Monday, February 15, 2016

Reign Blog Tour: Royal Recipes

Welcome to the next stop in the Reign Blog Tour. I'm sure you've heard of Reign, the show on Freeform loosely based on Mary Queen of Scots. It's a great show, and the books are even better. Now, if you've watched the show or read the books, you know the story is told in France (Mary is to marry Francis, the next King of France). I thought I'd share with you guys a couple of recipes for my favorite French treat: macarons.

Before we get started, let's talk about the book a bit!


"An original novel based on the hit television series, Reign.

Since Mary, Queen of Scotland was a child, the English have wanted her country and her crown. She is sent to France to wed its next king--to save herself and her people. It's a bond that should protect her, but there are forces that conspire...forces of darkness, forces of the heart. Mary's rule, and her life, has never been safe.

Find out what happens to Mary, Francis, Bash, and the rest of the French court after the season one finale.

Long may she reign."

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble

For spoilers sake, I'm going to share information on book two at the bottom of the post. If you've read the first one, feel free to keep going. If you're caught up on the show, keep going. If you haven't done either of these, I'll let you know when to stop scrolling.


Now...onto the Royal Recipes! It's macarons time! Here are my two favorite- lemon with raspberry buttercream and chocolate with raspberry buttercream. MMM!


***A few key notes before you start these. Macarons crack easily, and a lot of this is due to cornstarch. When purchasing almond meal, make sure it contains little to no corn starch. They will crack in the oven if you're not careful. Also, for those who don't know, almond meal goes bad very quickly.

If you're not going to use the almond meal right away, be sure to store it in the freezer. If you have a grinder or food processor, I highly recommend making it yourself by purchasing almonds and grinding them until they're very fine.

Powdered Sugar- Again, no corn starch!

Egg Whites- For best results, allow egg whites to reach room temperature before whipping. A mild acid such as cream of tartar also helps the egg whites foam. When measuring, remember that the white from a large egg is about one ounce.

I highly recommend buying the macaron silicon mats with the macaron templates on them. Those are the ones I have, and they're great. If you don't want to invest quite yet, parchment paper and printable templates work just fine.***


Lemon Macarons:

7 ounces confectioner's sugar, divided
4 ounces almond flour or meal
4 large (4 ounces) egg whites, room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Wilton yellow food coloring (optional. You can use any food coloring depending how yellow you want them)
Raspberry buttercream (recipe to follow)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the baking sheets with parchment paper. Line baking sheets with silicone mats and top with parchment paper templates.

In a bowl of a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, pulse 1/3 of the confectioner's sugar with the almond flour until a fine powder is formed (about 1-1.5 minutes, but keep an eye on it and judge for yourself). In a medium bowl, combine with remaining confectioner's sugar. Sift mixture four times. Set aside.

To make the meringue: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once all sugar is incorporated, and the mixture is thick, add the cream of tartar, scrape down sides of bowl, add the lemon extract, food coloring, and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Remove the meringue from the mixer. Sift the almond flour mixture one-third at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large spatula. until mixture is smooth and shiny. Once all the almond flour mixture is incorporated, check for the correct consistency (nicely firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula).

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 plain round tip (#12) and pipe 1-1/3 inch rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets (where the templates/macaron mat comes in handy!). Gently tap the bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. The chef told us to basically slam them (but not too hard as to ruin the roundness) three times onto a flat surface. You'll see the air bubbles release). Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Fun tip: If you have a glass, you can fold the bag over a cup and fill the pastry bag that way. Just be sure to twist the top so none of it comes out of the tip. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze it down until the bag is basically 2/3 full, leaving room for your hand to hold the top. Be sure to touch the tip when piping onto the baking sheet and to not touch the meringue! This will change the temperature of the meringue, and the macarons will not rise as well. TEMPERATURE IS EVERYTHING!

Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm (about 10-15 minutes). If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven temperature to 300 degrees, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top of the macarons look crinkled, your oven temperature may be too hot.

Let macarons cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling. If you lift the parchment paper slightly off of the baking sheet, and add a teaspoon of water (causing steam), it helps lift the macarons off. Just make sure not to get water on the macarons.

Chocolate Macarons:

6 ounces confectioner's sugar, divided
4 ounces almond flour/meal
1 ounce Dutch processed cocoa powder
5 large egg whites @ room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
Raspberry buttercream (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the baking sheets with parchment paper. Line baking sheets with silicone mats and top with parchment paper templates.

In a bowl of a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, pulse 1/3 of the confectioner's sugar with the almond flour until a fine powder is formed (about 1-1.5 minutes, but keep an eye on it and judge for yourself). In a medium boxing bowl, combine with the remaining confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. Sift mixture and set aside.

To make the meringue: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once all sugar is incorporated, and the mixture is thick, add the cream of tartar, scrape down sides of bowl, add the lemon extract, food coloring, and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Remove the meringue from the mixer. Sift the almond flour mixture one-third at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large spatula. until mixture is smooth and shiny. Once all the almond flour mixture is incorporated, check for the correct consistency (nicely firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula).

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 plain round tip (#12) and pipe 1-1/3 inch rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets (where the templates/macaron mat comes in handy!). Gently tap the bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. The chef told us to basically slam them (but not too hard as to ruin the roundness) three times onto a flat surface. You'll see the air bubbles release). Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm (about 10-15 minutes). If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven temperature to 300 degrees, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top of the macarons look crinkled, your oven temperature may be too hot.



Raspberry Buttercream filling for both:

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 pound ( 4 sticks) unsalted butter- softened
2 cups fresh (or frozen) raspberries, thawed, drained, pureed, and strained .


Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and hand-whisk to blend. Bring 2 inches of water to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Place bowl over the simmering water and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove mixture from heat, and attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip the mixture on high speed until it cools to room temperature, is light and billowing, and resembles marshmallow fluff. If the mixture is warm, it will melt the butter you'll be adding next, so touch the meringue and make sure it has cooled to room temperature before continuing.

With the mixer on medium-high speed, add the softened butter a couple tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to blend in fully before adding the next. Halfway through the butter, stop the mixer, and use a silicone spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl thoroughly. Continue until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles velvety mayonnaise.

Turn mixer off and switch to a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add raspberry puree (small amounts at a time) and beat until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). The mixer will separate before coming together, so don't worry if it looks like it's not mixing. It will!

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If storing, bring to room temperature and beat on low until smooth before using.




There you have it! Be sure to crack Reign open, pair the books and macarons with either a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy! Nommy nom nom! Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour here...


Week 1:
2/8: Chapter by Chapter - Review of Reign: The Prophecy
2/9: The Hardcover Lover - Polyvore Style Board
2/10: Once Upon A Twilight - REIGN Inspired Makeup
2/11: Books A Blog: A Day in the Life....
2/12: Fangirl Confessions - Reign Dream Squad

Week 2:
2/15: Addicted 2 Novels - Royal Recipes
2/16: No BS Book Reviews - Keepin' It Real: Book & Show
2/17: Books Buying Beauty - The Art of the Binge Watch
2/18: Pandora's Books - The Many Ships of REIGN
2/19: Rachel's Book Reviews - Review of Reign: Hysteria



And don't forget to check out book two as well (STOP READING IF YOU AREN'T CAUGHT UP!).


"France is aflame with rumors of witchcraft and treachery. Who will be burn for their transgressions? Find out in this haunting original novel based on the hit CW television show, Reign.

Something sinister has been sweeping the villages surrounding the French court. Rumors of Satan's horsemen traveling the countryside and claiming the souls of villagers have sent the people reeling into a religious frenzy and soon fear and suspicion lead them to accuse a young girl of witchcraft. After the prisoner is brought to the palace for questioning, Mary, Greer, Kenna, and Lola work to prove her innocence. But there are others who will stop at nothing to see the girl and her secrets silenced forever... "

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sanctuary Bay Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway


You guys, I'm really excited to be a part of this fantastic blog tour. After reading the excerpt, you'll easily see why you need to get your hands on this book (And you might if you win the giveaway). First, for those who haven't heard of SANCTUARY BAY yet...

Title: Sanctuary Bay
Authors: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Published: January 19th 2016 by St. Martin's Griffin

"In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson's shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn't sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate's dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay's glossy reputation.

In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah's new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this "school" is something much more sinister. "

Excerpt:

Daddy pressed his finger to his lips, shushing Sarah quiet as he slid the door to the tunnel back on. She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and pressed her cheek against her arm, trying to pretend she was back in her own room. But it didn’t smell like her room. Even the spicy smell of Daddy’s cologne had faded now that the tunnel was closed. And grayness was all around her. She was almost four, and that was too old to be scared of the dark. But it wasn’t all dark. It was just gray dark.

She tried not to think of monsters crawling toward her. Daddy said there were no monsters. But monsters liked tunnels. They liked little girls.

Sometimes when she was scared she liked to sing the Maggie song. But that was against the rules. She had to be quiet. She had to be still. She had to wait until Daddy or Mommy opened the door and got her.
Thinking about the rules helped. She could almost hear Daddy saying them, as if he was hiding in the tunnel with her. Even though he was way too big. If something bad happens, wait until the room is safe. If you leave the tunnel, put the funny slit- ted door back on. Run fast. Find a lady with kids. Tell her your name is Sarah Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Ask for help.

Her nose started twitching, itching from the thick air. Mak- ing her want to sneeze. But she had to be quiet.

Then she heard Mommy screaming. Mommy never screamed. Were the monsters out there and not in the tunnel?

On hands and knees she started creeping toward the slits of light, heart pounding.

“Kt85L is our property,” a man said. “You had no right!”

Out there. Mommy on her knees facing the hotel room wall. Someone’s legs. A hand reaching down. A silver bird stared at Sarah from a ring on the finger. Stared with a horrible little black eye. The finger pulled the trigger of a gun.

A bang. Her ears filling with bees. Mommy collapsing on the floor. Red spilling out.

Sarah shoved her fingers into her mouth. Quiet. The rule was be quiet.

Shouting. Daddy’s legs running by, out of the room. The bird man chasing. The door banging closed.

Something bad happening.

The room was safe. The bird man was gone. So she had to get out. Mommy was on the floor. Daddy was gone.

She shoved the door and it fell out onto the floor. Near Mommy. Near the red. But the rule was to put the funny door back on. She picked it up and shoved it over the tunnel like Daddy had shown her.
Sarah didn’t want to look at Mommy. She looked out the window instead. The window was always open and there was never a screen. Daddy’s voice came from the hallway, yelling. Screaming.

Another bang.

Sarah pressing her hands over her eyes. Not looking. Not look- ing. Something bad happening.

Daddy was quiet now. Something bad. She had to run fast.

Sarah climbed on the chair under the window. The chair al- ways went under the window. She stuck her legs through the window and jumped down. Now run fast.

She ran fast, looking for a lady with a stroller or a kid her age. A mommy would help her. She would say she was Sarah Merson.

Sarah Merson, and something bad happened.

About The Authors: Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong and the YA novels Crave and Sacrifice. They have also written for the TV shows Roswell, 1-800-Missing, and The Dead Zone. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.


Giveaway: Thanks to the fabulous people at St. Martin's Griffin, I am giving away one copy of SANCTUARY BAY to one very lucky winner. This giveaway is only open to US participants and ends 2/29 (Leap year, heeeey). Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Winner's Kiss Blog Tour


Welcome, folks! Today we're going to talk about my favorite literary kiss, and all the reasons why I love it so. Okay, I'm a huge fan of kissing scenes. I love them, can't get enough of them, need more, more, more! Honestly, how am I suppose to choose? There are so many books, characters, scenes...ahh!

One of my runner-up couples happen to be Karou and Akiva in DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. An angel and a devil really did fall in love, and sadly, it did not end well. *TEAR*

Another one I loved was Isla and Josh's wintery Parisian kiss in ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. If you've read it, you know the one. It's so crazy sweet and has so many feelings. I can't even!

The first runner-up, though, would have to be Mia and Ansel's restroom kiss in SWEET FILTH BOY. Sweet Filthy Boy indeed!

Alas, there must be one winner (And this kiss really is my favorite kiss, even if I wasn't a part of this tour). My absolutely favorite kiss was the one Kestrel and Arin shared in the kitchen in THE WINNER'S CURSE. Is it because delicious sounding pastries were involved? That's part of it, but it's mainly because these two people, who have every reason to hate each other, somehow found a way to fall for someone's soul rather than who they are or what they mean in whatever world. It was sweet, sexy, and offered so many promises. Too many feels but also not enough. Le siiiiigh.


Now, as part of the tour, we get to send a kiss to a friend. What does this mean? Well, today I'll be picking one of my friends to receive a copy of THE WINNER'S CURSE. It pains me that she hasn't read this book yet, but she had a baby and is busy, so I guess I have to be more understanding. Anywho, that person is my super awesome friend, whom I've known for years and adore, Karen S. from Karen's Addictions! KISSES TO YOU!!!

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour and the line-up, and definitely preorder THE WINNER'S KISS. I've already read it twice, and it left me with the absolute best book hangover ever. This is the last book in the trilogy, so there will be spoilers in the summary below.

STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE WINNER'S CURSE OR THE WINNER'S CRIME! SPOILERS AHEAD!

"War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?"



Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders and The Celestial Globe. The Cabinet of Wonders, her debut novel, was named an Indie Next Kids’ List Great Read and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, among other honors. Rutkoski grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She attended the University of Iowa, where she took Writers’ Workshop classes and studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner James Alan McPherson. After graduating, she lived in Moscow and Prague. Upon receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University, she held dual appointments as a lecturer there in both English and American Literature and Language, and History and Literature. Rutkoski is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and creative writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and cat.



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