Make way, cupcakes—it’s whoopie pie time! Everyone is falling in love with America’s classic sandwich treat—two soft cookies with a creamy filling. Now, baker extraordinaire Claire Ptak takes the humble whoopie pie to new heights in The Whoopie Pie Book.

Here are 60 irresistible recipes—made with fresh, seasonal ingredients—that show home bakers how to make the components for more than two dozen distinctive, flavorful whoopie pies from Classic flavors to frozen varieties to holiday-themed desserts that are sure to become favorites.

The Whoopie Pie Book will inspire and guide every time the whoopie-pie urge hits! (description from publisher)

In 1930, Agatha Christie married her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist, and spent many happy seasons accompanying him on his archeological digs in the Middle East. Her experiences with the people and the environment then became inspirations for many of her most famous novels including Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie wrote Come, Tell Me How You Live as response to the many people who asked her what it was like to travel around the cradle of civilization on her husband’s expeditions in Syria, Iraq and many other places.

I ADORE this book. From lamenting over her husband shoving books into her carefully packed crate at the last minute to becoming tongue-tied with feeling inferior while chatting with their architect to running out of her bedroom screaming due to being covered in mice and cockroaches (her husband recommended that she just go to sleep and then she wouldn’t notice them crawling over her…yeah right), I just found Agatha to be so lovely and Britishy and wonderful! She manages to be both neurotic yet brave, awkward yet charming, silly yet shrewd, much like a heroine in a Sophie Kinsella or Katie Fforde novel. Come, Tell Me How You Live is the perfect mixture of personal memoir and travel adventure and a fascinating snapshot of the relationship between European archeologists and the Middle Eastern peoples during the years between the wars. This little known book is a fun read for all armchair travelers and Agatha Christie fans.

Thank goodness authors and actors and artists keep using Jane Austen as a muse to keep us Janeites busy. Here is a list of a few recent Austen-related items I’ve enjoyed:

From Prada or Nada: I have been a fan of actress Camilla Belle since her Disney Channel days, so I checked out this movie for some fun and silliness. My first shock was that despite the girly title and DVD image, this film has more drama than comedy. Then my second shock came at the end of the movie when I realized I had been watching a pretty direct retelling of Sense and Sensibility! (The girls are even named Nora and Mary–I was so embarrassed it took me so long to register the plot.) The movie follows two sisters as they deal with their father’s death and moving from his wealthy home to live with their Mexican Grandmother and extended family in a poor neighborhood in East LA. The film did a fantastic job of keeping true to Austen’s story while also staying accurate to today’s society and the lives of Mexican-Americans.

Austenland by Shannon Hale: Although I tend to love films that do an Austen retelling, I am always hesitant of books that attempt the same. The exception to the rule is those self-aware books where a modern Janeite finds herself living as an Austenian Heroine in her own life. In Austenland, Jane Hayes has been given a trip to stay at Pembrook Park, one of England’s Regency Era resorts that caters to those with Jane Austen fantasies. Although at first she is hesitant to play along with the staff and actors, Jane eventually convinces herself that she will never let go of her Mr. Darcy obsession unless she fully allows herself to participate in the romantic experience. Unfortunately, her love life just gets more complicated as she begins to confuse reality and Austen fantasy. Shannon Hale just wrote a companion book called Midnight in Austenland that sets a murder mystery in Pembrook Park.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This popular youtube series is one of my favorite new things! As you may have gathered from this post (and my other Jane Austen posts), I love Jane Austen with a modern twist, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries add a twist that I have never seen before: they are telling the story of Pride and Prejudice in real-time! Yup, Jane started her web diaries back in April when she first found out that a young doctor, Bing Lee, bought the mansion near her parents’ home and her mother was becoming insane about it. Her and her bf, Charlotte, (along with occasional help from her sisters, Jane and Lydia, and Bing’s sister, Caroline) produce two videos a week that are usually about 3-5 minutes each. Right now, Lizzie and Jane are staying over with Bing while their mother is remodeling their home (in case they have to sell it). The actors are fantastic, the scripts are fresh, and the whole shebang is produced by youtube superstars Bernie Su and Hank Green. You can catch up on the videos directly from the LBD youtube channel: or find out more about the whole project at:

For every dinner service, there is a staff meal, family-style celebrations prepared by chefs for their crew. The meals are never on the menu, but are designed to show appreciation, provide energy for the evening, and more importantly, please even the pickiest palate. Off the Menu brings you behind-the-scenes profiles of the country’s top restaurants, and explore the tradition of the staff meal.

Each night, sous chefs, line cooks, waiters, busboys, dishwashers, and managers all gather to eat, socialize, and plan before opening for business. Ranging from small plates to multi-course extravaganzas, from an inspired use of leftovers or entirely new offerings, the concept is simple: a well-fed staff is a happy one. Guggiana has taken the most remarkable, soulful, and mouthwatering of these dishes and translated them for the home cook. You will find more than 80 recipes from 50 of the nation’s top restaurants. Each entry includes profiles of the restaurants, behind-the-scenes trips to the kitchens, and dining out tips, restaurant tricks, and cooking techniques from the cream of the culinary crop.

Pull back the curtain on the staff meal, and find new, exciting ways to feed your family from the best in the business.

You may have heard about the recent controversy surrounding the author John Lehrer and his book Imagine: How Creativity Works in which he has recently admitted to being creative with a few of the quotes attributed to Bob Dylan. Publisher Houghton Mifflin has stopped shipping the book and has asked bookstores to pull it from the shelves. However, the book is still available for check-out at the library if you would like to take a look and see what the fuss is about. Here is my review of the book which I wrote just a few weeks before the controversy broke:

Yup, a bathroom is the key to all great creative achievements. According to Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, Steve Jobs specifically designed the Pixar Building with one central restroom location so that all employees would find themselves in unexpected interactions throughout the day, and it is these random and often irrelevant conversations that occasionally led to the breakthroughs that have made Pixar one of the most creative and successful animation studios of all time.

Of course, there is much much more to Pixar’s creativity and success than just a bathroom, and there is much more to say about creativity than just Pixar’s way of achieving it. In Imagine, Jonah Lehrer divides his research into two parts: creative individuals and creative groups. I had chosen to read the book with hopes that the first part would inspire me to pick up my paintbrushes that I haven’t touched since college, but it was actually the second part of the book that really shook up my brains and excited me about the possibility of enacting on new creative practices in the library. A creative person can write a play, but a creative environment can create a William Shakespeare. (Lehrer’s section on how William Shakespeare never could have produced his work if he had been born in any other time or place, due to the support of theater and lax copyright enforcement, is absolutely fascinating.)

Overall, the book constantly enforces that every person is creative, but it can sometimes take drugs, mood changes, travel or even disease to get our creativity to bubble up and show itself. I highly recommend Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer to artists, writers, crafters, inventors, managers, business owners, and everyone interested in the science and magic behind mankind’s creative spirit.

This blog is written by the staff of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (the 11th stack refers to the top floor of their library). The posts are quirky and thought-provoking. I love this one, Hot Makes Angry, in which the author likens himself to the Incredible Hulk. During the current heat wave, his emotions were on edge, so he delved into the IH graphic novels (bit of trivia: the original Hulk was gray, not green).

A recent post, Batman. Dark Knight Looming, notes that, last summer, Pittsburgh was the site for some of the filming for Dark Knight Rises.

The staff biographies are as fun to read as the blog posts. If they are anything to go by, this is a fun and diverse library to work at. For example, Holly’s hobby is “thrifting,” (I need to find out what this is), Leigh Ann “practices mad science,” Bonnie likes “gluing and taping things,” Maria, who would “love to meet other Michigan transplants so that she can talk about Michigan without seeming weird (such as using her hand as a map)” and one I’m on board with: Tara, who is into “making soup and napping.”


Food blogger Lindsay Landis has invented the perfect cookie dough. It tastes great. It’s egg free (and thus safe to eat raw). You can whip it up in minutes. And, best of all, you can use it to make dozens of delicious cookie dough creations, from cakes, custards, and pies to candies, brownies, and even granola bars.

Included are recipes for indulgent breakfasts (cookie dough doughnuts!), frozen treats (cookie dough popsicles!), outrageous snacks (cookie dough wontons! cookie dough fudge! cookie dough pizza!), and more. The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook features clear instructions and dozens of decadent full-color photographs. If you’ve ever been caught with a finger in the mixing bowl, then this is the book for you. (description from publisher)

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is a lighthearted, escapist novel, and part one of a series. I downloaded it from WILBOR and read it on my kindle, though many Rivershare libraries own paper or audio copies. If you enjoy alternate history or dragons, the Temeraire series is your new best friend! In Novik’s world, the Napoleonic wars are fought on the backs of dragons, sentient aerial warships that are manned by not just a single rider, but a crew of trained aviators. Throw in a bit of Austenian comedy-of-manners, a touch of Serious Military Jargon (it’s much pleasanter when it’s applied to a dragon instead of a ship or some other boringly realistic war machine), and finish with a sharply interesting main character and you have a summertime winner.

That sharply interesting main character is not Laurence, the human whose point of view we read: it’s Temeraire, the dragon he befriends and rides. Temeraire is vastly intelligent, aloof, regal, and enigmatic, but he’s also kind, deliberate, and deeply loyal. His motivations are largely a mystery, as Novik chooses to spend more time on aerial action, b-stories, and descriptive passages than on the depths of the dragon’s psyche. Why would a dragon, with immense strength and intelligence and free will – not to mention the occasional ability to spit acid or breathe fire – choose to remain subservient to humans and fight in their wars? Why would a species capable of creating its own society lack almost any interest in doing so? These are the questions His Majesty’s Dragon leaves hanging. There are five additional novels in this series to tackle them!