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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Sookie Stackhouse is a mindreader who is relieved when a vampire finally comes to her small town and she finds she can't hear his thoughts. When she begins to develop a relationship with him, dangerous things start happening around her and she must decide whether her life is worth being with a dead man.
Review: I really didn't want to like this book simply because everyone loves the series and I'm about at the end of vampire obsession. And even though it follows the TV series almost exactly, or the reverse I guess, I still found myself enjoying the book. The characterization and personalities aren't extremely captivating and I didn't feel the emotions of the narrator the way I would have liked, but one thing is for sure, the um... intimate scenes... are pretty breathtaking. This book is definitely not a YA in my mind but fun to read especially if you're feeling a little naughty. I will probably read more of the series but I don't feel like I have to run out and get them now.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Bruiser - Neil Shusterman

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Tennyson and Bronte are brother and sister living the normal teenager lifestyle. When Bronte starts dating Bruiser, the boy nominated "most likely to receive the death penalty" by his classmates, they quickly learn that people aren't always as they seem.
Review: I read this because I loved Unwind by Shusterman and this also got good reviews. In my opinion, this wasn't nearly the caliber of Unwind but it was still enjoyable. Shusterman is very talented and I enjoyed his style of writing, especially because he gives each character a very defined personality and when you read their chapters, you relate to each individually. I feel like I've heard this story before those, and the plot was relatively expected. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to others interested in the YA style of books.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Rating: 5/5
Summary: In a futuristic world, Ender is a child that has been born for his potential. When he is sent off to school to learn how to command a ship and battle aliens he finds his journey a little different than that of the other children and much more difficult than he ever imagined.
Review: Read this now! The cover of this book is awful and even the summary did not really seem appealing to me. However, this style of writing, the incredible plot twists and adventures and the creative characterization really make this book a must read. Its not hard to suspend disbelief in the beginning of the book (when you meet Ender and realize a 6-year-old is thinking much more intelligently than normal) if you just remind yourself that this is the future and this is specifically what he was born for. The ending is absolutely satisfying, especially since there is a series that follows this if you're so inclined to read more, but you don't feel you have to either. I highly recommend you pick this up and read it, or listen to the audio for more of the intended attitudes of the characters. You won't regret it!

Buy it here: Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Need chocolate NOW!!!

I was craving chocolate and cookies, so I found this easy recipe and made these, except I used semisweet mini chocolate chips instead of white chocolate chips. DELICIOUS! And it made way more than 27 cookies. Just thought I'd share:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Mark of the Golden Dragon - L.A. Meyer

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Jacky does it again! Somehow she manages to get stuck in a sticky situation (this time on another deserted beach,) leaving her friends thinking she's dead and her love Jamie gone mad with nothing but revenge on his mind. When Jacky finds out about Jamie's plan she must hurry back to England to save him from  a terrible fate with the noose.
Review: I have to love this adventure just as much as the others. As Jacky gets older, she gets smarter making her plans and adventures much more cunning. Along with age also comes handsome men and the return of one of my favorite of her pursuers. Again, L.A. Meyer kept me absolutely captivated throughout this story and depressed when the book was over. Definitely a must read, but more so a must listen if you're really looking for great storytelling. Katherine Kellgren is one of the best narrators ever. I would even put her above Jim Dale (Harry Potter's narrator!)

Buy it here!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Venison potato quiche

Not only do I have ground venison sitting in my freezer and I have no idea what to do with it, but I've been craving quiche lately but don't feel like going out shopping for it. So I decided to make quiche with the ingredients I had in my fridge and the venison. But I had no pie crust, so I decided to use potatoes as my crust! I always make things in 2 so I can freeze them, so here's my recipe for 2 venison quiches.

I sliced 2 idaho potatoes thin with my mandolin and fanned them out in a greased pie pan. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper. I precooked this "crust" for about 10 minutes on 400 degrees and pulled it out to cool.

Then I poured in these ingredients as the filling:
9 eggs mixed with a splash of milk
1 lb. cooked ground vension (cooked with sage, garlic and thyme)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes (all I had were grape so I sliced them)
3/4 cup crumbled white cheddar cheese (again, all I had, feel free to use regular cheddar)
season with thyme and basil
sprinkle a little romano/parmesan cheese on top

Then I baked it at 350 degrees until egg was no longer jiggly (about 45 minutes.) Cut and serve with a little more parmesan, delicious!

This ended up being a great way to use ground venison, but next time around I will probably add a little bacon (cause its awesome in everything) and more tomatoes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giveaway winner....

The giveaway winner is CatCMiller! Thanks for following my blog and your book will be in the mail this week!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neil Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book, for FREE!!!!

This is one of my very favorite books, and the incredible author has decided to read it online for free. So not only do you get a great story for free, but in audio format by the author, which happens to be my favorite way to hear a story! Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wordy Mama's First Giveaway!!!

Hello everyone!
In celebration of the upcoming holidays I'm throwing my first giveaway! I'll send one hardcover copy of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier to the winner and it would make a great Christmas gift if you don't want to keep it yourself! My review is here.

All you have to do to enter is post a comment below with the title of a book I reviewed that you read and if you enjoyed it, OR post a link to my blog on Facebook and comment below "FB." The deadline is Dec. 9th and the winner will be selected at random. Good luck!

Thanks everyone and have a great week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: Graceling - Kristin Cashore

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Katsa is a "Graceling," a person born with a special talent, and she has an extraordinary ability to kill and hurt people. When she embarks on a mission to rescue a kidnapped royal, she meets Po, another "Graceling" who begins to teach her about things she didn't even know she was missing.
Review: This book is another that got great reviews and failed to impress me. The plot was incredibly slow and the action/fighting was slightly unbelievable to me. I didn't feel submersed in the story or intrigued by the characters at all, and all the medieval verbiage bored me.  The climax wasn't even impressive and I was left pretty disappointed with how the heroine ended up. I actually think I may delete Fire, which is another in this series, from my iPod and not waste my time with another monotone book.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

Rating: 3/5
Summary: When Clary Fray witnesses a murder at a local club, she gets a glimpse of a world of demons and magic. After her mother is kidnapped by these evil forces she finds herself thrown into this world head first. Jace, a demon-hunter, becomes her fixation in this unusual world while she slowly discovers her own hidden talents.
Review: Um... this was a good book, but not a must read. I have no desire to read any more in the series. While the characters were a little flat, the story was unique and the adventures were interesting enough to keep me turning pages. I didn't find the relationships believable however, and I find this a forgettable book. I might have found it more captivating if I hadn't read Hunger Games and Twilight and had such a high bar set for this type of supernatural novel. Sorry Ms. Clare.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Currently reading... and upcoming

FYI, I am currently reading Graceling, and will be reading Fire, and Ender's Game in the near future. I am still a little bored by Graceling so far, but I'm only 1/3 of the way through, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Its another medieval themed book though, and its driving me a little nuts....

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Incarceron - Catherine Fisher

Rating: 4/5
Summary: In a prison thats seems to be a world of its own, in size and society, people are born and created with "recycled" metal parts. Finn can't remember his childhood but believes he is from the outside and sets off on an adventure to find his way out. On the outside, Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron and is plagued by the mysteries her father hides from her of her life and the of the prison itself.
Review: I'm still a little on the fence about this book. Once I got into it I enjoyed the plot and characters, but the language and world felt so unusual I was uncomfortable reading for awhile. To explain it better, I'm convinced the author played Dungeons and Dragons (or something of the sort) a lot as a child and her brain was wired for that type of fantasy. Whereas, my brain is not quite so far removed from the current reality, and while I love fantasy and fiction, I had a very difficult time grasping all the terms and environmental details. It was incredibly well developed and fun to follow once I understood the concept. I wouldn't say this is a must read but it was an interesting book, and I'd definitely recommend it to those people who would enjoy a blend of science and historical fantasy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Charlie Asher loses his wife during childbirth and somehow gains the ability to see the souls of the dead in the objects he sells in his 2nd hand store. He begins collecting them to save them from the dark forces of the underworld and ends up confronting these dark forces through an emotional adventure of his own.
Review: Meh. I wasn't as impressed with this book as the online reviews make it sound. It was slightly anti-climatic and depressing. I didn't really associate with the characters and while the plot was certainly unique, it wasn't particularly interesting. More of an adult book than a YA, I still wouldn't really recommend this to anyone looking for a good read. I had a difficult time even remembering the story, which tells me it just wasn't good enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

White Chocolate Bread... hmmm.

I had this bag of white chocolate chips in my pantry and my mother's Kitchenaid Mixer screaming at me from the countertop, so I decided to make something that sounded tasty. I followed this recipe:
Except I don't have a breadmaker and didn't have bread flour so I used the mixer and all-purpose flour. I stuck all the ingredients plus 3 extra tablespoons of flour and the chips in the mixer on low for 15 minutes. Then I used the dough hook and mixed it on medium for another 7 minutes. Then I added another 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips, mixed it with a hand spatula and let it rise for an hour. I punched it down (but it hadn't risen much and was very sticky) and stuck it in my greased, glass, bread pan. Then I let it rise while the oven preheated to 375, and cooked it for 45 minutes. It ended up being delicious, but took a long time to cook because I put too much dough in one pan. My advice would be to split the batter into 2 bread pans or cut the recipe in half. Otherwise, it was deliciously sweet and a perfect, moist breakfast or dessert bread! Even my husband loved it and took some to work, which he never does with anything I bake except cookies.

(If I had a picture I'd post, but I ended up cutting in to it to taste as soon as it came out of the oven. I was too excited!)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: American Gods - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Shadow, newly released from prison, is thrown into a world of new and old gods after taking a much needed job with one. The new gods of technology and the old gods of mythology are at war and at the climax of the book, Shadow confronts the gods in attempt to stop the huge destructive battle between them.
Review: This is an excellent book. Gaiman again blows your mind with character development and fantastical worlds. The plot is incredibly imaginative and enthralling. This is not a YA book however. I would certainly not let even a teenager read this book due to some sexually explicit scenes that in my opinion make this book perfect for the twenty-somethings and up who love a good fantasy. Anyway, I don't want to spoil much because this is a definite must read, but the story is so intricately detailed you won't want to put it down. Again, you've just got to love Neil Gaiman and his imagination!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Italian Cornetto attempt #2 - halfway there?

Alright, so this time I kept it simple. I bought frozen puff pastry dough from the grocery store, defrosted it, unrolled it, cut the 2 pieces in to 8 triangles, put a small handful of chocolate chips inside and rolled them up, forming them into crescents as I put them on the baking tray lined with parchment. Then I egg-washed them and I baked them at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then ended up baking them for another 4 minutes (they were raw inside still.) To be honest, they were still a little raw inside (normally I like things doughy but not when I'm trying to match the cornettos.) What I ended up with was delicious, but not close to the Italian Cornettos. We were closer in texture, but the real ones are crispier and lighter. The flavor was almost there, but the Italian version is sweeter (maybe drizzle honey on top?) I'm just not sure how to make a puff pastry crispier and lighter. I think maybe I will try the puff pastry again and roll it out as thin as possible and not wrap the crescents as tightly next time. Or maybe I will try to find a puff pastry recipe to make myself? Not sure... Give me the weekend to think about it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Authentic cornetto recipe, FAIL

Last year my husband and I took a trip to Rome, Italy. One of my favorite memories is waking up in our hotel over the square, walking down to the little cafe on the corner and having a fresh cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant) with tiny cups of espresso at a table overlooking the fountain. I've not yet found a recipe or restaurant to match, or even come close, to that of the Italian cornetto. The outside was crispy and flaky and the inside was light and fluffy, often filled with chocolate, marmalade or cinnamon. So I decided to attempt making them myself. I "Googled" and found this recipe from an Italian who claimed to travel there all the time. This proved to be rather difficult and ultimately not worth my time or effort.

3 cups flour (can use whole wheat flour  for a whole wheat version)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp honey
4 tblsps sunflower seed oil
1 cake yeast or 1 packet powdered yeast
1 cup tepid milk
3 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp real vanilla

Brush on topping:
2 egg yolks
2 tsps sugar
pinch of milk

Melt yeast in tepid ( warm not hot) milk. Place flour in center of large bowl or wooden board, make a well, place in center the dissolved yeast/milk mixture, and all ingredients. Mix for approximately 20 minutes till you have a smooth dough, then cover dough and let rise in a warm (not hot place) for approximately one hour.
Cut the dough into triangles and place a spoonful of honey or marmalade in the center. an easy way to do this would be to first form dough into a circle by using a large plate to cut a large circle of dough,.The cut circle into triangles, place a spoonful of marmalade or honey on center and let triangles rise this way for approximately 40 minutes.
To top cornetti before baking:
In a bowl., mix another 2 egg yolks, 2 tsps of sugar and a drop of milk.
roll up the triangles into the shape of a cornetti. Place parchment paper on baking sheet, place cornetti on top, brush this mixture on top of each cornetti and bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden.

Boo. The cornetto ended up being like sweet crescent shaped rolls with a nugget of Nutella inside (what I chose to stuff them with.) They were more bread-like than pastry and utterly disappointing. Still tasty, but not at all what I was hoping for.
I've decided to try buying pre-made puff pastry and winging it. I will try that either today or tomorrow, depending on my daughter's mood.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Unwind - Neal Shusterman

Rating: 5/5
Summary: In a future America, the fight over pro-life vs. pro-choice has lead to "Unwinding," a way of aborting a child after the age of thirteen. Connor is an Unwind who refuses to have his life ended, although society says you don't really die, and he runs away. The story follows his escape and adventures and tackles issues like abortion, kamikaze teenagers, and unwanted babies.
Review: Go read this book, now! While classified as a YA book, I certainly wouldn't allow my preteen to read it. This is a very dark story and as a mother, left me a few restless nights when I first started reading. However, the plot has its lifts of happiness that help combat the serious issues it deals with. The internal moral wars that take place in each of the characters add a completely believable depth to their personalities and you get to witness several unfortunate teenagers grow into adults much more socially responsible than most adults I know. Warning, this is not a cheery book that leaves you with butterflies and rainbows, but it is very much worth the read and will prove to be a book you have trouble putting down.

Buy It Here: Unwind

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wordy Mama's Author Awards (my favorites and why)

Stephanie Meyer - Even if you don't love her books, you've still got to love Stephanie for one reason. She can emulate a teenage romance better than any writer I know. The first time I read Twilight, I was so enamoured I felt in a daze for weeks. The silly passions we have as teenagers are so intense and she put those crazy hormonal emotions into words. I felt like I was sixteen again absolutely believing the person I was dating was my soulmate and when we'd broke up, I'd cry for days so hard I'd throw up. Bella's complete entrancement with Edward is just that, except for them it just happens to work out. She does the same in The Host with an undeniable love that never falters. Although her male characters are slightly unrealistic (no man is that sensitive, romantic, thoughtful or protective) its absolutely what we imagine our Prince Charmings will be when we finally meet them. I bestow Stephanie with the "Teenage Fantasy" Award.

Neil Gaiman - Neil is one of the best fantasy writers I've ever followed. He has an incredible way of creating a completely believable fictional world. He's so successful at it that after reading Neverwhere I actually developed a passion to head to London, even if it is just to taste the air that inspired him to write it. Neil's The Graveyard Book makes me wish I believed in ghosts and that I lived near a graveyard so I could go searching for lost little children and buried treasure. He never lacks for details and his fantastical worlds are so captivating you can't help but want to get lost in them over and over again. I present Gaiman with the "Make-Believe I Was There" Award.

L.A. Meyer - Louis wrote (is writing) my favorite series of all time, the Bloody Jack books. A big part of what makes me love them so much is the heroine, Jacky Faber, who is always getting herself into trouble and then back out of it, typically with the help of friends. You can't help but fall in love with her adventures and secretly wish you lived that life, even if its full of lots of trouble and drama. Not only does Jacky have many adventures filled with adversaries and friends, but she also has a ton of male pursuers, which makes for just the right amount of lust and love in the series. Louis is so great at creating a loveable heroine that you envy even her faults. This is why I gift L.A. Meyer with the "Most Enviable Heroine" Award.

Suzanne Collins - While Suzanne doesn't have a huge base of books for me to make my opinions on, the Hunger Games trilogy is definitely quite awesome enough to mention. Her series sticks in my brain primarily because of the unique action scenes and drama. If Katniss's "fighter" attitude isn't enough to ensnare you, then the arena should be. The tricks, dangers and just plain awful circumstances that the contestants get stuck with are so captivating that you can't put the books down. And they don't end in the arena! Poor Katniss and the other characters are constantly plagued by appropriately believable trouble and this is what absolutely drives the readers to stay up late hours of the night reading "just one more chapter." I grant Suzanne with the "Fight 'Til the Last Page" Award.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reminder for a great must read....

I really can't stress enough the amazing-ness of the Bloody Jack books, especially in audio format. It truly is my favorite series, even above Harry Potter and Twilight (if you'll believe that!) If you're trying to find a great Christmas present for someone in your family who works on their computer for long hours, cleans often (I listen while I clean to make it go faster,) drives a lot of miles, or just likes listening to their iPod, definitely pick the first few up for them. I promise they will thank you later.
And seriously, audio is the only way if you can. Katherine Kellgren is one of the few women I'd LOVE to meet and take acting lessons from. She sings and reads in like 10 different absolutely believable accents and languages in both male and female.
Here are the links to the audio CDs if you don't use

Review: Dream Girl - Lauren Mechling

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Claire has dreams that lead her to discover things about people and her future. When she makes a new friend at a new school, she must figure out how to harness her gift to save her friend's family from a terrible fate.
Review: While the characters were fantastic and the concept was very interesting, the book was a little slow in plot. I definitely envied Claire's life and the people in it and I give props to the author for creating the first realistic boy character I've read in a long while. The story would have been more interesting though if there was a bit more action and drama in my opinion. Thinking back on it, and I just finished the book, there's no particular part that stood out to me. A fun read, but not worth wasting money on.

Review: The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Liesel is a foster child who steals books when she discovers her love for reading. Set in Germany during WWII, she uses reading as her escape in the bomb shelter and when she struggles with friendship and family. When her family decides to hide a Jewish man in their basement Liesel learns a new lesson about life and love.
Review: I expected this to be a depressing book, but it surprised me. I loved that it was told from the viewpoint of Death personified but unfortunately it hints to the ending. A well-paced plot and excellent character development truly makes this a great read. You can't help fall in love with Liesel and her family. Definitely a good one to purchase for your shelves or as a great Christmas (or Hanukkah) present!

Buy It Here: The Book Thief

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Green - Jay Lake

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Green is only a child when she's sold to be a courtesan but she makes the right friends and begins to be secretly trained as an assassin. Tossed between learning her own strengths and serving those whom she loves, Green finds herself in a war of gods and humanity.
Review: What an interesting concept. This book was definitely unique and full of sexuality, drama, blood, action and a little bit of love. It was fun to read in anticipation of "what could possibly happen next" but the plot was slow in spots and the story dragged. I loved the main character, Green, but the others were slightly unbelievable or under-defined for my taste. Besides for a lot of great imagery, this book fell a little flat by not really being a page-turner. Definitely more of an adult YA book though. Not for young readers.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bagel Recipe, SUCCESS!

So I attempted this recipe from yesterday and it turned out fantastic. It made 12, and only one was left by 5:00 PM! I made 2 plain, 2 salt, 4 with sesame seeds, and 4 cinnamon and sugar. I do not have a countertop mixer, so I did it all with the hand mixer and hand kneading, which wasn't as bad as it sounds. Just make sure you let it rise for a full 45 minutes at least the first time.
So easy and so good! Yum!
Bagels I

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1.Mix together the unsifted flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, yeast, water, and butter in the bread machine on the manual setting.
2.OR, mix 1-1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and yeast. Heat water and butter to 120-130 degrees F. Add water to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed on mixer. Add 1/2 cup flour, beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in more flour to make a stiff dough. Knead 8-10 minutes. Cover and let rise. Punch down. Cover; let rest 15 minutes.
3.Remove from bread machine.
4.Divide dough into 12 pieces; shape 3 pieces into smooth balls. Poke a 1 inch hole in each. Drop bagels into a large skillet with 1 inch water (simmering) with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons salt in the water. Cook on medium low heat for 3 minutes, turn and cook 2 minutes; turn again, cook 1 minute more. Drain on towels. Repeat for rest of dough. Place on greased cookie sheet.
5.Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool. If desired, before baking, mix 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water, brush on bagels, and sprinkle with sesame, poppy, or caraway seeds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's up now!?

So my reviews are starting to slow down, if you haven't noticed, but don't worry! I will have at least 1-2 new reviews a week. I promise. I have a large cash of books I've already read and am currently reading Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling (so far its pretty good.) In the cue for future reviews (of books I haven't read yet): Graceling, Incarceron, Ender's Game, and Unwind, along with many others!
Also, I going to attempt making homemade bagels today! This of course will only happen if my daughter will allow me to work in the kitchen for more than 3 minutes. So please keep checking in, or better yet, subscribe to my blog with emails (in the right column) whenever I post. I promise you won't be barraged with anything I don't write.
Thanks again for sticking with me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Scarlett and Rosie March are werewolf, or rather Fenris, hunters. As young children, their grandmother was killed by a Fenris and the teenage girls have since trained and become fearsome hunters, vowing to save as many lives as possible. Things get tricky when the new moon phase brings about a huge wave of murders and the girls take on their largest challenge yet.
Review: I just picked this book off the library shelf because I loved the cover and I'm so glad I did. I love that this is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, but so completely different you can't compare the two stories. The characters are uniquely wonderful and captivating and the plot was very well paced and dotted with a satisfying amount if drama, plenty of action, and the perfect dose of romance. The only thing that would have made this book a full 5/5 for me was a little more sexual tension a la Twilight. Other than that, this was a great read for YA fans and heroine enthusiasts.

Buy It Here:  Sisters Red

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: The Magicians - Lev Grossman

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Quentin is admitted to the school magic, Brakebills Academy, making friends as he learns about something he never knew existed. When his friends and he discover that the magical world they read about as children, Fillory (think Narnia,) is real they head into a complete whirlwind of trouble, adventure and love.
Review: This is sort of a mature Harry Potter story. The characters are teenagers that get into trouble, fall in love, do bad things, and get mean. I like that the characters have realistic flaws and believable personalities, but for some reason this book just didn't do much for me. The story has such great potential and reading the reviews and summary made me get excited to open it, but it just didn't live up to the hype. Maybe I'm spoiled from the Harry Potter series and the new world of magic it created, but this book's style of mixing reality with magic was just disappointing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Peter and the Starcatchers (series) - Barry and Pearson

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Peter (as in Peter Pan) meets young Molly in his adventures. Molly's family has long been protecting "star stuff," the magical substance that allows all sorts of unimaginable things to happen, including flight (think "happy thoughts.") When others find out the power of "star stuff," Molly's family risks letting it fall into the wrong hands and must use Peter's help to save the world. The series of books chronicles Peter's other adventures and the trouble he gets in and out of.
Review: While definitely a fun little read, this book is certainly intended for a very young audience. Filled with lots of action and adventure, the plot is a backstory for Peter Pan and explains details of the popular story like Tinkerbell's magic, the lost boys history and much more. The characters and adventures are fun, but again this is meant for a young group of readers so it would be a nice series to share with your children.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Carter and Sadie are siblings who have grown up separately due to the passing of their mother and the work of their father, Dr. Kane, as a traveling Egyptologist. When Dr. Kane goes missing, Carter and Sadie join together to find out the mysteries of their past and to help save their father.
Review: I initially read this book because my grandmother is part Egyptian and I have a secret obsession (I guess not so secret) with my heritage. I enjoyed this story as a fun adventure full of history, mythology and a lot of fantasy. The characters were well developed and believable and the plot was quick and always kept me on my toes. I listened to the audiobook which was a great experience since its read by both a male and female narrator in the voices of the children. This is definitely intended for a younger audience though, as the main characters are 12 and 14. While this book is part of a series, The Kane Chronicles, I don't think I will be reading any further simply because it did feel a bit young and I personally like a little more PG-13 action.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Wings - Aprilynne Pike

Rating: 2/5
Summary: At 15, Laurel gets sent to public school after being home-schooled all her life. She quickly finds out, as a wing-like blossom appears on her back, that she's not like other teenage girls. With the help of her scientific friend and a mysterious person she meets in the woods, she soon finds out she is a faerie and then proceeds to discover more secrets about her history and future.
Review: While definitely a new creative idea, this book fell a little flat for me as a mid-twenties mom. I would say this a great book for a preteen or young teenager, but for an older reader the story is very tame and slow. I also found it really hard to imagine this growth that shows up on Laurel's back. I felt the book lacked depth and believable interactions between the characters and in general would be a waste of a read for an older adult.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Poor Little Bitch Girl - Jackie Collins

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Basically, this book follows the drama of a few young women including pregnancy, murder, prostitution, friendship, kidnapping and sex. Obviously NOT a YA book, its sort of like a soap opera on paper.
Review: Eh, not really what I expected. I enjoyed how all the stories intertwined and the girls knew each other from one story to another but each had their own drama and plot to follow. The characters were well developed and it was easy to associate with them since they were all around my age, but the variation in lifestyles certainly made it interesting to read. However, I like books with a big climax and with more peaks of interest, and I felt like this was almost a bit monotone throughout. There was nothing that made me stay up late wanting to read it. I think if you are the type of person that reads romance novels, you might appreciate this book a little more than I did.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Tristran Thorne promises his love a fallen star and must leave his rural English home to get it. On his trip through the magical world outside his safe town he meets witches, goblins and other magical creatures including a girl that turns out to to flip his life completely upside down.
Review: This is definitely a fun book. A perfect example of a modern fairy tale in which true love leads the hero to learn more about himself than he ever expected. Like all of Gaiman's stories, the character development is excellent and deep and you absolutely feel absorbed in to the mind of the main character. The plot is well paced and packed full of interesting events and action. I warn you though, this book has many differences from the movie if you've already watched it. If you haven't, don't yet! The book is much more mature and detailed while the movie feels like it was made for a much younger audience. Maybe buy the movie for your little sister and read the book yourself, because there are definitely some explicit scenes in the book you don't want your little sister reading....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Going Bovine - Libba Bray

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Cameron is a teenage boy who gets diagnosed with "Mad Cow Disease" and ends up on the adventure of a lifetime (quite literally) trying to chase down the one man that can cure him. Along the way he makes friends with an angel, a dwarf and a yard gnome who aid him on his quest.
Review: I really enjoyed this one by Libba Bray. She constantly amazes me with her variation in characters and plots and this one is no different. So completely unlike her others, this book takes place in the present with a male narrator and is 100% believable. The book has several great climax points with a storyline that moves quickly without flitting over details. The ending is surprising and expected at the same time, and leaves you satisfied. I loved this book but in a much more mature fashion than the ways I loved Twilight. Definitely a good read for adults more so than teenagers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Shipbreaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

Rating: 3/5
Summary: In this futuristic novel Nailer is a ship breaker (aka a scavenger that strips old tankers and ships of copper and other usable resources) that stumbles across a yacht with a dying girl. She claims to be the rich daughter of an important leader in society and is being hunted by her uncle. Nailer takes it upon himself to help her in an effort to make a better life for himself.
Review: This was definitely an interesting book and new imagery for the trend of futuristic novels that we've been seeing a lot lately. I enjoyed the story but the plot was very slow and the climaxes weren't as intense as I would have liked. The characters, good and bad, were unique and very fun to follow. I was a little disappointed with the ending though, as it felt rushed and incomplete.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Jacob drops out of college just before graduating and joins the circus when tragedy disrupts his planned future. This book follows him as he learns the ropes of working in a circus, makes some interesting friends, and falls in love.
Review: You've probably already heard, but this is a "must read." Told from the interesting perspective of Jacob as an elderly man in a nursing home reminiscing on his youth, this story captivates your imagination immediately. Gruen seems to give her characters real life and feelings that you can feel in their dialogue and thoughts. The story is threaded with love, action and thrills all at the right time and amount. While definitely not a YA book, this is still a wonderful read, especially because you can imagine Robert Pattinson as Jacob thanks to the movie (if thats your thing.)

Review: Beastly - Alex Flinn

Rating: 2/5
Summary: The book is a modernized version of the old Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. A popular, good-looking teenager, Kyle is rude to a witch and gets turned in to a beast. He then has a short period of time to make someone love him or he's stuck as a beast forever.
Review: Honestly, I watched the movie first and was utterly disappointed in the book. At least the movie gave it a slightly more realistic and believable (however believable this can be) set of details. The book is too close to the Disney film to appeal to me, but the teenagers of today didn't really grow up with the Disney film like my generation did so it may be more intriguing to that audience. A lot of dialogue isn't really believable and the climaxes fell a little flat. This is one case where I would suggest watching the movie and passing up the book.

Braided Egg Bread... win!

So I've been wanting to make bread, don't know why, for awhile now and never purchased yeast so it wasn't really an option (except for banana bread.) Yesterday I stopped and FINALLY picked up some yeast and decided to try the following recipe. It ended up being delicious and beautiful!!! (Stolen from and halved because the original recipe was for 60 servings!)

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-1/2 eggs
  • 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 egg
  • sesame seeds
    1. Proof yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Combine hot milk, sugar, butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Cool to 110 degrees.
    3. In small bowl, slightly beat 5 eggs, then add to cooled milk mixture. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture. Add 2 cups flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough. Knead on a floured board for 10 minutes (5 minutes with a bread hook). Place in a large glass or plastic bowl lightly greased. Turn dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, dark place until doubled in volume, approximately 60 minutes.
    4. Punch down, cover, and let rise again until double, approximately 30 minutes.
    5. Punch again, and form into three parts. Form each part into a 20-inch roll. Braid rolls on a large, greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled.
    6. Lightly beat remaining egg and brush loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for about 55 minutes until nicely browned. May be made into two regular sized loaves. Reduce baking time slightly.

    It was pretty easy, and I didn't knead it as long as required since I don't have a stand mixer and my baby girl screamed every time I turned on the hand mixer. I will probably add just a little more sugar next time. Here's a photo of how it turned out, after we tried the end of course:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Violet can sense dead bodies, whether they be animal or human. When a serial killer is offing teenage girls in her town she becomes determined to help her father, a member of the local police station, to find and capture the killer. In the midst of all this, she falls in love with her best friend Jay, who is the only of her friends that knows her secret.
Review: While the characters seemed a little underdeveloped, the story was unique and created great imagery. I enjoyed reading this book and quickly got through the pages because I wanted to see what happened next. I didn't relate to any of the personalities, which kept me a little removed from the story, but the twists in the plot carried me through to the end. Overall, an interesting read but nothing to scramble to the library for either.

Review: Girl, 15, Charming but Insane - Sue Limb

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Jess is a typical girl in high school with an eccentric imagination and an interesting family dynamic. She goes through the typical high school dramas of parties, romance and humiliating moments and handles the situations with her own personal flair.
Review: The plot was well paced and this was a funny little book to read. I don't think it was intended for adults, but I found it silly and enjoyable anyway. Jess reminds me of myself in some ways but of my high school friends in others. I praise the author for her incredibly accurate portrayal of a teenager and all her glorious immaturity. There wasn't a huge climax and the ending was written to make you want to read the sequels, but I don't think I will. Not that this was a bad book, it just wasn't great enough for me to be hooked. I would highly recommend this to a 15 or 16-year-old girl though, so if you've got one of those in your life, it would make a great gift!

Meatloaf attempt... fail.

So as a pregnant woman (or a woman in general,) I want what I want when I want it. I've been craving meatloaf, which is not something I eat ever, and I decided to attempt making it last night. I did what I usually do and read a few recipes, then winged it, and it didn't turn out great. I want you to learn from my mistakes PLEASE! This is what I did:

Combined these in a bowl:
1 egg (used egg-beaters substitute)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup panko crumbs (I didn't have breadcrumbs)

Added to the bowl:
1/4 cup of sauteed chopped apples
1/2 cup of sauteed chopped onions
3/4 cup of crushed drained tomatoes
2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 lb. of ground beef

Then I mixed everything together well and stuck it in a greased bread loaf pan.
I mixed 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes (I had reserved earlier) with 1 tablespoon of sun dried tomato paste and spread that on top.

I then cooked the loaf in a preheated oven at 350 for about an hour (until the inside temp of the loaf was 160) and occasionally drained the liquid from the load with a turkey baster.

To be honest, it kind of fell apart and didn't have enough flavor for my taste. I think I did too many panko crumbs, and I should have used italian breadcrumbs anyway for the texture and flavor. Also, I would have added a little more seasoning by way of basil and garlic (my favorites) and salt. Maybe a little more egg would have held it together better and a little more meat (1/4-1/2 cup) would have given it a better texture. Other than all that I think it probably would have turned out okay. Anyway, don't make the mistakes I did and compensate panko/breadcrumbs for a lack of meat. Its not really meatloaf then... its mushy breadmeat crumble. Good luck in your endeavors, and if you have a great fail-proof meatloaf recipe you'd like to share please post below in the comments!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Wake - Lisa McMann

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Janie can see peoples dreams, from the sexy to the funny to the disturbing. She begins dating a classmate, who also happens to be the only person she tells about her secret power, she sees that his dreams are frightening and reveal more than she wants to know about him. Her dream-watching ability eventually leads her to aid the police and save her friends.
Review: I only read this a few months ago and I barely remember it. Thats how "blah" this book is in my opinion. The plot was relatively uneventful, the characters rather flat, and the conflict was insubstantial. Definitely for a young audience. I was unimpressed with this book and I won't be reading the sequels, even if there is a rumor that there will be movies. Maybe they'll be better than the books....

Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Rating: 5/5
Summary: This book is actually a memoir by Bill Bryson, another of my favorite authors. He grew up in America, moved to England and lived there for awhile, then moved back home. This book is the recounting of his life in both countries and family adventures.
Review: I love Bill's British humor and wit in this book. Reading this made me love America and want to visit England all at the same time. He's got a great talent of leading the reader through what would normally be mundane details (A Short History of Nearly Everything is a perfect example of this) and rocking your socks off. He somehow makes everything easy to read and hysterical at the same time. This is one of those books you laugh out loud to and purchase for your parents/siblings/best friends as a gift. You really can't go wrong reading any of Bryson's books, but this one is definitely my favorite.

Buy It Here: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4/5
Summary: A family is murdered but the toddler somehow escapes by crawling into a graveyard. There he finds that he is protected and raised by the ghosts that only he can see. The story follows Nobody Owens, the toddler, who grows up in the Graveyard meeting all sorts of magical creatures including a live girl who makes him branch out of the Graveyard for a whole new adventure.
Review: I know it sounds like a crazy plot, but its really a fantastic book. I would say the intended audience is younger than others' of Gaiman's, but this was still a very enjoyable read. The character depth is fantastic, the conflict and action peaks several times throughout the story, and the hero of the story must battle his inner demons as he fights the magical ones making this an overall very quick and fun read. I'd definitely recommend reading this and you don't even have to feel guilty about it taking much time because you'll fly right through the pages.

Review: Beautiful Creatures - Garcia and Stohl

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Guy meets girl. Girl turns out to be from a magical family and has all sorts of secrets. They fall in love and are told it won't work but stick together anyway.
Review: A decent book, but not as great as I would have liked. The intended audience felt very young, as in preteens. The concept was great and the characters were interesting but not very developed. I was disappointed by the flow of the plot also. The story felt slow and without an impacting climax. I give the authors credit in that if they were aiming for a young audience alone, I'm sure the middle-schoolers will love it. Unlike most YA books I've read however, this one did not appeal to a mid-twenties mom who likes to read about magic and fantasy. Maybe hand this one over to your little sister....

Review: The Shack - William P. Young

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Mack's daughter is abducted and thought to be brutally murdered in a cabin in the Oregon forests. When he receives a letter from God he heads out to the cabin to meet him and get answers and a resolution.
Review: Yuck. I didn't like this at all. I read this book because so many people recommended it and said how fantastic it was. I found the plot slow, the writing amateur and the characters sort of one-dimensional. I also felt like there wasn't much of a climax and Mack's interaction with "God" was not really taken to the depth it could have been. The ending was also disappointing and I just felt that the overall book a bit of a waste of time.

More advice for new moms

My daughter is now 8 months old and is still not an easy baby. She fought bottles up until about a month ago, wakes up 4+ times a night, and can't play with her toys alone for more than 5 minutes, no joke. Despite all this, I still think she is the absolute best little girl on the planet. She's so smart (probably too smart for her own good,) incredibly funny (she always makes me laugh when I'm crying,) and has such attitude for a baby you'd think there was a 4-year-old trapped in her head. Anyway, through the past 8 months, I have picked up a few things on taking care of a tricky baby.
Here they are:

1. Amazon Moms is your best friend. My husband and I have price compared and if you sign up with you not only get free 2 day shipping on almost everything, but you get the absolute lowest diaper prices if you sign up for "Subscribe and Save." I can't tell you how many times that 2 day shipping saved my life when I was in the first few months with a new infant and needed bottles, accessories for my pump, or a toy I heard would help her sleep and couldn't leave the house. Seriously, it costs nothing to sign up, so do it now. (By the way, that 2 day shipping applies to everything on Amazon thats eligible for "Prime Shipping" so its great for last minute birthday/shower/wedding gifts!)

2. Of all the dozens of sleep techniques we've tried the Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse is the only thing that has worked consistently from when she was an infant to now. Its just the right volume and sounds and the glow is just bright enough to distract the baby without waking them up.

3. Get a bouncy seat. Up until about 2 weeks ago I could stick her in it, place her in front of the shower curtain and usually get about a 5-10 minute shower without her freaking out (my daughter is very clingy.) And I used it for when I needed to do basically anything that I had to put her down for but couldn't trust her not to roll off the bed (makeup, getting dressed, wrapping presents, etc.) Just make sure you strap your baby in!

4. Invest in insulated, light-blocking curtains for your baby's room. If you already have curtains, like I did, buy liners and attach them to the backs. Blocking the light helped my little girl sleep much better at nap time and kept some of the cold out during the winter.

5. Mylicon helped with her gas pains for the first few months. But don't waste your money on the name brand. The generic that you can buy at your grocery store is the same product and typically half (if not less) the price.

Hope those few tips help a little! If you have questions, feel free to comment below and I will answer asap.