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Posted in Cookies

Brown Sugar and Maple Cookies

So these were made on the same week as my catastrophic blue soup. It was a week that felt like nothing would go right for me in the kitchen but I kept going! These cookies were absolutely scrumptious and if they had stayed in my kitchen, I may have devoured the lot. These cookies are warm and inviting with a little glaze on top to tickle the tastebuds. It hasn’t really felt like fall much here in Baltimore with the heat, but compared to CA it’s a veritable igloo over here! This recipe is from the Los Angeles Times Food section from about a month ago that I saved until I needed a little dose of fall.

So even though they turned out delicious in the end, there were some technical issues to be aware of as you try this recipe! I did not have enough butter on hand when I was making the recipe and substituted in some margarine which worked well. However, I did microwave the butter briefly because I hadn’t left it out long enough to soften. The microwaving made the margarine too soft and while I was able to mix the cookies up just fine, the batter was much softer than I would have liked. Before I scooped it, I froze the dough for twenty minutes which is good practice whenever you have really slack or soft cookie dough. Once baked, the cookies tasted fine but went soft pretty quickly. This recipe calls for a glaze which can add moisture to the cookies. If you prefer crunchier cookies, bake for an addition minute or two but watch carefully. The high sugar content from the brown sugar and maple syrup means that these cookies can catch or burn in the oven really quickly. A note on the glaze, mine wasn’t particularly white colored but to make a more solid glaze, you can add teaspoons of powdered sugar until it reaches the appropriate consistency and color that you prefer. I hope you enjoy and be sure to check out the Lost Angeles Times Food section on Sundays; it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the newspaper and the writers work really hard on perfecting these recipes!

Brown Sugar and Maple Cookie Recipe

For the Cookie:

  • 240 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 213 grams (1 cup) packed dark brown sugar (light is fine as well)
  • 78 grams (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 cup packed powdered sugar
  1. Heat the oven to 375F and line 3 cookie sheets (I used two and rotated their use but they are supposed to cook a little extra on the sheets once out of the oven so try to have 3)
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the syrup and beat until incorporated then beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well-blended.
  4. Add flour mix and fold in gently until no trace of flour remains. If your dough seems really slack at this point, freeze for 10-20 minutes or until it hardens enough to scoop
  5. Using a tablespoon measuring tool or a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop dough onto the sheets with at least 2 inches of space around each cookie. They will spread in the oven.
  6. Bake each sheet for 12 minutes or until golden dark brown. Cool completely on the cookie sheets on wire racks.
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the glaze ingredients. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Once cookies are completely cool, drizzle the glaze on top. Try to wait to eat them until the glaze hardens on the cookies.
Posted in Discard Recipes, Recipes

Sourdough Discard: Gros Pain

This is a bread that I made pretty frequently last year but haven’t made since I got into sourdough. It’s been a while and I’ve wanted to expand my use of sourdough discard as a flavoring for my bread so I decided to start experimenting with this recipe. It’s one of the most basic bread recipes, using just flour, salt, yeast, water, and time. The original recipe is from Jacque Pepin’s “Essential Pepin” cookbook. I love to make this bread because it’s a very classic bread recipe with a crunchy crust and a fluffy inside. I don’t make it as much at home because my father has a penchant for sandwich loaves and if I do, my brother has a habit of consuming at least half in one sitting. It’s pretty impressive and I’m glad that he likes it that much.

So as I’ve started to experiment with adding discard to my regular recipes, I’ve learned that its a finicky process. My sourdough starters is 100% hydrated which means that there’s an equal ratio (weight-wise) of water to flour. With that in mind, you’d think that if you added a half cup of discard, you could just subtract a quarter of a cup of flour and water and be fine. This is what I thought as I started the process and have come to realize that it really just depends on the texture of your discard and how long it’s been in the fridge. Discard that’s been in the fridge for a longer period of time is just tougher and requires more liquid. So if my discard has been in the fridge for 2 or more days, I’ll usually just omit the corresponding amount of flour and keep the same level of water. It’s a much trickier process than I thought it would be but I encourage you not to get discouraged if you’re trying it for the first time. I’ve really had to encourage myself to experiment in my baking; to me, the nature of baking is very precise and I’m not as comfortable experimenting with flavors and additions as some people. However, if you have the time, go ahead and try something new. If it goes wrong, then it does. If it goes right, you’ve discovered a delicious new way to make something. So I encourage you to try this recipe and let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Sourdough Discard Gros Pain Recipe

  • 113 grams discard sourdough starter (1/2 cup)
  • 480 grams bread flour (4 cups)
  • 7 grams instant or active-dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 350 grams warm water (1 1/2 cup)
  1. Mix the dry ingredients then add the water. Knead until smooth and the dough springs back to the touch. If you’d like one big loaf, put it into a lightly greased bowl and let rise 3 hours. If you want two smaller loaves, divide the dough now and let rise in separate greased bowls and let rise 3 hours.
  2. Punch out the air and reform the dough into a ball. Make sure the dough is stretched tightly and very smooth. Shaping the dough now is your only chance to determine its shape. Place on a greased pan, put a bowl on top and let rise for 2 more hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 425F and place a pan with sides on the bottom rack of oven. Ensure that the rack where the loaves will be baked is also in the bottom third of the oven.
  4. Flour the top of the dough balls and score with a knife. Scoring here is important to allow the dough to expand in the oven.
  5. Bake at 425F for 20 and then at 400F for 25 minutes (this doesn’t change if you make one big loaf or two small, but for two small, watch closely during second half of bake).
  6. Remove from oven and check for doneness. If you can knock on the bottom of the loaf and produce a hollow sound, it’s ready to be taken out.
  7. Let cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy. (Let these cool completely, the moisture will escape if they haven’t cooled completely and the bread will go stale much quicker)
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns

Now I’ve wanted to read this series for quite some time but books cost money and it looked like this would be a doozy of a series. I also don’t like to wait in between books so I’ll often wait to purchase parts of a series until the series is almost complete because I have a hard time remembering the details between books. This is the first book in a larger series by Kendare Blake that I believe has just concluded with the book “Queens of Fennbirn”. I saw this book at my favorite secondhand bookstore here in Baltimore, The Book Escape, when it was having a moving sale. I couldn’t wait any longer to start the series so I snatched it up and waited to dive right in. After finishing my last read, I took this off the shelf and dived into the magical world of Fennbirn and its three queens.

The concept driving the book is fascinating. The setting is Fennbirn, right before the beginning of Ascension Year for the three queens of Fennbirn. In Fennbirn, the throne is claimed by whichever of the royal triplets is able to survive the Ascension Year. This translates into an all out battle between the royal siblings and their power bases which are rooted in whatever mystical ability that have inherited. The three camps that dominate the book are the Poisoners who have raised Queen Katharine, the Temple who have raised Queen Mirabella, and the Naturists who have raised Queen Arsinoe. Unfortunately, this being the first in the series, this book really just sets the stage for the grand conflict of the Ascension Year. It draws to a close just as the murderous triplets are unleashed upon each other and the reader is left hanging.

Although the premise of the book sounds awfully gory, it’s more of an exploration of the affect that this impeding fate has upon each of the three sisters. It’s an interesting topic to explore and takes the normal sibling rivalry to an extreme. I did enjoy the book with its lush world building and fleshed out characters and I would recommend it for fans of the “young-adult” genre of books. It’s a good read but be prepared for an investment! Even on Thriftbooks, the whole set of books will cost you close to $60 so if you’re looking to go easy on your wallet, this may not be the best read because once you start, you may not be able to stop!

Posted in Cookies, Recipes

Almond Flour Shortbread Cookies

So these cookies owe their inspiration to my lovely friend, Hannah. We were video chatting the other day and she talked about all the lovely things that she’s been making with her gluten free sourdough starter! It put me in the mood to make something but I had less than an hour before my next class so it had to be something quick. Hannah suggested banana bread, a quarantine classic, but I’m embarrassingly behind on my grocery shopping and didn’t have much around. I didn’t set out to make a gluten-free recipe but it was the easiest and quickest with the ingredients I had available. The recipe has five ingredients, most of which you’ll probably have in your pantry. I always have almond flour around because I make macarons frequently but it’s not a hard ingredient to find in most grocery stores.

Now for the tips and tricks with this recipe! This made about 17 bite size cookies and I had to hold myself back from eating most of them! The cookies aren’t very big and the batch size is small so feel free to scale up the recipe to fit your needs. However, I wouldn’t adjust the size of the cookies. Even with using melted butter, these cookies are VERY short/crumbly. This is due to the use of almond flour and makes a very easy crumbly cookie. If they were made any larger, they would probably collapse under their own weight when picked up. The cross-hatching is also super easy to do with a fork, no special equipment required! This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website and on it, they have several variations for the flavor of the cookie including chocolate/pistachio and maple/pecan. I would start with the basic recipe and expand on that! Even if you wanted to try all the different flavor variations, it wouldn’t take more than an afternoon. So get busy and get baking!

Almond Flour Cookie Recipe

  • 96 grams (1 cup) almond flour
  • 43 grams (3 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature or softened
  • 21 grams (3 tablespoons) powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl until a cohesive dough forms.
  3. Scoop out 1 inch balls of dough using a teaspoon cookie scoop and arrange on the sheet. Leave out an inch and a half of room between dough balls.
  4. Use a fork to flatten each cookie, making a cross hatch design on top.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes or until they turn light brown on top (My oven took about 12 minutes)
  6. Remove and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer them to a rack to completely cool before eating.
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Down and Out in Paris and London

It has been a while since I’ve reviewed a book about Paris/France in general on my list and I was excited to read something a little different after being spellbound to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Down and Out in Paris and London was George Orwell’s first published novel and it details, with some embellishment, his experiences being broke and trying to make it on the streets of Paris and then later in London. Orwell’s writing is both entertaining and enlightening, a perfect combination for the subject material. As the book opens, Orwell finds himself completely broke in Paris with no prospects for work anytime soon. During this period, the number of unemployed upon the urban streets was vast and it was incredibly difficult to find work that paid a livable income. After several weeks of scrimping, Orwell finds himself a dishwasher at the very prestigious Hotel X. Orwell is well fed and moderately well paid for a time but describes the appalling state of the kitchen hygiene in a very expensive establishment. Orwell then travels back to London on the prospect of a well-paying job but finds that he needs to make his way upon the streets for another month until the employer returns from vacation. Orwell proceeds to adopt a state of homelessness and wanders the streets with other tramps such as Paddy and Bozo.

While Orwell did have access to funding through various friends and family, for reasons unknown, he chose not to take it. While I don’t love the fact that he viewed his experience with those in abject poverty as entertaining “research”, he does provide a critique towards the way that society treats those on the lowest part of the social ladder. Orwell mostly critiques this in London as he finds the aid provided by secular and ecclesiastical authorities to be both inadequate and humiliating towards the impoverished. Orwell’s writing about poverty in Paris is more revealing of the daily struggles of the impoverished Parisian migrant and the horrific conditions in which he worked. I liked the tenor of the book but there are several obvious issues. While casual anti-semitism was a norm of Orwell’s time, it’s jarring to read. I found it a upsetting but didn’t find that it was so pervasive that I couldn’t finish the book. Orwell’s racial and ethnic attitudes are reflective of a time with very different social norms and should be read with such a perspective. Orwell’s book is a good read but perhaps for the more mature reader who can contextualize his narrative.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blue Soup or Witches Brew?

This is not part of your regularly scheduled programming but here it is. Today has been a day full of accidents. I sliced open my thumb, mistook a cucumber for a zucchini, and made blue soup. That’s right, blue soup. Not my proudest achievement but something that I have done nonetheless. I decided to write this blog post as more catharsis for myself than anything else, but feel free to keep going because I think it’s really important to be exactly as I am in real life on this blog and that includes all the mistakes and accidents that I, as a twenty year old college student, seem to be making all the time. I’m lucky to have a space where I can reflect on my cooking fails like this and am grateful for it in this moment. Let’s start with some background on how I got here before we get to the story of my blue soup adventure.

This summer, I tried to turn my life into a force for positive change and I am trying to keep that going. I researched with a group that works on food systems and I read a lot of literature on how food affects both our bodies and our environment in very tangible ways. Armed with my new knowledge, I set out to become a more eco-friendly consumer! I tried to cut back on the fast fashion and tried to consume in a more “mindful” manner. That meant trying to source my food more locally to reduce carbon emissions and also to encourage local production of the necessities of daily life. While this was easier at home in CA where I had the support of my mother, I decided to try and carry that attitude into my life here in Baltimore. I gamely signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box which is a contract with a local farm to receive their produce at a very reasonable price. It’s meant to incentivize local agricultural production which I am happy to do! As a college student on a budget, I went for their “ugly” share which is the least pretty but still very yummy produce. So today I got my CSA box and was super excited to dig into whatever produce I had been given.

This begins the story of the infamous Blue Soup. It’s a funny one and I laughed and cried and laughed a little bit more during this entire soup saga. I started this soup adventure around 5:30pm today with vegetable prep. I used the Garlic, Fennel, and Potato Soup Recipe from the New York Times Cooking section and this require quite a bit of chopping and peeling and dicing and slicing. So I passed the time on a video call with my childhood friend and chopped my little heart out. I got all the ingredients together and realized that the soup recipe called for cheesecloth to enclose some herbs that were meant to flavor the soup but not go into the final product. Being the resourceful human that I am, I hit up the internet for recommendations on what I could use instead of cheesecloth. Amongst these recommendations were clean nylons! In my mind, nylons are the same as regular stockings and I have plenty of those! So I selected my least loved and cleanest pair of BLACK stockings and tied the herbs up in it and tossed it into the soup. With not a care in my mind, I let the soup simmer for 45 minutes with the stocking herb-bouquet in it.

I finally removed the soup from the heat and started to puree it but after the first batch, I noticed that the soup was an odd color. It was BLUE!!! Now I may be newer to the world of cooking than to baking but I am very sure that blue is not the right color for any type of food. I was tearing my hair out at what could have gone wrong and remembered the BLACK stocking that had been simmering in that pot for forty five whole minutes. I definitely feel like a fool at the moment. I had messed up not only my lunch for the next few days, but also wasted several pounds of good food.

As I was cleaning up the mess from the soup debacle, I was thinking about how to frame this story. Would it be something uplifting about learning from your mistakes? I’ve certainly learned that I need a much better substitute for cheesecloth than my black stockings or that sometimes you just need to cough up the cash dinero for cheesecloth. Should this be a sad post? I’m certainly pretty upset right now. But I’m also usually my own worst critic. I’ll probably be upset at myself for this for a few days before I can even try to laugh at myself. In the end, I just decided to be honest because honestly, it’s a pretty funny mistake to make, even if it seems that the cost is hefty. I experiment with recipes all the time and it’s hard when they don’t go perfectly every time, but that’s just how life is. Some days, it isn’t easy but we can keep going. I think this post is more about reminding myself that I am okay and that things will be okay even if this seems like the biggest culinary catastrophe that could have happened. This is a blip and I owe it to myself to keep experimenting and enjoying the kitchen. Trying to brush off mistakes or failure is not easy and has always been something that I’ve struggled with. I’ll ruminate on my mistakes for much longer than they merit and I continue to strive to be kinder to myself when I do mess up. The next time I fail, I hope I can treat myself as I would treat a friend and be encouraging and uplifting. I would never disparage a friend if they made a mistake like this and I owe myself the same courtesy even if it’s easier said than done.

And if you’ve made it to the end of this long post, you get the wonderful prize of getting to see my blue soup. Personally, I think it would make an excellent halloween decoration but I’m not sure if it’ll stay good until then.

Posted in Quick Breads, Recipes

Buttermilk Granola Muffins

I made these lovely muffins a few weeks ago during a particularly fruitful burst of baking. I always have leftover buttermilk from soda bread or other recipes that just sits in my fridge for weeks. With this recipe, I was finally able to use the leftover buttermilk but never fear, this recipe can be totally vegan if you choose or if you just lack buttermilk. The buttermilk in the recipe can be substituted for any type of fruit juice but I would suggest one that corresponds to the granola that you choose to use for this recipe. This recipe was an win for me because I’ve struggled with muffins in recent years. I can make them just fine from a mix but I haven’t found a good “from scratch” muffin recipe in a while. I’m so glad that I came across this recipe, it produced a ton of muffins which I’ve been enjoying for breakfast.

One note for the recipe concerning the type of granola used. Being a student on a budget, I could have made my own granola (time consuming but perhaps cheaper) or buy the cheapest option from the local grocery store. I choose the store route and have some regrets about the granola that I got which which was basically honey and vanilla flavored oats….So, I would recommend choosing your granola a little more carefully than I did. Go with something with larger clusters or with lots of dried fruit. I wish you luck and happy granola hunting if you decide to make these delectable muffins!

Buttermilk Granola Muffin Recipe

  • 227 grams whole wheat flour (2 cups)
  • 213 grams brown sugar, packed (1 cup)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 99 grams prepared granola (1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 67 grams vegetable oil (1/3 cup)
  • 340 grams low-fat or full-fat buttermilk (1 1/2 cups)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a muffin tin. If using cups, making sure to grease those as well, the batter will stick.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and buttermilk.
  3. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined
  4. Spoon batter into cups until 2/3 full.
  5. Sprinkle with additional granola and bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Remove muffins from the oven but not the tins. After five minutes or when cool enough to handle, transfer the muffins to a rack to a cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Orchid Thief

I’m writing this post after just finishing this book less than ten minutes ago. It was such a thought-provoking read that I feel like I both digested it as I read it but also have no idea what kind of literary journey I just took. The Orchid Thief was Susan Orlean’s debut novel after being a staff writer at The New Yorker for many years. I actually read her second novel, The Library Book, over the summer. The Library Book was such a poetic tribute to the power that books and the literary arts hold over ordinary lives that I limited myself to a certain page count per day in order to stretch out the reading experience and savor the words. I enjoyed The Library Book so much that I couldn’t help but search out Orlean’s first book in an effort to repeat the experience. While I was disappointed that The Orchid Thief didn’t evoke such an emotional response for me, it was a great book. Orlean spends the novel both detailing her experience with the exotic plant world of Florida while recounting the history of exotic plant collection. She interweaves the story of John Laroche, the orchid thief of the title, with a larger reflection on the existence of Florida as both a part of the United States that stands truly alone.

Some of the description in this book didn’t resonate with me very much but I’m also not an attentive plant lover. Orlean’s writing was powerful in this first novel and I think that she really perfected her prose in The Library Book. I’m also from California and was able to find resonance in her words about California and its history more than I was able to relate to the story of a state that I have never visited. Orlean does meditate on a lot of the elements of modernity in this novel and I would say that for that alone, The Orchid Thief deserves a read. Orleans passes no strong judgement upon the people that populate her book which I think is part of the fun. Orlean’s presence as a neutral narrator makes the reader think harder about their own biases in life. Definitely a book for an adults, The Orchid Thief is a unique reflection on life and plants and everything in between.

Posted in Cookies, Recipes

Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies but I had never attempted a vegan cookie recipe! I had a lovely socially distanced picnic with friends last week and I wanted to bring a baked good to share. In these times of socially distanced socialization, I’ve loved baking for other people to show my love rather than giving them the big hugs that I’d really like to give them! One of my friends is a vegan and as I have been trying to incorporate less animal products in my own life, I thought it was a great opportunity to try out this recipe from King Arthur Flour. Always a great resource, King Arthur Flour didn’t fail me with this wonderful recipe for chocolate chip cookies that taste absolutely delicious and don’t compromise on any part of a cookie!

These cookies are specifically salted right before they are baked and this is the most important part of the recipe. I do have a sweet tooth but with the use of oil in these cookies, they can be a little overpoweringly sweet if you omit the salt. You don’t had to use very fancy salt either, I just sprinkled on kosher salt and whacked them in the oven. I really prefer kosher salt for baking, whether or not it’s called for by the recipe. Although most table salt is iodized, providing an important micronutrient in your diet, it doesn’t pack the same flavor punch that I find when I use kosher salt. Also, I taste kosher salt as more salty if that’s possible so I end up using less overall. Just to be careful, make sure that you have iodized table salt out for regular usage but I recommend kosher salt for most cooking and baking needs.

Some of the reviews on this recipe complained of spreading but I didn’t find this was the case at all. I refrigerated my dough for several hours (roughly 18) and froze the dough for about twenty minutes after I had shaped it. Using a tablespoon to measure the dough out, it makes about 27 cookies but only 26 made it into my oven! You can also add in sourdough discard or make them gluten free! For the discard addition, you can add in 70 grams of discard and omit the additional water the recipe calls for. You may also be able cut the flour amount but I’m not sure I could give an exact amount. To make this gluten free, substitute all the flour for almond meal and be careful to mix until the dough is just coming together. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did and let me know how any of the variations go in the comments!

Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

  • 241 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 213 grams (1 1/4 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 99 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 106 grams (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 106 grams (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) vegetable oil
  • 71 grams (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
  • Sea salt or Kosher Salt to garnish
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda and salt. Add chocolate chips and whisk till they are coated with flour.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the sugars with the oil and water until smooth. This can take a minute or two but be patient!
  3. Add flour and stir until just combined with no visible flour spots.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
  5. To bake, preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets.
  6. Remove dough from refrigerator and using a tablespoon to measure, drop on the lined sheet. Leave about 2 inches of room on each side and freeze for 10 minutes. (They can be frozen closer together but make sure they have the space when baking)
  7. Sprinkle with salt (Do this!!! I forgot for the first batch!!) and bake for 12-14 minutes. If you like your cookies softer, bake for no more than 13 minutes. Bake a few minutes past 14 if you enjoy a crunchy cookie.
  8. Remove and cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Monsters of Men

I could not believe how fast I finished this book. It’s the third in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness that I posted about about a week ago. Wow!!!! This was a thrilling conclusion to the books and most of it was totally unexpected and the action kept coming! I started on a Wednesday and finished by Thursday evening! I absolutely ripped through this book and am still reeling from the ending!

The last installment of Ness’ trilogy brings us right back to the end of the second book, The Ask and the Answer. Just as Mayor Prentiss and Mistriss Coyle are about to have their epic showdown, their rivalry has to be put on pause to combat the massive Spackle army that has marched on their city. The Spackle previously appeared in the trilogy but not as main protagonists. When the settlers from the Old World settled on the New, a massive Spackle war ensued with several thousand Spackle being enslaved to the settlers as part of the peace agreement. These enslaved Spackle are slaughtered wholesale by Mayor Prentiss in the second book, leading to the mobilization of the Spackle across the planet. In the third book, the settlers face extinction in the face of the imminent arrival of more settlers and the rivalries of the second book haven’t gone anywhere. Tension is high and Todd and Viola are doing all they can to save each other while saving the rest of humanity but will they succeed and keep their lives?? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I talked over the entire trilogy with the aforementioned friend who introduced me to the trilogy and we both had some pretty strong opinions about each of the characters in a world where nothing is quite black and white. I found that this trilogy is incredibly insightful in its treatment of humans and the basic moral battle of good versus evil that has faced humanity for many millennia. Ness does a really good job of showing how easy it is for evil to seep into our lives but encouragingly shows how to confront that same evil. I cannot believe how much I enjoyed reading these books and would recommend them to YA lovers. It provides a layered and nuanced story that makes you question even your own perceptions of the world.