corsets & clockwork giveaway

I kind of have a thing for steampunk. It’s a little on-off, but it’s been in the background (and sometimes the forefront) of my reading life for almost two years now. And I DEFINITELY have a long-standing relationship with young adult literature. When you mix the two genres, there’s a lot of…chemistry. [side note: i just made my reading lineup sound like my love life. wrong?]

I first heard about a new collection of YA steampunk short stories from Kiersten White’s blog. White, of course, is the awesome author of Paranormalcy. I knew right away that this anthology had my name written all over it, and the publisher (Running Press Books) has been kind enough to offer me a chance to give away a copy of Corsets & Clockwork to one of my US-based readers. I am going to chip in with an additional copy for my international friends. To recap: awesome story collection, two winners, anyone can enter!

Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of steampunk stories, Corsets & Clockwork. Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing steampunk genre!

This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Ann Aguirre, Jaclyn Dolamore, Tessa Gratton, Frewin Jones, Caitlin Kittredge, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Dru Pagliassotti, Dia Reeves, Michael Scott, Maria V. Snyder, Tiffany Trent, and Kiersten White.

To enter:

Fill out the FORM. Giveaway is open internationally, and will end on May 1 at 11:59pm EST. I will notify the winners via email.

Good luck!

waiting on wednesday (9)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | | 4 comments
I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

Last summer, in the midst of a record-setting heat wave, I read a delicious book called
Cold Magic. It was one of my favorite novels of the year, and will probably be one of my favorite novels EVER. Seriously. I’m so sold on this book that it is slightly ridiculous. I’ve been waiting ever since for more news on the sequel, and behold! The cover is finally revealed. I could not be more excited for this book. Autumn, come quickly! Cold Fire will be published by Orbit, and releases on September 26, 2011.
Cat and her cousin are key players in a drama of dragons and politics. Everyone wants something from them – including the warlord who’s conquering all Europa and the Cold Mages who dare defy him. But the Master of the Wild Hunt is most dangerous of all. He will command Cat’s loyalty using what she holds most dear.

In a world where science and magic are at war, one girl must save those she loves, or lose everything.

What books are you waiting on?

red glove

Sunday, April 17, 2011 | | 3 comments

The perfect con, a couple of intense twists, a sociopath or two, and an engaging and exhilarating adventure in a world filled with magic and mobsters. That was White Cat, Holly Black’s first installment in the Curseworkers series. It was a huge favorite of mine last year. Need evidence? Check it out. So I’ve been waiting not-very-patiently for the sequel, and more of quirky, clever Cassel.

The follow-up, Red Glove, was released two weeks ago. I reminded my brother Joey of this by text (he was excited). We read it at the same time, then called to rehash. The burning question: how did it go?

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, he isn’t sure he can believe anything she says or does.

Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Did Red Glove live up to expectations? Were the mysteries and cons fresh and the twists convincing? Did I feel a deep sense of satisfaction at the trickiness? Unfortunately, the answer was somewhere in the region of ‘sort-of.’ It’s hard to maintain the same level of excellence and excitement from book to book. I know this. And while parts of Red Glove felt just as wonderful as the first in the series, other bits felt like solid ‘second-in-a-trilogy’ material.

The things Red Glove did right: character development (oh Cassel, you tortured soul, you), set-up for interesting third book shenanigans (mob! Feds! revelations galore!), and further explanation of the world of cons, curses and magic. I got delightful shivers down my spine whenever one of the characters seemed hard and calculating. That part was rather strange and all awesome.

On the flip side, there were some negatives. First: the con itself. I wanted more, better, and a thrill to boot. I won’t spoil it – you should definitely read this series for yourself. But you may see what I mean when you compare books 1 & 2.

Another bit I didn’t find satisfying was the relationship development. There’s a technique of leaving thoughts or actions to the reader’s imagination, and just giving us reaction. We don’t need play-by-play in EVERY young adult novel out there. However…in this case it I was legitimately confused. I read scenes over to make sure I hadn’t skimmed something important to making sense of the situation. I couldn’t help but feel that either I was stupid, or it didn’t gel. Probably I am stupid.

My brother and I agreed that we are both SUPER excited for book number three, Black Heart. So despite the below-expectations results of Red Glove, the enjoyment remains undiminished, the excitement unabated, and the wait far too long. We will be back for more!

Recommended for: lovers of young adult literature, fantasy, crime and cleverness, and the ever-elusive boy reader. Also – anyone who enjoyed White Cat, casual fans of the Oceans 11, 12 and 13 films, and anyone looking for a bit of harmless (we hope!), entertaining darkness with their springtime reading.

kitchen exploits lead to delicious success

This post’s alternate title is ‘How to make a lot of people happy and Cecelia a little crazy, volume 43: Soufflés.’ However, I liked the first one better. And with the final result it was much more accurate, so we’ll stick with it. What an adventure, folks, what an adventure.*

A couple of people asked me how/why I attempted this recipe. It was like this: ricotta was on sale. I bought some, even though I’d never used it before (that’s right. EVER.). Blackberries were also on sale. I googled “blackberry ricotta recipe.” This epicurious gem came up on the first page of results, and the accompanying picture looked delicious. Also: my friend Katie gave me ramekins for my birthday in December, and I hadn’t used them yet. Yes, that highly scientific process is how I usually make baking decisions, thanks for asking. Brace yourselves for awesome.

[the pastry cream before the addition of milk. it started so innocently...]

Ricotta Soufflés with Blackberry Compote


1 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour

4 large egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 cup whole milk

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

2 cups frozen blackberries (or 12 oz. fresh)

1/4 cup sweet vermouth (I substituted apple juice, as I didn’t have any vermouth)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 large egg whites

[egg whites on their way to stiff peaks. just ten...ten more minutes?]


Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and flour in large bowl. Add egg yolks and lemon peel; whisk to blend.

Bring milk just to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk hot milk into yolk mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute, whisking constantly (pastry cream will be thick). Spread pastry cream out to 1/3-inch thickness on small rimmed baking sheet. Cover completely with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature. Transfer pastry cream to medium bowl. Whisk in ricotta. Cover and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Bring blackberries, vermouth (apple juice!), lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sugar to boil in small saucepan, crushing some berries and stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until mixture thickens, about 8 (10-12 with apple juice) minutes. Transfer blackberry compote to small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

[it's a tough job, but somebody had to do it. and actually, i volunteered - silly me!]

Butter six 1/2-cup ramekins; coat with sugar, tapping out any excess. Using electric mixer**, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 6 tablespoons sugar; continue beating until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into ricotta mixture. Spoon batter into ramekins; smooth tops. Run thumb 1/4 inch deep around inside edge of each soufflé dish to wipe clean. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake soufflés until puffed and golden at edges, about 28 minutes (about 32 minutes if chilled). Serve immediately with blackberry compote.

NOTE #1: I used four 1/2-cup ramekins and three 1-cup ramekins, all filled generously – so if you follow the directions you may end up with superfluous soufflé mixture.

NOTE #2: Don’t jostle or set the soufflé dishes down hard – it will make them fall. Gentle touches for your lovely desserts. I learned that the hard way.

[the blackberry compote reducing. that wooden spoon had to be thrown out - ruined in the best way possible!]

I had never attempted soufflés before. I also did not own a hand mixer OR a stand mixer. I had my own two hands and a rather feeble whisk. It was…rather torturous. First mistake: I did not understand what the recipe meant when it referred to ‘stiff peaks,’ so I image searched the term. When I saw photos, then looked back to my little bowl of egg whites, I almost had a heart attack.

After THIRTY MINUTES of whisking, my hands had nearly given out. Luckily my roommate stepped in for a couple of minutes for key relief whisking. My advice for all time: DO NOT ATTEMPT without an electric mixer. Just…don’t. Later that evening I had trouble holding a fork. I am completely serious.

[all the ramekins arranged on a cookie sheet and ready to go in the oven]

With all that said, this recipe is easily the most delicious thing I have ever baked. I was very, very proud of all that work, and it paid off. Those soufflés were delicious and gorgeous, and afforded me the chance to throw a party to celebrate the process. They were light and fluffy, and the sweet fruit compote contrasted beautifully with the texture. I will definitely make them again. Especially now that I own a nifty immersion blender. I see my baking future becoming much more enjoyable.

[this fabulous photo courtesy of thelastgoodnite, a lucky dinner and dessert invitee]

Recommended for: an afternoon when you are feeling adventurous and have time to kill, an impressive dessert that will awe your guests, and a delicious and complex sweet to add to your baking repertoire.

*To say the very LEAST. My hands hurt just thinking about it. Also, I failed to secure the egg whites in between steps, so I had an egg white disaster area in my refrigerator in the middle of the whole experience. Cusses may have been said. Unavoidable, really.

**When they say electric mixer, they mean it. See story above for clarification. Do not be foolhardy!

happy weekend

Friday, April 8, 2011 | | 4 comments
May you all have lovely weekends (and adventures). [print art found at TheExtentofSilence on Etsy]

waiting on wednesday (8)

I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

If you like fantasy, you’ll have heard of Mercedes Lackey. The woman is scarily prolific, and it seems that EVERYONE has read something by her. I held off on trying her books until a couple of years ago, when I fell head first into a series of fairy tale-based novels set in Edwardian England called the Elemental Masters books. And that, as they say, was that.

I count Phoneix and Ashes among my favorite novels ever, and The Serpent’s Shadow is another great read. When I heard that Lackey’s latest novel would be a continuation of the series, my heart just about beat out of my chest. Now I just have to wait until it comes out! Unnatural Issue will be released by DAW Hardcover on June 7, 2011.

A brand-new Elemental Masters novel from the national bestselling author Mercedes Lackey.

Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter's body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife.

What books are you waiting on?


The power of a voice is uncanny. A good voice, maybe I should say. I bought and read Kiersten White’s debut novel Paranormalcy on the strength of her blog. If you haven’t been yet, go visit NOW. Kiersten has one of the funniest, kindest, and most endearing “voices” that I have ever read (fiction, non-fiction, you name it). The only writer I have loved more upon first acquaintance in the past few years? Sherman Alexie, author of National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

So: she’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I pre-ordered her debut novel last summer. What then?

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Best word to describe Paranormalcy? CUTE. Undeniably cute. Also: entertaining, funny-as-heck, and promising. Look, I’m not going to say it’s life-changing (unless you are in dire need of laughter). It probably won’t bend the way you look at reality or affect the way you think. But given that, it’s a good time and guilt-free in every way that a chocolate sundae can’t be (look Ma, no calories!). And Kiersten’s voice, which I fell in love with months ago, is there in bits and pieces through her lovable and fallible character Evie.

Evie is the star…err…main character of Paranormalcy, and she’s wonderful in part because she is SO NORMAL. And I mean that in a ‘acts her age and makes mistakes’ kind of way. Although her situation sits squarely in fantasy territory, she’s got a good head on her shoulders and seems completely authentic, all the way down to boys, pink and answering back to authority. She’s a genuine character, and a fun one to be around, even (or especially) when she’s getting into scrapes of her own making.

Also: though I thought I could never again contemplate anything NEAR to a young adult love triangle, I somehow find myself interested in the whole Lend/Reth thing. In Lend, Kiersten has crafted a rare creature – a “real”-seeming boy. Not only is he teenage awkward, he’s sweet, and his family is as normal as you can expect from a YA paranormal romance. Oh, and did I mention that he’s hot? At least, Evie thinks so.

Paranormalcy is full of adventure, mayhem, pink, and fun. If I had to equate it to a specific experience, I'd say that it's like a summer fair with rides and cotton candy. It’s not perfect or profound, but it’s happy-making. It may not be for you. But if it sounds at all like it might be, I urge you to pick it up.

Recommended for: fans of young adult paranormal and fantasy, anyone in the mood for some good, clean fun and adventure, and light entertainment that will have you laughing (and sighing) along with Evie, Lend, and a whole cast of engaging and strange characters.

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