Tuesday, January 10, 2017

{Book Review} A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness, Inspired by an idea from Sioban Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay

Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Hardcover, 211 pages
Genre: Low Fantasy
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The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. 

 But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Run, don't walk to your nearest book retailer and read this book right now.

Then go to the movies and watch the movie. I'm not kidding.

“Don't think you haven't lived long enough to have a story to tell.” 

My thoughts:
This was the first Patrick Ness book that I had read and this is somehow the most hauntingly beautiful, inspiring, thought provoking, and devastating book I have ever read. No exaggeration.

A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested this book to me and I believe it was one of the first books I read in one sitting. A book that stayed with me for days and days after I finished read it. I read a ton of books and rarely do I find one that knocks me over like this one did. 

Anyway - the main character is Conor who is dealing with way more than any kid should at home. At 12:07am each morning, he's visited by a Monster. The Monster tells him that he will tell him three stories on three separate nights, and on the fourth night, the Monster wants Conor to tell him his story...

As far as fantasies go, this is a great one. It's a good starter for if you haven't read much fantasy and have a hard time suspending disbelief. Ness is a master of making you care about every single character you come across and you don't even notice that there is a literal Monster in the book. In fact, he's the dopest character IMO.

"If you speak the truth, the monster whispered in his ear, you will be able to face whatever comes." 
The Movie: 
Years later, I got to see this movie during the preview weekend. I'm so glad I went alone because there are parts when you're just crying. Just sometimes for a reason, sometimes for no good reason at all. I knew how it would all end and maybe that was why - but I surely did not care. Reason number one to see the movie: Liam Neeson is The Monster.

Check out the trailer here:

My only teeny tiny issue is that this seems like it's for young children and teens, but by gum it sure is DARK. So proceed with caution if you're taking a little one with you. 

But what a masterpiece, for real. Don't miss this one guys. Literally. 

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Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 Goals (also, hi - I'm blogging again)


I can't believe it's 2017 already. I mean, I'm glad, because 2016 was bizarre. But still...

Figured I would start the welcome back of my blog by listing some of my goals here (so you know, now I have to actually do them).

Blog (way, way) More.
That was easy. Last year I wrote maybe 2 posts compared to the 290 posts I wrote in 2011. So I would say, anything between 2 and 270 this year will be a super duper win for me. Including:

  • Books I like, and books that are sort of not great
  • My top picks for NYC restaurants and wherever else I've been
  • In depth reviews on hotels I've been to and other such travel related oddities
  • Like, whatever else.

Read More.
OMG I literally used to read around 100 books per year. I'm not kidding! Sure I didn't have a full time job when I was doing that but I can try to get to maybe 40 or 50 books this year. More of the following:

  • Fantasy (Epic, High, Low, Magical Realism)
  • Sci-Fi (Cyberpunk, Soft Sci-Fi, Steampunk)
  • Plays
  • Dystopia
  • Ok never mind there are too many genres to list

Travel More.
I take around 4 vacations per year and it's usually to the same places: LA, Orlando, Miami (more on these later) I also tend to do all my travel at the tail end of the year. This year I would love to do some sort of travel throughout. Including but not limited to:
  • Weekend Warrior trips (Lake houses, ski resorts, Bed and Breakfasts Upstate NY etc.)
  • International trips (UAE, Caribbean, Europe)
  • Repeat Visits / Unfinished business visits (ie. New Orleans omg omg omg I need to go back)
Thanks and welcome back to my blog!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Employees Only {Spoilers included}

Something I like to do is pre-birthday hangouts with people who can't make the entire festivities. My friend Mac and I had been thinking of going to Employees Only, the secret bar/restaurant for years and years. What better time than now!

Spoilers on a Secret Restaurant ahead!

As you all know by now, NYC was taken over by all these fancy secret bars in the past half decade. Some of them are so popular that you might not even realize it's supposed to be a secret. Beauty and Essex is definitely one such place.

I digress.

Employees Only is on a stretch of land called Hudson Ave. which was always too far west for me to care about or venture to. So imagine my surprise when I discovered the restaurant was hidden there. 

Mac and I knew that there would be a bouncer denying entry if you either didn't look the part (hello, tourists in white sneakers and fannypacks) or if you didn't have some sort of reservation. They're also pretty strict on seating, you must be ordering dinner if you book a table. 

When we finally walked in it was a bit of a let down, there's a psychic table immediately in front of you to keep up with the idea that they place is only a Psychic business. Then immediately to your right, you want into what looks like it could've been a tiny clothing store at one point but was now a dimly lit (not very impressive) bar. 

It was also really confusing to figure out who we speak to once we walk in to be seated. There were several people waiting for a seat and the hostess was on her phone or something who knows. All I know is that we were two seconds from walking out when she finally got to us.

I had made a reservation with the full knowledge that we'd have to eat dinner - she tried to sit us in a tiny corner but we preferred to sit you know - where all the other dinner guests were.

After we were seated, the server came over to us...eventually. I was really in a sour mood. Not to mention the couples to our left and to our right. One was on their first date - so that conversation was obnoxious. The other table had these really loud seemingly teenagers talking at the top of their voices.

Then the food arrived and ok, fine, it was probably the most delicious handmade pasta I've had in a very long time. And isn't that the point really? That the food is good?

I left knowing I will never go back or recommend the place to anyone, bu
t I had a great time catching up with an old friend and some wildly delicious pasta.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It *was* my birthday.

About a week ago (precisely a week ago) on July 13th, I rang in my new year with a ton of events. It's what I like to call #CelebrateLaToyaWeek (it's a real hashtag with over 50 posts on Instagram because, La Toya).

A lot of people ask me how I do it each year, coordinating all my friends, choosing the locations, carving out the agenda etc.

What better way to begin my food/books/sometimes music blog than to review and go through my entire week with photos and critique?!

So stay tuned for daily posts, happy birthday to me, and thanks for checking out my blog!

The layout is a work in progress so don't be alarmed if it continues to improve the more you come back.

***Please note: this blog used to be LazyGirlReads, then the bookish La Toya, Literally blog. 

And now here we are - a culture blog with the same name that will now include primarily book and restaurant reviews with a dash of music and travel thrown in. Because that's all I know and BECAUSE SO MANY OF YOU ASKED FOR IT (yay!!)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I ate the Rainbow Bagel so you wouldn't have to.

Short answer: Eh.

Long answer: The Rainbow Bagel at The Bagel Store was sticky to the touch (not sure why), overpriced, entirely too pastry-like, and somehow lacking in flavor. The funfetti cream cheese was a great draw and I would actually have this again on a plain bagel. But only like once every 5 years.

Longer answer: OMG I'm blogging again! Anyway - so many people decided that these Rainbow Bagels were the new thing. Like the saving grace of Brooklyn, the holy grail even. But are they? ARE THEY?

I had been dying to head over to this place. I figured I could just hop on the bus and shoot over to Greenpoint or Williamsburg or whatever neighborhood in (not so) newly populated North Brooklyn this place was in...grab one, have my mind blown and take a super cute picture of it to make everyone's mouth water and think I was SO COOL and IN THE KNOW! Alas.

When I arrived at the Bagel Store, I couldn't help but notice it was a hole in the wall. "But it's always the hole in the wall places that have the delicious foods!", they said. "It's totally worth taking the G train!", they said. I digress.

There were 4 or 5 really excited, really loud young girls in the store, standing in the way, confusing me on where the heck the line started. I saw the "Rainbow" bagels (this is in quotes because today they were only green and yellow) chilling in a display box and was already unimpressed. You see, Native New Yorkers (and NNYs skip this part because you already know this) who like bagels can look at a bagel and be able to tell if it's both doughy, chewy, and naturally crispy enough for them to purchase. We also do this with Pizza slices btw. These bagels were, something other than.

I decided to go for it. But then I remembered that I needed to pick a cream cheese. The kid at the store sullenly suggested I go for the Funfetti Cream Cheese. Because that's totally a normal thing. And he eats it by the spoonful.

His accent led me to believe that he might be from here, so I said, "ok but like, would a New York person who likes bagels eat this...funfetti cream cheese? Because if I'm being honest, this sounds insane." He brought me over some to taste, on a knife (!?!) and I was sold. The cream cheese was cheesy and only slightly sweet despite its name and appearance.

Finally I asked for the bagel to be toasted. "Oh the toaster don't work."

::cue brain explosion::

I thought about a lot of things in this moment. Where was I? What kind of place is this with a broken toaster? Why am I here? Then I was angry, why do I ever listen to other people? What am I doing in Williamsburg? And finally, when all hope was lost he interjected with "But they just came out of the oven so...it's like..."

Which brings me to the end of my tale folks. I ended up paying at least like 6+ dollars for this creation that was somewhere between a food you would find on Care Bears and/or Fraggle Rock and you know - that's usually a compliment in my world  but not today.

I do not suggest for adults. I probably won't go back. But if I were a kid, I would BEG my mom to buy me a zillion of these.