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Monday, 29 April 2013

Music Monday!

I am IN LOVE with this song recently. The trouble is, it always gets stuck in my head for days. And even awesome songs can take a turn for infuriating quicker than you think. So I hope you appreciate the pain I'm putting myself through for you all, and the fact that I won't get much sleep tonight, because this song will be running on loop through my cranium ;)

Anyway, here it is:


*starts humming tune*

See what you've done to me?! ;)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

White Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Hey guys! This is a recipe I've had bouncing around my house for ages, and I can't actually remember where I originally got it from. I think it was either a friend or the Internet. Anyways, here it is:

1 egg
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose/plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Melt the butter and stir the wet ingredients and the sugar together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the dry ingredients; a soft dough will form. Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake at 190 degrees C/180 degrees C fan for 10-12 minutes. Finis!

These are soooooo goooood. Happy baking, guys! Enjoy!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Book Talk: Dreaming Anastasia series by Joy Preble

I am so excited to tell you about this book! I read it last year and I FELL IN LOVE. With the story, with the writing voice, and of course, with a certain blue-eyed Russian...

!6-year-old Chicago resident Anne Michaelson has been having some seriously weird dreams. She knows that she's not herself in the dream, but rather, another girl, however it's not until she dreams in the dream that she realises just who she is dreaming as: none other than Anastasia Romanov, who is not as dead as everyone thinks. Not even close.

Anyone familiar with Russian folklore will have a basic understanding of the fairytale "Vasilisa the Brave" -- basically, another version of Cinderella. It starts off the same, but when Vasilia's evil stepmother sends her off to the hut of Baba Yaga -- a child-eating witch from whom no one has ever escaped -- to find some light for their cabin, Vasilisa outwits the witch with the Babushka doll her dying mother gave her (who can talk, as it's a fairytale). Vasilisa makes it home safely, and the light burns so brightly it kills the malevolent stepmother, and they all lived happily ever after. It is Baba Yaga who, compelled with a spell by the Brotherhood, a magic-practising order of monks who are still loyal to Tsar Nicholas II, rescues Anastasia from that basement before she can be shot by the Bolsheviks' cronies. Baba Yaga takes Anastasia to her hut in the forest, where she must remain until the girl spoken of in the prophecy -- Anne, who the Brotherhood must find, and will remain immortal until they do so.

This is how we get to the first real scene: Anne, with her bff Tess, at a ballet, being watched by Mr Blue Eyes. None other than our very own Russian hottie/stalker, the gorgeous, adorable, and very yummy Ethan Kozninsky.

You really don't need to know much or anything really about the history of the period to enjoy this novel -- God knows I only had a basic understanding and now it's one of my favourite books ever! However, for the sake of explaining  for anyone who doesn't already know, the people were starving and most disliked their leader, who was weak, and this lead to the eventual rise of power of the Bolsheviks. So, anyone who loves history, you will adore this book, and anyone who thinks they don't, well, don't knock it till you try it. Give it a chance. I never, ever read historical fiction until this book. The historical-meets-fantasy-meets-romance works like a charm. No pun intended.

The book description on Amazon:

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

Books in this series:

Dreaming Anastasia
Anastasia Forever

Star rating: 5/5 -- of course!

I love this book. Adore it, even. The action is fast-paced, the plot intriguing  the characters too lovable for words (Anne is definitely in my top 5 favourite protagonists, and Ethan is in my top 3 book-guys-I-am-in-love-with. I think he's number 1. That's how awesome. Also, the villain, who I won't name yet, is in my top 5 most-hated-villains, aka book-characters-I'd-like-to-smack-in-the-face-with-a-frying-pan).

I had the AMAZING privilege to be on the street team for Anastasia Forever, too! And I got a signed ARC (advance reading copy) that made me so happy I screamed and trembled with unprecedented excitement. This series DEFINITELY gets better as it goes along. I recommend it sky-highly.

AND, as if I wasn't excited enough, I'm going to be on the blog tour for Ms Preble's new book, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE! I am scheduled to post an interview on the 15th of May, and I will be GIVING AWAY a copy of the book to ONE LUCKY READER! Make sure you tell your friends and enter enter enter!


If anyone has any suggestions for questions they'd like me to ask Joy Preble, I'll be taking requests for the next few days, and any I think are good I will add to the list to email to the publisher. Just post them in the comments, but bear in mind that I have to get these to her quickly, so your deadline is Sunday.

I've read a review copy of TSDL, and let me tell you, it is as good as I'd hoped. Better. But that, my friends, is another story...

So, to conclude, go buy a copy of Dreaming Anastasia today! You won't be disappointed. And don't forget to be back here on the 15th! Spread the word!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Writing Wednesday: Literary Pet Peeves

Hel-lo everyone, I am back! And I have missed you. And I've been doing lots of reading, so I have a good stock of stories to tell you about for Book Talk. But today, as it is Wednesday and not Friday, I'm talking about writing. Not mine, but what I dislike seeing in writing. These are my literary pet peeves:

1) exclamation marks in narrative. I don't know why, but this bothers me. I love 'em in dialogue, but narrative... Meh.

2) having two or more characters of the same sex whose names begins with the same first three letters, e.g. Brianna and Britney. It gets confusing, especially in a book with a large character cast.

3) alliteration. This is just me being a weirdo. Most people like alliteration, and I do, but only in titles. The rest of the time it's just plain cheesy.

4) sentences with too many/not enough commas. I like my pacing to be just right. You may now accuse me of Monica-ism. (hey, that reminds me, anyone watch friends?)

5) crazy protagonists. This is most annoying in first person, but can still irk me in third. How can the reader be expected to have a clear vision of the story if they have to see it through the deranged and fogged mind of the looney main character? I don't CARE if that's the desired effect, it still bugs me!

6) and last but not least, the biggest of them all: UNSATISFYING ENDINGS. I like happy endings best, obviously. I can deal with a sad ending just about. I mean, I'm not about to criticise Shakespeare or John Green. But ohmygolly, authors, do not, I repeat: DO NOT write me an unsatisfying ending, or I will assume one of three things. A) you got bored with your own story. B) you couldn't think of anything good, so you gave up. C) there is some secret league of writers who exist solely to cause pain and suffering to their most emotionally attached readers i.e. me. And I'm pretty sure the answer might be C.

Mark my words, blog readers. One of these days I will write a book that ends on the most horrible cliffhanger possible. I will take the protagonist right to the edge of the metaphorical cliff, and pretend like I'm going to push her off. Then, while your all busy worrying about her, I'll kill of the love interest! And then all those mean authors out there can get a taste of their own medicine.

But don't get me wrong: most authors are lovely, friendly, totally-not-as-crazy-as-their-imaginations-may-make-them-seem people, and they're awesome. So yeah, always buy books new, and don't take part in disgusting e-book piracy, to do your part in helping these wonderful creative people, because of you wrote a book -- and I bet some of you reading this will -- you would want others to do that for you. That's enough rant for one day. Toodles!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Writing Wednesday - Postponed

Okay guys, I'll give you the short version. Internet on laptop unavailable, and blogger app on phone too irritating to write long posts on due to teeny keyboard. Therefore, it is with great sadness that I am postponing writing Wednesday.

However, I just have to give you this news:

To all The Mediator series by Meg Cabot fans, breaking news, THERE WILL BE A BOOK 7!!! I found out just yesterday (it's on the Facebook fan page for the book, and if anyone knows, there are links on Asqa's review of Twilight, book 6. That's where I found out!!! Major squeal!!!) and had a metaphorical epiphany I was so psyched!

I'll talk more in a specific BOOK TALK, but for now, I'll just say that this is the book that made me fall in love with reading, and I have been waiting for this news since I was 11!!


Bye all! I'll miss you in the brief periods I'm able to think about anything BUT how there's going to be ANOTHER MEDIATOR BOOK, baby! Toodles x

Sunday, 14 April 2013

When in Rome...

... do as the Romans do! (and visit the Colosseum and take funny tourist-y pictures and try to speak Italian and eat your weight in gelato)

Hey guys! Miss me? I hope so, because I've missed you. So now, as we have long been parted, we must reacquaint ourselves -- what have you been up to? Me? Well, it's an awful lot to tell you. I think I'd better just show you instead -- a picture speaks a thousand words, after all:

The food was BEYOND DELICIOUS!!! I love Italian food. Love it. Love. It. See that top picture? It's a truffle-shaped ice cream! Isn't it just the definition of awesome? You can get that in Cantinola, near Via Sicilia and Via Veneto (my favourite street in all of Rome), if you guys were wondering.

I also did a little bit of monument-rearranging:

Nice place, don't you think? We went to the Colosseum:

Where I bumped into a friend from school! Creepy, huh? What a coinkydink. Serendipity. OooooOOOOOoooooh!!!! (those are freaky ghost sounds, if you didn't get that already) 

And after hanging out with gladiators and throwing a penny (backwards, right hand over left shoulder, as the legend says) into the Trevi Fountain, we stopped at an adorable cafe in Piazza Navona:

Where they have quite simply THE BEST ice cream in the world. In my humble opinion, at least. And my sister's. And my dad's. And my mother's. So anyway, then I got a caricature done:

This guy is great at them. Recognise Obama? And House? If you're ever in Piazza Navona, you have to get one. Seriously. They are awesome.

Via Veneto, my favourite street in Rome:

And my reaction, coming from wind and rain and, *shudder*, snow, to the blue skies:

I felt just like Wanderer/Melanie. Anyone seen The Host? And it's like the Lady Antebellum song! 

Went walking through town just the other day with nothing much to do,
As the sun came breaking down through the clouds I'd never seen a sky so blue...

"Perfect Day", if anyone was wondering. Anyways. There were tons of street mimes -- it's probably hard to appreciate the stillness in a picture but trust me when I tell you it was almost spooky.

And it was just an awesome trip in general! So yeah -- I really recommend it. Go to Rome, guys. You won't be sorry. And everyone speaks english ;)

As tigger would say, TTFN, ta ta for now!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Book Talk - Beautiful Creatures/Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Okay, before I actually start the post, I have a confession to make: I haven't finished this series yet! I'm only halfway through, but I had to put it on hold to read my (*squeal*) ARC of Joy Preble's THE SWEET DEAD LIFE. I've been waiting for that book since last April. A whole year. That's hard. Very hard. And with the upcoming blog tour, I'm going to need some time to plot my review -- which at the moment is looking like it will be very good... ;)

On to Beautiful Creatures. Now, when I first saw that this was a collaborated book, with two authors, I was like "what? How is that going to work?" but I was intrigued by the blurb and wanted to read it before seeing the movie, so curiosity got the better of me and I bought it.

I'm really glad I did.

And don't get me wrong, there were annoying times when it felt like Garcia & Stohl had sat down and written down every possible way to up the ante and make things infinitely worse for poor star-crossed lovers Ethan and Lena. But I'm going to look past that, because despite my rage, it made for a better story. Trust me on this.

Is falling in love the beginning... or the end?

16-year-old Ethan Wate wants nothing more than to get the hell out of Gatlin, his typical Southern home town filled with the same old people doing the same old things and still obsessing about the Civil War. Mourning the death of his mother last year, he, his father and their housekeeper -- the superstitious Amma -- are just getting on with life as usual.

Cue Lena Duchannes -- mysterious, cryptic, beautiful, and exactly what Ethan is looking for. There's only one problem (so far): Lena is the niece of Macon Ravenwood, town shut-in and Gatlin's very own Boo Radley. An outisider, all Lena wants -- all she's ever wanted -- is to be normal. But that's pretty hard when your whole family has magic powers and is locked in a Civil War of its own -- a supernatural one.

On her sixteenth birthday, Lena will be claimed either to the Light or to the Dark. There's no going back after the Claiming. Ethan knows this, but still he can't help himself. The two fall into a deep, powerful love.

There are no coincidences.

Here are the books in the series:

Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Darkness
Beautiful Chaos
Beautiful Redemption

And you can find them on Amazon here:

Star rating: 4/5 -- but keep in mind that I'm only halfway through the series. So that's based on just Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness. The difference between a four star and a five star rating, for me, is how sad I am to leave the characters behind. I was practically sobbing with afore-blogged-about five starrers. I'd be sad to leave Ethan and Lena now, but I think I'd get over it.

I think my favourite character in this series just has to be Wesley Jefferson Lincoln -- or just Link, to most people. He's exactly what a best friend should be -- caring, patient, funny, and most importantly, loyal to a fault. If I had to liken him to another book character, I'd say he's the male equivalent of Tess Edwards from Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia series. He's also pretty similar to Thomas, if you remember him from Anna Dressed in Blood. But yeah. I love Link. 

Okay guys, I'll have to leave you now. To make up for the lack of myself next week, I'll post some music for you now:

Brother Bear is my absolute favourite Disney movie of ALL TIME! I made my Dad take me to see it three times when it came out in cinemas. Lol. He's a saint. He also let me dress him up as the Dreaming Anastasia villain for Halloween, but that's another story...

I'll miss you, guys! Next book talk I think I'll tell you guys about Dreaming Anastasia. I've waited long enough. Time to bring out the street team bandwagon ;)


p.s. Did I mention my parents used to live a street away from Phil Collins himself? I am uber-jealous! Love you, Phil!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Writing Wednesday: Have I Got News For You!

Heck yeah I have news for you! I'm probably infinitely more excited by this than you guys will be, just to warn you now. I've spent the last 40 minutes trying to figure out how to download my digital ARC (advance reading copy. An early release of a book for review, the author to give away, etc. I got a signed one of these from Joy Preble or being on her Anastasia Forever Street team last year. Eeeep!) of Joy Preble's THE SWEET DEAD LIFE -- that I've been waiting for since last April -- and get it on my kindle. Thank God for internet help websites is all I can say.

That, and:


That's right -- my WIP is now officially novel-length. It's not finished, of course. Most novels end up significantly higher than the 40,000 mile-marker. I'm guessing mine will total somewhere between 55,000 and 60,000 -- which for a first novel, is not at all bad. I'm elated!

Woohoo! Now I can feel (slightly) less guilty about going to Rome for a week and not writing squat while I'm there. I realise I'll be on edits by the summer, which is awesome. I thought it would take me waaaaay longer. Thanks Stephanie Morril of Go Teen Writers for organising 100 for 100 and forcing me to get my butt on chair and type. I wouldn't have done this without her, not only for the control but all the advice she and the others have on the blog. You really should check it out. I did a post on this which you can find here

So now I will take my motivation and work on my MS. And then read some more of TSDL.

But not without telling you that I have signed up for the THE SWEET DEAD LIFE blog tour, and (fingers crossed) will be doing an interview with the awesome Joy Preble sometime in May!

And I'll also just mention that you won't hear from me next week. Because I'll be in Rome. So "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" as they say. Sound advice. Arrivederci, my loyal minions -- *cough* I mean readers...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes :)

Why hello there, friends. This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but as it was Easter Sunday -- happy Easter everyone! -- I'll be posting a day late.

These are the chocolate cupcakes I made yesterday. This is the recipe:

100g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
2 eggs
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Beat together until smooth and bake at 180 degrees C or 170 fan, for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Makes around 12.

This recipe is my personal version of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe which you can find in pretty much any baking book. It's super easy, anyone can do it. You don't even have to sift the flour if you're that lazy, I often don't, but the cake will be lighter if you do. These can be decorated however you want -- I like to spread that ready-made Betty Crocker icing you can buy in supermarkets, or a chocolate ganache is great. If you need a ganache recipe, I recommend "lovely lady cakes" on YouTube -- all her tutorials are fantastic. Happy baking and see you on Wednesday -- I have some very exciting news for you... ;)