Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TTT: Ten Books Which Feature Characters Baking

This weeks topic is Ten Books Which Feature Characters...

I selected Baking

I love baking cookies, cupcakes, brownies.  The fun thing about it is that it's a passion that my kiddo and I can share, we even like inventing our own desserts (somehow they always seem to have some sort of candy topping). Plus the rewards of eating what you make are even more fun.  It's one of my favorite parts about cooking in general.  After perusing Goodreads for some added help, because well I haven't read ten books on baking myself.  I came up with a list of what I've read and some to add to my TBR list.   I'm going to include a brief summary from Goodreads, so in no particular order....


Can their friendships take the heat? A trio of mothers and daughters will find out when they sign up for a cooking class from a famous chef in the first book of the Saturday Cooking Club series - it's mother-daughter bonding and so much more!

Katie is miserable on the first day of middle school. Her best friend Callie came back from camp boy-crazy and part of a whole new group of friends.  Katie realizes if she’s going to survive middle school she needs to seriously regroup and find some new friends. But how? She bites into the cupcake her mother packed her for lunch and for a second closes her eyes. The sweet treat makes her happy—finally something goes right!  

18453193Baking a fluffy pink cupcake is awesome, but wearing a dress that looks like one? No, thank you!  Cousins Willow and Delia can't wait to spend a week vacationing together with their families. Their aunt is getting married, and Willow and Delia are hoping their tasty baked goods will be enough to get them out of being flower girls in the wedding.

I particularly liked that this book included recipes. 


18289482Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

I love the premise of a girl who has a secret life filled with cooking.  Reading these books always make me hungry.  


Amelie Day loves to bake - cupcakes, biscuits, bread, tarts and muffins - so she's thrilled when she's invited to compete in Britain's Best Teen Baker of the Year. But Amelie has Cystic Fibrosis and some days she can barely breathe. Determined not to let her condition or her mum stop her, Amelie musters all her flour power, but will it be enough to get her there?



One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.  

 A little part mystery in figuring out who the bread came from, but more about friendship, community, etc. It comes with recipes.  


When Alice's Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

This just sounds so cute.  


Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of her small town of Willow, Oregon, and travel like her best friend, Sophie. But when Isabel's mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer; until she learns of a baking contest.


Lulu Baker's dad is getting ready to marry his new girlfriend, world-famous model Varaminta le Bone. Everyone thinks Varaminta is fabulous. Everyone, that is, except Lulu. She knows that her stepmother-to-be, not to mention her awful son Torquil, is cruel, deceitful, and just using her father. But how can she make her dad see Varaminta and Torquil for who they really are?

When a magical recipe book called THE APPLE STAR finds its way into Lulu's hands, she finds that some very unusual ingredients and some help from her friends just might do the trick


Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. 

I love the cover and the ones for the sequel.  I really need to read this soon. 

So feel free to tell me some of your favorite characters who would be found baking.  Or include a link to your top ten.  Happy Reading! 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Classic Read-along: A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle


April's  pick for the Classic Read along with the Midnight Garden was A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.   You can follow along or join in the discussion at http://www.themidnightgarden.net or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.  


Published: September 2nd 2008 by Square Fish
 (first published May 1st 1980)  
Genres: YA Realistic Fiction
Pages: 352 pages
Format: Paperback
Source:  Library

From Goodreads:  "After a tumultuous year in New York City, the Austins are spending the summer on the small island where their grandfather lives. He’s very sick, and watching his condition deteriorate as the summer passes is almost more than Vicky can bear. To complicate matters, she finds herself as the center of attention for three very different boys.

     Zachary Grey, the troubled and reckless boy Vicky met last summer, wants her all to himself as he grieves the loss of his mother. Leo Rodney has been just a friend for years, but the tragic loss of his father causes him to turn to Vicky for comfort—and romance. And then there’s Adam Eddington. Adam is only asking Vicky to help with his research on dolphins. But Adam—and the dolphins—may just be what Vicky needs to get through this heartbreaking summer."

Vicky is in a tough position, she has two boys who are vying for her attention, and one that she seems to have a crush on.  "Adam was different from anybody I'd ever known.  He wasn't spectacularly gorgeous, like Zachary, but he had a kind of light within that drew me to him like a moth to a candle."     I'm not a huge fan of stories where there is this triangular relationship thing going on, but Leo, Zachary and Adam all played their roles of "good" guy, "bad" boy and "older" guy so well.   Zachary almost to much.  He got to a point where I really hated anytime he took Vicky out.  And this line, "Don't you know you're all that's between me and chaos?" Seriously?  He still gets under my skin thinking about him.  I think I mostly felt for Vicky though.  Her insecurity about her looks and thoughts on these three boys.   This was a very difficult summer for her, one that sticks with you and shapes the kind of person you're going to be. 

Vicky's grandfather's illness is a means of delving into the difficult subject of death and dying.  It really illustrates the fears that Vicky faces with losing her grandfather and letting him go in a heartfelt realistic way.  Even Vicky's grandfather's fears are portrayed very well. " I'm afraid-...   Of what, Grandfather?  "That I won't know when to let go."  When he asks her to let him know when it's time, man that was so tough to read. What a responsibility to place on a young teenager who is in that stage of growing up becoming an adult and seeing their own immortality.  I'm glad that he later tells her how unfair he was being.  

This is only the second time that I've read one of  L'Engle's books, the first being A Wrinkle in Time.  Yet, her writing fascinates me and makes me read slowly to absorb everything.   There's complex ideas about science, theology, poetry, religion, love, death and dying in A Ring of Endless Light.  I felt like I didn't want to miss a passage, so I kept leaving scraps of paper scattered throughout the book to remind me of  many of L'Engle's complex ideas.  Like this one "Time is like a river for most of us, flowing in only one direction. But there's a possibility that time is less like a river than a tree, a tree with large branches from which small branches grow, and where they touch each other it might be possible to get from one branch of time to another."  That line so reminds me of reading A Wrinkle in Time.  If you're a fan of L'Engle's work and haven't yet read this,  A Ring of Endless light can be read as a standalone.  

In the Introduction L'Engle's grandchildren talk about how her stories include details from her own life.  So when I read this line it had me wondering if she was talking about herself, "Even when I was a kid I read Scientific American, not fairy tales. My academic parents didn't encourage fairy tales.  And I think it was my loss."  Her stories are just so thought provoking and complex and I enjoy how A Ring of Endless Light was both realistic fiction as well as some science fiction too. Especially as Vicky explores her abilities to communicate with the dolphins she meets.  According to  L'Engle's grandchildren, she apparently "wrote and lectured extensively on the difference between truth and fact, arguing that it is through story that we human beings approach the truth, not through facts, which can only get us so far." A beautifully written story with strong messages, easy to relate to and will stick with me for sometime to come.  

Favorite Line  "..if we aren't capable of being hurt we aren't capable of feeling joy."  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MG Realistic Fiction: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Genre: Realistic Fiction 
Hardcover:  288 pages
  • Published February 5th, 2015 
  • by Nancy Paulsen books
  • Source:  Public Library

Ally has been in trouble many times, most of the time it's even on purpose.  But, this last trip to the principal's office was purely unintentional.  Ally didn't mean to hurt Mrs. Hall's feelings by bringing a card to her baby shower.  She didn't know that instead of saying congratulations, she brought a sympathy card.  She just thought the yellow flowers on the card were pretty.  Ally just made a mistake.  No one suspects that the real reason Ally has been getting herself in trouble on purpose is to escape from anything to do with reading.  "Reading for me is still like trying to make sense of a can of alphabet soup that's been dumped on a plate."  Ally's dad is in the military, so their seven moves have allowed Ally to hide her reading difficulties pretty well.  For the most part, Ally stays quiet, happy to watch her "mind movies" and draw in her sketchbook of impossible things.  That is until Mr. Daniels begins subbing for her teacher on maternity leave.  Mr. Daniel begins to realize that the reason Ally has been getting herself in trouble is that she is struggling with dyslexia.  

 From the authors dedication, you immediately know Fish in a Tree is meant for teachers and kids.  "Kids who find their grit to conquer life's challenges-no matter what those challenges may be."  Ally is an interesting character, one filled with many insecurities.  Ally in many ways  believes that she is incapable of learning.  Even believing Shay and what she perceives the other kids at school are saying about her (dumb, stupid, loser).  It doesn't help that her mom thinks that she is smart and just needs to work harder. It's these initial chapters that had my kiddo saying that the book was "sad, but I want to see what happens."  Since the book is written from Ally's point of view, there is instant empathy for her.  You really want her struggles to come to light, you want the kids bullying her at school to stop, and for her to recognize her strengths.  Thankfully, she does.  Mr. Daniels is a wonderful teacher, the kind that you hope every child has an opportunity to meet.  I loved the mystery object lesson, and how he interacted with Oliver and Albert.  These two things allowed Ally to begin to see some of her own strengths.  Ally also begins to change as she forges new friendships with Oliver and Keisha, and as she begins to get help for her dyslexia.   Overall the story leaves you hopeful about Ally's future.  Included at the end of the book is a letter from Hunt to her readers, she talks about the inspiration of the story being a teacher she had when she was younger and how she struggled in school as well. Hunt makes the point that "we all have talents and areas of strength, as well as things we need to work harder on."  

Favorite line:  “Everyone is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New and Upcoming Releases: Murder is Bad Manners and My Life in Diorama's

These are two books that I've read, reviewed and enjoyed awhile ago.  With their upcoming releases, I thought they needed a re-mention.   

22546619Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery 
Hardcover:  320 pages
  • Published April 21st 2015
  • by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:  "Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?"

Link to my review

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction 
Hardcover:  224 pages
  • Publishing April 28th 2015
  • by Running Press Kids

From Goodreads:  "Twelve-year-old Kate Marino thinks she is a real mastermind. At least when it comes to hatching a plan to dissuade potential buyers from purchasing Big Red, the old farmhouse that has been the only home Kate has ever known, and which her parents must sell in order to downsize.
  • Kate has not even moved yet, and already her life is changing in unwelcome ways. Every moment and memory seems fleeting. Making dioramas of the people she loves in the places that she holds dear gives Kate a sense of calm. But there’s no way Kate is going to move now, when her dance troupe is finally going to compete at Dance Nation, and her best friend is starting to replace her with her enemy, Megan. It may take several bags of stink, the help of her friends, and a few fake dogs in order for her to be able to keep her life the way that she knows and loves it."

Link to my review

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

This weeks topic is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

1.  J.K. Rowlings  author of my beloved Harry Potter series.  You reawakened my love of all things MG fantasy.

2 & 3 .   Shelby Bach and Jacqueline West  I've read and loved all the books in their series and they've both been two of the nicest authors that I've connected with on social media.  So wonderful to their fans and always take the time to respond to comments on their blog.  I will purchase any books that they write.  

4.  Tara Dairman author of the All Four Stars series.  She writes wonderful stories that include mouthwatering details about foods from around the world, her path to publication is fascinating and  she's from my home state of Colorado.  

5.  Jonathan Stroud author of The Bartimaeus and Lockwood and Company series.  I love his characters, witty bantering, creepy ghost stories and mysteries.  

6.  Neil Gaiman  I loved Coraline and  The Graveyard Book.  He wrote one of my favorite opening lines "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." 

7.  L.R.W. Lee  independently publishes the Andy Smithson series.  She weaves in many "life principles" into her fantasy series and I've really enjoyed the progression of her writing across the whole series.  She writes an entertaining story and I'm vested in seeing how things turn out.  She is always so encouraging to other independent authors.    

8.  Shannon Messenger  author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.  She exudes California, sparkly pink unicorns and I love her artwork and Keeper series.  She also hosts the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  

9.  Beverly Cleary I have read and loved all her books.  Even now I think back on them fondly.  Heck, I could include Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Judy Blume in this category too.  

10.  Jennifer Nielsen I've read and loved all her books and she's on my list of books to purchase every time a new one comes out.  

So, what are some of your favorite authors? Did I list any that you liked, or maybe you have one that you'd like to share. Feel free to post your TTT link in the comments.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TTT: Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books/Movies

This weeks topic is Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books

These are a few of my favorite lines or quotes (in no particular order) from some of the books/movies that I've loved. Each one has some special meaning, whether it made me cry, laugh, smile or I drew some inspiration from the words.  

Quotes from the Prisoner of Azkaban 
- Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.
- You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?  You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?  Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.  

“It's been my experience that those people who seem the most 'normal' are in fact the most dangerous.” ― Jacqueline WestThe Second Spy

“It's amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.” 
― Jacqueline KellyThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” 
― Eden Phillpotts
“Sadness can find you anywhere, anytime, so you better have fun when you can.” 
― Rebecca WellsThe Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh
“When life gives you squirrels, your bound to be a little nuts!” 
― Brenda Lochinger
“It's so weird how life is so full of moving around--people coming and going, people passing by each other all day long. You never know which person's going to steal your heart. You never know which is going to settle your soul. All you can do is look. And hope. And believe.” ― Natalie LloydA Snicker of Magic

9.   “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”  - Walt Disney

10.  "Life moves pretty fast.  You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  -Ferris Bueller's Day Off

My Favorite Line is "If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.  Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever."  The Crow

So, what are some of your favorite book quotes? Did I list any that you liked, or maybe you have one that you'd like to share. Feel free to post your TTT link in the comments.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Young Adult Fantasy: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Published: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy 
Pages: 400 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

From Goodreads: "Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. 

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.  But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped."

I knew I wanted to read this after reading Kim's Review at The Midnight Garden.  Then I followed along the blog tour, and really wanted to read this.  I was happy to see if pop up on the library list of New Releases, but I only got it for a 14 day-loan.  I really shouldn't have worried about finishing it in time, I read this in a weekend, it's that good!  One of those books that you just can't put down.   

First off, I loved Schwab's alternate London's, each was unique and magical, you can tell she spent a great deal of time developing her worlds.  I also loved that right away Schwab introduces Kell, the traveler.  

 "Kell wore a very perculiar coat.  It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible." 

The world and the characters of each London seemed to come to life as Kell stepped from one London to the next.  You experience them as he see's them and then later through Lila.  A Darker Shade of Magic also has a well thought out magic, with rules and consequences that makes for a very interesting plot.  No need to wade through pages and pages of text, it's all present in lovely detail from the start and just grabs at you making you want to read more about the Antari and how magic lives in their blood.  Not to mention there is a thief, Lila who is charming, funny, smart, an adventure seeker with some badass talents of her own.  She has a quick wit and the bantering that goes on between her and Kell makes for some very entertaining reading. 

 "You don't know anything about these worlds,"  he said, but the fight was bleeding out of his voice.  "Sure I do,"  countered Lila cheerfully.  "There's Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,"  she recited, ticking them off with her finger.  "See?  I'm a fast learner."  

And then there is "Give me the stone, he said, "and I'll let you come."  Lila bit back a sharp laugh.  "I think I'll hold on to it until we're through.  "And if you don't survive?" challenged Kell.  "Then you can raid my corpse," she said drily.  "I doubt I'll care."    

Like the title alludes to, there is a darker side to the magic.  There are the Danes twins, who were down right creepy and the ways that they use the magic in their world give me shivers just thinking about it.  They were decisively cruel in their tactics.  A Darker Shade of Magic could be read as a standalone, there aren't many loose ends, but why would you?  Especially since Schwab is working on a sequel.  I for one don't think I got enough of Prince Rhy's flirtatious ways and it would be wonderful to revisit Kell and Lila again.   Perhaps even see some developing romance between the two, hmm have to wait and see alas.