Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bachelection

I know the baking half of this blog has been sorely lacking these past couple of weeks, and I apologize. But the good news is, it's finally the season for fresh fruit, and I just can't get enough. I've been cooking up many many recipes in my head this week, and I can't wait to try them out. Be on the lookout--the plan is grocery shopping ASAP and all kinds of breads, cookies, and crumbles to come.

In the meantime, I've obviously been reading. Lately, my reading list works something like this: finish last page of one book, deep breath, brief time for reflection, look around, grab nearest book in sight and begin reading. It's may not be the most scientific of processes, nor is it helping me to work my way through my long long "to read" list, but it's given me some interesting titles.

Most recently, that process led me to The Selection.

I loved the concept of this quick YA read. Basically, it's The Bachelor version of a futuristic dystopian world (or, in other words, the genre YA lit today can't seem to get enough of, mixed with a new unique concept). I actually watched the most recent finale of The Bachelor. Yep, I sat for an hour (or was it two? Oh, God.), and stewed in what a strange concept it is for these women to drop everything to surround an attractive guy as everyone searches for love. Ideally, the lucky bachelor falls in love with one--or, as the ratings will have it, many!--of these women, and chooses one to whom he proposes in the finale, and the two live happily ever after, so long as they both should...remain in the spotlight, it seems. And then they may or may not get a divorce. Actually, the kicker to me is that while the guy hopes to fall in love with at least one of the woman, the women are all expected to be in love with him. But, I digress. Obviously, The Bachelor itself is a really disturbing concept to me on many levels, so I knew this would be an interesting read since, ideally, it would bring many of the issues with these sorts of forced courtships to the surface.

In The Selection, America Singer and thirty four other women are given the opportunity to head off to the royal palace from their homes (be they rich or for poor) to compete for the heart of Prince Maxon and, ultimately, his hand in marriage. For even the richest of the girls, this means a huge step up the social ladder, but America doesn't want any of it--her heart is already taken, and she knows a life of royalty with Maxon isn't the life for her. Or so she thinks...

For me, the best part of this book was sadly, as I find it to be in so many of these types of novels, the concept. That being said, it was a very quick read, and I stayed wrapped up in the concept throughout. Worth a read, if you're still looking for interesting takes on the dystopian genre.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pretty Please (With Frosting On Top)

I'm terribly sorry, forgive me please. Pretty please? With sugar on top? What about with frosting on top?

A couple of weeks ago, I made 70+ cupcakes and 60+ cookies for my boss's baby showers (personal and at-work showers). She chose the cupcake flavors, of course: vanilla bean pound cake with pink vanilla buttercream icing (the ones pictured above) and maraschino cherry with white vanilla buttercream. I baked them all in these adorable animal print liners to go along with her safari themed shower, and although I don't have a picture of it, she added super cute animal toppers, much like (if not exactly) the ones pictured here.

For the work shower, I made chocolate chip cookies, using my old faithful recipe but swapping in pink M&M's in two different shades for a little pizzaz. Gotta love that M&M's World, complete with their separated-by-color collection, is on my way home(ish) from work...even if it means braving Times Square at rush hour.

Obviously I haven't blogged in a while, but in that time I was able to read Insurgent, the much awaited (okay, okay, I didn't actually have to wait all that long, but I was late to the party!) sequel to Divergent.

I found the book to be just as fast-paced as it's predecessor, incredibly well thought-out, exciting and well written. I still identified (maybe a little too much) with Tris, and I once again turned the pages as quickly as I could as I tried to find out how her story would turn out. I cried (you caught me). And best of all, it turns out I wasn't just infatuated with this book as a concept...or maybe I was, but I was still in love with it when I put the second book down (and that's saying something). My only true gripe is probably one of the best complaints a book can receive from me: "But what happens neeeext?1"

Ms. Roth herself, much as her talent at only a few years older than myself both (self-loathingly) saddens me and intimidates me, was also wonderful. Hearing her speak and read a passage from the book was a great opportunity, both in the way that meeting authors I love always is and also in how genuine she was. I have mentioned many times how much I love the idea of becoming obsessed with one idea and letting it take root* until it grows into that sort of all-consuming story that those of us who love books wait for: that's Harry Potter in a nutshell. Divergent and Insurgent were sort of like that for me, and so meeting their creator I was kind of in awe.

I had been meaning to read this next book for some time for two reasons:

1. It is contemporary. Well, if not set exactly contemporary, it is at the very least not set in the dystopian future that is surely coming our way, if the YA authors of this generation have anything to say about it.
2. It is this year's Newbery Medal winner.

In one scene within the book, Jack is smelling books. To his friend Bunny, he comes off a little bit crazy, but call me crazy for agreeing with him...

"'I love to sniff the insides of books,' I said in a whisper. 'Because each book has its own special perfume.'" (Gantos 238)

Congratulations, Jack Gantos on the Newbery win!

*I'd also like to mention that the cover of Insurgent, on top of being absolutely gorgeous, represents this idea stunningly.