Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sweet Reads: The Luck Uglies & Banoffe Pie

Once a month I'll be posting a dessert recipe and excerpts from a book that's struck me just right, whether it be gorgeous descriptions, funny dialogue, swoon-worthy kisses, sarcastic come-backs, or spine-tingling encounters. 

Mum said the fiends usually came after midnight. 

I loved this book. Like loved loved loved this book. I was a tad depressed after finishing it and so I went back through and reread my fav parts(of which there was many). This MG fantasy is just brimming with voice and atmosphere and I need the next one like NOW! 

First things first, I have an obsession w/rooftops(to go along w/my love of buildings in general). So give me a cover that features rooftops, glowing windows, a flag banner, and a GARGOYLE?! I...just...I can't... *faints from all the awesomeness* 

Not to mention the whale weathervane atop the bell tower. *sits and just stares at it for like five minutes*
The humor in this story is fantastic. Though it's a tie between which I like better: the humor or the mother-daughter relationships. Rye's mother, Abby, does her absolute best for her girls, and as a mother myself, I can imagine how hard it's been for her to be doing it on her own. 

"And what is your name, boy?" the man asked, in a voice that creaked like an old iron chest.
"I'm a girl, thank you very much," Rye said. She was still in her tights. Her arms, legs, and face were covered in basement grime. 

"Oh. Indeed you are," he said, eyeballing her disapprovingly. 

"R-y-e," Rye spelled. "Rhymes with lie."

Mrs. O'Chanter frowned and gave her a harsh look.

"Sorry," Rye said. "Rhymes with die."

That didn't improve Mrs. O'Chanter's mood. 

The next excerpt really amused me, as this just about sums up bedtime w/the kidlet some nights! =)

Getting Lottie O'Chanter to bed each night was no easy task. It took a lot of screaming and temper tantrums, and that was just from their mother. 

And one more cute kid moment before we move on. This feels especially relevant to me, as I recently bought a potty chair for the kidlet. Oh, yeah, 'bout time to start down that road...

Poor Quinn looked frightful. His hair was as wild as Lottie's and his face was covered with blue paint. "You said you'd be right back," he said. 

"I'm sorry," Rye said.

"You said she never wakes up."

"She doesn't," Rye said. "What happened?"

"She said she had to go wee."

"Did she go?"Rye asked.

"Not wee," Quinn said. 

"Oh," Rye said. "Did she use her Pot?"

"No," Quinn said glumly and pointed to his shoes in the corner. 

"Ugh," said Rye. 

"It was awful, Rye. What do you people feed this girl?" 

And the monsters in this book! They go by the name of Bog Noblins, which is just so cool it makes my toes curl. 

There was another splash. Rye peered into the darkness. Fifteen or twenty feet from the camp, two eyes flickered at water level. Something was bent over, using its hand like a cup and drinking from the bog. One of the eyes, independent from the other, suddenly looked over in Rye's direction. 

But dang, if the Bog Noblins aren't scary! Reading about them is fun, but living in a village where they might decide to come visit you? No thanks!

Oustide, Leatherleaf had taken his vandalism to a far more serious level. He had climbed onto the roof of the cottage across the street. His weight alone buckled the thatch-and-shingle roof, but now he was digging into it with his claws and tearing pieces away. 

"Mama," Rye said, "it's the Pendergills' house. There are babies in there."

"I know," Abby said quietly. "I know."

Right there, I have reason to believe that Rye's going to grow up to be one amazing adult. B/c if a 'baby' herself can be worried about babies, you know there's a caring, beautiful soul residing in this girl. But we'll not talk about her impetuous behavior after this, which had the mother/invested reader in me gripping the book really hard and flipping pages w/the speed of light.

I really can't recommend this book enough-- read it, you won't be disappointed! The Luck Uglies(which the book is named for) don't really come into play as much until the ending of the novel(but the buildup for them to come onto the scene is done so incredibly well). They're a secret society that's been exiled from the village that I think we'll see so much more out of in the second book. *yesssss!* {I still want my letter to Hogwarts, but if that doesn't ever come, then my next pick is to join the Luck Uglies}

And now, Banoffe Pie! Which is, essentially, caramel banana cream pie. And is delicious. You can find the original recipe here. What makes banoffe pie so unique is that you make the caramel by boiling sweetened condensed milk! Can in hot water for hours and presto- caramel! In the recipe below I did it w/the crock pot, but if you go to the website linked above, it also lists how to make it by stove top or oven, if you so wish.  

Banoffe Pie

1 graham cracker crust(I bought the one that Keebler makes that has 2 extra servings)

3 bananas, sliced

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup whipping cream whipped w/ 1-2 TB powdered sugar, until stiff peaks form(I used 3 TB powdered s.)

1 choc. bar

Making the Dulce de Leche:

Take the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk and place in crock pot. Cover completely with water. Put lid on and cook on low for 8-10 hours.(I did 8 hrs and it turned out perfect) Make sure there is plenty of water and the cans are covered the entire time. Cool before opening. 


Slice the bananas and place in graham cracker shell. Pour the cooled caramel over the banana slices. Cover in sweet whipped cream and garnish with shaved chocolate. Refrigerate at least an hour.

* * *

As always, my food pic doesn't look so great, but trust me when I say this pie is amazing! It's really perfect for summer as it's a dessert that tastes better(and stays together better) when it's chilled.  

ALSO! There are ways to take shortcuts w/this pie. Nestle makes La Lechera(Spanish for dulce de leche) already in a can. In my grocery store it's shelved w/the sweetened condensed milk, though in others you might find it in the Hispanic food section. So buying the caramel already made is definitely a time saver. I've not tried it, but I've heard it's really good. 

Second time saver is to top the pie w/cool whip(which many of the other recipes out there for this dessert do). I'm just not a fan of cool whip, so I liked making the sweet cream and thought it had a much better taste. But anyway, if you use these two time savers, you're pretty much just buying the ingredients and assembling, and you can't get much quicker than that! 

And if you'd like to read the synopsis for The Luck Uglies(I'll be the first to admit my reviews are a bit fangirlish and rambling), here's a link for it on Goodreads

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Interview w/Natalie Whipple + A Giveaway!

Ninjas. Who doesn't love them? And who hasn't secretly wished for awesome ninja skills? (Uh-huh. You know you have.) So I'm uber thrilled today to welcome Natalie Whipple, author of Transparent, Blindsided, The House of Ivy & Sorrow, and her most recent: Relax, I'm A Ninja.

1. Quick, weapon of choice-- shuriken or nunchucks?

It's very situational. Like, if I were hiding out and had distance, shuriken would be more useful in that scenario. If it was closer combat, I'd want the nunchaku. So basically I'm saying I want both. I can do that, because I'm a ninja. ;)

2. Do you feel like your pre-release nerves for Relax, I'm A Ninja are better or worse than they were w/your traditionally-published novels? 

I think I'm doing better on nerves for the most part, but that may be more because it's my fourth published novel than anything. If this was my first, I think I'd be as nervous as I was for my first traditionally published book. It's amazing how much you chill out even from debut to your second book. All the things you worry about at first just kind of fall away over time.

3. What's your top 3 fav snacks and/or beverages?

Cupcakes, Diet Mt. Dew Code Red, Dark Chocolate Anything

4. Besides writing, you also draw, and I've always enjoyed seeing your characters from your perspective. Did you draw a lot of ninjas when writing/revising Relax?
I did! But many of those drawings are from years and years ago, since I originally started writing this book in late 2008. I don't have many I can dig up easily, but this one I happen to have on my computer drive. It's one of my favorites.

Tosh and Amy, from Relax, I'm a Ninja

5. Cute sandals, or comfy tennis shoes?

Sandals. Or heels. I really like wearing cute shoes, and yes, I sacrifice comfort for awesome-looking footwear.

6. Will you share one of your favorite sentences from Relax, I'm a Ninja?

Oh man, it's hard to think of just one sentence! Hmm...maybe these two:

"No free lives or heals. Just ninja skills."

* * *

Anyone else think Natalie should totally put her fav lines on a tshirt? Lol! And that sketch is awesome-- love the nighttime colors, the golden light, and that leg in the air! Mine would be too, if a ninja were hugging me...*wink* Alright, so to celebrate Relax's release into the world, here's this totally cute little ninja dollie. And, yeah, I'm sure if he were a real ninja, he'd be trying to stick me w/some shuriken right about now... 

Image courtesy of RogueWoodDesigns

To be entered to win Mr. Ninja Dollie, simply leave a comment and please follow Natalie at one or more of her social media links below. The winner will be announced on 5/26 on Twitter & updated on this post. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie, and I wish Relax, I'm a Ninja a non-stealthy entrance into the world! ;) 

About: Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption. 

She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, Pho, and “real” ramen.

A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did.

When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer’s identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined.

As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

B&N | Amazon | IndieBound
UPDATE: Tiana Smith won Mr. Ninja Dollie! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Songs & Stories, Stories & Songs

Image courtesy of

Do you ever hear songs and think they'd go perfectly w/certain types of books? Take for example Safe and Sound by Capital Cities. Every time I hear this song, I imagine a dystopian setting. Here's some snippets of the lyrics:

You could be my luck
Even if the sky is falling down
I know that we'll be safe and sound
You could be my luck
Even if we're six feet underground
I know that we'll be safe and sound
We're safe and sound
Safe and sound
Safe and sound
Hold your ground
Safe and sound

The sky falling down, being underground, trying to stay safe? Sounds like a perfect fit for a dystopian to me. And how about I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift? This song simply screams paranormal romance:

'Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I'd never been
'Til you put me down, oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I'd never been
Now I'm lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble, 
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

Flew me to places I'd never been? Sounds like somebody's been dating a fallen angel on the side...*tisk-tisk* Now, this next one's a bit different. Every time I hear Clarity by Zedd(ft. Foxes) I think of Clary & Jace from the Mortal Instruments. To me, this is the theme song of the first three books, when ya know, there was that *cough* sibling issue...

High dive into frozen waves where the past comes back to life
Fight fear for the selfish pain, it was worth it every time
Hold still right before we crash 'cause we both know how this ends
A clock ticks 'til it breaks your glass and I drown in you again

'Cause you are the piece of me I wish I didn't need
Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don't know why

If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy?
If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity?

Walk on through a red parade and refuse to make amends
It cuts deep through our ground and makes us forget all common sense
Don't speak as I try to leave 'cause we both know what we'll choose
If you pull then I'll push too deep and I'll fall right back to you

Anytime I hear that song I'm immediately back in the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders and a certain teenage love affair that you couldn't help but sigh/wince over. So whatcha y'all think? Do you do this too? Have any songs that remind you of certain genres or books you've read? Love to hear 'em!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Six Things on a Saturday

1. Party! 
Who doesn't like a party? At the end of the month, I'm going to be co-hosting my CP's virtual book launch party. It'll be a day of interesting posts and giveaways and book love as we celebrate Kimberly's debut!

2. BEA-- In 2 Years!
Attending the Book Expo of America has been a longtime item on my bucket list. So imagine my great delight when I learned from Heidi Schulz that in 2016 it's going to be in Chicago! Chicago!!! Which is just a hop and a skip away from me in neighboring Illinois. *squueeee*

A YA steampunk by Kathryn Rose that I'm eager to start. And doesn't this cover just rock?!
4. The Writer's Voice
As most of you are probably aware, I participated in The Writer's Voice(thx for all the good wishes!). And I'm happy to report that I made it onto Kimberly P. Chase's team! I'm so excited, and no matter what happens on the 22nd(when the agents will be looking at our entries) I'm just humbled and thankful to have been chosen.   

5. Books I've Won
I follow quite a few blogs, and in recent weeks have won some goodies! 

TALKER 25 by Joshua McCune: Dragons! I got this book when I entered a dragon naming contest. My entry: Scorchana Lava of the Brimstone Mountains. Oh, you know you love it... ;)

BLOOM by Marilyn Grey: I won this when I was the first person to respond to a newsletter by sending an email. For those of you who are authors, I thought this was a pretty neat promo. And look at the lovely pink rose petals that were included in the package-- a nice touch! 

WHAT THE MOON SAID by Gayle Rosengren: I won this arc on Barbara Watson's blog. Another whimsical middle grade cover that I absolutely love with a setting in the Great Depression that I'm excited to read.

6. New Story Idea
Why don't new story ideas come when you've got all kinds of time to write them? Since last week, I've been thinking and thinking about this new idea, and have written several pages. And dang it, if it doesn't just keep tugging at me. It'll be my first sci-fi and it involves !CARS! which I'm super excited about. Pretty sure I'm finally going to have to learn how to drive a stick though, so I'll be able to properly describe how it feels to shift it into high gear. *grins devilishly*

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interview w/Tracy Holczer + A Giveaway!

Today I'm thrilled to have Tracy Holczer on the blog, the super sweet & super talented author of the middle grade novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy.

1. What is one of your fav lines from The Secret Hum of a Daisy?

"Mama had always told me that good art is about knowing what to keep and what to leave behind, and I tried to do that inside myself, too."

2. What are your top three pizza toppings? (Think carefully- this one's very important!) ;)

Pepperoni, more pepperoni, and anchovies. 

3. Do you write best at a certain time of day?

My best time to write is late morning and early afternoon. I'm an absolute zombie in the early morning and by the time the kids come home from school and bring all that chaos, my brain tends to go offline for the rest of the day. Although, when I'm on deadline, I can eke a few hours out of myself in the late evening.
4. Birds feature heavily in Hum- do you have a favorite feathered friend?

I don't really. I'm more of a feather person. Dream catchers, a Native American headdress. I like transformations.

5. What has been one of you most exciting moments in your publication journey?

Each step along the way has been exciting, but I'd have to say that first email I got from my agent, Rosemary Stimola. Excitement doesn't begin to cover it. I think I re-read it at least five times before I would allow the possibility that this is actually happening. Not so much because it was  real live agent, but because she clearly got my story on so many levels, and had suggestions on how to bring it to the next level. Once we talked on the phone and found we both came from Italian families, the deal was sealed. 

6. If you were going to send a bouquet of flowers to yourself, what would you fill it with?

Daises, of course!

* * * 

Well, Tracy, we were pizza buddies- until you got to that last topping, lol! As always, there's a fun little something up for grabs today, like this origami crane bracelet:

Image courtesy of Mai Creations

To be entered to win, simply leave a comment and follow Tracy at one or more of her social media links below. The winner will be announced 5/11 on Twitter and also updated on this post. And don't forget to enter this Rafflecopter for the chance to win some more goodies!

Photo: Lisa Williams Photography

About: Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories. A 2014 ABA *Indies Introduce*New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure. It will be also be published by Konigskinder/Carlsen in Germany, fall 2015.

Website  | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Smack Dab in the Middle

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe itis her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

Once Upon A Time | Amazon | B&N

{For an autographed copy, order through Once Upon A Time, and don't forget to mention in the purchase comments that you'd like it signed}  

Also, I wanted to share with you guys one of the creative bird images that's on Tracy's website. I just love these little guys so much!
Image courtesy of Jeanette Janson

Lastly, a big congrats to Tracy, wishing her and Hum a terrific debut!

May 7: Leandra Wallace 
May 8: Heidi Schultz 
May 9: AuthorOf 
May 11: Kidlit Frenzy 
May 12: Literary Rambles 
UPDATE: JJ won the swan bracelet! Congrats!

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Writer's Voice Entry

I was one of the lucky people who got into The Writer's Voice! TWV's is a contest in which you post your query and first 250 w/the hopes of being picked for a team. Here goes! *takes deep breath* 


Boston, 1777 The British left because something worse arrived.

By day, seventeen-year-old Amity Somerset is an obedient daughter. She perfects her needlework, learns French, practices the minuet, and just like her parents, studiously ignores all that has gone wrong in their world— such as the deaths of her three siblings at the claws of gargoyles. Yet at night, in the company of the Nighters, she rallies against the bloodthirsty supernatural creatures that hunt the citizens of Boston as their favorite prey. 

Upset with her parents over the announcement of her arranged marriage, Amity breaks the Nighter's number one rule: Never go on shift alone. She nearly meets her demise by spiked gargoyle tail until an outsider named Patrick saves her life. Desirous of becoming a Nighter, he's quickly inducted into their ranks. But Patrick has his own reasons besides vengeance for joining up reasons that have the potential to change the future of the newly formed United States of America. 

Because as Amity soon discovers, not all gargoyles are mindless predators...or fully grown. 

Liberty or Death is a YA historical fantasy, complete at 97,000 words. 


The coal chute is what I imagine a snake’s belly to be like— cold, cramped, and dark. I slide through the soot-tainted air and land with a dull thump upon a goose-down mattress. A gargoyle’s high-pitched scream vibrates the metal overhead, along with several loud clangs.
Scrambling up, I look quickly ‘round. My favorite knife had made the descent ahead of me, knocked from my hand as I’d dived for the chute. Before I can spy it, my partner flies out in a blur of dark clothing and pale skin— and lands with an audible hiss of pain.
I grimace at Benjamin, hoping some soft, vital part of him hadn’t found my knife in landing. My concern abates as he clambers off the mattress, his head bent over his hand. Set in the soft pad of his palm is a small hole. Though Nighters often incur injury over their nail-studded shields, the occasional puncture wound is infinitely better than being taken by a gargoyle.
Puncture wounds can heal; a caught and carried means certain death.
“Would this be yours?”
The cellar guard holding out my knife isn’t one I recognize. As word of us has grown, the Nighters have swelled in rank, drawing others with a desire to protect our city. I take the knife with murmured thanks and return it to my pistol belt.
Below the leather, my hip aches; there’s nothing comfortable about landing on pistol butts and unforgiving knife handles.
* * *

To the coaches, thanks for the opportunity! To all my fellow entrants, best of luck!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Love List

A while back I came across a blog post about love lists. {wish I could remember where, but can't!} The idea is you list the things you love about your manuscript and look back on it during those times when you might be feeling a little...out of love. I'm working mainly on my YA dystopian, but when I need a break on it, I meander off and add some words  to my YA historical fantasy. And here's my love list for that.
A House Divided Love List

Wide porches
Roses in hair
A mute gryphon
A bakery next door
Quiet halls with gleaming hardwood floors
A jealous cousin
Familiar green eyes
A hidden agenda
Ritzy parties
A mossy pond
Fort Sumter
An old, tattered diary
The wish to be brave
Elegant gowns
A family secret
Deadly canons
A brother and a sister
Honest Abe
Flying in the dark
Has anyone else done love lists for their stories? Oh, and the above is my first attempt at PowerPoint. Charleston is where A House Divided is set, and I'm fully determined to visit one day. History & good food-- it sounds like my kinda town!