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October 5, 2011

 Something spooky is going on at the Ludlow mansion, and teen reporter Hildy Biddle is determined to get the real story for her school paper, The Core. A new advisor, a dead body, reports of hauntings, and threats to family-run apple orchards make for enjoyable reading.  Hildy learns a lot about reporting, and how a community can come together in hard times while still having fun. Read more at the author’s website here.



September 14, 2011
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  Enjoy tonight’s sunset. Maybe ash from Minnesota’s wildfire makes it extra colorful.

The Feast Nearby

August 15, 2011

  I read quite a few memoirs, and books about food, but it’s a real pleasure to read a memoir about local eating from an accomplished food writer. Robin Mather finds herself living in a small cabin in Michigan with a dog, a parrot, and not much money. This is the story of her first year or so living there, trying to eat frugally and locally. Robin doesn’t give us too much information about her past, which is a refreshing change. No bad-mouthing her ex-husband or former employer, the Chicago Tribune. Robin is a foodie who enjoys living on a lake, cooking, eating, and preserving delicious food. She doesn’t even try to grow all her food, as other writers have done. Her small lot is shady, so herbs and eggs from some chickens is all she doesn’t buy. Lots of delicious-sounding recipes, and little stories about  her pets, her neighbors, and memories of family and friends and feasts. In short, Robin is good company, and I bet she’s a great cook, too. Read more about her and find recipes here.

Close to Famous

May 28, 2011

 Joan Bauer writes for young adults, but I really enjoy her books. Close to Famous is funny, heartwarming, a bit sad, and sometimes exciting. It’s never, ever boring. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for some of the literary fiction I read. Actually, the only things missing from this book are recipes. Foster McFee, age 12, loves to bake. Her specialties are cupcakes and muffins. Her weakness is reading, so she memorizes all the recipes.

After a conflict with an Elvis impersonator in Memphis, Foster and her mother wind up in Culpepper, West Virginia. Living in an Airstream trailer, Foster bakes her way into the hearts of the people she meets in Culpepper, even a man called Angry Wayne. When she meets an almost famous actress, Miss Charleena, she gets another chance to tackle learning to read if she’s brave enough to try. A new prison in town hasn’t brought the jobs promised Culpepper, and a church may get torn down and turned into a taco joint. With the help of Amy at the hardware store, and Macon the short documentary filmmaker without a camera, Foster and Culpepper may find their dreams. For more information about the author, and a couple of cupcake recipes, visit her website.

Finally, a cat picture

May 20, 2011
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                                                                                                                                                                                            I realize that cat photos are practically a requirement for blog writers, and I have been sadly remiss. So, here is a  photo of our cat,  Baby Patrick, with a cotton striped afghan I’ve just finished crocheting. He “helped” with the project, by sitting on the afghan in progress and patting the yarn being worked.

The Wilder Life

May 20, 2011

  I’ve been a fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder since I was a girl, and I’m just one of many, many fans. Wendy McClure started rereading the Little House books as an adult, and went looking for what she calls “Laura World”. She read everything she could find by and about Laura, got her boyfriend interested as well, and ended up visiting all the major sites mentioned in the books, as well as Burr Oak, Iowa, and the Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri. Wendy even went to a musical about Laura featuring Melissa Gilbert as Ma Ingalls. I remember my sister Vicki talking about a road trip to Pepin to find the first little house site with her husband and daughter, and how it was rather out of the way and kind of a letdown. Wendy McClure would totally understand, but she found some of the things she hoped for on her trips and in her research. She also bought a few sunbonnets. For more about the author, visit her website here.  For more about Laura, I like her collection A Little House Traveler. I also enjoyed the other books about Laura’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, although Wendy doesn’t mention if she read them.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: A Novel

May 12, 2011

   Set in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya, this short, charming novel reminded me of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, even though the settings are different. I think they are similar because both feature widowed parents of grown children, friendship, and some late in life romance. Mr. Malik and Rose Mbikwa meet weekly on bird walks, which Rose leads. We learn about Mr. Malik’s surprising weekly activities, including the amusing bets made at the Asadi Club. Harry Khan, who attended the same English boarding school as Mr. Malik, visits Nairobi for a month, and starts dating Rose, much to Mr. Malik’s indignation. Of course, Mr. Malik has never told Rose about his feelings. Both gentlemen are interested in asking Rose to a dance, and Mr. Malik’s friends suggest a competition. Previous knowledge about Kenya or birds isn’t needed to enjoy this gem of a book.