blog anniversary giveaway

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | | 67 comments
On April 12th, I’ll have been blogging for one year. That’s a year’s worth of silly stories, books and reviews, baking and (even and/or especially) zombies. I started the blog as a challenge to myself to add something ‘good’ to my life after the Lenten season. So my blog was born on Easter Sunday, and I wrote about coffee. I think I meant to make this blog more coffee-centered way back when, but I’ve drifted strongly into book territory. And on that note, I’d like to announce…

My first blog anniversary giveaway!

Two lucky winners will walk away with either a $30 Amazon giftcard or $30 to spend at Book Depository.

[awesome coffee cup artwork found here]

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To enter:

Leave a comment on this post telling me a topic you’d like to see me write about on the blog in the next year. One extra entry granted if your suggestion makes me smile or laugh.

Please include your email address or another method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on April 12 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.

Good luck!

teaser tuesday (33)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | | 26 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“I was still awake when the temple’s bells began to ring out in an unfamiliar pattern, and my mother began to cry loudly, brokenly, from somewhere deep inside her chest.

“Now?” she moaned. “Now?”

-p. 23 of Alexandra Bracken’s Brightly Woven

easy-peasy peanut butter cookies

You all know how much I love to bake cookies. I mean, the evidence is there. And here. And here, etc. But the other night I had a craving for peanut butter cookies and milk, and the only thing to do was to stealth bake (That’s when you didn’t mean to bake, and still aren’t sure you’re going to follow through, but then you find yourself looking up a recipe and mixing dough, and all of a sudden you’ve got a table covered in cookies. Oh wait, that’s just me all the time? Sorry about that…).

This might be the easiest peanut butter cookie recipe of all time. I can’t verify that objectively, but it’s certainly the simplest I’ve seen (in my short life). So take a gander, check out my spin on it, and feel free to make changes, bake, and get a little peanut buttery in your own life. Yay!

Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies EVER

INGREDIENTS

2 cups peanut butter (works best with the generic, processed kind – not the organic, separated stuff)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Mix ingredients until blended. If dough seems too sticky, add extra sugar.

Roll into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten with fork tines, creating a criss-cross pattern.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Best if slightly undercooked (and just a tad chewy). Makes 36 cookies.

sparkling wit and the hipster zombie

The zombie trend is something that cannot be denied. It’s everywhere – in YA books, classic novel mash-ups, films (Zombieland & Shaun of the Dead were perfectly acceptable to this horror wimp, aka yours truly!), and even my new threadless t-shirt (image below belongs to threadless, obviously!).


It was only a matter of time, then, that:


Driving through downtown has made me realize how perfect and terrifying a hipster zombie novel would be.


They're wearing ironic sunglasses and they're coming to eat your braaaaains!!


Thankfully for us, the discoverer of this amazing truth is a writer. And she has fashioned The Zombie Hipster Novel. No, I’m not kidding. Go read it. It’ll take five minutes of your life and leave you laughing, or at least smiling, or if you’re being made fun of, with a suitable sneer. Do it for the children!

cyrus the unsinkable sea serpent

Alyce at At Home with Books is hosting a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.


I think there’s probably no one quite as wonderful at drawing ‘beasties’ as Bill Peet. The man was genius. I first fell in love with his drawings without even knowing who he was. How’s that? You know those little monster sidekicks in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty who get it wrong, and face the wrath of Maleficent? They’re all Bill Peet. I can still hear that one who ignorantly reports that they looked in “all the cradles.”


Yeah, he’s the same man who was a fully credited animator on the majority of films during Walt Disney’s animation heyday, and also the author of over thirty children’s books. One, his autobiography, was Caldecott Honor book in 1990. But what does that mean in real terms? Well…my brothers LOVED Bill Peet. Whereas my sister and I would beg for just one more chapter of a Narnia book, my brothers would beg my mother to reread a Peet classic like Merle the High Flying Squirrel or The Whingdingdilly.


Another favorite was Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, which is as awesome as its title makes it sound. The story is pretty simple – sea serpent wants something cool and different in life, but doesn’t want to take part in the usual sea serpent-y activities, like terrorizing ships and ruling the seas. So he becomes involved with the fate of one particular boat, and many adventures and calamities ensue.



Cyrus is basically a picture book, so I can’t say much else without spoiling it. But know that the illustrations are charming, entertaining and silly/fun. The story is quirky and unexpected and perfect. I’d recommend this book for any kid, big kid, or kid at heart. And per my family’s experience: great for energetic young ones who have a hard time sitting still. Meet and love Bill Peet and Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent!

mister monday

I’m mildly irritated whenever someone starts off a review by comparing a series to another, already wildly popular, series. So I’m not going to do it. (However, if you see some obvious parallels, feel free to run riot in the comments. Or…yeah. Run calmly in the comments. Whatever suits your fancy.) That said, Garth Nix’s Mister Monday is the first in a seven-book series, about an unassuming boy with an ‘interesting’ future.


Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets.


I first heard of Garth Nix through his Old Kingdom series, which is comprised of novels Sabriel (which I reviewed here), Lirael and Abhorsen, and short story The Creature in the Case. These books are addictive, dark, adventurous and just a little morbid. Then I read Shade’s Children, one of Nix’s earlier works and what I’d term a dystopian YA novel. That book rocked me – in the way that a good YA dystopian or post-apocalyptic story will do (at least in my little world). After that, I was pretty sure that Nix could do no wrong. That’s when I picked up The Keys to the Kingdom series, of which Mister Monday is the first entry. Nix = all-star? Confirmed.


Mister Monday begins the story of Arthur Penhaligon, a young man who by all rights should die young of asthma complications. But something interesting happens. Actually, several interesting and menacing things happen all at once, and Arthur is thrust into the center of a perfect storm. The only way out? Is to the save the world. Of course, you say to yourself. But it’s not like that. It’s a grand adventure, sure. But it’s also Arthur growing up and having to be brave and survive without feeling sorry for himself or worrying for even a second, because the action never stops. He shows such determination and resourcefulness (without verging on sappy), that you just pull for the kid. It’s like watching the underdog. You want them to WIN! But you know that no matter the story, winning’s only half the battle.


And that’s what this story is. It’s an epic adventure all in itself, with marvelous world-building and fantastic characters, but you get the feeling that you are only standing at the precipice of a huge universe that goes on around, under, and over ours – in another dimension entirely. It’s grand and entertaining, and its characters make you laugh and shudder and tear up. So: the plot’s excellent. The characters are believable and lovable. The writing? Simply fantastic. There are allusions and references to classic literature, history, culture and world problems, galore. I felt smarter after reading this book. And it’s MIDDLE GRADES fare? No wonder I love this author.


So, having just given this book the most glowing of reviews, who will enjoy it? I dare say that anyone would. Here’s the part where I break my promise: if you liked Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Ranger’s Apprentice, The Warrior Heir, you’ll probably gobble up The Keys to the Kingdom like cotton candy. Best of all? The last book in the series, Lord Sunday, just came out, so you don’t have to wait for the next installment!


This post was inspired by Andrea of The Little Bookworm, who hosted a Garth Nix Mini Reading Challenge – which I have been VERY slow to complete. But hey, I’ve contributed now!

teaser tuesday (32)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | | 12 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“The drumming sound came again. Leaf gasped and jumped back as several tentacles ripped the draft excluder off the bottom of the door and slithered inside. She picked up an umbrella and struck at them, but the tentacles gripped the umbrella and cut it into pieces. More and more tentacles came through under the door. Then they started sawing backwards and forwards.”

-p. 46 of Garth Nix’s Grim Tuesday

mister monday finds three new owners

Monday, March 22, 2010 | | 6 comments

Dear all and sundry:

I have been remiss. And missing. And it’s Monday. Eeeek! What a combination. I think that means I’m past-due to introduce the winners of my Mister Monday (by the always amazing Garth Nix) giveaway. Mister Monday is the first in the Keys to the Kingdom series, where a lot of magic, world-saving and mayhem happen to a boy who may or may not have been supposed to die an early death. And basically? The book rocks it out, no matter who you are, or what age bracket you hail from. I’m happy to announce that the winners are:

sRy_ of El Ășltimo primer beso

donnas of Donna’s Blog Home

and Another Daydreamer from Daydreams and Wanderings

Their favorite literary characters are V from V for Vendetta, Sherlock Holmes, and Auralia from the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet. Congratulations, winners! Many happy thoughts go out to everyone else, and look for a LARGE blogoversary-type contest in the next week or so. Yay!

teaser tuesday (31)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | | 46 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“Snow pointed to the bucket. ‘Gather as much water as you can and soak the dirt around the tree. Don’t get too close.’

‘How close is too close?’ Danielle asked.

‘If the tree tries to eat you, you should probably back up.’”

-p. 51 of Jim C. Hines’ The Stepsister Scheme

would you bake cookies for a jonas brother?

I ask because I care. Or…yeah. But seriously, I have a friend here in DC who we jokingly refer to as a Jonas brother, because, well, he looks like one. Really and truly. Endless jokes about his next tour, where he’ll be playing tonight, etc. abound. And being a good guy, he takes it all with a smile.


What really endeared me to Jonas (as he shall be called for the sake of this blog) is that the first night I met him, he ate my cookies like they were going out of style. Wait, let’s start that story over. Some friends of friends were picking me up for church. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me. I brought some fresh-baked cookies to make life more interesting (okay, okay, I did it to make them like me! Geez. Can’t get away with anything around here). The Brown Sugar Almond ones, to be exact.


So I climb into a car full of strange boys, pass over a Ziploc bag of cookies, and Jonas starts demolishing them like we’re in a professional food eating competition. I’m not even joking. He ate like ten on the way to church. And then some more on the way home. After that he sat down at my table and ate dinner. Obviously he knows what’s good for him.


I mean, it’s really gratifying when someone likes your work, no matter what it is. When it’s something like cookies, I just want to feed you more. So I’ve been making big batches of my favorite recipes and sending them out into the wild. The other night my roommate witnessed him leaving with a bag of cookies and asked, “How do you always go home with dessert?!” He just laughed, but I know the truth. It’s me. I’m an enabler.


And proud of it! So – my latest blog recipe:


Bill’s Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies (I don’t know who Bill is/was. This is a classic church cookbook recipe, and the taste is…gorgeous)


INGREDIENTS


2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup white (granulated) sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

2 cups dry cereal or nuts (I suggest either cornflakes or chopped walnuts)


DIRECTIONS


Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips and cereal/nuts. After dough forms, add final ingredients and blend well. Form dough into one inch balls, and place two inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake for twelve to fifteen minutes, or until light brown.


If you want to keep these cookies more than a couple of days, I suggest either freezing them, or adding half of a piece of bread to whatever airtight container you are using for storage (the bread will keep the cookies moist).

water song

Alyce at At Home with Books is hosting a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.

I’m supposed to be doing a ‘Once Upon A Time’ reading challenge. I got all ambitious at the start of the year and signed up to read 20 books that fit in that ‘category’ – happily ever after, that is. I even bought a lot of them. Except now I’m in a bit of a funk, those lovely books are sitting neglected on my shelf, and I’m not reading anything new. BUT! There is one book that I’ve been meaning to feature on My Favorite Reads for a while which features a fairy tale theme. So I’m going to talk about it even though it doesn’t count for the challenge, and hopefully convince myself along the way that fairy tales are the way to go.


Young Emma Pennington is accustomed to a very comfortable life. Although war rages abroad, she hardly feels its effect. When she and her mother travel from their home in Britain to the family estate in Belgium, they never imagine that the war will touch their lives - but it does.

Soon Emma finds herself stranded in a war-torn country, utterly alone. Enemy troops take over her estate, leaving her with no contact and no way out. With all of her attention focused on survival and escape, Emma hardly expects to find love. But the war will teach her that life is unpredictable, people aren't always what they seem, and magic is lurking everywhere.


I’m just going to put this out there – I’m a huge World War I fan. I mean, I’m not a fan of war. Or any kind of atrocity. I just have a thing for stories set in that time period (the nineteen teens, if you will). A couple of my favorite fiction books are set in the early 20th century or an alternate history equivalent – Rilla of Ingleside, Leviathan and Phoenix and Ashes, for example. So Suzanne Weyn’s Water Song already has that going for it.


It is also an interesting adaption of the fairy tale of ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ This is not exactly a lesser-known fairy tale, but it isn’t often re-told for the older crowd, either. More mature fairy tale re-tellings often use the Snow White myth or others that already incorporate a dark twist. Myself? I’ve always thought that ‘The Princess and the Frog’ was very moral – almost a fable. I mean, the main idea is to learn that selfishness does not pay, right?


Water Song does not take the usual route. Emma is utterly isolated, though she does epitomize ignorant and spoiled at the beginning of the book. Normally that sort of person can’t lure any sympathy from me – but Weyn draws the other characters in the book with a deft hand, and creates enough action and tension and mystery that I was drawn into this novel. And Emma does show development over the course of the book. There’s definitely not an exact moment where you feel she ‘learned her lesson’ – more like real life creeps up on her through the entire story, and you know she’s not completely grown up even at the end of it. I like stories that let you imagine a little bit of the epilogue on your own, and this one fits the bill.


I can’t claim that Water Song is without faults. There were a couple of times (the first few pages, anyone?) when the narration was a bit stiff. But the ‘frog’ is unique and really the story’s saving grace, and the famous golden ball that goes into the water is interesting, too. It’s not perfect, but it’s entertaining and appealing, and I think that’s enough sometimes. Plus – Belgium during WWI? I’m in.

teaser tuesday (30)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | | 32 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“There was a lot of martyr in her too, Daisy thought as she dragged her body out of bed the next morning after only four hours of sleep. The things she’d do to save a fake marriage.”

-p. 161 of Jennifer Crusie’s The Cinderella Deal

mister monday giveaway

Monday, March 1, 2010 | | 27 comments

I joined the Garth Nix mini-challenge hosted by Andrea of The Little Bookworm back in autumn of 2009. I’ve been anticipating Lord Sunday, the final entry in the seven book ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ series, for a couple of years now. The challenge seemed like the perfect way to get excited for a new installment. But I’ve been lazy, and the reading hasn’t happened. So! To jumpstart a little Garth Nix love, I’m going to give away three copies of the first book in the series – Mister Monday.

Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets.

This series is full of action and adventure and mystery, and one of my favorite literary characters of all time, Suzy Turquoise Blue, makes her entrance in the pages of Mister Monday.

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If you’d like to win one of three paperback copies, just follow the directions below!

To enter:

Leave a comment on this post answering the question, “Who is your favorite literary character?”

Please include your email address or another method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on March 19 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winner via email.

Good luck!

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