Wednesday, October 18, 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

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. 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. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Caroline Kepnes, You: BookTube Video #1

Have you ever read a book that made you so excited that all you could type was: 


Well, that's what You by Caroline Kepnes did for me. I immediately called several of my friends and told them to read it. I should've started a book club just to talk about it. i

I was SO excited that I recorded a 10 minute long VLOG back in April that has sat on my phone until yesterday when I decided to take the plunge and realize my dream of being a Vlogger.

This is my first La Toya, Literally VLOG. I'm so ridiculously proud of it for the following reasons:
1. It is not perfect
Classic perfectionist problems, nothing will ever be exactly as it should be therefore it cannot exist until we figure out what perfection is. This is the conundrum I faced for maybe the past two years that I had the idea to possibly be a YouTuber.

2. It's a labor of love
I'm posting because I love being excited about things on camera! And I have maybe one little teeny tiny affiliate link in the caption :-) 

3. It's ALL ME
I'm not pretending to be excited or goofy or nerdy. I'm literally this and I'm so glad that I feel safe to be my exact self.

Anyway, enough about me. Check the video out for yourself and if you feel so included, please subscribe and comment!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Weekly Round-up {1} Brooklyn Brunch!

I hope everyone had an amazing week and is easing into the weekend! This week on the blog we talked about Brooklyn Brunch spots.

I didn't put it in any particular order but I had to rank it would be: 

3. Belli

What are some of your favorite spots??

Friday, September 22, 2017

Belli Osteria Brooklyn

My third pick for local brunch is Belli Brooklyn in Clinton Hill.

This BOTTOMLESS brunch is timed (as most are these days) but they do a very good job of keeping your champagne flute full. You can choose from Bloody Mary, Peach Bellini, and Blood Orange Mimosa (I usually go with the Blood Orange).

My main choice for a dish is the Egg Norwegian - I have them scramble the egg instead of poach it - just a personal choice of mine. I've tried other things on the menu and they just aren't for me. My brunch buddy usually grabs the Huevos Rancheros with some sort of modification.  

You can usually catch me here on a rainy weekend when I don't have the energy to get all fancy and travel far away. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Catfish NYC

Another spot that I absolutely love is Catfish NYC.

Catfish is on an unassuming block in Crown Heights which is in walking distance from my house. This makes it the perfect place for me to roll into for a mimosa or three. It's a NOLA inspired restaurant with authentic everything. I mean really, you name it.

I only tried their brunch about a year or so ago and have been going there ever since. The amazing thing about this place is that they serve brunch every day of the week, which is super rare but also extremely satisfying when you need brunch right this minute and you don't care if it's Tuesday. 

My favorite dish that I always get (so I have literally never tried any other entree) is the Shrimp and Grits with bacon. They are undefeated. Stop what you're doing right now and go try this dish. It wasn't until I finally went to New Orleans that I actually liked grits. My parents made it every Sunday and I just could not figure out what they saw in them. New Orleans grits are creamy and cheesy and make your forget you're actually eating grits. This is EXACTLY how Catfish NYC makes theirs. White cheddar and super thick cuts of bacon with blackened shrimp sends this dish completely over the top. 

I also recommend getting a side of bacon and the biscuits. Additionally, the coffee they serve is Cafe du Monde. I actually had to stop the waiter to ask if  by Cafe du Monde they meant Cafe du Monde?!?!?! And he was all like, um...yes...

In my last few visits there, we stuck around long enough for it to turn into happy hour and tried the Hurricanes and Swamp Water. During their HH the drinks are $2 off and there are $1 oysters. 

Catfish NYC is open for brunch DAILY from 11am - 4pm and HH starts at 4:30pm. I'll probably be there this weekend or every weekend. See ya there!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sweet Science Brooklyn

Sweet Science, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It took me a while to come to this restaurant as it's a little out of the way for me to get to. I had heard about it for a while and wanted to go because it's Black Owned and has something called a Big-a-lini (more on this later).

Photo Credit: Sweet Science
I finally made it to Sweet Science with some of my old friends from High School and I've been going back as often as possible ever since. With a simplistic industrial layout and super dope artwork on the walls, Sweet Science is a restaurant that you feel cool to be in. It's somewhere you can dress all cute with your girls or literally show up in athleisure like we did. 

There's an item on the menu called The Biggie Breakfast. All my hip-hop heads probably know what it consists of but if you don't, it's a (T-bone) steak, (cheese) scrambled eggs, and (Welch's Grape) a Big-a-lini - which is simply champagne with grape juice. I prefer a mimosa with brunch but I've had this before it definitely hits the spot. 

My favorite item is the Lobster and Biscuits. I usually have this with a carafe of Mimosa. I've also had the Shrimp and Grits which are a close second and I've experienced the Chicken and Waffles by proxy. I'm not a C&W kind of girl but they did look pretty tasty. 

While this isn't a bottomless brunch, a carafe is around $16 bucks which, as we all know, is like 1 and a half drinks in NYC. So why not get one for yourself?

Sweet Science is open for Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am - 4pm. Let's all go together and stay long enough to check out their secret restaurant, Featherweight.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Month of Birthdays!

Celebrate La Toya Week!
20 Days of Toya!
30 Days and Thirty Nights of La Toya!

Ok, I'm still trying to figure out what to call this. Either way, I'm one of those people who celebrate their birthday more than once. Hi.

And I don't do it because it's a trend, or because I'm trying to run my friends ragged. It's actually for a legitimate set of reasons.

I am a lot of things. A singer, a nerd, a party girl, an extroverted introvert...and I also went to primary schools in Brooklyn that were highly populous. So with that came a large group of friends that weren't always into the same thing. With that foundation of always roaming around to different crowds, I've still maintained a unique grouping of friends to match my all around uniqueness.

I can't remember which *exact* birthday it started on but I had to be around 18 when I realized that I don't have to just do one thing. That's right EIGHTEEN. Before FB and IG and all these other things people are trying to show off for. I'm not showing off - I'm literally celebrating myself and giving my friends from all walks of life various options that can suit them.

Because it's summertime! And I want to do it all. But the bookworms do not want to go to a boozy brunch. The turn up squad doesn't want to watch the NY Philharmonic quietly in the park. The introverts don't want to do an Escape Room.

But guess who doesn't have to choose anymore?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bill Nye blinded me with Science.

On Sunday June 4th, I went to BookCon2017. I will write another post lamenting the overall experience but this post is about the Benevolent Bill Nye the Science Guy.

There are a bunch of celebrity panels that occur on the Main Stage and the first was Bill Nye and Greg Mone discussing their series "Jack and the Geniuses". All I knew was that I needed to get into the same room as Bill Nye. I'm from the 80s where he was the science king for little girls and little boys. If you ask anyone who remembers the earliest part of the 90s, they will have a strong opinion about how he made science cool and approachable. So this is a life long dream people, and he didn't disappoint.
Me at nerd level 99

But let me start from the beginning of the day. The first thing I noticed when I ended the room the panel was being held in was how empty the room itself was. This led me to two conclusions either:

1. Everyone was upstairs in the main hall trying to grab a stack of free books that they would never read.

2. I am a huge nerd who prioritized Bill Nye speaking about children's books over everything else.

Both are correct.

The book actually sounds pretty fascinating and like a lot of fun. It is about a ragtag* crew of kids who have been orphaned and spend their time going on Science-y adventures. I would totally have read something like that growing up and will most likely read them all at some point.
* (The asterisk in this paragraph denotes that I will use the word Ragtag to describe a group of people as often as humanly possible because, ragtag)

The pièce de résistance for me however was the general conversation with Mr. Nye. The way that no part of science was left off limits. I learned that he's the CEO of the planetary society and, like my other idol NDT, was mentored by the OG Carl Sagan. He loves Outer Space and the unknown just as much as me! I actually started the applause when he casually mentioned that in our lifetime, we will discover that there is life on my favorite moon of Jupiter's Europa (Ganymede is a close second). There's a huge ice cap that will eventually melt down and we will discover the possible (well, entirely probable) aquatic life living there, CURRENTLY. ALIENS 2017! Or like you know, whenever. 

Speaking of the life aquatic, Mr. Nye mentioned that when asked where in the entire Universe he could go if intergalactic travel was possible, he'd go to Hawaii.

This got a really big laugh because it was Former President Obama who asked him this. But also got a laugh because it seemed completely ridiculous because, come on, wouldn't you want to go to I don't know, Saturn?

But his brilliant reasoning was that we can travel to space but we can't as readily travel to the depths of sea here on earth. We have a pretty good idea about many things in space but what do we even know about the Deepest parts of the Sea? And in Hawaii, the water is warm enough to get a traveling device down there. Note: I am majorly paraphrasing from memory here. He didn't say "traveling device". He probably said something like "Snarfblat Refribulator".

Then we talked about Tectonic plates and the theory of relativity and dark matter and dark energy. And then physics and science experiments to do in the classroom (one of which was adding a drop of vanilla to a deflated balloon before blowing it up. The molecules of the vanilla extract would permeate that of the rubber in the balloon giving the balloon a vanilla scent). And omg he said algebra was important. ALGEBRA IS MY FAVORITE.

I'm just saying guys, I'm a smart girl but I haven't taken a science class since I was 17 years old and he went right on and cleared those cobwebs in the most casual and actual genius way.

Thanks Bill Nye.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

{Waiting on Wednesday} All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastri

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a super meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

"You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed...because it wasn’t necessary."

Super excited to read this book because I am OBSESSED with alternate/parallel universes and time travel and the like. Seems like a good one!

What are you waiting on??

I already went to the Cookie Dough place.

And omg.

So, if you were my IRL friend around the year 2000, you might know that I developed an addiction to the (only available in movie theaters at the time) boxed candy, Cookie Dough Bites. It was a real problem.

I wrote the Cookie Dough Bites company emails and everything...suggesting the numerous flavors they could do, begging them to sell the candy outside of the theater, telling them I love them...things like that.

17 years later - there's an entire shoppe (decked out in bright colors!) devoted to Cookie Dough lovers like you and me!

It's called DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections and it's in the West Village on LaGuardia Place.

I had about a zillion things to do on Saturday but a friend of mine posted this place on my FB wall and I immediately carved the time out to check it out, you know, for research purposes. I got there right before the line got pretty insane - although let's be honest, I would've stood in that line for an hour for Raw Cookie Dough in a cone.

Once inside, the place was super cute - a neon light that said "Dreams Do Come True", cute plants and colorful tea kettles on shelves, everyone in aprons and hats, I felt like I was in a quaint town that has really specific shoppes like this one. You could even see them making the dough in the back through a glass window. How cute!

There were a ton of people inside pouring over the menu so it was hard to get the full effect. 30 years from now when things clear up in there, I might be able to take a good look at everything.

So, how was it? OMG it was everything I hoped and dreamed! I stayed very safe and got the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in a cup. And no, there isn't a picture because I just couldn't not wait. And this wasn't a photo op trip, this was a "clearly this store is meant for La Toya because obviously" trip.

Tomorrow I will get the sugar cookie dough on a cone, on the next day I will get the cookie dough ice cream sandwich, on the following day...

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!