the mark of the dragonfly blog tour: author interview with jaleigh johnson

Author Jaleigh Johnson is here today at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia for an interview.  Her middle grade debut The Mark of the Dragonfly combines steampunk, an epic train ride, and a wholly magical adventure.  The Mark of the Dragonfly was released by Delacorte (Penguin Random House) on March 25th, 2014.

jaleigh johnson author photo
Jaleigh Johnson is a lifelong reader, gamer, and moviegoer. She loves nothing better than to escape into fictional worlds and take part in fantastic adventures. She lives and writes in the wilds of the Midwest, but you can visit her online at or on Twitter @JaleighJohnson.

Welcome Jaleigh!

The Mark of the Dragonfly has been described as steampunk and sci-fi.  What is your favorite thing about writing steampunk/sci-fi?

Well, the “steam” parts were a lot of fun to write, especially the 401 train and its defenses, but I think my favorite thing about writing the steampunk elements of The Mark of the Dragonfly is that I was able to explore the impact of an industrial revolution when combined with an age of exploration. I think that’s more of the “punk” part of the equation. I wanted to write a book where these two forces—exploration and technology—collided and left the world struggling over limited resources, how that would create its own class system, and how it would impact people like Piper, who are at the bottom.

What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching The Mark of the Dragonfly?

I think the most interesting (and unsettling) discovery I made was that as much as I love trains, when I started writing I knew very little about how steam engines work, so that was a huge hurdle to overcome. I also had no idea how dangerous early rail travel could be, or that some people were afraid of the effect that travelling at those high speeds would have on the human body. And by “high speeds” they were talking about anything over 13 miles per hour! For that fact, and many others, I owe a lot to The Railroad Passenger Car by August Mencken.

What are you favorite middle grade/YA speculative fiction titles, aside from your own?

I love Madeleine L’Engle’s books, my favorite being A Wrinkle in Time, and anything written by Robin McKinley, especially Beauty, Rose Daughter, and The Hero and the Crown.

Do you have any hidden (or not so hidden) superpowers?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. Most people are surprised when I tell them that my day job is doing tax and accounting work. Hehe, maybe it’s a superpower to be able to balance all those numbers and words in my head at once. It can be maddening too, though.

What are you reading right now?

At the moment, I’m reading Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and loving it. Talk about superpowers. Super-powered squirrels for the win. 

What new(ish) book do you wish you'd read as a kid (or at least earlier in life)?

Good question. I’m going to cheat a little because this isn’t new. But more than a specific book, I really wish I’d discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I was younger. I came to her books just a few years ago with Howl’s Moving Castle. I love her writing now, but I would have loved it when I was a kid too. It just goes to show how many amazing books there are out there to discover. I know I’ll never find them all, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.


Thank you for joining us, Jaleigh!  I too love Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones – you have wonderful taste in books.  *grin*

the mark of the dragonfly by jaleigh johnson book cover
Fans of The City of Ember will love The Mark of the Dragonfly, an adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous.

Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.

The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.

The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.

Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Fine print: I received an e-ARC of The Mark of the Dragonfly from the publisher for honest review. This post is not sponsored in any way.

waiting on wednesday (73)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | | 2 comments
Today I’m participating in "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Its purpose is to spotlight upcoming book releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I read Garth Nix’s Sabriel, the first book in his Old Kingdom series, when I was in high school.  My main prerequisites for checking a book out from the library (my primary means of book discovery) at that point were that the cover look cool (granted, totally subjective) and that the book be substantial/long.  I read very quickly in those days (ah, I miss them!), had few distractions, and craved as long a reading experience as possible.  It is important to note that during this same period I read many James Michener and Leon Uris epics – solely due to page count.  Follies of youth and all that.

Anyway, Sabriel was a huge favorite, and so were the following books, Lirael and Abhorsen.  I actually asked for (and received from an obliging brother) a box set of the Abhorsen books for my nineteenth birthday.  An Old Kingdom novella was included in Nix’s collection of short stories Across the Wall, and that also joined my Garth Nix shelf.  What I am trying to say… is that I am flipping obsessed with this series, and the fact that there’s a new story coming out this year makes me want to spaz out like a child on Mountain Dew for the first time.  I have no idea how I will stay sane until Clariel’s release date (which is October 14, from HarperCollins).  So so so so so so so excited!!!

clariel by garth nix book cover
Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.

But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

What books are you waiting on?

top ten books on my spring to-be-read list

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | | 14 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Every time one of these TBR (to-be-read) pile posts comes along, I wonder about the advisability of searching for ten books to fill the list.  Does it raise expectations (in anyone beside myself) that I’ll get to the books in a timely manner?  (I won’t.)  And I worry too about accidentally leaving a book I’m dying for off the list.  These may be silly thoughts, but they’re real.  Anyway, the list below contains books on my library hold list, my Amazon wishlist, and my Goodreads to-read shelf.  In other words, a good representation of what I can’t wait to read this spring.

Top Ten Books on My Spring To-Be-Read List

1. Death Sworn by Leah Cypess – Assassin school and a mage who has lost her magic.  Why do I want to read this?  Because: obviously.

2. The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer – Steampunk young adult will always hold a special place in my heart, and this one sounds intriguing.

3. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones – The last DWJ book ever!  I still need to read most of her backlist, but it is sad to realize that there are a finite number of books left to discover now that she has passed.

4. A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn – A debut featuring dragons, politics, and a girl who belongs in neither the human or dragon worlds.  Ummm, YES.

5. The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff – This adult graphic novel sounds dark, messed up, and kind of fantastic.  Can’t wait to read it.

6. The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik – This is a contemporary YA retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  Persuasion is only one of my favorite books of all time!  Plus, I enjoyed LaZebnik’s Epic Fail (a retelling of Pride & Prejudice) previously.

7. Rose and the Lost Princess by Holly Webb – Rose was one of the finalists that my judging panel picked for the CYBILS award in Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction.  It was a charming book, and I am definitely looking forward to more adventures featuring plucky Rose.

8. Talker 25 by Joshua McCune – Dragons confined to reservations, a military state, and a girl who accepts a dare.  Yep, sounds pretty fantastic.

9. The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson – Steampunk-ish middle grade, with a mystery and a perilous journey.  I’m in.

10. Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell – Have I told you how much I loved Haskell’s The Princess Curse recently?  That was one amazing book.  I can’t wait to see how Haskell twists a new fairy tale in this one (which looks like it might riff on Sleeping Beauty?).

What books are you looking forward to this spring?

tin star

Monday, March 17, 2014 | | 4 comments
Cecil Castellucci’s Tin Star was one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks last fall because it looked like an interesting young adult science fiction novel (YA sci-fi is one of my delicious weaknesses).  But even more than that, it sounded like a unicorn of YA: a book that didn’t rely on romance as its central plot point.  That kind of story seems to be increasingly rare, so I try to take careful note when one pops up.  Well everyone, it should come as no surprise that I loved Tin Star.  Even given months of anticipation and high hopes, I fell for everything about it.

tin star by cecil castellucci book cover
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

Tula Bane has been beaten and left for dead on a remote space station.  She’s the only Human on the Yertina Feray, a station orbiting an abandoned mining outpost on the fringes of the universe.  In order to survive, she must adapt, and quickly.  Through sheer determination she forges a kind of half-life for herself, and even makes a friend of the alien Heckleck.  Then three Humans crash land and disturb the balance of life on the station.  Tula must again scramble for survival, and decide how far she will go to get revenge.

What is a victim?  It is someone without options.  Tula Bane is a great survivor, and she refuses to be a victim.  Yes, terrible things happened to her.  But her will to continue living, and her innate honor, combined with that great Human trait of adaptability, allow her to create a life where she should by rights have died.  Tula is a smart dealmaker, filled with hate (and then, when that is mostly burnt out, stubbornness), and lonely beyond belief.  It is inspiring, and a little heartbreaking, to read about her.  She’s an unforgettable, complex, difficult person, and I cared about her an immense amount.

Of course, an important element of any work of science fiction is the… science fiction.  It must hold together, and the best worldbuilding (universe building?) will become the seamless background for a great story.  That is the case with Tin Star.  I felt almost awed at times by Castellucci’s writing.  I took photos of pages with my phone camera, in too much of a hurry to stop and transcribe a quote, but desperate for a record of the page so I could go back and soak in the words later.  Here is an example, from page 47:

“He never talked about what had stranded him here, and I could read that it was a deep wound—likely as deep as mine.  Betrayal and grief have a certain color no matter what the species is.  Everyone in the underguts seemed to carry that color with them in their voice or walk or hunch.”

As I said, I loved this book.  I loved its dark, almost bleak tone (in part because Tula is so alone, and in part because the Yertina Feray is so isolated in space).  The complex bartering system, shifting alliances, unusual alien species, and politics all fascinated me.  The plot was fairly twisty – there were turns I saw coming, and others that caught me by surprise.  The romantic element was understated but interesting for all that.  Tin Star was a gritty, balance-on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of book, and it made a place for itself in my heart.

Recommended for: anyone who can imagine a cross between Garth Nix and Sharon Shinn, fans of intelligent sci-fi and survival stories, and those who have dreamed of what life might really be like in space.

Fine print: I received a copy of the book for honest review from the author/publisher.  I did not receive any compensation for posting this review.

time out of time: beyond the door author interview with maureen doyle mcquerry

Author Maureen Doyle McQuerry is here today at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia for an interview.  Her middle grade debut Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door is the first in a fantasy adventure duet that weaves together Celtic mythology and time travel.  Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door will be released on March 25, 2014 by Amulet Books (Abrams).  Check out the end of the post for a chance to win a copy!

Welcome Maureen!

Time Out of Time features mythical creatures.  What is your favorite mythical creature, and why?

There are so many that I have to pick two. Both show up in Beyond the Door and its sequel The Telling Stone. First I’d have to say the Greenman because he discovered me. I was visiting a church in Oxford England several years ago. When I looked up, there was face looking down at me. A face with leaves in his hair and vines pushing out of his mouth. I’ve always seen faces in the bark of old trees, but this was a strange creature, part man, part tree. I wondered what it would feel like to have my skin turn to bark and birds nest in my hair.

Number two is Gwydion. He’s a shapeshifting trickster in Irish myth and some say the best story teller of all time. In Beyond the Door he’s a wolf that flies and I would love to ride with him.

What was the most interesting discovery you made while researching/writing TIME OUT OF TIME?

The importance of trees in Irish myth and Ogham alphabet, sometimes called the tree alphabet. There’s an ancient poem called The Battle of the Trees (Cad Goddeu) that comes from the 14th century. Each type of tree has its own personality as it awakens to join the battle.

Ogham looks like a series of hatch marks carved on stone or wood. It can still be found on ancient stones in Ireland.  An Ogham font runs along the bottom of pages in Beyond the Door and when decoded, tells you more about the mythic characters.

What are your favorite middle grade/YA speculative fiction titles, aside from your own?

I love Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and all of Madeline L’Engle’s work. Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, POD by Stephen Wallenfels, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and I’m an Inklings fan: the C.S. Lewis and Tolkien cannon.

Do you have any hidden (or not so hidden) superpowers?

Does playing bicycle polo count?  Final answer: my imagination.

What are you reading right now?

I read a wide variety of books. I just finished Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. Very different books and I loved them both. Now I’m looking for my next good read!

What new(ish) book do you wish you'd read as a kid or earlier in life?

I love the Griffin and Sabine books. The art, mystery and romance hooked me. Even though it’s not a new book, I discovered I Capture the Castle as an adult. The teen me would love to have known Cassandra Mortimer.  As for newer books, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work.


Thank you for joining us, Maureen!  I too am a big fan of Neil Gaiman – I wish I’d read Coraline when I was young enough to completely accept its creepiness!

If this interview has sparked your interest about Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door, please enter the giveaway!  I’ll send two lucky winners finished copies of the book when it releases.  To enter, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open internationally, will close on Monday, March 31st at 11:59pm EST.  Winners will be notified via email.  Good luck!

time out of time: beyond the door by maureen doyle mcquerry book cover
Beyond the Door, the first in the Time Out of Time duet from Maureen Doyle McQuerry, weaves a compelling coming-of-age story with fantasy and mythology. With his love of learning and the game of Scrabble, Timothy James feels like the only person who understands him is his older sister, Sarah, and he’s fairly certain nothing interesting will ever happen to him. But one night, while his parents and sister are away, the door opens, and mythical creatures appear in his own living room! Soon, a mystery of unparalleled proportions begins to unfold, revealing an age-old battle of Light against Dark, and Timothy must embark on a quest to prevent the Dark from controlling the future and changing the past. But he can’t complete the quest alone. Timothy has to team up with his sister and the school bully, Jessica, to face an ancient evil, and in the process, this unlikely trio discover they are each more than meets the eye.

Fine print: I received an ARC of Time Out of Time: Beyond the Door from the author for honest review. I alone am hosting the giveaway; this post is not sponsored in any way.

top ten favorite picture books

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | | 9 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

I remember many children’s books fondly, but the ones that my mother read aloud to me (or with me, sounding out the words as we went) have a special place in my heart.  These are the books I buy for friends’ baby showers to make sure they start off their libraries on the right foot.  They contain the art I have decorated my home with.  And the one story that has a more recent publication date touched my heart, even as an adult.  I believe that picture books have the power to inspire imagination, and I hope I never stop reading them.

Top Ten Favorite Picture Books

1. Corduroy by Don Freeman – The story of a teddy bear lost in a department store overnight probably speaks to all anxious children who worry that their parents will forget them.  It certainly did to me, as did the reunion and love between Lisa, her mother and Corduroy.

2. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman – According to my mother, I spent my very early childhood asking question after question after question.  It makes sense that I loved this story.

3. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – This book is full of beautiful art, and the wonder of a snowy day in an urban landscape.  An absolute classic.

4. Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky – I don’t know how many times I checked this book out of the library (it was a lot).  I do remember reverently opening the cover, and being impressed every time by the beauty and detail on each page.

5. Black Dog by Levi Pinfold – I found this recent picture book while browsing for a gift for my young cousins.  Pinfold’s story of courageous Small made me laugh, and I think the use of perspective and size was fantastic.

6. The Jolly Postman, or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allen Ahlberg – Possibly the book that launched my letter-writing career!  And a charming story besides, with extra goodies inside the cover (flaps, envelopes, removable pieces) for the inquisitive child in all of us.

7. A Christmas Card for Mr. McFizz by Obren Bokich, illustrated by Dan Lane – Hands-down my favorite picture book of all time!  It features small woodland creatures, neighborly shenanigans, and more letter-writing.

8. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – What can I say?  Madeline’s adventures in an orphanage in Paris have appealed to generations of children (and they did to me, too!).

9. Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig – When I was very young I went to ballet classes, and I LOVED them.  I wasn’t very good, but I loved dancing.  As you can imagine, this story about a dancing mouse was a huge hit!

10. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel – Amelia Bedelia is special character (you may have noticed my blog title riffs on her name?), and has a special place in my heart because it was one book that BOTH of my parents helped me learn to read with.

What are some of your favorite picture book titles?

when audrey met alice blog tour - author guest post

Author Rebecca Behrens is here today at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia with a guest post about famous women in history for Women's History Month.  First Daughter Alice Roosevelt is a character in her debut middle grade novel When Audrey Met Alice.  When Audrey Met Alice was released on February 4, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Check out the end of the post for the chance to win a copy!

Welcome Rebecca!

Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. When she’s not writing, you can find her running in the park, reading on a beach, or eating a doughnut. Visit her online at

In writing When Audrey Met Alice, I loved getting to explore the eventful life of the real Alice Roosevelt. My favorite thing about writing historical fiction is delving into the lives of real, and sometimes famous, women like Alice. Here are a few more historical women whom I find particularly fascinating:

  • Sacagawea: We know a lot about Lewis's and Clark's lives, but frustratingly little about the teenager who helped make it possible for them to reach the Pacific Ocean. Sacagawea was the daughter of a Shoshone chief, but she was kidnapped at age ten and later married to a French trader, Charbonneau. She was pregnant with their child during the Lewis and Clark expedition, giving birth at the winter camp with a rattlesnake-tail concoction to ease the pain. An interpreter and the only woman in the permanent party, Sacagawea helped negotiate peacefully with the tribes they met on their journey—including one led by her long-lost brother.

  • Nellie Bly: Nellie was the 19th-century journalist who famously traveled around the entire world in 72 days—at a time when most women wouldn’t do solo travel anywhere. She’s less famous for some of her investigative journalism, but it’s just as impressive. In 1887 she took on an undercover assignment for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, in which she faked a mental breakdown to get admitted to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in New York. She spent ten days in the hospital, successfully convincing all the clinicians that she was mad—and once she got out, she wrote a scathing expose of the abusive and negligent care women were receiving there. Her reporting was turned into the sensational book Ten Days in a Mad-House.

  • Jackie Mitchell: Do you know who struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during one exhibition game in 1931? A seventeen-year-old girl named Jackie Mitchell. She was playing for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a minor-league team that offered her a contract after seeing her pitch for a local women’s team. There is plenty of controversy about her striking out two of the greatest players in history—some think it may have been a publicity stunt. Regardless, it’s amazing to think of a teen girl pitcher leading to Babe Ruth being pulled off the field in a hissy fit. The baseball commissioner canceled her contract shortly after, saying that the sport was “too strenuous” for women, but Jackie continued playing ball until 1937. Women were officially banned from signing baseball contracts in 1952.

  • Julia Child: Julia brought the art of French cooking into countless American homes. But before she made her career in a (custom-designed, thanks to her height) kitchen, she was a spy! Too tall to enlist in the army, she joined the OSS (an intelligence agency that preceded the CIA). While later in her life she’d downplay her role as being that of a administrative clerk, her husband and others have confirmed that she oversaw information, much of it classified—and that her work was sometimes risky.

  • Jane Goodall: As a child, Jane’s father gave her a toy chimpanzee, Jubilee. It sparked her interest in and love of animals. Jane went on to become an expert primatologist, and now knows more than probably anyone on earth about chimpanzees. She completed a famous 45-year study on chimpanzee social and family life at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, sharing with the world that other primates can show the personality, emotions, and rational thought that humans do. Today she advocates for animal rights and the environment through the Jane Gooddall Institute. And she still keeps her toy chimpanzee, Jubilee, on her dresser.

Thanks so much for sharing the stories of those women (and girls!) with us, Rebecca!  I'll look forward to seeing if any of them make an appearance in your next book.  And now... a giveaway!


Would you like to win a copy of When Audrey Met Alice?  I'm offering one finished copy to a lucky winner.   To enter, simply fill out the FORM. Giveaway open internationally, will close on Monday, March 31st at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be notified via email.  Good luck!

when audrey met alice by rebecca behrens book cover
First daughter Audrey Rhodes can't wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute-citing security breach and squashing Audrey's chances for making any new friends. What good is being "safe and secure" if you can't have any fun?

Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt's hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun...and more problems than she can handle.

top ten popular young adult authors i’ve never read

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | | 13 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Here is the sad truth, folks: I don’t read fast enough to keep up with current releases, much less backlist titles or classics (in any genre).  This means I miss great stories and fantastic authors all the time.  The good news is that I will never run out of books to read, even if I narrow down the field to just young adult fiction.  My second confession?  Sometimes I choose not to read famous authors ON PURPOSE.  There’s a contrary corner of my soul that rails against hype and buzz, and you see the result in the list below.  I’m working on it, I promise.

Top Ten Popular Young Adult Authors I’ve Never Read

1. John Green – I don’t even know how I hold my head up and say I read young adult fiction.  I really don’t.

2. Cassandra Clare – Erm.  I tried the first chapter of one of her books once, and it wasn’t meant to be.  I’ve always meant to go back and try again and see if I like it any better.

3. Jay Asher – I know his Thirteen Reasons Why is very important, and that there’s a girl on a swing on the cover.  I don’t know anything else.

4. Ann Brashares – I never read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, so I wasn’t really aware of Brashares.  BUT.  She has a new sci-fi/dystopian book out, and that is my thing, so maybe it’s time…

5. Veronica Roth – This is a pure case of my allergy to hype.  When Insurgent came out there was a huge push on social media, and for two weeks I couldn’t look at my twitter feed without seeing something related to the series.  It turned me off completely.  I’m contemplating reading the book now that the film is almost here.

6. Ally Condie – I thought I wanted to read the Matched series at one point.  But I have a deep aversion to love triangles at the moment, and I don’t know that I could handle it.

7. Rainbow Rowell – EVERYONE says that Rowell’s books are great.  I have no excuse, except that I am very picky about contemporaries?

8. Richelle Mead – I keep saying I’m over vampires… but if I’m being honest, I didn’t give YA vampire books (aside from Twilight) a fair chance.  Also, I swear that's Angelina Jolie on the cover!

9. James Dashner – Another case of hype striking, and my reading self recoiling from perceived popularity.  This is getting ridiculous.

10. Ransom Riggs – The cover of the first (and second) book totally creeped me out!

Which of these authors should I read ASAP? 

sausage and cheese bites

My good friend Leigh hosted a Texas Independence Day party yesterday.  She’s a displaced (misplaced?) Texan living here in the DC area, and she’s very proud of her home state.  I don’t like to show up at a party without a contribution, so I asked her what I could bring/make that would fit in with the theme.  She told me that she hadn’t had sausage balls for years.  I said something along the lines of, ‘What are sausage balls?!’  And then I giggled, because apparently I’m 12 years old on the inside. 

These appetizers were all the rage in Tahoka, Texas when Leigh was growing up.  And now I know why – they’re simple to make, use few (and easily accessible) ingredients, and they’re delicious.  I’ll keep them in my party food rotation from here on out, for sure.  But I had to rename them!

Sausage and Cheese Bites (modified from this recipe


1 lb package of ground sausage, such as Jimmy Dean
3 cups Bisquick mix
4 ounces regular cream cheese
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
ground pepper to taste (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare two baking sheets by lining with foil, set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mash together with hands until well combined.  Create one-inch balls by squeezing the mixture in one hand until it holds together, then roll between both palms to smooth into a sphere.

Place the dough bites on the baking sheet, about 1/2 inch to an inch apart, and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown, as shown in photos.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 to 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Yields two and a half dozen sausage and cheese bites.

I was worried the mixture would either turn out too creamy or too crumbly, but the recipe was really just about perfect.  They smelled and tasted great hot out of the oven, but were quite delicious when cool, too.  My roommate asked if they were cookies – and I think that describes them to a T: sausage and cheese cookies, and it’s impossible to eat just one.  I can also see that there’s a lot of room for variation with this recipe: different types of sausages, pepper flakes, seasoning, and another kind of shredded cheese would change the whole ballgame.

Recommended for: when you need a hearty party snack on the menu, and as a time-tested appetizer that’s sure to please (as long as no one is counting calories).

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking!
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