Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Hobo Waffles

Toni Nelson lived close to a railroad where many transient, homeless people would stop to finish off her grandmother's breakfast leftovers. In her memoir, A Beggar's Purse she says, "I had grown so accustomed to the weary travelers arriving at our back door for food that I hardly ever noticed that they were even there." (p. 29) These homemade waffles are simple to make and cost very little. Make a double batch and feed a crowd.

Hobo Waffles
1 stick butter (4 oz.)
2 cups flour
1/8 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. baking powder
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk or 1 c. buttermilk / 1 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a bowl place one stick butter and melt in microwave until nearly melted. Cool, add baking powder, salt, milk, egg yolks; stir.

Add flour and beat briefly with a hand mixer or whisk. Stir in vanilla.

Beat the egg whites, gradually adding the sugar until soft, foamy stiff peaks form. Fold into batter and bake in waffle iron about 4 minutes or until steaming stops and waffles are golden brown.


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Beggar’s Purse by Toni Nelson

I drove past a homeless man on the corner today. He held a sign that read, “Desperate, please help.” Instead of ignoring the man like I might have before I read A Beggar’s Purse by Toni Nelson, I looked at his face. I don’t know his name, but somebody does. Somebody is his mother, his son, his friend.

I like to think that I am a compassionate person, someone who is willing to help others, especially those in dire need. But I hesitate to hand money to a “street person” because of those who take advantage of the good-will of others to feed the addictions that have led them to where they are.

After reading A Beggar’s Purse, I have begun overcoming the stigma that I associate with the homeless.  This is a quick read, I finished it in about an hour.

Food to eat while reading: Hobo Waffles
When I started reading Nelson’s memoir, I prepared myself to bristle at being preached to. I relaxed when I found that Nelson has struggled with the same uncomfortable questions that I have when I see the homeless asking for money on a street corner-like why don’t they get a real job?

The book reads like a novel with insights from the author’s experiences growing up in a house by a railroad where traveling hobos were common guests for dinner. The anecdotes drew me into her story and made it easy for me to understand how she came to her conclusions.

I love that the author isn’t a full-time crusader who gives all of her time and energy to the needy. That may sound harsh and I admire those who may devote their lives to a cause. But the majority of us are plodding away in our own spheres. Nelson shows how we can include the less-fortunate in our daily lives, by simply being willing to smile and learn a person’s name or offer to give them a meal.

I wish I could say that I stopped and helped the man on the corner this morning. I didn’t have any way of giving him some food. I did resolve to purchase a McDonald’s gift card(a form of money that can only be spent on food) to have on hand. I will keep it in my purse and the next time I pass by the desperate who are in need, I will have something to give.

“Am I being used by the so-called street people, or am I being used by God? I believe the Bible refers to the term as being a servant.” A Beggar’s Purse by Toni Nelson (p.87)

Purchase: A Beggars Purse
Genre: memoir
Publisher: July 6th 2010 by Tate Publishing
Where I got the book: Goodreads Giveaway from Toni Nelson*

*I received only a copy of the book as compensation for my review.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Micro Book Review- The Replacements, Writing the Great American Romance Novel, etc

A sampling of what I've been reading lately:

This book just didn't cut it for me.

I enjoyed the author's writing and the fun Tim Burton-style atmosphere.
After reading the cover blurb, I thought that the idea of a story from a changeling's point of view sounded fascinating, but it didn't work when I read it.
I just couldn't get into the teen boy's pov. The romance didn't work, maybe because I would rather read about love from a girl's pov.
The ending felt rushed and didn't satisfy and the language was a bit too rough for my taste.

I don't want to write erotica, so I was leary of this book, but I have found it invaluable.  Anyone who has any bit of romance in their WIP could stand to learn a lesson from Catherine Lanigan, the author who novelized Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile. 

I don't know why, but I never knew that Yeats was an Irish poet.  Duh!  Although I do enjoy poetry, I don't usually read entire books of poetry.  For my WIP, I am writing a poem that will emerge a bit at a time at the beginning of each chapter.  I want the poem to have the feel that it was written by a poet anciently, and in Ireland.  Yeats creates pictures with words that take me away.  I am about halfway through with this one and recommend it to anyone interested in Irish mythology and history. 

What I am reading now:

The Lost Saint ARC by Bree Despain (I'm so excited about this one)

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Lord of the Dance by Michael Flatley

Irish Dancing Costumes by Dr. John Cullinane

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Irish Tea Cake

I found it charming that Irish dancers followed the Scottish tradition of dining on tea and cakes during intermission at their Ceili's, thanks to John Cullinane's book, Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing.  I think it could be a tasty switch from the hot dogs and chips sold by vendors at current Ceili's and Feisanna-don't you?  This tea cake is simple, made from on-hand ingredients.  It tastes buttery and, like a shortbread, yummy.

Irish Tea Cake

1/2 cup butter softened

1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 cup of milk
1/4 confectioners sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan.  In a medium bowl cream together butter, sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs next one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.  Next combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stir into batter, alternating with the milk.  Spread the batter evenly into the pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes
Dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing by John Cullinane

After wishing to get my hands on these valuable books on Irish dancing, I was thrilled to receive a copy of John Cullinane's books on the History of Irish Dancing.  So little has been written about Irish dance history.  If you do an internet search, most of what you come across contradicts itself. What a treasure this collection is!

Food to eat while reading: Irish Tea Cake
Dr. John Cullinane’s book Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing is the first in a library of eight books that provide invaluable information about Irish dance history. Because the Gaelic people passed down their history orally, very little is recorded concerning the roots of Irish dance. Through research, interviews and valuable experience, Dr. Cullinane delivers a rich background of Irish dancing as we know it today.

The book is written as a reference guide and covers important aspects of history. Dr. Cullinane describes the first Irish dance Ceili held in 1897, records the many remembrances of the infamous dance master, and explains the evolution of feisanna, dance costumes, hand position, as well as ceili and traditional set dances. He then touches briefly on the expansion of Irish dance to England, Australia, New Zealand, North West England and the United States.

Did you know that much of the ceili dances were preserved during the troubled times of 1916-1921 because they were taught in prisons? In Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing, read about the first ever Ceili held in 1897 where participants dined on tea and cakes during intermission. Find out how the infamous dancing master sometimes taught in a kitchen or farm outhouse. Learn about a man who was such a gifted dancer that it was said that “He could write with his feet”(p40).

Dr. Cullinane's book is mostly informative in nature, making it a bit of a dry read for those who are not interested in the history of Irish dance. I have to admit that I am a geek. :) I love Irish dancing and plan on writing several novels based on Irish dance and its history. I soaked up the information in the pages, finding treasures in every chapter.

Here are a few more things I learned about the history of Irish dance from reading the book:

• Job of Journeywork refers to the transient nature of dance masters—they taught dancing wherever their work took them.

• The figure dances we have today were likely created by the dance masters and were printed serially in the Sunday Independent newspaper.

• Sweets of May and Three Tunes are the only ceili dances that have arm actions.

• The dancing master in early nineteenth century prided himself in his dress, wearing a Caroline hat, swallow-tail coat and carried a silver cane. He sometimes taught in a kitchen or farm outhouse.

• In the early 1900’s irish dancers were mostly men and boys, with very few women ever competing, except in figure dancing.

If you find yourself wondering how Irish dance came to be, Dr. Cullinane’s books are a valuable tool that you can use to make sure that traditional Irish dance continues to thrive.

Purchase: www.feiswear.com or www.ossianusa.com

Genre: history

Publisher: Paperback, 185 pages, Self-published in 1987

Where I got the book: Dr. John Cullinane*

*I received only a copy of the book as compensation for my review.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Tadpole Soup

Tadpoles in your soup anyone?  In Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton, the nasty goblins like to eat tadpole soup.  I had to laugh because that made me think of frog-eye salad, a staple at many gatherings and reunions.  So mix up a batch today and see what your kids think of the secret ingredient.

Tadpole Soup

4 1/2 cups water, divided
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup tapioca
1 (12 oz) can frozen orange juice
2 sliced bananas
1 package fresh strawberries
4 oranges, sectioned

Bring 2 cups of water, sugar and tapioca to boil. Cook until tapioca is clear. Pour into a large bowl. Add orange juice and remaining water. Mix and let cool. Add fruit. Serve in a cup for an appetizer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Do you want $500 worth of books? Seriously?

Chronicle Books is giving away $500 worth of books! All you have to do is comment on my blog or any other of the blogs who are participating. One blogger will luck out and get all of the books on their list, along with one lucky commenter. Scroll down to see my list and leave a comment if you agree with my picks.
*(I had to go back and fix my pick of books)

The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles

Top Chef The Cookbook by the creators of Top Chef

Allure by Diana Vreeland

The Beatles Anthology

Make Your Own Dinner Notepad by Anne Taintor

Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking: More than 80 Everyday Recipes

Ichthyo: The Architecture of Fish
The Anatomy of the Sea: Over 600 Creatures of the Deep by Dr. David

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York's Milk & Cookies Bakery
Other Goose: Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Children's Classics by J.otto Seibold
Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book by Taro Gomi



Sea Stories: A Classic Illustrated Edition, compiled by Cooper Edens

Giant Pop-Out Ocean, A Pop-Out Surprise Book

Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

 A fresh take on the paranormal, you will want to read this Celtic romance over again as soon as you reach the end.

Food to eat while reading: Tadpole Soup

Read the synopsis here.

I read Tyger Tyger on my iPad and plunged right in without knowing anything about it. Imagine my surprise when I found that the book has Celtic folklore, sign language, a magic system based on music and paranormal romance-all elements that are in my own WIP. Karma!

The characters at times reminded me of the kids in A Wrinkle in Time-the sister who has a quirky and intelligent little brother and the love interest who helps them. Other times Finn reminded me of Peter in Peter Pan-the immortal boy who has no family and watches Teagan’s family with interest.

The first chapter will draw you in quickly as Teagan works with a chimpanzee who speaks sign language. The sign language comes in handy later on when she is in trouble and I found that satisfying.

Though I like the angst that develops between Teagan and Finn, I really wanted more of the romance and I wanted Finn to have a bit more depth and mystery to him.

The celtic mythology in the book is cleverly woven into a contemporary setting. I found myself a bit lost with all of the Irish names and folklore-even though I study it myself. I want to read the book again to figure out all of the mythology and that won’t be a problem, I will read the book again anyway.

Only one part jarred me out of the book. When a loved one dies, the author skips over the entire grieving process and barely mentions that it happened. Because it is someone close to Teagan, I feel yanked around and don’t get a chance to deal with the death and experience what she dealt with.

All of the characters are real and multi-dimensional. Teagan’s best friend Abby is a great side-kick with an unusual family. I have to say that one of my favorite parts of the book involve Abby’s love of painting angels. That scene grabbed me and I’m hoping to see more of the result in the sequel.

I can’t wait until In the Forests of the Night comes out next year! I’ll have to console myself with reading Tyger Tyger again.

On a personal note, I wrote to Kersten and asked if she would share some of her resources on Celtic mythology.  She wrote me back within an hour and shared some with me.  Thanks Kersten!

Genre: YA fantasy paranormal romance

Publisher: Hardcover, 322 pages, November 15th 2010 by Clarion Books

Where I got the book: www.netgalley.com *

*I received only a copy of the e-book as compensation for my review.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Time-stopping Chocolate Truffles

Dante gives Abby life preserving chocolate in The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum.  We all know that chocolate is a life saver.  Why not try to make some yourself with this super easy recipe.  You can even have your kids make it!

Time-stopping Chocolate Truffles
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 small container of whipped topping
2 tablespoons cocoa

In a microwave-save bowl, melt the chocolate chips.  If the chocolate is hot, allow it to cool to lukewarm.  Beat in the whipped topping.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes or until firm enough to form into balls. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in the cocoa. Yield: 2 dozen


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

The Hourglass Door is the perfect combination of a clean read with delicious romantic angst.

Food to eat while reading: Time-stopping Chocolate Truffles

Read the synopsis here.

Drawn in by the prologue, I thirstily drank this story up in a few days, even though I had many other books I was supposed to be reading. The prologue is intriguing and an even better read a second time upon completion of the novel.

I like Jason, but I am glad when Abby starts to fall for Dante. The angst that Mangum creates by the price they have to pay for physically touching each other is brilliant. And I found it interesting how Dante and his associates can release the pressure of their existence through the arts.

I found myself wondering if the same allure that Abby feels for the exciting Dante, (as opposed to the predictable, safe Jason) is one of the false ideas that many people fall prey to in their marriages. Of course, it makes for an exciting novel, but in real life we find that the excitement mellows to a different sort of passion.

Purchase: The Hourglass Door
Genre: YA
Publisher: May 13th 2009 by Shadow Mountain
Where I got the book: Deseret Book

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Hot Fudge Cake

This Hot Fudge Cake from Annette Lyon's Chocolate Never Faileth cookbook is heaven.  I have never made a recipe that calls for a cup of cocoa!  It's oh, so rich, and delicious. 

Hot Fudge Cake

2 C. flour
3 C. sugar, divided
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C. cocoa, divided
1 C. butter, melted (cool a little; it should not be hot)
1 C. milk
2 t vanilla
1 C. nuts, chopped (optional)
3 C. hot water

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x13 pan, combine flour, 1 ½ C. sugar, baking powder, salt, and ½ C. cocoa. Mix well. Add the butter and mix again. Add milk and vanilla, mixing with a fork until well blended. Use some muscle to get out the lumps as best you can. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 ½ C. sugar, remaining ½ c cocoa, and nuts (if desired). Sprinkle this mixture over the batter in the pan. Pour 3 C. hot water over the entire pan. Do not stir. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven; allow the cake to set for 10 minutes (it will finish baking outside the oven). The cake forms a cakelike crust on top with a puddinglike fudge layer underneath. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream on the side.

Source:  Annette Lyon's cookbook, Chocolate Never Faileth

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interview with Annette Lyon

How much fun is a cookbook that is dedicated solely to chocolate?  Annette answered some of the questions I had about her book, Chocolate Never Faileth.  I think you will find it interesting.

Your other books are fiction, what inspired you to make a cookbook?

I've always been a bit of a chocolate nut, but when I began working as assistant director for the Utah Chocolate Show in 2004, my interest spiked. I learned a lot about melting, storing, using, and baking with chocolate. I'm a writer, so making a cookbook was a logical step.

Who will enjoy this cookbook?

Any chocoholic, for sure. But also anyone who might be a little scared of the kitchen or of baking with chocolate. I made a point of having delicious recipes that were also doable. You don't need a culinary degree to make tasty treats.

Where did the recipes, quotes and cute stories come from?

I already had quite a few recipes, but I did a lot of research for more, seeking out inspiration from a lot of sources. For example, I found a couple of recipes that called themselves "chocolate pecan pie," but the only way they differed from regular pecan pie was the addition of chocolate chips. So I used my novelist curiosity to take it a step further by asking "what if . . ." In this case, that meant, what if the pie's syrup was chocolate based? So I experimented and came up with a great-tasting recipe.

While working for the Utah Chocolate Show, one of my jobs was writing the weekly e-letter, which required me to find fun chocolate quotes and anecdotes. I was able to use a lot of those in the book. And it helps that I have chocoholic friends and family; many of the stories are from them.

Can you tell us what it was like to test all of the recipes for the book? Did you have any disasters when you tested the recipes?

It was five intense months. Some recipes worked great right out of the gate, while others . . . didn't. Several recipes required multiple tries to get right. One recipe in particular gave me hair-pulling fits. I almost gave up on it but tried one more time--and it turned out beautifully. I literally danced around the kitchen after that one!

Did you take the photos that are featured in the book? If so, how did the process go?

The photos were all taken for the book--there's not a single stock image in there. Covenant hired a photographer, and we had something like 2-3 shoots a week for 6 weeks. It was crazy trying to make foods all over again (pretty this time!) plus round up dishes that matched the color scheme of the layout and more. It was a stressful patch, but the end result was worth it! The photos are gorgeous, and it's fun to look at them and be able to point out my cousin's mug here, that dish I own there, and so on.

Were there any challenges that you didn’t foresee in making a cookbook?

It was more time-consuming than I expected. I assumed I could successfully test two or three recipes a day--but while I could make that many things, there was no guarantee the I'd have two or three successes every day! The photo shoots were also a surprise, and a new kind of challenge, having to think of food in visual terms was something I'd never done before.

How did you get the cookbook published-did you query the publisher with the idea first or compile the recipes and stories and then submit it?

I was in an unusual position in that I already had a publisher with seven prior novels, so I could approach them in advance. Before I tested a single recipe, we talked about the idea, so I knew ahead of time that they had an interest in the project. Their excitement about it helped keep me going!

Do you have plans for any future cookbooks?

I have a couple of possible ideas clattering around the back of my mind for other cookbooks, but I'm a novelist first, so I don't know what the future will bring!

What is your favorite chocolate recipe?

That really depends on the day and my mood. Sometimes I crave my Jumbo Rocky Road cookies, other times a simple brownie. Lately it's been French Silk Pie. I'm game for almost any form of chocolate!

Thanks Annette!

Chocolate Never Faileth by Annette Lyon

Food to eat while reading: Chocolate Fudge Cake (come back tomorrow for the Tasty Tuesday recipe)

“Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it, I wash my mouth out with chocolate,”
 is just one of the quotes and trivia that you will find on the pages in Annette Lyon’s new recipe book, Chocolate Never Faileth. Every recipe in the book includes chocolate as an ingredient: from cookies and ice cream, to popcorn and lip gloss. Published on October 1, 2010, this recipe collection makes a perfect gift just in time for the holidays.

Annette Lyon, resident of American Fork, Utah, is the author of seven novels and worked as an assistant director for the Utah Chocolate Show in 2004. She told me that any chocoholic will enjoy her book but, “you don't need a culinary degree to make tasty treats.” The easy to follow instructions allow even the most cautious home cook to bake decadent desserts.

With more than 125 heavenly creations, this recipe book is a delight to read. Included is a glossary, a recipe index, an ingredients resource guide, and ten pages of how-to’s for cooking with chocolate. The modern-ish country kitchen layout is beautiful and most of the recipes have a companion photo for you to drool over (my two-year old son literally licked a photo of “Chocoholic Lemon Squares”).

After perusing the cookbook, I had to test the Hot Fudge Cake (p. 29) at home. To my delight, the recipe was simple to make, turned out exactly like the photo and satisfied my hard to satiate chocolate appetite.

Annette spent three months baking and prepping food for weekly photo shoots for the book. She says, “Some recipes worked great right out of the gate, while others . . . didn't.” Annette collected the recipes and gave them her own treatment. “If I found a recipe I wanted to use, I went out of my way to change and tweak it anywhere I could so it was MINE,” she says.

What is Annette’s favorite chocolate recipe? She says it depends on her mood, “Lately it's been “French Silk Pie”. I'm game for almost any form of chocolate!”

For the complete interview with Annette Lyon click here.

Purchase: Chocolate Never Faileth

Genre: cookbook

Publisher: October 1st 2010 by Covenant Communications, Incorporated

Where I got the book: Deseret Book

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Pickles in a Pinch

Who doesn't love a pickle?  Detective Carl in Tamara Hart Heiner's book Perilous loves to munch on the crispy vegetable when he gets into a pickle.  He doesn't seem to be too "picky" about what kind, in fact he loves the pickled watermelon rinds that his wife rewards him with at the end of the story.  If you love the taste of the home-canned variety, but you don't have time to can them yourself, this recipe will come in handy.  Just microwave these babies up and refrigerate them for a few hours.

Pickles in a Pinch

2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar (I recommend the Bragg brand of vinegar)
1 t salt
1/2 t celery seed
1/2 t mustard seed

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine all of the ingredients.  Microwave, uncovered for 3 minutes; stir. Cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Serve with a slotted spoon.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner *Giveaway*

Food to eat while reading: Pickles in a Pinch

Perilous is the type of adventure book that I like to cozy up with when I want to escape from the world for a while. Fast-paced and intriguing, Perilous explores hard issues in a way that readers of all ages can enjoy.

Tamara Hart Heiner's book is brand new.  I am a part of her blog tour. Yesterday's blogger is Ann Best

and tomorrow you can go over to Christine Bryant's blog.

Tamara is holding a few great giveaways.  If you post in this or any other review on the tour, you can win a copy of the book.  Also, you can win a Kindle if you are helpful in spreading the word about Perilous.  Visit Tamara Hart Heiner's blog for more info.
Read the synopsis of Perilous here.

The main character and point of view in Perilous, by Tamara Hart Heiner, is Jacinta Rivera. Heiner successfully alternates the point of view between Jaci and Detective Carl Hamilton, the man who has been given the task of finding Jaci when she is kidnapped by thieves from the local mall. I appreciate knowing both points of view. Somehow it makes me fell smart-knowing information that the character I am reading about hasn’t found out yet.

Jaci is Hispanic and I got very interested when I entered her home and interacted with her family. I love that her heritage and background are portrayed here. By the end of the book I was disappointing that her heritage did not come up again or play a role in the story. It would have been neat to see Jaci use her knowledge of her ancestry or ethnicity to her advantage--pushing the story forward and helping her out of the situation.

Detective Carl is a nice contrast to the teen storyline and I love his choice of brain food-pickles. I enjoyed his internal dialogue and his relationship with his wife. The only thing lacking in Carl’s storyline is a dynamic change from beginning to end. I did not see how following Jaci’s case changed him as a person.

I enjoyed the banter between the girls at the mall before the kidnapping occurs. I could have read a few more chapters of Jaci’s life before the capture and felt surprised when the event happened so soon in the story.

There are quite a few teenage females to keep track of in the story and they all started to blend together for me. Because of what happens to Sara, I was able to separate her from the others in the middle of the book. Again, I am disappointed in the lack of change that I saw in the girls. I wanted to get into Jaci’s head and really see how the events affected and changed her by the end of the story.

The twin boys, Neal and Ricky, add another layer to the story and introduce a bit of romance. Because Neal is introduced first, I became quite attached to him and I saw Ricky as immature and irresponsible. Later in the story I found it confusing when Jaci began to vacillate in her interest between the two boys.

Some of the scenes felt contrived to me, such as Jaci’s rescue at the river. And yet other scenes that might have felt artificial (including their ultimate rescue in the end) made me want to believe in miracles.

The ending felt abrupt and I didn’t get a sense of completion. There is a sequel coming out to Perilous and I realize that there needs to be a few loose ends, but I still wanted that missing catharsis.

I am impressed with the way Heiner is able to write a story about harsh topics that face teens today, such as murder and rape, but in a way that any parent would want them presented to their teen. The events that happen in the book are dealt with, but not played out in detail or dwelt upon in a way that would make a reader uncomfortable.

Purchase: Perilous

Genre: YA, thriller

Publisher: Published October 31st 2010 by WiDo Publishing

Where I got the book: ebook from the author*

*I received only a copy of the ebook as compensation for my review.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Steampunked Fish and Chips

My grandmother recently told me how my Nana (her mother) used to make fish and chips.  Nana lived in England in the late 1800's.  I decided to make this recipe while reading The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby.  Although the book is not set in England, the time period made me think of my European heritage and it gave me warm and fuzzies to make the recipe while reading the book.  Fish and chips go well with a steampunk setting.  Enjoy this authentic recipe.

Steampunked Fish and Chips

1 pound fresh halibut(I purchased mine from a fish market.  It made six servings)
Batter for Halibut:
Flour, salt, a pinchh of baking powder, with enough water to make it the consistency of pancake mix.  Note: I came home in a rush and just substituted pancake batter and it worked great!
Pat the fish with paper towels until dry.  Dip in batter.  Deep fat fry until golden brown.

Cut desired amount of potatoes into french fry shapes(I used a Pampered Chef crinkle cutter).  Deep fat fry until golden brown.  Season with salt and malt vinegar.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

Food to eat while reading: Steampunked Fish and Chips

I met Matthew Kirby at a Writing for Charity event in 2009 and have been eager to read his story ever since.

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

The first line: “When Giuseppe found the green violin, he did not think it would help him escape.” This line promises magic and tells me right away that the character is in a precarious situation.

I haven’t heard of a steampunk book for middle grade readers, and Kirby expertly fills the niche. Steamboats, a clockwork man, child labor and the impending Edison electricity all populate this fable-like tale.

Three children are in need of something that they can only get through dependence on another. The three storylines are woven together into a beautiful tapestry that could only be created by their collaboration.

Kirby’s descriptions dart in and out of the story, never distracting from the dialogue and flow. Here’s an example of Giuseppe biting an apple: “When he bit through its crisp skin, sour juice exploded in his mouth and twisted up his cheeks and his tongue.” Can you taste it?

Hannah, Frederick and Giuseppe are distinct from each other in personality, in emotions and the way that they react to situations. The characters recognize each other’s differences, and instead of letting it tear them apart, they use the differences to support each other.

There is a tiny hint of romance between Hannah and Frederick-just the perfect amount for middle grade. One tender scene in particular touched my heart at the end of the story.

What I would have changed:

Even though the three storylines were interesting, I started to get lost in the early middle of the book. I kept picking up other books because the pacing lagged a bit for me. I am glad that I didn’t put it down though, because the story delivers.

Not all of my questions were answered and I wanted more. I am hoping that we will see more of the three children, Madame Pomeroy and the clockwork man and the magic that made him come to life.

The verdict: A tale of the mystery and magic of time gone by, The Clockwork Three will enchant readers to the last page.

Purchase: The Clockwork Three

Genre: MG, steampunk, historical fiction

Publisher: Published October 1st 2010 by Scholastic Press, Hardcover, 400 pages

Where I got the book: ARC that I won in a giveaway (I’m trying to remember from whom).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Interview with Rachel Ann Nunes

"I love learning new things. I love dreaming. Combine the two and you have a novel." -Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Ann Nunes so kindly answered some of my questions regarding her book, Imprints and the sequel, Shades of Gray that will come out in 2011.  Thank you Rachel for allowing us to go "behind the scenes" and take a peek into the mind of an author.  

You can read my review of this wonderful book here.

Q: What inspired you to write your first book?

A: I simply knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an author. For as long as I can remember, writing novels is what I planned to do. I was an avid reader and always made up what I thought were wonderful stories in my mind. When I was in France for six months as an eleven-year-old, the seed for my first published novel, Ariana, began to grow, and two years in Portugal added to the European flavor of the novel.

Q: Does your family enjoy your books?

A: My daughters read them, and one particular daughter, Catia, is my biggest supporter. She pre-reads all my books for me.

Q:Is there a message in Imprints that you want readers to grasp?

A: If there's a message in Imprints, it's that you don't have to include a lot of raunchy sex scenes, child sacrifice, and swear words every page like all the national paranormal novels for adults out there. I believe the reason why young adult paranormal novels are so popular is that because they don't waste time with that sort of thing. There seems to be a real disconnect between publishers and readers these days in regards to what readers really want.

Q:Where did the idea for the ability to imprint come from?

A: It's one of those things that just happened. In fact, before the idea came to me, I didn't even realize there was a scientific name for the ability. I think on some level I sort of imagined those old handheld credit card imprint devices and how you'd slide the card and the number would appear magically on the paper. I figured an emotion would be a similar thing, only invisible to the eye.

Q: I love the covers for this series, did you have any input on them?

A: On the first mocked up of this cover, they had a girl in coat and boots who looked like she was walking around in a forest. There were fingerprints and sort of an old mystery look to the whole thing. In fact, you can still see that cover on Amazon. Not a bad cover, but the character doesn't look or feel like mine (who never wears shoes). When I suggested a change, my product manager thought we ought to use the Portland skyline as well, and this is what we ended up with http://rachelannnunes.com/Imprints_book.php. It fits the book a lot better. So, yes, my publisher is good to listen to my input about covers. I think they do a fabulous job.

Q:What kind of research did you do for this series?

A: I researched pychometry, which is the scientific name for the paranormal ability my character has, but most of my research involved cults, antiques, and the two cities in Oregon where my novel takes place. As the child of an herb store owner, I've always been interested in herbs and how people feel about them, so that's always fun to play into.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I've just finished Shades of Gray, An Autumn Rain Imprints Novel, which as you can tell from the title, is the sequel to Imprints. My pre-readers were very positive about the book, and I'm excited for people to read it. The release date is likely in May 2011, give or take a month, and if you check on my website in April, I should have a sample chapter and the week of the release. In fact, I have sample chapters of most of my novels there: www.RachelAnnNunes.com. Currently, I'm working on a novel called Before I Say Goodbye, which is still in the early stages so I'm not ready to share much about yet. I do have to give my publisher a summary soon, and I'll put a bit of that up on my website in a few weeks. I plan to have it finished by the end of January for an August 2011 release.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

My best advice is to read, read, read, and read some more. And then write, write, write, and pass your work around to other aspiring authors, and then rewrite again and send it out to editors or agents. Keep writing new novels or revising older ones and continue sending them out. Keep reading all the time (novels, grammar books, books about writing). If you don't give up, you will eventually make it.

Q: Are there any new books that have grabbed your interest?

A: I'm reading all the time, and right now I'm reading extensively in the urban fantasy market, which I'm writing on the side when I'm caught up on my current publisher deadlines. It's a fascinating genre, but I really only enjoy a few of those authors because of what I mentioned above about content. For my own writing in that genre, I may have to end up using younger characters just to avoid this. I'm not at all into the high school teen angst scene, but there is a newer genre of novels with twenty-something characters that are a mix of young adult and adult that I've found interesting.

Q: What inspires you to write and why?

A: I simply feel that I must write. When I do, I'm happier and my life and my relationships are smoother. It's like eating. If I'm away from it too long, I'm cranky and easily irritated. I believe we are all given gifts for a reason, and if we're not using them and stretching ourselves, we don't grow and progress, which makes the core of who we are unhappy. Also, writing is a unique profession in that you learn a little about many subjects. I love learning new things. I love dreaming. Combine the two and you have a novel.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Scorched Creme Brulee

The charm of a creme brulee is the the contrast between the sweet, creamy custard and the transformation of its crusty, scorched exterior.  The Scorch Trials by James Dashner has a similar charm.  His characters must undergo trial after trial that threaten to take away the sweet innocence of youth.  And yet, the reader gets the feeling that if the trials are successful, the result will be as delectable as the scorched crust on this creamy dessert.

Scorched Creme Brulee

1 quart heavy creme
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (in a pinch you can use 1 tsp of vanilla, but it won't be the same)
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided (can also use white sugar, but again, not as tasty)
6-8 large egg yolks (more if you like a more gelatin consistency, less if you like it creamier)
2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 325'

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover and sit for 15 minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean.

In a medium bowl, whisk togeher 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just started to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.  Pour the liquid into 6 (7-8 oz) remekins.  Place the ramekins into a large cake or roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into the pan to come  halway up the sides of the ramekins. 

Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40-45 minutes.  Remove from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the tops.  Divide the remaining 1/2 cup sugar equally among the dishes and spread evenly on top.  Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.  Alternatively, you can broil the creme brulee in the oven until the sugar crisps.  Be careful not to burn.  Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Food to eat while reading: Scorched Crème Brulee

I am not usually a fan of middle books in a series, but this middle book in The Maze Runner series reads like a great beginning--all over again.

Read the synopsis here.
Read my review of The Maze Runner

What I liked:

The setting kept changing and with each new place came dangers, creatures and people that kept me on the edge of my seat.

The main characters remained consistent and believable, yet they changed and grew from their experiences, like good little characters should. In fact, I almost cheered at the end for Thomas on the last page when he makes a difficult decision. Hooray for characters that change and show us that we can too.

Brenda, and Jorge are a great addition to the cast. They throw more variables into the equation and complicate the trials. And I love that Dashner introduced a second love interest for Thomas. Let the cat fights begin!

The balance of intrigue in this story is perfect. The questions and answers are braided together so that I am always wondering what will happen, but satisfied by the questions I have already received. Dashner has gained my trust, and though I still have unanswered questions, I am willing to read through quite a bit before I get the answers because I know that he will deliver.

I am eager to see why all of these horrible things are happening to these kids and how Thomas had a hand in creating the trials that he now is subjected to. I have an idea of why the variables are there and what the patterns are for, but I am content to wait until 2011 for The Death Cure.

I can’t wait to see this on the movie screen-it will lend itself easily to media.

What I would have changed:

The Scorch Trials is quite a bit more violent than The Maze Runner. My son is currently reading the first book and I am unsure about giving him the second one just yet.

It bothered me that Aris’ character is so underdeveloped. He mozies along with the Gladers, only showing spunk when he is required to act out a role for WICKED. Perhaps the author has hidden Aris from us for a reason and we will see his character unfurl in The Death Cure.

Much of the jeopardy was killed for me by a scene in the middle of the book. I just didn’t worry so much for Thomas’ safety and that led to a loss of intensity.

The verdict:

The Scorch Trials is an excellent addition to the very popular dystopian genre. It will leave you scratching your head and chomping at the bit to read on.

Purchase: The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 2)
Genre: YA, dystopian
Publisher: October 12th 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, Hardcover, 360 pages
Where I got the book: Amazon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-Harmony Hominy Soup

The varying flavors of this soup combine to make a surprisingly fresh soup.  James Dashner's characters in The Maze Runner come together in a similar manner-some of them appear to clash, but in the end it is their differences that make them a team. 

Harmony Hominy Soup

2 chicken breasts, cubed and cooked(I like to grill mine)
2 cans of hominy, white or yellow or both
3 cups of chicken broth(can substitute water and bouillon)
Various fresh vegetables, diced.  I like avocado, olives, tomatoes, broccolli, cauliflower, carrots, and green onions.  It doesn't matter which veggies you use, but avocado and olives are a must!

Cook chicken, hominy and broth to a boil, reduce and simmer for 15 minutes.  To serve, put chicken mixture in bowls and allow guests to add fresh vegetables of their choosing.  Squeeze fresh lime over all.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Food to eat while reading: Harmony Hominy Soup

It’s about time that I wrote a review for this excellent book. When my Amazon account notified me that my pre-order of The Scorch Trials had shipped yesterday, I decided I had better write it.

Read the synopsis here

What I liked:

The opening of this story is irresistible. A boy in a metal box who remembers nothing about his past and finds himself in a community of boys reminiscent of Lord of the Flies? Now who can resist reading on?

I love the voice of Thomas in this book. He is unique and consistent throughout the entire novel.

Dashner plays the suspense and intrigue perfectly. Just when I think I can’t stand to be in the dark anymore, he explains a bit more of what is going on. Every chapter pulled me along and forced me to keep reading.

Dystopian novels are trending right now and Maze Runner is a fresh story that leaves you wondering what happened to the world, instead of showing you the aftermath. I have mixed feelings about learning all there is to know about Thomas’ home; I want to figure it all out, but when I do the suspense will be gone. Even so, I can’t wait to read Scorch Trials.

What I would have changed:

Everyone seemed to know more than Thomas when he came into the Glade. It frustrated me that they wouldn’t tell him right away what they had learned about the place where they lived.

Dashner’s use of slang words were novel at first, but they pulled me out of the story and became a nuisance after awhile.

The verdict:

Make sure you have enough time for reading this fast-paced dystopian novel that will keep you up to all hours of the night until you are finished.

Purchase: The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)

Genre: YA, dystopian

Publisher: Hardcover, 374 pages

Published October 6th 2009 by Random House (Delacorte Press)

Where I got the book: Giveaway from Inspired Kathy at I am a Reader, not a Writer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tasty Tuesday Ug-Rotten (Au-gratin) Potatoes

There is not much to eat in Nazi-controlled Copenhagen.  Annemarie and her family in Lois Lowry's Number the Stars have potatoes every night, and little else. This recipe is a fast and easy one, chances are you can make it tonight what is already in your pantry. 

Ug-Rotten Potatoes

8-10 potatoes
2 cans cream of chicken or mushroom soup
1 cup grated cheese
onion salt and pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and par-boil them.  Combine the remaining ingredients.  Slice the potatoes into a 9x13 inch pan and cover with the soup mixture.  Cook at 350' for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Source: unknown from my recipe box

Monday, October 4, 2010

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I read this book in school and I find it enlightening to re-read old favorites as an adult.  If you haven't turned to Number the Stars in awhile, pick it up for a quick read.
Food to eat while reading: Ug-rotten (Au-gratin) potatoes
Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

Even small children are affected by the goings-on of the adults in their lives. Annemarie is very young when the Nazi’s take over Denmark. How poignant the events of war are as told through the eyes of a child.

The story is told through Annemarie and Lois Lowry has a talent for putting us into the character’s head. The point of view is never breached-every detail is taken in from a ten-year old perspective. Even though Annemarie does not understand the politics of war, she can tell when something is wrong. And she can be brave and courageous, just like her mother and uncle.

I am interested in the way Lowry uses simple language, dotting the story here and there with lovely descriptions that don’t overpower or take away from the telling.

Fairy tales are woven throughout the book, usually as stories told to Annemarie’s younger sister, Kirsti. The tales reflect what is going on in key parts of the story and add a layer of symbolism that adult readers recognize and children readers feel.

What I would have changed:

I would have liked to read more about Ellen and Annemarie together-their cultural differences and similarities. Because I don’t know much about either the Danes or the Jews, knowing more about both cultures would help immerse me in the story.

The verdict:
Number the Stars is a classic story that brings to light the difficult topic of war to those who are often the most affected by it, the children.

Purchase: Number the Stars

Genre: MG, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Mass Market Paperback, 137 pages, February 9th 1998 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1989)

Where I got the book: Library for book club

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix

Ann Whitford Paul's how-to book about writing picture books for children has everything you need to get started. The nuts and bolts. The kitchen sink. :) You get the picture.

Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix

1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup craisins
1 cup strawberried peanut butter M&Ms

Dump all the ingredients into a container or baggie and shake together (kids love this recipe).

*You can probably see from the picture how I did not use the strawberried peanut butter M&Ms. I went to four different stores searching for them, but they must be discontinued. If you can find them, definately use them. Trust me on this one. Yum. And they are more colorful. But alas, I used chocolate chips instead because I had to have some chocolate in there somewhere!

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Food to eat while reading: Nuts and Bolts trail mix

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

The author has an easy style that makes reading a how-to book pleasurable, in fact, I set aside my current novel to read it.

Each chapter has an exercise that you can use to strengthen your work in progress, using the tools from that chapter.

This book allowed me to look at all of my WIP with a fresh perspective. The writing advice Paul gives is universal and helped me look more simply at the YA novel I am working out.

Paul gives picture book examples to help illustrate each writing tip.

I love the instruction on the rhythm in words and how poetry can help us with our prose.

What I would have changed:

Nothing, really. It’s a pretty straight-forward book with great advice.

The verdict:

Aspiring writers who have no idea where to begin will devour this book, and those who are looking for a fresh way to spruce up their writing will benefit from the exercises.

Purchase: Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication

Genre: How To

Publisher: Paperback, 256 pages

Published June 2nd 2009 by Writers Digest Books

Where I got the book: Amazon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tasty Tuesday Pre-Feis Spaghetti and Meatballs

Liffey Rivers won't think of eating anything but spaghetti and meatballs the night before a feis (an Irish dance competition).  Who knows what might happen if she were to eat, say, chicken.  In honor of Liffey Rivers and the Mystery of the Sparkling Solo Dress by Brenna Briggs, I am giving you a recipe for the biggest meatballs and yummiest sauce I can find.  And if spaghetti and meatballs brings good luck, then all of us should have it at least once a week. 

Giant Meatballs:
•1 1/2 lbs ground sirloin or turkey
•1 egg
•1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1/4 medium onion, minced
•handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
•1 C Italian bread crumbs
•4 good shakes Worcestershire sauce
•1 t salt
•16 small cubes of provolone cheese (1/4 pound or so)I used some string cheese
•olive oil for baking sheet
Preheat oven to 425.

Combine meat, egg, red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Use your hands.

Make 16 meatballs.
Tuck a piece of provolone into the middle of each meatball and seal it up as much as you can. Place meatballs on a nonstick cookie sheet brushed with a little olive oil. Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes.

Marinara Sauce
*note, you could also use a can of store bought sauce if you would like

•2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
•3 garlic cloves
•red pepper flakes to taste
•2 T olive oil
•1/4 C chopped fresh Italian parsley
•1/4 C chopped fresh basil (or a couple of teaspoons of dry, in a pinch)
•1/8 C chopped fresh oregano (or a teaspoon of dry; feel free to adjust herb amounts to your liking)
•1 t sugar
•salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat, add garlic and red pepper flakes (about a teaspoon; more if you like a really spicy sauce). Saute until the garlic sizzles. Add tomatoes and stir. Then add basil, parsley, oregano, sugar (if the tomatoes are acidic), salt and pepper. Bring this to boil, stirring occasionally. Drop the heat down and let it simmer while you work on everything else.

Serve over your favorite pasta.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Liffey Rivers and the Mystery of the Sparkling Solo Dress Crown by Brenna Briggs

Food to eat while reading: Pre-feis Spaghetti and Meatballs
How fun is a mystery set at an Irish dance competition?

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

Liffey is a spunky, quirky girl who dreams of qualifying for a solo dress and eats spaghetti and meatballs the night before every competition. Because of her overbearing personality, no one, including the reader, can anticipate what she will do next.

The author pulls the reader into two new worlds that they may never otherwise explore. The first is the world of Irish dance. Second, she gives us a feel for the city of St. Louis, Missouri.

Liffey lets her imagination run a bit wild, which makes her the perfect sleuth. She notices clues that other people might not even wonder about.

I can see where Liffey’s looniness might be hereditary. I laughed when I heard that her aunt gave a cheer during Liffey’s competition:“Kick ‘em high, kick ‘em low, go, go, go.”

Liffey internalizes about her fears and dreams in a way that most girls her age can relate to. She wants a solo dress more than anything . She draws her own designs for a dress, notices other girls’ dresses and daydreams about it every few minutes.

What I would have changed:

Even though I enjoyed Liffey’s eccentricities, her daydreams and a few stray points of view switches gave me whiplash. She would obsess about her dress, launch into a lecture on the St. Louis Arch, and then on to her competition.

Liffey’s character wavered inconsistently. She spoke of how she didn’t mind that her father required her to have an escort at the hotel, and then give the escort the slip a few moments later. She

I couldn’t relate well to Liffey. I felt pity for her that she was always left alone at competitions and had no mother to care for her. But pity wasn’t enough to make me relate to her. Liffey's rudeness to other people,disregard for rules and disrespect for adults distanced me from her. I could see why the other girls in her Irish dance school avoided her, I would too. Her quirkiness went past the point where we enjoy reading about her idiosyncrises-she became a bit too far out there to be relatable.

The mystery was fun, but predictable. Liffey’s actions kept me guessing, but the plotline of the mystery was very basic and easy to wonder about.

The author did not attempt to explain the world of Irish dance to an outside viewer, and as a result, those who are not familiar with Irish dance competitions will be left scratching their heads.

The verdict:

Think Nancy Drew meets the Irish dance world.  Anyone who loves Irish dance will enjoy reading about Liffey’s adventures.

Purchase: Liffey Rivers and the Mystery of the Sparkling Solo Dress Crown

Genre: MG, mystery

Publisher: Paperback, 146 pages, Published November 3rd 2005 by BookSurge Publishing

Where I got the book: Brenna Briggs, author*

*I received only a copy of the book as compensation for my review.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with Irish Dance Writer Heidi Will

Heidi Will is the author and illustrator of The Ghillie Girls.  She based her book on the experiences she and her friends had in Irish dance.  Heidi is expecting her first child in March, and her friend, who is also represented in the book, is expecting a child on March 17th-St. Patrick's Day.  Visit Heidi online at http://www.ghilliegirls.com/.

What prompted you to write about Irish dance?

I initially wrote The Ghillie Girls as a Christmas present for three of my Irish dance friends. Kim (“Addy”) had moved away from Phoenix to New Hampshire, Beki (“Libby”) and I had stopped dancing competitively, and Jacqui (“Keelin”) was the only one left at our old dance school. It seemed that we were drifting apart, and I wanted to do something to bring us together and celebrate the friendship we had developed through Irish dance. It started as The Wig Sisters, which is what we called ourselves. That first version was quite a bit different than the final published version of The Ghillie Girls (I changed the name to make it more specific to Irish dance). I printed copies for everyone and they loved it, and suggested I publish it. I decided to tweak the book to be an introduction to Irish dance in the hopes of exposing more people to this wholesome and enriching art form. I happened to stumble across the Irish dance world in my college years, and still view it as a well-kept secret that needs to be shared!

Your illustrations are unique, how did you design them?

Thanks! I considered many different illustration styles and finally chose a simple, modern look. I love color (as one can tell instantly upon entering my home) and so I had fun making the book very bright and colorful. The illustrations translate well into coloring pages, which I use a lot with my own Irish dance students at the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center.

What were the challenges you had in bringing your book to life?

I wanted to make the book accessible to non-dancers so I got feedback from several people who knew nothing about Irish dance to be sure that I explained things that dancers take for granted—especially the pronunciation of Irish words. Since every Irish dance school does things a little differently and calls things by different names, I consulted people from different schools and regions to make the book as accurate as possible. It was hard to decide if I should seek a traditional publisher for my book, or attempt to self-publish. I finally chose the self-publishing route, because it allowed me to have complete control over the final product. As a graphic designer, I enjoyed every aspect of the process—writing, illustration, and layout design.

Do you have future plans for the Ghillie Girls?

I have more books in mind, if I can make the time to write them. I would love to write about the adventures we had while competing in Irish dance. We had so much fun traveling together; going to Oireachtas, taking road trips, visiting friends across the country while “feising.” I would also like to explore the struggles we had, competing against each other. Sometimes it really strained our friendship, but in the end, I value our friendship and the memories we made so much more than any medal I won. That is what I want to communicate to young Irish dancers: to appreciate what is really important, and not to get hung up on winning.

Can you share anything with us from what you are currently working on?

The book that has taken the most shape in my mind tells the story of how the Ghillie Girls meet and become the Ghillie Girls. It is longer, with more words and fewer illustrations. I’m also working on a coloring and activity book.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m always in the middle of reading or listening to several books (I am a huge fan of audio books; there are always a few on my iPod). I love all kinds of fiction, and some non-fiction, but mostly I’m a sucker for a good story, regardless of genre. As an example of my eclectic tastes, right now I’m reading Shadow of the Hegemon in the Ender saga, as well as the third book in the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Since I’m currently expecting my first child, there are also a few books on babies and parenting on my night stand, as well as a book of celtic folk stories that Kim brought back for me from her trip to Scotland for Worlds.