Monday, January 31, 2011

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  It's both the story of how a eunuch became immortal and lost the only thing that ever meant anything to him and the story about a girl who stows away to save a boy she loves.  The journeys join together in the end, and Ai Ling's journey comes to a satisfying end.  That's really all I can tell you without spoiling Silver Phoenix.  It doesn't pick up where SP left off, but it's not too far from it, you gain the pertinent gappage through the story.  If you haven't read Silver Phoenix yet, what are you waiting for???  (oh yeah, maybe the contest coming tomorrow?)

Verdict: Silver Phoenix blew me away by making me love something I'd hate.  Fury of the Phoenix blew me away because of its originality, its organization, and style.  Not only were the details well-parsed and pertinent to the story, they were beautifully written.  I normally hate on details pretty heavily, but Cindy did a great job in FURY of making them relevant.  The resulting imagery is stunning.  The other thing that really stands out about this book is that there is a dual storyline, but the two stories are expertly woven together in the end, making what a reader might mistake as exposition into vital information that is really just part of Ai Ling's path.  For the first time in reading a story that had more than one plot line, I was not interested in one more than the other.  Both lines were equally intriguing and engaging and I was never disappointed when they switched.  Cindy has grown tremendously as a writer since her debut, and I can't tell you how much I recommend her writing.  Put aside your preconceptions about Asian Fantasy, and get your hands on a copy of Silver Phoenix right now if you haven't read it.  (The paperback comes out tomorrow) If you have read it, click on over to a bookseller and preorder FURY 'cause you're bound to enjoy it. This is a definite don't miss on the YA circuit.

Location: Mostly in Jiang, a kingdom with diplomatic relations to Xia, which is in a fantasy world
Main Character: Ai Ling
Favorite Character: That's hard.  I think it was Chen Yong this time around.  He really grew a lot as a character, and I was happy to see that maturation.
Would Change: I can't think of anything.
Favorite Line:  "Thunder quaked like an angry god, rattling her teeth, and she shot straight up.  The ship careened precariously and she flew into Chen Yong."  pg. 118, ARC OR "She nodded, wiping her eyes. 'Whom did you see?'  But he would not look at her and simply shook his head."  pg 137, ARC
Good for Monster? Yes!  I'm going to make him read it!
People Who Will Like This: Katniss Everdeen, Velma from Scooby Doo, the bookish librarian who reads Manga on her break.
People Who Won't Like This: your Chinese grandparents, the girl down at lululemon who can't spell her first name correctly, and geocachers.
Chapters: 16
Author's Website:
Acquire It:   Amazon    Book Depository    Changing Hands

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publish Date: March 29, 2011
ISBN-10: 0061730254

Twist Your House / Place of Commerce / Move / Nature / You Don't Call Home / Probably Shouldn't / In Pairs
Of course Twist Your House is going to be easier for me than most of you since I just moved into a new house in November, right?  But I read FURY for thirty minutes sitting on top of my new dryer.  I also read it for 45 minutes during a youth group activity wherein I was playing the roll of Mrs. Pheasant in a giant real-life game of Clue.  I think that falls under the Probably Shouldn't category since it was at church and all.  So, total time read for challenge so far is 1.25 hours, 0 categories completed.  (and yes, there's still time to join up if you want to!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook by Dede Lahman & Neil Kleinberg [Cookbook Inspection]

Number of Chapters: 11 (Biscuits; Muffins & Scones; Eggs, Eggs, Eggs; Pancakes; Soups; The Sandwich King & Queen; Fried Chicken; Sides; Condiments; Dessert; Drinks

The Story: There is a cute little anecdote at the beginning about how the owners met and the road they traveled to get to the Clinton St. Baking Company.  Not only is it cute (like I said before) but it gives you a little, nay, a lot of insight as to what the recipes are going to be like and whether or not you'll like the book (which I wager you will).  I think the best parts of the story part of this book are the bits at the beginning of each chapter and at the beginning of some recipes - like how Neil had to recreate recipes known only to him by experience and oral tradition.  There are also some great little tidbits on some recipes labeled Common Mistakes that I adored.  They sure helped me make my recipes rock, well - helped me make their recipes rock in my kitchen.

Recipe Tried: Blueberry Crumb Muffins (photo from my table, yo) [chapter 2, page 29]
Total time: 45 minutes (including baking for 25 minutes)

Cheque Please:
Unsalted butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, egg, sour cream: on hand
Blueberries: $3.99 for 18 ounces - some left over, and some used for pancakes (these were on sale, FTW!)
Cash, Credit, or Debit Total:  $3.99 (take into consideration how much these things would be at your store)

Notes:  This recipe is both delicious, easy, and fast.  Using the crumb mixture was something I've never done. The recipe said that it made 10 standard sized muffins, but I was able to crank out 12 to fill one standard size muffin tin.  That's the only inconsistency I found, and everyone who tried them loved them.  Monster took like four on the road with him the next morning.  If I were going to do it again, I'd bake them probably for 23 minutes as they were a little browner on the top than I generally like, but they were still way yummy.  This will definitely be my blueberry muffin recipe for a long time!

Recipe Tried: Neil's Pancakes (photo from my kitchen) [chapter 4, page 75]
Total time: 100 minutes - start to finishing last pancake

Cheque Please:
flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla: on hand
Blueberries: $3.99 for 18 ounces - shared with muffin recipe 
Whole Milk: $1.69/gallon
Walnuts: $1.79 (purchased for the recipe, but not used!)
Powdered Sugar: $1.79
REAL Maple Syrup: $6.18 for 8 ounces
Cash, Credit, or Debit Total:  $15.44, but a lot of it was used for other recipes, consumed in other ways, or will be used again (take into consideration how much these things would be at your store)

Notes:  I don't like pancakes.  I read this recipe and convinced myself that I could try them and that I would like them if I did try them.  It's a unique method of making pancakes because you have to do some fun beating of eggs and folding them into the rest of the ingredients in just a certain way.  I was both curious and skeptical, but once I got the temperature on the griddle figured out, I was amazed at the yum factor of these cakes.  My new permanent pancake recipe, ladies and gents.  And I'll also note these few things:  1) It would have gone faster if I owned a griddle that would make more than one pancake at a time.  2) The directions are not optimized for stovetop griddles.  If you don't want to burn the first oh, say, ten pancakes, put it on a 4.  I have a GE stove that has Lo, Hi, and 9 settings in between, so adapt to whatever you have.  3) You do not need to butter the griddle if it's nonstick. 4) The recipe says it makes 18-20 3-inch pancakes.  Mine made 37.  I did not double it.  And they were totally three inch pancakes.  

Overall Evaluation
Yum Factor: Heart It. I've got a long list of recipes to try from this book, and I just can't wait.
Salivary Factor: Heart It. Some of the titles aren't the most catchy, don't make me go, mmmmmm, but once you read the recipes, you're like, "Oh yeah, I'm trying that." *drool*
Cost Factor: Heart It.  I love that most of the recipes that I've looked at only require me to pick up one or two things that I don't have on hand, or things that I would usually have on hand or could use in another capacity.
Practicality Factor: Heart It.  Not only are there not a lot of extra chilling/rising/waiting times, but the recipes are pretty straight forward without a lot of exotic ingredients.
Pretty Factor: Heart It. I think this cookbook has a picture for every recipe.  The photos are done very well (bravo, Michael Harlan Turkell!) and the book is organized in a common sense manner.  It's pretty and practical while it's pretty which makes it even better in my mind!

Who I'd Buy This Cookbook For: Moms, Dads, Young Marrieds, Young Professionals, Grandma
Who I'd Discourage From Buying: College Students who only have a hotplate, The Exotic Food Lover, Chefs who might be tempted to steal the recipes for their own restaurants 'cause they're that good

Final Verdict: Dope cookbook, practically priced recipes, and total yum, but the price on the book itself might be a little high at $29.99.  I'd still recommend it though!

Buy it from Amazon, BN, Changing Hands

Tip:  You can view both recipes right now from Hachette's Site if you're interested.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are You A One-Spacer or a Two? [You're The Expert]

Image from Slate
Have you seen the one-space-after-a-period versus the two-space-after-a-period typography debate?

I'm sure that if it's something that really bothers you, you've noticed that I'm a two-spacer.  Apparently that makes me uneducated ('cept I learned me that in that there college, so I ain't got me no idea 's what that guy o'er there at Slate means with his mean words).  I was wondering if it at all bothers you?  Two spaces? One?

Not that I care what typographers prefer, I'm just curious...Which do you do when you type?  Tell us.  1? or 2?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The It's Not What You Read But Where You Read It Challenge 2011

I'm challenging myself to a reading challenge.  Wanna join me?  It's not what I read that matters, it's where I read it.  Not only does it challenge me to read, it challenges me to plan and to focus while I'm in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings.

Here's how it works:

  1. Join the challenge by posting that you're going to join (whether it be a link on your Facebook status, a blog post, or a photo of a memo taped to your office door - I don't really care as long as you can update us digitally somehow about your progress)
  2. Choose on place from each category.  It's up to you - you can do one of the suggested places, or you can pick one from your life that you think fits.
  3. Read in that category for at least one hour.  Ten minutes six times counts and sixty minutes one time counts, you get the picture. 
  4. Check off that category by updating your post (post it note?) and leaving a comment on this post with the link.  
  5. When you've finished all seven categories, come back to the second linky on this post and add in the link to your post showing everywhere you read.  It's not necessary to snap a photo of yourself reading in one of the categories, but it could be fun and we'd love to see it!
  6. Wait for March 30, June 30, September 30, and December 30 to see if you're the lucky finisher that was drawn for a prize.  

What are the categories?  Dude, you know I'll tell you.

Twist Your House
Read somewhere inside your house that you have never sat (or stood I suppose) and read before.  It could be the bathroom (but I won't 'cause I think, ew gross), the bathtub, the corner, the closet, the guest bedroom, the dining room table - it just can't be somewhere that you've read before.  Think outside the box.

Place of Commerce
Read somewhere that things are sold.  Coffee shop? Sure.  While you're waiting for your wife to try on clothes?  Absolutely.  At the fountain at the mall while you're scoping out guys?  Uh, that's a stretch but give it a try.

Read on the bus, on a train, on the light rail, on a plane, in a car, while you're walking, while you're on the treadmill at the gym.  It doesn't have to be somewhere you haven't read before, just somewhere where you are moving through space.

This one could be hard for city folk, but there is a park somewhere, right?  The requirement is that you are sitting/standing on something that isn't manmade.  Man could have planted it, but not created it.  Granite countertop?  Um no.  Granite boulder?  Um yeah.

You Don't Call Home
Out of state?  Sure.  At your neighbor's house?  Sure.  Hotel?  Yup.  But it can't do double duty for any of the other categories.

Probably Shouldn't
Think work, church, grocery shopping.  DO NOT READ WHILE DRIVING OR RIDING YOUR BIKE OR ROLLERBLADING/SKATING.  BE SAFE.  Be creative.

In Pairs
I don't care where you are as long as someone else in the room is reading their own book too.  Before bed with the hubbie?  Sure.  In a hotel lobby?  Absolutely.  In a bookstore?  Dude, you get the picture.

Seven hours of reading in a place that you probably wouldn't normally.  That's the challenge.  Think you can take that over the course of a year?  If you think you can, add your name to the linky.  And spread the word. The more people that finish the challenge by December 30th, the bigger the prize will be.  There will also be quarterly prizes for those who have finished, so the earlier you finish, the bigger your chances of winning.  And the first prize will be a $10 online bookstore gift card.  Oh yeah, and we're open worldwide baby.
Add Your Name And Post Link/Facebook Profile Link/Link To A Picture of Your Office Door Here To Join:

Here's the button code if you wanna add it to your blog:

Sign This Linky When You're Finished With The Link To Your Updated Post Telling Us About Where You've Read:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Word of the Year 2010 [You're The Expert]

According to the American Dialect Society, the Word of the Year was awarded to "app."  My first question is:  Is there an app for determining Word of the Year?  iTunes peeps, you're gonna have to help me with that 'cause I came up negative on Android Market.

My second is for you guys:  What was your Word of the Year in 2010?

Mine I think was probably "fantastic."

And now my third:  What do you want your Word of the Year to be in 2011?

This year, I think I'm going to make a serious effort to bring back the term "dope."  As in, "I think Civil Twilight is dope."

For those of you not familiar with You're The Expert here at I Heart Monster, it's a type of post where we share some information with you, then ask you what you think about that information.  We encourage you to leave your opinion or answers in the comments section, and even write your own post as an answer if you are so inclined.  See, we're all different, and we all have different experiences, and that's part of what makes the blogosphere such a fun place - we're all experts about what we think and how we feel and our particular view on the world.  This is just a forum for you to share those with the rest of us.  If you do write a post, please share the link.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

OLD HABITS by Melissa Marr [On Sale Now]

Melissa Marr and HarperTeen have just released an e-book-only version of a short story that bridges Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity called OLD HABITS.  Here's the description from Harper Teen:
Melissa Marr returns to the ravishing world of Faerie with a story set between her bestselling novels Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity.

Recently anointed king of the Dark Court, Niall struggles to forge a new relationship with his subjects—and with the former Dark King, Irial, his once-friend, once-enemy, and now possible-advisor.
It's a buck ninety-nine, and you can get it from Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

YAllapalooza at Changing Hands [Local Events]

1.29.11 Saturday 4pm Changing Hands Bookstore presents YAllapalooza 2011, a literary extravaganza for tween and teen readers featuring free pizza, games, prizes and chance to mix and mingle with your favorite YA authors! We'll have a live game show that tests contestants' knowledge of young adult and middle-grade literature with games guaranteed to amaze and amuse. Attending authors include Lisa Mangum, Bree Despain, Karen Hoover, Cameron Stracher, Jessica Day George, Obert Skye, Janette Rallison, James Owen, Angela Morrison, Tom Leveen, Jon Lewis, Adam Rex, Laurie Brooks, Lisa McMann, and Kofi O. Okyere.  

Let me know if you're planning on coming!  Would love to meet up with you!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Sophie's a witch.  She's got no leash on her power, and because of her inability to control (and her mother's lack of ability to teach her, being a plain ol' garden variety human being) the two have moved around from place to place like seventeen times in Sophia Mercer's fifteen years.  See, Sophie's dad was a warlock, but he neglected to mention that to Sophie's mom, so she left his butt and had Soph on her own.  When Sophie casts a love spell that goes crashingly wrong, she's sentenced by The Council (those are the folks that regulate and monitor Prodigium - fairies, shifters, and witches and sometimes vamps) to Hecate Hall.  It's like juvie for supernaturals.  Sophie gets to room with the only vamp allowed as a student in what they affectiontely refer to as Hex Hall, and is constantly freaked out and affected by a string of murders and attempted murders amongst her fellow witches, most of which her vamp-roomie Jenna is accused of.  Oh, and there'a a hot warlock guy and a hot groundskeeper guy too. 

Verdict: For the first third of the book, I kept going, "Uh, Harry Potter much?"  Teenager who doesn't know who she is or what to do with her powers? Check.  School for people to learn about their powers/where their powers come from? Check.  Slightly devilish teacher who main character definitely gets off on the wrong foot with? Check.  School protected by charms and spells? Check.  Headmaster/principal who is wise and powerful? Check.  Groundskeeper who is also helpful and trustworthy?  Check.  Main character who is super-powerful and more powerful than all of his/her classmates?  Check.  There was actually a point where I almost quit reading because I was almost disgusted with the Harry-Potter-isms.  THEN.  Hawkins admits the Harry-Potter-isms by having Sophie call Cal (the groundskeeper) Hagrid.  And after that happened, I was like, "Oh!  Good!  She admits it."  And the book seemed to only get better from there.  Then, about 1/2 way through, the Harry-Potter-isms vanish, and Hex Hall comes into its own, and becomes a very interesting story (with the help of an interesting love triangle - except it's not 2 guys, dude) and even twists to a place I didn't see it going.  It's a quick read and the writing is good.  Would I say read it?  Yeah.  Would I say make it go to the top of your pile?  Nah.  It's worth a read, but I wouldn't drop everything to read it right away.

Location: Hecate Hall, on an island off of Georgia, United States (at least methinks the isle belongs to the US)
Main Character: Sophia Mercer, or Sophie for short
Favorite Character: Archer Cross.  *swoon*  Even after the ending.  I'm really intrigued by him.  Those who have read it will know what I mean.
Would Change: I think the Verdict says Harry-Potter-isms like four times.  Make it less Harry-Potter.  It's still going to be a great story without all of the similarities.  It just seemed like Hawkins was trying to follow a success-formula... but hopefully it wasn't conscious.
Favorite Line:  My absolute favorite part of the book is near the beginning when Hawkins tells us about how the Prodigium came about.  It is so creative and so interesting and honestly what kept me reading through the parts I didn't particularly care for.  I even read this part to my mom and my grandma because I was so impressed with it's originality.  "'After the Great War between God and Lucifer, those angels who refused to take sides were cast out of heaven.  One group...chose to hide itself away under hills and deep in forests.  They became faeries.  Another group chose to live among animals and became shapeshifters.  And the last chose to intermingle with humans and became witches.'"  page 25, hardcover
Good for Monster? Nope.  He'd not like this one.  Not fantasy enough for him.
People Who Will Like This: Hermione, Spike from Buffy, the smart girl in the back of the class you don't know is smart, my mom
People Who Won't Like This: werewolves, Hagrid, vampire fundamentalists, scared-of-the-dark types
Chapters: 32
Acquire It:   Amazon    Book Depository    Changing Hands

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; 1 edition 
Publish Date: March 2, 2010
ISBN-10: 1423121309

Oh, and P.S.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our one and only niece, Esperanza, today.  ♥ Love ya, chica!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My New Years Book Buying Trip

New Years Day was a fantastic, FANTASTIC day for book sales for me!

First I went to Borders because it was on the way to Changing Hands, and they sent a 50% off coupon (off of one item) and a buy 2 get 1 free kids and teens book coupon.  So, both of those were better percentages off than Changing Hands sale, so I thought I'd grab my books there first then head to CH where I'd spend the bulk of my money... plus the selection at CH is always so much better.  Here's what I bought at Borders:

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (been wanting this for a while and didn't get it for Xmas or my birthday, so I bought it with the 50% off coupon)
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers (looks good and I've heard good things)
Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa (still need to read The Iron King... I know, I know, I suck, but at 33% off, I figured I'd snatch it up)
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead (because I'm so confused as to where Monster is in reading this series...  I'll exchange it if he already has it.)

Changing Hands (my local Indie) had a customer appreciation sale yesterday wherein everything (well, most everything) was 25% off.  How mega-fantastic is that?  So, I snatched these keepers:

The Amulet of Samarkand: The Graphic Novel by Jonathan Stroud (not on sale because it was my special order)
Eon by Alison Goodman (bought on suggestion of Brandie, the Children's book buyer - she's passionate about this series, the second comes out in February, and it sounds like a great match for Monster)
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (I thought it was time I bought myself a copy)
Abhorsen by Garth Nix (book 3 in the Sabriel series - Monster is reading the first one right now)
Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks (she's coming at the end of the month, so I want to make sure that I've read it by then!)
Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson (I'm seriously remiss for not reading this series yet, right?)
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (no, I haven't read it yet, I've skimmed it thrice, but I needed my own hardcover copy!)

Plus I met some really great people in the YA section there at Changing Hands.  Thanks for letting me chat with you and recommend books with you, it was fun!

I bought all of these books and spent less than a hundred bucks doing so.  A pretty epic shopping trip for me seeing as I'm not an in-person shopper.  Special thanks to Changing Hands for holding onto my special order through the holidays as I was totally crazy and sick a lot and moving and all kinds of nuts and didn't have time to go get it, and for being totally patient with me until I could.  Combine it all together and I had a fantastic day!

So, tell me you guys, any epic book buying trips for yourselves?  Any of these books that I'm in for a great treat?  Let me know!