Friday, April 25, 2014

Mysterious Civil War Read

Alfred A. Knopf

I plucked this one from a box of ARCs offered to me by a local bookseller because the cover looked enchanting and a little scary.  I'm not one for scary really but this looked like the good kind.  Seventeen-year old Violet Dancey has been left behind, first by her twin brother Rush and then  later, by her father.  Rush died in battle and Violet is still in mourning.  The whole town is wearing black for someone lost in the war.  

Before Violet's father leaves he marries a local widow with a teenage daughter so Violet will not be left alone.  Soon after two cousins come to visit and she has plenty to keep her busy on the farm.  One afternoon she takes her young cousin Seeley off to a deserted cabin where she played as a child with Laney and Rush and she and Seeley discover a nearly dead Union soldier tucked into a back room.  Thomas has been rescued and kept alive as someone is tending to his wounds but he's been left in this cabin for weeks.  The mystery behind Thomas and the VanZelts and Dorian (the older cousin) and Sunny (Violet's new stepsister) make this book filled with adventure.

The first chapters started a little slow yet we discover a lot between the relationship of Violet and Laney. Raised on the farm with just one slave, Laney's mother, Violet has a very different view of slavery. Laney and Violet are best friends and constant companions even as Laney is now the cook and her husband tends to the fields.  Violet's relaxed idea of what a housemaid should do gets her into trouble with Sunny who adores the idea of having one's own slave. This book is a new glimpse into the Civil War and its many tragedies.  

I put Nickerson's other book Strands of Bronze and Gold on my to-read list. Nickerson, once a children's librarian in Mississippi, now resides in Canada.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Excellent (and Wildly Quirky) Fiction Selection

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This has literally been on my actual to-read pile for over a year.  My 22-year-old stepdaughter read it, liked it, and left it for me.  A few months ago a friend chose it as our book club choice for April.  That forced me to pick it up, dust it off, and give it a try.  I loved it.  We had our meeting on Monday and it seems everyone in our group felt the same way.

It was so easy to read and I was captured by this unusual family of geniuses.  I wanted to know more about each one of them.  Bee, an elementary student at one of Seattle's  many private schools, is anxious to head off to a private academy on the East Coast, following in her parent's academic footsteps.  She is smart but there is so much more to her as she remains fairly calm and happily involved in her life throughout the book.  I love that she picks a trip to Antarctica as her reward for good grades.  This is what can happen when parents offer up "you can have anything you want in exchange for good grades!"

This particular request throws Bernadette, Bee's mother, for a major loop-de-loop!  Bernadette has not been dealing well with her life after their move from LA to Seattle.  Her husband has thrown all his energy into his grandiose work at Microsoft wear he pads around barefoot lauded as some kind of creative genius. Bernadette is left to do the stay-at-home mother thing and this is not her talent.  She does not feel any connection to the other parents from Galer Street School and thus has no allies, no one to share her thoughts and feelings. This book is Bee's look back at her mother and how she got so far off track.

This story is told in a very nonlinear fashion, is extremely current with its language and social media conversations,  and is just such a fresh fun read.  If you haven't picked this one up yet don't hesitate. Thank you Maria Semple for writing such a unique story of love and acceptance.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Blessings

{Egg decorating 2014 w/ Groovy Girl}

Once again I've inadvertently let a week traipse right by without a bit of writing. It's been a busy week and that excuse is ever present yet this week there was an added snafu.  My lithe little MacBook Air died or so it seemed.  It did some kind of strange fake death worthy of a Shakespearean play. I could get it to make the sound and the white apple would appear but then before you could say Macbeth the screen would go black.  Stupidly I kept trying it whilst pushing button combinations.  After 4 days of that nonsense I sent an emergency text to my friend and co-worker, Al, who embodies the word super techie.  Thank all the powers that be for people like Al, including Al, as he always been able to help me out.  MacBook Air is back up and running as of yesterday.  Don't ask me what he did as I prefer to think that he waved his magic wand three times right over my silver baby and viola!

Now let's talk food.  While everyone around me talks about their Easter ham we are bucking tradition, pretty normal here, and making a large Alaskan wild caught salmon.  Groovy Girl loves fish and she can pretty much finish off an entire plate of fish herself so I bought extra. Added to the fish we will have copious amounts of roasted brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, a little green salad, and strawberries and chocolate for dessert.  Nothing on the menu that even needs a recipe other than what's already in my head. A deliciously simple meal to celebrate Easter, leaving me lots of time to relax with my family.

I was going to make this yummy carrot-ginger soup for dinner. A friend made this soup for our last book club and I've been waiting for this holiday to make it.  I thought the Easter bunny would dig it! Instead I mopped up water in our basement. I guess while I was carpooling for Groovy Girl's theatre rehearsal my husband, while doing some Spring yard work, inadvertently created a huge water leak in the basement.  I came home to huge puddles  lakes in the three rooms of our basement.  Not nearly as much fun as making soup.  We ate Jimmy John's after a trip to the hardware store to buy a wet-dry vac.  Last time we had water in the basement we borrowed a friend's and felt that this was an important purchase for us though we hate buying things.  I could put bunny ears on the wet vac as this present is better than any other Easter basket I could have surprised my husband with this holiday.

No matter how you celebrate have a lovely day ushering in Springtime. Feliz Pascua!

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click her link to see many other food-related posts.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April is Poetry Month; a favorite word poem 4 YOU.


and scuttlebutt.
and gazebo.
and placebo.



That's my list
of favorite words,
the greatest
words around.
I really don't care
what they mean.
I love the way
they sound.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Three note-worthy picture books for you to enjoy!

We checked these three out recently and I thought they were worth sharing.

The ABC's of Yoga by Teresa Anne Power (2009); Each letter has more than one pose assigned to it so the "D" page has "dolphin" and "do nothing" pose together.  Each direction rhymes and we found most of the poses on our favorite children's yoga site, Namaste Kid.  Sample:


With my feet apart wide,
I am a frog
With a big underside.
Bringing my arms
Inside my knees,
I jump up and say
On the count of three.

Millie and the Big Rescue by Alexander Steffensmeier (2012);  Millie the cow plays hide-and-seek with her barnyard friends until one day she gets herself stuck up a tree.  She's found the best hiding spot of all and nobody can find her!  With cute results all the animals (and the farmer) join Millie in her clever spot. I noticed there are two other Millie books; Millie waits for the mail and Millie and the snow that look equally as funny!

Catty Jane Loved to Dance by Valeri Gorbachev (2013);  This was Groovy Girl's favorite and I love Mr. Gorbachev's work.  Catty Jane loves to dance and has been dancing since she could walk.  Eventually her mother signs her up for dance class at Mrs. Herron's Dance Academy.  Mrs. Herron informs her that it "takes a lot of practice" to become a ballerina.  Her friends host a dance party but she thinks they are silly and don't really know how to dance.  She overhears their fun though and decides dancing together is far more fun.

All three of these books were checked out from my public library and are now overdue.  Luckily next week is Library Week and I can take in cans of food to pay for my many fines!  Love your library.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekend Cooking.

Busy week. Not enough sleep.  Badddd  sleep week.  Does this happen to you?  Sleep has been an issue for me the last few years.  I look forward to summer when I can sleep in and have a more relaxed schedule.

{copyright: Eating Well magazine}
I managed to whip up some healthy, happy meals this week including the Southwest Quinoa Cakes from Eating Well magazine. Candace at Beth Fish Reads featured this recipe and I knew when I read her post that I would make these cakes.  They were delicious and fun to eat.  And the recipe makes a lot! Making these in my very ancient muffin tin made me wish for a new one as I had trouble getting them out of the oiled pan.

Groovy Girl is busy acting in a new play and we are sharing carpool duties with another family.  That gives me and husband some alone time (so rare).  On Tuesday night I made her a simple dinner and sent her out the door with the other mother leaving me time to pull these cakes out of the oven, plate them up with all the fixings and sat down and ate with my husband.  We talked.  It was grand.  I had leftovers for school lunches too! Win-Win.

{My cakes with two baby peppers}

Saturday I made these Lemon Cookies from Two Peas and their Pod  for a Thai dinner we hosted at our church.  A local restaurant catered the main entrees and they were amazing. I had three helpings. Someone told me later they thought the cookies were from the restaurant also.  I grinned like a three-year-old.  I love lemons and will make these again. 

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking meme.  Please click her link to find many other good food posts.

Have a great week.  I'm off to bed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Look what I've read...{three month review}


Divergent by Veronica Roth (2012);  I devoured this first book in her series.  I loved the beginning of this book but somewhere near the middle disliked all the violence and gun-worship.  I wondered if the series would continue to be violent or if their would be an awakening? {and no I've not had the chance to see the movie...}

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho (2007);  Love his writing, he always  makes me think.  Read my review here.

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams (2010); Sisters Sadie and Zuzu discover a diary written by Helen in a hidden space in the attic of their new Salt Lake City house   The two sisters and a neighbor friend  read the diary together uncovering Helen's troubled life.  One of the highlights of this story was the very caring and hip stepmother.  

Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint (2014);  I received this as an ARC and enjoyed the light fantasy book.  My kids at school are WILD about The Warrior series by Erin Hunter and I think Charles de Lint's books could bridge a gap for those students looking forward to reading the Hunter books. And he sings-Old Blue Truck; a real renaissance man. Thanks Little, Brown, and Company.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (2012);  Read this for book club.  Loved it. My review.  Will make the reader rush out to plant a butterfly garden.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013);  J.K. Rowling's spy mystery was really very good. There's a new Cormoran Strike mystery, The Silkworm, out...I just need to find a copy.


Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012);  I liked the unrest-revolution is on the way aspect.  Tris is not my favorite female hero.  She resorts to violence often not thinking of how it will effect others.

Hush Puppy by Lisa Cresswell (2013);  I liked this book.  I read something about Hush Puppy on a website  {that I obviously did not keep track of!} and downloaded it to my Kindle.  It took me a few weeks to get back to it but it was a pleasant diversion from the roughness of Insurgent.  Corrine and Jamie are both unique characters struggling with their own identities.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (2009);  Gave me lots of ideas.  Opened me up more as a teacher-librarian.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (2013);  More violence yet it came with resolution and consequences.  Four is my favorite character from this series.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (2014); Beautifully written chapter book. Read my review. If you have a young reader at home this would make a beautiful gift.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (2005); I have one boy's book club at school and we are winding our way through this series.  They were reluctant at first but Gregor has won them over.  I had only ever read the first one so am quite pleased that within this school year I will finish this under-appreciated series by the same Collins of The Hunger Games fame.  I think The Underland would make an amazing movie.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012);  Why did I wait so long to read this?  I read it in under a week.  I hope the movie does it justice.  Must be read with a box of tissues yet so very well worth the pain.  Hazel is a wonderfully quirky character!

Here Lies Linc by Delia Ray (2011);  Ray is coming to be an author-in-residence for a week to meet students.  I loved her other book Singing Hands.  Here Lies Linc has everyone wandering through the graveyard on a school project.  I read this with Groovy Girl and we live across the street from a graveyard-very spooky!

The Summer I found you by Jolene Perry (2014);  Did not love.  Read my review.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (2014);  This one I did love.  Lucy and Owen are location-crossed lovers.  They can't figure out if they would like to be more because they are not in one place for very long.  Postcards remind them of the one day they spend together.  Lucy's parents are a bit odd but other than that this was good.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (2012); Read for book club.  Long, really long.  Very interesting look at North Korea; made me happy to have lived dictator-free for all my years.

Sweetgrass by Mary Alice Monroe (2005);  Lovely story of a North Carolina family hanging on to a house on the coast.  I loved how the Blakely and Bennett families were intertwined and needed each other to survive.  The environmental message was well done.  This one has been on my pile at home for some time and it feels good now to pass it on...

Slob by Ellen Potter (2009); I loved The Kneebone Boy and The Humming Room by Potter and my daughter recommended this one to me and I enjoyed Owen's journey. This was a lunchtime book for me at school.

The Curse of the Warmbloods (Gregor #3) by Suzanne Collins (2005); This one takes the reader on a jungle adventure to find a cure for the plague.  We meet a few new characters and find out some Underland secrets.  Already started #4.

The Cats of the Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint (2013);  This is where the story actually begins.  Often I'm sent and ARC of the second book in a series and I can never find the first one.  This one I downloaded to my Kindle and read in two days, just to end the month with a bang.  I plan to order both of de Lint's titles for my early fantasy readers.

I'm so happy with all these list. It is wonderful to rethink about each one as I've written this post.  Almost everyone was an enjoyable read.