Levine_ Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)At birth, Ella is cursed with the gift of obedience by a well-meaning, but foolish fairy. She is doomed to fulfil any command given to her. For the first fourteen years of her life, her mother and Mandy, the cook, manage to keep her safe from anyone who might use the curse against her. But as Ella’s fifteenth birthday approaches, her mother falls ill and dies, prompting Ella’s often-absent father to return.

Thrust into a new world of finishing schools, where anyone could stumble across her secret, Ella becomes determined to break the curse by any means.

Having heard great things about Gail Carson Levine, I’ve been meaning to read Ella Enchanted for years now. I was recently given a copy, which seemed as good an opportunity as any. The novel is probably aimed at a slightly younger age group than I usually read—early teens, rather than late teens—but it is every bit as enchanting as I had been promised.

I had doubts about a book that focuses on a girl who has to be physically obedient; after all, I’m not overfond of female characters being obedient when they don’t have to be. But, while Ella is cursed to obey, she has room for defiance and makes the most of it. Despite her affliction, she’s witty, playful, and exuberantly confident, which makes it a pleasure to be in her head.

The world Ella inhabits is a charming, magical adventure of a place. Inhabited by gnomes, elves, centaurs, and ogres, Ella’s journey is a colourful one. Based loosely on the Cinderella fairy-tale, Ella Enchanted is full of wicked step-sisters, balls, indifferent fathers, fairy godmothers, and the handsome prince— all with a little more depth than the original. Prince Char is especially well-characterised. Far from the empty trophy of the traditional Cinderella story, he is nuanced and feels real. His personality is not as vivacious as Ella’s, but he suits her. Their senses of humour match and both are able to switch between playful and serious with ease.

Despite Ella Enchanted being for a younger group, it touches on some moral themes that are complicated enough to keep older readers engaged. Sacrifice, love, and determination are all recurring threads that hold the story together.

 

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

HarperCollins (1997)

ISBN: 9780006755487



Revis_millionAcross the Universe pulled me in with nothing but its beautiful cover and the amazing synopsis! Who would have thought that the human race would travel for 300 years to find another planet that was habitable?!

When I read it, I loved it! Not only did the story live up to the synopsis that sucked me in, but I also couldn’t get enough of Elder and Amy together! I liked that they weren’t too mushy, but instead realistic.

I am so happy that I had A Million Suns already sitting on my bookshelf before I even finished Across the Universe, or else I would have had to run out to Walmart in the middle of the night to see if they had a copy! I finished Across the Universe at two a.m. and started reading A Million Suns that same night … morning?

Because I read them back to back, I didn’t need a summary of the first book. I was ready to get into the good stuff and that’s exactly what Beth Revis did! SHE ROCKS!

Things aren’t the same on Godspeed anymore; Eldest is gone, and it’s Elders turn to take charge and lead Godspeed as well as its inhabitants. With the decision not to use phydus in the water sources, being leader is a lot harder than Elder ever thought it would be.

But no matter how tough things get, Elder is determined not to drug his people like Eldest did. While Godspeed seemed to be on track, Elder was just informed that it isn’t. Instead, it might behind by a hundred or so years. Godspeed isn’t as simple as Elder, Amy, or anyone else who’s living on it, thought.

Besides these problems, dead bodies are being scattered throughout the ship, each with a phydus patch on their body and a note that says “Follow the Leader”. This has never happened before and Elder has no idea who is doing it. Not everyone has the ability to get their hands on phydus patches, which only leaves a few people as suspects.

Amy is dealing with her own problems as well. She may never see her parents again, especially if Godspeed is that far behind schedule. Orion has left clues behind for her, telling her that she doesn’t know about everything going on Godspeed. Unsure if she should tell Elder, Amy takes off on her own to do some searching.

Supplies are running low, people aren’t doing their jobs, bodies with patches are being found with increasing frequency, and one of Elder’s supposed friends is trying to take over and rule Godspeed. Things aren’t the same without the phydus patches that made people do and believe whatever Eldest said. But Elder isn’t giving up.

Things may seem bad, but the solution to all these problems is a lot closer than Elder or Amy thought!

With the massive amount of love I had for Across the Universe, I was worried that A Million Suns wouldn’t live up to my expectations. But now, looking back, I have no idea why I was so worried. If I had to pick between them, I wouldn’t be able to. Both books were amazing!

There wasn’t a slow moment in A Million Suns, which I found necessary as not much can happen on a ship like Godspeed. With the clues, the bodies being found, and with the one guy trying to overthrow Elder, my mind was racing! I was trying to figure out what Amy and Elder were overlooking when they were trying to figure out clues, or discover who was killing these people!

Amy has finally accepted that Elder isn’t her only option, but instead the option she has chosen. (If you’ve read the first book, you might remember when she told Elder this.) The two couldn’t be more different, or more perfect for one another!

My mind is officially mush, because it was blown so many times! The only thing I regret is not buying the third book right away! UGH! Now I have to wait!



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnWhat’s better than chocolate eggs at Easter? Chocolate creme eggs hidden in cupcakes, of course! Even better, with a few cheats, this is a quick, simple recipe that’s easy to make with a bunch of kids and minimal mess – and they taste as good as they look, especially when they’re bitten into!

 

 

Half fill the cupcakes cases, then add a frozen chocolate eggWhat You Need:

300 grams caster sugar

300 grams of softened butter

6 eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

60 grams of cocoa (I used Cadbury brand)

240 grams of self raising flour

24 mini creme-filled Easter eggs. I used a mixture of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, caramel-filled, strawberry-filled and mint.

24 cup cake cases. Good quality ‘foil’ cases work better for this recipe (though not essential)

2 tubs of commercial vanilla frosting. This is part of the ‘cheat’ bit.

Various aerosol food colours (colour in a can)

Various Easter-themed sugar decorations or melted chocolate

 

EE cupcakes 2How it’s Done:

Freeze your eggs for a few hours, overnight is best.

Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line two by twelves cupcake tins with the cases. Using an electric beater, beat the sugar and butter until it lightens in colour and begins to ‘fluff’. Beat in the eggs on at a time, and then the vanilla. At this stage, your mix will probably look pretty ghastly and have begun to curdle. Don’t worry! It will all come back together with the next step – adding the flour and cocoa. As I’ve mentioned in previous recipes, this is a good time to remember to use the spill guard on your mixer, or to stir through the flour slowly. Unless, of course, you like to wear flour…

 

 

Nom! Creme Egg CupcakeNow, don’t be thrown by the fact this is quite a stiff mixture. It needs to be that way to stop the eggs dropping. One mixed through, add a large teaspoon of mix to each cupcake case. You need enough to give a generous covering of the bottom of the cupcake. Then, add an unwrapped Easter egg, by laying it on its side. Cover with another spoonful of cake mix, making sure the egg is totally covered and the case is about 2/3 full. Bake for aprox. 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you touch it. The usual method of sticking a skewer inside won’t quite work this time.

When baked, allow your cupcakes to cool completely. Fill a disposable piping bag with frosting, and using a large nozzle, pipe a simple swirl. Give a quick squirt with the aerosol colours, and decorate with either: more eggs, melted chocolate or sugar decorations…or, you could use all of the above like we did!

 

 

 



 

Meyer_twilightThanks to Divergent’s later Aussie release date I’ve had to scramble and slip in another movie for March. *pouty face* Boo to the pewpy release date. Boo!

The Book

There are so many fan-created book trailers out there, but I had trouble finding an official one.  I also ‘read’ the audio book this time around, though I did read the entire series by Stephenie Meyer in paperback before the books were made into movies.

This version has the original artwork on the cover, is in MP3 format, and is on one disc. Yes, an entire unabridged book on one disc. It was lovely to just flick it over to my MP3 player and listen to Ilyana Kadushin do her thing. Considering the running time is 13 hours (yup, thirteen hours) you’re certainly going to be getting your money’s worth.

From what I can remember from reading the books, Bella in my head wasn’t anything like she was in the films, and apparently Ilyana felt the same when she was narrating the story for Bolinda Audio. She brings dimension, emotion, and drive to the story that you may not have had in your head, or found in the film.

For anyone who wouldn’t necessarily touch the series with a ten foot barge pole (VAMPIRES DON’T SPARKLE DAMN IT) give the Bolinda audio book a try. Who knows! Maybe you can like the books and just not tell anyone. *wink*

TWILIGHT CD

TWILIGHT MP3

TWILIGHT WEBCLIP

The Film

I saw this film twice in the cinemas in 2008 and I bought it on DVD for the sake of this series.

I’ll quickly mention the things I love about this film. The locations are breathtaking, most of which are around Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is magical.

The song Decode by the band Paramore never fails to give me goose bumps. 

The giggle factor was the other thing I adored. Now I know this is supposed to be a totally serious film, but I cannot help but see the funny side of bad hair, one-dimensional acting and vampires that sparkle.

I have taken into account the lack of funding and that the director wasn’t as high profile as the person who took over the rest of the saga, so in that respect they did amazingly well to get it up to that standard.

So the verdict: If you haven’t seen, read or heard Twilight yet, go with the audio book first. Ilyana does this story justice and makes it extremely consumable. If and only IF you can view it as a totally separate entity should you watch the film; don’t take it seriously and walk in ready for all the characters to take themselves way too seriously. I dare you not to laugh.



Mandy Wrangles_2_tn

It’s almost Easter! Just a few more days until the Easter Bunny is due to deliver the goods. And when you’re six years old, this is a Very Big Deal indeed. Such a big deal in fact, that the six year old living at my place has been counting down the days since… well, December 25th came and went. My kids are also currently on school holidays, so to help keep Mr 6 amused (and yeah, maybe to keep the Bunny-ache at bay…), we’ve been making all sorts of Easter Yummies. First up, the Mandy Wrangles version of that oh-so-amazing-gooey-chocolately-fondantey-goodness in a ball – the Cadbury Creme Egg.

 


Brushing chocolate up the sides of the egg moulds.What You Need:

Egg shaped chocolate moulds. Mine are plain, but you could use patterned ones.

Milk chocolate melts.

White fondant, available from all cake decorating shops, some supermarkets and online.

Yellow food colouring.

Vanilla essence.

A clean paintbrush.

 

How It’s Done:

Using a spatula, spread melted chocolate as smoothly as possible acorss the back.Make sure your moulds are clean and completely dry. Remember: when working with chocolate, moisture is your enemy. Melt milk chocolate using your favourite method, whether it be a small amount at a time in the microwave, over the stove-top using the double boiler method, or like me, using a cheap little fondue set. Once your chocolate is melted, you need to work fairly quickly.

Place a small teaspoon full into each chocolate shape. Now, you need these eggs to be hollow, so don’t over-fill. Using your paintbrush, brush the chocolate right up the sides of the mould before moving on to the next egg shape. Once all egg shapes have been chocolatised (yes, that is totally a word. Now.) put aside to set at room temperature.

While your chocolate egg shells are setting, take a couple of tablespoons of the white fondant and add some vanilla to taste and a few drops of yellow food colouring.

See? So easy a six year old can do it.

The vanilla flavour won’t give you the exact flavour of the Cadbury kind, but it’s pretty darn yummy.
Technically, you could use any flavour – in fact I’ve been considering making up some zombie Easter eggs with green or blue insides flavoured with blueberry or mint… but that could be an entirely different blog post…

Once your shells are set, spoon a teaspoon of white fondant into each. Then repeat with a smaller amount of yellow fondant in the centre. Melt up some more chocolate and smear over the top of your shells, trying not to make too much mess of your fondant.

Smooth off the top with a flat knife or spatula, as in my pic.

Once the egg halves are completely set (don’t rush them), they will pop out of the moulds with a small tap. Then, with a little more chocolate dabbed onto the back, join two halves together to make a whole. See… so easy a six year old could do it!

 

 

Chocolate shells with fondant

 

Gooey Easter Goodness!

 

 

 


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