In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by The Story Siren.
It’s a chance for book bloggers to display the books they purchased or received for review each week.
Here’s what I got in mine:
Featured Books:
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2010
**ARC courtesy of author Michelle Hodkin**

The Healthy Beef Cookbook by Richard Chamberlain and Betsy Hornick

**Paperback copy courtesy of the Texas Beef Council**

You can click here to read my post about cooking with Chef Chamberlain.

Contests I Won!

Because I’m so super-stoked about winning these contests, here’s a link to them!

The Great YA Bake Sale
(Grand Prize Winner…Score! I can’t *wait* to start making some of the recipes authors included in the recipe book!)

A Hexy Giveaway for the Auburn Writers Conference
(I was the runner-up winner since the original winner didn’t claim her prize. Sad for her, but yay for me!)

It’s been a great week!

Thanks for looking!


This weekend at my cousin’s wedding, there was a beautiful sunset over the lake.
Of course, we had to take photos with it.

Mom and Dad
Andy and River
Mom and River
James and Me
I just love the beauty of nature.
Happy Saturday!
This sunset over Lake Hugo was absolutely stunning.

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

I’ve seen a lot of buzz about Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier lately.The cover art is really, really cool and with a lineup that includes Cassandra Clare, Carrie Ryan, Meg Cabot, Diana Peterfreund and Scott Westerfield, I knew this book would be awesome.

I wasn’t disappointed.
“It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfield, and Margo Lanagan. 

This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?”

– Description from GoodReadsI really enjoyed the range of stories in this anthology. From Garth Nix’s fantastical fairy tale to Scott Westerfield’s zombie love story, there was a wide range of topics that readers will enjoy.

I *loved* Meg Cabot’s tale of unicorn hilarity and thoroughly enjoyed the brief glimpse into Diana Peterfreund’s world of killer unicorns.

I was pleasantly surprised by Carrie Ryan’s tale, set in her post-apocalyptic universe where zombies roam the Earth. I wasn’t really a big fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I may have to give The Dead-Tossed Waves a try after reading “Bougainvillea.”

And the tales by Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfield were great, too.

So, I guess the question is — which team did I end up on?

It’s hard to say. I started the journey convinced I was Team Unicorn. Now, I’m not so sure. Zombies are cool, too.

Can I be both?

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier is available from Amazon.**Disclaimer** An Advanced Readers Copy of this book was provided to me for review from the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Thanks to the publisher for the chance to read and review this book early!

Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner

I recently had the chance to attend the Appetite for Inspiration cooking event sponsored by the Texas Beef Council.
DFW bloggers descended upon the Viking Cooking School in Dallas to learn how to prepare some simple, family-friendly beef dishes from Chef Richard Chamberlain, a local celebrity chef.
Chef Chamberlain prepared a couple of dishes right before our eyes.
First up was the Beef and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Balsamic Syrup.
Oh my goodness it was yummy.
Chef Chamberlain talked about the benefits of eating beef when it is prepared in a healthy (and yummy!) way.
The Beef Pot Roast with Maple Sweet Potatoes and Cider Gravy was so tender and juicy. It’s definitely being added to my recipe rotation.
Soon it was time to don our own aprons and head to the kitchen to test our skills!
We were divided into groups and assigned a recipe to prepare. My group’s dish was the Mojo Beef Kabobs.
I’ll share the recipe with you in a later post, but this was the end result. It was really peppery and yummy!
We were proud of our dish. I think it’s really pretty, don’t you?
Here are some of the other dishes:
Farmer’s Market Vegetable, Beef and Brown Rice Salad
Sweet Hawaiian Mini Burgers
Tenderloin, Cranberry and Pear Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
Chipotle Sloppy Joes with Crunchy Cole Slaw
Of course we had to try all of that delicious food!
And boy, was it yummy!
Here’s me and Chef Chamberlain.
It was a wonderful experience with a great group of women. It was a lot of fun!
You can see more photos from the event on my Flickr page.
**Disclaimer** This event was hosted by the Texas Beef Council. I was not compensated for this post. Attendees received goodie bags with aprons, recipe books and other fun beef-related items.

Author Interview: Gail Giles

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing fellow Texan Gail Giles, author of Dark Song, a dark and haunting young adult story that was released earlier this month.
“Ames is not the person she was a few months ago. Her father lost his job, and her family is crumbling apart. Now, all she has is Marc. Marc, who loves her more than anything. Marc, who owns a gun collection. And he’ll stop at nothing–even using his guns–to get what he wants. Ames feels her parents have betrayed her with their lies and self-absorption, but is she prepared to make the ultimate betrayal against them?”
– Description from GoodReads
The dark theme of this story really struck me — so I focused my questions around that. Here’s my interview with Gail:
What led you to write Dark Song?

“I watched a Court TV case about a girl and her boyfriend that conspired to kill her mother.  I got interested and researched and found 22 cases of young girls hooking up, usually with older boys, then when faced with parental disapproval, conspiring to murder the parent or parents.  These 22 cases had all occurred with 18 months. To me this was a cultural phenomenon—a female’s Columbine.  Boys take their anger out to the street, to the school; girls turn it in, to themselves or to the home.”
How do you cope with writing such an emotional story? How does it affect you? 

“I’ll admit it’s pretty depressing.  It does take an emotional toll.  I’ve said many times if you don’t laugh during the funny parts, or cry during the sad ones, while you write, why should you expect your reader to do so?”
How would you describe the story, in five words or less?
“Family falls apart.”What do you want readers to take away from this novel?
“I want readers to understand Ames—why she would cling to Marc, so easily and so early, but why that love was just as false as the picture she presented of her early family life.” Is there anything you’d like to add?
“The odd thing is that I am not a dark person in life.  I mostly make people laugh.  You wouldn’t expect that would you?”
I’d really like to thank Gail for taking time to answer my questions, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for allowing me to participate in the Dark Song blog tour.
Dark Song by Gail Giles is available from Amazon. Author Gail Giles discusses her book, Dark Song, a haunting story of a young girl whose love of the wrong boy leads to a choice between him or her family.

Happily Ever After…

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Last weekend, we packed up and headed for Hugo, Oklahoma for my cousin’s wedding.
I had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone and seeing the family. It was a beautiful ceremony.
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This is Courtney, my cousin. Doesn’t she make a beautiful bride?
Here’s her hubby-to-be, Cody. That’s my great-aunt Mary, who conducted the ceremony.
It was truly a family event. That’s my great-aunt Reta helping the flower girls (Courtney’s cousins) come out of the house.
Isn’t she beautiful?
Here’s Courtney and her dad peeking out from the house.
And my favorite part — the groom’s face when he first catches a glimpse of her. Doesn’t he look like the happiest man on Earth?
Here are some of the bridesmaids. The one in the middle is Katie — Courtney’s younger sister.
It really was a wonderful ceremony.
Don’t they look happy?
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Aunt Mary wrote a beautiful sermon.
And they are such a beautiful couple.
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I love this shot of her placing the ring on Cody’s finger. He has such an intense look on his face. Like he only has eyes for her.
Here are Mr. and Mrs. Mobbs!
And my favorite photo of the day — he is grinning and she’s so enthusiastic about the kiss!
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It was really a great day.
I love weddings. Don’t you?
Happy Wednesday!

BlogFest 2010 Winners

This has been such a busy week, I’m a bit behind on my blogging responsibilities.
BUT – I am pleased to *finally* announce the winners for my BlogFest 2010 giveaway!
In all, there were 316 contestants with a total of 1,145 entries. 
By far, this has been my most successful contest on the blog!
Winners get to choose from a list of nine new YA releases:
Thanks so much to everyone who entered.
Winner #1 is…
She gets a choice of *two* books from the super-fabulous list.
Winner #2 is…
She gets a choice of *one* book from the super-fabulous list.
Winner #3 is…
She gets a choice of *one* book from the super-fabulous list.
I’ve e-mailed each winner and they have 48 hours to respond or I will be forced to choose another winner.
You can review my contest policy for more information.
Thanks so much, and happy Saturday!

Review: The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur

I received a surprise copy of The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur last week. I had not really heard a lot about this book, but had seen it in stores.I decided to give it a chance, and soon I was hooked!

“Freshman year at Harvard–glamorous parties, blossoming friendships, steamy romances, and scandalous secrets. Skip the campus tour and get right to the good stuff: classes are for scoping guys (and their Facebook profiles), not taking notes. The library is for study dates (the medieval history stacks get a lot of action), not studying. And success is a 4.0 GPA… plus getting into the most exclusive parties. How will Callie–a California girl with brains, beauty, and big dreams–and her three roommates survive?”
–Description from GoodReads
Reading this book was a jaw-dropping experience for this gal from Texas.I mean, is college really like this for you guys on the East Coast?

This story was like a mix between Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls (You know, after Rory has left and gone to college…)

It is *definitely* a book for mature audiences.

There was adult language, sex, nudity and drug use.  Sometimes, lots of it.

Not that it bothered me, but readers should be aware as they pick up this title that the “young” in “young adult” really doesn’t apply here.

It was *so* interesting to learn about life at Harvard. I don’t think I would be able to hack it.

I think most girls can relate to Callie’s attempts to fit in in a place where what you look like matters more than anything else.

It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the parties and other social obligations.

Alexis Thorndale was a good antagonist — the perfect East Coast queen in her Chanel shoes and pearls.

There’s a good variety of characters in the roommates and the boys across the hall, as well as Callie’s love interests.

The only thing that really bothered me was the cliff-hanger ending. I know there will be more books in the series, but I really wish this book would have wrapped up her freshman year, instead of leaving us hanging at Thanksgiving break.

All in all, this was a good read that mature readers will enjoy. It made me wish that I was back in college!

**Disclaimer** A Hardcover Copy of this book was provided to me for review from the publisher, Greenwillow Books

Thanks to the publisher for the chance to read and review this book!

Braised Beef Brisket

I’ve made brisket before, but it was a *very* involved process with a dry rub, slow roasting, refrigerating and reheating. Talk about effort.
When I recently cooked for my *entire* family (we’re talking eight adults and two children) I knew I wanted to try a simpler recipe for beef brisket.
As always, the Pioneer Woman didn’t let me down!
This is an easy brisket recipe that was very tender and juicy.
It has a very soy sauce-y taste to it, but the boys in my family gave it a thumbs up!
Braised Beef Brisket
2 cans beef consomme
1/2 c lemon juice
1 1/2 c soy sauce
5 cloves chopped garlic
2 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
10-pound beef brisket
Combine the first five ingredients in a disposable aluminum pan for the marinade.
Add the brisket to the marinade, fat side up. Pour a little of the marinade on top of the brisket, to coat it.
Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
Once it’s had time to set, place in 300-degree oven and bake covered for 40 minutes for every pound.
Remove from heat and cut off the layer of fat.
Slice against the grain to serve. Mine was so tender, it just fell into pieces when I tried to slice it.
Enjoy! Protection Status