Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Readathon: Update

It's been a fun night!  I don't know if I've ever mentioned, but I have two holidays that I associate with a bad break up and some emotions that I'd love to put away for good.  Yes.  New Year's Eve is one of them.  Why I manage to forget the good times, especially those amazing years in Hawaii with their overwhelming celebrations, I'll never know!  Anyway, I tend to really dislike New Year's Eve.  Thanks to a readathon that gives me a reason to avoid pretending to be over the moon with the celebrations going on, I am attempting to reshape the holiday.  :)  Thanks to Picky Girl for all her work on this one!

I'm getting ready to dive back into my reading and wanted to do a bit of an update, since I have a feeling I'll be falling asleep soon.  Here is my update:

Books Read:  0 that I can count as finished
Pages Read:  400-500 so far, but I've been bouncing between four different books
Rationale:  I actually didn't want to finish anything (which sounds crazy, I know), but that's because I want to start off 2013 with a number of books read.  :)
Snacks/Meals:  Only one break for food and sustenance.  Shocking, I know!
Text Messages:  About 20+ thanks to a flurry of texts sent between myself and my family and friends out of state.  My poor family and friends locally!  (Now I'm feeling guilty that I didn't text them too. Sorry!)
Papers Graded:  10 AP Essays during the course of this readathon.  If you know me, that is nothing shy of a miracle and puts me right on track to have them finished before I head back to work.  (This also makes me nuts, yet very happy.)
Craziest Distraction, Outside of Grading:  Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN's New Year's Eve.  Watching Kathy made Anderson uncomfortable and giggle incessantly while trying to change the subject, just made me laugh.

I'm off to do some reading and to ring in the New Year.  Thanks to everyone who put up with my endless tweeting about nonsense and my lack of focus.  You've all helped me lift the dark cloud off of this holiday a little more.  Maybe next year I can sweep the bad memories away for good!   Have a great one!

New Year's Eve Readathon: Starting Point

I'm starting my actual "reading" a bit late for the readathon, but better late than never.  I finished my "Best of 2012" list for the year and am now ready to settle in to do a bit of reading.  Sadly, I also need to do some grading along the way, but I've decided I'll trade off to make it all easier.

Since I'm just getting started, I need to answer both surveys to get me going.  Over at "The Picky Girl" you'll find the sign up and check ins.  It's going to be a great time, so join us in ringing in 2013 with a great read!

1. What are you reading today?  I'm going to do a bit of rotating today, so I can't really say for sure yet!  A lot of them are on my iPad, so I have a hard time making a list until I open up and jump in.
2. Are you a comfy reader, or do you get dressed, wear shoes and socks, and sit in a straight back chair?  I'll be comfy, for sure!  We got some wispy snow overnight, so I'm in no mood to get dressed up; I'd much rather stay in warm pajama pants and cozy socks, curled up on the couch with a blanket--for now.
3. Food. What will you be eating/imbibing today?  Yesterday I cooked up a lovely Chicken Biryani, so I have leftovers, along with some blackberries for a healthy snack, taquitos for an unhealthy snack, and plenty of Diet Dr. Pepper by my side!
4. Have you finished a book yet?  Nope.  I'm just getting started, so we'll see what I accomplish today and this evening.
5. What book do you want to be reading to close out 2012?  That's a good question.  I'm thinking that maybe I'd like to finish Meg Cabot's Insatiable, since I'm about 100 pages from finishing it up.  It might be nice to ring in the New Year with a book checked off my list.

Here's the second check up:

1. Have you napped yet? Or are you still going strong?  No naps, although I feel one coming on.
2. Do you have a favorite book of 2012? If so, what is it?  I really loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.  That book really rocked me emotionally, and was so engaging and sweet!
3. Any reading goals for 2013?  I'm going to up my Goodreads challenge to 103.  I don't dare go up to 113 to match the year, so I'll just match that last number and increase a little at a time!
4. Is anyone listening to any audiobooks?  I might be.  I was listening to Cinder before Christmas break and I'm ready to dive back into it, but we'll see.  If I'm not driving as I do it, I'm afraid I'll nod off!  :)
5. What book are you most excited about in 2013?  You know, I don't even know!  That's something I need to look into.

Well, I'm off to go get some reading done.  I'm going to grade a couple of essays first, and then I'll escape into a great book!  Have a great one today.

Top 12 of 2012

I tried to boil my list down this year to just 10, but after seeing I had a solid 14, it was all I could do to toss two and call it my top 12!  Honestly, there are so many books that I really enjoyed this year, that I focused on the ones that kept me thinking (or feeling) long after.  Here are my choices for the year:

 I first heard about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight on Angie's blog over at Angieville.  Her glowing, emotional review of this book got me to put it on my list and finally get it read not long ago.  Since then, it's all I could do to stop recommending it to everyone I knew.  Emotional, gripping, and beautiful, this had to be on my list this year!

 This was a graphic novel that I found during nominations for the "Best of" on Goodreads.  I quickly found myself looking up and checking out books that were nominated, and thankfully our school library had this one.  Told in pictures, news articles, and text messages, the story unfolds in a pretty surprising way.  I was intrigued by this story and liked the literacy skills you had to use to read it.

This little jewel was sitting on the "New Arrivals" shelf in our school library.  Seeing it was told in verse, I snatched it up and decided to read it to possibly recommend to my students.  The story of a young girl loaned (and paid for) by another homesteader to help he and his new wife survive on the prairie.  Her story is gripping and gut wrenching.  Honestly, a perfect read for anyone wanting to dabble in verse literature.

I know I'm a bit late coming to this party, but better late than never.  Divergent is another dystopian novel with a real twist.  In this story, people are put into factions and must learn the skill of that group.  What happens in you don't fit into any of those factions though?  Where do you go and how do you develop a "divergent" number of skills?  How do you go against a system bigger than yourself?  A great read, and one I was excited to teach to my Popular Literature students this year.  They loved it!

I'm a big fan now of all things written by Harriet Evans.  Her stories tend to not just be wistful and joyous happiness.  Instead, they feel real and emotionally raw as her main characters deal with what life has set in front of them, often times to realize the beauty of love and friendship right in front of them.  This one made me literally cry, gasp, and talk aloud as I read it.  Stick with it, and you will be justly rewarded with an amazingly deep story and set of characters.

As a newbie to graphic novels, I've loved discovering the emotional depths that these stories can reveal through pictures.  In Stitches the main character has grown up in a highly dysfunctional family, coupled with a hideous health problem that changed his ability to deal with life.  This was not a graphic novel for the squeamish or easily offended, but one that I could not put down and found emotionally raw, honest, and inspiring in the bravery of the human spirit.

On my 8th birthday, my parents surprised me with The Little House on the Prairie series.  From that time forward, I read and reread this series at least a dozen times, completely escaping into a story of frontier living and a quainter time.  Because of that love, I was an easy audience for The Wilder Life, about Wendy Mc Clure's journey to recreate and discover the places, recipes, and real stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I loved this piece of non-fiction and would love to take the same journey into Laura's world!

Sophie Kinsella's stand alone novels have to be some of my favorite reads.  This one was no different.  The text flirting and misunderstandings made it a delightful romantic comedy of sorts.  By far, a favorite read of 2012!

One of my best friends from high school is the author of another choice of mine from 2012, Breaking Beautiful.  I didn't pick this just because I happen to really like the author either!  :)  Set up as a type of mystery, with no magic or paranormal elements, this is just a great story with great characters and conflicts.  I'm happy to say that this realistic fiction was one of my favorites this year!

Cake Boy was a surprising find this year, and yes, it's a cookbook!  I really love the layout, pictures, fonts, and recipes featured in this cookbook.  I've tried to stop purchasing cookbooks, in favor of checking them out from our local library, but this one was a quick exception.  The cakes and desserts in this great cookbook are simple and amazingly delicious.  If I had one cookbook to recommend, this would be it.

I am SO late to this phenomenon that I'm almost embarrassed to just now be putting in on my list.  I'm not sure what I thought it would be about, but I just didn't buy the hype and avoided it until this summer.  I had to attend a conference in Idaho, followed by a quick return home to teach at a different conference.  This was one of the only audio books they had on the shelves, so I gave it a try.  Since I could only listen to it in my car (and it was a great reading) and I quickly was pulled into this gripping love story, I grabbed the book and finished it on my own.  Honestly, I reread the last couple of chapters three times before the tears subsided, and I felt sad to let it go.  If that doesn't count as a top read of the year, then I don't know what does.

Finally, I had to include Ransome Rigg's quirky and unpredictable story.  Coupled with spooky black and white photographs, we follow a young man who wants to understand where his grandfather had lived as a young boy and the mystery surrounding his life.  The story is unpredictable and fresh, something that I really love.  As far as interesting and new, this was one of my favorites of 2012

There we go for 2012!  Earlier in the year I wondered if I would find my top reads, but you never know what a year will bring.  Thankfully, I also met my goal of 100 books this year, and have actually read around 106.  That's a new record for me!  With my "40 Book Challenge" with my students at school, and my own voracious reading habit, it has been a great year.  Here's to another great year ahead!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!  It's been awhile and I have to start making a reappearance online soon.  What better time than on Christmas Eve?  I have nothing big to report this year, nor a real reason for disappearing on here for about a month.  Honestly, I'm in the midst of the biggest burn out of my entire career and just trying to refuel the batteries to make it another five months.  Christmas comes at a wonderful time so I can start to do just that.

I've actually been reading quite a bit, so I'll be back with reviews aplenty, as long as I can stave off the weary-drearies I've been having!  Here's hoping all of you have a wonderful holiday season and I'll be back soon!

*By the way, if you're interested, Jenn, Tasha, and I are going to be doing another New Year's readathon to ring in 2013.  It was fun to read, tweet, and socialize a bit, all while working our way through some great reads.  Join us for the fun! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Mini-Reviews

What a great week we had last week.  I worked two days and then had the rest of the week off.  It was a nice chunk of time off and I really did spend the majority of it relaxing.  Having said that, I'm so behind on reviews that I want to toss my hands in the air and give up!  I've decided to just own up to the fact that I've entered one of the busiest times in my life.  Between teaching school and online classes, taking an online course for professional development, and various other organizations I'm involved with, I'm always feeling like I'm spread pretty thin.  (Okay.  I'm not "thin"--geesh, I wish!) My time and energy is spread thin, but life is really good.  Honest.  I'm just especially thankful for any and all time off that I get!

With all that's going on, I've made reading my greatest escape.  Because of that, I need to get a bunch of reviews published!  Here are some of what I've read in the last several months:

Review for Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin:  As a sequel to The Nanny Diaries, I was eager to revisit Nan and see what she was up to.  Fast forward twelve years from the last time we met Nan.  Now married and remodeling a home in New York City, Nan meets back up with her former young charge Grayer X.  Today, he's an incorrigible teenager who is seemingly messed up by his distant parents, who also has a younger brother being raised in the same way.  Nan gets herself mixed back up with the X-clan and in charge of these two young boys.  Now what should she do, when they are in an even worse situation than when Nan met them before?

Although an interesting read to pick back up with Nan and Grayer's lives, I will admit to being pretty frustrated this time.  Before, we laughed at some of what happened to Nan because it felt like a horror story of a young woman.  Now, the story is of tragedy and loss, and the responsibility of these two kids feels way too daunting.  More than anything, I loved Nan's relationship with her husband, so dragging this past craziness into her marriage made me sad and overwhelmed.  The story was definitely engaging, but really weighty, considering how the past read felt.  I would have liked to have more of Nan's husband in this, and a bit more resolution.  Overall, not a bad read, but just different from the first book and one that felt more serious than I expected.

Review for Born to Be Brad by Brad Goreski:  Brad Goreski is the endearing, quirky-chic dresser that appeared first on The Rachel Zoe Project show on Bravo and later in his own show with the same network.  Who doesn't love a story of someone coming up the ranks from nothing to great wealth and success?  Brad's story is just that.  Having started off as a troubled teenager and adult, dealing with issues of his sexual identity as a gay man, Brad struggled to come out to his family.  His story of drug abuse and failed relationships feels like a real triumph when we fast forward to his successful, current relationship and amazing red-carpet-ready styling in Hollywood, but there is an in between story that his book delves into.  I loved reading about how he became confident and secure in who he was as a person, how he worked and took on opportunities for styling experience wherever possible (hello, Vogue?!?), and how he took risks in branching out and trusting in his own talents to become the stylist he is today. 

Some have critiqued the writing and layout/styling of the book as "frothy" or nothing new.  I didn't find any of that to really take away from the foundation, which was his story.  Honestly, I thought that his personal voice came through very well, which made the story candid and true to who he is as a person.  I also thought the styling fit him, with its bright colors and funny pictures, and matched what he had experienced.  For me, it was an interesting life story and one that I thought was inspiring and made me like and understand Brad a bit better.

Review for Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas:  Thanks to my good friend Tasha over at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books, I was pushed in the direction of this romance.  I don't always have good luck with a decent romance that doesn't make me roll my eyes from annoyance, so I'm happy to say that Tasha led me in a good direction.  This was one of those romances that tore my heart out and kept me turning pages as fast as I could!

Lady Hawskworth's husband has supposedly been lost at sea.  That's what she believes until her husband, that she had no love lost with before he left, has returned.  With the return of her supposed husband, everyone is left scrambling to figure out if he really is Earl Hawksworth or just some convincing swindler? 

This was a really romantic mystery at the heart of it.  Is he her husband or is he not?  Was Lady Hawksworth so starved for real love that she just overlooked the real identity of this man now that he appears to value her more than before?  All of these questions are a constant throughout the story, so between these unknowns and the growing love between the characters, I couldn't stop reading this book.  Yes, it's a romance, so be prepared for some sex scenes, but it's not the crux of the story--thankfully.  Overall, I really got into this romance and was on an emotional roller coaster through a huge portion of the novel. 

Thanks Tasha!  This was a great read and I need to ask for more suggestions!  :)

Well, thanks for sticking with me through a slew of reviews.  I'm still awfully wordy and could have made these individual posts, but it's nice to get them all out of the way!  Now, off to a crazy week ahead.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

I'm not even sure how to go about explaining this amazing little graphic novel.  After seeing it in the early nominations for "Best of..." awards on Goodreads, I decided to check Chopsticks out and was not disappointed.  Told in a series of pictures, instant messages, letters, ticket stubs, etc., this was more of a study in critical thinking than in storytelling.  I quickly realized that this tale of piano prodigy, Glory, and her next door neighbor friend, Fred, was more than met the eye--literally.  The story starts off with a mystery of sorts, that you have to try to figure out.

The thing I most liked about this graphic novel was its unpredictability.  When I would think the story was heading in one direction, it would start to reveal itself as something completely different.  The ending in itself is pretty shocking.  As a complete story, I really found it intriguing and an interesting study in how to read, predict, and draw meaning.  I did feel that with its language and pictures that some young adults might find it offensive, so as a teacher I'll be careful about who I recommend it to.  As a complete story though, it was pretty amazing.  If you're geared up for a different kind of story, this is a graphic novel you ought to check out.  I really hope that other books of this style come out soon!

Check out the trailer for Chopsticks below.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giveaway Winner: Miranda's Mount & Downton Abbey 2013 Calendar

Thank you to everyone who stopped in to my Miranda's Mount review and giveaway, thanks to the lovely and talented author, Phillipa Ashley.  I was excited to see the turnout and have used to draw for the winner. 

Congrats to:  

Emily K.

We will be getting in touch with and get you a copy of Phillipa's newest book release and calendar!  Thank you again to everyone who joined in and stopped by to check it out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Midweek Meandering

First off, don't forget to stop in on the giveaway for Phillipa Ashley's book Miranda's Mount and the Downton Abbey 2013 calendar.  This giveaway runs through Friday, 11/16 so stop in and check it out!  This was a fun escape read, so I hope you check it out.

As for life, things have been good and bad all at the same time.  It was really excellent on one hand, since I had the chance to go see the Ballet West perform Shirley Jackson's, "The Lottery."  Let me be completely honest.  I really did think I'd have a moment or two of boredom--yawn, yawn, stretch, stretch.  That wasn't the case at all!  This ballet company was so good that I was really sucked into the story they told through movement.  Now I think I'll have to get tickets to other performances in the future, because it was really amazing.

On the crazier side of life, I'm not sure when I'm going to learn that it is all a combination of good and bad.  I've just been so incredibly burned out this year that it sometimes really frustrates me.  This burn out so early in the school year might be evidence to me that I have to slow down and stop taking on projects, classes, grants, summer school, etc.  We all need a little extra money, but my peace of mind and sanity might be more important at this point.

Having said that, I can't wait for Thanksgiving and am counting down the days!  I'm excited for five days of family and relaxation.  I mentioned on Twitter that my mom and I might do a 5K on Thanksgiving morning, but I still haven't signed us up yet.  (What's up with that?)  This could be a problem.  Let's hope I can make the decision and just do it!  Besides, it's for a great cause--the local food bank--and it will burn off some calories before the big meal, right?  Please talk me into it!!!

Anyway, enough of my craziness.  Had I posted on Sunday, I could be back to the business of review writing.  As it stands, I now have a stack of quizzes to grade for my AP class and a bed screaming my name.  Below are the stack of lovelies I picked up from the library today.  Thanksgiving can't come soon enough so I can dive into some of these.

Happy midweek to you.  What are you up to, or what are you excited to start reading? 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: Miranda's Mount by Phillipa Ashley

I'm excited to share more about Phillipa Ashley's newest novel, Miranda's Mount.  Don't forget to check yesterday's guest post by Phillipa for a bit more background on the novel and a great giveaway!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…

With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…"

Review:  There is always such a great escape factor in Phillipa Ashley's books, and Miranda's Mount is no different.  Set on the property of a historical castle on a small island in Cornwall, we meet Miranda, who essentially runs the property for the owners in welcoming guests to the island.  As with many of Ashley's novels, there is a lightness to the story that pulls you in and is a fun time.  This novel was no different.  Miranda's professionalism in challenged right away when the aging property owner's son, Jago, returns to run the show.  He's not the bossy type.  In fact, he's the sell-and-run type.

In this contemporary novel, Miranda is the career girl and Jago is the dashing yet impersonal hero.  We quickly learn that people's interests cannot be turned on and off like a spigot, even if they have every reason to not be together.  Miranda is single minded in her career and loves her job, but Jago is broken by his past and determined to sell the property.  These factors make the story complicated and interesting to watch unfold.

As with most of Ashley's novels, the first third of the book has a delightful humor and playfulness to it that made me like Miranda and the other characters.  However, the twist in the story is always right around the corner!  I really did love the location, with the island castle and the tide around the island that either shut them off from the world or gave them a nice sandbar to walk back to the mainland.  I could picture that island and wanted to visit or stay for awhile.   The characters in this novel were also complicated and lovable, mainly because of their flaws.  In fact, I often wondered about Miranda's liking for Jago.  He was obviously easy to look at (and very rich to own that castle), but obviously had secrets underfoot.  What's not to like about a bit of mystery though, especially when it's couched in good looks, right?

Phillipa Ashley, once again, has written an escape read both in its story and location.  I always enjoy a great Ashley novel because they are books that you can sink yourself into for a nice visit.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the novel.

Don't forget to stop by a great guest post by Phillipa, with a nice giveaway of her novel and Downton calendar!  Check it out to hear how she came to be inspired to write the castle island in Miranda's Mount.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guest Post and a Book/Downton Giveaway!

My wonderful author friend, Phillipa Ashley, recently released another book here in the U.S. called Miranda's Mount.  I'm not shy in saying that I really loved her writing and her books from the very first, with Dating Mr. December.  I've thoroughly enjoyed each of her novels.

To aid in this newest release, Phillipa is my guest today here at One Literature Nut, and is going to share more about some amazing locations in England and featured in her newest novel.  She also wanted me to announce a great giveaway of her book and a lovely Downton Abbey calendar from there in the U.K.  Join me in welcoming Phillipa to my blog!

Guest Post:

I love visiting historic sites and homes and we’re spoilt for choice in Britain. I live in the Midlands of England and there are hundreds of places within a few hours drive – like London, Shakespeare’s Stratford, Jane Austen’s house and yes, Downton Abbey – which is Highclere Castle in Berkshire.  But my favourite place is a bit further away in Cornwall, about five hours drive from my house.

St. Michael’s Mount is a spectacular island castle off the south west coast England has to be seen to be believed. Founded in medieval times, the island is cut off by the tide twice a day. A handful of families still live and work there, including the owners, the St. Aubyn family.

As soon as I visited it, I knew I had to write a story set in a place like the Mount – but not a historical novel -- a contemporary romance with mystery, passion and a ‘bad boy’ aristocratic hero. In January 2011, I was dozing off on a car journey and suddenly I had one of those moments: not just light bulb but lightning. The idea for Miranda’s Mount flew into my brain. I started writing the moment I got home and a year later the book was finished and is now published in the US and UK Piatkus Entice.

More About Miranda's Mount:   

When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic... 

With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect - some would say obsession - with other people's histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she's made St Merryn's Mount one of the UK's most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn't bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. 

Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she's forced to delve into painful memories she'd much rather keep hidden . . .

Check out more about Phillipa's latest novel and others out on the market:

Miranda's Mount (Amazon UK and Amazon US)
Phillipa Ashley's website

***Now for the ebook copy of Miranda's Mount and Downton Abbey calendar giveaway!  Please fill out the survey below to be entered in for a drawing.  This giveaway is U.S. only and will run until next Friday, 11/16. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Phillipa and I would both love to hear your comments.  Is there anything you'd love to know about Michael's Mount or how Phillipa got her inspiration?  Leave us a comment!  :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

I love that more novels are being written in free verse and other poetic forms.  The lyrical nature of these books really adds another level of tone to the stories they tell and I can't get enough.  Thankfully, I stumbled on to May B. at our library at school and decided to check it out.  Yes, it's 200+ pages, but it sucked me in and had me finishing it up in one reading.

Synopsis:  As a young girl living on the prairies of western Kansas, May Betts knew she came in second to her brother in importance to her parents.  At a time in the late 1800's, when children were needed to keep a farm and survival together for the entire family, May is no exception.  In need of some extra money, she is sent off to live with another family 15 miles to the west.  In that experience May learns how to really survive.

Review:  Extremely reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie, the story of May Betts is one that is touching and haunting all at the same time.  May B (as she is nicknamed) is a young girl in western Kansas with a thirst to learn and read, but something just isn't right, and she just can't fit the words together.  Because of that, she is labeled as not very bright.  She knows that can't be the case, but doesn't get a chance to find out before she is whisked off to a homesteader's home 15 miles to the west, to a farm that is so isolated that all they can see is prairie stretching out on all sides.

Many things happen to May B while at the homestead that leads to her growing up much too quickly and needing to be an adult who must fight for her very survival.  I loved the way the free verse in the text helped to create more of the isolation we felt from her surroundings and the isolation she felt in a new home.  Interspersed with scenes of mere survival were memories and snapshots of her struggle to learn that makes it all even more haunting.  Besides scenes of making biscuits and keeping dry under a table in the dugout, we see May B struggling to eek out the words in the little schoolbook she brought with her. 

This story about drove me into anxiety.  I loved it and couldn't stop turning pages, but I was tormented by the loneliness, frustration, and fear that drove this little girl.  I realize that this really is a story about determination and the power of the human spirit, but it was gut wrenching to get there.  Despite it all, I think this story and the way it was told was just amazing.  Whether you're new to these verse stories or not, you really must read this story.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Pasta Sauces

To all of my east coast friends, I hope you are all doing well.  The news has been devastating and we're all  thinking about you (and donating to help where we can).  My thoughts and prayers go out to you as the clean up and recovery begins.

What can I say about this side of things?  End of term about killed me last week and weekend, so this week I think I spent it trying to gather strength and energy again.  I'm not sure what was up with that first term, but I was so burned out that I couldn't get enough sleep or rest enough to feel back to normal.  What's up with that?  Things are looking up though with a nice weekend relaxing and NO grading in sight.  I'm feeling a bit more back to myself.

For Weekend Cooking this week, I decided to do a little product comparison.  Have you ever looked at the expensive bottled spaghetti sauces and wondered if they're really worth all that extra cost?  Sometimes these sauces are over twice as much as the spaghetti sauces we're all familiar with!  Well, I purchased a couple of bottles of sauces I hadn't yet tried:  Mario Batali's Tomato Basil and Rao's Tomato Basil.  In my local grocery store, these sauces run about $7.99 a bottle.

Now, I usually just make my own sauce from my home canned tomatoes because I have a bit of a sensitivity to acidic tomatoes (supposedly, I'm allergic to them?), but I do fine if the product is high quality and canned when it's fully ripe.  Anyway, I thought I'd try out these sauces for those last minute dinners or baked pasta dish I want to whip up.   Here are my results.

Mario Batali's Tomato Basil
  • Flavor:  Very light and slightly tangy back taste.
  • Color:  Also, very light, which might mean the tomatoes have been thinned out or canned before fully ripe?
  • Basil-ness:  That basil flavor is pretty light.  In fact, it seems to be a bit thinned out.
  • Toothiness Quotient:  When applied to the pasta, it sticks nicely and has more of a fresh tomato flavor to it that makes the pasta taste a bit like a cheaper brand.
Rao's Tomato Basil
  •  Flavor:  Nice a deep, robust flavor.  This literally tastes like it's been cooking on your stove all day, developing a richness that doesn't taste like it could be bottled.
  • Color:  Even from the picture above, you can see that it's a beautiful, dark color.  It's a glorious dark red, with bits of basil and parsley leaves (obviously fresh) throughout.
  • Basil-ness:  It was a perfect balance.  The sauce was so rich that the basil was more of a compliment than anything.  
  • Toothiness Quotient:  When I tried it out on penne, it coated it delightfully, so spaghetti turned out even better.
My favorite sauce then?  As you can guess, it was Rao's by a landslide.  In fact, when I returned to the grocery store, they had it on sale and I bought four bottles to put on my shelves!  I've tried other expensive brands, but nothing has compared yet to Rao's.  If you look, others have also evaluated bottle sauces and agree with me.  Here's Cooking Light's taste test

If you're a bit cheap when it comes to sauces, which I've been since college, I have to at least say you should bite the bullet and try Rao's.  I'll be keeping this sauce around for quick dinner emergencies or a nice baked pasta. 

Weekend Cooking is a great, weekly post run by Beth Fish Reads.  There are some really great food-related posts there.  Stop by to check out other great posts from this weekend.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Holiday Reading Recommendations...

"Christmas Dreaming" painting done by one of my students. Love it!
I need help.  I'm starting to think ahead to the holidays and would really like to do a little holiday-themed reading.  After putting out a call on Twitter, Colleen @booksnyc came to my rescue with some great recommendations:  Comfort and Joy by India Knight, Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper, and Last Christmas by Julia Williams.  Thank you so much!

In the past, I've read a few holiday books:  Dating Mr. December by one of my faves--Phillipa Ashley, A Darcy Christmas by a collection of amazing authors, and a few by Marcia Evanick.  I'm just really in the mood to read a few great holiday reads, so I'm going to appeal to all of you.  Do you have books that you've read that feature holiday scenes in them?  Thanksgiving is an especially tricky one, but really I'm just looking for the holidays in general. 

Help a holiday-starved reader!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

First off, let me just add my best wishes, hopes, and prayers for everyone back east who has been affected by hurricane Sandy.  The news has just been so gut wrenching and my thoughts have definitely been with everyone back there. 

Lastly, since I'm actually not a Halloween lover (although I really love the fall), I thought I'd share just about the funniest haunted house visit from the Ellen show that I've ever seen.  This was from last year and always has me laughing to tears.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Most Talkative by Andy Cohen

Synopsis:  If you watch Bravo Television at all, you have to know Andy Cohen.  As the man behind the reality shows on Bravo and the host of Watch What Happens Live, Andy is that hilarious, reality super fan that we all somehow relate to.  Before becoming the man behind the Real Housewives franchise, Andy Cohen was a young pop culture fan from St. Louis, Missouri, who began to realize that he was something different from those around him.  Eventually, Andy came to terms with what made him different, which was that he was gay, and gained the strength to let it be known. 

After college, he came out to his friends and family, and proceeded to follow his dreams in television.  This led to his current, lucrative and exciting career with Bravo.  The stories he goes on to tell in this book are both poignantly personal and pop-culture, both memoir and tell-all. 

Review:  I have been a Bravo fan for a very long time.  In fact, I started watching the Real Housewive's franchise from day one of the Orange County ladies.  Andy Cohen was kind of a known extra cast member of sorts, to those of us who have followed these shows.  I think everyone who knows him, loves him!  Honestly, Andy Cohen has a great sense of humor, and a way of saying what he thinks about these women's crazy antics without really saying it and showing his bias.  In short, most fans of the network love Andy.

The thing I loved about his book was the candid way he talked about his own life and his own experience growing up and coming out as a gay man.  I did find it interesting that Andy seems to write of his coming out as part of his life, but not the defining feature of his life.  In coming out, his family seemed to embrace him and move on with life, so the person he speaks of with greatest fear was his good friend and college roommate.  I was so moved by his expression of fear and concern over telling his friend and really could start to appreciate how that must have felt for him.  In the end, his roommate embraced his coming out and the two are still good friends today.

There seems to be an integral connection between Andy's pop-culture obsession and his current job, all fueled by healthy doses of all that is uniquely Andy.  His memoir talks about his early days on national, morning television--including stories about Oprah Winfrey, various CBS news anchors, and other celebrities that made this a real page turner.  Just the stories behind the Housewives franchise (which really is a pretty small portion of the book), make it a must read for fans. 

I really enjoyed Andy's story.  There is such a nice mix of happy and serious, to really echo what we see with the real Andy Cohen on his show.  His anecdotes and memories are funny, fast-paced, and engaging.  Now I will just hope that he writes another book, with more great "behind the scenes" stories for us in a few years down the road!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the book.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Okay.  First of all, can I say how angry I am that I missed Charlaine Harris being here on Saturday?!?  I was grading book reports for end of term grades on Saturday, so I didn't end up making it.  Yep.  Angry.  I hope one of our awesome book bloggers in this area got to go and posts some pics for me!

Anyway, I didn't get to go, but I did finish Dead in the Family recently.  I'm still behind the most recent release, but I'm getting caught up!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Sookie Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric's vampire sire, an ancient being who arrives with Eric's 'brother' in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie's tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbour (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton.

In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shreveport has asked Sookie for a special favour, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favour for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy War."

Review:  I still love the Sookie Stackhouse series and will keep reading the books until I'm worn out--whichever comes first, I'll never know.  I will admit that I pick them up and find myself trying to remember how the previous book ended and what details I've maybe watched in the show on HBO, so that I can distinguish the stories.  This book was no exception to that.  I found that I still knew where I was at with the vampires, but the ever-changing wolf pack and who has died or been killed off by whom was still a struggle for me.

If you're looking for the progression of the Sookie and Eric storyline, then this was not quite the book for that.  The series seems to now be focusing more and more on Sookie's past, her parents, and her grandmother.  For now, that's definitely enough to keep me reading!  I'm glad there is still stuff to uncover, so I'll be there. 

In the end, what CAN you say about the tenth book in a series?  If you've read this far in a series, or plan on it, then you understand the writer's style and storytelling techniques.  This wasn't one of the ten that stood out the most to me, but I still really enjoy them for pure reading escape.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review & Weekend Cooking: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

End of term is over, and thanks to one last six hour push yesterday, all is graded an in.  Thank.  Goodness.  I'm completely and utterly exhausted, which is perfect for sinking into many a good book today. 

In the meantime, I wanted to get back in the game with a little Weekend Cooking post and book review.  I managed to get my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook.  Yes, it's "unofficial," but with a couple of long months ahead of us as we painfully wait for season three, it still is pretty fun to check out the recipes that just might be cooked up for our famous Downton clan.

Set up in a pretty classic fashion, this cookbook is minus the glossy pictures we expect today.  In the post-Edwardian era, the cooking was an interestingly sauced bunch of meats and "veg," with puddings and pastries for dessert and tea.   The contents of the book are separated into two parts: Part 1, "Dining With the Crawleys"; and Part 2, "Sustenance for the Staff".  From there, the book is separated into twelve chapters--eight for the Crawleys and three for the staff.

One of the things that I found nice about this cookbook is that it breaks its chapters into the courses in the meal that you might have with the Crawleys (yes, I picture being there).  We open with Hors d'Oeuvres, soup and fish.  Then it moves to entrees, meat course, game and salads, vegetables, and then desserts.  You'll find plenty of things like oysters, ducks, and roasts galore, with fancy wine and mushroom sauces.  The desserts are also somewhat familiar, with chocolate mousses, cakes, and eclairs, but also contains an Apple Charlotte and Bakewell Tart recipe to remind us of another era.    Tea Time wraps up the Crawleys' section, with delightful scones, curds, and finger sandwiches that seem fairly simple and straightforward to make.

The staff doesn't seem to eat that poorly, but maybe a bit less sauced.  Their food feels a bit more like standard "Toad in a Hole," "Bangers and Mash," and "Bubble and Squeak".  As Americans, if you're not an Anglophile, these terms might make the food sound creepy and a bit frightening, but really it's just basic things like sausages and potatoes.

I really enjoyed the range of recipes in this cookbook and the whimsy of tying it to Downton Abbey and our favorite characters.  Honestly, this is more of a classic British food cookbook, but adds that nostalgic look at a time and show we have all been captivated by.  I've thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on trying out some of the soups in particular. 

Now, can we get back to the show at some point!?!  I'll be keeping my eye out for these glorious foods the next time the Crawleys or staff have a bit of a sit down.

Weekend Cooking is a great, weekly post run by Beth Fish Reads.  There are some really great food-related posts there.  Stop by to check out other great posts from this weekend.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

End of Term Woes

I miss my blog and dropping in to other blogs to see what everyone is reading and reviewing (or just up to).  Right now I'm on my way to end of term one, so things have spun out of control.  Every year and every term I've asked myself why can't I pull it together sooner, but it's just the nature of the beast. 

Well, that's really all I wanted to post.  Sadly, I spent a good deal of Friday night into Saturday with a killer migraine, so I've been playing catch up today (Sunday) to get papers graded.  I hope to post a review or two, but I think I'm going to be a bit absent from the blogosphere this week while I survive end of term. 

I'll be back soon, so don't give up on me!  :(  Also, thank you for so many kind words.  Year after year so many of you cheer me on, so thanks.  Be back soon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

I'm so glad that I get such great recommendations from friends, bloggers, and coworkers, because I've been in need of books that I knew would hit a home run for me.  Although I've been a bit burned out by vampires and other paranormal characters, I was pretty interested when I saw the positive feedback for Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire series, starting with Some Girls Bite.  Lots of people were talking about it, so I thought I should check it out. 

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker-and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she's traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude- and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan's attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone is still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood."

Review:  This book starts with a bang.  Seriously.  There isn't much of a lead up to the main character, Merit's, being turned into a vampire.  Bam!  She has been turned and has to face her new reality.  Now she can no longer be the graduate student she once was; she now has to give it all up to choose a vampire "house" to belong to and how she'll fit into this whole new world that lives by night and sleeps by day.

Although we all have a general idea of the vampire world and genre, this series still grabs you.  Merit is a sassy character who's not interested in being a vampire and yet has to be.  Not only that, but she is somehow gifted with more talent than normal.  Yes, that feels familiar to a lot of fantasy stories, but it just fits here and I found myself pretty okay with it.  Also we find Merit quickly at odds against the head of the house that turned her, Ethan (I won't lie, the "E" name quickly put me in mind of Eric from another vampire series...).  Their chemistry is pretty immediate, but it is filled with animosity that I expect continues over many books to come.  In this first novel, their conflict is just getting started and paints Ethan as the jerk who pushes for too much, too soon.

All in all, I really enjoyed Some Girls Bite.  I did feel that although the book starts with Merit's evolution into a vampire, the actual story doesn't really build up and unfold until the last 1/4 of the book.  It was all right, but did take some time to pick up steam.  Once it did though, it was exciting and tense.  Needless to say, that also meant that the book ended with a lot left unsaid or done.  I'm now eager to see what happens to Merit and to find out if Ethan is as big of a turkey as he starts off or if it's all a "front."  I'm ready to keep reading to find out!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

End of Readathon & Sunday Blatherings

I'll just admit that I stand little chance of making it all the way through a readathon.  Especially with a flight home later tonight, I didn't want to make myself sick and nauseous (my go to response when I'm sleep deprived) by staying up too late.  Okay.  Total over-share, but you get my drift!

Here is my End of Readathon Survey response:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  About 2 am here, which is midnight for me when I'm home.  I had to call it a night.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  I know it doesn't help you finish a book, but I like bouncing around a bit in what I read.  One thing I really enjoyed was reading a short novella, "Tweet the Police" that gave me that feeling of finishing something.  I also think that finishing books you're midway through is nice.  It gives you some settled time to really finish them up, which I love.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Not really.  I love them and think they are always well run.  I appreciate that they are set up so we can all jump in when we can!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  I appreciate the camaraderie that comes from cheerleaders and the visiting bit behind the event.  It really does help keep you moving.
  5. How many books did you read?  1 1/4 novels and 1 novella
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  Stranger In My Arms by Lisa Kleypas, I started To Marry an English Lord, and read "Tweet the Police" by Ellis Drake.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Well, all of them.  Honest.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  None.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?  I wasn't one this year, other than visiting people when I could.  They make a great difference.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  Yes, I'll be participating for sure.  I like hosting challenges, so I'll try to gear up for it.
 Well, that's that.  I'm so glad I got to jump into the readathon here or there, so now I have to gear up for my trip home from Michigan.  It's been a great trip, even though it was way too short.  To finish the day before I fly out, my friend "Doc" and I are watching a bit of Sherlock and I'm going to try to get some more grading wrapped up.

Time to get back to the grading and sorting of the luggage. 

How was your weekend, and if you participated in the readathon, how did you do? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Readathon: Hour 15--Back to It

Well, I'm back from the apple farm (which was actually just an old-timey store), where we quickly went through the line to pick up some yummy homemade donuts and some fresh-pressed apple cider.  Yum!  We then headed into town to eat an early dinner and to check out some cool shops and antique stores.  Have I ever mentioned how gorgeous dishware was at the turn of the century?  It makes me wish we all sat down to elaborate table settings so I could own some beautiful, unique crystal and silver.

Anyway, I have to say that what we didn't count on was the Michigan home game filling the streets and making any "rush" pretty difficult.  On the way home we decided to try out Traverse Pie Co.'s famous cherry pie, as mentioned by Mario Batalli on his show The Chew.  Now I have a nice piece of truly delicious cherry pie and my stack of books to dive back into for a bit.  My doctor friend is falling asleep as I type this, so I'll be reading on my own for awhile.

I know I missed the Mid-Survey Event, but I want to join in and get going again.  Let's hope it sticks now!  Here we go:

Mid-Event Survey
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?  Feeling more than ready to dive back into my reading!  I'm not really tired at all, but I've been out all afternoon.
2) What have you finished reading?  A Lisa Kleypas novel from earlier this morning.
3) What is your favorite read so far?   Well, my one read was pretty good.  :)  I have some more to read that all have me eager to get back to it.
4) What about your favorite snacks?  The Traverse Co. Cherry Pie is really delicious, so I'll say that is my favorite snack so far.
5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!  I haven't yet.  :(  Maybe now that I'm back I can catch a few new ones?

Thanks for all the kind words so far!  I'm off to keep reading To Marry an English Lord and a few others that I have on my e-reader.  I hope everyone is having a great readathon so far!

Fall Break & Readathon!

Good morning everyone!  I'm excited to say that I decided I had a few hours here or there today to join in "Dewey's Read-a-Thon" this time around.  I really didn't think I would be able to, so I held back.  This week we only had work through Wednesday and now we're off until this coming Tuesday.  It's been a little crazy for me, since I'm still slogging my way through a stack of essays that seem to never end.  (I think I need to just realize that I will ALWAYS have essays and papers to read.)

Anyway, we're off for Fall Break and I'm in Michigan, visiting my friend "Doc" (as she likes me to call her).  It was high time that I paid her a visit, so here I am!  It's been really nice so far, and I've had a chance to get a good bit of reading (and grading) done while I've been here.  Yesterday she had surgeries to attend to, so I was able to sleep in and then get up to do some work.

As for the readathon, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to have time today.  We're going to visit an apple farm today and maybe do a bit of shopping, but I have already read for a bit this morning and finished a book that I started last week.  Thanks to Tasha at "Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books," she pointed me in the direction of a Lisa Kleypas novel she thought I might like.  Yep, she was right.  I got up this morning and finished up the last 150 pages of it as my first read for the readathon.  I think that's a pretty good start.

Here are my stats so far then:
Number of books read since you started:  1 -- Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas
Running total of pages read since you started:  About 150
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 1.25
Mini-challenges completed:  Nothing yet.  We'll see if I get the chance!
Other participants you’ve visited:  None yet.  I'm going to do that now before we leave for the apple farm.

All right.  I'm off then!  I'm going to bounce around and visit a few folks to see how they're doing.  Then, I'm thinking I'll maybe read one of the following:

Well, that's part of my list of choices for today!  I better be off to check things out and then to get back to reading before we have to leave for the day.  How are you all doing?  Are you participating in the readathon?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun."

Review:  I've had mixed feelings about writing a review about The Passage since it was so complex and I took way too long to read it.  After seeing Justin Cronin on Good Morning America, I went to pick up his novel.  Honestly, I was intrigued by the idea of a scientifically altered group of people unleashed on the world.  Cronin called them a type of vampire, so admittedly, that's how I went into the story.  These human monsters seemed about as far removed from any monster I'd read about and felt more like a story that echoed authors like Stephen King in The Stand.  

Overall, this novel is beyond complex.  There are characters galore, and time and gaps in time that make the story even more complex.  It feels like you just get used to a set of characters and we rotate to another set.  In a way, you really do need to dedicate some time to this novel and then keep at it.  This is not a book to start reading, put down, and come back to without considerable issues.

The gist of this novel is an apocalyptic story where a scientific experiment went so terribly wrong that it pretty much wiped out society.  Now we follow a small band of people who have survived and find out how they might just survive and not be looking behind their backs forever more.  How?  You find out some pivotal information near the end of the first book that really propels you into reading the next one out.  I won't lie.  It was a little bit of a "holy cow" sort of moment when you start to pull things together, and it is pretty interesting, but you have to read the next book to find out what really happens.

Let me be clear that this is not my normal read.  I didn't love it and I struggled to get through it.  That doesn't mean that it's not a good book and I'll be the first to admit it.  The story is engaging and requires your complete attention to keep characters and story lines straight.  However, I can see that this has a clear audience for readers who enjoy a thorough story that works to build up the world and its characters, putting an interesting twist to it all.  Although I felt a bit weary at the end, I can say that I'm glad I stuck it out.  That ending is pretty exciting and made me consider reading the next book!

For some alternate reviews, check out these bloggers:
 It's All About Books
 The Book Smugglers
 Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'?

As you can see, I'm in the minority!  Most people LOVED this book.  If you've read it, please comment and let me know what you thought and feel free to leave a link to your own review.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Blatherings & Weekend Cooking

Happy fall!  Yes, I think it's really and truly here.  My air conditioning finally has pretty much stopped running and I'm about ready to switch it over to the heating part of central air.  Nice.  October is just a great month.  Other than my hectic life at work, I can't think of a single thing I don't love about this last part of the year. 

Heading into the weekend I noticed that I had picked up a bit of a cold, so I'm taking it easy and catching up on grading I have to finish before I leave for Michigan this next week.  I'm also cooking up a nice pot of turkey and wild rice soup.  Yum! 

Speaking of cooking, I have been playing around with cake recipes after picking up an amazing cake cookbook called Cake Boy by Eric Lanlard and a bit of a gift from my mother, the cookbook Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson.  Growing up, we always made our baked good from scratch.  In fact, most of our recipes came from a little community cookbook of my grandmother's from the 1960s (which contained recipes from the early 1930s on).  I cherish that cookbook, but I love looking at other recipes that redo classics or share an updated version. 

Cake Boy is this amazing little cookbook that has a British/French flair.  Most of his cakes are "sponges" and are smothered in frosting.  There are amazing tart recipes, one of which is a wicked looking Bakewell Tart that I'm dying to try my hand at.  There are cheesecakes, cookies, and madeleines, all with detailed recipes and quite a few glorious pictures to go with the recipes.  In fact, last weekend I made a nice, chocolate sponge.  It was very brownie-like in its depth of chocolate flavor, and simply amazing.  Honestly, if I was going to recommend a cookbook, this would be the one.  You really have to check this out. (Here is a link to Cake Boy boutique in London.)

The second cookbook I've tried out is Vintage Cakes, which I got as a gift.  The pictures make "vintage" sound like it equates messy in some way, as some of the pictures feature cakes served on boards with frosting kind of running all over.  In their defense, it was mainly the Texas Sheetcake recipe, but I thought it was a pretty messy looking picture that I didn't think represented "vintage" in the way I pictured.  The recipes in this cookbook though are really nostalgic.  The Honey Bee Cake was one that I remember and I really want to try out, along with the Harvey Wallbanger.  There is a nice variety of cakes here and I really do love it.  Just look at that sweet cover!  Doesn't that speak for itself?

That's my weekend.  Maybe I'll post my turkey soup on another day?  For today, I thought I'd share a bit of cake magic.  Now, I'm off to eat a bowl of soup, although this post is making me wish I had a piece of cake!

Weekend Cooking is a great, weekly post run by Beth Fish Reads.  There are some really great food-related posts there.  Stop by to check out other great posts from this weekend.