Monday, June 21, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Food to eat while reading: Blood Red Velvet Cupcakes

This novella is a companion book to Eclipse by the same author. Even though I knew ahead of time that this book is told from a blood-thirsty vampire’s point of view, I couldn’t stay away from it. As a gift, Stephenie has posted the story as an ebook for a limited time(see below for more info).

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

As always, Stephenie has given birth to a cast of characters who are real. The vampires jump off the page and into my mind, tempting me away from the mounds of laundry looming in my mud room.

Bree’s past is intriguing, and because I already know her fate from the beginning, I am anxious to know what is going on in her head. Her perspective on the vampires, and the Cullen clan in particular sheds light on Victoria’s side of the story.

Diego is likeable and it made me happy that Bree had a friend.

Fred is a fantastic character: mysterious, intelligent, silent and deceptively good-looking. Toward the end of the book there is a hint that we might see him again in the Cullen’s future and I very much hope so.

I enjoyed the action and suspense-filled ride that propelled me through this short, chapter-less book. Just about every scene transported me to a different setting; from an underground cavern to the top of a tree.

Bree’s story is one of regrets and what might have been. We all look back with longing to the events in our lives that we would change if we could. As Bree mounts each step toward her inevitable destruction, I cringe when each possibility for escape passes her by. If only… I think to myself, wondering what crossroads in my own life could be different.

What I would have changed:

Because this story is told through the eyes of a thirsting newborn vampire, the violence and gore is more copious than in Stephenie’s other Twilight books. Or perhaps there’s the same amount of violence, just condensed into a smaller story. What I love most about the Twilight series is the author’s ability to make us feel emotion, and though she succeeded in showing us Bree’s emotions, I prefer to experience the angst and romance, rather than the thirst and bloodshed.

This book felt like a character exercise that ran away. In fact, Stephenie admits that Bree’s story came from her side notes. I am fine if she wants to develop some of the side stories that go along with the Twilight universe, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the story as much. For one thing, I already knew Bree’s fate before I started reading, and for another, the novella was too short for me to get really attached to Bree.

The verdict:

Fans of Twilight will scour this mini-novel for clues into the vampire world.

I gave this book 3/5 stars.

Purchase: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (Twilight Saga)
Read the ebook for free until July 5, 2010

Genre: fantasy, YA , paranormal romance

Publisher: June 5th 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Where I got the book: ebook

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

To Die for Lemon Tart

One bite of this tangy tart and you will know what summer and sunshine taste like.  In Josi Kilpack's "cosy" Lemon Tart, this delectable dish begins a mystery so delicious, you'll ask for seconds(thank goodness it's the first in a series).  With special thanks to Josi, here is a copy of Sadie Hoffmiller's recipe:
Mom's Lemon Tart (To Die For!)

*Jack's favorite!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into smaller pieces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor or mixer, combine ingredients for crust. Pulse together until a dough starts to form in clumps. Press into tart pan, making sure to cover bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake until crust is a golden-brown color, approximately 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

5 oz. cream cheese
1/ 2 cup granulated sugar (Breanna likes an extra 1/4 cup sugar in the filling)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons--DO NOT use concentrated lemon juice)
2 large eggs
Zest from one lemon (get zest from lemon before juicing)

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese with electric beaters until smooth. Add sugar. Mix until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Stop and scrape bowl halfway through. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until smooth.

Pour filling into tart crust and bake on cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes or until filling is set. Let tart cool on wire cooling rack. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Use whipped cream as an optional topping. It can be piped on in stars or served on top with each piece. For extra flavor in the whipped cream, add a teaspoon of lemon zest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lemon Tart: A Culinary Mystery by Josi S. Kilpack

Food to eat while reading: To Die for Lemon Tart

This is the first “cozy” mystery I have ever read and I have to say I enjoyed the story immensely. Sadie Hoffmiller is exactly how I envision a modern, aged Anne of Green Gables to behave. Who could resist such a fresh heroine mixed up with a murder mystery? And I love the recipes included at the end of key chapters (hey, why didn’t I think of that?).

Read the synopsis here.

What I liked:

Sadie is such a loveable, perfectly flawed character and I related to her instantly. Her internal dialogue is fresh and hilarious and the way she jumps around in her head makes me laugh. When Sadie is chased by a killer, she apologizes as she slams the door on the killer’s hand and then pauses to buckle her seat belt.

The smattering of recipes and cooking in the story give it a homey feel. Sadie uses food for comfort, apology and to con information from her neighbors. The recipes included at the end of the chapters look delicious and I want to try every one.

All of the characters in the story are colorful and memorable, right down to the neighbor’s cat.

The intrigue weaves through the story, and will keep you guessing with twists and turns like every good mystery should.

What I would have changed:

It took me awhile to separate the two detectives in my mind. Although I knew they were different, the detectives looked and sounded the same to me. When I go back and flip through the chapter in which I was introduced to them, I can see that the author did a good job of describing the detectives and yet I just couldn’t keep them straight.

The verdict:

Lemon Tart is a delicious treat for anyone who enjoys a fast, suspenseful “cozy”, and is a great introduction for those who might be trying the genre for the first time.

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Purchase: Lemon Tart: A Culinary Mystery

Genre: cozy, murder mystery

Publisher: March 4th 2009 by Deseret Book

Where I got the book: LDSStorymakers Conference bookstore

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dublin Coddle

This traditional Irish dish has such a cool name that I didn't have to come up with my own for the recipe.   Lament by Maggie Stiefvater is steeped in Irish folklore, and reading it put me in the mood for some of this meaty, filling soup. 

St. Patrick's Day is a big deal around our house, and I stumbled on this yummy recipe just this year.  Whala!  A new family tradition.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Dublin Coddle

1 Pound pork sausage. sliced (I use turkey sausage, the kind that is shaped like a lucky horseshoe)
1 Pound diced ham
1 quart of boiling water
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 pounds of potatoes, diced
4 T. chopped fresh parsley ( I used chopped fresh chives, as that is what was growing in my garden)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the meats in the boiling water for five minutes.  Drain the liquid, reserving it for later. 
Put the meat in a large saucepan with the vegetables and cover with the liquid.  Cover the pot and let simmer gently for about an hour, until the potatoes are cooked but not mushy.  Season to taste.  Serve with fresh Irish Soda Bread and a a glass of stout or (in my case) homemade root beer.

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Steivfater

Food to Eat while Reading: Dublin Coddle

“Deirdre had been wishing her summer weren't so dull, but taking on a centuries-old Faerie Queen isn't exactly what she had in mind.”

Read the full description here

What I liked:

The magic of music and celtic faerie lore drew me into the book. I loved the faerie creatures and how seamlessly the author wove them into the story. Small novelties in the book were delightful, such as the clovers which kept showing up. I can just imagine the carpet of clovers covering the lawn.

The balance between suspense and answering the important questions was handled with finesse. Just when I was excited to learn something that I had been wondering about, a new question would surface and push the story forward.

I liked Luke and James. I am intrigued about the role James will play in the next book, Ballad.

Deirdre’s dad is an interesting character to me, a bit picked on, but sympathetic to his daughter’s needs. I would like to have seen more interaction between father and daughter.

What I would have changed:

I have to say that I wasn’t drawn in by the first chapter. There were so many references to Deirdre wanting to throw-up, that by the time she finally made it to the bathroom, it was a huge relief. The characters felt flat in the beginning, but I am glad that I kept reading.

The ending was abrupt and left too many loose ends-even for the first book in a series. I wanted a bit of closure with Deirdre’s aunt, and some catharsis with both James and Luke.

Readers should be aware that there is some strong language in the book, including the f-bomb. The harsh language grated on me and threw me out of the story.

I am conflicted as to what I am supposed to think of Luke. He is fiercely loyal to Dierdre, and yet has some terrific shadows tainting his past. The ending makes me wonder as to his real motives for sticking by Dierdre. I’m looking forward to exploring his conflicted character in the next book in the series.

The verdict:
An story of emotion, music and self-discovery played out on a backdrop of Irish mythology and romance. 
I gave this book 3/5 stars.
Purchase: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Genre: fantasy, YA , paranormal romance

Publisher: October 1st 2008 by Flux Paperback, 326 pages

Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle app for the iPad