Monday, January 30, 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. 
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow. 

Hardcover, 366 pages Published November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile

Food to Eat While Reading: Trapped in a Bubble Bobo Drink
Fruity Bobo drink for
Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie is my kinda book--YA romance, strong female protagonist, smooth writing and packed with emotion. It asks the question, "Can there be freedom without choices?" I hope we can all wonder, as Cassia in the book, and continue to ask questions that lead to choices.

Condie's writing is superb overall, but there were a few scenes that blew me away:

When Cassia is on a train and what she thinks is snow floats to the ground. It's really a cottonwood tree fluff and it is a perfect mirror of what is happening in the story. It shows the fear her people have of anything that is different, it introduces her mother's love of trees and foreshadows future events, and it asks the question, "Can something wrong be true?". This scene shows that Cassia is not bothered by the truth that may be seen by others as wrong, it shows how society is tearing down everything that is impractical in their world. Cassia says there is a mystery in it's little brown core that she doesn't know what to do with and she puts it in her pocket-a symbol of how she will wait until she knows what to do to unlock the truth.

In this one scene, Condie seamlessly provides information about the society, Cassia's role in it, background information and set up for future scenes. Beautiful!

The second scene that gave me cause for reflection is the scene when it is her grandfather's time to die. At first I was temped to say that his is the perfect way to die--surrounded by family, eating whatever you like, getting to say goodbye before you have to leave this life.  But then I understood that Grandpa was forced to comply, and he wished that he had more years to plant that cottonwood seed of an idea and wonder, to always question his ideas and find out for himself the meaning of life and death and what is in between.

The other poignant scene for me happened when the society is at Cassia's house to take away all artifacts. She sits on the couch with her brother. Quote: "We have things of value but you can never find them because you don't even know how to look."

The romance was pleasant. I'm not sure that I agree with Cassia's choice of love, but the point of the book is for her to have the right to choose. I'll be excited to see what happens in books two (Crossed, available now), and three(Fall 2012) with both love interests.

I love the involvement of Cassia's family in her life, which is not often included in YA. Her relationships with her family were key to her decisions and she loves her family so much.

Matched is a romance with themes so deep that your mind and heart will ponder for weeks after you read the last page.

Tasty Tuesday-Trapped in a Bubble Bobo drink

Trapped in a Bubble Fruit Drink
for Matched by Ally Condie

Trapped in a Bubble Bobo Drink

Trapped in a society that long ago stopped questioning, Cassia in Matched by Ally Condie is brave enough to break out of the bubble and use her ability to wonder, "Can something wrong be true?". Cassia's world is filled with colorful images: a bright green dress, and red, green and blue tablets that inspired the brightly colored bubbles in this colorful fruit drink. Like Cassia, this tapioca pearl drink is free from harmful additives, and will brighten any occasion.

1 cup guava nectar
1 cup peach mango juice drink (V-fusion)
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate
10 ice cubes
2/3 cup tapioca pearls (I used rainbow colored pearls)
1/3 cup water
2 T white sugar
2 T brown sugar

Place the three juices and ice cubes in a blender and mix until combined.  Pour into two tall glasses. Cook the pearls in a saucepan according to package directions.  Strain the water from the pearls.  Return the pearls to the saucepan and add the water, white and brown sugar.  Heat the mixture on medium-high until the it is syrupy and sticky.  Divide the sticky pearls into the two glasses of juice.  Drink with an extra large straw or use a spoon. Experiment with other fruit juice combinations.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tasty Tuesday-Perfect Ten Dauntless Chicken Skewers

Perfect Ten Dauntless Chicken Skewers
for Divergent by Veronica Roth 

Perfect Ten Dauntless Chicken Skewers

Tobias only has four fears to overcome in the simulations common in Divergent by Veronica Roth, an insanely small number compared to the majority of the population. When Tris begins her own initiation, she has only seven fears--until she finds enough strength to conquer one of them. Between Tobias' four and Tris' six fears, they make a perfect ten, just like the combination of soy and soda in this marinade. As a selfless Abnegation, Tris is accustomed to eating plain food, like chicken.  These skewers take ordinary bits of chicken and transform them into a mouthwatering wonder.  In a similar way, Tris keeps what is good from the life of service that she learned as an Abnegation and slowly steeps herself in what she finds positive in her life as a Dauntless.

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 can of lemon-lime soda
1 cup soy sauce
1 T horseradish sauce 

Place the cubed chicken in a large bowl.  Add soda, soy sauce and horseradish sauce. Mix the horseradish  sauce into liquid with a fork.  Allow to marinade at least 3 hours in the fridge.  Thread the chicken onto skewers and grill or broil in the oven. 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her. Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Hardcover, 487 pages Published May 3rd 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

Food to Eat while Reading: Perfect Ten Dauntless Chicken Skewers
Perfect Ten Dauntless Chicken Skewers
to go with Divergent by Veronica Roth

What a fascinating world Roth created in Divergent.  The book felt as real to me as The Hunger Games and is often compared to the dystopian best seller. I have to agree.  The story is original, the characters full of emotion and the themes worthy. I wasn't sure how Roth was going to pull it all together, but she tied it all up nicely.

The romance in Divergent was heart pulling and a bit heated, but not racy. I didn't mind it so much because it served a purpose and was dealt with as a valid teen issue.  I would recommend this to older teens (in fact I gave a copy of this book to my 3 teen nieces for Christmas.

The fear simulations that Tris went through were fascinating and thought provoking.  I read with a watchful eye as she overcame some of those fears through her experiences.  Each time that she overcame her fears she became stronger.

Courage in selflessness, facing your fears and being true to yourself are the themes that stood out to me.  Tris overcame obstacles she never imagined and came out a better person for it.  Isn't that one of the secrets to peaceful living?

There is a real sense of loss near the end.  Tris changes and is forced to change in so many ways, not all of which are pleasant. I am left with questions that beg to be answered: why is Tris Divergent? And why can she control the simulations?

Fans of The Hunger Games will devour Divergent, the new dystopian with real characters, suspenseful romance and a world that is close enough to our own that they will whisper, "it could happen".

Insurgent, the second book in the series is due to be published on May 1, 2012.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday Everliving Tomato Soup

Everliving Tomato Soup for
Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everliving Tomato Soup

Nikki from Everneath by Brodi Ashton never wants to feel emotions again after her mother dies in--that's why she allows everliving Cole to take her to the underworld, where he drains her of the despair and sadness. Perhaps if she had just made some comfort food, she wouldn't have made such a rash decision. Nothing beats tomato soup for soothing emotions. This hearty and creamy soup is full of vegetables and laced with cream. Careful when sampling the soup--not only will it fill your belly, but it's creamy goodness is likely to drive away any bad emotions.

1 tsp olive oil
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 14 oz. cans of stewed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
fresh chopped basil and oregano, to taste

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and saute celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Put stewed tomatoes in a crockpot, then add the sautéed vegetables, chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook on low for 5-7 hours.

When the soup is fully cooked, make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat, then add the flour and mix.  Slowly add the half and half until the mixture is creamy. Add parmesan cheese and mix until combined.

If you want the soup to be smooth, blend it and return it to the crockpot. Add the roux slowly, mixing to combine. Add fresh basil and oregano to taste.

Cook for one hour longer in the crockpot on low.
Serve with a swirl of half and half.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Read my interview with author Brodi Ashton.

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. 
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. 
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's... 
Hardcover, 384 pages Expected publication: January 24th 2012 by Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray

Food to Eat While Reading: Everliving Tomato Soup

Everliving Tomato Soup for
Everneath by Brodi Ashton

I have a confession to make: I'm an emotional junkie. Just like the everliving in Everneath feed off of human emotions, I am guilty of the same addiction to books that exude emotions.

Everneath was easy to read and although the way it was presented was new, it felt natural (I can only imagine the blood, sweat and tears it took to make it read this way). I was sucked in by the first chapter. 

The format of this book is different than others I have read in the mythology/fantasy genre. The story begins sort of in the middle, when Nikki wakes up a one hundred year nap in which she was drained of every emotion. The book then alternates between telling what happened before Nikki was in the Everneath and the present after she returns to her normal life, always pointing to when she will have to return to live forever in a sort of purgatory called the Tunnels.

How cool is the idea that kissing can make you feel better--suck away all of the negative energy? It's so cool when books take an idea that is already true and elevate it to a fantastic power. I fell in love with Jack, Nikki's love from above ground. He is loyal, loves Nikki and is in pain. Why do I love those emotions? If Jack is every girl's dream boyfriend, then Cole is every girl's bad guy fling. He's dark and brooding and mysterious. The love triangle in this book played out very well.

I'm not up to speed on my Greek mythology and so I don't know much about Persephone. It didn't matter because Ashton gave me just enough information so that I could enjoy Nikki's story, without overdoing it with unneeded background info.

The setting was odd for me because I know where Park City, Utah is, and yet I wondered if it were the same Park City that I had vacationed in. I didn't get a real sense of place and I thought the setting could have played a larger role.

I had no idea how the story would end, and I imagined a much different ending. I imagined a different ending than the one that played out. It's a good thing too, because the ending I envisioned would have been happily ever after. Or everneath.

If you love to experience emotion vicariously through books, you don't want to miss Everneath! It will suck you in and bleed you dry--in a good way of course.

Book two in the series is in the works. I'm assuming it will come out in 2013.

 *the only compensation I received for this review is an advanced reader copy from Harper Collins-thank you.

Interview with Brodi Ashton

Brodi Ashton, author of Everneath
Welcome to Brodi Ashton, author of the emotionally thrilling Everneath.
Read my review of Everneath and then go make some Everliving Tomato Soup!

Hi Christy! Thanks for the opportunity! 

How does it feel to be a published author? Are you surprised, delighted, frustrated, or nostalgic?

It's been such a long process from writing the book, finding an agent, selling the book, revising with my editor, printing the ARCs and finally getting the book on the shelves. Now that we're a little over a week away, it feels totally surreal!

When getting ready to write an emotion-packed scene, how do you "get into character"?

Mood music definitely helps. For EVERNEATH I listened a lot to FALLING SLOWLY by Glen Hansard and Mariska Irglova, and also I WILL FIX YOU (Coldplay)

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Whatever they want! I didn't write it with a specific thing I wanted them to take away. One of the great things about being the author is that I get to hear about all the different interpretations from readers. Every reader takes something unique from it.

Are you working on other projects?  Can you tell me a little about them?

Right now I'm busy with revising the sequel to EVERNEATH. And then after that, there's book 3. 

What do you eat while reading/writing?

Diet Coke. Tea. Candy. The candy comes into play especially when I'm under deadline! I also have a space heater, because I can't write if my feet are cold. :)

Thanks Brodi!  Good luck with your writing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Interview with Holly J Wood

Holly J. Wood
I'm so excited to have my future neighbor Holly J. Wood, author of the novel Invaluable here today. You can read my review of Holly's inspiring book here and don't forget to check out the yummy recipe for Invaluable Rainbow Jello. Read more about Holly's book for LDS young women.

      What inspired you to be an author?

I like the way you phrased this question. I've always admired writers who carry the lifelong dream of becoming an author and pursue that dream until they become published, but this was not the case with me.
A few years ago, I was getting ready for church when the strong thought came to me that I should write a book which focused on incorporating the LDS Young Women values in everyday situations. I hadn’t done any writing since high school, and even then nothing serious, so this thought terrified me! It took me a few years to finally get around to doing it, but once I took the leap of faith and sat down to write, the words just seemed to flow. It was a real testimony-building experience for me.
The day I sent my manuscript off it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but just having accomplished something I would have previously thought impossible felt so good. No one was more surprised than I was when I didn’t immediately receive a rejection letter. I started worrying, “It’s so bad they’re not even going to bother with a response!” But when I finally heard back from Deseret Book that they were interested in the story, I was thrilled beyond words. I sometimes still can’t believe how it all came about, but I’m so grateful and humbled to have been blessed with this experience.

Is Eliza based on a real person?

Yes and no. Eliza and I share many of the same personality traits. I’d heard that when it comes to writing you should, “Write what you know,” so I pulled a lot from my own high school experiences. However, once I started getting more into the story, she began to take on a life and personality of her own. It was fun to watch that happen with each of the characters as the story developed.

What do you want readers to take away with them after reading your book?

I had mainly teenage girls in mind while writing this book, and because that is such a pivotal time of life there were many messages I wanted to share. If I had to whittle it down though, I would hope the reader could come away feeling first and foremost that the Lord loves them. Each and every individual is so precious and each has infinite amounts of potential. There is too much that is dark and depressing out there; so many trials that we all face. I hope readers will come away from this book feeling uplifted and inspired. It’s not the huge, miraculous events that can change our lives, but the small and seemingly insignificant little choices that we make every day. That’s the message I hope to share.    

Are you working on any future projects that you can tell us about?

I feel like I went about this process backwards---first I had a book published and then I had to decide if I wanted to become a writer! It sounds crazy, but when my publisher hinted that they were interested in more books, I had to take a few days to think it over. As any writer knows, writing is hard work. You have to be dedicated, and you have to share half of your brain with your story and your characters to the point of insanity! (At least that’s how I get when I’m involved with a story). The bottom line though, is that I feel happy and complete when I’m writing. It feels good to develop my talents, and the best part is being able to share a message with an audience I might not otherwise reach. So after that long introduction, the answer is yes---I am working on another project. It’s another YA LDS novel, but this one is much more light-hearted than Invaluable was. The writing process has been entirely different for me this time, but I’m enjoying the challenge. We’ll see what happens.

What do you like to eat while reading/writing?

Nothing. I really get into a zone when I’m writing and don’t like any distractions. However, sometimes when I need a little extra motivation I’ll bribe myself with a chocolate or some ice cream if I complete my writing goal for the evening.