Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fast Facts on Author Emily Casey

Fast Facts is a series focusing on authors, artists, musicians--anyone who creates something we enjoy--by presenting YOU, the reader, with some quick, fun little facts you never knew about them, or even find out what kind of things our talented artists recommend.  Notes from the Nerdette is honored to present our very first edition of Fast Facts with author Emily Casey!

Emily CaseyGeneral Facts
Name: Emily Casey
Claim to Fame: Author of The Fairy Tale Trap

Favorite Book of All-Time: Soulless by Gail Carriger
Favorite Book Series of All-Time: Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Favorite Childhood Book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Last Book Read: The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Movies and Music
Favorite Movie: Ever After
Favorite Movie Series: Back to the Future
Favorite Music Artist: Muse
Writing Music: Muse, Taylor Swift, Enya, How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack

Writing (and when there is a lack thereof)
Writing Tips: First drafts need to be messy; Write every chance you get!
Non-Writing Pastimes: Gardening, Twitter, Running

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fairy Tale Trap Blog Tour Giveaway!

Notes from the Nerdette is very proud to announce our very first contest--as well as our very first time as one of the legs of a blog tour for an author!  Thank you, Emily Casey, who is generously donating her eBook, a young adult fantasy novel entitled The Fairy Tale Trap, to the winner of our contest!

Basic contest rules:
  1. In order to enter, simply fill out this form.
  2. DO NOT send multiple copies of the form.  If you have made a mistake on the form, simply contact us at notesfromthenerdette (at) gmail (dot) com, and we will amend the problem for you.
  3. If you do multiple entries (e.g., more promoting of the giveaway) after submitting the form, likewise simply email us and you will be given the multiple entries (provided, of course, you supply evidence for your entries).
  4. The contest ends on FEBRUARY 2, 11:59 PST (exactly in two weeks' time).  All entries made or submitted after that time will not be included.
  5. Contest winner will be selected purely at random by's random number service.
  6. Contest winner will be announced on February 3.
  7. If you are the winner of the contest, we will send you an email, but YOU MUST REPLY TO IT WITHIN ONE WEEK (the e-mail will be sent on February 3, and we must hear from you by February 10, 11:59 PST).  If we do not hear from you then, we will pick another winner.  The one-week reply rule applies to ALL winners chosen, whether the first, second, third, et cetera.
  8. Affiliates with Notes from the Nerdette ARE allowed to enter, but will be given absolutely NO advantage.
  9. If you choose to link our contest or promote it in any way, you MUST include a link.  WE WILL BE CHECKING.  If an entrant submits a link to their promotion and does not have the promotion up, that entry will be voided.
How To Get Multiple Entries:
  1. Answer the question: "What is your favorite fairy tale/folk tale/myth?"
  2. Dedicating an ENTIRE blog post to promoting Notes from the Nerdette (stating its mission and such, or even interviewing one of us contributors--worth five entries!)
  3. Promoting Notes from the Nerdette or the giveaway in any way other than a whole blog post (linking, tweeting/retweeting, tumblring, facebooking, et cetera).  Please make sure that your link is not set to private and is visible to us.
  4. Following @NerdetteNotes, @EmilyCaseysMuse, @IvyThornBooks or any of NftN's contributors' Twitter accounts.
  5. Friending Emily Casey on Goodreads or liking her Facebook page--or even friending Ivy Thorn!
  6. Commenting on an Emily Casey or The Fairy Tale Trap-related post that is on Notes from the Nerdette (two entries! and make your comment thoughtful! these posts, as of now, will be forthcoming)
  7. Commenting on any non-Emily Casey or The Fairy Tale Trap-related post on Notes from the Nerdette. (make a thoughtful comment, please; one entry per comment but try not to totally spam posts ;) )
  8. Following Notes from the Nerdette (see the sidebar on the side).
  9. Any other form of promotion--just give us proof!
Good luck to all of you!  Any questions should be directed to admin Jacqueline at notesfromthenerdette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Want to keep following along on Emily's blog tour?  Head over to Angela Scott's Whimsy and Writing tomorrow!

Also, stay tuned: find out Emily Casey's pop culture recommendations tomorrow (she has really good taste!)!

*The Fairy Tale Trap by Emily Casey

The Fairy Tale Trap (Ivy Thorn, #1)Where I Got the Book From: Author gave me code to receive a free eBook via Smashwords

In Short: adventurous, funny, heartwarming

If you know me well, I have a penchant for retold fairytales.  Honestly, who doesn't?  The story telling formula of girl meets boy, one (or both) of whom is royalty, and girl and boy fall in love is so universal and speaks to everyone in some way--in fact, it is so ubiquitous and so close to the heart of every human being, that, after mankind got tired of compiling such stories in the nineteenth century, it started making its own spins on them, changing and tweaking or even adding onto them during the twentieth century and lasting well into the twenty-first century.  Hey, Disney made a whole franchise out of it.  So it seems fairy tale retelling is here to stay.

And a good thing, too.  If fairy tale retelling didn't exist, we wouldn't have a stash of soundtracks from Disney flicks (ssshhhh....).  Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, and Shannon Hale wouldn't know what to write (well, okay--they're geniuses, and they've written non-fairy tale retellings before, so they'd still figure out something, but imagine a world with no Ella Enchanted or The Goose Girl!  Take that and sing it, John Lennon).  Drew Barrymore would have been out of work in 1997 when she could have been filming Ever After.  And don't even get me started on other writerly folks like Jessica Day George and Juliet Marillier.

But thankfully, there are fairy tale retellings.  And we will never tire of them.  So when I heard about Emily Casey's The Fairy Tale Trap, the premise of the book definitely appealed to me.  What fun!  A "Beauty and the Beast" (my second favorite fairytale--the first is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" which is basically the same thing but with a polar bear and lots and lots of snow) retelling, but with a modern-day girl thrown into the story.

The heroine, Ivy Thorn, is a military brat just trying to settle into the home she and her mother have just moved into while waiting for her father to return home.  But moving is the least of Ivy's problems--when she's thrown into the tale of "Beauty and the Beast" against her will by a completely creepy and almost dictatorial pixie, things can only turn out to be more complicated.  A mysterious spell, the enchanted prince (enchanted meaning, of course, in beast form), and the eponymous pretty gal continue to haunt Ivy as she makes her way through the tale, seemingly for the pure enjoyment of the pixie who just loves to throw monkey wrenches into the story to make the situation all the more twisted for Ivy.

The Fairy Tale Trap could be easily described as a mixture of Enchanted (but set backwards, with a twenty-first century girl thrown into a fairytale) and Spirited Away, with its strong female lead who must use her strengths if she wants to return home.  (Both are fabulous movies, by the way, if you've never seen either.)  I'm usually very critical when authors of fiction write novels about characters thrown into odd situations, as quite often, writers fall into the "that-character-would-never-think-or-act-like-that" or "things-would-never-work-out-that-way" follies of literature.  However, Ms. Casey did a wonderful job portraying not only Ivy's emotions, but also how a young girl not too keen on fairy tales would react to being practically kidnapped and tossed into the plot of one.  Ivy is a character readers will root for, as she's strong, smart, and, dare I say it, snarky (we love snark!).  Ms. Casey is at the moment writing the follow-up to this novel, and I'm eager to find out what will become of dear Ivy!  (As a side note: hooray for a person-of-color starring in a fantasy novel, much less a fairy tale retelling!  As a POC myself, I find it pretty rare to find them in YA--so kudos to Ms. Casey for making Ivy one!)

Red Flags: This was a very clean book--a bit of blood mentioned once, and a few (rather comical) scenes regarding bodily functions (maybe not a good idea to eat while reading those! ;) ), but otherwise completely clean.

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Writing: 8/10
Originality: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Overall: 47/50

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy
Fun Links:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

*The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Where I Got the Book: Christmas present from my sister who purchased it from Amazon

In Short: dual point of view, character delving, chilling

I was really excited to begin this book. I had read all of Stiefvater's Shiver trilogy and had enjoyed the romance and the myth woven together. What can I say? I'm a fantasy girl. Also, shortly after its release the book was optioned to become a movie (IMDb shows it in development with a release date of 2015). The Scorpio Races, however, was nothing like that trilogy, however, still really enjoyable.

Kate "Puck" Conolly is an orphan with two brothers (one older, one younger) with a careful watch on the ever thinning contents of the pantry and the jar that holds all the money they have. Sean Kendrick who was abandoned by his mother and watched his father die is the hired "horse whisperer"/trophy racer at the Malvern stables. The Scorpio Races are what drive the two together and the haunting, terrifying, hungry, and beautiful water horses that come asore at the end of October may be the death of them.

On the small island of Thisby the Scorpio Races run on the first of November hold the island's heritage and the greatest source of income for the merchants there. They also, however, are the cause of many deaths. The year Puck decides to join is the first year a woman has ever dared to race. She races to save her family. Sean races for freedom.

My Thoughts: This book started out slow for me, but you get to know a great deal about the characters, the island, and you feel the importance of an event because of this. Once the characters started taking shape in my mind, however, I found the book to be an absolute riveting read. For someone looking for a book as filled with action as one of the Percy Jackson books, I would say borrow first, then buy. Like in Shiver there is romance in the book, but--a little to my disappointment--Stiefvater doesn't dwell on it for extremely long. In all honesty though, the brief moments of romance fit the characters that she had created, so I believe she did them justice.

Red Flags: Little bit of language. There isn't profanity throughout the book, but there are a few instances of curse words as well as a few innuendos and uncooth words. I think the reason Stiefvater chose this diction though is to emphasize and bring a ring of authenticy to the island and fact that a young woman was throwing herself into what had been historically a man's sport. Also, the book--about blood thirsty horses--is a bit violent. You are a witness to death, brutality, and practices that seem barbaric.

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Writing: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Overall: 49/50

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Original Release Date: October 18, 2011
Recipe for November Cakes:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Fangirl's TV Recap: Downton Abbey 2x01

Pardon the little hiatus--just a few days!--in our posting schedule.  We're back!  And we'd like to introduce our new feature, "A Fangirl's TV Recap"!  Kicking off this new feature is admin/founder Jacqueline, who will be fangirling/recapping one of her favorite shows of all-time, Downton Abbey.  (Be forewarned of much fangirling, much fandom-related items, possible shipping, DEFINITE SPOILERS--so step carefully!, rambling, ranting, and other goodies.  Feel free to chime along in our comments!)

Downton, oh, Downton, how have we Americans been without your presence in our daily lives for almost a year?!  Julian Fellowes, torturing us with the ultimate cliffhanger--"we are now at war with Germany!"--at the end of season one, and then stabbing our lovely Mary/Matthew ship with Mary's complete idiocy (darn you, Mary!).  So when the second season of Downton finally rolled around last Sunday night, of course I was glued to the TV for two hours until eleven at night (and so what if I had my first day of the quarter the next day?).  Let me try to go as chronologically as I can with the episode, but you have been warned of any gushing and such.
  • WAR. ZOMG. It's much more in-your-face (season one saw very little violence, with the exception of William beating up Thomas on the kitchen floor) with some blood off-screen.  C'mon, I wasn't the only one who was like, "MATTHEW, DON'T DIE.  WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T. FREAKING. DIE."
  • Mary.  My gosh.  She holds so much in.  Listen to Carson!  Be honest with yourself!  Sheesh!
  • Thoughts on Lavinia: okay.  From the onset, just hearing about her makes it seems like she's the kind of gal you'd love to hate.  I certainly made the assumption that Zoe Boyle probably has a squeaky voice ("like the mice in Cinderella", as Joe Fox from You've Got Mail would say), but she doesn't, so you automatically can't get annoyed by her.  And then when Sir Richard Carlisle is being a total jerk and bullying her, you don't want to hate her anymore, and, in a way, you kind of want to say, "Lavinia, you're a really sweet girl, but can you stop ruining the Marthew ship?  Please?"
  • O'Brien!  I think everyone was determined to hate her at the beginning of Season Two, but, just like her hair, she's toned down quite a bit.  Even though she does once seem to be trying to ruin plans, she does so in a way that she thinks will be beneficial to the family--aww.  Was I the only one cheering her on when she was making fun of Ethel?
  • Oh, and speaking of Ethel...what a brat.  I want Gwen, the nicer ginger, back!  (okay, I don't mean that: Gwen, keep your secretary job, but Ethel's just a pain in the bum and you were so much sweeter than her)  Why do I feel like she's going to be a rascal later this season?  I'm hoping she has SOME redeeming qualities...she seemed pretty cut up by the end of the first ep.
  • And my all-time favorite ship, BAnna (not a misspelling)!  GAH.  Okay, so maybe they have kind of an age gap.  And maybe he's kind of married.  And maybe this is totally like "downstairs Jane Eyre".  But GAH.  They're so. freaking. adorable.  But of course, Vera has to come in and ruin everything. *grumble grumble*
  • Even though Molesley tries to ruin the BAnna ship a little, there's something so adorable about the fact that in ye olde days of King Edward, instead of texting a girl to say, "heyyyy gurllll u fineeee...wanna go out for some pizza?", they would lend each other books and ask each other to read them to share opinions about them with each other.  Sigh.  Just another reason I love the olden days and disapprove of the twenty-first century.
  • Thomas....hmm....I feel like he's softened up a bit like his partner-in-crime, O'Brien, no?  As my mom pointed out a few days ago, even though viewers may hate him initially because of all the things he did in Season One, he still has a very human side of him in this first ep that people that empathize with.  I just hope he doesn't try to ruin anything again this season.  It's bad enough having Vera Bates as a sort of unfortunately-completely-sane-and-thus-knows-what-she's-doing Bertha Rochester nee Mason, and that Sir Richard Carlisle...he certainly looks like he has something up his sleeve for this season. :-/
  • Daisy!  What in the world do you mean when you say you and William aren't sweethearts?  Dare you ruin the Dailliam ship?  GAH.  I'm so nervous for William now.  William!  Don't you die, either!
  • A part of me also really likes the Carson/Mrs Hughes ship.  A lot.  They're just so sweet!  GAH.
  • The whole Edith-at-the-farm plotline just felt like it threw the whole story off a bit.  It was kind of off-kilter.  It's highly uncharacteristic, I think--I don't know why it was added in, as it seems like a very haphazardly written portion just so that Little Miss Middle Child isn't so left out while Mary mopes and Sybil gets to be a nurse.  Was it to show that Edith isn't such a snob that she doesn't mind associating--and practically canoodling--with farmers?  I don't know.  Does Mrs Drake get to exact revenge on Edith for crushing on/kissing her husband?  Unless this plotline goes any farther in the second episode, I don't really see the whole point of adding it in. 0_o
  • Last but not least...Sybil!  Branson!  Much to many Sybson shippers' chagrin, I'm sure, Branson had only a few lines in the first episode, but I have know doubt that his role will grow.  On a second thought...shows tend to make their characters back-track a little: they forget a little forward action they took in the season finale, and then suddenly seem to forget that action in the next season's premiere and start practically from square one.  This formula--if you can even call it that, since it's so frustrating--just happened with Sybil.  She briefly holds Branson's hand in the first season's finale, and by the next season she's like, "OMG wut?  Branson, this totally can't work because I'm a lady and you're just a chaffeur.  And, like, I *may* have had a crush on a few other higher class dudes, but they all kind of died in the war."  Um, Sybil dear, don't forget you held Branson's hand in the season finale.  Apparently that's slipped out of your mind.
Nonetheless, as Masterpiece Classic hostess Laura Linney (love her!) said about this particular Downton ep, it was DEFINITELY worth the wait.  Can we expect another action/drama-packed second ep tonight at 9/8 C?  I sure hope so!  (And, tonight, the Golden Globes had better be as generous to our favorite series as they were during the Emmys!)

Downtonians, what do you think?  Any predictions?  Favorite ships?  Spoilers are allowed in comments (so be forewarned, new Downtonians, if you're still making your way through season one), but please limit it only to the first episode of Season Two!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Resolution

N.B. This isn't quite what I'm driving at with the rest of this post.
Ever since I started attending grade school, my family and I would have a little tradition.  It's probably not unlike yours, unless you're the kind who gets invited to a New Year's Eve party every year: the TV would be on, tuned in to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, my parents would be running around to get the Martinelli and its appropriate fancy glasses (or they'll watch the TV and make some amazed comment about how old Dick Clark is/looks), and I'd have the job of running and getting pens and paper.

Pens. And paper.

Why, you ask?  To write down our resolutions, of course!  Promising we'd be better people every year, accomplish something amazing--you know the drill.  Around the time I hit middle school, though, that latter tradition kind of, well, died.  We didn't sit down and write resolutions anymore.  And once I got into blogging, I started just posting my resolutions instead.  Which is kind of what I'm doing now.


My resolution this year?  To not have a resolution.  I think I once remember reading with my mom in People or some like magazine many years ago about an actress (possibly Hilary Duff, but I can't remember for certain) who said that her resolution was to not make one at all.  Back when I heard that, I was bewildered.  Why would you want to do such a thing?  Resolutions are fun!  They're great!  They make you a better person.

Call me jaded or whatnot, but I don't think like that anymore.  Actually, to be really honest, I stopped thinking like that since last week.  I thought about what resolutions I wanted to make for 2012, and the "resolutions" that ran through my head were the same exact ones I had last year.  Ones I didn't accomplish, such as finishing my novel, reading a gazillion books, exercising more, blogging more (though perhaps on this tenet I've improved a wee bit within the past few weeks)...and it just got me more frustrated than anything (I was also probably suffering under this weird stress-anger thing from a wee mental/nervous breakdown to do said novel I was writing, but that's a long and different story).  Of course I've set goals for myself--I'm not an aimless person.  But I've realized that resolutions don't always make you a better person.  They don't always push you as much as you wish they did.  And when that ball drops in Times Square, you're not going to suddenly have the urge to accomplish much more than you did a second before.  Make goals for yourself, sure--but why limit to a year?  The difference between one year and the next is a mere minute: make lifetime goals, ones you know you can accomplish.

I still like watching the last seconds of the year tick by on TV, and I like clanging glass cups with my family and drinking Martinelli's or soda afterwards.  And yes, I still would love to be able to exercise more and perfect playing "Hallelujah" on the guitar and finish that goshdarn novel.  But if I'm going to accomplish them, it won't be just to check off a resolution.  It'll be because I want to accomplish it gratify a lifetime goal.

As a side note: If you're one of those people who REALLY take your resolutions seriously, I congratulate you, and please don't be offended by my post.  It's just that I don't know many people who do, including myself, as I find, and I think the only way to really have and fulfill a resolution would be to set mini-goals for yourself throughout the year in each month to fully accomplish it.  But who really does that?!  Again, if you do, cue the applause.  But you, like, save people's lives everyday, too, or something?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

When I decided to share the recipe this was all that was left.
I made these for a family Christmas party this year and everyone loved them. My husband and I found them to be a little bitter so if you don't like semisweet chocolate, then I recommend you going for milk chocolate instead.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 - 6 oz. package semisweet or milk chocolate pieces
2 Tablespoons peanut butter (optional)
Cooking spray
  1. Lightly coat an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray and set aside
  2. Combine crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon inn a medium mixing bowl
  3. Add 3/4 cup peanut butter and syrup to the crumb mixture, mixing just until blended
  4. Press mixture evenly into pan and set aside
  5. Place chocolate morsels in a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a pot because you don't have fancy cookware) over simmering water or melt them in a microwave safe container--stirring occasionally--until completely melted
  6. Stir morsels until melted
  7. Spread evenly over surface of peanut butter mixture
  8. (Optional) Swirl 2 tablespoons peanut butter into warm chocolate using a knife for marble effect
  9. Chill until chocolate is set, cut into squares to serve
I re-made this recipe before it was posted and realized that I had a glass measuring cup with a spout that would be a whole lot safer and easier than my makeshift double broiler.  The first picture is with semi-sweet and the below picture is with milk chocolate.
Again, I didn't think to snap a photo until most was gone.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Addiction of the Week 2.1: Beautiful Small Machines

    Happy New Year, fellow Nerds and Nerdettes! Funny, AotW (Addiction of the Week) 1.0 only had one post (on Wakey!Wakey!), but since 2012 is already here (yikes!), AotW has to start a new edition--2.0! (Anyone, it makes it sound spiffy.  Like it's iTunes or something.)

    So to ring in the New Year, I thought I should share this little indie folk-electronica band I've been really liking lately--Beautiful Small Machines (if you've heard of Bree Sharp, this is her new project).  I'm tempted to buy this duo's EP, Robots in Love, especially after I'm pretty much obsessed with their song "Counting Back to 1", which, to me, sounds like a mix of Metric and a spunkier Au Revoir Simone or the The Submarines.  Listen to it below, and see if you get addicted, too!  (And catch the Ender's Game references!)

    Another song with very, very interesting lyrics is "Robots in Love", which is basically about a broken-hearted nerd(ette?).  Sounds like Beautiful Small Machines should be a welcome addition to any Nerdette's playlist--what do you say? :)