zombie wedding party (bonus factor: ME)

Friday, September 30, 2011 | | 9 comments
One of my best friends got married this August. I was in the wedding party. I may have instigated a zombie bridesmaids pose. The photographer might be a friend and might have gotten really excited about it. The results? Pretty freaking spectacular.

Details: I'm to the immediate left of the bride. AKA, the head zombie. The photographer is Nathan Mitchell. Photos belong to him. He's awesome and hilarious. You should hire him if you have an event in the DC area.

Remember, it's September Zombies month, and you can still enter to win my young adult zombie book giveaway.

waiting on wednesday (16)

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.

Like last week, I’m looking forward to zombie books (in honor of September Zombies month). In fact, if you’d like to win a current YA zombie novel, make sure you check out my giveaway. My picks are Courtney Summers’ This Is Not a Test and Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed. Summers’ book takes a look at survival and death, and the reasons to fight for both. Habel’s Dearly, Departed is a steampunk/zombie mashup that sounds like it has potential for both awesome and the ridiculous. This Is Not a Test will be released on June 12, 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin. Dearly, Departed will make its debut on October 18, 2011 from Del Rey Books.

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble...and dead.

In Dearly, Departed, steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

What books are you waiting on?

teaser tuesday (69)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | | 21 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted every week by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page (or if you're reading on an electronic device, pick a random number and scroll to that section). Post two or more sentences from that page, along with the book title and author. Share your find with others in the comments at Should Be Reading, and don't give anything vital away!

“‘Fine,’ I huffed. ‘I’ll clear my busy social schedule if it means that much to you.’

Kiki threw her arms up in triumph, knocking the dissection tray to the floor.”

p. 11 of Carrie Harris’ Bad Taste in Boys

I'm reading Bad Taste in Boys as a part of September Zombies month.

my life as a white trash zombie

Honesty is the best policy… I had no intention of reading this book. The title made me wince, for heaven’s sake. But you know what? Dan Dos Santos’ cover art is AWESOME. I passed the book the first time in the bookstore and had to stop to take it all in, read the back cover. I didn’t buy it that trip, but the second time I couldn’t resist. I ask you to please, please judge this book by its cover (and not the title). It was wicked fun and irreverent and better even than the zombie chick’s pink hair.

Teenage delinquent Angel Crawford lives with her redneck father in the swamps of southern Louisiana. She's a high school dropout, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and on probation for a felony. But when she wakes up in the E.R. after an overdose and car crash without a scratch and a receives a job offer at the county morgue, life starts to get weird…

Angel is a loser, and she knows it. She’s not proud of her life – in fact, she’s pretty disgusted with herself. Well, that is until she wakes up in the hospital with a fragmented memory and a really strange craving for human brains. What the heck happened to Angel, and who is responsible for a rash of murders around the county?

My Life as a White Trash Zombie reads as part paranormal mystery, part CSI investigation, and part wise-cracking journey to personal growth, with a dash of romance and general uncertainty thrown in. Did I mention that it was hilarious? And that Angel, despite her many faults, is pretty wise? Also: that a certain police officer is hot? Well, it’s all true.

Angel is a complex character. Based on her history of bad decisions and choices made throughout the book, I thought it would be tough to love her (I can’t abide stupid). But Angel, as it turns out, is self-aware and intelligent, and she’s fed up with what she’s made of her life. She discovers a deep will to live, and she’s determined not to let her second chance evaporate.

Setting and secondary characters also help Angel shine. The rural county she hails from, her decrepit house, the trailer her sometime-ex-boyfriend lives in, and even the morgue – are vivid scenery for the shenanigans and craziness that make up her everyday existence. Add in sympathetic coworkers, an aversion to cops (even though she works for them!), and some kooky citizens and murders, and you get the recipe for one of the most entertaining zombie books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Have I convinced you to pick this book up? It’s adult or mature teen fare (see above references to drugs, violence, etc.), it’s zombies with a humorous bite, and it’s definitely more-enjoyable-than-expected. Shall I show you the cover art again? Well, that should settle it.

Recommended for: fans of Zombieland and/or CSI, anyone with a penchant for well-written fun, and those who appreciate the underdog (err…zombie) overcoming the odds and finding a new and improved ‘life.’

I read My Life as a White Trash Zombie as part of the September Zombies event.

young adult zombie book giveaway

It is September Zombies Month, and to celebrate I’m offering a giveaway. Each year the zombie oeuvre grows, and this year there are several new (or just new-to-me) entries into the young adult zombie canon. Below is my list, in all of its zombified glory.

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry

Z: Zombie Stories edited by J.M. Lassen

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

and Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (for kicks)

Giveaway details: Two entrants will receive their choice of young adult zombie book from the list above. Giveaway open internationally, will close on September 30, 2011 at 11:59pm EST. Winners will be selected randomly and notified via email. To enter, simply fill out the FORM. Good luck!

waiting on wednesday (15)

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.

It’s September Zombies month, and my WoW pick matches the theme. Z: Zombie Stories is a young adult anthology featuring stories of the undead. Contributor Kelly Link captures the weird and creepy in delightful ways, and as you know, I have a thing for Catherynne M. Valente’s writing. Add in short stories by Jonathan Maberry and Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and I am ready to read. Z: Zombie Stories will be released in paperback by Night Shade Books on September 27, 2011.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, it's not just those crusty old folks who will struggle against the undead, it's the young people. What happens when you come of age during the zombie apocalypse? Z: Zombie Stories has the answer to that question. Z: Zombie Stories gathers together some of the hottest zombie fiction of the last two decades, from authors including Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, and Catherynne M. Valente. These stories focus on those who will inherit a world overrun with the living dead: a young man who takes up the family business of dealing with the undead, a girl struggling with her abusive father...who has become a zombie, a poet who digs up the wrong grave, and a Viking maiden imprisoned with the living dead...

What books are you waiting on?

teaser tuesday (68)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | | 14 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted every week by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page (or if you're reading on an electronic device, pick a random number and scroll to that section). Post two or more sentences from that page, along with the book title and author. Share your find with others in the comments at Should Be Reading, and don't give anything vital away!

“‘You didn’t even really know the people you lost – you were too young – but you got this red-hot hate going on. I’ve only known you half an hour, and I can see it coming out of your pores. What’s that all about? We’re safe here in town.’”

p. 23 of Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin

I'm reading Rot & Ruin in conjunction with the September Zombies event.

cake mix doughnuts

Monday, September 19, 2011 | | 3 comments
Ever since I watched my sister make Buttermilk Chicken Tenders, I’ve been determined to try my hand at frying up something delicious. Of course, you can fry almost anything, but I wanted doughnuts. After all, doughnuts are very-special-occasion-ONLY fare, and thus worth the fuss and muss of a weeknight baking experiment.

The trouble was, I didn’t have a lot of flour on hand. Enter an ordinary box of spice cake mix, and you get recipe salvation. Hellooo, delicious!

Cake Mix Doughnuts (from this recipe)



2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon yeast

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 box spice cake mix (or any type, really... I just love spice cake!)

4 cups flour

vegetable oil


1/2 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar


Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast froths up. Add cake mix and flour. Mix well. Dough will be soft but should not be extremely sticky – add flour if necessary. Cover and let rise about one hour. Roll dough out on floured counter. Cut out doughnut shapes – I used a glass and the top of a whipped cream can for the circles, because I didn’t have any cookie cutters handy. Let rise on a lightly greased baking sheet for 30-45 minutes.

Fill frying pan 3/4 inch deep with vegetable oil and set to medium high heat. You’ll know the oil is ready to go when you add one of the doughnut holes and it sizzles up around the sides of the dough. Add doughnuts to oil, frying for one to two minutes on each side. When brown on both sides, remove from oil and drain on paper towel-covered plate.

For glaze, whisk ingredients together in small bowl. Dip warm doughnuts in glaze on both sides, then let dry on wire racks. Enjoy while warm!

This recipe is really first-time-fryer friendly. Simple, few ingredients, and the end result is DE-licious. Just don’t plan to keep the donuts very long – they lose their best flavor and consistency after about a day.

Recommended for: a foray into the world of doughnuts, frying and hot, sweet, bread-like carbs. In other words? Pure indulgence. Enjoy!

recommended reading and giveaway winners

It's pretty clear that I loved Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. That novel reawakened my sense of wonder and set me on a path of adventure. You should love it too, if you don't already. Why don't you already? You're cautious? Okay, I can work with that. Try a taste of Valente's writing before you commit to her book, and check out the prequel/companion novelette, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While.

[illustration by Ana Juan, sole property of Tor/Macmillan]

If you're gearing up for September Zombies (or just plain enjoy good, creepy writing), there's nothing better than Queen of Atlantis, a fantastic short story by Sarah Reese Brennan. A little bit of death, a princess, a sacrifice and some mythology mixed together to create a bittersweet and beautiful tale. Check it.

And to round out Saturday on the blog, I present August and September contest winners:

Donna of Book Lovers Paradise won my Glow ARC giveaway
Mervi won my 600 followers giveaway
Melissa won my Norwegian Wood giveaway

Congratulations, winners! Stay tuned next week for another contest opportunity!

book blogger appreciation week 2011 - interview swap

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | | 18 comments
My favorite part of BBAW is the interview swap. True story. It’s always fascinating to see how a complete stranger (but are they really strange if they love books?!) answers the questions you have formulated. My lucky victim…err… blogger this year is Tony, the titular man behind Tony’s Reading List. Enjoy!

What's your story, in three sentences?

I was born and raised in England, before the completion of a degree in foreign languages enabled me to escape. After stints teaching English in France, Germany and Japan, I eventually ended up in Australia, where I now live with my wife and my two young daughters. I still have no real idea how I landed here...

Five favo(u)rite books?

That's a horrible, nasty question to ask someone at this time of the morning... Let's see - I might cheat a little (a lot) here.

Anthony Trollope's The Barchester Chronicles

Haruki Murakami's The Rat Trilogy novels (all four of them...)

Steven Carroll's Glenroy trilogy (The Art of the Engine Driver, The Gift of Speed and The Time We Have Taken)

Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks

...and, and, and... the collected Victorian/Russian/German/Japanese classic literature compendium. If it existed.

Are there any genres you refuse to read?

It's not so much that I refuse to read genres, more that I have so much to read within a few favourite niches that I am loath to venture outside my wonderfully snug rut. Having said that, I very much doubt that either vampires or werewolves will feature in any of my reviews in the near future (and by near future, I mean until hell freezes over, and Lucifer himself stars in Twilight on Ice).

Do you have any hidden (or not-so-hidden) superpowers?

I have the ability to spend days writing a highly-polished, thousand-word review of an obscure foreign-language book which nobody has ever heard of and then bitch and whine because I haven't got any comments on it. Is that a superpower?

If you could invite any literary characters to a dinner party, who would you invite, and what would be the party theme?

For one, the witch from Hansel and Gretel because she could obviously cook (and I can't). The whole Pickwick club from Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, both for their obvious ability to enjoy life and to make me look relatively slim. Harry Potter, obviously (free entertainment - I've heard he does some fancy things with rabbits and doves). Oh, and Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye - so that the rest of us could give him something to really complain about...

You're trapped on a desert island. Which books do you NOT want with you?

The Catcher in the Rye (see above), anything by Henry James (although a few years on a desert island might give me the chance to finish off one of his sentences), any books which mention the words sand, thirst and certain death on a regular basis, and anything written in a language which I don't understand...

Give me your best: one book I must read, one book blog I must visit, and one thing I should never say to strangers.

One book you must read: Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood - the words poignant, nostalgic and heart-rending were made for this novel.

One book blog you must visit: I suppose I can't say mine? Oh, alright, how about Tanabata's In Spring It Is The Dawn - a feast for Japanophiles everywhere.

One thing you should never say to strangers: Do you want to come back to my place? I could show you the new features on my blog...


Thank you, Tony, for putting up with my silly questions and offering witty and wise responses. If you’d like to see how I answered Tony’s questions, follow this link.

Would you like to read Murakami’s Norwegian Wood? I know Tony convinced me to give it a try. I’ll give away a copy to one person who fills out this FORM. Giveaway open internationally, will end 9/16 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email. Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

book blogger appreciation week 2011 - community

Monday, September 12, 2011 | | 15 comments
Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011 is here! During this week the book blogging world acknowledges the wonderful community we have online. We do this by handing out awards (congratulations to all those nominated!), and by following daily blogging prompts. Today the focus is community.

My contribution for the day will be to shout out to a few blogs that have enriched my blogging experience. These people are lovely – genuinely nice people. And they love books. Go visit, and tell them I sent you!

Rhiannon Hart at Dangers Untold and Hardships Unnumbered

Rhiannon is the first blogger I actually wanted to be. She’s a talented writer (she’s just been published! her book is on its way to me from Australia as we speak!), and she has impeccable taste in books. Also: I think she probably knows everything EVER about dystopian lit.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy

My most faithful commenter award goes to Juju. I don’t know how this lady does it, but she juggles real life, keeps up a beautiful blog, and comments (almost) instantaneously whenever I publish a post. She’s fantastic.

Alyce at At Home with Books

Alyce ran one of my all-time favorite features – My Favorite Reads (now retired), and is very sweet in person. She also has fantastic taste in science fiction, and her picks challenge me to read beyond my comfort zone.

Ryan at Wordsmithonia

Ryan is proof that sometimes you don’t have to share tastes beyond for a love of reading to become great friends and supporters. Luckily, we’ve discovered that both have a thing for Mercedes Lackey’s books. Ryan is consistently encouraging – and a great part of my blogging experience.

Kristen M. at We Be Reading

Kristen and I have been lucky enough to meet in person a couple of times, and each time I’ve been impressed by her kindness and humor. She’s smart, she reviews fun kid lit – what’s not to love?

Velvet at vvb32reads

Velvet is an active blogger year-round – she shares awesome steampunk and zombie events (check out September Zombies!). She’s engaged and engaging, and her programming has provided much-needed structure in my reading world.

Of course, these aren’t the only bloggers I appreciate. I find myself grateful and humbled when I think of all the help and fun that I’ve had with you over the years. Thank you, and please, keep it up!

the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making

There are stories that restore faith in humanity, in truth and beauty and the whimsy of a clever imagination. I’ve found one. I can tell it’s going to stay with me forever, and that I’ll reread it in times when comfort and hope and magic seem far away. I don’t know if I can convey to you how lovely I found this book, but I’ll try.

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t…then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a classic, adventurous fairy tale. Its heroine is September, a somewhat heartless twelve-year-old, who still knows that the fantastic is possible and that the world may change beyond recognition at a moment’s notice. It is with this knowledge (helped along by a bit of boredom) that she accepts the offer of a trip to Fairyland and begins adventures many and marvelous.

Catherynne M. Valente has created not only a fantastic fairy world; she has written it so beautifully that the words themselves seem to glow and pulse with enchantment and allure. September’s adventures might seem absurd and strange to an adult – but only an adult who no longer remembers the joy and cheer found in make-believe. I think that if you have a speck of magic still in you somewhere, you won’t be able to escape Fairyland’s enchantment.

A bit of the Green Wind’s whimsical dialogue from page five, just to give you a taste:

“The earth, my dear, is roughly trapezoidal, vaguely rhomboid, a bit of a tesseract, and altogether grumpy when its fur is stroked the wrong way! In short, it is a puzzle, my autumnal acquisition, like the interlocking silver rings your aunt Margaret brought back from Turkey when you were nine.”

Add in Ana Juan’s beautiful and eerie illustrations at the start of every chapter, and you’ll find that magic and a quest were just what you needed, even if you didn’t know it. What more can I say about Fairyland? I left my heart somewhere in its pages.

Recommended for: fairy tale fans of all ages, those looking for an exquisite story to treasure in their hearts and stave off sorrow, anyone who has taken stock of the here-and-now and wondered when it would be their turn to stumble into a patch of magic.

Fine print: I received a copy of this book for review from Zeitghost Media (courtesy of Macmillan).

all these things i’ve done giveaway

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 | | 2 comments

Chocolate + coffee + black market + crime families = too good to go wrong. I can’t wait to read this take on a future society and its strange prohibitions.

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done was released yesterday by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan. You can check out the book trailer here. The team at Zeitghost Media and Macmillan has been kind enough to let me give away one copy to you (yay!). All you need to do to enter the giveaway is fill out the FORM. Open to US and Canadian addresses only, will end September 16th at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.

Check out other giveaways for this title here, here, here, there and here. Good luck!

teaser tuesday (67)

It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted every week by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page (or if you're reading on an electronic device, pick a random number and scroll to that section). Post two or more sentences from that page, along with the book title and author. Share your find with others in the comments at Should Be Reading, and don't give anything vital away!

“‘Welcome, September, to the city of Westerly, my home, where live all the Six Winds in nothing at all like harmony.’

‘It’s…very nice. And very cold. And I seem to have lost one of my shoes.’”

p. 6 of Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Monday, September 5, 2011 | | 8 comments


That word doesn’t reference the content of this book, but instead how I feel about it. In particular, I am in love with the world of the Witchlands, with its red zanthia trees, its fields of hicca, the verdant valley and the mountainous backdrop. Lena Coakley has imbued the setting in her debut novel with something magnetic and deep, full of possibilities and beauty and peopled with flawed, courageous and mad characters. I am so very happy I read this book!

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

Witchlanders is, without a doubt, high fantasy. It is exactly what I’ve been craving in a story – strong world-building, mysteries upon mysteries, tensions running high among characters who may or may not have the motivations they claim aloud. It is also a feast for the imagination.

There were descriptive passages of Witchlanders where the mention of stark music and magic made me think of nothing so much as Adele’s raw and powerful song Someone Like You. I don’t know if I’ve ever matched a song and a story so closely in my head before, but the bittersweet lament seemed to fit the mood. I think you may see what I mean when you read Witchlanders for yourself.

The setting, of course, is not the only consideration. Let’s talk characters. Ryder is sure of himself and stubborn in it – he won’t accept a new reality until it’s forced on him. That immovability was so like my brother Peter’s personality that I accepted it immediately (you know you know someone like this. trust me). After all, it’s a standard convention that the stubborn ones need to be knocked over by magic before they’ll believe in it, right?

The story’s two small weaknesses, if they can be called that, were in the opening pages and the rushed pacing at the end. The opening of the book was the larger of the two, because I think it could turn less persistent readers away. I’ll just put it out there: the first bit, in Ryder’s home? Confusing. Partially because he’s confused, and partially because he is dealing with an unstable person, and the rest because everyone’s name is unusual and unfamiliar at that point. If you can push past this and acclimate to the world Coakley has created, you’ll get sucked into the story and its striking landscape.

Recommended for: fans of fantasy (and especially high fantasy), those who can appreciate the ordinary magic of a landscape, appreciators of complexity of life, and anyone who has ever thought that singing is a sort of enchantment which never seems to get its due.

september is for zombies (and book blogger appreciation week)

Friday, September 2, 2011 | | 2 comments
For the last couple of years I’ve participated in Velvet’s September Zombies celebration for the month of September, and this year it’s no different. It’ll really pick up towards the end of the month, so watch out for some zombie-related content here at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia and at vvb32reads from September 20th-30th (including a giveaway opportunity!).

Also in the near future: BBAW, or Book Blogger Appreciation Week. BBAW is in its fourth year in the book blogging world. On my blog this year’s event will feature an interview swap, daily blogging topics (if I get around to them) and a giveaway. The official dates for BBAW are September 12-16. Check in for the interview swap on September 13th!

Tell me: are you participating in September Zombies and/or Book Blogger Appreciation Week?

stir it up!

Book blogging is life-changing. Or at least reading-life-changing (I think I’m safe with that assessment). I’ve been influenced by other bloggers more than I ever imagined possible when I started out. It has come to this: I hardly ever read a book anymore if I haven’t previously heard about it through my network. And, funnily enough, sometimes books hear about me and come searching. Or make that a book’s author. In this case, Ramin Ganeshram scouted me out via Reading in Color (a really fantastic blog!), and had a publicist send her novel Stir It Up! for review. When you read the synopsis, you’ll see why this one ‘fit’ me exactly.

A Trinidadian-American girl’s dream is challenged by her family...

Thirteen-year-old Anjali's life is rich with the smell of curry from her parents' roti shop and an absolute passion for food. More than anything, Anjali wants to be a chef who competes on a kids' cooking reality TV show. But Anjali must keep her wish a secret from her family, who thinks Anjali's passions are beneath her. Thank goodness for Deema, Anjali's grandmother, whose insight and love can push past even the oldest family beliefs. Woven with recipes that cook up emotions and actual culinary recipes that make food, this novel is as delicious as it is satisfying.

Take a talented kid with the skill and drive to succeed. Mix in one special opportunity, along with family pressure and disapproval. Add in a questionable decision, forgiveness, and bake with a touch of real life, and you get… Anjali’s story!

Stir It Up! is a middle grade contemporary novel filled with food, cultural lessons, and best of all, healthy family dynamics. One of the things I liked about the book is that Anjali and her family cooked together (watch out: it all sounds delicious and it will make you HUNGRY), and the recipes for that food were included at the end of each chapter. In fact, I tried one myself. If you want to check out Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, I suggest you go out and get yourself a copy of Stir It Up!

Other pluses: introduction to Trinidadian-Indian-American culture, and the tight family scene. I can honestly say that I learned about food and more, but I never felt as if I was reading an educational book – just an enlightening one. Also, the protectiveness and cohesiveness of Anjali’s family reminded me of my own close-knit family. Bonus factor: Anjali’s best friend Linc (I have a brother named Lincoln!).

As Anjali is the main character, most of the book centers on her and her experience. Though she learns powerful lessons, she focuses so much on negative emotions that it is hard to get in her skin. I found Anjali interesting, but I could not connect with her. Favorite characters included Deema, with whom I’d like to sit down and sip tea and talk about life, and Chef Nyla, who helps kids learn to cook on a daily basis. Those are two wise ladies!

Recommended for: fans of contemporary middle grade fiction, anyone who has watched food shows and wondered about what goes on behind the scenes, and those looking for a good dose of diversity in their reading AND their food. Delicious!

Fine print: I received a copy of this book for review from Scholastic.

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