Time to Celebrate!

First, yes, I changed my theme again.  That last one just wasn’t quite cutting it for me.  I think I’m happy with this one, so hopefully it will stick for awhile.   Sorry if there is any confusion!

Now.  What ARE we celebrating?  Why, my birthday was last week my lovelies and this month marks my fifth year of book blogging!  Yes, I posted my first review FIVE years ago this month!  And what a lovely, fun ride it has been.  So, to celebrate, I want to give you something.  Well, maybe two of you. I’m not made of money you know.

There are five books that I loved so very, very, very much last year and I want to share one of them with you. I will pick a winner on January 31st, so get your entry in now! And, really, I only require the one entry. 🙂

Thank you for reading with me all these years, especially the last two years. It’s been a blast. I love you guys and GOOD LUCK!

EDIT: I forgot to say, this is international; anyone can enter!!!

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

There are a few books left over from last year that I didn’t manage to get reviewed.  Unfortunately, Mare’s War, which was on my favorite reads of 2009 list, was one of them.  I’m rectifying that situation right now.

There are a great many things I find fascinating.  Family history.  WWII history.  Teenagers.  (No really, they are!) And road trips, for a start.

Mare’s War features all of these, so there was no way I wasn’t going to love this book.  And I did, I sooooo did.

Going on a road trip with their… unusual grandmother Mare is the last thing teens Tali and Octavia want to do with their summer.  At the insistence of their mother, the girls reluctantly get in the car and take off to a mysterious family reunion on the other side of the country, in Alabama.

The girls, like most teenagers, don’t know how they will survive the trip with Mare.  Before they have even left the driveway, their grandmother is getting on their nerves with her smoking and Mare is annoying with Tali constantly listening to music on her MP3 player.  The two make a pact; Mare will not smoke if Tali will give up the music.

To make the time go faster, Mare begins telling the girls stories, stories of her younger years.  The girls are astonished to hear about Mare’s youth in Alabama, about how she grew up during the Great Depression, the lengths she went to to protect her own sister and her differences with her mother.  The biggest surprise of all is learning how Mare ran away from home to join the WAC (Women’s Army Corp) and served during World War II.  Mare’s struggles at home with her mother and her mother’s abusive man make joining the army feel like a piece of cake.  It gives her a safe place to live, three meals and day and gives her strength and a belief in herself that could never be bought.

Yet, even though the WAC gave immeasurable help to their country while fighting the Nazi’s in Europe, the segregation that Mare and all the other colored soldiers in the 6888th Battalion, Company C, face is much harder to defeat.  Mare’s tough spirit and pride in her Company and all the women she served with  remain with her and become a huge part of who she is. After all she’s been through, is it any wonder she thinks Tali and Octavia are a little bit spoiled?

The girls are fascinated.  Who knew their grandmother had done such amazing things?  Mare’s stories are eye-opening to say the least.  By the end of their trip, the three have grown closer and the girls have a new respect for Mare – and Mare for them.

Tanita S. Davis has written a thoughtful, powerful tale about women, African-Americans, and the struggles they have faced in, not only the racist past, but in the still racist present we live in now.  Not only that, but it fills in a blank part of all American’s history of World War II, the brave way the women of the 6888th Battalion, Company C, helped end World War II.  And it’s powerful message of family, of history, of knowing your place in the world and the sacrifices of those who came before us, help shape every reader’s perception of themselves.  I hate to admit that I knew next to nothing about the 6888th Battalion, Company C, so I was so happy to learn more about these amazing women.  It’s a shame that their story has been so hugely lost to history and many props to Ms. Davis for bringing their story back to the light.  This is a book everyone woman, no matter their color, should read.

As for whether a teenager will sit through a book about history, I love what Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy has to say about that:

Oh, and if you have teens who you know will like this book but may be turned off by the history, because some teenagers eyes glaze over when you say “and it’s about women soldiers in World War II!” Simply say, “and then Mare went after her mother’s boyfriend with a hatchet.” Imagine hearing THAT about your grandma.

Not to mention Tali and Octavia do a lot of growing up during the course of their road-trip.  Octavia especially, a quiet, shy girl, learns to find courage within herself and that is always fun to read. And the dynamic between the two girls, typical sisters, friends and fighters, is well written and felt true to life.

Mare is one tough grandma and I couldn’t help but come to adore her (and the girls!) over the course of this book and is definitely why this was one of my favorite reads last year.

Mare’s War
Written by:
Tanita S. Davis
Category: Young Adult
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
On Sale: June 2009
ISBN: 9780375857140

Author’s blog

Other Links:

More on the 6888th

Other Opinions:

Colleen Mondor’s Bookslut in Training review | Reading in ColorThe Happy Nappy Bookseller | Jen Robinson’s Book Page review | Reading Rants! | Charlotte’s Library | The Reading Zone | everything distils into reading | A Patchwork of Books |

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Hey nosy FTC; I got it from the library. Okay?

I am a Book Depository and Indie Bound Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

Weekend Cooking

Being my birthday weekend, I haven’t done any cooking.  I’ve let others cook for me, specifically the local Chinese buffet and Papa Johns!  So, I don’t have any new cooking to share this weekend, but being winter, cold as all heck and perfect soup weather, I am going to share one of my favorite soup recipes.  It’s so yummy and comforting and perfect if you have a cold.  Plus, it freezes really well!

A warning here however, the ginger can be very strong in this soup, so don’t go overboard like I did the first time I made this soup. I LOVE ginger and added way more than the recipe calls for.  It was a little spicy!

Warming Ginger Soup

Here is the original recipe.  I modified mine to feed fewer people.

1 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
4 cups good vegetable stock
1/2 c rice wine vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce (or tamari)
1/4 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
A few ounces of your favorite noodles
A few mushrooms

In sauce pan, add garlic and 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for a minute or two. Add noodles, vegetables, or tofu as desired.

I think this would be really good with some chicken in it.  And maybe some baby Bok Choy!.


Weekend Cooking hosted by BethFishReads every weekend.  It is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

For more information, see the welcome post.

Where is the time going?

How is already January 21st?  Oh my gosh, I’ll be 32 in 2 days.  How exciting and depressing!  I know it’s not just me; time really does speed up the older you get.  My grandma always warned me of that.

I have so many things I’ve been meaning to post!  A glowing review of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.  A review of a lovely little Young Adult indie book I read called Mia the Magnificent.  Posts about the love I’m feeling for East of Eden, Soulless by Gail Carriger, and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.  The disappointment I felt with the audio version of Never Let Me Go (and let me tell you, it was profound)!  My joy in watching Julie and Julia!  I’m so happy Meryl Strep is winning awards for her portrayal of Julia Child!!

I. Need. More. Time!

Or, conversely, to actually become disciplined enough to write all these posts either on the weekends or at night.  I can’t remember the last time I posted every day of the week!  Oh well, I’ll figure something out.  How do you do it?  How do you manage to post more than once a week?  Any and all tips will be appreciated.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

A a child, there was little I loved more than playing in the dirt. Mudpies, drawing in the sand, rolling around in it… okay, I’m kidding on that last one.  But still, I loved to play in dirt and rock and once even dug quite a few holes in my backyard looking for fossils.

My grandmother was not amused.

Now that I’m grown, obviously I don’t play in dirt much any more.  Yet, I still love to look at fossils and wouldn’t really mind it if one of my children, who now love dirt and rock and fossils like I did, were to find one now.  Needless to say, Remarkable Creatures, the new historical fiction novel by Tracy Chevalier, definitely piqued my interest from the first moment I heard of it.

Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning a young working-class girl, who, along with her brother discovered what they thought was might be crocodile fossil in 1810 on the cliffs in southern England.  What they found, however, was an ichthyosaur, and this discovery shakes up the scientific community and their thinking about the creation of the world.  And it changes Mary’s life forever.

This book is also about Elizabeth Philpot, a transplanted London spinster who also has a fondness for fossils.   She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mary and helps Mary and her family negotiate this new scientific arena dominated by men who would use Mary to further their own names and careers.  Elizabeth helps protect Mary from rivalry and ostracism, but can’t help protect Mary from her own heart.  Or from Elizabeth’s own jealousies.  

I loved this book.  I knew next to nothing about the way fossils were discovered.  To my mind, they had always been there, at the museum! It never occurred to me to wonder who first started discovering them and categorizing them, who was first curious enough to wonder where these monstrously large bones came from and what they were.  Honestly, I feel kinda stupid for not wondering, but there you are!  Remarkable Creatures definitely enlightened me, not only of the roles of men, but the roles women too played in this great age of discovery.  To know that a woman, a poor, uneducated, young woman no less, was one of the pioneers in fossil discovery is so empowering!  And to know her story is was all but lost to obscurity is horrifying.  Tracy Chevalier has done a masterful job of breathing life into these two women, these two very different women, and making them come alive again to tell their story.  I loved the way she alternated between their voices and how she was able to make each voice so unique.  It was easy to tell which woman was telling her story, just by the way she ‘spoke.’  Their lives, their loves, their work and friendship are alive again and such a pleasure to read.  This book isn’t only for those who might be interested in fossils, in history, in dirt; it’s also the story of friendship, love, and acceptance.  It’s a powerful story that any one should be proud to read.

Remarkable Creatures
Tracy Chevalier
Historical Fiction
Published by Dutton Adult
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
On Sale: January 5, 2010
ISBN: 9780525951452

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Thank you Dutton for sending a copy for review.

I am a Book Depository and Indie Bound Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

Weekend Cooking

weekendcookingWeekend Cooking hosted by BethFishReads every weekend.  It is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

So.  Did you know, I’ve had a recipe published in a cookbook?  I didn’t either, until I bought the cookbook and found it inside.  I had no. idea.  It was so. cool.  You can imagine my surprise!  Wanna see?

This is the only recipe I have ever submitted to All Recipes.  I have a pretty good rating too!  It’s really versatile, freeze really, really well, and are addicting!  When we want them a little spicier I use pepper jack cheese.  And they are just as good baked.  They are a ton of work, but it’s really worth it.  They are pretty close to restaurant quality, if I do say so myself.   I tried really hard to get them that way anyway!

Also, some people parboil the jalapenos first.  I usually don’t because my hubby doesn’t like it. The three coatings of flour and bread crumbs are essential, this keeps the cheese from leaking out during frying or baking.  I have been known to cheat and not do the flour layer, but they really aren’t as good.  Many people in comments on this recipe say they don’t like the bacon, but we love the smoky flavor this adds.  Too each his own!

Best Ever Jalapeno Poppers


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits
  • 12 ounces jalapeno peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 quarts oil for frying


1. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno pepper halves.

2. Put the milk and flour into two separate small bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour, making sure they are well coated with each. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.

3. Dip the jalapenos in milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs. Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of the jalapeno is coated.

4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F ( 180 degrees C). Deep fry the coated jalapenos 2 to 3 minutes each, until golden brown. Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

These are great for Super Bowl parties.  🙂

Edit: It just occurred to me that I didn’t include the title of the cookbook! It’s a really nice cookbook. It has over 250 5 star recipes from All Recipes. There are a lot of favorites in here for us.


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I’m home sick with the flu (my first time ever, best I remember, so now I can safely say I HATE THE FLU) so I’m going to use this summary:

Some call this the greatest American novel ever written. It’s the story of a runaway boy, Huck Finn, and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, as they ride a raft on the Mississippi River and encounter mishaps and adventure when they go ashore. Using the graphic novel format, Graphic Classics introduce children to many of the world’s greatest literary works. The high quality illustrations complement narratives that are paced to catch and hold young readers’ interest. In addition to its story, each Graphic Classic features a thumbnail biography of its author’s life, a list of his or her important works, a timeline of historic events that helped inspire the story’s conception, general notes, and an index. Both primary and secondary school teachers can use these books to introduce students to a representative selection of our culture’s great literary works. Many young readers who are hesitant to delve into the original books will find the graphic novel format an appealing first step toward developing good reading habits. Graphic Classics are available in both paperback and hardcover editions

To say I was not impressed would be an understatement.  I felt like I was reading a Cliff’s Notes edition in graphic novel form.  Huckleberry Finn is one of my favorite classics, so when I saw in on the library shelf I grabbed it.  I knew it would work for the Graphic Novel Challenge, more specifically the mini-challenge Teresa at Read All Over Reviews is hosting this month.   Since, like it says, it is aimed at primary and secondary students, I won’t hold it against the book.  It  gives the bare bones of the story.  It is not intended for adults or apparently real readers, although I don’t see how reading such a condensed version of such a rich, powerful story (hello! It is only 48 pages long and not all of that is story!) will help students make the “first step toward developing good reading habits.”

To get the full force of one of Mark Twain’s best novels, do yourself a favor.  Get the real book.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Written by
Mark Twain
Retold by Tom Ratliff
Category: Graphic Novel – Classic
Published by
Format: Paper, 48 pages
On Sale:
ISBN: 9780764140129

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Personal copy obtained through my local library.

I am a Book Depository and Indie Bound Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick NessYou may remember (or you may not) but I read the first book in this series – The Knife of Never Letting Go – in the fall of 2009 and loved it.  I read this one not long after, but somehow I never got around to reviewing it.  This is a travesty that I am rectifying right now.

The Knife of Never Letting Go ends with a cliffhanger and The Ask and the Answer doesn’t exactly start up where it’s predecessor left off.   Something Extremely Shocking and Surprising happened at the end of TKoNLG and Ness leaves you guessing for a few more pages as to what happened after said Shocking and Surprising thing happened.  It was worth it though, because… whoa.  I can’t say any more about that.  You’ll just have to read it.

Geez, I really don’t know what to say about the plot of this book, without giving away details about the first one.  So I’m just going to give my feelings on it.  I figure if you get curious enough you can either read about it for yourself somewhere else or maybe, hopefully, you’ll read the book yourself.  AFTER reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, of course. Because they really need to be read in order.

By the end of TKoNLG (look, I’m going to call it Knife now and the other Ask.  I hate acronyms.) I felt I had come to know the characters so well, came to LOVE Viola and Todd that I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I promptly went out that day and bought Ask.   I just couldn’t wait to dive back into this rich, detailed, and very different world of these characters!  And Ness didn’t disappoint.  While I loved Knife, but I adored Ask.   If there is one thing I love about series, it’s getting to know the characters and watching them change and grow through the books.  Todd and Viola grow and change so much and I love that.  I love seeing that. I love seeing the ways they react to what’s happening to them, being surprised by how they react to what’s happening to them, cheering them on and hoping for the best.

I know there were a lot of complaints about TKoNLG was that it went too fast.  The pacing didn’t bother me at all, but I feel the need to say that Ask is a bit slower.  And the pacing still didn’t bother me.   Some of the strange spelling and grammar (intentional) took a few pages to get used to again, but didn’t bother me either.   There is still quite a bit of violence, but seeing as how it is very necessary for the plot and aids Ness is showing the duality of human nature, how we constantly change our minds, our opinions, and our motives.  Things get scarier and sadder and devolve into barely controlled chaos.  And, of course, I’m STILL wondering what happens to Todd and Viola!  Because Ask also ends with a cliffhanger! I tell you what, Ness is the master at cliffhangers.  He should give college courses.   Needless to say, I’ll be ordering the British edition soon, since it comes out months before the American one.  I just can’t wait.

The Ask and the Answer
Patrick Ness
Young Adult
Published by Candlewick
Format: Hardcover, 528 pages
On Sale: September 8, 2009
ISBN: 978-0763644901

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Personal copy obtained with my own money.  From Amazon.  So there.

I am a Book Depository and Indie Bound Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.