Yearly Archives: 2014
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.
We all know that the thing to do is to write dystopian teen novels. Everybody’s doing it. Some of them get lots of coverage because they are excellent (Hunger Games for example) and others get lots of coverage despite not being very good. And then there are those which are quite good but seem to have more of a cult following. Maybe The Bone Season falls into this category because it’s so different from so many other novels in this genre. Sure it’s got a teenage hero. Sure there is mounting tension and potential for civil unrest. But so much about this book is unique.
Set in London in 2059, the story follows a young woman named Paige Mahoney. She is a clairvoyant, which is not all that remarkable in her time. There are a lot of clairvoyants around. However, the politicians have created an environment unfriendly to these types and they must go underground to survive. What makes Paige unique is her particular ability. She is a dreamwalker; she can leave her body and travel through the aether, where the spirits roam. She can even enter another person’s psyche, though she doesn’t if she can help it. One day, despite all her caution, she slips up and becomes the number one target of the Scion, whose job it is to hunt down rogue clairvoyants. Shortly thereafter, she learns the weird truth about her home. When she is caught, she is shipped to the ruins of the off-limits Oxford town, which is now a camp for clairvoyants who are ruled by a group of beings called Rephaim.
What will happen to her? Will her unique abilities save her? Who and what are these Rephaim? This is a book for older teens or adults. It’s in intriguing story though Paige, the narrator, needs to lighten up a bit. I’m looking forward to the sequel but dubious about how the author intends to write six more books about this story.
Post by Alison Hein.
Curious how we’re all willing to spend five dollars or more for an icy cup of gourmet coffee in a specialty shop, but rarely make it for ourselves at home. It’s about the easiest thing in the world, especially if you (like me) often waste extra coffee you’ve made in the morning. Don’t do that! Any extra coffee should be cooled and put in the fridge – it can be made into a milkshake-like delight with little effort. Iced coffee makes a great alternative to hot, especially during the warm summer months.
My husband and I enjoy hazelnut-flavored coffee, which adds a sweet, nutty flavor to our iced coffee. Other flavored coffees, such as vanilla or coconut, also turn your morning drink into a smooth, sweet liquid confection. My niece Rebecca tells me there is now a Cookie Dough coffee available for purchase!
The biggest tip I can offer is to make simple syrup in advance. It takes only a few minutes, requires readily available ingredients (sugar and water), and dissolves instantly into hot or cold beverages. I keep it on hand for Iced Coffee, Iced Tea, and Lemonade, all of which can easily be brewed and served at home. Store your simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.
So, next time you don’t feel like getting dressed in the morning and running to the local coffee shop, stay in your pajamas, make some toast or warm a croissant, pour your brewed coffee over ice into a frosty glass, and savor your smooth, sweet breakfast in bed.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
To make syrup, pour sugar into a small heavy saucepan. Stir in water and mix well. Place over medium-high to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until sauce is thickened. Set aside and allow to cool.
Makes about 1 cup of syrup.
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
3 tablespoons half & half, or to taste
Simple syrup, to taste
Put a few ice cubes in a tall, 8-ounce glass. Pour brewed coffee over ice. Stir in half & half and simple syrup to taste. Add a straw. Sip and enjoy.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
My kid is entering first grade in the fall. I’m suddenly thinking about all the books I read to my class of first graders I supervised years ago. How can he possibly be the same age as them??? They were so big! Well, either way, like it or not, my kiddo is growing up. I don’t think I’m going to run out of books to read to him though!
I read Because of Winn-Dixie to that class of precocious first-graders and they all loved it. So when I saw it on the shelf, I knew exactly what we’d be reading together. If you haven’t read it, Winn-Dixie is just a beautiful story, told in the charming first-person of a young girl named India Opal Buloni, preacher’s daughter and newest resident of Naomi, Florida. On an errand to pick up some groceries from the Winn-Dixie store, Opal encounters a stray dog who is terrorizing the produce department. She quickly claims him as her own and brings her new dog, Winn-Dixie, home to meet the preacher.
Everything that happens that summer happens because of Winn-Dixie. If it wasn’t for him, she would never have met the kindly, nearly blind, old Gloria Dump. She would not have met Otis from the pet store whose music would hold all the animals in rapt attention. And if it weren’t for that old stray, her father might never have pulled his head out of his shell.
Kate DiCamillo manages to write a book that is disarmingly sweet in its story and tone without ever coming across as saccharine or forced. It’s a wonderful book with blessedly short chapters. I recommend it to all.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I don’t know about you, but I love forensic history shows. You know the ones: scientists carefully combing over some sort of historical site or remains with a brush and a pick trying to understand the truth behind what happened and, possibly, why. This one’s pretty darned compelling. The tomb of Richard III, hunchbacked king of England made eternal by William Shakespeare, was presumed destroyed and lost forever. But a team of cunning historians suspected that this otherwise unassuming parking lot in Leicester, England might hold some secrets beneath the pavement. Curiously, there was a big red “R” painted in one of the parking spots. Why not dig there first? Who knows?
You’ll never guess what they found! They found a skeleton. AND this skeleton had a notable curvature of the spine. AND this skeleton had met a rather grisly end, most certainly on a Medieval battlefield. Take a look at a halberd and you’ll know that this is not the way anyone should expire. But guys, they found Richard III. Almost certainly. The reproduction of his facial features based off the skull are eerily similar to well-known portraits of the king. It’s a slightly melodramatized show, but it’s laden with real science and facts so you can enjoy it without feeling too guilty.
Post by Alison Hein.
My niece refers to Oatmeal Pancakes as “two breakfasts in one” – a breakfast imbued with both the rich, buttery pleasures of pancakes and the creamy texture of old-fashioned oats. The tricks here are to cook the oats in advance, whip the egg whites to aerate and keep the batter light. A wisp of cinnamon feels just right.
“Oatcakes” have a long-standing tradition inScotlandandIreland, where documentation of their existence dates back to the time of the Roman conquest in the year 43 CE. Oats grew well in the tough, rocky soil, and the nutritious grain could be mixed with water and cooked over a fire to make “bannocks” or “farls”.
Be forewarned – Oatmeal Pancakes will fill you up. Try them before a hike, or a day when a late lunch is planned. For an even heartier pancake, add some chopped nuts, sliced bananas or tangy raisins.
If you like, simply cook a little extra oatmeal the day before. You’ll be that much more prepared to whip up your “two breakfasts in bed.”
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked oatmeal, cooled
¼ cup honey
2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces (one half stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, for cooking pancakes
Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl, stir together cooked oatmeal, honey, milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add oatmeal mixture to dry ingredients. Slowly add melted butter to batter. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into batter.
Place pan or griddle on burner over medium to medium high heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancake. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until golden brown, one to two minutes, adding more butter and adjusting heat as necessary. Keep warm while making the remainder of pancakes. Serve hot with butter and real maple syrup.
Makes 12 to 14 4-inch pancakes.