Archives for posts with tag: book

natl-book-fest-20151So this year I was very lucky and got the opportunity to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.  A friend of mine was already going for her job and offered to let me tag along.

I have some pretty awesome friends.

So first of all we got to hang out in D.C.  Which I love.  Seriously, one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to.  So much history and culture and gorgeousness!

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I mean, check out that amazing D.C. architecture!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First of all there was the plane ride…

20150904_070105Where it looked like the plane was being held together with duct tape (special plane tape I know, I know, but still.  not super comforting.)

Which is why it was a good thing that I had my traveling snacks!

20150904_103634Just the essentials.

So we got to D.C. and hit the hotel.  Which, it turned out, was smack in the middle of Chinatown.

20150905_230458Can you tell?

Then it was off for a quick stop at National Mall where we strolled through the sculpture garden:

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And hit the Natural Museum of Natural History:

Rawr!

Rawr!

Older rawr!

Older rawr!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

It's a blob of rock!

It’s a blob of rock!

That? Oh that's just the Hope diamond. No big whoop...

That? Oh that’s just the Hope diamond. No big whoop…

And then there was this guy:

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Neat, fun, nerdy story about the elephant.  Saw the Smithsonian tweeting about him earlier that day because he’d been off display for a while getting a new base to stand on.  He’d just gone up that day!  Even going to D.C. I never actually thought I’d be there, seeing him in person.  Or tweeting about it and having the Smithsonian tweet back at me!!! How cool is that?!?

Okay, so I’m a huge nerd, but at least I know and accept that.

Then we took a stop at the art museum (for like 30 minutes…)

Hmmm......

Hmmm……

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read....

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read….

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it's pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it’s pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

Then it was off to the hotel to get cute for the night, but first, a quick stop in Canada!

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I have a friend from Canada so when we were passing right next to the embassy and had the chance to send a selfie from Canadian soil, how could I pass up the chance?!  Eh?

More next time on the gala event (which was so awesome!) and the festival itself.  See you then!!!

I really need to learn how to take selfies...

I really need to learn how to take selfies…

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So turns out, I read a lot of books in 2013.  I mean a LOT.  62 in fact, according to Goodreads.  So what else is there to do but do a Top Ten list of my favorite reads of 2013?

Nothing, that’s what 🙂

So, without further adieu:

My Top 10 Reads of 2013 (in no particular order)

1.Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

353 pages

Reminded me of: The Uninvited (movie)

6 bad girls don't die

So this is one of those books that I put off reading for a long time.  I picked it up over and over at the book store, but for some reason it just never clicked enough for me to buy it.  But then I saw this:

I know I’ve mentioned this book trailer before, but it really is a piece of greatness, and also pretty effective since it got me convinced to finally give this series a go.

The thing is, I don’t normally do ghost stories.  A lot of time they’re just not that great and they don’t pull off what a good ghost story is supposed to do: scare you!  But this one…man this one pulled it off.  Creepy backstories, possessions, scary freaking dolls…this book is like reading a good scary movie.  Actually gave me chills and I already picked up the next one! 🙂

“I’m a giant pimple on the face of humanity.”

2. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

225 pages

Reminded me of: Thriteen Reasons Why by James Asher, After by Amy Efaw

6 by the time you read this i'll be deadThis is another one I’ve seen floating around for a while, but I’ve never been able to find it at Half Price (with an addiction like mine, you can’t afford to pay full price for every book you want to read).

This book tells the story of a girl who, after several failed suicide attempts, has found a website for “completers”.  She signs up to follow their plan, giving her less than a month to work through any doubts she might have to finally seal the deal.  Only now, of all times, someone is reaching out to her, trying to find their way inside her severely damaged and well-built shell.  A relatively quick read, I wouldn’t suggest this one if you’re squeamish on bullying issues or, obviously, suicide.  It was definitely blunt and a bit harsh about both issues.  I felt like the story was incredibly well done, and that the potential love-interest was awesome in that he wasn’t a typical book-boyfriend.  He challenges Daelyn in ways that are so perfect and yet completely dorky all at the same time.

“Everything seems to be working.” Except me. I’m broken.”

3. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

336 pages

Reminded me of: The Hourglass Door Trilogy by Lisa Mangum, The Witches by Roald, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (in a good way!)

6 darker stillOkay, so this one was definitely my guilty pleasure book of the bunch.  One, it’s got a boy trapped in a painting, the idea of which has freaked me out ever since watching the movie adaptation of The Witches when I was a kid.  That, and you have some mystical, passionate romance going on with awesome gowns and a hunky, troubled boy.  I mean, who doesn’t love that??  Really, it’s not THE most amazing book ever, but if you like paranormal romance, the heat in this one will bump it up a while star level on your own personal scale.  Trust me 😉

“I was in love. With a two-dimensional object. A mute in love with a painting. Lovely. Just lovely.”

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

501 pages

Reminded me of: Twilight and The Hunger Games (This series is the next big thing in YA movie adaptations unless they screw it up!)

6 Divergent_16So yes, I finally broke down and got around to reading this book, and of course I loved it.  Still haven’t made my way into the sequel, mostly because I’ve been reading other things, but a little bit because I’m still scared of how this series will end.  Too many people were NOT happy with it.  That said, the first book was fast-paced, intense, unique, had GREAT sexual tension and adventure.  And I have to say, unlike Harry Potter where you read it and most people immediately lean towards Gryffindor because that’s where your main character lives, this book almost immediately made me say no.  No.  I will NOT be Dauntless.  I like to NOT jump off of buildings and get beat up, thanks! 🙂

“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.”

“Well,” he says, ‘I would only go if there was cake.”

5. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

319 pages

Reminded me of: Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore, Beastly (movie.  Haven’t read the book yet.)6 my fair godmotherFirst of all, I LOVE stories where a superficial character gets the chance to make something more of themselves.  So many of the YA books (especially paranormal) are about the deep, misunderstood, loner outcast.  I love a good story where someone who’s never had to try that hard in life gets the opportunity to become something more and then takes it.  That is Savannah.  It may not be easy going the whole way, but it’s worth it to ride to the end.

Besides wonderful ways in which the title works as a double entendre (Chrissy isn’t a wonderful fairy godmother, just a fair one.), this book is absolutely hilarious.  Don’t believe me?  Have a couple of quotes:

“Adults are constantly telling teenagers that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It’s always painful to find out that adults have lied to you.”

or “Aren’t fairy godmothers supposed to be nice and make you feel better about yourself?
She rolled her eyes.  “No, you’re confusing fairy godmothers with sales clerks.”

And finally: “…elves who write the memoirs of teenage girls have the unfortunate habit of returning to the magical realm with atrocious grammar….and for no apparent reason occasionally call out the name Edward Cullen.”

See?  Fun and quirky 🙂

6. Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

322 pages

Reminded me of: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

6 prom dates from hellAs I’ve mentioned before, the reason I finally got around to picking up this book is that the author was coming to our Teen Writing group at the library and I wanted to read something of hers before she got there.

And again, I absolutely loved it and should have started this series a long time ago!  Maggie Quinn is one of the most entertaining, sarcastic characters you’ll ever meet.  I seriously don’t think I’ve laughed as much over a fictional character since reading Percy Jackson.  The story moves at just the right pace, and has just the right amount of action.

“My major vice is sarcasm with a side of caffeine addiction.”

7. The Dead by Charlie Higson

484 pages

Reminded me of: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Everlost by Neal Shusterman

6 the deadSo I love every book in this entire series, but the only reason I’m picking this one over the others is that it was the first one I read (even though it is the 2nd in the series.)  Also, this one is the first book I’ve read in a long time that reminds me of Everlost, which has become perhaps my favorite YA book of all time.

The series follows groups of  kids around London as they fight off a zombie plague that has hit only those 16 and older.  The books also layer in interesting ways, some happening right before or right after the ending of the previous book.  The series is also an example of head-hopping done right, with the audience getting to experience the story for all different sides, which makes the action scenes (which happen a lot!) that much more dramatic, and makes things that much more shocking when one of the kids dies (which also happens a lot).

And if you’re not a big fan of gore in your zombie books, this one is a good choice, because even in the gross parts you can generally skip to the next paragraph and you’ve missed absolutely nothing but the gross stuff 😉

“Even after everything that happens, when the whole world changes forever, when everyone knows that the video wasn’t a hoax but the start of something terrible, people remember the Scared Kid. His poor frightened little face.

It’s like the last thing everyone saw before the lights went out.”

8. The Selection by Kiera Cass

352 pages

Reminded me of: I think the blurb on the book does it best: It’s the Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. (Even though I don’t watch the Bachelor…)

6 the selectionSo I’m a little annoyed at my friend for getting me interested in a series that hasn’t freaking completed yet!  Now I’m sitting around, like thousands of others, waiting for The One to come out so I can finally see how this thing turns out!!

The reality TV aspect of a search for a princess was a neat twist to your classic love triangle story.  Now you’ve got a girl that’s trying to compete for a prince that she’s not even that interested in.  And while you want to hate Prince Maxon for some of the shenanigans going on around the castle, you also have to remember that the poor kid is learning how to date for the first time on national television.  No pressure!

Also the awkward moments and misunderstandings in this series are just generally funnier and better written than most that you run into in these YA romances.  Definitely a good read, but I’d understand if you want to wait until the last one comes out.  Heck, maybe things will finally work out with the CW and they stinking pick up the pilot for this series! (They’ve turned two pilots down so far…)

“I hit your thigh!”
“Oh, please. A man doesn’t need that long to recover from a knee to the thigh.”

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

242 pages

Reminded me of: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

6 the statistical probability of love at first sightNow, while I may want to kill my special friend for getting me interested in The Selection, I guess I’ll have to thank her for getting me hooked on this lovely little stand-alone.

Honestly I almost never read contemporary YA.  If it’s just a book about how to find a boyfriend or what snarky things the group of mean girls is doing at school, I’m probably not interested. (Honestly, the only thing to get me interested in a Sarah Dessen book was listening to her talk about how the boyfriend in Dreamland starts beating on his girlfriend and I went, “Ooh…I should read that!)  But with this book it’s not just a love story about a boy and girl who meet on a plane, it’s also about both of them coming to grips with incredibly difficult father issues, and learning what it means to make mature decisions about your own life.  I mean, Hadley’s on her way to be a bridesmaid for the woman that was her dad’s mistress and is about to be his wife.  Can you blame her for being grumpy and not wanting to go???

Really touching and poignant.  Good, fast read!

“It’s one thing to run away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running all alone.”

10. Variant by Robison Wells

400 pages

Reminded me of: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Pulse by Patrick Carman

6 variantAh, Variant.  Can you say “Holy freaking plot twist, Batman?!?!?!?!”  Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how awesome this plot twist is and I can’t tell you about it or it will ruin everything.  It’s like when I had to convince my friend to read Catching Fire because the games were the only part of The Hunger Games that she even liked!  I had to just promise her that the plot twist in the middle would make it all worth it.

Trust me, this one’s worth getting to.

So this one’s (initially) about a boy selected to go to a super-cool private school, even though he’s a nobody foster kid.  Except, oh wait, there’s no adults here and everyone’s trapped upon penalty of death.  Oops.  Did we forget to mention that in the brochure?  Now Benson has to navigate your typical high school cliques, with the added bonus that if you make a wrong move you might end up in detention…where you die.  No biggie, right?  Then, and oh my freaking goodness, there’s a huge plot twist and everything gets turned on it’s head!  Ahhhh!  Read it and we’ll discuss! 🙂

” ‘This isn’t one of those scare-you-straight schools, is it?’ I asked Ms. Vaughn, as we passed through the heavy chain-link gate. ”

And of course I can’t JUST do 10 books!  I did reread a few books this year, but my favorite that I reread was:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

340 pages

Reminded me of: The Dead by Charlie Higson, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

6 everlost-coverOkay, so I won’t go on and on and on and on and on about this book, even though you know I could.  But this year I decided to reread this book and I’m seriously glad I did.  Not only did I get to meet the author of said book in person (EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!), but it also solidified in my mind a question.

One of the author panels at the Austin Teen Book Festival asked this question:  If you could be any character in YA, who would you be and why?  Of course there was a Hermione in there and a couple more interesting ones, but as I sat there thinking about it I realized, I actually had an answer for that one. I actually had an all-time favorite female character of my very own:

Ally the Outcast.
Seriously.  I love her spunk, I love that she doesn’t take the partyline for an answer, and I love that she knows right off the bat that Mary Queen of Snots is not to be trusted.

This is a clever and fascinating story of children trapped as ghosts, and it offers explanations from every thing to what happened to the Twin Towers when they fell to why you see ghost repeating the same actions all the time.  If I’m lucky, someday I’ll write something as awesome as this 😉

“And next to Allie, the screamer, once more reminded of his job, began to wail in Allie’s ear. Reflexively Allie clapped her hand over his mouth. “That,” she said, “is totally uncalled for. Don’t do that again. Ever.” The screamer looked at her with worried eyes. “Are we clear on this subject?” said Allie. The screamer nodded and she removed her hand.
“Can I scream a little?” he asked.
“No,” said Allie. “Your screaming days are over.”
“Darn.” And he was quiet thereafter.”

And, since all of these so far have been Young Adult books (I know, shocker), here’s my favorite adult book read this year:

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

290 pages

Reminded me of: The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

6 brain on fireThis book is the true story of a girl that went from being relatively average and normal, to acting like a schizophrenic, to a practical waking coma all in the course of a month.  And the bizarre thing is that Susannah Cahalan doesn’t remember any of it.  She’s had to piece things together from friends and family, doctors, and tapes of her in the hospital, recording her outbursts and randomness for Susannah to uncover later, like an archeologist discovering bits of someone else’s life.  Really a fascinating read, and a little scary to tell you the truth.  You never know when your health might utterly fail you, and this book definitely makes you think about it.

“Someone once asked, “If you could take it all back, would you?”
At the time I didn’t know. Now I do. I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”

NOVEMBER
18 Yvaine: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about all my years watching Earth, is that people aren’t what they may seem. There are shop boys, and there are boys who just happen to work in a shop for the time being.
Stardust (Movie)

stardust
NOVEMBER
19 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

theodore_roosevelt_genealogy
NOVEMBER
20 Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.
Mark Twain

18 mark twain
NOVEMBER
21 Zack: You know, I saw this great thing on the Discovery Channel. Turns out if you kill a starfish it’ll just come back to life.
Sheldon: Was the starfish wearing boxer shorts? Because you might have been watching Nickelodeon.
The Big Bang Theory

30 big bang theory
NOVEMBER
22 Making cartoons means very hard work at every step of the way, but creating a successful cartoon character is the hardest work of all.
Joseph Barbera

18 barbera
NOVEMBER
23-24 Quit your eco-whining Captain Planet.
Tony DiNozzo, NCIS

Berlin

IMAG2223

So this past weekend my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by traveling down to Austin for the Texas Book Festival.   It’s a free event held every year down at the capitol (like, IN the capitol building), but unlike the Teen Book Festival, it covers everything from cooking to memoir to fantasy to history.  Of course, I was only there for the Young Adult authors, but still 🙂  And I have to say it was an interesting experience getting to sit in say the House Chamber and listen to R.L. freaking Stine talk and read a scary story.  I mean come on!

It was amazing! 🙂 🙂

IMAG2224

So, first off let’s talk about the goodies!!!

Here’s my array of free things I picked up this weekend…

IMG_3852 IMG_3860So the poster, of course, was from the Neal Shusterman signing, and this is my favorite series EVER, so of course I had to pick this one 🙂  (and yes, that is his signature there on the left!)

Also, I got stickers and a bookmark from Kami Garcia, bookmarks from Aprilynne Pike, Jessica Khoury, postcards, and yes, even TWO free books and a free sampler book from Penguin!!!  How freaking awesome is that?!?

IMG_3854Next we’re on to the new books I picked up.  Of course, I had to get Unsouled, the brand, spanking new one from Neal Shusterman and Scorpion Shards which is one of the few books of his I haven’t read yet.  And Beautiful Chaos, the next one I needed to own in the Caster series.

Now, you wanna see all the books I got signed???

IMG_3858BAM!  Yes, there are 6 books from Neal Shusterman (My idol!  Plus he signed each in a different color and put a unique message in each one!)  Then we have two from Kami Garcia, Defy the Dark which is the collection of short stories that I just won from Epic Reads about two weeks ago (woohoo!!!  Plus Aprilynne Pike signed her story she wrote!) and last, but certainly not least, we have Switched by R.L. Stine who happened to mention that it was one of his favorite books he’d ever written and he seemed really pleased that that book was the one I chose to have signed 🙂

Also, Neal acted excited when I showed him the upside-down “e” or schwa symbol on the back of my shirt and the Skinjackers reference, too!

IMAG2161

Want to see some pics of the authors??? Great!

R.L. Stine!!!

R.L. Stine!!!

IMAG2236

Me and Kami Garcia

Me and Kami Garcia

Me and Neal Shusterman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me and Neal Shusterman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then, to top it all off, Saturday night we got to go listen to R.L. Stine telling ghost stories, in the dark, in a graveyard….WHAT?!?!  My husband said, “Now you can cross this off your bucket list!”  Um, I don’t know of a world in which I would have fathomed that would happen!!!!  But yes, it’s checked off now!  (Sorry there are no pics from that, after all, though, it was in the dark!)

So that’s about it!  I do have a new list of books to add to my “wish list”, including:

Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta, Doomed by Tracy Deebs, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Who I apparently had a short by story in ANOTHER book that I didn’t figure out until too late.  Dang!), and Origin by Jessica Khoury.  Good thing Christmas is coming!

And, in closing, here are some random pics from my trip!

Penguin bus!!

Penguin bus!!

HEB cart that you can drive from the kiddie seat!

HEB cart that you can drive from the kiddie seat!

How cute is that??? Get it?  Smarties for smart girls??? :)

How cute is that??? Get it? Smarties for smart girls??? 🙂

IMAG2240

Bats at the Congress Street bridge

Bats at the Congress Street bridge

For my momma who's a teacher!

For my momma who’s a teacher!

IMG_3739

Inside the capitol

Inside the capitol

Me and the hubby!  Waiting (I think) for R.L. Stine

Me and the hubby! Waiting (I think) for R.L. Stine

These are from the Austin Zoo.  It’s a non-profit that only takes in rescued animals.  You should check it out if you’re in the area!

He really wanted that ball, but it was stuck in the water.  He apparently did NOT want to get wet...


He really wanted that ball, but it was stuck in the water. He apparently did NOT want to get wet…

This jaguar appeared to be almost blind.  Sad day :(

This jaguar appeared to be almost blind. Sad day 😦

IMG_3780 IMG_3786 IMG_3791 IMG_3796 IMG_3807 IMG_3840

OCTOBER
28 Ed: Any zombies out there?
Shaun: Don’t say that!
Ed: What?
Shaun: That!
Ed: What?
Shaun: The zed-word. Don’t say it!
Ed: Why not?
Shaun: Because it’s ridiculous!
Ed: All right… are there any out there, though?
Shaun: I can’t see any. Maybe it’s not as bad as all that…Oh, no, there they are.
    Shaun of the Dead

28 shaun-of-the-dead
OCTOBER
29 “It wouldn’t have mattered if they were scratches or not,” he says, his voice like liquid. “I was bitten during the escape from the house.”
My limbs go weak, everything inside me folding in collapsing on itself.
“I was already dead,” he says, opening his eyes.
Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

28 The_Forest_of_Hands_and_Teeth
OCTOBER
30 Harry Solomon: I could do it with my eyes closed!
Tommy Solomon: You do everything with your eyes closed!
 3rd Rock From the Sun

28 harry
OCTOBER
31 I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see
John Newton, “Amazing Grace”

28 amazing_grace
NOVEMBER
1 Jorgen von Strangle: For failing to distract the dragon, the handsome fairy loses! However, he is still very sexy.
Wandisimo: This I can live with.
    The Fairly Odd Parents

28 wandisimo
NOVEMBER
2-3 I’m too sexy for my shirt
Too sexy for my shirt
So sexy it hurts
Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy”

28 Too_Sexy_2007

That’s right, this is my 100th post!  And yes, I feel like I’m still learning this whole thing, and no, I haven’t blown up viewers (yet), but I’m okay with that because……

TwitterThat’s right!  Can you see that there?  That’s MY NAME in the middle of the Tea Time winners for yesterday’s broadcast!!!  AND they read one of my tweets out loud on the show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know, I know, I get excited about random things, but again, I’m okay with that 🙂

Besides, who doesn’t get excited about free books???

Anyway, my post today isn’t really so much about that, it’s about FOOD!  Yummy, yummy food :9  But I had to share my geeky news first! 🙂

Okay, so Netflix added two more seasons of Cake Boss that I hadn’t seen yet, and I may or may not have watched them all in a week…  For they record they are great to watch while crafting in front of the TV because you don’t have to watch every single second and they put you in the creative mood.

Anyway, sure enough by the time I finished my craft project I was ready to try something new with baking.  But not just any old thing, no this needed to be something cool that took some work.  So I remembered that over two years ago while playing Bigger, Better, Best with my Singles’ Ward at church I had ended up with this bad boy:

IMG_3734Only thing is, while the press was brand new, it did not actually come with directions.  Nor did it come with a sample recipe, and I had no idea what type of cookies went into a cookie press.  So of course, I hit the interwebs, and came up with this:

Taadaaaaaa!  So now, I not only had a visual on how to use the press, but a link in the description led me to the recipe I used.   (She said she’d tried a couple, but that her husband liked this one the best) Now I did try searching for other recipes, and came across a Martha Stewart one that looked possibly simple, but the comments underneath were either “This is amazing!  Use it all the time!” or people that couldn’t get it to work AT ALL or had to tweak it several times.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be more confident that things are going to work right the first time, without the tweaking.  And here’s why:

After making a half dozen cookies, I was already frustrated.  The dough kept building up pressure inside the press, and trying to pop the end off.  Also, the dough wasn’t coming out very easily at all.  Turns out I had two problems: 1. I needed to turn the shaped tip around so that the curved edges of the shape faced the dough, and the flat side faced out.  THEN I realized that my dough had come out much too thick.  Now, this could either be from the recipe or from me not getting the butter warm enough before blending.  Either way, i wasn’t going to start over, so instead I just kept adding tablespoons of margarine until I got the dough to the right consistency.   (I think I added about 3 or 4 tablespoons by the end of it.)  After that, my dough matched the one in the video.  So, if you try this recipe and have the same problem, try margarine!*

SPRITZ COOKIES

(From http://kusinanimanang.blogspot.com/2010/02/butter-spritz-cookies.html)

 

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salst
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1-1/3 cups confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Sift together the flour and salt; set aside.
Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Mix in egg yolks, almond and vanilla extracts. Blend in dry ingredients. Fill cookie press and shoot cookies 1.5″ apart on ungreased aluminum non-insulated cookie sheet. You may decorate with sprinkles or sugar before baking.
Bake 6-8 minutes until slightly golden brown at the edges.

IMAG2194 IMAG2195Now you can leave them plain, or add sprinkles to them before they cook.  I also added cinnamon to some of mine, and they came out yummy! (I also tried the Cinnamon Sugar as well, but those didn’t come out as good.  Use the regular cinnamon to get the full effect!)

IMAG2193Also, when I first started, I had to squeeze the press’s trigger twice to get the dough to come out all the way and stick to the pan.  It works, but it will change the shape of your cookies (obviously).  It’s just up to you how much you care about that.

IMAG2198Also, after tasting these bad boys, I decided they would be GREAT dipped in some chocolate (Which, okay, might have been a Cake Boss side effect as well…)  Well, I was right!  They were scrumptious!  The only problem was, the hubby had used all of my almond bark for making molds of chess pieces.  (Married to an engineer.  Don’t ask.)  So I melted chocolate chips to use instead, which tasted great but never fully dried.  Hubby didn’t care, but it would make delivering these to people fairly hard…

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I don’t know about you, but I think these came out lovely!  And they remind me of Christmas, when my mom would buy that classic blue tin of butter cookies and they’d disappear in about a day.  Mmmmmm…..  Guess who’s making homemade ones for Christmas this year?!?

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*Margarine has a tendency to make cookies spread out more.  I wouldn’t use it for the whole recipe, or you’ll lose the taste of the butter in the butter cookies.  I’d only use it to smooth up the dough, and only as needed.

Oh my gosh!  So this Saturday was so freaking awesome!!!  If you guys live in Texas and ever have a chance to go to the Austin Teen Book Festival, you should totally go!  Totally worth the gas and effort to get there!  (Even with the rainstorms that delayed us in 3 separate spots in the middle of nowhere….)

So we got up to leave DFW around 5 am, and made it to Austin a little after 9, which meant that we did miss the first speaker.  But that’s okay, because we  were able to hit up one of the volunteer tables and start picking up some swag!

 

 

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Okay, first off we’ve got a card for Shannon Hale’s Dangerous coming out next year in 2014.  She wasn’t there, but I have read a couple of her books, so I’m intrigued to check out this one later.

To the right we have a sample book for No Safety In Numbers by Dayna Lorentz.  Story of a ton of people all trapped in a mall during a quarantine.  I haven’t read any of the sample yet, but I’ve always thought trapping people in a mall would be a great story.  I mean, you’ve got food, toys, clothes…you could keep a moderate number of people occupied for a little while at least (especially if there’s a book store in there!).  But that mall Subway can only make so much fresh bread until they just run out of supplies.  What then?

Okay, then there’s the bookmarks from Mari Mancusi’s Scorched (think Friday Night Lights but with Dragons!) and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (a girl writing Harry Potter-esque fanfic that can’t quite let fictional life go).  I also got one for Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life (full of 90s music, yeah!) and Mindy McGinnis’s Not a Drop to Drink (post-apocalyptic with a teen sniper and no water), but both of those are already in use in my books, so oh well 😛

The top square thingy is Mindy’s business card with a quote from the book on it: “Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.”

Beneath that is a magnet for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings with a quote: “A true scholar must not close her mind on any topic, no matter how certain she may feel.”  –Jasnah.   Now, I have to say, I’m not familiar with any of Brandon Sanderson’s books, but he had BY FAR one of the longest signing lines in the whole place, longer even than Sarah Dessen.  So maybe I’m missing out.  Anybody read his stuff?

Then at the bottom we have a big box and a tiny box, both for Sherry Thomas’s The Burning Sky.  In her words, “Harry Potter with cross-dressing”.  So the little box is hand balm, and the big box is bath tea.  Didn’t know that bath tea was a thing?  Well, guess what, neither did I.  But how cool is it to get super awesome swag that you can use in the tub???

IMG_3731Okay, so for this next free sample book, I am super duper excited!!!  It’s The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  Alien invasions, and people seem to just be going nuts over this book.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for it, I’ll include it at the end of this post…

Next a card with some upcoming books from Penguin Teen, including Man Made Boy which looks pretty interesting (teen Frankenstein living in a theater).

Then there’s a postcard for Sara Beth Durst’s Conjured.  Now, she wasn’t there so I don’t know much about this one except it has a “dangerous magic-wielding serial killer”, which is about all I need 🙂

Okay, then we’re on to a sticker for The Infects (zombies!) by Sean Beaudoin.  Underneath that there’s the free sampler for Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.  Comes out next year, and it involves futuristic nuclear power heiress discovering that her family’s company is destroying the common man.

Last in this set we have Teen Seer Magazine which is based on Tessa Gratton’s The Lost Sun, which involves Loki , Odin Alfather, and Asgard.  Score!

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And last but not least we have my free (if slightly squished) poster for Vampire Academy.  Again, I’ll admit I haven’t ready any of these yet, but I’m a sucker for a YA book with an upcoming movie.  You know I’ll be reading it soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, I feel like I made out like a biblio-bandit!  Now, I would love to give you the rundown of the entire day, but that would make this post just the most ridiculously long thing every!  So, swag first, details of the day later.  Here’s a couple of the trailers for the books that were being promoted there, as well as one for the Vampire Academy movie!  (P.S. some of these are better than others…)

THE 5TH WAVE

NOT A DROP TO DRINK

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE

CINDER

ASYLUM

VAMPIRE ACADEMY

AUGUST
26 “Just because I made rain Satan’s blood doesn’t mean I have all the answers,” she said.
Temple Mathews, The Sword of Armageddon

26sword
AUGUST
27 It’s always darkest before it turns absolutely pitch black.
Paul Newman

26Paul-Newman-Presented-By-Rolex
AUGUST
28 People can have the Model T in any color-so long as it’s black.
Henry Ford

26Henry-Ford-next-to-Model-T-1921-From-the-Collections-of-The-Henry-Ford
AUGUST
29 Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying, and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting. I wanna fly somewhere in first class. I wanna travel to Europe on a business trip. I wanna get invited to the White House. I wanna learn about the world. I wanna surprise myself. I wanna be important. I wanna be the best person I can be. I wanna define myself instead of having others define me. I wanna win and have people be happy for me. I wanna lose and get over it. I wanna not be afraid of the unknown. I wanna grow up to be generous and big-hearted, the way that people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life. It’s not that I think I’m gonna get all these things. I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents this possibility. The possibility that things are gonna change. I can’t wait.
Tyra Collette, Friday Night Lights (TV)

26tyra26
AUGUST
30 I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
Walt Disney

walt-disney
AUGUST-SEPTEMBER
31-1 I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

26The_Book_Thief_by_Markus_Zusak_book_cover

So sorry I haven’t written this up yet, considering that I saw the midnight showing on Tuesday, but Wed was a sleepy day, and by bedtime I was sick with something (still am) so it took me a little while to get around to this.

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So, as you probably guessed from my last post I was a little nervous about going to see this movie because I love the book series, and didn’t want them to ruin it.  My biggest fear honestly was that they would turn Clary into some kind of simpering, stuttering, apologetic, wimp…like another movie that shall not be named…

But it.  Was.  Ah-mazing.  Seriously.  If you’re a fan of these books and you’re waiting until this weekend to see it, you’re in for a treat!  (You know, assuming you can let the minutia go…)  The action scenes were excellent!  Even Clary gets to be a bad A!  And Isobel?  Man, that girl’s freaking awesome and so is her bracelet/whip!  They also (in my humble opinion) did enough to not stay completely strict to the original story, so that say when you see a demon, it surprises you (partly with its grossness) because it’s not what you had imagined, but it’s still scary and cool.

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I don’t want to go into too many details, because I don’t want to leave a bunch of spoilers around here, but the movie definitely stayed true to the original essence of the book.  And it was fun watching all the high school girls scream at things like Jace suggesting Clary ask him to take his shirt off. 🙂  (Okay, I might have cheered a little, too, just to join in the fun.  Don’t judge me!)

The chemistry was there for sure between Clary and Jace, and they did a great job with the Simon aspect as well.  Also, Valentine?  Not how I pictured him, but still very creepy!

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And if you haven’t read the books yet?  You’ll still enjoy this movie!  It’s got action, adventure, betrayal, revenge, sword fights, romance… (I feel like I’m describing the Princess Bride here…)  Heck, even my friend’s uninterested brother came back with, “I liked it, even though I don’t want to like it.” 🙂

Okay, now that said, I did want to mention one other thing:

Parents of 12 yr old girls everywhere…do NOT send your daughters out to a midnight showing all by themselves!  I don’t care if there are 3 of them!  Three 12 yr olds do not make a 36 yr old!  What they make is prey for Creepers and Latchers.

Unfamiliar with Latchers?  Well here, let me give you an example…

As anyone who has participated in a midnight showing before knows, as you’re sitting around and waiting in line, you inevitably start making friends with the people around you, like we did with the group of 6 girls on the other side of the rope line.  3 of them were 16-18, the other 3 were 12.  The two groups came separately to the theater, but made friends there because they were all dressed as shadow hunters.  Sometime before the movie, Random Guy whom we shall call Philburt, comes over and starts talking to the girls.  For like 45 MINUTES.

Now my friend, L, has a 12 yr old sister herself, and instantly got worried about this guy.  “Does he know them?” she asked.  One glance at him and I said, “Nope.  He’s a Latcher.  He just showed up and latched on to their group.  Trust me, I attract those type of guys all the time…”

And is if to confirm my assumption, the boy then tells the girls that he’s never read the books, doesn’t know what the movie is about, but had a free movie ticket and decided to wait around and see a midnight showing with a bunch of fanatics because he “saw all the pretty girls waiting in line.”  Now, does that sound like the kind of 18 yr old you want hanging around your 12 yr old???

Now generally these kinds of guys are harmless.  I good dose of ignoring and sometimes (as you’ll see in a moment) a healthy serving of embarrassment can make them go away.  (And no, being nice to them is not the answer.  Any form of nicety is just encouragement to a Latcher.)

To be fair, when the kid found out that most of the girls he’d been talking to were teenie boppers, he did take off to stalk another line for someone to latch onto.  But he kept swinging back by when his plan was obviously failing.  Cut to us, sitting now in the theater, right behind these girls, and Philburt is now down at the bottom, standing next to a theater worker and stroking his chin (for like 10 MINUTES) as he surveys the crowd.  Eventually L got tired of the guy and went down to confront him.

MeandL

L: “Hey, you know those girls you were talking to before are like 12, right?”

Philburt: “Uh, yeah.”

L: “So you’re not looking for them, right?”

Philburt: “Um no…I was uh…just looking for somewhere to sit…”

L: “Good.  Because that’s just not going to happen.”

So L returns, to the praise and worship of the girls she’s defended, who are now in full freakout mode with “What if he’s waiting for us when we leave?” “If this were Criminal Minds, he’d be ready to kill us right about now!” “If he’s out there when we leave, I’m waiting outside instead of inside.  I don’t care what my mom told me!”  And best of all, “I’m not telling my mom about this!  She’ll never let me come back for something like this!!!”

And there it is.  It’s not just the “What if a Creeper or a Latcher starts chatting with my tween-age daughter?”  But “What if she then doesn’t tell me about it?”  “What if the guy DOES in fact com after her?”  “What if I have no idea?”

Now luckily this guy was pretty harmless.  The girls (going in pairs) did see him hanging around the bathrooms later, looking for someone else to latch, but what if he’d been creepier?  What if we hadn’t been there?  What if one of those girls went to the bathroom by herself and he was able to get her out of the theater?

Look, whatever age you decide is old enough for your kids to start doing certain things is up to you, but 12, in my opinion, is WAAAAAAY too young to be going to a midnight showing alone.  I don’t care how much you need sleep or how much they beg or how much you don’t want to see that crappy teen flick (which this one was not, but whatever).  Either be one of the many parents we saw, attending the movie with their kid, or be the mean parent that makes them stay home until a “reasonable” hour.   Because even harmless 18 yr old Latchers are willing to hit on your 12 yr old daughter, and you never know when the next one might be an actual Creeper, and not quite so harmless.

 

Oh!  And the preview I saw that I’m most excited about??? This one:

So I psyched myself up and went to go see Sea of Monsters this weekend…

First of all, let me explain.  The reason I had to “psych myself up” in the first place, is that the first Percy Jackson movie was just So. Dang. BAD.  Seriously, I am not a fan.  And it’s not that i don’t love the books!  I do!  In fact, my best friend and my non-boyfriend (now husband) all read the first one together on a road trip, and to keep up with tradition, we still read Rick Riordan books whenever we’re headed out of town.  In fact, I’m looking forward to House of Hades coming out in October, partly so that we’ll have something to read on our anniversary trip!  (Finally almost done with Mark of Athena!)

HOUSE OF HADES_Cover Final

Also, let me tell you that I am NOT one of those people who can’t accept that the movie is going to be different than the book.  Hello?  Film major here!  But even varying greatly from the book isn’t an excuse to make a bad movie.  It just isn’t.  As book lover we all love to say that the book is better than the movie, but that’s not always true.  In New Moon they fixed my biggest problem with Jacob by leaving out his Emo “kiss me or I’ll let myself die” speech.  (Sorry, girls, but any boy that tries to force you into a romantic encounter in order to prevent their suicide isn’t worth your time.  Or a romantic.  Or someone you should continue to associate with at all…)  Or, in Stardust, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman (who I LOVE), I actually like parts of the movie version better.  In the book, Yvainne doesn’t meet up with the witches until the very, very end of the story.  I like that she’s got something scary to run from in the movie.  It makes things more intense.

stardust

Ooh!  Or what about all the songs about bathing or Tom Bombadil that we cut from Tolkien?  I could have done without those in reading the books…

But The Lightning Theif was just BAD.  There were parts of it I liked, sure, but as the discrepancies kept adding up, and the film problems kept mounting, I think I hit my final roadblock when creepy Persephone started hitting on Grover.  Ew.  Just ew.

And you KNOW a kids’ movie has missed the mark when the 9 yr old girl behind you suddenly says “No, Mom, I’m sorry.  But this is not like the book at ALL!”  Kids should just be impressed that the book character has come to life in a magical way.  If you miss that, then you fail.

And if you’re one of the people that loved the first movie, then I apologize.  Like what you want.  I’ll watch Twilight or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie any day of the week for some good campy fun, and I can attest that there is such a thing as a good bad movie.  But for me, this one just wasn’t it…

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So, needless to say, I was a little nervous about seeing this one.  In fact, my husband refused to go see it with us.  I think he was almost convinced until he saw the Mist turned into a spray in the trailer and then he checked out again.  But like I said, I’m willing to let a certain amount go…  Plus, Nathan Fillion AND Anthony Head AND Stanly Tucci…I’m willing to give it a shot.

All that said, Sea of Monsters was WAAAAAAAY better than the first one!  Anthony Head makes a great Chiron.  Tucci is great as always.  As is Nathan Fillion.  Leven Rambin (who you might recognize from playing Glimmer in Hunger Games) made an EXCELLENT Clarisse.  Seriously, I was routing for her even when she was up against Percy.  She’s pretty freaking awesome.  Plus after The Host, I have to say that I now have a deeper love of  Jake Abel (oh, and did I mention that I met him in person and got an autographed poster of that movie and how super nice he was? 🙂  )

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In this one, the special effects better.  The storyline is truer to the original work.  And it’s FUNNY.  They did a lot to make sure to bring the funny in this one and it paid off.  And sure, they had to change some things, like making the prophecy say “reach the age of 20” because, let’s face it, these actors were already way too old to be pulling off 14 yr olds in the first one, but you could really feel them trying to fix some of the mistakes made in the first movie, so much props there.

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But the relationship Percy and Tyson develop is great, and really makes Percy have to change his way of looking at things.  He also provides a great way of Annabeth to grow and change as well (just like she did in the books).

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So, if like me, you were a bit disheartened by the first movie, you should definitely go and see this one.  It’s much better.  I know I’m making the hubby see it now.  AND it appears that they’re trying to make the rest of the 3 books into movies as well (which they really should have been trying to do in the first place).  So yes, I say you should see this one, it’s a fun adaptation, and good even if you haven’t read all the books.  Though, I must say, if you’re a Rick Riordan fan and you aren’t following him on Twitter (or Facebook) you totally should.  He’s on their regularly, responding to fans, and you get fun insights, updates, news stories that relate to his books, and fun little tidbits like this:

RT: Christ4Everyone 13 Aug

My wife with our daughters, Thalia & Annabeth. Thanks @camphalfblood for giving us such beautiful and unique names.

rick

 

How cute is that???  And GREAT characters to name your girls after.  Strong, intelligent, fierce… I love it!  So follow him @camphalfblood .  For serious.

 

And one last thing before I let you go…if you like reading YA or love stories at all, you should totally check out The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.  Seriously.  It’s awesome.

statisticalAnd this is coming from a person that does not read straight contemporary YA romance…like ever.  Generally there needs to be some kind of mystical, fantastical, post-apocalyptic element in there for me to get really into a YA romance.  This one I finished in two days and just devoured it.  it’s a boy and girl who meet on a plane while the girl in on her way to her father’s wedding….to the woman he had an affair with to break up their family in the first place.  There’s just something compelling about Hadley and her issues with her dad, and the sweet (did I mention British) Oliver and their intense, sudden connection that makes you hope desperately for Fate to keep intervening on their behalf.  Haven’t we all had one of those “You’re Beautiful” moments where we meet a person in passing, and are left wondering “What if?” as soon as the moment is gone?  Seriously, check out this book.  It’s pretty darn good.