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: *

*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.