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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Winner of 100 Followers Giveaway

Party Time!

It's time to announce the winner of my 100 followers contest.  Keep in mind that the lucky person gets their choice of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, or a $15 Amazon GC AND some homemade chocolate chip cookies to keep them company while they read-bliss. 

And the lucky winner is...... Jen
Jen has a great book blog over at Unedited where she is hosting a giveaway for Firelight by Sophie Jordan.

Congrats to Jen and welcome to all my new followers!  Be sure and check out my writer blog at http://www.christydorrity.com/.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tasty Tuesday Rose Orange Julius

In Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Gaven, the sweet gardener, thoughtfully gives Rose an orange to help her recover from an illness.  This classic orange smoothie is a reminiscent of that orange.  I added some frozen berries to give the drink a rosy color in honor of the heroine. 

Rosy Orange Julius

1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice(sometimes more)
10 ice cubes
1/2 t vanilla
frozen berries of your choice(I used black cherries and logan berries)

Blend and enjoy.

Source:  my mom

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Food to Eat While Reading:  Rose Orange Julius

I thought about Princess of the Midnight Ball when I wasn’t reading it and even dreamed about it once while taking a nap. The fact that the story crossed over into my daily life means the author was successful in getting her characters into my head. This re-telling of the twelve dancing princesses is a quick and enjoyable read.

Read the synopsis here

What I liked:

The writing felt effortless and flowed nicely. I soon forgot all about the author behind the scenes and immersed myself in Roses’ story.

The tale evolved so naturally, and with such creativity that I can hardly believe it was a fairy re-telling.

Jessica Day George handled the many sisters very well, giving most of them unique personalities and letting others fade into the background appropriately.

I loved Gaven, a humble, wool-knitting, gardener who had the courage to face powerful magic for his princess.

The use of German names added a sense of place.

The ending was lovely-all the ends were tied into a neat bow and it left me satisfied and happy. The side plot of Lily and Heinrich added a sweet dimension that made the ending that much more enjoyable.

What I was unsure of:

Many times the power of names was spoken of in the book. When it came down to it, I was disappointed with how the characters used the power that a name can have to deal with the evil in the book. I had been waiting for a powerful symbol of truth and ended up being a bit disappointed.

The verdict:

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a lovely read for anyone who enjoys a cleverly re-told fairytale. A “curl up with a good book” kind of read.

Purchase: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Genre: YA, fantasy
Publisher: Hardcover, 280 pages, January 20th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Where I got the book: Library

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tasty Tuesday-District 12 Beef Brisket

*Don't forget to enter my 100 follower giveaway by commenting here
This recipe calls for a great big cut of meat called a brisket.  I can imagine that Katniss from Suzanne Collins' book, Mockingjay has had a chance to cook something similar after a hunting expedition with Gale.  Living in District 12 forced Katniss to be frugal and she would approve of the amount of people this recipe feeds for the price.  If you need to feed a crowd, this is a great recipe.  Be aware that is takes awhile to cook. 

District 12 Beef Brisket

8-9 pounds well-trimmed brisket
1 t each clery salt, onion salt, garlic salt
1 bottle liquid smoke
3 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 T Worchestershire sauce
1/2-3/4 bottle of BBQ sauce (I add more if the meat is dry)

In a broiler or low pan, pour liquid smoke over trimmed beef.  Combine the 3 salts and sprinkle over both sides of meat.  Cover with foil and refridgerate overnight.
In the morning, sprinkle with salt and pepper and Worchestershire  sauce.  Cover with foil and bake in a 225' preheated oven for 7 hours.  Uncover and drain liquid.  Pour on the BBQ cause.  Back for 45 minutes to an hour.  Meat should be easily shreddable.  Serve on buns. 

Source: my mother in-law :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (spoiler free)

Food to eat while reading: District 12 Beef Brisket

What a wild ride this series is. To be honest, I am actually relieved to be done with it. Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the ride. But the emotional rollercoaster was so swift and stomach-dropping that I am happy to be on solid ground again.

Read the synopsis here

What I liked:

There were so many surprises and twists that I couldn't put the book down. Katniss is so unpredictable that I never know what is going to happen.

Collins is a master at painting the silence behind the words. When she describes what Katniss is experiencing, I feel like my heart is going to explode. It is even more poetic than poetry. Here is an example from page 349:

"Dead, but not allowed to die. Alive, but as good as dead. So alone that anyone, anything no matter how loathsome would be welcome. But when I finally have a visitor, it's sweet. Morphling. Coursing through my veins, easing the pain, lightening my body so that is rises back toward the air and rest again on the foam."
The author knows when to show and when to tell. She leaves out or summarizes the unnecessary and I am relieved to read only what is important to Katniss.

Katniss is given freedom by the author to do and say what she wants to. This makes for an interesting and impulsive story.

The ending was hard for me to swallow at first. But the more I think about it, the more fitting it becomes. Collins wove the ending so tightly, that up until the last page I didn't know how things would turn out. Yet, when I think back to the last few chapters, I can see the obvious winding down.

I was so very happy to see Katniss through to the end, if only to give her character some peace. She went through so much irony and unfair agony that I was comforted to see her settled.

The themes of war & peace, and the cycle of human society are classic. Collins drives them home with Katniss, a character so poignant and heartrending who isnpires us to make a difference in our own circle of influence.

What I was unsure of:

The violence and death. I know they are a part of war and defending oneself. But with Katniss, there seemed to be a disconnect from humanity along the way. The casualties who got in her way were bothersome to me, not to mention the innocent sufferers of the war, the children .

I think Katniss could have survived without either Gale or Peeta. I know that some would argue that she is the ultimate strong female character, but I think a woman can be strong and still want to have a husband and a home.

The Verdict:

Mockingjay is a satisfying conclusion to an emotional and gripping trilogy that will steal the hearts of both teens and adults.

Purchase: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

Genre: YA, distopian

Publisher: Hardcover, 390 pages, August 24th 2010 by Scholastic Press
Where I got the book: Amazon

Friday, September 3, 2010

100 Follower (not 100 years) Birthday Giveaway

When I started this blog six months ago, I had no idea what a wonderful world of authors, reviewers and readers there are.  Today I reached 100 followers and it's also my (thankfully not 100th) birthday! 

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway.  One lucky winner will recieve:

Their choice of a copy of
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins or $15 gift certificate to Amazon.com, and
A dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Believe me, they are worth entering for.  
The contest will run until September 15th
To enter:

*provide a new and seperate comment in this post for each entry*

+1 Leave a comment with your email address and tell me your favorite read so far in 2010

+1 Follow me

+2 Mozy over to my one of my other blogs and leave a comment at ChristyDorrity or Irish Dance

+1 Read one of the book reviews I have written and leave a comment on that post.

+1 Be my friend on Goodreads here

+1 tweet the contest and leave a link here(one tweet per day)

+3 blog about the contest and leave the link here.

+1 post about the contest on your social networking site and leave a link here