A Year of READING Dangerously: #42 The Fighting Ground

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The Fighting Ground is a vanilla piece of historical fiction by Avi. The action takes place over a roughly 24 hour period pf April 3 and April 4th , 1778. The American Revolutionary War is ripping up the New Jersey country side skirmish by skirmish and is beconing 13-year-old Johnathan away from his farm to fight.

Unexpectedly, the quiet is cut by the sound of a bell-an alarm ringing from the nearby tavern. Jonathan is sent to find out what the trouble is. What he finds in the next twenty-four hours, when he does fight and is taken prisoner by three Hessian soldiers, changes his understanding of war and life forever. The real war, he discovers, is being fought within himself. [Avi-Writer.com]

The Fighting GroundAlthough The Fighting Ground is hailed as “action packed” and is an award winning publication, I found it a bland read.

I’m scratching my head as to why this one is on the banned book list. It is a book about war so there is some Violence. But that was about it.

Muffin Monday: VEGAN Fig Chocolate Muffins

A game of mancala and a glass of cold milk is the only thing that could possibly make these muffins any better than they already are. Just sayin'

A game of mancala and a glass of cold milk is the only thing that could possibly make these muffins any better than they already are. Just sayin’


  • 2 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1 cup diced figs (or dates)
  • 1/2 cup diced peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice or blended vegetable juice (e.g., V8)
  • Dark Chocolate Bar (I used 3 large squares of chocolate)
  • Sugar for the tops of the muffins
The chocolate kept its shape and made a nice little well of dark deliciousness. I used a bar that had 80% Cocoa so it was super dark and yummy.

The chocolate kept its shape and made a nice little well of dark deliciousness. I used a bar that had 80% Cocoa so it was super dark and yummy. You can also see bits of the fig in the pic. The muffin’s orange color comes from the Tomato Juice, which you can’t really taste at all.


1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease and flour muffin cups.
2) Whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the Flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cardamon, Figs and Peanuts.
3) In a blender, whisk together the Vanilla, Vegetable Oil, and Tomato juice.
4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; don’t over-mix, stir just until everything is moistened.
5) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each nearly full.
6) Sprinkle the tops with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired. (OF COURSE it is desired!)
7) Bake the muffins for 5 minutes
8) Cut the chocolate squares into quarters so you have 12 quarters and put one quarter into each of the partially baked muffins
9) Continue baking for 18 to 20 minutes, until they’ve domed nicely and they’re lightly browned around the edges. And they pass the toothpick test.
10) Remove the muffins from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

These are super yummy. The cardamon and fig combo is out of this world. And my tasters thought they were some of the best muffins they’d ever had. They aren’t too moist so I suspect they would travel pretty well, but, frankly, they were consumed too quickly to make it to the Post Office.
Yield: 12 muffins.

full Muffin

Looking for other Vegan Muffin recipes? Just type VEGAN in the search field to the left.

A Year of READING Dangerously: #15 The Bluest Eye

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Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye ranks #15 on the ALA’s list of most banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2010. It is written mostly from the wide-eyed perspective of nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer. The MacTeers, a strict but ultimately loving African American family, are barely scraping by in depression era Lorain, Ohio.  Claudia’s friend Pecola Breedlove’s  life is harder still.

Poor little Pecola has to deal with a mix of abuses at home. Her father drinks, her mother is distant and emotionally cruel. They both fight constantly, neither of them show any love toward Pecola or her brother Sammy. Sorrows heap on sorrows and abuse heaps on abuse. And Pecola is just young and innocent enough to think if she only had blue enough eyes (like Shirley Temple’s) all would be well in her deeply troubled world.


On our Banned Book Matrix The Bluest Eye comes in heavy with:

  • Violence
  • Racisim
  • Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking
  • Sexually Explicit


A Year of READING Dangerously: #7 Scary Stories

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My apologies for taking so long to get back to this list. I have been reading (and doing) a few other things. I also have a few books FROM the list that I have read and need to review.

Today I’ll tackle  Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories (series).

Scary Stories cover

I read SCARY STORIES To Tell In the Dark. The first thing you should know about this book is that it isn’t very scary. The best stories in this anthology barely make sense. It seems too much to ask for them to actually frighten the reader.

Having read it through in about an hour (in the dark, as prescribed in the subtitle) I found myself thinking “Huh?” at the end of most of these short, weirdly written stories. Granted I’m not a pre-teen boy, and I wasn’t sitting around a campfire while reading the book. But I WAS ready to be just a little bit creeped out. And nothing on these pages came to even that low standard of fear.

You’d have to dig deep to find anything particularly offensive about these vanilla, bland, lame, tales but using out “banned” matrix… I’ll go with:

  • Occult Satanism  for the ghost story element and
  • Violence?

Mostly I’d just warn you to stay away because these stories are outdated, boring, and not well written.

(Hint: if you are relying on the stage direction of “jump out at your friends” for the climax of a scary story… it isn’t a scary enough story.)

WAIT! I just thought of something nice to say about the book… The illustrations were pretty creepy. So “Huzzah to the illustrator!”


March Madness, Jane Austen Style… Finis

Much like MARCH (the month) our little experiment in the madness of brackets has come to an end. The reader’s have voted and we have the winners!

Austen March Madness both sides6As  you can see the Colonel and Lizzie came in first in their respective categories.  Hat’s off to Miss Elizabeth, who garnered all the votes from the ladies final bracket. Brandon had some competition from Knightley, but he was the winner by a large, manly margin.

Brandon and LizzieThis March Madness, Jane Austen Style Bracket has always been a purely academic exercise. Austen never intended for characters from different books to get together.  But I couldn’t sleep last night, and as the hours began to trickle away and dawn refused to come I started to think about this impossible (dark) mash-up.

What if…

Marianne never recovers from her fever? Despite Elinor and Col. Brandon’s best attentions she dies at Cleveland?

David Morrisey played Brandon in 2008.

David Morrisey played Brandon in 2008.

  • Edward still becomes Rector at Delaford .
  • Lucy still marries his brother, leaving him to…
  • finally proclaim his love for Elinor.
Robert Swann played Brandon in 1981

Robert Swann played Brandon in 1981

They marry and the Colonel generously sets up Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret in a house closer to town and the newlyweds so the remaining family members can live in closer proximity. This leaves Barton cottage empty.

Richard Owens played Brandon in 1971

Richard Owens played Brandon in 1971

Which is good… because what if…

Kiera Knightly played Lizzie in 2005.

Kiera Knightly played Lizzie in 2005.

Lydia runs off with Wickham a week earlier than she did in the novel. Jane’s panicked letter to Elizabeth arrives at the Inn at Lampton BEFORE Lizzie and the Gardiners  have a chance to tour Pemberly.

Elizabeth Garvey played Lizzie in 1980.

Elizabeth Garvey played Lizzie in 1980.

She doesn’t see Darcy’s beautiful house, or, more importantly his altered behavior (or — as in the BBC version — his wet shirt.)  Darcy and Elizabeth’s friendship and romance doesn’t have a chance to kindle. And she and the Gardiners leave immediately for Longbourn. (Darcy doesn’t learn of the ‘elopement’ for weeks when the details have become grist for the rumor mill. By then it is too late for him to find the lovers.)

Greer Garson played Elizabeth in 1940.

Greer Garson played Elizabeth in 1940.

Mr. Bennet goes looking for Lydia and Wickham, which results in one of these possibilities…

  1.  He finds them, and as Mrs. Bennet sagely predicted, he duels with the rascal and dies.
  2.  He can’t find them and his frequent trips away from his man cave to London, Gretna Green and points north prove too strenuous for him. He dies of a heart attack.

This leaves Mrs. Bennet and the remaining girls in a very undesirable position.

  • Their reputation is ruined. (THANKS LYDIA!)
  • They must leave the Longbourn.
  • And they have very little money to live on.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in 2005's Bride and Prejudice.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in 2005’s Bride and Prejudice.

Of course the Gardiners take them in, but that proves a VERY temporary fix. (Can you imagine putting up with Mrs. Bennet’s flutterings?)   Mr. Gardiner uses his business connections to put out feelers for a reasonably priced home in the county, far enough away from town that their reputation might be over looked.

He finds a 3 bedroom cottage near Barton Village. It is a little less roomy than Longbourn, but the cottage would have much comfort and much elegance about it. The Bennets move in in the Spring.

Lizzie, who is fond of long walks, finds herself trespassing on the grounds of Delaford…




This blog post has been interrupted by the hostile take over by Pemberly Digital.

Because, really… everybody KNOWS Mr. Darcy should have won.

Daniel Vincent Gordh  and Ashley Clements  played Darcy and Lizzie in the Emmy Award Winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries  in 2013/14.

Daniel Vincent Gordh and Ashley Clements played Darcy and Lizzie in the Emmy Award Winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries in 2013/14.




March Madness: Jane Austen Style– round seven, THE FINALS

Jane ball

So here we are… at the incredibly exciting March Madness, Jane Austen style FINALS! Thanks to some heavy voting last round league favorites Lizzie, Emma and Anne pulled through to advance to the next game. Congratulations, ladies.


This round will be different from the previous rounds in that you must pick your favorite character from three very qualified candidates for both sides!

Once those votes are tabulated (at around 6:00 on Wednesday night EST) we’ll know who our dream team is, and the bracket will be complete. (And you will no longer have to put up with my amazing photoshopping skills.)

Austen March Madness both sides6


Who will win among the ladies? Will it be…

How about the men? Are you going to vote for…

  • Brandon from Sense and Sensibility
  • Knightly from Emma
  • Benwick from Persuasion
Men's Finals

I’m really NOT trying to load the odds in favor of the good Col. I tried to pay homage to alternate casts here. (Although there is only ONE Brandon.)   YOU are invited to try and  find a good pic of Benwick!

Will we have an Emma sweep? Stay tuned… and don’t forget to vote!


March Madness: Jane Austen Style– round six, Ladies Semi-Final

MAJOR, MAJOR UPSET on the last round of picks!!!! Brandon won the first bracket and that means… DARCY got benched! (He doesn’t look too happy about it either!)

Darcy Duke bench

(My apologies to Marshall Plumlee of Duke who donated his body for this picture. It’s all in the name of Literature.)


However, it doesn’t do to dwell on unpleasantries, we all knew that would be a VERY tough head to head competition, did we not?

Now on to the LADIES Semi!


Austen March Madness both sides5


Who will win between:

  • Elinor and Lizzie (I know there are some very strong Elinor fans in this group, so… if you don’t want a total P&P diss… you better vote!)
  • Fanny and Emma (Double for Fanny)
  • Catherine and Anne (Triple for Anne)

Get your votes in by 6:00 on Sunday. These ladies are counting on you!


The BBC ladies request the pleasure of you to vote.


March Madness: Jane Austen Style, round five– Men’s Semi-Finals

basketball court copyThe action was fast and furious on the court this week as the LADIES Darling Dozen bracket narrowed down to the favorite character for each Austen novel. As with the gentlemen, there were no real surprises in this bunch.  Here’s how we currently stand…

Austen March Madness both sides4

Now the competition gets REALLY hard as you have to get all inter-book and pick your fave between…

  • Brandon and Darcy (good luck there)
  • Edmund and Knightly (ugggghhhh!)
  • Henry and Benwick (hmmmm)

BAsketball hoop-- men

You have until Thursday at 6:00 pm EST to get in your votes.

Jane ball

March Madness: Jane Austen Style, round four — Ladies Sweet Dozen

Jane Scoreboard

As suspected there was some serious court action over who would rank as top male player for each Austen book. There was much debating and deal making. But here, dear readers, is the tally for the last round…

Austen March Madness both sides


I know you are as surprised as I am that the last slot reads “Benwick” and not my beloved “Wentworth” but much lobbying was made for the fact that Benwick is persuasively kind and tragically romantic through out the book, while Fredrick only comes around at the final buzzer.   I can’t argue with Austen’s dramatic telling of the tale, and the payoff is always a delight, but I bow to Maggie on this one.

Jane ball

And now on to super exciting Ladies Sweet Dozen. (Maybe that should be Darling Dozen?) Anyway, same deal… choose your top female character for each book.  Deadline for picks for this round: Tuesday at 6pm EST.


Now, I suspect some of you:

  • are busy so maybe you haven’t had a chance to send in your picks.
  • might be confused about how to fill out a bracket. (HINT:  just send me a comment with your choices.)
  • are annoyed that I’m matching Austen with Basketball in such a jovial way.

But I’ve noticed a bit of lackluster participation on your part.  And I wanted to let you know that it isn’t too late to get in on the fun. Unlike other brackets that are set in stone  before the whistle is blown for the first game of March Madness, our bracket is evolving and you are welcome to join at any time. So if you don’t want something like the great Benwick/Wentworth fiasco of 2015 to happen again I strongly urge you send  me  your picks.

Cheers, Rita

Austen Jersey

I’m also running out of ideas for Basketball related images that I can make Austen-y. So let me know if you have any suggestions. [I picked 13 because Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813.]



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