Only 10 more days until the first scheduled activity of Wiscon! Yay! I’ve seen the programming lineup, and let me tell you, it’s amazing.
Today, let’s talk about cookies. Types of cookies that work well for bakesales:
–Thumbprints Stuff with jam in the center (or lemon curd; don’t these look fantastic?) You have to be a little careful packing them, but the jam always keeps the cookies from being too dry.
– Tassies – basically, little pastry cups with some kind of sugared nut filling. I’m fond of cashew tassies; you can also make walnut or pecan tassies. It’s all good. They’re a little more fussy to make, but the taste is fantastic.
– Jumbles – aka kitchen sink cookies. Could be just chocolate chips, could add nuts, M&Ms, cacoa nibs, dried fruit… whatever you want. Lots of flexibility.
– Meltaways – traditionally mint or lemon, but I’ve also made key lime meltaways (the tartness works wonderfully with the sugar coating). Addictive.
– World Peace Cookies. So named, because if everyone had these available in the morning, we’d have world peace. Sinfully delicious.
Next up… Brownies!
Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, by Ysabeau S. Wilce (2007 Honor book)
Flora is eleven. Her mother, the Warlord’s Commanding General, is rarely at home; her father, a crackpot since the last war, only comes downstairs to wreak havoc – he spends most of his time locked in his rooms, noisily mad. Flora spends her days either at school or trying to keep the parts of their decrepit castle that they live in habitable (the spirit who should be doing so has been banished by her mother for reasons unknown). Flora has definite ideas about what she wants to do in life – and they do not involve going to the military academy, even if she would be the first in her family in untold generations not to. She hasn’t quite gotten around to telling this to her intimidating mother, though.
One day, Flora is running late and decides to use the forbidden magical elevator (forbidden because it’s erratic; it goes where it wants, not where you want, and the last person it lost took a week to reappear). She meets up with the castle’s banished magical butler, who offers her a deal… he’ll help her with the housework if she gives him just a little of her breath…
Thus begins a chain of events that lead Flora into dangerous situations (at home and in the city and beyond), test her knowledge of herself and her family, and try her friendships to their breaking point. Not to mention putting her own life in danger…
Flora is a charming heroine – she’s strong and charismatic, but she’s not smarter than her age (you’re yelling at her half the time to stop being so stupid, but of course she’s mostly ignorant). She acts from the heart, and from a desire to live up to her role models the Rangers (long-since disbanded by the Warlord to appease the enemy with whom they have a tenous peace).
It’s an engaging book, with a ripping good plot – it swings you right along with it, and the world-building is fun (if not terribly logical at times). There are definitely themes about the nature of friendship (when does being strong cross the line into bullying?), and growning up, that should resonate with readers of all ages.
I did find myself wondering, at the end of the book, how much it was saying about gender. In my opinion, the story doesn’t so much question gender as it takes characters that would normally be male and make them female, without changing much else. This isn’t entirely true, of course – there’s the sub-plot of Flora’s debutante ball/presentation/party, and how she’s going to ever be ready for it in time – but really, if you changed your pronouns and names around, you’d have to change little else. Flora’s fashion-obsessed best friend (who’s often responsible for looking after younger siblings) could, in the same light, have easily been a girl.
I’ll admit that I thought it was a bit light and hadn’t made much of an impression, but when I saw that there was a sequel, my first reaction was, “ooh! I want to read that!” – so obviously there was more to it than I gave it credit for. So I can definitely say it’s a fun read, and may give younger readers a strong female protagonist with which to identify – but I definitely felt it could have done more in that regard. Perhaps the sequel will…