Thursday, June 23, 2011

Winterborne by Augusta Blythe

Winterborne is the first book I review at the request of an author. I avoided accepting books for review before this - what if I didn't like the book and I'd have to write a negative review? What if I didn't have time to read the book at all? What if I started it and couldn't get myself to finish it? But when Augusta Blythe contacted me to review Winterborne, I had a good feeling. An urban fantasy YA novel about a teen waiting for superpowers to kick in? Just my thing.

Am I glad I trusted my instinct on this one! I could have easily missed out on an amazing book. I read it back in May, but still remember the strange feeling of wanting to read faster to find out what happens, but at the same time wanting to read slower because I didn't want it to end. Like watching Buffy for the first time. ;-)

Here's the plot, as summarised by the author:

Sixteen-year old Mia Winterborne is destined to be special.  Details are sketchy, though, as her dad disappeared with all the answers when she was five.  Mia only knows that she’ll inherit her kickass superpowers on her seventeenth birthday.  Helping Mia prepare for her anticipated ascendancy is Loie (rhymes with Joey) Bryce, her best friend and eternal sidekick extraordinaire.  The girls’ intense friendship has never wavered until now, when Andreas arrives in Salcey Ridge.  They both fall hard for the British hottie, who quickly becomes a fixture in their lives.  When they discover that Andreas is not who he appears to be, the frightening reality of Mia’s powers finally hits home.  The nearer Mia’s birthday draws, the more the danger escalates and long-buried lies are exposed, putting the girls on a path that they never expected. 
It's a good story. As an urban fantasy fan and a Buffy fan, I couldn't not like it. But I think that it's very easy to ruin a story like this one with poor characters or mundane style. Augusta Blythe did the opposite, she made the story a million times better. The main characters, Mia and Loie, are strong and intelligent female leads. They're best friends and they won't let stuff come between them. Many books introduce boys or other distractions to ruin friendships, but in this case the friendship got stronger and stronger. Finally, we have two teen best friends who are smart enough to recognise that what they have is special. I loved that.
I also loved the language and the style. Very witty and engaging.
All in all, this book is a winner. I can't wait for the next installment in the series. I hope that some of you will take a chance on an unknown author and that you'll be as happy with your choice as I am.
Winterborne is available via Amazon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Four Things

I've seen this one going around, most recently at Iliana's, and I think it's really fun. Plus, since book reviews have been lacking from this blog and since things won't get any better until after our handfasting this weekend, I thought this would be a nice, quick post to do.

Four jobs I've had in my life:
1. Waitress
2. Marketing Officer
3. Au Pair
4. Translator

Four books I would read over and over:
1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
3. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Four places I have lived:
1. Queens, New York, USA
2. Manila, The Philippines
3. Seoul, South Korea,
4. Warsaw, Poland

Four books I would recommend (that I read in 2011):
1. The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (audiobook)
2. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
3. The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac
4. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Four places I have been:
1. Barcelona, Spain
2. Dublin, Ireland
3. Beijing, China
4. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Pizza
2. Peanut butter
3. Falafel
4. The Chili con Carne my husband makes

Four of my favorite drinks:
1. Red wine
2. Lemonade
3. Ginger Ale
4. Mango juice

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. At home with my family
2. Wherever, catching up with my girlfriends
3. Visiting my parents in Poland
4. On our upcoming vacation in Wales

Four things that are very special in my life:
1. My family
2. My health
3. My books
4. My theatre activities

Four bloggers I hope will do this meme - why don't you all do it? It's fun! :-)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

Yes, that's right, by Alicia Silverstone. I didn't know she had a book out either, but there you go.

This is a book about veganism, really. About how to eat great and treat your body and the planet in a kind way. Even though I have no interest in becoming vegan, I wanted to explore some of the ideas and benefit from some of the recipes. Which are great, by the way. I already made the Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew and all three of us enjoyed it immensely. Yum.

I liked the way Alicia explained what certain foods do to your body and what their production does to the planet. The tone is upbeat, without being pushy, which was appreciated. She presents three levels of changes, the first of which is just 'flirting' so that you can try out some different things with food and not get hung up on labels.

It took me longer than expected to read this, because sometimes I couldn't stand the peppy attitude for a second longer. :-) But all in all it's a good one to read if you're interested in nutrition.

I would never have read this book if my friend Larissa hadn't mentioned it to me and introduced tahini into my life. Larissa has now joined the world of book bloggers and she reads some great stuff (plus she's a really cool person) so make sure you go visit her!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Banana Bread - Yum!

Thank you all you wonderful people who have given me gluten-free and dairy-free ideas, you are all so helpful! I'm still struggling, but feel like I have a plan now. Or more of a plan. Or at least some substitutes for foods I love.

I still get frustrated in some situations though. Like yesterday, I had a call-back for a small principal part in Hello, Dolly! and I got the part (of Minnie Fay). I was thrilled (still am!!) and wanted to celebrate so I picked up a bottle of wine and wanted something indulgent for dinner too. Pizza? Can't. Pasta? Can't. A raw vegetable salad? Ummm, not so indulgent. In the end I bought some tortilla chips and had them with guacamole. But I really would have loved a pizza! :-)

One thing that I miss is baked goods. So I'll be experimenting with those, I guess. Over the weekend I realised I had too many blackening bananas so I looked for a banana bread recipe - and found one that is both gluten-free and dairy-free. It turned out fabulous - my husband couldn't even tell the difference. ;-)

You can find the recipe on the Taste of Home website here but I am copying it down in this post too, just in case. I really wouldn't want to lose it!

Banana Bread (gluten- and dairy-free)

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (4-5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, sugar, applesauce, oil and vanilla.

Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
This is my entry into June's Whip up Something New challenge, hosted by Gnoe over here.

P.S. This blog has turned into a recipe/nutrition blog lately... I assure you, I AM reading and have some coold reviews coming soon. Promise. :-)