Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Read so Far in 2015

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is my Top Ten books so far this year.  While this has been a pretty good reading year I'm not sure if there have been too many standouts.  At least not at first thought anyway. Once I started thinking about it though it ended up being a pretty easy topic.  I've found some really great books this year.

1.  Recipes For a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry - I had been in a restless reading mood and this book was the only one that made me really settle.  There was just something about the warm chatty feel of this one that I just loved.

2.   The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower - If there was an award for book I talked the most about this would win it.  I found pretty much every detail of this book fascinating and I liked that for the most part it managed to stay unpolitical and really focused on the personal lives of the staff, the President and the First Family.

3.  Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor - This would definitely be a finalist in the Book I Talked About the Most award category.  While it didn't dwell on food as much as I was expecting for the bulk of the book the information about her brain and all the treatment was absolutely fascinating and Fechtor and her family and friends were incredibly likable.

4.  Behind Every Great Man: Women in the Shadows of History's Alpha Males by Marlene Wagman-Geller - This was such a great book because it covered such a wide range of people.  Getting a little more information about the women married to men whose names are household names was fascinating.  

5.  Death and the Redheaded Woman by Loretta Ross - I absolutely loved the feel of this mystery.  It was interesting, not overly cutesy, had a little bit of history mixed in and fantastic characters.  Not to mention the fact that I love the basic premise (auction house and a bounty hunter).  I'm really looking forward to this series continuing.

6.  The Hexed by Heather Graham - When I settle in to a Heather Graham book I know I'm in for a good read.  More than anything her settings and story lines always grab me with just the right mix of modern day crime, history and paranormal.  So far this is my favorite of the Krewe series.  If you haven't read read any of hers feel free to jump in at the one that interests you the most.  While they're loosely linked they all read as stand alones.

7.  If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries - I'm always a little nervous when I read the last book in a series that I really enjoyed.  What if they don't do a good job?  What if I don't like how they ended up?  With Sabrina Jeffiries I shouldn't have worried.  She never lets me down.

8.  Twisted Threads by Lea Wait - This was one of my favorite new cozy series I read this year so far.  This is another one that the potential for future stories is so exciting!  Plus, the MC is a PI which always makes me happy.

9.  Langston's Daughters by Juliette Harper - I love a good family saga and this was a particularly great one.  I loved the three sisters and how they rebuild their relationships and the way different romantic relationships are handled.  There's another one coming out I think this fall and I can't wait to see where the story goes.

10. Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons - I've followed Brittany's blog for years but I'm never quite sure what to expect when a blog turns into a book.  This was interesting and funny with a fantastic message about accepting yourself for who you are.

So it turns out there have been some standouts so far!  What book have you absolutely loved so far this year?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Murder on the Half Shelf - Review

Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett
Rating: 3 Stars
Source: Purchased

Description:  Stoneham, New Hampshire is a haven for bookstores, including Tricia's own mystery shop, Haven't Got A Clue, but is sadly lacking in Bed and Breakfasts.  Pippa and Jon Comfort's Sheer Comfort Inn opens its doors to the public in a week and the couple has offered some locals a free night as a trial run
But what should have been a pleasant overnight stay for Tricia becomes a nightmare when she makes two startling discoveries: Pippa's murdered body in the backyard and the fact that her husband Jon is actually Harry Tyler, a man Tricia loved - and believed dead - for nearly twenty years.
Now Harry is the prime suspect, but Tricia doesn't believe him capable of murder, regardless of her own feelings toward him.  And even though Harry's led a life of lies, Tricia's learning that Pippa had her share of secrets that some people may have not wanted revealed... (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I've been reading this series for awhile and always get the newest one when it comes out.  Plus, who can resist a town of bookstores?

My Impression:
Pro:  I always love visiting Stoneham and visiting the different bookstores.  Can you imagine a bookstore that just focuses on mysteries right next door to a cookbook store?  It just sounds fabulous.  The mystery, as always, was well done.  There were a number of red herrings, false leads and very valid suspects.  I did kind of suspect the who but watching it unravel was fun.  The introduction of Pixie has a lot of potential and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of her character in the future.  I always enjoy seeing Tricia in the store and Angelica trying to run her budding cookbook empire.

Con: Every resident of Stoneham needs to relax.  This is a group of seriously prickly people.  There's a scene with Nikki, who owns a bakery, that seemed unnecessarily antagonistic.  With Tricia's relationships with Angelica and Grant already fairly fragile and the reappearance of Jon Comfort/ Harry this kind of seemed like piling on where it wasn't needed.  There is a lot going on with the actual mystery and side plots featuring Mr. Everret and Grace, Angelica, Tricia's past, strange things that are arriving in the mail, and small town politics.  Sometimes it can be a little difficult keeping track of who does what.

Overall:  This wasn't my favorite in the series but it was still a fun read.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, despite it's flaws this is a series I always enjoy.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you like cozies this is a fun series but this might not be the book I'd start with.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This Week in Reading - June 28

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Guaranteed to Bleed by Julie Mulhern - this is the 2nd in the Country Club series that is set in the 1970s and sounds like so much fun.  I couldn't resist grabbing the 2nd book since I missed the first. (NetGalley)

Cooking As Fast As I Can by Cat Cora - I've liked Cat Cora since I first saw her on Iron Chef and she's always fun to watch.   Plus she's from Jackson, MS where I have family so I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say.  (NetGalley)

I've got one more request pending on NetGalley but I feel like I'm heading towards a couple of weeks of no new books.  I finally feel like I'm starting to make progress on the stacks of books I have around.  It doesn't feel quite as overwhelming as it was feeling.  Not because I've gotten so much read but more because I feel a little more in control.


Reading:  Black Rose by Nora Roberts and That Chesapeake Summer by Mariah Stewart

Listening: No audio books but the Tornado got a Yo Gabba Gabba CD from the library that we've been listening to in the car and I've got the "Don't Bite Your Friends" song screaming in my head at all times.

Watching: J and I watched True Detective last week.  We watched the first season last year and liked it though the ending wasn't my favorite.  I like that they've started completely from scratch for the new season.  Wow are those people messed up!  I've also been watching Next Food Network Star which I enjoy every year.  I don't have a favorite yet but I'm sure that will change.

Off the Blog:

Last week was the trifecta of car issues.  Paul got a speeding ticket, Emma was in a wreck (minor fender bender - her fault), and then on the way home from work the water pump in her Jeep went out.  All 3 were pretty minor and I'm hoping they'll have all learned a lesson that will prevent something more serious from happening in the future.  The only problem is that when J was fixing her water pump he discovered that there was an electrical problem with her brake lights.  What we thought was just a blown fuse wasn't,  Keep your fingers crossed it's something easily solved and not too expensive.

The Tornado and I have been swimming just about every day and I have learned my lesson about sunscreen!  So far no more burns.  He's getting really comfortable in the water and we've been having a good time.

Last weekend I mentioned I was making a Key Lime Pie for Father's Day.  It turned out soooo good!  And it's ridiculously easy.  The hardest part is turning graham crackers into crumbs and then waiting overnight before eating the pie.  I followed this recipe and I was a little worried it was going to be too sweet but it wasn't.  The only thing that could be potentially complicated is that she mentions using Key lime juice which is incredibly difficult to find.  Instead I used Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice which is actually what she used too.  The bottle looks like this:
and I found it with the lemon juice in my grocery store.  Seriously - try this recipe if you like Key lime pie!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Murder on the Half Shelf -Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books So Far This Year
Wednesday: That Chesapeake Summer - Fiction/Romance Review
Thursday:  Happily Ali After - A Humorous Memoir Review 
Friday: Friday linkups with my current book
Saturday: 4th of July menu

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stir - Review

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family.  Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain.  She nearly died.  She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.
Jessica's journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir.  There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking.  Written with intelligence, humor and warmth.  Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished. (from Goodreads)

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book: Food, healing, how could I pass it up?

My Impression:  I had a strong idea of how this book was going to go before I started reading it.  I thought this would be more from post-aneurysm and her talking about the foods that people brought her, that she craved, or that she made as soon as she was able. But when I started reading that wasn't what I found.  Not that what I found was bad it just wasn't quite what I expected.
We start with Jess lying on the floor after falling off a treadmill.  And follow through the tests and the diagnosis and the strategies, through rehab and being back home and then more tests and more theories.   As someone who has never really had any health problems I could identify with her complete disbelief of just how little she would be able to do while recovering.  If someone told me I'd be lucky if I could get through a shower as my sole even to the day I don't think I'd believe them either.
I loved her interaction with her family and how strong her bond with both her mother and her stepmother is.  This is a good person surrounded by good people who shows incredible strength and fortitude in a situation that would probably make me want to pull the blankets over my head and cry.  The book itself is told mostly in present day but with flashbacks of how she met important people in her life or back to important memories.  For the first few chapters this felt a little jerky but it does smooth out.

Now you may have noticed I haven't mentioned food yet.  Despite a strong mention in the blurb and the subtitle food doesn't really stand out for me.  She talks about food quite a bit and there are a scattering of recipes throughout the book but when I think about this book the food doesn't jump out.  The people do.  When she talks about Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies it isn't so much the cookies but WHO brought them and WHO she remembers making them with.  I can't taste the food she describes but I can hear the sound of the laughter of a dinner party or feel the wooden spoon in my hand.  I don't want to try Marcella's Butter Almond Cake but I'd love to meet Amy!
Towards the end of the book the food gets a little more prominent and does play a bigger role in Jess's recovery but when I think about this book I will think about the people and the strength.  While this isn't the book I expected it is a book I enjoyed

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes I would.  I found it a fascinating read.

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Challenges Met? Foodie Challenge - Memoir

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Linkups: Kitchen Counter Cooking School

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do others come to you for book recommendations?

My Answer:
My family does but not really anyone else.  I don't know too many other book people so I tend not to talk books too much.  That's why the book blogging community is so great!

I've had this book on my shelf for far too long.  It was one of those books that I absolutely had to have and I got it 2 years ago at least and have yet to read it.  I loved the most recent book by Kathleen Flinn so this may need to move up my TBR list.  I'm thinking a shopping trip through my own shelves may be in order soon.

The Beginning:
Normally, I do not stalk people in grocery stores.

My Thoughts:
This opening made me laugh a little. For whatever reason she is definitely planning on stalking someone in a grocery store now even if that's not what she usually does.

The 56:
She had visited the food bank in the past week, where they had given her a package of frozen chicken thighs.  "I'm really not sure what to do with those," she said, thumping the hard pack with her wrists.

My Thoughts:
To be honest I'm not sure I'd know what to do with a pack of frozen chicken thighs either.  My husband strongly dislikes dark meat so I have zero experience cooking it.  I am trying to visualize how she thumps the pack with her wrists and am coming up with nothing.

So would you keep reading?  Do you have any books on your shelves calling to you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Season for Killing Blonds - Blog Tour + Giveaway

A Season for Killing Blondes by Joanne Guidoccio

Source: Blog Tour

Description:  Hours before the opening of her new career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the body of golden girl Carrie Anne Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside Gilda's office.  Gilda's life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former crush conducts the investigation.  When three more dead blondes turn up, all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda's favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders.
Frustrated by Carlo's chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Anne's meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation.  She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.
As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery
Why I Picked This Book: The blurb caught my attention.  Is it a serial killer?  And is Gilda really the intended victim?  It raised some questions!

My Impression:  A Season for Killing Blondes would be a perfect book to have out by the pool or relaxing in a hammock.  The characters are lively, the mystery is intriguing, and the pacing on this is flying.  I zipped through the first half in one setting and was entertained the whole time.
 If cozy mysteries had a scale starting with "cutesy" and ending with "how is this considered cozy??"  this would definitely rank way closer to the cutesy side.  It worked with the pace and Gilda's crazy over the top family as well as the antics of the Godfrey sisters.

My main problem was I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight as Gilda's family is large and there seem to be tons of aunts. It felt a little like the reader is dropped into an established series but I don't think that was the case as I couldn't see any earlier books from the series.   The interactions between Gilda, Carlo, Anna May and Jenny Marie all had a juvenile feel to them.  They had all known each other in high school and when they had scenes together it kind of felt like they were in high school instead of in their 40s.

If you're looking for a light, fun read that's perfect to read by the pool A Season for Killing Blondes would be perfect.  While it wasn't perfect it was a lot of fun.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes, definitely.  I loved the pacing and the story with this one.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I think cozy readers would enjoy this.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Challenges Met?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dressed to Kill - Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

Dressed to Kill by Lynn Cahoon

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Blog Tour
Description:  Jill Gardner - owner of Coffee, Books, and More in the tucked-away town of South Cove, California - is not particularly thrilled to be portraying a twenties flapper for the dinner theater murder mystery.  Though it is for charity...
Of course everyone is expecting a "dead" body at the dress rehearsal... but this one isn't acting!  It turns out the main suspect is the late actor's conniving girlfriend Sherry...who also happens to be the ex-wife of Jill's main squeeze.  Sherry is definitely a master manipulator...but is she a killder?  Jill may discover the truth only when the curtain comes up on the final act and by then it may be far too late.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: This is a series I've been reading since the beginning and have always enjoyed it.

My Impression:  This is my fourth visit to South Cove to spend time with Jill, Greg, Jackie, Toby and the rest of the group.  As usual I was not disappointed.  There's a little bit more going on than I usually prefer in a mystery with Jill and Greg's relationship, running the business, dealing with her aunt and just the rest of the small town politics.  However, in this series I really enjoy the side plots.  Part of it is that I really like Jill and everyone else (especially Toby.  I love Toby).  The other part is the pacing is quick and breezy so it never feels like I'm getting bogged down in details.  The mystery itself is interesting with a good scattering of clues and I wasn't exactly sure what was going on until it wrapped up at the end of the book.
My main problem was Jill's relationship with Sherry.  I felt like more people should've stood up for Jill.  Sherry would say or do something really nasty to Jill and everyone would be really dismissive and tell Jill to be nice.  I wanted to jump into the book and give Sherry and a few other people a good talking too!
Overall, this is a fun mystery set in an interesting place with quite a varied and (for the most part) likable  group of characters.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I've already got the next book and am looking forward to reading it.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, if you enjoy cozies this is a fun one!  While it's not necessary to start at the beginning I think it'd be more fun that way.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Challenges Met?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Topics

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish it My Top Ten Favorite Top Ten Topics From the Last Five Years.  I love top ten lists and there's been so many great topics it's really hard to narrow it down to 10!

1.  My Top Ten Bookish Bucket List from March 25, 2014 - I had such a good time with this list and I had forgotten about it until I started going back over previous Top Ten Tuesday topics that I had done.  The next time a Freebie comes up I might have to do this one again.  While every item on this list still applies there's several more I could add to it!

2.  Top Ten Non-Book Bookish Things I'd Like to Own from April 15, 2014 - This was another one I had a good time with as I got to wander around all the booksih related shops on Etsy.  I did eventually buy a couple of those candles and they're absolutely fantastic!  Highly recommend them.

3.  Top Ten Characters Who Piss Me Off from April 22, 2014 - I didn't want to name actual characters that made me mad so I just stuck with the basic types.  It was a fun one to write and I got to do a little venting which is always good.

4.  Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't from May 13, 2014 - It's good to get a reminder that sometimes you have to give a book a 2nd chance.  I really enjoyed seeing all the books other people had listed as well.

5.  Top Ten Books I Want in My Beach Bag from May 26, 2015 - This is an annual topic but it's one I always enjoy.  I love the idea of laying out on a beach chair getting some sun and reading for days!

6.  Top Ten Inspiring Book Quotes from April 14, 2015 - I had a really hard time working on this list because I don't really pay attention to book quotes but it was such fun and this was one of my favorite lists to visit everyone else's!

7.  Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Check in On from April 7, 2015 - There are SO many characters that I could've put on this list.  I wish there was a way to see how their stories continued.  I guess that's the problem with fiction - the stories don't actually continue!

8.  Top Ten Books from my Childhood I'd Love to Revisit from March 24, 2015 - It was so fun to think about all the books I loved and would love to reread and it was even more fun to see everyone else's list!

9.  Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR - This one comes up every season and every time it makes me happy.  I love thinking about the books I want to read in the next few months.  I've started enjoying it more since I stopped worrying if I ever actually ended up reading them!

10. Top Ten Things I've Learned from Cozy Mysteries from May 19, 2015 - This one is kind of cheating because it was a freebie topic but I had such a good time with it!

So what Top Ten lists did you enjoy writing and reading?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Her Sister's Shoes - Review

Her Sister's Shoes by Ashley Farley

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: from Author in exchange for an honest review

Description:  Samantha Sweeney has always been the glue that hold her family together, their go-to girl for love and support.  When an ATV accident leaves her teenage son in a wheelchair, she loses her carefully constructed self-control.

In the after-gloom of her dreaded fiftieth birthday and the discovery of her husband's infidelity, Jackie realizes she must reconnect with her former self to find the happiness she needs to move forward.

Faith lacks the courage she needs to stand up to her abusive husband.  She turns to her sisters for help, putting all their lives at risk.

In the midst of their individual challenges, the Sweeney sisters must cope with their mother's mental decline.  Is Lovie in the early stages of Alzheimer's or is her odd behavior normal for a woman her age?  No one, including Lovie, understands her obsession with a rusty key she wears around her neck. (from Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  This sounded like a great book for summer reading and I haven't read any books about sisters in awhile.

My Impression: I wasn't sure what to expect going into this one as while I do like books about sisters there's a lot going on here.  While it did take me a chapter or two to fall into the story once I did I was hooked and by the halfway point this earned a 2AM finish as I had to find out how it all ended!

The sisters have real trouble between their personal lives, their business and their mother and they could definitely use a little down time.  I really connected with Sam who is trying her hardest especially when it comes to her son and just doesn't know what to do anymore.  I also really liked Faith and Bitsy though I did want to just reach in and make her go on tell Sam the truth.  Jackie is a little harder to like but every once in awhile just as I was about to write her off I'd get a glimmer of hope and not give up on her quite yet.

While this book is a light read it does tackle some very serious issues - domestic violence, infidelity, disabilities, depression, addiction, and dealing with a parent who may be developing Alzheimers.  None of these topics felt trivialized but at the same time it kept the summer reading feel.  If you're being picky you could say that the end wrapped up a bit too fast or was contrived but I loved the ending and thought it worked.  And at the end I even made my peace with Jackie!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes if you're looking for a lighter book and enjoy ensemble family stories this would be a good one.

Challenges Met?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This Week in Reading - June 21

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

It was actually a pretty quiet book getting week and I only ended up with 2.  

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup - A book about the poisons Agatha Christie used?  How on earth am I supposed to resist that??  The answer would be that I did not!  (NetGalley)

Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett - This is the 8th book in the Booktown series which I always enjoy.  I'm a few books behind (big surprise I know) but I'm really excited to get my hands on this one!  (Giveaway win from Escape with Dollycas)


Reading: Dressed to Kill by Lynn Cahoon and Whispers and Lies by Joy Fielding

Listening:  Nothing and probably won't until school starts

Watching: I've been watching Food Network Star which I always enjoy.  There's a lot of good possibilities this season so I'm interested to see how it goes.  J and I watched Annabelle last night and while it wasn't nearly as scary as The Conjuring I'm very grateful we don't have any dolls in the house!  Oh and True Detectives starts tonight.  I'm excited to see where that one goes.

Off the Blog:

Emma is home from both Bonnaroo and college orientation and all went well.  Eleanor made a flying visit to pick up a dining room table last weekend  and Paul has been out with friends mostly so it's been fairly quite around here.

The Tornado and I have switched from hiking to swimming as the temperature and the humidity sky-rocketed.  My dad just bought a house with a pool so we've been going over there during the day and having a good time swimming.  I discovered on day 2 that my Irish skin was not designed for 4 straight hours in the sun without sunscreen and I ended up with a rather epic sunburn.  I've smartened up and hopefully that won't happen again.  I forgot how much that hurt!  All the swimming is possibly more exhausting than all the hiking and the Tornado has been sleeping well lately!

We bought a WiiU this past weekend and have been having a good time playing Super Mario Bros.  I'm almost as bad as the Tornado but it's been a lot of fun.  I'm hoping to get some new games soon though while I read this is compatible with Wii games it hasn't been quite as easy of an compatibility as I was expecting.  We always seem to need to go out and buy 1 more thing.

Today is Father's Day and we're pretty low key around here.  I'm mostly just cooking J one of his favorite meals and a Key Lime pie for dessert.  Other than that I don't think we'll be doing much.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Her Sister's Shoes - Fiction Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Top Ten Topics
Wednesday: Dressed to Kill - Cozy Mystery Review + Giveaway
Thursday: A Season for Killing Blondes - Mystery Review
Friday: Linkups + Current Book Excerpts
Saturday: Stir - Foodie Memoir Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Too Many Cooks - Review + Recipe

Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin

Rating: 5 Stars
Source: Purchased

Description:  A foodie and former chef, Franklin wants to pass on her love of food and cooking to her kids; she wants them not only to not only enjoy what they're eating but know what they're eating. So over the course of a year, she introduces her children to new dishes - some exotic, some thrown together with whatever she has in her cabinets - with varying degrees of success.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  I can't resist food in memoir form!

My Impression:  This is a book I read back in 2011 and I absolutely loved it.  I had just finished Julie and Julia and been incredibly disappointed in it and I saw this and absolutely had to have it.  This was everything I wanted in a book.  It was warm, funny and incredibly easy to relate too.  Her attitude is laid back without being preachy which I always appreciate in any book that involves children.  While it does focus quite a bit on children I think it's a book that anyone who is familiar with kids and their at times maddening eating habits would enjoy.  I got rid of this one for space reasons and if I made a list of books I regret getting rid of this would be in the top 5.

And now for the recipe!  This isn't the fanciest or the healthiest but it is so tasty and satisfying and heats up beautifully.  The official title is "Corn Pudding" but I call it "Corn Casserole" because my husband doesn't think anything with the word pudding in the title can be served as part of a main course.  Really the word casserole isn't much better but it's good enough that he and the rest of my weirdly picky family can't resist it.  Plus it's so versatile that you can serve it with just about anything.

Corn Pudding
from Too Many Cooks

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 egg
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl until fully incorporated

Pour into greased 9 x 13

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes

Try not to burn your mouth when sampling just to make sure it's "not poison" or "fully cooked" or whatever excuse you use to sample food.

The instruction are probably shortened considerably as it came out of my personal recipe notebook where I copied it from the original book.

Linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Linkups: Whispers and Lies

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
How many posts do you publish per week?  How many of them are reviews?

My Answer:
Since around February of 2014 I've published 7 posts per week.  While it does change sometimes normally 4 of them (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday) are reviews.  Tuesday is Top Ten Tuesday, Friday is this group of memes, and Sunday is Sunday Post.

This week's book is Whispers and Lies from Joy Fielding, an author I read a couple of books from years and years ago and then kind of forgot about her.  Not too long ago Rita , another Blogger friend reviewed one of her books and got me thinking of Fielding again so when I was at the library a few days later I picked up one of her books.  I haven't gotten very far but so far I'm really enjoying it.  It's so fast paced and I can't wait to find out what happens next!

The Beginning:
"She said her name was Alison Simms.
 The name tumbled slowly, almost languorously, from her lips, the way honey slides from the blade of a knife."

My Thoughts:
I'm going to take a guess from the way that first sentence is written that her name is not in fact Alison Simms.

The 56:
It took half a second for the name to register on my brain.  "Erica Hollander is no longer my tenant," I said coolly, my eyes following several wayward trickles of water as they ran down my legs to the ivory carpet.  Anxiety simultaneously trickled through my insides."

My Thoughts:
So now in addition to Alison Simms who does not sound like she is actually Alison Simms we have Erica Hollander who also sounds like she's up to no good.  Or possibly she's buried under the floorboards?  I don't know but I want to find out!

So what do you think?  Would you keep reading?  Do you have any authors whose books you used to enjoy that you just quit reading for no real reason?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nothing Like a Cowboy - Review

Nothing Like a Cowboy by Donna Alward

Rating:  2.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Brett Harrison has been married before and isn't particularly anxious to try it again.  He wants to be left alone to focus on his ranch but when his sister sets him up on a date he's to polite to say no.
Melly Walker learned a lot from her one failed marriage and has signed up for a dating site interested to test that knowledge.  When this leads to a coffee date with Brett she thinks her plan is working.  Until she finds out who he really is.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book: I love Donna Alward's Jewell Cove series so even though I'm not a huge cowboy fan I couldn't resist.

My Impression: This book was maddening!  To start with I loved it.  I loved Brett and his sister and I loved the idea of a dating site for divorced people.  The setup was fun and the writing was fast paced and Brett is just adorable.  When he and Melly meet there's some zings and sparks but not insta-love.  Instead they sit and talk like a real date and they're both pretty new at it.  It was really cute and felt really real and I could really see Brett and Melly working.

Until...the conflict.  I was going along loving the book and then the conflict happened.  It's not exactly a misunderstanding but Melly's attitude was really irritating and I felt it was both naive and immature.  While it was somewhat resolved at the end and Brett proved that he was a considerate sweetheart I had a hard time believing in a HEA for these two or believing that Melly is really ready to date again.  
I found this book incredibly readable and I liked the Harrison family quite a bit.  I loved Brett but I didn't feel like Melly was ready to date or really had taken the time to actually get to know Brett like he had for her.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely.  Despite my dislike of Melly the Jewell Cove series is an auto-read for me and I like the concept for this series so I'll probably pick up the next one even if it's not by Alward.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  No.  I can't recommend Donna Alward's books enough to anyone who enjoys contemporaries but I'd give this one a pass.

Challenges Met?  Alphabet Soup (N)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Gentle Art of Murder - Review

The Gentle Art of Murder by Jeanne M. Dams
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  One late-summer evening, before the beginning of the new term, Dorothy Martin and her husband, retired police detective Alan Nesbitt, are guests at Sherebury University art department's drinks party to introduce new teacher's assistant, sculptress Gillian Roberts.  However, tragedy strikes on a tour of the sculpture department when the lift breaks down and a corpse is discovered at the bottom of the lift shaft.  Dorothy and Alan become involved in the ensuing investigation, putting their local knowledge and sleuthing skills to good use once again.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I read this series very early on and always enjoyed it.  I was curious to see how it was 15+ years later.

My Impression:  The last time I read a book by Jeanne M. Dams was probably 15 years ago or so and while I remember enjoying the series I don't remember much about it.  I have no idea why I stopped reading it.  I was getting almost all my books from a used book store at the time so it may have been just simple lack of availability.  I thought I remembered this being on the cute and fluffy end of the cozy spectrum so I was curious especially since the cover of this one doesn't fit with the usual cute and fluffy cover.  Now I don't know if my memory is faulty, my tastes have changed or if the series has evolved but I definitely wouldn't deem this one as cute or fluffy.  While it definitely is a cozy - amateur-ish detective, most of the violence occurs off-page, and the victim was incredibly unlikable I found this more like a classic mystery in terms of style.  The mystery itself is very solid and kept me guessing.  This definitely wasn't one of those books where you have no suspects.  Every person in the book had a pretty valid reason to take out the victim and the only thing that was surprising was that no one had done it earlier.
It made since that Dorothy was involved in the investigation as her husband was a very much respected detective and they have a long history working as a team.  Also, while I sometimes find books involving the British education system confusing, it was no issue here.  The mystery was clear, clean, well-plotted, and thoroughly enjoyable.  I can't wait to read more of the series.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I have a lot of books to catch up on!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I think mystery readers that enjoy classic mysteries would enjoy this one.

Challenges Met?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR.  The last few times I've done this topic I've had a plan but this is for summer so this time I'm just going with the ten books that jump into my head when I think about books I want to read!

1.  Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward (10/28/14) - I have read the 1st and 3rd in the series and am really looking forward to revisiting Jewell Cove.  Rick was in the 1st book quite a bit and I'm looking forward to his story.

2. The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate (11/4/14) 0 I read the 1st in the story and enjoyed it and I'm especially drawn to books involving gardens and gardening this time of year.

3.  Finding Hope by Stacy Finz (1/5/15) - And yet another series I'm behind in!  This is a contemporary romance set in Northern California.  I loved the first one and this has one of my favorite characters from that book.

4.   Toured to Death by Hy Conrad (1/27/15) - We're not doing much traveling this summer so I'm going to do some vicarious traveling through this cozy mystery.

5.  Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King (2/17/15) - Yet another series I'm behind on.  I'm pretty sure I'm behind on every series I'm currently reading.  I love this twist on Sherlock Holmes and King always provides a good read.

6.  The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (6/23/15) - Between the cover and the title how could I pass this one up?

7.  Stir by Jessica Fechtor (6/23/15) - This memoir involves healing and cooking which are 2 of my favorite things.

8.  That Chesapeake Summer by Mariah Stewart (6/23/15) - Yet another series I'm behind on!  While I always enjoy this series I absolutely loved the previous book so I'm hoping this one lives up to that.

9.  Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis (6/30/15) - I'm not behind on this series!  Granted it's the first one but still!  I always enjoy a Jill Shalvis book and this one sounds great.

10. London From My Windows by Mary Carter (7/28/15) - This is about Ava - a sketch artist with severe agoraphobia who inherits her aunt's estate including a flat in West End with the condition that she lives in it for a year.

What are you wanting to read this summer?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Scavenger - Review

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Cambliss Bertman

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  The Cranes' goal is to live in all 50 states which makes it difficult for their youngest child, Emily.  Making friends has never come easy to her and she survives with the help of Book Scavenger, a game where users hide books and post clues on an online site.  When the Cranes move yet again the only thing that makes it bearable to Emily is that they're moving to San Francisco - the home of Garrison Griswold, the creator of Book Scavenger.  In San Francisco she meets James, a boy who might love puzzles even more than she does and when they discover a strange book in the place where Griswold was attacked just days earlier they find themselves in the middle of a whole new game and this time it might be dangerous.

Genre: MG/YA

Why I Picked This Book:  I couldn't resist the cover and then the title actually has the word book in it!

My Impression:  This book was such fun!  I loved the idea of books being hidden around the country and bunches of people solving puzzles to find them.  The parts about the game and solving the clues both for Book Scavenger and the new game were incredibly entertaining.  I liked Emily and it was hard not to sympathize with her frustration with constantly moving.  She and her brother have an interesting conversation towards the end of the book that was really lovely.  I liked James and his instant acceptance of Emily and his willingness to be up for any adventure.  There are some slightly more serious issues tackled here about being a good friend.  The pacing of the book was excellent and I definitely wanted to find out how it all wrapped up.  I enjoyed the read from start to finish.

There is some violence which while is basically "off screen" is still talked about and might be a little disturbing to younger readers.  I would think this would be appropriate for 3rd grade and up.  I also would have preferred there to be an adult somewhere that the characters felt that they could trust.  While this was fast paced and exciting the mom in me would periodically think "shouldn't they be telling someone where they're going??".  This book is lots of fun, fast paced, and is just as enjoyable for adults as it would be for kids.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I'm looking forward to reading more from Bertman

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!

Challenges Met?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Week in Reading: June 14

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

London From My Windows by Mary Carter - A sketch artist with severe agoraphobia is left an inheritance by an aunt with the stipulation she lives in the aunt's West End flat for a year.  (NetGalley)

Killer Run by Lynn Cahoon - the 5th book in the Tourist Trap series.  I've really enjoyed the first 3 and have the 4th coming up in a couple of weeks (NetGalley)

Starting Over by Stacy Finz - This is the 4th (I think) in a contemporary romance series set in a little town in Northern California.  This features a Bed and Breakfast that I'm hoping/assuming is the one that was being restored in the 1st book which I loved. (NetGalley)

The Orchard at the Edge of Town by Shirlee McCoy - I can't resist books with orchards.  I have no idea but it's almost as big of a draw as an old ramshackle house.  (NetGalley)

No One Needs to Know by Kevin O'Brien - I've been wanting to try this author for awhile I'm so excited! (NetGalley)

How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys by Rachel Balducci - I love the title of this one and the author has 5 boys .  I'm hoping to pick up some sanity saving tips! (Paperbackswap)

I had done so well about avoiding NetGalley but than Kensington released next month's books and I couldn't resist a few of them!


Reading: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, Tribute by Nora Roberts, and The Gentle Art of Murder by Jeanne M. Dams

Listening: Nothing

Watching: Not much. J and I watched Major Crimes the other day even though I still haven't forgiven TNT for cancelling Perception.  I enjoyed it and am glad that it looks like they're laying an ongoing plot issue to rest.  It was getting a bit tired.  We've also started watching The Dead Files on Travel Channel which is interesting.

Off the Blog:

This week has been a big week for Emma.  She's currently at Bonnaroo with 6 of her closest friends and 79,000 other people.  She's supposed to be on her way home today at some point and I will be much relieved when she finally gets here!  Then she'll be heading down to college orientation with a friend and her future roommate.

The Tornado and I are still hiking up a storm and he's done some pretty difficult trails with no issue which has surprised me a bit.  We're able to go about 3 miles or so at this point without any issue which isn't bad for a 5 year old.  I finally remembered to bring bug spray which will hopefully keep us from being munched on by mosquitoes quite as much.

We have renters!  We've had an empty rental house since March and finally finally have renters!  They take possession this week AND have signed a 2 year lease!  We're very happy and very very relieved.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Book Scavenger - Middle Grade Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Summer TBR
Wednesday: Gentle Art of Murder - Mystery Review
Thursday: Nothing Like a Cowboy - Romance Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: No idea but probably something foodie

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Recipes for A Beautiful Life - Review

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Writing with a delicate balance of humor and truth, critically acclaimed author Rebecca Barry reflects on motherhood, work and marriage in her new memoir about trying to build a creative life.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book: I was curious about just one building a creative life consisted of and anytime anyone moves to a big house in the country I'm in!

My Impression:
I've made no secret about the fact I've had a hard time getting settled on a book lately.  In fact I've been pretty whiny about it.  Every book I picked up I just couldn't seem to stick to no matter how much I was enjoying it and how much I wanted to read it.  Then just by fluke I picked up this one which has been sitting on my Kindle for months.  And for the first time in weeks I was hooked.  On the surface I don't have much in common with Barry.  I don't pay too much attention to horoscopes, meditation just turns into me making a to-do list in my head, and I would rather stab myself in the eye than have a therapy session with my extended family.  But at the root of things something clicked.  I could relate to the basic feelings she shares in the book.  The exhaustion and the love that comes with raising children, the frustration with it feels like one thing after the next is falling apart, and the push and pull that occurs when dealing with family.
This book is written in diary form (which I normally don't like) with recipes scattered about periodically written in paragraph form (which I normally don't like).  And it worked!  The diary entries are casual and chatty with enough detail that you connect to Rebecca and all the people in her life without going over to the overly wordy and poetic side.  Her balance is perfect.  She manages to talk about how she deals with her husband, her children, her family, and her friends in a way that is humorous and easy to connect to without ever coming off as silly or preachy.  She talks about her failures and successes both professionally with her writing and personally with her family without ever lapsing into self-pity even when it feels like her desire to put her head on the table and cry is seeping through the pages.  And for the first time in a long time I was sad when this book ended.  I want to know what happens next.  How's her mother?  What happened with the magazine?  Did they ever fix the bathroom ceiling?  Does Dawson willingly put on pants?

Since I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, I probably should mention the cooking part!  There's a lot of cooking in this book and a lot of food.  When we're not in the kitchen with people making sauces or chopping vegetables we're at a coffee shop drinking coffee or hot chocolate.  Woven throughout the book is about a dozen recipes.  Some are for things like How to Awaken Your Creativity or Get Children to Listen to You (this one is tongue in cheek) and there's a crafty recipe for Jack 'o Lanterns or Mummy Heads involving hard boiled eggs.  The food recipes look delicious and are for foods that fit perfectly with the mood for the chapters surrounding the recipes.

The Simplify Your Life Quaker Tzatziki is top of my list to try.  It takes 1 quart of yogurt (Greek preferably), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, 1 large cucumber - seeded peeled and chopped, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and a handful or two of dill.  The basically reads to basically combine the ingredients except for the yogurt,  let sit for 30 minutes or so and then just mix in the yogurt (unless you're using regular yogurt in which case you've got some straining to do),  Let sit for an hour though preferably overnight and you've got her version of a Tzatziki sauce ready for anything.

To me this sounds simple, tasty and perfect for summer which when it really comes down to it would be pretty close to how I would describe this book.  That's not to say this book is light or fluff.  There's some serious issues tackled here including infertility, job loss, and the exhaustion that comes with taking care of two small children but there's a calming feeling about the book and I can easily picture reading it while sitting on the deck, eating Tzatziki spread over freshly baked bread.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes - especially if it was more of this.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes definitely!

Challenges Met?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Linkups: Tribute

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do you pre-schedule your posts?

My Answer:
I do but I definitely need to get better about it.  Right now I normally write for the next day but my goal is to build up about 2 weeks of posts.

This week's book is another book I got from the library awhile ago when I was wandering the shelves.  It's a reread but it's been so long since I read it the first time it kind of is like reading it the first time again. The Lifetime movie of this one starring Brittany Murphy came on a couple of weeks ago so I'm planning on watching that when I finish the book.

The Beginning: 
"According to legend, Steve McQueen once swam buck-naked among the cattails and lily pads in the pond at the Little Farm.  If true, and Cilla liked to think it was, the King of Cool had stripped off and dived in post The Magnificent Seven and prior to The Great Escape."

My Thoughts:
I love the beginning.  It sets the tone right from the beginning and the image of Steve McQueen skinny dipping in a pond is pretty funny.

The 56:
"But you didn't, Cilla thought as she stared at the soft sunlight sliding through the windows.  You didn't get by."

My Thoughts:
Cilla is trying to figure out her very famous grandmother that she never met and put together the pieces of what happened at the very end of the woman's life.  Cilla's starting to realize that it might not be as clear as she originally thought.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Resorting to Murder - Review

Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries Edited by Martin Edwards

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  These fourteen stories have 2 things in common - the first is that at least one murder will be committed and the second is that the story takes place in a vacation destination.  The authors range from well known with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K. Chesterton to the more obscure Leo Bruce and Gerald Findler and everyone in between.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I love classic mysteries and an anthology sounded like the best way to get introduced to some new authors.

My Impression:  I love Martin Edwards as an editor for this book.  We get a nice introduction to the book itself followed by a short biography of each author before the mystery they are responsible for. I could feel Edwards' enthusiasm for the author and their work which in turn made me more enthusiastic and interested.  It was also thanks to his book The Golden Age of Murder about mystery authors from this time period that made all of 14 of the authors listed here familiar names to me.  I enjoyed comparing the different voices of the different authors and finding the similarities.  While some added more humor and some were a little darker there's still a detachment that is common for this time period.  While at least one person will meet a rather grisly end in each of the stories it's almost soothing reading.  The pacing of all the stories is a little slow which I also find common for this story and this isn't a book I can imagine sitting down and reading in one sitting.  This is more of a sitting outside on a lovely day enjoying one story at a time while imaging you're on holiday kind of book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely.  I've just heard that there is a Christmas anthology that Edwards is editing so that is definitely on my list!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you enjoy classic mysteries this one is not to be missed!

Challenges Met?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Library

Description:  Bored with storybooks with no pictures or conversation little Alice follows a White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and into an adventure.

Genre: Children's

Why I Picked This Book:  This is one of those books that I've always been aware of but never picked up.  I thought it was time to read it!

My Impression: I had a similar problem with this book that I had with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory earlier this year.  I'm so familiar with the movies and the imagery is so vivid that it's hard to mentally step away from my preconceived ideas and just read the book for the book's sake.  Alice starts out quickly.  There's not a lot of setup and within the first couple of pages Alice is already falling down the rabbit hole.  This book is pure and total nonsense.  Nothing makes sense, the characters are insane and the pacing has this rushed slapdash feel to it.  I kind of felt like I was madly chasing after Alice while reading it.  I was worried that the book itself would get caught up in description but it doesn't.  Carroll manages to draw an entire scene with only a handful or words and then we dash off to the next scene.  It took me a few chapters to get used to the pace and the nonsense but once I did it was really a fun read.  At just over 150 pages with some illustrations it a very quick read and definitely worth picking up if you've never read it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  My copy came with Through the Looking Glass which I will read as well.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you've never read it but enjoyed the movies it's worth picking up.

Challenges Met?  The Reading Assignment Challenge (June)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Most Anticipated New Releases for the Rest of 2015

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Most Anticipated New Releases for the Rest of 2015.  It turns out I'm terrible at this topic.  Apparently I live in my own little bubble and really have no idea what's coming out when.

1. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson - (September) - I loved her first book and I love her blog.  I can't wait for this book to come out in September!

2.  Winter by Marissa Meyer - (November) - So technically I haven't started this series but I've really been wanting to and when this one comes out in November it will remove my last excuse to stall on reading the series.

3.  The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries - (July) - I love everything by Sabrina Jeffries that I've ever read so I'm excited about this new series.

4.  The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinner Time by Ree Drummond - (October) I cannot resist her cookbooks.  I don't even use them that much (though her mashed potatoes border on life changing) but so far anytime she has one out I buy it!

5.  Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh - (September) I"m so behind on Balogh's books but yet I can't help being excited about this one.

6.  Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron - (August) This used to be one of favorite series and then for whatever reason I stopped reading it.  I'm looking forward to getting caught back up.

7.  The Forgotten by Heather Graham (July) - I love everything Heather Graham

8.  Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson - (August) - This is a new anthology of Jackson's stories edited by her children.

9.  Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradal - (July) - This one has been catching my eye lately and I'm definitely looking forward to reading it.

10. The Man Who Fell From the Sky by Margaret Coel - (September) - This is another series that I used to love but for some reason haven't picked any up in awhile.  This involves a man searching for Butch Cassidy's treasure so it seems like a good to pick up!

What new releases are you looking forward to getting your hands on?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Haunted Plantations of the South - Review

Haunted Plantatins of the South by Richard Southall

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  When you hear the word "plantations" most people think of grand homes with pillars and sweeping staircases.  These houses of grandeur were located all through the South in the days before the Civil War, and there are some that still resonate with the loveliness they still had in their heyday.  These majestic homes have a long history, and some of those who lived in these houses remain today.  The ghosts of soldiers, slaves,and the elite family who lived in the plantation home still wander the halls. (from Goodreads)

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book: I love ghost stories and this one looked intriguing.

My Impression: Pretty much from the beginning I knew this was going to be an enjoyable read.  I was sitting out on the deck and the weather was just warm enough to be comfortable but not quite warm enough for the mosquitoes to come visit.  I was immediately hooked by Southall's casual story teller tone and settled right in for a lovely read.   It opens with a interesting introduction explaining what a plantation really is.  He talks about the family, the way the family made their money and the architecture of the house itself.  After a quick rundown on all the different building styles we switch over to the ghost side of things.  There's some talk about just hauntings in general and what factors seem to be required for a haunting.  This is more chatty and theory then academic. There's a quick reminder about being respectful to the property itself and whoever actually currently owns the property and then we get to the good stuff!  The haunted plantations are divided by state and stick to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.  If you live in or near any of these states now is the time to make sure you have something to take notes with!  If you're looking for a keep you up all night scary campfire book this isn't the book for you.  Each state has about a dozen plantations and each plantation gets a couple of pages.  While Southall does talk about the haunting and what visitors and residents have reported he mostly focuses on the history of the house itself.  We learn the story of the people who lived in or visited the house and who supposedly for many different reasons have decided to stay.  He also lists if the plantation or the grounds are closed to the public or open for tours.  While this wasn't a scary book about bumps in the night I thoroughly enjoyed getting a little history mixed with a dash of ghost story.  And I can pretty much guarantee I'll be driving by the houses he talks about that are in my area!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely!  Apparently he has another book about haunted places on Route 66 that I'd love to get if I ever head that direction!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, if you're looking for light history with a little bit of ghost story.  This wouldn't work if you're wanting spooky.

Challenges Met?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

This Week in Reading: June 7

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

I'm doing pretty well staying off of NetGalley a bit more and only have 2 new books.  1 of those is actually one I requested a month or more ago!

Murder at Barclay Meadow by Wendy Sand Eckel - There's an old house, a woman trying to find her way and a murder.  I'm excited! (NetGalley)

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis - I'm not even 100% sure what this is about but it's the new Jill Shalvis and it's the beginning of a new series.  (NetGalley)


Reading: Recipes for a Beautiful Life by Rebecca Barry and Tribute by Nora Roberts

Listening: Still nothing but I'm not really expecting to until school starts back

Watching:  I'm still watching and loving Murder She Wrote on Netflix and J and I are watching some movies we'd recorded.  We've got Annabel which I'm almost scared to watch and This is Where I Leave You which I've heard good things about.

Off the Blog:

The Tornado and I have been hiking non-stop.  I took him to a nature preserve near our house just as kind of an experiment Wednesday and we spent Thursday and Friday hiking different trails by his request.  The really great thing is that he seems to be blowing through energy because he's started sleeping much later!  

I'm kind of in a weird spot right now reading-wise.  It's not really a reading rut because I want to read and I'm actually enjoying what I'm reading it's just that I can't get settled on a book.  It kind of feels like the bookish equivalent of tossing and turning in bed when you're tired.  I've started and put down about 9 books so far.  I'm hoping I find something that sticks soon!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Haunted Plantations of the South Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2015
Wednesday: TBD
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkups + Current Book
Saturday: Recipes for a Beautiful Life

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Donna Bell's Bake Shop and Cooking Ruts

I've been a big fan of NCIS since close to the beginning and have probably watched every episode in the first 5 seasons 3 or 4 times each.  While Gibbs and McGee are my favorite characters Abby is always entertaining.  I love that they made her more than just a caricature and I keep hoping to hear more about the subplot regarding her brother.

So when I hard that Pauley Perrette had a cookbook coming out with her friends and business partners, Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky, it immediately went on my wishlist.

And for my birthday I got a nice shiny copy of Donna Bell's Bake Shop.  It's beautiful with lots of photographs and bunches of personal stories.  The recipes are plentiful and varied with a handful of savory mixed in with the sweet.

I got this book at the beginning of May and it's now the beginning of June and I have made nothing from the book.  Not one thing.  Because soon after I got this book the dreaded cooking rut struck.  While not quite as bad as the feared reading rut it's still not much fun.  The cooking rut shows up every year around this time and I've yet to figure out a way to fight it.  I just don't want to cook.  I'm not interested.  I don't want to spend the time.  Nothing looks good.  Everyone's schedules are busy and there's so much more time that gets spent outside.  When you've been outside in 90+ temps with high humidity the last thing you want to do is spend the next hour or two cooking.  Or at least I don't.  But I'm starting to get bored with my rut and I'm starting to really miss baking so I picked up Donna Bell again and found a recipe that might just break me out of that rut.

Banana Scones with Orange Glaze.  The bananas are warm and comforting while the orange provides a nice hit of freshness.  Plus the recipe looks fairly simple:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon banana extract (optional) (I won't be using this mostly because I don't have any)
1 ripe banana,

Orange Glaze:
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons fresh orange juice

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and orange juice until smooth.

For the scones:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add the cold butter pieces and quickly press between your fingertips to break up the butter and incorporate it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Place the milk, heavy cream, sour cream, vanilla extract, and banana extract (if using) in another bowl.  Whisk together until the sour cream is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in all the liquid.  Add the diced banana and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Do not over mix.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 400.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it.  Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Wrap one piece in plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.  Press the dough down with your fingertips and flatten to an 8-inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the circle into 8 equal wedges and place them on one of the prepared baking sheets about 1/2 inch apart.  Bake the scones until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes and drizzle with 1/2 the Orange Glaze.  Serve warm.  Repeat with remaining piece of dough and remaining Orange Glaze.

Hopefully these will help break me out of the cooking rut and I'll come back and review this cookbook fully.  There's tons of scones and rolls and biscuits that look divine.  If you try this before me come back and let me know how it goes!  I may need a strong push to get out of this rut!

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads