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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.