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About Seira Wilson

Seira Wilson can't remember a time when she wasn't surrounded by books, and instead of "eat your peas" her mother always said, "no reading at the dinner table." Not much has changed--today her house is filled with books: biographies, humorous fiction (it's good for what ails you), children's books, cookbooks, more fiction. And when she's alone, Seira reads at the dinner table.

Posts by Seira

Recipe Road Test: Honey Molasses Candied Almonds

SweetAlchemyI don't watch a lot of T.V. but Top Chef is one of my must-watch shows and when Top Chef: Desserts was on, I was equally obsessed because I have a serious sweet tooth.  Case in point, it's 9 in the morning as I'm writing this and I'm eating cake.  Don't judge.

Yigit Pura not only won the first season of Top Chef: Desserts (and was really fun to watch while he did it) but he also creates the most gorgeous--and delicious, let's not forget that--confections at his Tout Sweet Pâtisserie in San Francisco's Union Square.  You can add another star by Pura's name for his luscious new cookbook, Sweet Alchemy: Dessert Magic, our pick for one of the Best Cookbooks of August.

So many recipes I want to try...Baked Berry Meringue Kisses? The ones I've eaten from his shop are heavenly...Earl Grey Tea-Infused Chocolate Truffles? Lemongrass & Ginger Ice Cream? Every page has something wonderful on it and the way Pura presents the recipes is super straightforward and friendly-- he tells you exactly what to expect in each step and how to get it done. Voila!

When I was flipping through the pages of Sweet Alchemy for the third or fourth time, the Honey Molasses Candied Almonds recipe jumped out at me, even without one of the many brilliant photographs you'll see throughout the book.  Perfect recipe road test material before the holiday weekend. 

The instructions gave me the choice of microwave or stove top for melting the molasses and honey together (um, microwave, please), told me how to incorporate the nuts for even coverage, and how to roast them to golden perfection.   I didn't have the Maldon sea salt the recipe calls for, so I used Himalayan pink sea salt instead, but I'll get the Maldon next time (cook and learn...) for more salty contrast. Below is a picture of my new favorite cocktail snack, and since they can be stored for up to 2 weeks I'm flagging this page in my book for holiday hostess gifts. 

A word to the wise on making your own Honey Molasses Candied Almonds (bonus - you can use other nuts if you'd like): scarf some down right away because once other people get a taste of these nuts they'll be gone in a flash!  

   HoneyMolassesAlmonds

Honey molasses candied almonds

The sweet coating and a perfect pinch of sea salt combine with toasted almond flavor to create an addictive treat. I like to have a stash of these to set out for guests on a cheese board. Play around with your favorite nuts in this recipe. YIELD: 3 CUPS (500 G)

500 g/2 cups plus 2 tbsp water

500 g/2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

455 g/1 lb blanched whole almonds

20 g/1 tbsp honey

5 g/1/2 tsp unsulfured molasses

1 large pinch Maldon sea salt

Line a 9-by-13-in (23-by-33-cm)baking pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. Set an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

In a medium stainless-steel or enamel-coated saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Place the saucepan over high heat, and when the mixture comes to a rolling boil, immediately turn the heat to medium. When the sugar is fully dissolved, about 30 seconds, turn the heat to medium-low.

Add the almonds to the saucepan and poach for 30 to 45 seconds to blanch them. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the almonds into a large mixing bowl and let cool. When they are still warm to the touch but not hot, about 5 minutes, the almonds are ready to work with again.

While the almonds are cooling, combine the honey and molasses in a separate, small bowl. Microwave the mixture for 15 to 30 seconds, until it is viscous and easy to mix. Stir gently to combine. Alternatively, place the honey and molasses in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through and easy to stir.

Pour the honey mixture over the almonds and toss gently until the almonds are evenly coated. Sprinkle the sea salt over the nuts and toss to coat. Spread the almonds evenly in the prepared baking pan. Toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Every 4 to 6 minutes, gently shake the pan so that the almonds roll around and cook evenly. When the almonds are golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once cool, the almonds are ready to serve, or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for 1 to 2 weeks.

Sweet Note: This recipe can be used with most nuts, including hazelnuts or pistachios or even pumpkin seeds. The molasses lends a complex flavor to these sweet little nuggets.

Five Tips for Dinner Party Success

BigBeautifulMessHandmadeHomeI have a crafty spirit but if I'm REALLY going to make something it better have simple instructions and require a minimum of easy-to-find supplies.  This is why I love Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman's book, A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home (an August Best of the Month pick). 
 
In sections for each room of the house, as well as outdoor spaces, the authors emphasize making the design fit your lifestyle and offer enough ideas to cover about any decor direction.  From how to revamp a piece of garage sale furniture, arrange pictures or collectibles in an interesting way, or take a plain vase and turn it into something special, the ideas in this book are all things even I feel like I could do--and I'm actually inspired to do them!  
 
Besides all the great projects, A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home also has a few ideas for hosting a simple gathering with ease.  Here are a handful of suggestions from the authors on how to set yourself up for a fun, low stress, dinner party that still has those special touches but won't leave you regretting the cost.

 

Five Tips for Hosting a Budget-Friendly Dinner Party
By Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson, authors of A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home


When faced with the task of hosting a dinner party it can be easy to have a freak-out moment. What if you don't have enough chairs and someone is left standing all night? What if you run out of food or booze? What if everyone is bored? What if someone is allergic to sugar, garlic AND gluten? Also, what is gluten? Why does all your furniture all of sudden look threadbare and cheap? Or worst of all, every host's biggest fear, what if no one comes?

First off, take a deep breath. Next, know that you already have what it takes to throw the most epic dinner party—you just need to think creatively. No matter your budget here are five tips to host the perfect dinner party. WineCheese

1. Make personalized menus. These could be handwritten, formatted like a ransom note or crafted from nothing more than construction paper and crayons. Get creative. Be funny or formal, whatever your style. For a few dollars you've just elevated your dining room into a restaurant-grade atmosphere. You've shown your guests there was thought and planning put into the night and it's gonna be delicious.

2. Get creative with seating. Oh, you don't already own a million fancy chairs? Not to worry. Why not rearrange your furniture to suit your night's needs? It will totally add a bit of whimsy to the evening. You could even enlist guests to help you if needed. Or what about hosting your dinner party on the floor or around a camp fire in your backyard? Whatever you decide, you can be sure it will make the night more memorable to guests.

RecycledCenterpieces3. Reimagine items to use for decor. Sometimes people call this upcycling. The basic idea is you reuse an old item that you would have discarded for another purpose. Save all your empty wine bottles, beer bottles, or soup cans, then clean them and reuse as flower vases for a pretty and inexpensive centerpiece.

4. Fancy up your table settings. Even if all you own are mismatched plates from various flea market trips, add unity, color and personality to your table with handmade cloth napkins. You could sew your own or purchase plain napkins and add designs with fabric paint. You could even make extra sets and send some home with guests!

5. Collaborate with food costs. As fun as it would be to create a seven course meal paired with a different wine for every course, it's likely your budget just isn't going to stretch that far. It doesn't need to. Allow guests to help provide a portion of the meal or make it BYOB. A true friend never expects others to pick up the full tab on everything.

Above all, have fun and focus on connecting with your guests. Dinner parties, despite the name, are not actually all about the dinner, they’re about creating memories with people you love. So get out of the kitchen and don't stress about all the little details: be fun, have fun and enjoy the ones you’re with!

MacGyver Your Food

FoodHacksMy family jokes that I can make always make somethin' out of nothin' in the kitchen, but what I usually  come up with is pretty pedestrian. Peggy Wang's Amazing Food Hacks is going to make me look like a kitchen magician instead of just a fridge scavenger. 

Her book has 75 tricks between the chunky covers: "Banilla Wafer Sandwiches" (peanut butter, banana, and sprinkles)--um, yes please.  "Better Than Crack" Crackers that are little more than oyster crackers, a packet of ranch dressing mix and a trip to the oven?  Bye-bye Chex mix.  Wang makes it easy and she's got a great sense of humor as you can see for yourself in the guest post below, along with a couple of examples from the book.


One of the challenges that comes up constantly for me as an editor at BuzzFeed is figuring out what even qualifies as a life hack. As I started pulling together recipes that would eventually constitute basically the longest, most glorified BuzzFeed list of my life which is this book, I began to doubt my ability to discern an actual food hack from just a weird and interesting recipe. I began to have existential debates over the addition of avocado to egg salad, which is a completely legit way to transform a pedestrian sandwich filling to something I would gladly shove into my mouth with a spatula. I vacillated between whether simply adding avocado to a dish makes a life hack (in the end, it did, as per my editor, and it is quite transcendent if I may say so myself).

AvocadoTips

Ultimately, I felt like the test was taking something you didn’t think would work — and having it turn out even better than you could have ever expected.

My favorite stories from testers went something like, “This recipe sounded sorta weird and gross and then I made it and was pleasantly surprised and ended up eating the whole thing to the point of making myself completely sick, which is half this recipe’s fault but also half my own fault for having no self-control whatsoever.”

These stories served as a nice counterpoint to my incredibly utilitarian way of thinking about food hacks: I just wanted something incredibly easy that my exhausted self could make after a really long day out of the sad remnants of my refrigerator.

So basically, this book weaves between those unexpectedly yummy but weird recipes, as well as just the ones that have personally made my life easier as a terminally lazy person. I like to think of these hacks as spanning from the practical to the practically insane, which will hopefully cover just about all of your culinary needs.-- Peggy Wang

DippableGrilledCheeseRolls

YA Wednesday: Talking to Chris Weitz and Jennifer E. Smith

YoungWorld GeoMeYouEarlier this year I had the great pleasure to sit down with two delightful YA authors to talk books. 

Chris Weitz, best known for his work in film including the movie adaptations of The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Golden Compass,  just released The Young World, a dystopian novel (the first in a series) set in New York that is also one of our August Best YA Books of the Month.  

Jennifer E. Smith is the beloved author of several contemporary YA novels that deftly navigate the waters of teen relationships with humor and creativity, including this year's The Geography of You and Me.  

On a random note, when we were talking both authors shared major league baseball hopes for this year and it's interesting to see how things have shaken out. Chris Weitz hoped the Yankees new pitcher Masahiro Tanaka didn't turn out to be a dud (so far so good, though he's coming off an injury...) and Jennifer E. Smith was pretty adamant that the Cubs were going to take the 2014 World Series.  Well, there's always next year...

Below is a transcript from our chat.


So, what would be the elevator pitch for your book?

Chris Weitz:  It’s basically about a group of kids making their way in a post-apocalyptic New York in which every convenience and comfort they're familiar with is gone.  So it’s a New York that has fallen into a chaos of warring tribes, and how they will function in that world.

Jennifer E. Smith:  I keep joking that my book has the best elevator pitch ever because it starts in an elevator. It’s about two teens who get stuck in elevator during a major blackout in New York city and end up spending an evening together on a really magical night in the city where you can actually can see the stars because all the lights are out. It’s loosely based on the blackout that happened in 2003.  Then, as the title might suggest, with Geography, it sort of spins off into other locations from there, but it all begins in an elevator in New York on a very dark night.

Chris Weitz: That was a great blackout...

Jennifer E. Smith: Yeah, it was really fun. I won’t tell you all about my experiences since we’re on the record here, but it definitely included more alcohol than cute boys and elevators.  It was one of those nights that felt sort of out of time, once people realized that nothing was seriously wrong everybody was out on the streets, people were giving away beer before it got too warm, and giving away ice cream before it could melt, and New York took on this almost celebratory atmosphere. It was a really memorable night.

Weitz: It’s funny because I think I found the one single thing that unites our books, because my book was partly inspired by the blackout amongst other things, this is sort of New York without electricity and the way that people behave when everything they’re used to goes out the window.

Chris – you’ve directed films adapted from YA novels and written screen plays, was writing a novel a logical next step for you?

I’m not sure it was a logical step, especially looking back.  Given how much harder it is to write a novel than a screen play, it’s a highly illogical thing to do...  but, in a sense, adapting as many books as I have, and I was a literature major in university, that’s where I thought my life was going to be concentrated. Making films was kind of a way to deal with my love of books in a positive way, so it isn’t totally unreasonable that I would turn my attention to trying to write something.

And why young adult?

Weitz: Well, at the time that I decided to do this, I was receiving a lot of submissions of YA and some were great and some were less so, so I thought, well, I may as well give it a go myself.  And I had certain things that I’d been thinking about that I wanted to explore further that kind of come out in this--not necessarily YA related stuff but actually stuff about economics, sociology, and politics.

Jen, you’ve written YA and one middle grade, do you think you’ll write adult in the future?

Smith: I think always it’s fun to explore different creative outlets. The middle grade was really fun for me because all of my YA books are for a similar audience, so the middle grade was very different.  I was once telling somebody that the three things I would never do were: write middle grade, write fantasy, and write for boys, and I literally came out of the lunch and was like, ok, now I kind of want to try… So I think it’s a similar thing with the adult side, I think if the right idea came along it’d be something new to try and something exciting, so we’ll see.  But I really love YA, I think that’s kind of my sweet spot, I feel like I’m 16 at heart and it’s a genre I really love and the audience is amazing for YA books.  It’s just so much fun meeting teens, they’re so enthusiastic.

The YA writing community is really great too, isn’t it?

Smith: It really is, everyone is so supportive and generous, it’s a great little corner of the industry to be part of.

Chris, as someone just coming into this community, have you found that to be true?

Weitz:  I have and it’s also I think that this time in life, maybe from middle school through this period, is a period of really fervent reading.  I remember that from when I was younger, and that’s really wonderful. There’s also a tremendous desire to see  people succeed, to want to see the best in things, as opposed to, if you look at literary fiction, the extraordinarily snarky, kind of difficult, social landscape that that represents.  I think there’s a weird barrier to entry in literary fiction as far as ideas go, I think that young adult is where a lot of the most interesting fiction is actually being written because it’s not as caught up in questions of style.

I think the interesting ideas and openness is part of why so many adults are reading YA fiction...

Smith: Yeah--I get as many emails about my books from people in their 30s and 40s as I do from people in their teens.  Everyone is sort of 16 at heart, somewhere down deep.  Like what Chris was saying about the way you read at that age, there’s such a joy to it, whereas now you start reading a book and you have to go to work so you put it down, but as kids, I remember just tearing through books (I guess I still do now, but…) you can’t get enough and you find an author you love, you read everything they’ve written and then you look for  everything that’s similar to what they’ve written, and you’re obsessed.  And it’s such a joyful way to read.

YA Wednesday: A Picture is Worth...

AddisonStoneWhen I heard the premise of The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone I was intrigued. I figured it would be really good or really bad with not much wiggle room in between.  So I sat down to read a chapter or two and didn't get up until I was finished. 

Author Adele Griffin has written a memoir of the life and mysterious death of Addison Stone, a young artist-turned-celebrity, as told by her fans, friends, and enemies.  The book comes with photographs of the beautiful, petulant Stone and her art.  Addison Stone has a mesmerizing story. Addison Stone isn't real.  And the more I read, the harder it got to remember that none of these people are real.  So good.  Best of the Month good.

In the guest essay below, Adele Griffin shares the story behind the story (behind the story).


The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is an imagined memoir about a small town girl who burns through the New York art scene as bright as a comet, and goes out just as fast. Inspired by the oral history Edie: American Girl, I saw the interview style of that groundbreaking book as a way to release myself to writing exclusively what I loved most: voice.

Addison’s story unfolds in memories and anecdotes as her family and friends, peers and rivals, dealers and buyers, all bear witnesses to her troubled, startling, wondrous life. As I created each voice in the drama, I was always conscious of how vividly I saw these people, and how hard I wanted to hear them.

The more real it became, the more I wanted to deliver “proof.” I’d always envisioned a photo insert as a way to showcase Addison’s talent, but soon it was clear to me that if the book was a layer cake, the next layer would have to be full-color illustrations.

And so Addison was ultimately a compendium of four women—three professional artists and one Pratt student—who all came together as a portfolio of talent that would define one artist’s gifts. With real art on the page, now my characters never needed to describe imaginary art, which can get stale or precious pretty fast, especially when it transports us to nowhere specific.

But a memoir also requires biographical intimacy. I had Addison in sketches and paintings, but where was Addison the girl, the young woman? Fate or a lucky break brought the electric Giza Lagarce into my home, and from the first photograph we took, I could feel Addison’s soul touch down. Giza also licensed me her childhood snapshots, family photos and candids. This all became the stuff of Addison Stone’s life, and again I was able to hold onto my cast of narrators without diluting them as vehicles for dumping in the description.

Oral histories are tantalizing glimpses of people as perceived by themselves and others. The roundtable style fascinates me because the endless rotating point of view allows us to enter the story and draw our own conclusions. In my “final Addison” Michelle Rawlings’ haunting portraits, that rotation is visually echoed in a looped reflection of identities that blurs the line of muse, model, artist, author. But for me the best visual gift of ADDISON STONE is that I was liberated to create a story of characters simply for character’s sake. This is where the story feels most real and pure as a work of my own imagining. And this is where I hope it will resonate. --Adele Griffin

YA Wednesday Sneak Peak: New Maze Runner Movie Trailer

MazeRunnerMTI

 

The Maze Runner movie is coming out next month (in theaters 9/19) and I'm already bugging the publisher to see if there are going to be any early screenings here in Seattle.   From the trailers I've seen, and early buzz, it looks like the film adaptation will do cinematic justice to this brilliantly imagined book that is truly one of my favorites. 

Another nod to doing it right is the movie tie-in cover on the book.  Often, these do not turn out well.  Really almost never, in my opinion.  But the new Maze Runner cover that you see here--pretty great, right?

If you need another reason to get excited about seeing the movie, check out the brand new trailer below--you can only see here for the next day or two.

 

Rick Riordan: The Weirdest Myth

PercyJacksonGreekGodsPercy Jackson's Greek Gods releases next week (8/19) and this Best Book of August is a look at Greek mythology as only the demigod Percy Jackson can do.  We already know author Rick Riordan is an avid mythology reader but wondered what myth he's run across that was more bizarre than all the rest (because, let's be honest, a lot of mythology is really strange).  Here's Riordan's take on the weirdest myth:

The Weirdest Myth

While writing Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, I came across a lot of weird myths. Even after all these years as a mythology buff, I’m still coming across stories I didn’t know.

Possibly the weirdest? The story of Erichthonious, the only son of Athena.

The thing is, Athena was a maiden goddess. She couldn’t have children. Yet the people of Athens wanted to find some way to claim that their king was descended from Athena, who after all was their patron goddess. They also thought it would be cool if their king was related to Hephaestus, since he was the god of useful crafts and the natural counterpart to Athena.

So the Athenians fashioned this rather weird story: The crippled blacksmith god Hephaestus fell in love with Athena, but of course Athena wanted nothing to do with him. Hephaestus tried to chase her down, but since he was crippled, Athena was faster. Hephaestus only managed to grab the hem of her skirt, and in the struggle . . . Hmm, how to put this delicately? Some of the god’s bodily fluid ended up on Athena’s leg.

Yuck. Athena got the nearest wad of wool and wiped off the aforementioned bodily fluid. She flung it down to the earth in disgust.

Sadly, divine fluid is powerful stuff. The essence of Hephaestus and Athena mixed together in that wool cloth, and a new life was created: a demigod baby, Erichthonius.

Athena heard the baby crying and took pity on him. She raised him in secret until he grew up, at which point he became the king of Athens.

And that’s how the Athenians got their ancestry straightened out. Their kings were literally the children of Athena and Hephaestus . . . though why they wanted to be descended from a discarded wool rag, I’m not sure.

Goes to show you: there’s a myth for everything. And just when you think mythology can’t get any stranger, it does. You can read the full story of Erichthonios, and so many more bizarre stories of the gods, in Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. Hope you enjoy! -- Rick Riordan

Get Ready for...Shark Week

Shark Week started on the Discovery channel back in 1988 and has steadily gained momentum in the years since.  Sunday officially kicks off Shark Week 2014 with host Rob Lowe and we thought we'd celebrate with a selection of books, both fiction and nonfiction, for all those shark-loving kids who will be tuning in.

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National Geographic Readers: Sharks! by Anne Schreiber  (ages 5-8)
An exciting nonfiction look at sharks in a leveled reader (level 2 – independent readers) format. 

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton (ages 3-6)
In a burst of imagination, two boys pull a toy shark and a train from the toy box and pit them against each other in a series of silly contests, including the high dive, burping, and basketball. 

I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis (ages 8-12)
A novel based on actual events that occurred in 1916 when a Great White shark terrorized the Jersey Shore.

Surrounded By Sharks by Michael Northrop (ages 12-up)
In this suspense-filled story, a family vacation goes awry when 13-year-old Davey wanders off to the beach alone and finds himself pulled out to sea in a riptide.

Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale (ages 4-8)
This brightly illustrated picture book features a boisterous but well-intentioned character, Clark the Shark. 

Deep-Sea Disaster (Shark School) by Davy Ocean (ages 6-9)
In the first book in a fun new chapter book series (Shark School), readers dive into the world of Harry Hammer, a hammerhead shark who loves adventure.

Shark Wars by EJ Altbacker  (ages 9-12)
In the first book of a series (there are six books total), prehistoric shark clans called Shivers have ruled over the earth's oceans, fierce protectors of all who swim.

Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever--or Snack Time? By Tammi Sauer (ages 4-8)
This is the undersea story of unlikely friendship between a minnow named Nugget and a shark named Fang. 

National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks by Ruth Musgrave (ages 8-12)
Filled with full-color photos, shark-obsessed kids will have a great time flipping through the pages of Great Whites, blue sharks, hammerheads, and some most of us have never heard of, including frilly sharks and the prickly shark.

Little Shark: Finger Puppet Book by ImageBooks (ages baby-2)
Even the youngest members of the family won’t be left out of Shark Week with this adorable finger puppet board book.  

Recipe Road Test: "His 'n' Hers" Deviled Eggs

I'm a latecomer to deviled eggs.  Never liked 'em as a kid and shunned them for many years as an adult.  Until my mother gave me a recipe for Blue Devils--a blue cheese deviled egg.  I will eat pretty much anything with blue cheese, so I gave them a try, and of course they were fabulous.  I gave the ole deviled egg another chance, and have since eaten my share of twists on the picnic classic. 

I recently happened across country music star Trisha Yearwood's cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen and the "His-n-Hers Deviled Eggs" recipe caught my eye.  These are unassuming eggs, no truffle oil or goat cheese here.  His--meaning Yearwood's husband Garth Brooks-- egg is the basic formula plus butter. Yes, butter.  And "Hers" has relish.  Sweet relish.  I was intrigued. DeviledEggs

I made a half batch with my daughter, who loves deviled eggs, and we tried them out. 

The version with butter was pretty familiar, but because of that butter had a little something extra in the creamy department.  I would reduce the amount of mustard next time, but that's a personal preference. 

The one with relish was surprising and wonderful.  To be totally honest I was a little unsure of this combo--even my daughter looked skeptical.  But it was good. 

At right is a photo of our road tested eggs and below is the recipe from Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen if you want to give them a try yourself.


GeorgiaCooking

His ’n’ Hers Deviled Eggs
Makes 24
 
You won’t go to a southern picnic or covered-dish supper and not see deviled eggs. Garth and I grew up  eating different versions of this dish, so both varieties are included here. Honestly, I never met  a deviled egg I didn’t like,  so these are both yummy to me!

12   large eggs

His Filling
1⁄4  cup  mayonnaise
2   teaspoons yellow mustard
1   tablespoon butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste

Her Filling
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Paprika for garnish

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let stand for 20 minutes. Pour off the hot water and refill the saucepan with cold water. Crack the eggsshells all over and let them sit in the cold water for 5 minutes. Peel the eggs, cover, and chill for at least 1 hour.


Halve the eggs lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and transfer them to a small bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork, then  stir in the filling ingredients of your choice. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop a spoonful of the mixture into each egg white half. Sprinkle the tops with paprika.

His_n_Hers_Deviled_Eggs

100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime

Today we launched our list of 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime and it's been fun to hear from readers and co-workers about their favorites.  When we came up with our list we were thinking only about books for readers age 12 and under.  Of course, we wanted to include classics like Goodnight Moon and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but we also wanted to have the recent releases that we think are going to be favorites for future generations, like Wonder and The Day the Crayons Quit

What books on this list do you love?  What would you have added if it was your list?  We have a poll on Goodreads where you can vote, and in two weeks we'll announce the Readers Choice version of 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime.

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YA Wednesday: Rainbow Rowell on "Landline," the 90s, and Disney theme parks

LandlineIt's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell and when I met her in person a month ago, it only confirmed my suspicion that she's as fabulous in person as the books she writes. 

Her latest, Landline, is classified as an adult book, but like her YA titles, there is no set age required for entry.   Landline tells the story of a marriage floundering in the wake of career, kids, and the daily grind.  Rowell uses a trick of time to allow her main character, Georgie, to revisit how she and husband Neal found each other and the final hurdle that resulted in a proposal.  Simultaneously, Georgie experiences present day self-doubt, questioning if they should have ended up together in the first place but seeing all the things she loves about Neal in new light. 

Whether you can relate to the marriage or not, at the end of the day it's a story about how two quirky, flawed people can fall in love and take that leap of faith more than once in the same relationship.

I sent Rowell some questions about the book and other things I wanted to know via email:

Seira Wilson: Have you been thinking about/working on this book for a while?  Was Landline always the title?

Rainbow Rowell: I have, yeah. I started plotting it at the same time as Fangirl. I'm not sure why I wrote Fangirl first — maybe because it felt lighter. Maybe because I thought someone else was bound to write a great novel about a fanfiction writer.

I always knew this book would be called Landline. I thought that was such a great title for a novel — I couldn't believe it was up for grabs.

SW: There's a pivotal point in Neal and Georgie’s relationship that Georgie revisits—what moment does that remind you of in your own life (in a relationship or otherwise)?

RR:  Hmmm ... My husband and I never had a breakup the way Georgie and Neal do. But there was a time when we had to decide what to do if we got jobs in different places — and we decided to move together.

SW: Do you have an old-school phone like the yellow one in Landline?  A Metallica t-shirt?  What meaningful object do you have, or wish you had, from the late 90s?

RR:  I have an old red rotary phone.   [um, soo jealous of this!  SW]

I don't have a Metallica T-shirt, but that was a nod to my husband who loves Metallica.

I actually have tons of stuff from the '90s. I still have my favorite shirt, and my favorite vintage sports jacket. I have watches. Stationery. A pair of purple-with-red-ladybugs Doc Martens mary janes. 

I have a hard time letting go of things.

SW: What aspect of your characters—Eleanor, Cath, Beth, Georgie—are most like you?

RR:  Oh, good question!

Eleanor has my stubbornness. The way she does things that she knows will make her stand out — even though she doesn't really want to stand out.

Cath has my anxiety. And my tendency to lose myself in fiction. Also my taste in emergency dance music.

Beth has my sense of humor. When I was writing Attachments, I gave her every joke I'd make myself. (She also has my arms.)

Georgie is good in a room. I'm also good in a room -- even if I'm more terrified than Georgie ever is. And she has my work/family tension. I've never been in her situation, but I know what it's like to feel like there isn't enough of me to go around. 

SW: You’ve written two adult books and two YA books that adults also love—do you approach the writing differently?

RR: No, I don't. I just try to get inside the characters' heads and see the world the way they would see it.

SW: I’m going to Disney World this fall with my 7-year-old and I see from your bio that you like to plan trips there—what three things should be on our “must-do” list?  Are you a roller coaster person, and if so, loops or no loops? What about Disney World do you most enjoy?

RR:  Ha! I love Disney theme parks. I love the theming, the attention to detail, the way every design element — and every sound and every smell — help tell the story.

I'm not much of a roller coaster person, but Disney isn't about thrill rides anyway. 

I have a 7-year-old, too, and a few of our musts are: It's a Small World (because it's gorgeous); the night-time castle show (magical!); and the Norwegian bakery in EPCOT (try the school bread).

SW: What are you working on now/next?

RR: I just finished the first draft of a YA fantasy, so I need to revise that. I think it will be out next fall (unless my editor hates it). And I'm working on the screenplay for Eleanor & Park.

Peter Sis Shares Early Sketches and Talks About "The Pilot and the Little Prince"

PilotLittlePrinceAn acclaimed children's book author and illustrator, Peter Sis' book The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtainabout his childhood in Cold War-era Prague, won a Caldecott Honor in 2008.  Most recently Sis turned his attention to the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The Pilot and the Little Prince.  This picture book for older children (ages 6-up) tells the remarkable story of the author of the children's classic, The Little Prince, and Sis' passion for his subject leaps off the page. This is one of our favorite books for this age--actually, it's a fascinating read for anyone who's read The Little Prince--and we made it one of our Best Books of 2014 So Far.

During Book Expo America in New York last month, Sis was kind enough to do a video interview and share some of his early sketches from his studio in Manhattan.  He's a fascinating storyteller, and watching him quickly flipping through the sketches while speaking so candidly about them is something I found immensely enjoyable. 

 

 

YA Wednesday: July Favorites

It's the middle of summer and Seattle is scorching hot these days.  The best I can do under the circumstances has been to hide out with a fan and distract myself with books.

For the Best YA Books of July list, you'll see something a little bit different--a nonfiction YA title.  Now, this is not to imply that there hasn't been great nonfiction YA titles in months past, but this one, The Family Romanov, was so good it took the spotlight.   I hope you find a book on this month's list to help you beat the heat...

 

FamilyRomanov300The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
There have been no shortage of books written about the Romanovs, particularly the mystery surrounding Anastasia.  The Family Romanov covers some familiar ground but Fleming maintains the perfect balance of detail without overkill, and achieves that "you-are-there" feeling.  Alternating narratives tell the story of the last Tsar's family in the context of the time, not only what was happening in their lives individually and collectively, but also the lives of average Russians. This is some of the most engaging nonfiction I've read in a while and for anyone with an interest in this period of history, The Family Romanov will not disappoint.

 

QueenTearling300The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
This novel is not listed as young adult, but it speaks so well to that reader that we didn't see an age designation as a reason to keep it off the YA list for July.  In book one of a promising new fantasy series, a young woman born to be queen and raised in exile embarks on a quest to save her kingdom from an evil sorceress called the Red Queen.  I really loved some of the fairy tale elements--magical jewels and  loyal knights, a dark queen vs. a simple girl with hidden strengths and royal blood--along with the Game of Thrones style political intrigue.  Definitely a story to immerse yourself in this summer.

 

 

 

ShadowHero300

 

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
I'm not a huge graphic novel reader but this one by the author of the Michael L. Printz award winner, American Born Chinese, and last year's National Book Award finalist, Boxers & Saints, totally grabbed my attention.  In The Shadow Hero, Yang resurrects a Chinese comic superhero from the 1940s, the Green Turtle, and creates his own origin story for the masked crusader.  In Yang's vision, it is a mother's will that pushes young Hank to accept his destiny and become the Green Turtle, in order to fight the crime plaguing the people of Chinatown. This graphic novel has a great classic comic book feel to it while at the same time playing on more sophisticated cultural references and shifts.  If you only read one graphic novel this summer, make it this one.

Sinner300 

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie, oh, Maggie. How thrilled I was to see a companion novel to the Shiver trilogy coming out this month!  Thrilled but then a little nervous too...what if I didn't like it as much?  Senseless, I know, but many years in this business has left me cautious at times.  Plus, it's always nice to be pleasantly surprised (of course it's fabulous!), right?  In Sinner, Cole St. Clair is back in Los Angeles with a spot on a dodgy internet reality show and determined to rekindle his passionate but toxic love affair with Isabel Culpepper.  Their story makes for compulsive reading and fans of the trilogy will love the return of some Wolves of Mercy Falls characters, but this one can also be read as a standalone.

What to Eat This Week: Haute Dogs

HauteDogs500HStill recovering from the excitement of the World Cup finale?  Hotter that hot outside (and inside for those of us without air conditioning...) and don't feel like spending a ton of time on dinner?  My solution: hot dogs.  But not just any dogs--these shall be Haute Dogs, straight from the pages of this very fun and beautifully photographed cookbook.  Here are two of the recipes, both of which seem appropriate as hot dog homage to the streets of Brazil where soccer fans recently wept and to our own book editors World Cup obsession here in Seattle. 

São Paolo Potato Dog - (from page 89 in Haute Dogs)
Place of Origin: São Paolo, Brazil
Other Names: Cachorro Quente Completo

 SaoPauloDog

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking for the craziest hot dog in the world, you’ll likely find it in Brazil. Brazilians take their toppings seriously, and though favorite add-ons  vary from city to city and region to region, you’ll almost always find potato on the hot dogs here. The cachorro quente (pronounced ka-SHO-ho KEN-tche, which translates simply as “hot dog”) is one you’ll find at street carts across São Paolo. Try it completo, with everything, but be warned: it won’t be easy to get your hands (or mouth) around!

 

 

 

Ingredients:
Mashed potatoes
Vinaigrette (store-bought or from scratch, page 160)
Canned or frozen yellow corn
Canned or frozen peas
Classic bun
Beef and pork hot dog
Ketchup
Yellow mustard
Mayonnaise
Chopped tomatoes
Potato chips
Grated cheddar cheese

Kitchen Note: See page 127 for recipes for classic buns, beef and pork hot dogs, condiments, and vinaigrette.

Prep: Make mashed potatoes and set aside, keeping warm if necessary. Whisk together the vinaigrette, if using homemade.Heat the corn and peas until hot according to the instructions on the package.

Assembly: Get out a classic bun. Grill a beef and pork hot dog as instructed on page 16. Coat the inside of the bun with mashed potatoes and place the hot dog on top. Top the dog with a line each of ketchup, yellow mustard, and mayonnaise. Add a handful each of corn, peas, tomatoes, potato chips, and cheddar cheese and finish with a spoonful or two of vinaigrette.

Rio de Janeiro Dog: Eighty-six the mashed potatoes and add a hardboiled quail egg.

Paraíba Dog: Eighty-six the mashed potatoes, potato chips, and peas. Top with potato sticks or crispy shoestring fries.

Minas Gerais Dog: Eighty-six the mashed potatoes and peas. Top with a mixture of cooked ground beef, carrots, red peppers, green peppers, and onions. (Minas Gerais is a Brazilian state known for its distinctive take on the Cachorro Quente.)

****************************************************************************************************************************

Seattle-Style Hot Dog  (from page 83 in Haute Dogs--and these can indeed be found at a popular food cart in downtown Seattle, just look for the long line of people...)
Place of Origin: Seattle,WA
Other Names: Cream Cheese Dog

SeattleStyleHauteDog

 

This strange Seattle creation likely came to be in the 1980s or ’90s when modern variations and the idea of haute dogs began influencing recipes. Not only are these dogs almost impossible to find outside Seattle, they can be tricky to find within Seattle as well. That hasn’t stopped this deliciously spicy and creamy dog from collecting a cult following. Loaded with veggies, jalapeños, sriracha, and cream cheese, these dogs are all about thinking outside the bun.

 Ingredients:
Oil, for sautéing
Finely chopped white onions
Sliced jalapeños
Chopped cabbage
Classic bun
Polish sausage or hot dog
Cream cheese, room temperature
sriracha

 

Prep: Warm a splash of oil in a skillet over medium heat. add onions, jalapeños, and cabbage and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and brown, about 10 minutes.

Assembly: Get out a classic bun. Slice a Polish sausage or hot dog in half and grill it (as in the Flattop Method for split Dogs on page 17). Spread enough cream cheese on the inside of the bun to coat and place the sausage on top. Top with a handful of onions, jalapeños, and cabbage. Add a few drops of sriracha on top.

Let cream cheese come to room temperature before spreading so that it glides smoothly onto the bun.

Kitchen Notes: Anything goes! Use Polish sausage (kielbasa) or a hot dog of your choice. Originally from Vietnam, sriracha is a bright red hot sauce that’s skyrocketed to fame in recent years. It’s available at most grocery stores and other sources (page 162).         

 

 

Recipe Road Test: Jalapeno Poppers from "Man Made Meals"

Last week my fellow editor, Neal, wrote about Steven Raichlen's recent visit to talk barbecuing and his new cookbook, Man Made Meals.  I also got to meet Raichlen when he was here and after flipping through the book while we talked, decided I would try making the Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Roasted Jalapeno Poppers for my Fourth of July party.  Sound mouth-watering? It should, because they totally are.  Below is my road test of this recipe--what worked, what didn't, and one happy accident to repeat.

Jalapenos400

 

First off, the recipe says large jalapenos, and I took that to heart--the ones I used were around 4 inches long and pretty stout.  This worked well for stuffing them with cheese, though I  quickly realized that cutting the pepper in half versus cutting the cap off (both methods are mentioned), was the way to go because, frankly, I couldn't get the cap back on again.

 

 JalapenosStuffed

 

 

The recipe suggests you use whatever cheese you like--I decided to try three: colby, pepper jack, and cream cheese. I wasn't sure how full to pack in the cheese (I did the math but what does 2oz in matchstick pieces of cheese look like?), so I went with my usual motto regarding cheese, "more is better."  I also skipped the cilantro.  It's a polarizing herb and the people that hate it, really hate it and can taste the tiniest bit.  I'll try adding the cilantro to the cheese next time when I'm making a smaller batch.

 

  JalapenosGrillReady

 

 

Raichlen's recipe calls for artisanal bacon, which, for the sake of not going to another store, I chose to interpret as "thick-sliced." But somehow I ended up with regular ol' thin bacon, so instead of a half slice per pepper, I wrapped a whole slice around each one (like cheese, more bacon is better in my world...) and they looked pretty good.

 

You can cook the poppers in the oven or on the grill, and I went for the latter.  The grill, in my case, having been lid-down and shoved in a corner since last summer.  Much to my chagrin, I had completely forgotten how warped (and, let's face it, kind of nasty) the grates are and how much it resembles a grill you might find on a sidewalk with a free sign taped to it.

GhettoGasGrill

 

 

But no matter!  It was July 4th, the cocktails were flowing and a jacked-up grill is just one of those things you take in stride.

 The peppers charred (though admittedly unevenly), the cheese melted and oozed out the sides a bit (I no doubt overfilled them), and some of the bacon fell off, but those Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Roasted Jalapeno Poppers were delicious!

There was no consensus regarding the best cheese, though I think my personal favorite may have been the colby.  And probably as a result of an uneven grill, the peppers didn't soften as much as they appeared to in the cookbook photo, but having a little crunch left in them turned out to be really nice and I'll definitely try to duplicate that next time.  FinishedPoppers

YA Wednesday: Walter Dean Myers 1937-2014

BEA2012_WalterDeanMyers_250I'm so sad to hear that Walter Dean Myers passed away. I had the pleasure to meet him at BEA in 2012 (pictured here), when he was the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and he was delightful.  Myers said that books gave him solace during troubled times as a young person, and in turn his books have touched many young lives. 

The author of over 100 works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Myers won the Coretta Scott King Award multiple times, including a 2014 Coretta Scott King Honor for Darius & Twig.  He also received two Newbery Honors (for Scorpions and Somewhere in the Darkness) and his book, Monster, was the inaugural winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, a National Book Award Finalist, and a New York Times bestseller.  His futuristic young adult novel, On a Clear Day will be published this fall (September 23).  He will be sorely missed.

"I think my life is special. In a way it seems odd that I spend all of my time doing only what I love, which is writing or thinking about writing. If everyone had, at least for part of their lives, the opportunity to live the way I do, I think the world would be a better place.”--Walter Dean Myers

Amazon Asks: Ben Mezrich Brings Down the Mouse

BringingDownMouseFor his latest book, Ben Mezrich put a slight twist on the title of his best-seller, Bringing Down the Housebut this time he's writing for a very different audience--young readers.  Bringing Down the Mouse parallels Mezrich's nonfiction book in a middle grade novel full of non-stop action and excitement, risk, math, and gaming.  See what Mezrich has to say about his new book, Encyclopedia Brown, and his magical radio below.

Amazon:  What's the elevator pitch for your book?

Ben Mezrich:  Bringing Down The Mouse is the story of Charlie "Numbers" Lewis, a twelve year old whiz kid recruited into a secret club of sixth graders who use math and science to beat carnival games; their goal is to bring down Incredo Land, the best amusement park in the world.

Amazon: Why write a middle grade novel (vs. one for young adults)?

Ben Mezrich:  I've always loved adventure stories that involve brilliant kids using their brains to beat systems that seem unbeatable; when I set out to tell Charlie's story, and create this world, I wanted it to feel like a thrill ride, but with a very optimistic, upbeat edge. Charlie's Whiz Kids- his group of nerdy friends- aren't the sort of dark, brooding characters you see in young adult, maybe because I'm not very dark and brooding either. I certainly was a geeky kid myself, but to me, math and science were always these magical things- powerful tools you could use in incredible ways.

Amazon: Did you have a favorite books when you were [your main character] Charlie's age?

Ben Mezrich: I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series. Also the Electric Book, about a kid trapped in a book being written while he tries to escape. But I read just about everything; my dad had a rule when I was 12 that we had to read two books a week before we were allowed to watch TV, and I loved TV--so if became a speed reader from a very early age.

Amazon: What's your most memorable author moment?

Ben Mezrich: There have been so many. Seeing my first book on the stands was cool. Going to the Oscars, and watching Aaron Sorkin win for his adaptation of my book into the movie The Social Network was pretty amazing. Seeing someone reading something I wrote on an airplane--things like that are pretty awesome.

Amazon: What's your most prized/treasured possession and why?

Ben Mezrich: I have an antique console stand-up radio that I bought in a yard sale twenty years ago, that I've always half-believed has magical properties. It's in my office, and it has watched over each of the fifteen books I've written. It also helped me find my wife, which led to my two incredible children, and my sweet, neurotic, epileptic pug, Bugsy. But that's a much longer story, so I'll just leave is simple: my antique radio.

Amazon: What's your lucky number?

Ben Mezrich: 6 and sometimes 3.

Amazon: What's next for you?  Do you see yourself writing more children's books or entering the young adult right?

Ben Mezrich: Both. I have a thriller coming out in September called Seven Wonders. And a nonfiction book early next year. But Bringing Down The Mouse is the first in what I hope to be a many book series, so I'd love to continue writing these stories for many years to come.

 

YA Wednesday: Best YA Books of 2014 So Far

Scary, but true--2014 is basically half over. There are still a LOT of great books to look forward to this fall (Skink--No Surrender, BelzharThe Infinite Sea, etc.,) but this is the time of year when we look back at the ones we've loved over the first six months of the year and do the painful work of picking our 20 favorite YA novels.  The first five are below, and you've heard me rave about them all before so I will spare you another round.  Just know that all the books on the list are ones that I highly recommend--I'm hoping you see some of your own favorites and find a few new ones here, too.

                     Best Teen & Young Adult Books of 2014 So Far

 BOTYSF_YA_Collage

 Here's a taste - the first five:

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Not kidding. love love love this book.

2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor:  A perfect example of how fantastic YA literature can be, whether you are 16 or 46A must-read trilogy in my book.

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs:  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a tough act to follow but Hollow City is compulsive reading and well worth the time between books.  I hope Riggs hurries up on the next one, though...

4. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski:  Star-crossed love and a new heroine to watch.  Throw in a richly imagined world of class warfare, politics, intrigue, and constant action and you've got the first book of an original new trilogy.

5. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: A powerful and ultimately hopeful contemporary novel about the effects of war on those left behind.  Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest.

See the whole list here

 

What to Read in Litchfield Prison: Dana Reinhardt on "We Are the Goldens"

WeAreTheGoldensI'm a big fan of the show Orange is the New Black, and it's been interesting to see the commentary on binge-watching since the long-awaited second season released.  Many readers can relate to this experience, it's basically the same thing as when you "just-one-more-chapter" yourself into finishing a book that's sucked you in, even if it's 4 a.m. and you have to work the next day. 

I recently had the unique experience of binge-reading Dana Reinhardt's book, We Are the Goldens (one of our Best Young Adult Books of June), and also binge-watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, where I was very pleasantly surprised to see the same book I'd just burned through, being read on the show by no less than the maven of Litchfield prison herself (that would be Red). 

I wanted to find out if Reinhardt was already a fan of Orange is the New Black, and what it was like to see her book on the T.V. show everyone's talking about.  Here's what I found out about these questions and more:

Q: For a reader just learning about your book, tell me about We Are the Goldens

Dana Reinhardt: We Are The Goldens is about two sisters, Nell and Layla, who are extraordinarily close, and it’s about what happens when that sort of closeness is threatened, as it inevitably will be, by individual choices. It’s written in the form of a confessional from Nell directly to Layla as she struggles with whether to keep her sister’s secrets. It’s about kids of privilege growing up with overly trusting and distracted parents. It’s about inchoate morality. It’s about the blurry lines between love and friendship. And it’s one big (slightly twisted) love letter to the city of San Francisco.

Q: The book is shown on the new season of Orange is the New Black – were you already a fan of the show?  What did that feel like, to see your new book in that context?

Dana Reinhardt: I’m a huge fan of the show. I think it’s some of the smartest writing on television. The characters are so complex and I love the way as a viewer you get to know them before you really know them, that is, before you know who they are outside of the microcosm of the prison system and what set of circumstances led them there. Seeing Red, the grand dame of Litchfield, reading my book was an absolute thrill, particularly as that moment arrived on our screens just as the debate blew up about whether adults should be embarrassed to read YA literature. Clearly Red is not embarrassed. Nor are the many other OITNB characters shown with YA novels in their hands.

Q: What do you think makes We Are the Goldens such a good crossover adult read?

Dana Reinhardt: I see most young adult fiction, especially realistic young adult fiction simply as coming of age literature, and who doesn’t love a good coming of age story? I know I do. But this book in particular works for the adult reader because it raises some questions about parents and teachers and the environments we trust our children to that maybe aren’t simple to answer. I didn’t want to write a black and white story, and though I know some young readers will see it that way, I don’t think adult readers will.

Q: You’ve said that To Kill a Mockingbird is your favorite book – were you a teenager when you read it, and was it assigned reading?

Dana Reinhardt: I don’t remember what grade I was in when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe 9th? I know I didn’t come to it on my own, because left to my own devices I’d have just re-read a Judy Blume book for the thousandth time. But whenever it was that I was assigned that book, my sense of the world forever shifted. It moved me on every level and I remember thinking: this is a perfect book. I go back to it every 10 years or so, often with a sense of trepidation. What if it isn’t as good as I remember? What if it isn’t perfect? It is. And it is.

Q: What are you reading now and how do you decide what to read next?

Dana Reinhardt: I often read several books at once. Usually I’m listening to something on audio while I take my daily walk in Golden Gate Park with the dog. Sometimes I choose silence, if I need to work out a plot point in whatever I’m currently writing, but most often I listen to YA. I find that most YA lends itself well to audio and it’s where I do the vast majority of my YA “reading”. Right now I’m listening to Siobhan Vivian’s The List, which is wonderfully complex. As far as books that I hold in my hands, I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just recently discovered Tana French. I’m not generally a reader of mysteries or detective novels so I resisted her for a long time, but finally enough people I know and trust pushed hard enough and all I can say is… Whoa. She is a gorgeous writer. I’m also currently re-reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, her companion books on grief and loss and aging. They are the sorts of books to which you will want to return as, inescapably, their themes will impact your life in some way. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

 

YA Wednesday: Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkoski Talk Heroines and Books They Can't Live Without

RuinRising300 WinnersCurse300Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkoski are two of my recent favorites authors of YA fiction.  Rutkoski's first book of her new trilogy, The Winner's Curse was a Best Book of the Month in March, and I'm trying to be patient waiting for the next one...  On Tuesday (6/17), Bardugo wrapped up her Grisha trilogy (I loved the first two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) with the finale Ruin and Rising.  And, just so you know, it's fantastic. 

Both authors have written brilliant heroines and created big, satisfying worlds for their readers.  Below, you'll see what they have to say about both, and the soundtrack they would pair with their books.  We also find out the book they couldn't live without (both hedge their bets, which I can totally relate to...).

Q: What qualities in your heroines do you most admire? What do you most relate to?

Leigh Bardugo: That's a tough question. I guess I admire Alina's courage and resilience a great deal, but I think I respect her honesty the most. She is very much herself even when she doesn't think that's the person people want to see. I suppose I relate most to her sense of humor. Even when things are at their worst, Alina can still laugh at herself. Marie, I loved Kestrel's intelligence, but also that it wasn't a kind of singular intelligence—it was only part of who she was and what she valued. 

Marie Rutkoski: For my part, Leigh, I loved that Alina never forgot where she came from. She’s presented with some very seductive things—power, luxury, attractive young men—but to me she’s always the girl who rubs a scar on her hand and knows exactly where she got it, and how.

Kestrel is very smart, even cunning. Sometimes she’s capable of manipulation. But what I admire most is her kindness. She means well. She senses other people’s limits and respects them. And she’s kind in a very old sense of the word (“kind” means “alike”; it has the same origin as the word “kin”—i.e., “family”). She tries to understand other people’s perspective. In other words, Kestrel is empathetic. I try to be, too.

Q: World-building is a huge part of what makes both of your books so great. What would you like/dislike about living in the worlds you created?

Leigh Bardugo: Dislike? The looming threat of imminent death comes to mind. I'm also not sure how I'd feel about eating roasted lynx or cuckoo. Ravka is a tough place to live if you're not of a particular class, but even if you are, it's a country in the midst of tremendous upheaval. So it's hard for me to imagine sleeping well at night. But I would love to attend the Winter Fete at the Grand Palace, or see the Grisha in their workshops, or spend an afternoon aboard one of Sturmhond's ships.

Marie Rutkoski: Um, can I spend an evening aboard Sturmhond’s ship? I would like that very much, thanks.

I wouldn’t mind living in Herran well before the invasion. It was a place that revered the arts. I confess: I’m kind of arty.

But living in Kestrel’s time and place would be very difficult. Her people are constantly at war, are very good at it, and enslave the populations they conquer. Living in a society that practices slavery would be abhorrent. And even if I weren’t a soldier, I would find it hard to live in such a militaristic society.

Q: If your book/series had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?

Leigh Bardugo: Placebo's cover of "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush is basically the Darkling's theme song as far as I'm concerned. "Cosmic Love" by Florence + the Machine, "I Will Come" by Alpha Rev, "Mountain Sound" by Of Monsters and Men, "Stubborn Love" by the Lumineers, "Sorcerer" by Stevie Nicks, and "Polegnala e Todora (Love Song)" from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares.  Also, nothing would ever get written without Ludovico Einaudi.

Marie Rutkoski: “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” by Arcade Fire, “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn, “A+E” by Goldfrapp, “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake, “If It’s True” by Anaïs Mitchell featuring Justin Vernon and Greg Brown, “Green” by Brendan James (but a live, acoustic version a friend gave me that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I suspect it’s bootlegged. I don’t care for the original recorded version).

The song I listened to a lot while writing the sequel to The Winner’s Curse is Florence + the Machine’s cover of “Take Care.”

Q: What book do you own that you couldn’t live without, and why?

Marie Rutkoski: This question makes me wish I had a precious first edition or a book passed down through generations of my family. The book I most enjoy rereading is Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; I tend to read it when I’m sick. Makes me feel lots better. But if we’re talking about one book that I’m going to be reading over and over again for the rest of my life, I’d have to go with the collected works of Shakespeare, since he’s a big reason why I’m a writer, and because I know I can reread anything of his and never get bored. But that’s a cheating sort of answer.

Leigh Bardugo: It's a strategic sort of answer. Pride and Prejudice is a big comfort read for me too. (Weirdly, when I was a kid, my comfort read was Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. Maybe because high school was basically prison.) I think I'm going to waffle and go with either Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles (in which case I also need a great dictionary and maybe an OED) or the complete Harry Potter.

Q:  What was the best piece of advice you ever got?  And from whom?

Marie Rutkoski: A friend of mine, Jeremiah, who died much too young, said that it’s best to accept people at face value. Believe what they say. A former adviser in graduate school, James Shapiro, when I was working on my dissertation, said, “People just want to hear a good story. What’s your story?” That’s true for writing--even academic stuff, which I sometimes do--but also for life. If you listen and look, you’ll see that people are telling stories all the time: through gossip, memories, images, songs. And Matthew Arnold, in a poem, said, “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!” That might be the best advice.

Leigh Bardugo: That answer makes me so sad that we're not touring again together. (Anyone reading this should know that Marie Rutkoski is a lovely person to be stuck in an airport with.) The best life advice I ever got was probably from Frank Herbert's Dune. That book is all about adapting and preparation. Also, vengeance. But the words that come to me most often, particularly with respect to writing, is by Yeats: "Be secret and exult, / Because of all things known / That is most difficult."

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

August 2014

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