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The alter-ego of a mild-mannered bookseller, Bookseller Chick (known to those who love and hate her as BS Chick) fights for literacy, freedom, originality, and a paycheck in the corporate confines of a retail book chain.
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1. Your Grandma Wears Army Boots...


Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis:

Meet Mare, a World War II veteran and a grandmother like no other. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less than perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. Now she is driving her granddaughters—two willful teenagers in their own rite—on a cross-country road trip. The girls are initially skeptical of Mare's flippy wigs and stilettos, but they soon find themselves entranced by the story she has to tell, and readers will be too.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces readers to a larger-than-life character and a fascinating chapter in African American history.

Summary from GoodReads.

Octavia (Tavia) and her older sister Talitha (Tali) have had their summer hijacked by their parents. Instead of wiling away those hot summer days babysitting and ogling hot lifeguards, they are stuck in a car, driving across the country with their grandmother, Mare, to go to a family reunion.

Mare’s not like other grandmothers. Despite being in her 80s, she favors high heels, outrageous wigs and drives her little red sports car like a maniac.

Trapped in the confines of a small car, Tavia and Talia are a captive audience to Mare’s stories of growing up poor and joining the African-American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) when she was just 17 years old. Though reluctant to listen at first, soon they are asking questions and learning about a part of history really covered in class. Through crazy pit stops, poor road conditions and hot weather, the girls slowly come to understand why Mare is the way she is, and learn what it means to embrace a life lived in spite of the fear of the unknown.

I picked up Mare’s War because I read a moving blog post by Tanita Davis in the wake of the horror in Oslo. This woman’s a writer, I thought to myself, and quick review of her website proved my theory to be true. Mare’s War was available at the library, so I picked it up.

Not only did I end falling in love with Mare (she can be my grandmother any day), but I got to learn something without ever feeling like someone was trying to teach me a lesson. Mare’s War may be narrated by Tavia in the present, but – as the title suggests – this is Mare’s story.

And what a story it is.

Mare’s journey to protect her little sister, and become something beyond being the house girl for the local society maven is captivating. Davis captures her journey during this time period and the politics of WWII (not to mention the irony of fighting freedom for others when you are not complete free yourself) without ever feeling heavy-handed, and the resulting story is

4 Comments on Your Grandma Wears Army Boots..., last added: 8/19/2011
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2. Mapping out your relationship highway style...


Don’t Stop Now by Julie Halpern:

On the first day of Lillian’s summer-before-college, she gets a message on her cell from her sort-of friend, Penny. Not only has Penny faked her own kidnapping, but Lil is the only one who figures it out. She knows that Penny’s home life has been rough, and that her boyfriend may be abusive. Soon, Penny’s family, the local police, and even the FBI are grilling Lil, and she decides to head out to Oregon, where Penny has mentioned an acquaintance. And who better to road-trip across the country with than Lil’s BFF, Josh. But here’s the thing: Lil loves Josh. And Josh doesn’t want to “ruin” their amazing friendship.

Josh has a car and his dad’s credit card. Lil has her cell phone and a hunch about where Penny is hiding. There’s something else she needs to find: Are she and Josh meant to be together?

Summary from GoodReads.

Lillian wakes up the morning after her last day of high school (ever!) to a mysterious voice mail from her default friend, Penny. Although it’s just three words long – “I did it.” – the message is enough to trigger a foggy memory of Penny planning her own kidnapping. Fake kidnappings are just too much trouble to handle alone – which basically sums up Lil & Penny’s entire relationship – so Lil calls in reinforcements: her real best friend, Josh. Aka the boy who is the definition of unrequited love interest.

Lil and Josh go together like peanut butter and jelly, complete with a general “screw those people with nut allergies” attitude, so (unsurprisingly) upon learning of the adventures of one bad Penny, Josh hits upon the perfect solution.

Can we say road trip?

Armed with vague memories of Penny’s destination and a strong desire to avoid FBI interrogation, Josh and Lil leave Chicago for the open road, destination: Portland, Oregon. Along the way they’ll stop to see the more absurd of the road side attractions and explore that spark that always makes them seem more than friends. By the time they reach Portland, will they have reached a new stage in their relationship as well?

Lil and Josh are very, very clearly teenagers and entitled ones at that. With few familial or economic responsibilities , they can just take off. Armed with Josh’s Dad’s credit card and the semi-reliability of his A/C-less van, they are beholden to nothing other than their own questions. Will this road trip help them find Penny? And more importantly will it answer the questions Lil has always had regarding the possibility of upgrading Josh from best friend to boyfriend?

By sending Josh and Lil on a road trip, Halpern is able to intensely focus on their actions, interaction and reactions. Whether or not Lil will forever be stuck in the friend zone (or even if it is better for her there) is what drives the plot and our understanding of Lil and Josh together. The only outside perspective she supplies comes from Penny’s diary entries.
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3. Links for tea drinkers and introverts and whinos (or tea drinking introvert whinos)


In my searches I came across this very old article from the Atlantic regarding “Caring for Your Introvert.” In 2003 (March) Jonathan Rauch wrote about Introverts or “people who find other people tiring.”

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m an introvert, but I do think everyone needs a little alone time sometimes, especially with a book…and perhaps with a cup of tea. Although you had better watch out because apparently tea makers have been lying to us! A recent i09 article states: “High school scientists discover "undisclosed ingredients" in tea.”

What did they find? A kettle full of deception! Although the teas that were not flavored mostly kept honest, with only about four percent having extra plants mixed in, over a third of the herbal teas had unlisted ingredients. The main additives were bluegrass, which grows on lawns, and white goosefoot, which is a relative of spinach. There was also parsley, and a lot of extra chamomile.

That’s right, there might be newspaper lurking in your green tea and undisclosed bluegrass in your chamomile! The article prompted the following conversation with my roommate:

Roommate: …all the more reason to avoid herbal teas
Me: yep. I'm sure some of the paper could be from the tea back itself. I expect a little paper dust because of the bags
 Roommate: yeah. I would want to read their paper and evaluate their methods
 Me: but damn it, would have totally done that for a high school science class
1 Comments on Links for tea drinkers and introverts and whinos (or tea drinking introvert whinos), last added: 8/4/2011
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4. But, Mama, he’s a magic man...


The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen:

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Summary from GoodReads.

In Walls of Water, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Madam was just one more decrepit Southern mansion before Paxton Osgood’s family and the Women’s Society Club decided to resurrect it to its former glory. Despite being a descendent of the former owners, Willa Jackson isn’t too thrilled by the Osgoods or any of the Walls of Water society mavens, but she is happy the Madam is getting her due.

"Whenever I would get too nosy as a child, my grandmother would say, "When you learn someone else's secret, your own secrets aren't safe. Dig up one, release them all." – The Peach Keeper

The Madam’s restoration takes a dark turn, however, when the body of Tucker Devlin is uncovered. A door-to-door salesman and con artist, Devlin blew into town in the 30s

1 Comments on But, Mama, he’s a magic man..., last added: 8/2/2011
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5. Your Grandmother’s Chicken Soup Recipe

For many years I was afraid to make chicken soup. It wasn’t something we had a lot when I was a child (and when we did, I think it came in a can and it always involved noodles), and as I began cooking for myself soup-making itself was slightly intimidating. I mean, homemade soup? It’s an entire meal, not just one dish of a whole. What if I screwed it up? That’s a whole meal destroyed (or multiple meals when you take into account a whole pot of soup).

For years I avoided chicken soup, instead using my soup pot for boiling artichokes and upping my multivitamin dosage to deal with the evil that is the cold. When a sore throat had me down, I just microwave some chicken broth – a little protein without the work. Bland as hell, but it did the job.

Then a couple of years ago a friend scheduled a tonsillectomy, and in preparation had a bunch of us over to make soup she could freeze for her post surgery meals. By this point I’d mastered tomato soup (just add wine…and then more wine…that’s right, get in touch with your inner Julia Child) and a cream of asparagus. My soup paralysis was over, but my repertoire was still small. Besides she was going to be on pain killers, how much could she actually taste? I dutifully copied down my recipes with exact measurements and hauled my soup pot and produce over to her house.

When I arrived another friend was already there with her own hodgepodge of veggies and a package of chicken. We began to chop. For ever cup I carefully measured, she would drop in a handful of this or that into her pot. Potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots: in they went. And when I asked what she was making?

Chicken soup.

It was the first time I’d ever actually seen someone make it from start to finish. Soup making is rarely a short process – you want to let is thicken or cook down – so we spent the day watching movies and drinking wine while we chopped, sautéed, stirred and packaged. I learned that day that the key ingredient to chicken soup – good chicken soup – was time. Oh, and chicken. Everything else is up to you.

She wrote down the recipe for me, but it was more a list of possible ingredients and suggestions than instructions. Still, this was enough. Chicken Soup had been demystified and made accessible.

And with these ingredients, made very tasty.

About year, and many batches of soup later, I had a friend come over to deal with a laptop emergency. As he was trying to de-worm my computer I was cooking, and it’s only right to feed your computer tech, I dished up a bowl of soup and sliced up some crusty bread.

“How did you get my grandmother’s chicken soup recipe?” he asked.*

Your Grandmother’s (Or Your Mother’s, Or Your Aunt Minnie’s, Or Your Next Door Neighbor’s) Chicken Soup Recipe

(Remember: these are all more like guidelines anyway.)

The Ingredients:
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 1-2 Leeks - halved and sliced
  • 3-4 carrots – halved and hopped
  • 3-4 celery (ribs) stalks – thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic – diced
  • 1 package (3-4) chicken thighs (or breasts)
  • 1-2 containers chicken or vegetable broth (containers should be 28 to 32 ounces)
  • 3-4 small potatoes of your choice – cut into 1 in. chunks (I leave the peel on)
  • 1 handfu

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6. Saving You 15% or More on Links for the Past, Present and Future

Courtney Milan talks the future of agents in a self-publishing world in “An open letter to agents,” the first of (what sounds like) two columns. Milan, whose self-published novella Unlocked is currently sitting at spot # 102 in the Kindle store, has an amazing mind, and her dissection of agents and their role in a world where author’s don’t need them to publish raises some very important points. She writes:


Agents, I don’t think you have any idea how much your writers are talking about you right now. Seriously. I don’t think you have any idea. I am getting multiple e-mails every day from writers who are worried about what their agents are doing, and who are worried about how to handle agents, and who want to be fair to their agents but also don’t want to pay them a percentage when there’s little to no work involved, and/or the agent handles little of the risk.

If you haven’t already, I would suggest adding her to your feedreader of choice. (Link via Kalen O’Donnell)

For you SciFi fans looking for out of print lost loves there is good news – “Gollancz, the SF and Fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, announces the launch of the world's largest digital SFF library, the SF Gateway, which will make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as eBooks.” Check out the Book Trade Announcement pressrelease for more information. (Link via io9’s Charlie Jane Anders)

The Apple store has started to enforce it’s in app buying policies and this just adds to the hard couple of weeks the publishing world has experienced. Mike Shatzkin suggests that “Publishing is living in a worldnot of its own making.

“…the happy symbiosis between the ebook retailers and Apple, by which the retailers got access to customers they would not otherwise have had and Apple was able to readily deliver their customers content they hadn’t otherwise aggregated, appears to have come to an end.”

(link via TeleRead.)

 

Flavorwire highlights Christian Jack

1 Comments on Saving You 15% or More on Links for the Past, Present and Future, last added: 7/28/2011
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7. In the Vespers I see...


The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell:

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Summary from GoodReads.

Baltimore, 1889. Amelia van den Broek has been sent down from her small town in Maine to find a husband. In this city she’ll experience many things for the first time: balls, archery, and mysterious visions that come on at sunset. These visions – some innocent, some sinister – open doors into a high society fascinated by spiritualists and the supernatural. Equally mysterious is Nathaniel, Amelia’s unacceptable suitor, who appears and disappears from her life at will.

As the visions become more horrifyingly true and her obsession with Nathaniel grows, Amelia must take control of her future and her heart.

Saundra Mitchell has an amazing ability to set a scene. In her first book, Shadowed Summer, I sweated along with the main character as she braved the humidity and sun in a search for ghostly answers. In The Verspertine she transports her readers back in time to 1889 Baltimore capturing the feelings of change and the supernatural that captivated the upper and middle classes.

Amelia’s cousin Zora and her parents are lodged somewhere on the upper scale of the emerging middle class – able to provide for dresses and dinner parties – but pinching pennies by doing most of the housework and food prep themselves. It is through this class window that Amelia experiences what Baltimore has to offer. The balls they attend are public, and Zora’s father hires young men to round out their dinner parties. This is how Amelia meets Nathaniel – a poor portrait artist from a bad neighborhood – beginning one of the most intense relationships I have read in young adult fiction.

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8. Borders Closing Round Up: News, Memories and More...

These aren't the first (and the certainly won't be the last) stories on the Borders Liquidation, but they are worth checking out for their unique take:


  • Edward Nawotka of Publishing Perspectives has a run down of the damage done under CEO Greg Josefowicz: "Can you treat books like orange juice and shampoo? Josefowicz seemed to think so and soon implemented the controversial strategy of “category management,” a program that limited the number of titles that would be on sale in a particular genre, say cookbooks or biographies. It wasn’t as draconian as pay-to-stay “slotting” — the norm in the grocery business – but was nevertheless widely criticized as favoring large publishers over small presses and for catering exclusively to mass market tastes." 
  • Dennis Johnson of MobyLives rounds up the new articles out there and points out that most miss the boat on the real estate aspect: "The story of Borders failure is, first and foremost, a real estate story."
  • This Week gives us "Why Borders failed and Barnes and Noble hasn't: 4 theories.
  • The Brand Channel gives a good timeline of Borders online and ebook activities (and how they compared to the competition.
  • TeleRead rounds up some Elegies for Borders and points out the nostalgia for what the company once represented wasn't enough to get people to go there and buy books. Of all the links within the story, check out "On Endings and Sugar Free Raspberry Lattes."
  • Romance author Sarah MacLean gives thanks to Borders for the memories and the job she once held in a Borders cafe.
  • The Nappy Bookseller, who has done this story closing thing before, gives advice on "How to Work/How to Shop at a Liquidated Borders."
  • And finally in a move that is so very corporate, the Borders website and the Borders Twitter account still do not reflect any news regarding the liquidation.

1 Comments on Borders Closing Round Up: News, Memories and More..., last added: 7/25/2011
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9. A World Without Borders

When I was young, our local bookstore was a Waldenbooks that took up one corner of our Fred Meyer shopping complex. There a bookseller suggested I try LJ Smith’s Night World series while I wiled away the hours browsing the shelves as my mother shopped for groceries. It was at this store that I met the woman who would one day lead me from the reading world into the bookselling one, giving me my first job.

Waldenbooks became part of the Borders empire in the mid 90s when Borders left K-mart. The stores were re-branded as Borders Express, but even rehabbed they were the first closed when Borders began to experience financial problems several years ago. My store, my final store in my bookselling history, was one of the first closed. Now the rest of Borders will be shutting down as well. On Monday the company announced that they will seek approval for liquidation. Soon 399 stores will close and 10,700 people will lose their jobs.

When our Borders Express closed back in 2007, it was clear that the company was having trouble.

“Why are you closing?” customers would ask as we filled their bags with 50% off books. “You always look so busy.”

We were profitable. We were out performing our plan, but it wasn’t enough to save us. “Over-expansion overseas,” we’d reply. “We don’t have the online presence.”

Funny how those were clear even then.

Despite what some claim e-books were not the cause of Borders' downfall. E-books weren’t even on the horizon. The first Kindle would not be released until November of that year.

Closing a store is heartbreaking. Not only do you have the lead up, where the feeling of something bad shadows ever move, but then you have the after. You have the weight of the questions asked - “Why? Where will you go? What will happen next? Will you discount even more?” - along with the boxes you will have to fill and the books you will have to strip.

Those Borders stores will be stripping a lot of books - romance, mystery, any genre where paperbacks are the size of choice to drop in your purse or tuck in your computer bag. As the New York Times points out “Borders was known as a retailer that took special care in selling paperbacks, and its promotion of certain titles could propel them to best-seller status.”

With Borders gone the print runs will be smaller and the market for new paperback titles will be reduced. The loss will be far-reaching.

But right now, it’s about the employees who have held on for months hoping for a continuance even while they knew the end was coming. It’s about the relief that they can finally cry openly about they changes they will need to make in their lives. It’s about the realization that some of these customers they have grown to care about will no longer be part of their daily routine.

When you close your store you want to believe you’ll stay in touch, that the heartache and sweat that went into those last few days will find you together. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.

But you’ll always have books.

I would like to believe that everyone remembers their first bookstore, and for the generation that has enjoyed Borders it will live on forever. For me a Borders always meant an escape from life’s pressures thanks to well stocked shelves and friendly people. A Borders in whatever city I was visiting meant a familiar place to go.

Thank you, Borders, for seeing me through the hard times, for giving me a job, and for being a place I could always find something to r

2 Comments on A World Without Borders, last added: 7/21/2011
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10. Feel that Heavenly fire...


Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly:

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil.

In the first book in an action-packed romantic trilogy, L. A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill ride of a road trip — and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.

Summary from GoodReads.

While reading Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, I was struck by how easily this could have transitioned to the adult Urban Fantasy market. Despite being teens, both main characters act older due to the situations they’ve experienced. It would be easy to just age the main characters up a few years and let them follow through on certain actions, and voila! This book could go live in a second section at the bookstore.  Really, I mean it. The characters – one of whom is a trained killer – experience end of the world making events and make decisions in accordance with these situations. While Willow certainly reads younger than Alex, one could argue that it’s due to her lack of life outside her small town, not age. The resulting story manages to overcome a few faltering steps to tell a compelling adventure.

Here’s the deal: Willow is one of those girls. You know, the ones that wear funky retro clothes and work on cars. She’s an outsider, who makes herself even more of one by acting as the living, breathing Oracle of Pawtucket , NY. Sure, her classmates value her ability to divine what college will accept their middling grade point average, but they are just not that excited to invite her to the next beer bash. The exception to this is her one and only friend Nina who accepts Willow for who she is because she doesn’t believe in all that fortune telling nonsense.
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11. Make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here...


Lark by Tracey Porter:

When sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is kidnapped from her Virginia hometown and left to die in a snowy forest, she leaves behind two friends who are stunned by the loss. As Lark's former best friend, Eve can't shake the guilt that this tragedy was somehow her fault. Meanwhile, Nyetta is haunted each night by Lark's ghost, who comes through the bedroom window and begs Nyetta to set her soul free. Eve and Nyetta realize that Lark is trapped in limbo, and only by coming together to heal themselves will they discover why.

Tracey Porter's stunning narrative about love and loss demonstrates that forgiveness can never come too late.

Summary from Goodreads.

Lark is a slim volume that tells the story of After. After Lark Austin is kidnapped from gymnastics practice and found in the woods of her Virginian town two days later – tied to a tree and dead from exposure. It’s the story of the two people who knew her best – her former best friend Eve and Nyetta, the little girl Lark used to babysit. It’s the story of Lark, trapped in the forest and doomed to become one more lost girl unless someone will acknowledge and remember what happened to her. Alternating between point of views, Lark (the book) chronicles the livings’ attempt to move on and Lark’s attempt to escape from the in between in which she is trapped.

While never overly graphic, Lark is a disturbing tale that layers the stages of grief with Lark’s immediate afterlife. In trying to save Lark from the horror of becoming a lost girl, the story explores the often contradictory messages young women receive when one of their own is lost to violence.

I don

1 Comments on Make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here..., last added: 7/14/2011
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12. Making it work, hand in glove...


Warning: This review contains spoilers for the book in the Curse Worker’s Trilogy: White Cat.

Red Glove (Curse Workers Book # 2) by Holly Black:

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Summary from GoodReads.

After the events in White Cat, Cassel Sharpe spends the summer in Atlantic City reluctantly pulling cons with his mother and actively trying to avoid his feelings for Lila. The start of school is a chance to once again escape from everyone except his friends and embrace the normal, or at least for Cassel to con himself into believing that normal is what he wants.

But with just two shots a blurry figure with red gloves rips his fabricated existence apart – bringing the FBI in to investigate the loss of an informant and upping the pressure from Zacharov to join the ranks of the family. Cassel will have to con the government, the Mob and those he loves if he’s going to survive.

Only the ultimate con just might include telling the truth.

I cannot stress how much I enjoy this series. Black has created a gritty world where the magic of the curse workers is so easily and deeply entwined with our own, and provided us with an engaging, sarcastic character to guide us through.

I can’t tell

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13. The con it comes on little cat feet...


A little late in posting this thanks to the joy of Independence...and a day off. Hope you're having a lovely day!


White Cat (Curse Workers Book #1) by Holly Black:

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Summary from GoodReads.

Imagine a world where some had dab hands – some magic ability transferred through touch. Now imagine that these Curse Workers were feared, leading to the general population to wear gloves for protection and for the workers themselves to have no other recourse but the Mob to get by. Now imagine that’s happening here. Now. How would you get if you had the touch? How would you survive if you were the only person in your family who didn’t?

As the only non-curse worker, in a family celebrated for its generations of powers, cons, and mob connections, Cassel Sharpe is anything but a made man. However he did inherit some of his family’s more peculiar mental problems – surely that’s why he killed his best friend, Lila, in his basement in a rage he doesn’t remember – which makes it hard to stay in the family home. In desperation, he cons his way into a private school and some semblance of a normal life, only to be dragged back into the family. Of course, the sleepwalking incident that resulted in him clinging to the dorm roof in his boxers didn’t help matters.

Hey, at least he had some clothing on.

With a white cat haunting his dreams and his family in full scheming mode, Cassel will have to work to stay ahead everyone else to figure out if he’s really going crazy, and what really happened to Lila.

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14. Random Recipes: Black Bean, Avocado and Pepper Salad


Black Bean, Avocado and Pepper Salad
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 10m | Total Time: 10m

3 Avocados – cut into 1 in chunks
1 Can of Black Beans – drained and rinsed
1 Red Pepper – sliced and cut into 1 in pieces
1 Yellow Pepper – sliced and cut into 1 in pieces
1 to 2 Jalapeño Peppers – de-seeded, and diced
¼ to ½ cup of cilantro – chopped
1 lime – halved
½ tsp of Salt

 Combine the avocados, beans and peppers in a bowl along with the cilantro. Sprinkle with the salt and squeeze the juice from the lime across the top. Toss until the juice and salt is evenly distributed.

Serve as a side or make it part of a burrito or taco night filling. The avocado and lime cut the spice of the peppers and make this a great dish to serve to anyone – no matter how they rate on the heat scale.

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15. Abandon all hope? Don't be so pessimistic...


Abandon by Meg Cabot:

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.
Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

Summary from Goodreads.

When Pierce Oliviera was fifteen, she died – but only for an hour. Not a very long time when compared to fifteen years of living (or 131,487.19 hours, give or take a decimal), but long enough to accidentally run into a Underworld-ly gatekeeper, John. What two ships, passing on hellish waters became something a little more since she’d previously met him when she was seven. That time she’d just shown him a little kindness, this time she maybe, kind of, sort of promised herself to him for all of eternity.

Oops.

Was there some love at first, er, second (and considerably more legal) sight going on? Possibly. Maybe even some lust, but that wasn’t reason enough for Pierce to stick with death for the rest of her afterlife. So she made for the exit. Whether it was due to her fast thinking or medical intervention in the form of epinephrine and defibrillators, she found her way back to the land of the living only to discover that dying – even if it’s only for an hour – has some serious repercussions. Within two years of her near-death experience her parents had split, her former best friend committed suicide, and Pierce has been moved to the rather morbidly named Isla Huesos (Island of the Bones) to start a new school at the bottom rung of the social ladder. Oh, and that John guy is still popping up whenever near-death comes to call.

Which is more often than you would expect from your average teenager who doesn’t have a death wish.

Meg Cabot has re-imagined the Persephone/Hades Greek myth and updated it for the modern teen. The Underworld, though still a cave beneath the earth, is staffed by biker bar-style, bad boy bouncers and the Furies who wish to torment them. Cast in the Persephone role, Pierce proves that she actually listens to the advice every girl has heard from her mother (don’t ever accept food from strangers, know your exits). This, along with some fast thinking, allows her to give only an hour of her life to John (now a gatek

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16. Random Recipes: Peach, Basil and Mozzarella Salad


The original version of this recipe in Real Simple, but its so...wait for it...simple that we just go by memory now. It’s fast, easy to make and a hit at every party. Perfect for any summer BBQ.

Peach, Basil and Mozzarella Salad
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 10m | Total Time: 10m

3 to 4 Ripe Peaches
1 Cup Basil
1 container Ciliegine Mozzarella *
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Pepper to taste (2 to 3 twists of the pepper mill)
A sprinkle of Salt (not required)

Remove the pits and slice peaches into bite size chunks. Rip basil into manageable size (1 by 1 in) so as to avoid awkwardness when eating. There’s nothing attractive about a leaf sticking out of your mouth as you chew. Slice Ciliegine Mozzarella in half (you can replace the Ciliegine with the Pearl size if you want to make this even quicker by negating the whole cutting process). Toss the peaches, basil and Mozzarella in a bowl with the olive oil and pepper until the olive oil is evenly distributed.

Serve and enjoy.


*Cherry Sized. It’s important to use the soft fresh mozzarella, just drain off the water.

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17. Dig this.

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens:


My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

Summary from GoodReads.

Amelia Gray’s childhood of caring for graveyards and dodging ghosts shaped her adult life. In her world, ghosts will siphon off your warmth and energy, feeding like psychic vampires. As a cemetery restorer she spends her days resurrecting to the resting place of the dead and carefully following the rules her father taught her:

1. Never acknowledge the dead. Not their presence or their touch.
2. Never stray too far from hallowed ground.
3. Keep your distance from those who are haunted.
4. Never, ever tempt fate.

But this lifetime of training and daily isolation is destroyed when the cemetery she is working at becomes a crime scene. Enter Detective John Devlin who needs her help identifying the grave symbolism behind the body’s burial. Although attracted to his magnetism, Amelia fights to stay away from a man haunted by the ghosts of his wife and daughter. But with the discovery of more bodies, does she risk becoming involved with a man walking with death? And is there more to the dead than her father taught her?

A serial killer, a secret society, a cemetery with possible ties to the Underground Railroad and the paranormal combine in The Restorer, the first book in The Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens. As our narrator through all things ghostly, Amelia Gray is a character who embodies her name – living a half life caring for graveyards and getting most of her interaction through her blog “Digging Graves.” While she has friends (and her family) that she is close to, she maintains a distance between her life and the life of those who do not deal with the paranormal.

Everything changes when she meets Devlin, the handsome, mysterious and haunted detective. Stuck between the pull of his dead wife and child and the life going on around him, Devlin has also separated himself from long lasting connections. Able to view the dead that walk him at all times, Amelia starts to break through that barrier, only to discover that her knowledge of the dead is incomplete, and what she doesn’t know…well, yeah, it just might kill her. This also sets the reader up for the inevitable oscillations of John and Amelia’s relationship throughout the series.*

In first book tradition, there are some awkward passages and dialogue involved in the introduction to the world and the characters that inhabit it. We’re treated to the city of Charleston, SC in all its hot, southern glory, and although Amelia’s

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18. Just One More Question...

The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price:

Eyewitness to two killings, fourteen-year-old Gabriel James relates the shocking story behind the murders in a police interrogation interspersed with flashbacks. Step by step, this Montana teenager traces his discovery of a link between a troubled classmate's disturbing home life and an outbreak of local crime. In the process, however, Gabriel becomes increasingly confused about his own culpability for the explosive events that have unfolded.

Summary from Amazon.

Cults, murder, drugs, hate crimes: there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of Billings, Montana, and Gabriel James has (unintentionally) seen it all. What begins as an interest in a girl in his class leads to two dead boys and Gabriel sitting in an interrogation room. Was he involved or did the wrong choices leave him as the not-so-innocent bystander?

I picked up The Interrogation of Gabriel James because a review called indicated it was the Usual Suspects of Young Adult fiction. If by The Usual Suspects, they meant a story framed by the interactions in the interrogation room, then yes. But let’s be clear, Gabriel ain’t no Keyser Söze. As someone who likes to believe that Kevin Spacey unconsciously drags his foot whenever anyone references Keyser Söze, I can see how someone going into this story with that in mind could be disappointed. Not only is Gabriel not a criminal mastermind, he’s not even an unreliable narrator. Sure, he has his ramblings, but their the ramblings of a teenager who’s nervous. He’s distracted by the girls in his life and wanting to be better at cross country – not giving hidden meaning to picking beans in Guatemala.

Got it?

Good, now you’ll enjoy the story without that expectation. Gabriel is a rather aimless teenage boy who, in trying to do a good thing, makes everything a lot worse. He’s seen too many procedurals and this increases his nervousness with the cops (much like I imagine I would be in the same situation). This true-to-life teenage boy mentality and nervous mental state combined with the interrogation room set up make for a story that jumps back in forth from the present and the past events that led up to the deaths.

It’s a rather windy path, but worth it. Charlie Price has created a very accessible character in Gabriel, one who genuinely wants to do the right thing. His motivations, horniness, aimlessness and curiosity all ring true. This kid is the teenage everyman. To that everyman’s plot we throw in a cult who believed in share and share alike when it came to their partners, murders, and multiple personalities.

The crimes in Billings might start out with the occasional missing pet and recreational drug user, but things escalate until Gabriel and the reader are desperate to put together the clues.

The Interrogation of Gabriel James will appeal to reluctant readers who want a fast-paced story to keep them interested. While the interrogation scenes toward the end strained my sense of believe, I can see why someone not in the Keyser Söze state of mind wouldn’t question the situation. The story will leave readers with the answers they need and the ability to feel their legs. The same cannot be said for some of the characters in the book, however.

You can purchase The Interrogation of Gabriel James at these

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19. No Plain Jane Here

Jane by April Lindner:

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love? An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.


Allow me to state this as a simple proof*:

Jane Eyre, a novel = enjoyable reading
Jane Eyre, a novel = Jane Eyre + Edward Rochester
Jane Eyre, Governess = Jane Moore, Governess
Edward Rochester, reclusive, but rich, employer = Nico Rathburn, reclusive, but rich, rock star
Jane Moore + Nico Rathburn = Jane, the novel
Jane, a novel = Jane Eyre, a novel
Jane, a novel = enjoyable reading (for the 21st century)

Kids, I stayed up way too late reading this book and I definitely didn’t miss lack of moors. It is clear from the very beginning that the author, April Lindner, adores Jane Eyre and has fought to modernize the story as directly as possible in Jane. In doing so she strips away the extraneous moor wandering, surprise inheritances, and evil school clergy men, and gives us the story of Jane the girl – who despite her lonely upbringing – has a strength of self that resonates so strongly that it draws in those around her and the reader as well.

Jane tells her story as quietly and cleanly as she lives her life. She recognizes the hardships that have led her to be the governess for Nico’s daughter (with DNA tests there’s no excuse not to know for sure), and drop out of college. Instead of blaming others for putting her in this position, she simply moves forward with her life, living it the best she can with the information she is given. And unlike Miss Eyre, Jane Moore has the power of the internet at her fingertips. This gives her both more information on Rathburn’s coked up rock and roll past, but still leaves many mysteries to be answered. Why is the third floor off limits? Who is the cause of the maniacal midnight laughter? Can a rock star really fall in love with a governess?

Readers who love Jane Eyre (and are open to adaptations) will enjoy the name hat tips Lindner gives to different characters from the original, and be intrigued by the changes and updates she’s chosen to make. New readers can use Jane as a gateway to the original – a way to make the timeless story accessible when reading a classic may seem intimidating. It’s definitely made me want to reread Bronte’s novel (or check out the recent BBC mini-series, or the move starring Mia Wasikowska) to see what I missed.

You can purchase Jane from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon,
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20. There's a new kid on the block...

Feel like GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing aren’t meeting your personal library or social networking needs? According to Netted there’s another option out there (in beta): ShelfLuv. Created by Pek Pongpaet, ShelfLuv has the ability to instantly search/add books with Amazon, and then share your purchases and recommendations with your friends through Facebook and Twitter.

Although to me the bookshelf looks similar to Shelfari’s shelving set-up, ShelfLuv is being written up for its appearance. The interface allows you to stalk your friends’ shelves and provides book recommendations based on what they are reading and also by what’s in your Twitter account (somehow). If you grab an invite (I believe some might still available here and here), you can see if this is the personal library that will fit all of your reading needs. At this time I can’t find an official release date and you’ll need to use your Facebook login to sign up.

I would love to hear what people who currently have a different library set up think of this one. Since I don't really use my GoodReads account in conjunction with Facebook/Twitter, I think I'll hold off to see the finished ShelfLuv product.

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21. A Pirating we will go...


Steel by Carrie Vaughn:


Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.


The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.


Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

Summary provided by GoodReads.


Jill is still recovering from a devastating loss at her last fencing bout when the family vacation in the Bahamas comes around. Self-doubt has her distancing herself from the family fun in the sun, and upping her solitary walk on the beach intake. It’s during one of these walks that she finds the tip of an old rapier. Unwilling to give the tip up to a museum – who wouldn’t appreciate it as much as a fencer – she tucks in her pocket before embarking on the latest family sanctioned activity, the  boat tour. A sunny trip on the high seas quickly progresses to high waves, and over the side Jill goes.

And who should pull her from the water, but pirates. This must be a tourist thing, right?

Hauled to their ship, she is introduced to their Pirate Queen Captain, her hardened crew, a saucy cabin boy, and the fact that she’s no longer in the 21st century.  Instead she fallen back to the 1700s and smack dab in the middle of a pirate war, all thanks to that sword tip. A sword tip, it turns out, that belongs to the most evil pirate of all. Now instead of agonizing over a lost fencing bout, she’s got to learn how to duel for blood, swab the decks and stay alive until she can get home.

In Steel, Carrie Vaughn takes “live by the sword, die by the sword” and applies some teenage piratetude. Jill has only ever experienced fighting in her fencing whites and by scoring electronic points, so it’s a big shock when the sword she now holds could kill someone with one wrong swing. If anything can jerk you out of a depressing loss though, it’s fighting for your life. The captain and crew of the Diana teach her about hard work and living each day like it might be her last.

In truth, I checked this book out because, duh, PIRATES. Scurvy, wicked and pillaging they may be, pirates just hold a little piece of my heart. Besides, I was i

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22. The Girl with Lana Turner's Smile

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell:

When Evie's stepfather returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe's company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him . . . until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two.

As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed to be a truth was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between her loyalty to her parents and her feelings for the man she loves. Someone will have to be betrayed. The question is . . . who?

Summary from GoodReads.

Growing up in the shadow of a beautiful and witty mother, Evie spends a lot of time observing those around her. Unfortunately her mother’s desire to keep her a child has undermined her ability to understand the subtext of the opinions that make up her world. A last minute trip to Florida – supposedly as a vacation to celebrate her step-father’s return from the war, but quite possibly just to get away from the mysterious man calling the house – finally gives Evie the chance to reinvent and grow.

Basking in the attention of the mysterious and godly Peter, Evie slowly becomes aware in a way she never was before. The opinions she’s been living her life by just might not be right, and maybe everything is not perfect with her mother and stepfather. The intensity of the Florida is searing away the cover not just on the Spooner family secrets but those of the other hotel guests as well, and the situation comes to a head with a slur, a hurricane, and a possible murder.

What did Evie really see? What sacrifices will she make for her family and love?

And most importantly, what will she say on the witness stand?

What I Saw and How I Lied illustrates the opposites of the post WWII to era where people celebrated the fall of Germany even as they discriminated against people with Jewish last names. Evie’s awareness of the dichotomies in class, culture and her own life grows as she is forced to step out of her innocence and into a role filled with the kind of decision making that would break grown adults. Blundell weaves Evie’s innocent observations with an undercurrent that hints at the problems around her, and slowly builds the character and reader’s awareness. The time period and the historical details never overwhelm, layering into the plot to build the tension of the story.

I admit that I was slightly intimidated by the idea of a book set post the Great War. While I love the occasional classic movie, my own knowledge of the period is kind of glossed over by my high school AP History rush to cram everything in before the test. Blundell overcame this within the first few pages with her imagery of Evie pretending to smoke a chocolate cigarette. Her descriptions managed to convey that rush to grow up and capture a very iconic image I have in my mind of my own mother smoking. From there she creates a story so filled with layers that each page is a discovery building on the real contest of what Evie saw.

Does Blundell give us all the answers? No. And I can definitely see people having problems with Evie’s decision to lie and how she goes about it. But Evie has problems with it.

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23. Random Recipes: Chicken and Couscous

Chicken and Couscous
Serves: 4 as an entrée, more as a side| Hands-On Time: 10 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
1 package of Chicken breasts or thighs
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
½ to 1 Red Pepper
1 small package (or two handfuls) of Sugarsnap Peas
1 container of plum tomatoes
½ small container of crumbled feta (dry, not in brine)
1 cup Couscous
1 ½ cups water or chicken broth
½ to 1 cup torn basil (depending on how much you love it)
Salt
Pepper
Additional Seasonings for the adventurous:
2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 ½ teaspoons Curry

Instructions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil at medium heat in a skillet. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste (and add your choice of the additional seasonings), and then add it to the warmed oil. Thoroughly cook the chicken until it is golden brown on the outside and white on the inside. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it cool until you can handle it enough to chop it into bite sized pieces. Place these pieces in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the water (or chicken broth, depending on what you have on hand) and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan on high until it comes to a boil.* Add the couscous, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the couscous remain cover for at least five minutes while you chop up the veggies.

Half the snap peas and tomatoes. Chunk the red pepper into quarter to half inch pieces. Add them to the mixing bowl with the chicken. Add the ripped basil.

Uncover the couscous and add it to the mixing bowl. Throw in as much feta as your little heart and stomach desires. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together with a fork.

This recipe is perfect served hot with pita and hummus on a cold night (the better to pretend you are in a warm desert climate) or chilled as a salad at your next summer BBQ or potluck. If you choose to serve it chilled, prepare the recipe at least two to three hours ahead of time.

*I like to add 2 tablespoons of onion and jalapeños to my water to start so that the flavors are infused in the couscous. You don’t have to do this unless you want to.

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24. Ahoy, Ladies...

Soon after I reviewed Steel by Carrie Vaughn, Slate's Brow Beat posted "A Short History of Lady Pirates" in honor of the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I thought it important to link to this as it features Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who both have cameos in Steel.

The column culls its history from David Cordingly's Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailor's Wives, which seemed appropriate as Cordingly's Under the Black Flag sailed on to the non-fiction bestseller lists with the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

For those of you looking for a jolly good pirate read on the fiction side, you should check out the Bloody Jack series by LA Meyer.

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25. Nothing Rotten Here...

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (aka The Fug Girls):


Sixteen year old Molly Dix loves her ordinary life in suburban Indiana, so when her single mother passes away, she is shocked to discover that her biological father is Brick Berlin, world famous movie star and red carpet regular.

Equally intrigued and terrified by her Hollywood lineage, Molly moves to Southern California and plunges head-first into the deep end of Beverly Hills celebrity life. Just as Molly thinks her new life and family couldn't get any stranger, she meets Brooke Berlin, her gorgeous and spoiled half-sister whom welcomes Molly to la-la land with a healthy dose of passive-aggressive "sisterly love."

Set against the backdrop of a sparkling and fashion-filled Los Angeles, this deliciously dysfunctional family soap opera will satisfy every reader looking for their next lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous beach read.

Summary from Goodreads.

Molly Dix has had a rather shocking year – not only did her mother die, but she found out that the deceased father she’d never met is actually alive, physically well* and living in Los Angeles. Oh, and he happens to be Brick Berlin, the famous action movie star turned director. Now she’s leaving her childhood sweetheart, best friend and grandparents all behind, and moving to LA to live with Brick and her half sister, Brooke.

Brooke Berlin is not amused. She can barely get her father’s attention with a temper tantrum that rivals a category five hurricane. Her newly discovered half sister getting all of Daddy’s attention, and she’s even hogging the spotlight that should be firmly focused on Brooke at her big birthday party. What’s a girl to do but sabotage the scene stealer and reveal her for the homewrecker** she actually is? Brooke’s going to have to be sneaky though if she’s going to ride this new Hollywood scandal to her inevitable stardom because her enemy is about to become Molly’s frenemy.

As parents go, Brick’s not as spacey as he seems (even if he does sound like a cross between Bruce Willis and Cocks and Morgan’s Lagerfeld impression), and soon he’s imposing his own interesting brand of parenting to this sisterly hatefest. From sharing a room to working on the school play, Brook and Molly are going to have to work out how to live with each other, their shared father’s absenteeism, and the Hollywood rumor mill at its worst.

I’m a long time reader of Go Fug Yourself, and throughout the years of columns I’ve often thought that they should tackle fiction. These two funny ladies can make you laugh out loud with just a few lines and know how to skewer bad fashion. So when I heard they were writing a YA novel, I decided that it was worth taking my hard earned gift card*** down to B&N to pick up a copy (which they had well before the release date). Spoiled is everything I expected from Heather and Jessica: over the top characters, fashion critiques, and fun times.

Through Molly we get to experience Hollywood (and the Berlins) from the outside looking in, while Brooke provides the perspective of self-focused starlet with a secret pain. Once Brooke gets over mean girl-ing Molly, and Molly stands up for herself with an added dose of vengeance, the girls realize how important it is to have family, especially a sibling, to help you deal.

With all the name dropping of designers and celebrities, I’

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