Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Roll by Josi Kilpack and enter to win an iPad!

Pumpkin Roll by Josi Kilpack
Pumpkin Roll is the perfect fall read!  Yummy comfort food recipes like Whitty Baked Beans, Cinnamon Twists, and Yorkshire Pudding (something I've never tried), ghostly happenings and scary situations make it a great choice as the weather gets cooler.  


In conjunction with the release of Pumpkin Roll the author, Josi S. Kilpack,and the publisher, Shadow Mountain, are sponsoring a contest for a new iPad.

To enter, leave a comment in the comment section of this blog before
November 1, 2011.  
Winners will be announced and notified November 3rd 2011.
More information can be found on Josi Kilpack's website

Sadie Hoffmiller is looking forward to spending her favorite baking season of the year making delicious New England recipes in Boston, Massachusetts, with her favorite leading man, Pete Cunningham, as they babysit his three young grandsons. But when the boys insist that Mrs. Wapple, the woman who lives across the street, is a witch, Sadie and Pete are anxious to distract the boys from such Halloween-induced ideas. However, it gets harder and harder to explain the strange things that keep happening, particularly after Sadie learns the eccentric Mrs. Wapple has been attacked in her home. As the unexplained occurrences escalate, Sadie finds herself embroiled in yet another mystery with life-or-death consequences. Can Sadie discover whoever—or whatever—is behind the mystery before anyone else gets hurt? Or will this be Sadie's last case?
I just love Sadie Hoffmiller.  She is a combination of Murder She Wrote and Anne of Green Gables.  A sort of busy body Nancy Drew grandma.  
The recipes and food preparation never feel forced--in fact they make me feel right at home in a cozy murder mystery.  I know, it's weird.  Food is such a part of our lives and I love how Josi incorporates the cooking and the recipes into each adventure. 
The cover of Pumpkin Roll is so mouth-watering that my dog tried to eat it.  I am not kidding!  He got sent to his kennel for chewing on the signed copy that the author so generously sent me in the mail (Bad boy, Nestle!).
What I find attractive about the culinary mysteries that Josi writes is the versatility--anyone can read them and enjoy them (I plan to give a copy to my grandmother for Christmas).
I have to admit that it took me awhile to get into Pumpkin Roll.  I just didn't know what to expect in the beginning.  I am so glad that I kept reading--I was rewarded with some serious suspense and entertainment for hanging in there.  
Pumpkin Roll is yet another masterful blend of suspense, romance and good home cooking.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nightingale by David Farland

Nightingale by David Farland

Nightingale by David Farland is the first book being published by the author's own forward-thinking publishing company. What do you think of the cover?  I don't know about you, but I'd pick it up just to get a closer look. :)

East India Press takes e-books in a whole new direction with enhanced multimedia--soundtracks, movie clips, author interviews and more. From the site: "East India embraces emerging technologies and new distribution methods, producing every novel in three forms:  as an enhanced multimedia experience, as a standard e-book, and as a limited edition hardcover."

Manuscript submissions will soon be accepted on the website and in the meantime you can enter your short story in a contest with fabulous prizes!

Read my interview with David here.
Food to eat while reading: Memory Merchant's Sour Cream Blueberry Pie
David Farland, Nightingale
Memory Merchant's Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

Watch for Nightingale to go on sale through Apple's App store for the iPad in the last part of 2011.

Bron Jones was abandoned as a newborn. Thrown into foster care,he is rejected by one family after another, until he meets Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognizes him for what he really is--what her people call a "nightingale".
But Bron isn't ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.
Bron's secret may be the most dangerous of all. 

My review:

*note, I reviewed a non-enhanced copy of this e-book, print only.

I instantly felt empathy for Bron, a teen who had been handed from foster home to foster home and who hasn't allowed himself to love or be loved.

The prologue drew me in and let me know that Nightingale is no ordinary book. In its digital pages I sensed the promise of adventure, sacrifice and an unexplored world. I wasn't disappointed.

What teen boy wouldn't want to be Bron? Handsome, wicked talented on the guitar, able to control opponents just by willing it to be so, and looking forward to the time when he will emit a scent that will draw every female for miles around. With its focus on action and adventure, Nightingale will certainly appeal to both the male and female teen readership.

The world of masaaks is interesting and unique. The memory keeping and leech aspects of the race (the ability to take will and even life from a victim and add vitality and years to the masaak) reminds me of the dedicates in Farland's earlier fantasy series, Runelords. I like the idea and it feels natural in a YA urban fantasy novel.

The settings in Nightingale are masterfully painted and Farland transports his readers away from their daily grind. From small Alpine, Utah, to St. George, Utah with its red rocks and Tuacahn theatre, to the swamps of New Orleans, a palpable sense of place grounds the novel in reality. Readers are then free to make the fantastic jump into Bron's world.

I prefer to read books that have a female point of view and Nightingale is aimed at the YA male market, but I settled right into Bron's point of view. The violence and at times crudeness that come with a male protagonist are not on par with what I usually enjoy reading. They weren't overpowering though and I am certain, that Nightingale will appeal to the young ladies as well as the young men.

I enjoyed the first half of the book the most--the part that deals with high school and love interests and emotional stakes. The last third of the book bogged me down with violence and backstory about the malevolent half of the masaak population. I'll be anxious to see more of Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts and Bron's emotional struggles in the next book in the series.

An exciting new urban fantasy with vivid settings and a unique twist on the paranormal, Nightingale is unlike anything I've ever read--you won't want to miss it.

I can't wait to see what the multimedia enhancements have to offer.

Farland has plans for three more books in the series: Dream Assassin, Draghoul, and Shadow Lord.

For more information about Nightingale and East India Press click here.

Tasty Tuesday-Memory Merchant's Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

David Farland's Nightingale
Memory Merchant's Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

Memory Merchant's Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

Bron's life in Nightingale by David Farland is bittersweet. He doesn't dare enjoy the glimpses of happiness he has in his new life with Olivia in St. George. Instead, he holds on to the walls he has built for himself through years of foster care. Olivia breaks through some of those barriers as she uses her skills as a memory merchant to plant in Bron's mind her own memories of learning to play the guitar.

This recipe is unique because the author suggested it. I tweaked the original recipe (given to me by Farland's lovely wife Mary) to make the sour cream and blueberry fillings separate and swirling around each other like the competing factions in Bron's life.  While visiting family in St. George, Utah (the setting of the book) I was able to make the recipe and photograph the pie on the red rocks of the area.

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract or lemon juice
unbaked pie crust (if you ask me nicely I will email you my mother's prizewinning pie recipe)

pecan topping (optional)
5 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons pecans, chopped

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Add blueberries and water and cook until boiling, stirring occasionally. Let boil for one minute and then remove from heat.  Allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in the sour cream, and almond extract or lemon juice. Keep in the fridge or freezer until the blueberries are cooled.

Pour the cream mixture into the unbaked pie crust. Add the blueberry mixture on top of the cream. Swirl the two together with a spoon, giving it a marbled look.

Prepare pecan topping by combining the flour, butter and chopped pecans.

Cook at 400' for 30 minutes. Remove the pie and sprinkle the pecan mixture on top, if desired. Cover the edges of the pie crust with tin foil to prevent over browning. Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool in the fridge. Best served the day you make it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interview with David Farland

David Farland author of Nightingale
Today I am pleased to welcome David Farland, a friend and mentor of mine and many others in the writing world.  Thank you, David, for stopping by.

Read my review of David's new release Nightingale

Nightingale focuses on a different audience than most of the stories  you write.  What made you decide to focus on young adult?

I've actually dabbled with a number of young adult and middle-grade novels.  I did one Star Wars young adult novel, four more tied to the Mummy series, another dozen middle-grad pieces for Star Wars, and of course my own middle-grade fantasy series.  Most of those were written back when I was writing science fiction under the name Dave Wolverton.

Over the years, a number of my students have had a lot of success in young adult--people like Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, James Dashner, and Stephenie Meyer.

I finally decided that it was time for me to get serious about it.

Setting plays a large role in Nightingale--what research did you do  in St. George to provide such a sense of place?

For years I used to go to Saint George on writing retreats, and in 2003 we moved there.  My daughter attended Tuacahn, the school I use in the story.  So I went with a teacher and took a tour of the school.  Then I had my daughter read through the book and make more suggestions.  I also traveled to other locations, like the small town where Bron lived, and took pictures of the houses that I use as locations.  Even the swamps in Louisiana and hills in North Carolina are all based on places I've been.  But I took it one step further.  When I wrote about scenes, I wrote about them on the days that the scene occurred, in many places, in order to get the details right.  For example, when Bron goes out to watch a meteor shower, it happens on a day when I went out and looked at one.  If I talk about a storm one night, and smoke from wildfires the next, it's because those were prevalent on that night.

You have a police officer in your book named Rick Walton.  Is there any connection to the children's book author?

I love Rick, so I thought that I'd immortalize him.  But then he turned out to be such a nasty cop.  Guess we all have our dark sides. Rick Walton is an old friend, and when I was writing the character of Sheriff Walton, I had just been reading an email from him.  I decided that Rick needed to be immortalized, and since he's one of the nicest guys I know, it only seemed appropriate to turn him into a scoundrel.  Seriously, as I began writing about Officer Walton, I didn't realize just how nasty he'd turn out to be!

What are you hoping that readers will take away from Nightingale?

This is a novel that deals with a lot of things--feelings of abandonment, the pain of being a teen, the anxiety of dating, the struggle to be human.  My hope is that as people read my stories, they see themselves in my characters, and that at the end of the novel, they feel like they're better, stronger, more enlightened individuals for having read my work.

At the same time, I don't write books that very sweet.  I like books that make you "live" through them, where you laugh one minutes, are shocked another, and find yourself crying the next.

Somewhere along the way, I try to "discover" the deeper meaning of the story.  I don't set out to preach, simply to ponder facets of life that I might not have otherwise considered.

Tell me about your new publishing company. What is unique about it?

At East India Press, we're trying something that I haven't seen anyone else do.
Most publishing companies in the past have made their money selling books in hardcover and paperback.  In the past twenty years, audiobooks have come to make up a significant portion of the market.  In the past four years, electronic books have grown to the point that, if the last figures that I heard were accurate, more than 50 percent of all book sales are now electronic.

But the exciting new thing that's coming is "enhanced novels," books with color illustrations, animations, video clips, soundtracks, and annotations, along with possible videogames.  These books are interactive to a degree, more like a movie than a novel.  Such novels can be "updated" instantly, so that we can correct typos or add new features to the book, such as the ads for an upcoming movie.  So the enhanced novel is a sort of living document.

A few companies have started up with the idea of doing these, but we thought, "Hey, why not publish the book in all of those formats?"  My partner, Miles Romney, has a background in illustration, acting, singing and writing.  I've worked as a screenwriter, videogame designer, and novelist.

So we're doing enhanced books, e-books, audiobooks, a hardcover book, and a soundtrack--all based upon this one novel.  We're pulling the entire line of companies under one roof.

It's fun.  In some ways, we're the stodgy old publishers trying to make sure that we've got the highest quality hardcover available for book collectors, and on the other hand we're creating cutting-edge content.

Are you accepting submissions?

In the very near future.  I'm thinking that by the first on November, East India Press will be ready to take on its next project.

I see that you are having a writing contest.  What is the purpose of  the contest?

The East India Press Short Story Contest will do a couple of things.  First, it will help promote writing.  It may very well bring to our attention some young new writers who are immensely talented.  And last of all, we're hoping that it will create some name recognition for the newest publishers on the block.

What do you eat while writing/reading?

I drink diet Mountain Dew or water.  I find that if I eat, it makes me tired.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Variant by Robison Wells

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life. He was wrong. Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive. Where breaking the rules equals death. But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible. 
-October 4th 2011 by HarperTeen
  Food to eat while reading: Hidden Ham and Cheese
Hidden Ham and Cheese Roll
Variant by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells is a new take on the questions reminiscent of Lord of the Flies by William Golding: what does man (or in this case teen) do when left to his own? The novel has breakneck twists and turns that deepen the plot and make it impossible to put down. 

Author Robison Wells in a resident of Holladay, Utah.  He recently finished graduate school and says that he wrote Variant when he should have been studying finance.  Wells is the author of three LDS fiction novels and Variant is his debut to the national market.

What to expect:

It is hard for me to talk about Variant without giving away spoilers.  As I read it, I anticipated a twist that other reviewers mentioned changed the book for good or bad.  I have to say that I love the direction Wells took the book.

Though I did get a bit confused at first by the large cast of characters in Variant, the main character Benson felt real and I sympathized with him.  I truly felt trapped in the school with him and had no idea how he could escape.

Unlike many novels that fall into the young adult dystopian genre, Variant has very little swearing and violence and no sex.  Wells does a fabulous job maintaining the crisp suspense and emotional depth typical of dystopia while keeping it clean. Parents can feel comfortable recommending it to teens who will be so involved in the story that they won’t miss the edginess.

The plot of Variant worked well for me and I enjoyed watching the story unfold, but the last few pages are what sealed the deal for me.  Wells answered my questions neatly and then threw me for a loop that has me begging for the sequel. 

I am anxious to see what happens to the teens in when they are forced to live in their own society.  The complete lack of adults in Variant and the man vs society struggle reminds me of other dystopian-type novels such as Gone by Michael Grant and Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Wells is busy working on a second and final book in the series, tentatively titled Feedback.  

What did you think of the twists in the book--throw you for a loop or reel you in?

Tasty Tuesday-Hidden Ham and Cheese

Hidden Ham and Cheese
Variant by Robison Wells

Hidden Ham and Cheese

Maxfield Academy in Variant by Robison Wells is full of surprises, but when Benson tries to escape from the odd school where no adults are present and deviants simply disappear, he finds the biggest surprise of all.  The surprise inside of Hidden Ham and Cheese is much more pleasant than any at Maxfield Academy.  Fluffy bread surrounds a combination of ham and cheese with a touch of tangy mustard.

One prepared batch of your favorite roll dough (you can use mine if you want)
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 pound honey ham lunch meat, chopped
1/2 pound pastrami lunch meat, chopped
1 package pepperoni, chopped
2 cups Colby jack cheese, shredded

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle as you would if you were making cinnamon rolls.  Spread the mustard over the entire surface of the dough.  Sprinkle the chopped meats and shredded cheese on top.  Beginning at one of the long ends of the rectangle of dough, roll the bread over the fillings, cinnamon roll style.  Place on a cookie sheet, curling into a wreath, if desired.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes.    Bake at 350' for 20 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.  Slice and serve to six or eight lucky people.