Monday, April 23, 2018

Table for Two #16: Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

Rachel of Hello, Chelly and I have teamed up once more to bring you a collaboration that involves two of my favorite things: New York City and food. Welcome to Table for Two, where the two of us will be highlighting restaurants and dessert spots in New York City. Each month, you'll be hearing our personal opinions on the place and the food! This month, we're featuring the same restaurant - Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer. I'm talking about the burgers, while Rachel's going to be featuring their (very Instagram-worthy) milkshakes!

I've only visited Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer twice. That's not too soon to declare that I'm going to harbor a lifelong affection for it, is it? Because it's true. I'm genuinely a fan of this restaurant, and it makes me happy that their offerings live up to the hype that surrounds this place. (I also have to give it to those people who hyped it up, because I would never have tried it without that.)

The Midtown location is the one I've visited (though I'd like to see what their two other New York locations are like at some point), and the waiting I've had to do in line was not too long for both visits. Upon entering the place, the first thing that will strike you are the colorful visuals juxtaposed with the cozy ambiance. Shortly afterwards, your ears will register the upbeat tunes - usually old school tracks at this location, or at least it's been for my past two visits - that pump constantly through the speakers. The host will lead you to your table, whether it's a cozy booth at the back, a regular old table, or a seat at the counter space. I've tried the first and the third, and both areas were pretty comfortable (though I would've liked a space to put my bag on for the counter area). 

There are so many burgers and sides and drinks and milkshakes on offer that it'll likely take some time to make your choice! This time around, I decided on The Texan Burger (prime burger, aged cheddar, crispy onion ring, bacon, sweet baby rays bbq and mayo) and Rachel picked the The All-American Burger (prime burger, lettuce, pickles, american cheese, special sauce, with the tomato removed). Both burgers were delicious! I normally don't manage to finish non-fast food burgers, since the servings tend to be huge. But their burgers are just so good that I always just have to have 'one more bite' until I've suddenly managed to decimate my entire sandwich. Plus, there's the added bonus of their fries being just the right amount of crispy and seasoned to be tasty and addictive!

I can genuinely say that Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer is my current favorite spot for burgers in the city (and well worth the potential wait in line to get in, especially during the dinner rush and probably on weekends, though I can't speak to the latter from personal experience). Their food is genuinely good (as are the milkshakes, which Rachel will talk about). I'll totally be going back for more (especially because I'd also like to try their craft beers)! 

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer is located in Midtown (136 W 55th St.), SoHo (529 Broome Street) and the Lower East Side (177 Ludlow Street).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Topsea Turvy Time • Macky Reads A Friendly Town That's Almost Always By the Ocean!

A friendly town that’s almost always by the sea. At least, that’s what it says on the sign that greets you as you enter Topsea. That’s certainly the sign that greeted Davy and his mom as they came to this town to try to start a new life. And what do they find? School lockers located at the bottom of the pool, warnings about tides and seaweed, lots of crabs and rock cats. Yes. Cats. That sit on rocks. And smile with all their teeth. 

Reading through this book felt like one part interactive encyclopedia, two parts a collection of childhood vignettes set amidst the most obscure and absurd backdrops this side of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and three parts coming of age tale about loss and rebuilding. 

There are few places as whimsically absurd and obscurely enjoyable as Topsea. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the thing to note is that people in Topsea are just about as extraordinary as the place they live in. You don’t need to look beyond the kids Davy ends up befriending for proof, what with Quincy and his writing down every question he hears or Runa who makes up even more fantastical tales about an already fantastical Topsea. And how can we not pay attention to Nia, who finally got a chance to train and own a teacup pig?

The story starts out with Davy’s POV, inviting the reader into the slowly unfolding mystery of why he and his mother moved and why nobody in Topsea can EVER get his name correctly. Then, it shifts to the POV of the other kids, really giving the whole story a very unique reading experience. 

The chapters are bookended with random articles, public service announcements, illustrations and miscellaneous “communications” distributed amongst Topsea residents. Personally, I loved it all, and find that I would have been perfectly at home in Topsea had I grown up there. To be honest, a lot of it felt very ordinary to me (which only highlights how strange I am as a person), so Topsea felt like home and its residents my people. 

The ending felt very good but also left room for some more hijinks. Guess that means I’ll be waiting eagerly for a second book! Thank you Kir Fox and Shelley Coats for writing about a place that I feel I can come home to.

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Source: Hardcover received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Abbreviations # 49 | Free to Fall, I Have Lost My Way + Trust in Me

Free to Fall is a science fiction mystery set at a boarding school - and it really, really worked for me! In the novel, the world is crazy about an app called Lux, which helps users by making all their decisions for them in ways guaranteed to give them the best outcome. The story particularly centers around main character Aurora 'Rory' Vaughn, who follows Lux's suggestions and ends up being accepted to the prestigious boarding school called Theden. At school, she finds herself challenged at every turn with the high quality of education, the presence of a townie named North who doesn't use Lux and the inner voice in her mind that she's started to listen to despite being told it's something to ignore... I'll leave the summary at that, but suffice to say that this was really fun. The pacing was really well-done (except for the couple of intro chapters), the setting was fantastic and the mystery was set up well too. It was so satisfying to navigate all the twists and turns in Miller's narrative and to reach that conclusion. The only reason that I couldn't rate this one any higher was because of a personal hang-up: I couldn't really connect on a personal level with any of the characters. Still, this was an entertaining and quick read, and I did end up enjoying it overall!

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller | Publisher: Harper Teen | Publication Date: May 13, 2014 | Source:  e-book borrowed from the library

It's been some time since I last read a Gayle Forman novel, so to tell you all that I was highly anticipating reading I Have Lost My Way is not enough to convey the level of my expectations going into this one. It reminds me plenty of Forman's previous work, as it tackles characters who are dealing with some complicated personal situations and are forced to take the next step (or steps) towards figuring out what to do in response or as a result. The entire novel is told through the points of view (and flashbacks) of three characters: Freya (a singer whose career was poised to take off until she lost her voice), Harun (a boy planning to run away from his family's future plans for him) and Nathaniel (a newcomer to New York who is desperately trying to find an escape). It's woven together in a way that seems a bit rough at the start, but it melds into something that was impossible for me to look away from by the end. I love the way that Forman portrays these different characters going through loss and loneliness (in a variety of ways), and I also really like the way that you slowly get to find out what's going on in each of their lives. But what I enjoyed most of all is the way that this story portrays the way that life can sometimes work in coincidences, or having things happen at the right place and time to change the course of your life forever. While there were certainly moments where I had to suspend my own disbelief, it is, all in all, a really solid story for Forman, and I'm looking forward to whatever she does next.

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: March 27, 2018 | Source: Hardcover received from the publisher (Thanks!)

It's been a couple of years since I read Wait for You, but I think having such a long gap between reading it and Trust in Me worked out really well. Trust in Me, after all, is a novella that explores Cam's perspective of the events in Wait for You, so if I'd read it back-to-back, I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it as much. I liked it a lot though, mostly because I'd forgotten just how much I liked Cam and Avery as individual characters and the relationship they develop over the course of the story. Their banter made me laugh, their friendship warmed my heart and the inevitable romance caused quite a few moments of swooning. All in all, despite the fact that I don't think I'd have enjoyed reading this as a stand-alone, I loved it for the way it reminded me of my feels about the original and because it offered more insight into Cam's character (and I really like him!). All in all, it was nice to slip back into another JLA story... and now I want to officially keep going with this series.

Trust in Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Series: Wait for You #1.5 | Previous Book in the Series: Wait for You | Publisher: William Morrow Impulse | Publication Date: October 22, 2013 | Source: Owned the Kindle book


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