Middle Grade Fiction:
Flight of the Outcast: The Academy: Year 1, by Brad Strickland (***)  – 13-year-old Asteria Locke is the only survivor of a raider attack that destroys her family and their farm. Now she must find a way to get her new religious guardians to let her take her cousin’s place at the Academy instead of marrying her off. She’s only a commoner in a world where aristocrats receive 90% of the Academy slots and fighter pilot jobs, but she’s determined to become a pilot to fight the raiders and avenge her family.
Flight of the Outcast is a straight-forward middle grade sci-fi boarding school story. Usually I’d rate a story with just serviceable writing and a predictable plot two-and-a-half stars. What made this book special was Strickland’s skill at letting me, the reader, feel every frustration, humiliation, and stress that Asteria feels in a divided world where commoners are second-class citizens. [Middle grade sci-fi for ages 9-14. Read the eBook on Nook for Droid]
"I’m learning to cook from scratch," is not something I ever expected to be writing. Now that I’m awesomely healthy though, I can stand for long periods of time without feeling dizzy and tired and I can actually focus– the very qualifications one needs for cooking.
Using Mark Bittman’s useful cookbook, How to Cook Everything, I’ve learned to: make homemade chicken stock, chicken & rice soup, and lentil soup. Who knew making homemade soups was so easy? I’ll never have to buy canned soup again. I’ve also learned how to roast a chicken with potatoes and carrots. I’m still learning how to carve it without feeling like an incompetent psycho-killer but these skills take time. Right?
I decided not to let my wheat allergy get in the way of my dessert addiction. With Annalise G. Robert’s excellent cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking Classics I’ve learned to make gluten-free versions of pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and lemon squares. They were all delicious and tasted as good as or better than the wheat versions, but without the added headaches and extra snot production. Yay for desserts that don’t make me sick!
"Can I be honest? I don’t understand the difference between an elf and a slave."
[Brittany on the Christmas episode of Glee]