
Publisher: Razorbill
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Kobo

From Goodreads:

"London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Helen Wrexhall's presentation to the queen, one of her family's housemaids disappears - and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?"

Because it's the first thing I noticed about this book, I want to briefly mention how beautiful it is. From the dark, lacy dust jacket, to the damask fancy end paper, to the design at the top of each page, a lot of effort clearly went into designing this book - it's one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I've read.

On to the story! I found that The Dark Days Club was like a mix of Pride and Prejudice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Downton Abbey. The juxtaposition between rigid high society and dark supernatural forces made for an interesting read.

The pacing was a little slow at the beginning - it took about 150 pages to get to the point that in this world, there are people called Reclaimers, who fight the supernatural beings known (only to their small group) as Deceivers (which are essentially a very interesting twist on a fixture in the supernatural genre). I'm not usually one for long books simply because I kind of have a short attention span, but despite the slow pacing at the beginning, there was never a point where I wanted to put it down. The author describes the 18th century so beautifully, and I was able to conjure the settings, faces, outfits, etc., easily.

I learned a lot of 19th century terms, as well as what certain items of clothing and objects common in that era were called. Google was my friend with this book, and I really think it's worth looking up the italicized words if you're not a 19th century history buff, because they paint a beautiful picture of the era that our heroine lives in.

The characters are memorable, particularly our protagonist, Lady Helen, and the dark and brooding Lord Carlston, who gives off some definite Mr. Darcy vibes. Lady Helen is a mixture of a "proper" Victorian girl and also one who longs for more freedom and is curious to learn and read (something frowned upon in women in 1812 London). Because of her upbringing in higher society, she's very hesitant to fight on behalf of the Dark Days Club because women were not seen as fighters - it was unbecoming. For me, Lady Helen was an easy character to like because she had such an interest in pushing beyond what she knew and what was comfortable for her, even though she had strong reservations at first.

I'm personally looking forward to reading the next book in the series because I can't wait to see what's in store for the characters. If you like historical fiction, supernatural elements, vivid descriptions, and big books, I definitely recommend you give The Dark Days Club a read.

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

"Amazing Fantastic Incredible" by Stan Lee, Peter David & Colleen Doran | Book Review

Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee
Publishing Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 192
Publisher: Touchstone
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Kobo

The title says it all, really! As a huge Marvel fan, I wanted to learn more about one of the minds (and certainly the most well-known one) behind Marvel Comics - and it is such a great read.

Let's start with the first thing we see - the cover. We've got Stan Lee, we've got pages of the most popular Marvel comics, and we've got...a partially holographic cover! I'm definitely a lover of holographic covers, I think they're so cool.

The memoir is in graphic novel format, which is perfect because of who this memoir is about. It's such a unique way of doing a memoir - I've never seen or read one like this! It allows for some really interesting storytelling, and it's beautiful to look at. This will come as no surprise to a lot of people, but Stan Lee has a very distinctive voice in his writing, and the comics format really helps get that across. I'm so impressed with how unique this memoir is, as well as the wonderful artwork.

Colleen Doran did such a great job with the art for this book, it's beautiful. I found that the art for the story that takes place in the present day differs from the art for the flashbacks and original covers; the flashbacks look like the style of older comics, which I think is a really cool thing to see in a modern graphic novel. It also makes a lot of sense because they're portraying that time period and the styles that were popular back then.

Throughout his memoir, Stan Lee really opens up about his humble beginnings and some of the very tough times he went through on his way to becoming the well-known figure he is today. Something I admire about this book is that he spotlights artists and people he admires, like Jack Kirby (co-creator of many of the Marvel comics) and Larry Lieber, Stan's brother. He gives us information about people we might not have known otherwise.

Another thing I love about this book is the Easter eggs - in typical tongue-and-cheek fashion, Stan Lee addresses the Marvel/DC competition, and it's so funny. Comics lovers will delight in the Easter eggs.

Stan Lee's memoir is funny, endearing, and fascinating. Whether you're a huge Marvel fan like me, or you've seen the movies and are interested in learning about one of the minds behind the original comics, or even if you just have a general interest in comics - you'll love this book.

*This book was sent to me by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Name Change & New Banner!

© 2016
Hi everyone! You might have noticed over the past month or two that I've added the title "In the Stacks" to the blog...and now I have a cool banner, too! I'd been wanting to change or add something to the name and banner for a while because I felt like it should reflect the content of the blog better. If you're interested in knowing why I chose to change things the way I did, read on!

"nikkitheknack" is a name I came up with a few years ago and, not being great with titles, I just decided to use that as my blog name when I signed up on Blogger, not realizing I couldn't change the URL.

So I thought and thought for quite a while about what else I could add to my blog name to better reflect the content, and finally, one day, I came up with "In the Stacks". The "stacks" refer to library stacks/shelves, or more accurately, what's in them - books and movies. This name, to me, encompasses the different things I write about on here, including books and movies. I'm very grateful to have such a good library near my house, which allows me to borrow so many different books, movies...even CDs. Libraries are truly awesome.

After I came up with a name I love, I wanted to add some artwork! I've been wanting to jazz up my banner for a while, and I'm so glad I've finally done it, with some help from my dad and sister.

I drew a typewriter because I love typewriters and think they're beautiful (I've been looking for one for years, but I've never found one that's quite right, whether in terms of looks or price) and represent that I write. I also used a typewriter-looking font for the words "In the Stacks" to tie the banner together.

I was trying to think of a way to incorporate a film reel into the picture to represent the fact that I review movies, and it struck me - instead of paper in a typewriter, I could have a film reel coming out!

And last but certainly not least, I have a stack of books and an open book - these represent that I write about books!

I'm really happy with how everything turned out, and the fact that I finally, in my opinion, have a cool banner is exciting for me.

I guess there's only one thing left to say, and that is: Welcome to nikkitheknack's In the Stacks!

What do you think of the new name and banner?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

"The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook" by Jean Blacklock | Book Review

The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook by Jean Blacklock
Publishing Date: January 12, 2016
Pages: 128
Publisher: Appetite by Random House
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Kobo

Jean Blacklock, owner of Prairie Girl Bakery (now with multiple locations in downtown Toronto), grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan baking everything from bread to cookies to cupcakes, watching people's faces light up when they took a bite. Baking had always been a passion of hers, but she decided to pursue a career in law. About twenty five years later, she opened the first Prairie Girl Bakery.

I love making cupcakes and I pretty much take every opportunity to make them. Like Jean, I love seeing people's reactions to the little delectable treats. So when I found out that this cookbook was going to be released soon, I had to get it!

Most of the ingredients involved in these recipes are pretty simple household items you can get at the grocery store, although there are a few exceptions. Jean is very honest about the ingredients they use, including their (not-so) secret to delicious fruity icing - powdered freeze-dried fruits. Quite a few recipes involve these ingredients and as far as I know, they're not available in stores so you'll have to order them online at places like, where Prairie Girl Bakery gets theirs. I was a little disappointed to not be immediately able to make some of the delicious-sounding recipes like Blueberries 'n' Cream Cupcakes and Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes, but I'll probably be ordering the freeze-dried fruits at some point...or visiting the bakery. There are also vegan and gluten-free options for those of you with dietary restrictions!

Irish Cream Cupcakes...mmm!
And now, onto the recipes I made!

First up, I made Irish Cream Cupcakes...if you know me in real life, you know I love me some Irish Cream. Let me start off by saying, the chocolate cupcake is delicious. I tried making "Prairie Girl-size" cupcakes, which are essentially 1.5x the size of a regular cupcake, but they didn't rise properly in my pans, I'm not sure why. The icing recipe makes a whole lot of icing (I was able to ice them all, then ice them all a second time). Now, I'm not a huge icing person because they're generally too sweet for me, this one included, but it's all subjective and really depends on how much icing you like! Next time I make these (and there will be a next time!), I'll be using more Irish Cream because I couldn't really taste it. The technical things like chemistry were a little off for me on this one, but they were quite yummy so I'm still going to be making them again.

Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes - with a lemon curd surprise!
The other recipe I made was for Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes...these are SO good. With four recipes involved in making these, they're also a LOT of work. It sounds daunting and it is, but these are so freaking delicious that I think they were definitely worth all the effort. I found all of these recipes pretty easy to follow and they mostly involve household items, although you might need to go egg-shopping afterward as in total, the lemon cheesecake cupcakes require 11 eggs (mostly the yolks to make lemon curd). The only trouble I had with these is that the Classic Cream Cheese Icing (which is so delicious!) was a bit soft even after chilling it for about 30 minutes, so it was sliding off the cupcakes a little. These cupcakes are definitely my favourite of the two I made, because the lemon is so refreshing and heavenly - and I love the little lemon curd surprise in the middle!

All in all, I enjoyed making and eating these cupcakes and there are a ton of other recipes I want to try. When I'm able to order some freeze-dried fruit, I'll definitely be making a few more recipes! There are recipes for a variety of skill levels, so whether you're a beginner or an experienced baker, there's something in here for all cupcake-lovers alike.

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

11 Favourite Books of 2015!

There's no doubt about it, 2015 was an incredible year for books. I loved a bunch of books from a bunch of different genres this year, so of course it was very hard to choose between everything, but I've narrowed this list down to my 11 favourite books of 2015!

1. One More Thing by B.J. Novak
Review here.

2. The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi
Review here.

3. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Review here.

5. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Review here.

6. Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady
Review here.

7. The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
Review here.

8. The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
Review here.

9. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Review here.

11. Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone
Review here.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

December Book Haul!

Hi everyone! I can't believe it's already a New Year...2015 seems to have gone by so quickly! Christmas has come and gone, and me being me, of course I got books as gifts. Books as gifts = happy me. These are all the books I got in December (gifts and otherwise!), and there are quite a few. I hope you're all having a great 2016 so far, and I wish you the best for the year!

1. Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford

3. The World According to Garp by John Irving

4. The Crossing by Michael Connelly

5. Itsu the Cookbook by Julian Metcalfe

7. Noggin by John Corey Whaley

8. How It Is by Samuel Beckett

10. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

12. MINRS by Kevin Sylvester

13. The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

14. Beauty of the Broken by Tawni Waters

Did you get any books for Christmas and the holidays?