Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The books & things I am thankful for + my most favorite recipe EVER!

This year has been crazy...chaotic may even be a better word to describe the roller-coaster that 2011 has been. There have been so many changes for me since last Turkey day that just thinking about it makes my head spin. But, as the 2011 holiday season gears up I wanted to take a moment and share what I am most thankful for this year--general things and of course books and authors too.

Books & Authors I am most thankful for:
  1. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth: Oh. My. Stars! This book came along at just the right time for me to really appreciate the story and get into it with my whole heart. As many of you know I adored Suzanne Collins HUNGER GAMES series but was disappointed with the final book in the series. I know it's dumb, but emotionally I was left broken-hearted and a bit depressed by MOCKINGJAY. I had invested so much time and energy into the series between discussing the characters and plots and dreaming everything Hunger Games... Well, I was obsessed and when the series ended I actually got truly depressed. Sure, I read several good books that I loved, but none that made me feel the way  The Hunger Games and Catching Fire had . . . that is until DIVERGENT. Veronica Roth managed to pull me into her fascinating and well built world of her character Tris. And, because it was set in a future Chicago (where my family lives) I immediately connected with the character and got excited reading about sites and settings that I was familiar with. Since first reading Divergent , nearly 6 months ago, I have listened to the audiobook more times than I can count. This book really got me out of my book blues and gave me a book series that I am so anxiously following and anticipating the next release with uber excitement. I LOVE THAT FEELING!
  2. Carrie Ryan & Melissa Marr: These authors each completed a series in 2011 and unlike other authors (who's names will not be mentioned again) they really succeeded in giving readers a fully satisfying closure. Here's the thing...readers fall in love with characters. Especially the young adult crowd. I mean, we know they are fictional, but that doesn't make our feelings go away. With Carrie Ryan's post apocalyptic zombie series, she brought her characters to a place where we could hope and believe that they would find some sort of happy ending. Her world was dark and scary, and the characters suffered tremendous loss but by the end of the third book (THE DARK & HOLLOW PLACES) they each found something that could bring a smile to their faces...even if it was just for a brief moment. Melissa Marr completed her bestselling Wicked Lovely series with DARKEST MERCY.  Her world was really complex and she had a lot of character plots, but she still managed to tie everything together and make the finish believable and even more impressively (considering how dark the series is) happy.
  3. Rachel Caine & Jana Oliver: Many of the books I read last year have had follow up or "middle books" released this year. As I get a little older I am starting to realize a trend with these so-called "middle books". More often than not, they just don't live up to the expectations. This is NOT the case with either of these author's series. The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine just released the 11th book in the series and it may be the best one yet! Jana Oliver's Demon Trapper Daughter series has two books in the trilogy out on shelves and they were both equally page-turning! I love these authors and am thankful that they are consistently awesome
  4. LEGEND by Marie Lu: This is another debut novel that I stayed up all night reading. It was one of the books Noa sent me from BEA and I think it was my favorite from that convention.
I am incredibly thankful for books that made the journey of reading them completely fulfilling by great endings, books that maintain a level of excellence and for new books that let me once again feel that reading "high" that fans get when a really amazing book is able to consume them.

On a personal note.
  1. ACTING: I am very thankful for the opportunities that I have been given to use my talent. I was cast in the lead role for two different plays, won in three different categories at the forensic and theater competition and was able to grow in my craft and learn from all those experiences.
  2. RUNNING: I shaved five minutes off my 5k time, placed second with my team at the State meet and learned that hard work and perseverance is crucial to success.
  3. FRIENDS: I have lots of "friends" but I am really thankful for the real friends that I keep close. There aren't many of them and truth is I only trust one completely, but he knows who he is and aside from my mom or mimi, he is the only other person I tell secrets to. I also am really thankful to friends like Noa, Mona, Kitt and even the authors and publishers that have sent me books to read. It means so much.
  4. FAMILY: Last, I am incredibly blessed to have the family I have. Especially my mom and mimi. My Mimi is my biggest fan and cheerleader. I know I can always go to her and she won't judge me. My mom on the other hand is really hard on me. I say I hate her, but the truth is...she makes me a better person by staying on my case all the time. She drives me absolutely crazy because she is brutally honest with me when sometimes I don't want to hear the truth. But, when it all comes down to it, she always has my back and is my best friend.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it kicks off the holiday season for me. By Thanksgiving, Christmas music can be heard in all the stores. Shopping seems more fun because all the stores have seasonal fragrances burning and I get to see family that I only see this time of year.  But, what I really look forward to is the cooking that my mom and I usually do. This year is different because, well, she is really busy, but I am going to try to make some of the things that I love so much including the one dish that I have been waiting ALL YEAR to make . . . Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  This recipe was originally seen on Bobby Flay's Throw Down and I wanted to make it immediately. I played around with it some and the version you see below is Flay's amazing dish. *FYI my camera was left at a friends so I'm using pictures from Ree Drummond and Bobby Flay's throw down.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce & Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (this is kind of expensive but worth it)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (or I used cooking Splenda)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or regular sugar free syrup with a tsp of Maple extract)
  • 1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons of liquor like Bourbon ( I used ButterShots cuz thats what we have)
  • Pumpkin Bread (easy box mix - Pillsbury has one)
  • Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
  • Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
  • Freshly whipped cream


Start by making some pumpkin bread. I get a mix in the cake isle at the store. It is easier and just as tasty. Follow directions to make loafs. Once finished, slice loaf and then cut into cubes. Spread cubes onto a baking sheet and lightly toast in oven set to 325 degrees F. for about 30 mins or so. Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish.

While the bread is drying, it's time to make the custard.  Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise into a shallow bowl, top with some of the bread pudding and drizzle with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream. Bread pudding is best served warm.

Pumpkin Bread:

  • one box of Pumpkin bread mix baked as per directions (I use Krusteaz mix but Pillsbury has one too)

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise:

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup pure cane sugar

Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half, return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. This is the most finicky part and though a super smooth sauce is desired, trust me when I say that even if it isn't perfect it tastes just as good.

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (juice would work too)
  • 1 star anise (I had to use Anise powder for flavor)
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (I didn't have fresh and just used powdered ginger to add some flavor)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (again I used splenda)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Buttershots or rum. (Bobby Flay used apple schnapps)

Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it's a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the liquor you decide to use and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.

Monday, June 13, 2011

YA Summer Reading Review: Return To Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Everyone keeps asking me for fun summer reading recommendations so I have decided to compile a list and give a a series of reviews for each of them. Sound good? Good.

When I think of summer reading I think of laying out by the pool with my nose stuck in a paperback. Sure i could suggest heavy dystopians or dark fantasy books but I like my summer reading a little less heavy. I mean, a little substance here and there is crucial to making the book worthwhile but there needs to be a really good balance.

The first book I am going to suggest is RETURN TO PARADISE by Simone Elkeles.

Return to Paradise
This book was completely engrossing and had the perfect blend of summer romance and solid teen message. Told from alternating perspective's of bad boy Caleb who's shady past casts a big shadow over his life, and former victim turned survivor Maggie who's hardship has made her stronger. When we meet Caleb he is struggling with the secrets of his past he has tried to hide from, a life and girl he left behind because he felt unworthy and the consequences of his actions.

Maggie was the victim of a hit and run accident that not only left her crippled but hit her close to home. Very close. The driver convicted of hitting her happens to be her next door neighbor and twin brother to her best friend. As if that wasn't bad enough. She felt drawn to him and started seeing him after the accident that is until Caleb just up and ran away. Eight months passed by and not a word from him. Maggie has almost gotten over him and decides to go on a summer tour with other teens who's lives have been impacted by drugs and alcohol, their goal being to help bring awareness to other youths and low and behold who should also happen to be on the trip...the boy that left her behind.

Sounds kinda heavy, huh? Well it all lightens up when hormones and emotions run rampant and not only does the story blossom into a great "coming of age/overcoming problems" message book, it has one of my favorite summertime romances that are blush inducing. Caleb is pretty darn swoon worthy and him and Maggie together are SO PERFECT!

Friday, June 10, 2011

I HATE blogger, I'm giving away ARC's and I'm going to Splash Town.:)

I have been in a reading frenzy for the past month. Between Book's picked up at the Teen Author Day at Romantic Times and my fairy godmother sending me books from BEA...well you get the point. Shall I show you? Yes. I think I will.

OMG!!!! Right? Yes, that is Bloodlines, Enthralled, Crossed and FOREVER! How bout them apples?

And I have read a bunch and guess what...THEY ARE AWESOME!!!

The problem with reading so many great books is when you have to stop to review them. *Sigh* Well, I had about 7 books read and I knew I needed to take the time to review them but, it's summer, and it's hot, and I just wanna read more......yeah, you get the point. Well, I finally sat down and knocked out a couple reviews for Paperback Dolls and then discovered today that BLOGGER HATES ME. It deleted 2 of my reviews that I worked hard on. *boo hoo hoo*. I know I know I know...I should have saved them in word but I didn't and I a little upset about it.


Anyway, I am done with messing around with reviews and posts for the day. I did manage to get my post for Favorite Boys of Teen Fiction for Paperback Dolls next week and GUESS WHAT...I am giving away a couple of my signed ARC's (One from BEA;). And now, I am taking my white, pale body to SPLASH TOWN! I am really excited. It's the first water park I have been to since I moved here. Hopefully I don't blind anyone with my whiteness--Hey, I'm an Irish redhead living amongst a bunch of tan Latinas...I have good reason to worry;)

Have a great weekend! 
Peace & Love

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Graphic Novel for teens coming soon


Sea Lion Books Unites Warner, Eisner-Nominated Illustrator Brett Weldele and Writer Philip Gellat to Bring A Unique Group of Beyond-Intelligent Teen Fugitives to the Comic Book World This July.


Atlanta, GA – June 01, 2011 – They’re not super powered, they’re just super smart. The teen protagonists who lead us through the world of Pariah, a twelve-book graphic novel series from the mind of Oscar-winning film producer Aron Warner and published by Sea Lion Books, are the next generation of heroes in the comic book world. Eisner-nominated illustrator Brett Weldele (The Surrogates) will bring the stories to life in ink, and Philip Gelatt will pen the scripts set in Warner’s world for the twelve books. As buzz builds about this unlikely collaboration and the unique story of Pariah, the series will premiere at San Diego Comic Con on July 20 – 24th.

"I came up with Pariah after reading an article about in vitro genetic manipulation,” Warner says. “We take medications every day without fully understanding how they work. It’s kind of terrifying if you think about it. In Pariah, kids grow up with incredible intelligence as a side effect of modern ‘cures.’ The problem is that they’re so smart, they question everything – even things we hold as sacred. All of our laws, morals, and even physical constraints will be torn apart and re-built. These kids are adrift in every way, equipped with mental tools we can’t even imagine. On top of all of that, they’re persecuted, feared and hated. As if being a teenager didn’t suck enough…”

The Vitros, as the characters are called, are a group of several hundred kids from all over the world who possess beyond-human intelligence produced via genetic manipulation. As teenagers in the process of trying to uncover their identities, they live relatively normal lives, though not without a fair amount of suspicion thrown at them from the fringes of society. When the Vitros are framed for a deadly explosion at a laboratory that releases a virus on the population, the government systematically begins to round up these pariahs, sending our heroes on the run from the authorities and their lives.

Says Sea Lion's Publisher, Derek Ruiz, "Aron has captured the essence of being a Pariah as seen through the eyes of a group of scientifically created teens. They are a Petri dish of innocent souls infinitely more intelligent than anyone else on Earth. Yet their creation and existence has left them shunned and condemned.”

What happens when the society that created them also tries to destroy them? The Pariahs fight back this July. For updates and additional information join Pariah on Facebook or follow @PariahComicBook on Twitter.

Aron Warner is the Academy Award®-winning producer of the animated blockbuster “Shrek” series. Mr. Warner joined PDI/Dreamworks in 1997 working as the producer on the animated film, Antz. He is currently in partnership with director Andrew Adamson in Strange Weather where they and partner Jeff Fierson are developing a slate of live action and animated feature films and television shows. He, producing alongside James Cameron, just wrapped the Untitled Cirque Du Soleil 3-D project, which was written and directed by Adamson. Pariah is his first graphic novel series.

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Sea Lion Books LLC is a newly established publishing house which specializes in all formats—hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market and in urban fantasy and young adult genres. Sea Lion Books LLC recent roster of authors include: International Bestselling author, Paulo Coelho, New York Times Bestselling autho rs, Richelle Mead, Richard A. Knaak, F. Paul Wilson and Becca Fitzpatrick plus more to be announced in the upcoming months. Contact David Dabel at .You can visit Sea Lion Books on the Internet at . Follow Sea Lion Books online. Twitter, Face Book, Youtube.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review of Enclave by Ann Aguirre

EnclaveWELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she's never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce's perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy... but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she's ever known.
What if all of your favorite post apocalyptic and dystopian books were able to marry and produce offspring? The outcome of such a phenomenal mash-up would have the potential to be the most uber fabulous, end all of end all stories. It would have action, adventure, struggle, zombies, sickness, corrupt leadership, strong protagonist, and amazing characters. In fact, it would be exactly like ENCLAVE.

This book has it all and then some!

At first I feared that there was too much going on in the book and fought the urge to compare it to other popular books in this genre. But, sooner rather than later, I forgot why I was so skeptical and surrendered all to the plot. IT WAS AMAZING!!!!

The story is really made of three different parts. The first (and longest storyline) focusing on the people who have been surviving the apocalypse underground for centuries--never setting their eyes on the sun and everything "top side". Underground they have developed a type of government and assign people jobs (this was very reminiscent of City of Ember). Some people are born to be breeders, some builders, and others hunters. The Hunters are the group of people that go through the tunnels and collect food and try to remove "The Freaks" which are zombie like creatures that live underground and one of the threats to the settlement. However, there is another threat to the long term survival of the enclave and that is their life spans. For an unknown reason, most likely from nutrition or lack of sunlight, the people born and living in the underground enclave's do not live long, in fact their Elder is 25 years old.

This first part of the book not only introduces us to the characters and their way of life underground, but also to the relationships that become very important through out the rest of the story. In particular that of Deuce, the huntress, and Fade the orphan boy who joined the enclave only years earlier. It is the bond between them that leads us to the second part of the storyline. Together they are exiled from the enclave and forced to try to make it "top side" where gangs of boys are the main threat (this part reminded me of The Hunger Games where Peeta and Katniss are in the arena).

The third part focuses on Deuce, Fade and a couple of new friends and their journey to find a safer place to take shelter. As they travel North we see how the stress and uncertainty of the journey effects their bonds and how they strive to persevere in a hostile world.

Though there are lots of things that on their own would and have already made interesting stories, joined together they made something really awesome. I was very sad when it ended because I wasn't ready to close the book. I was pleased to discover that there is another book in this series coming out in just can't get here soon enough!

2011 is definitely proving to be full of amazing books and ENCLAVE is one of my favorites!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Win a copy of WITHER and ARC of FEVER by Lauren DeStefano


Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)In honor of author Lauren Destefano's 3,000th follower on Twitter, she is giving away an ARC of Wither, as well as (wait for it…) an ARC of its sequel, Fever. Fever is so brand new that it has not been printed. She has a word document open RIGHT NOW, at this VERY MOMENT, full of copyedits for Fever. Somewhere, in the magical building where books are printed, there is a chunk of space that WILL SOON BE OCCUPIED BY THESE ARCS! That is how early this giveaway is. Maybe there is an empty space in the mail truck that will soon be occupied by this ARC on its way to your house, if you are the lucky winner. Here is what you will get:

An ARC of Fever. As I just mentioned, these haven’t been printed yet, so there will be a wait before your winnings ship. When will Fever ARCs be printed? I don’t know, but, whenever it is, it will definitely be before the rest of the world gets to read this book.

An ARC of Wither. Now wait a minute, you’re saying. Why would I want an ARC of Wither when it’s already published?

Well I’ll tell ya! Lauren DeStefano will personalize this ARC. If you bid on her ebay auctions for charity a few months back, you know that she does full-service personalization. She'll sign it, write custom messages, sprinkle the pages with chocolate chips if you ask her to (although I don’t recommend that last thing). In her ebay auctions, someone asked her to draw a cat wielding a lightsaber, and SHE MADE THAT HAPPEN.

Now, I absolutely LOVED this book and the author has impressed me to the point that I will automatically pre-order all of her next a tiny part of me doesn't want to share this contest with anyone, but the other part of me wants the world to fall in love with this series too!

How can you enter?
  • Step 1: Tweet, facebook, or blog a link to this giveaway
  • Step 2: Comment on Lauren's blog with a link to your post. If you mentioned it on twitter, facebook, and your blog, you can comment up to three times with a separate link to each mention. If you comment more than three times, the additional comments won’t be counted.
  • Step 3: Tell friends!

The winner will be chosen via a random number generator.

The giveaway will end at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, May 31st, with a winner being announced later that day.

Oh, and this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL! =D

Friday, May 20, 2011

Will blog more....soon

Hey severyone. End of the year is coming up and I have been busy and neglecting my little blog PLUS i found a kitten and she is very demanding of my time...

See....she is whining in this picture;)

Awwww...but isn't she CUTE?!?