Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Tag

I saw this tag over at La La in the Library and thought it sounded perfect for today!

1.  What is a book cover that reminds you of Thanksgiving
Cider Brook by Carla Neggers.  I don't exactly know why but this is the first cover that came to mind when I read this question.  I think it's the combination of the fall leaf colors and the word cider in the title.

2.  Two authors you are thankful for
Agatha Christie because I've gotten so much joy from her books both in reading them and in the collecting.
Mary Pope Osborne who wrote the Magic Treehouse books which was instrumental in getting my older kids really reading.  The Tornado and I have started reading a chapter or two at bedtime and he's enjoying them as well!

3.  A book you liked but wouldn't read twice
So many!  I read a lot of cozy mysteries and while I thoroughly enjoy (most of) them they're not books I would want to reread.

4.  Which 5 fictional characters would you like to invite to Thanksgiving dinner
Hercule Poirot - because he's just fascinating and I'm curious as to how crazy he'd drive me in real life
Oreo and the kittens from All I Want by Jill Shalvis (I figure 1 dog and 2 kittens can count as 1 guest and I'm also assuming that it's okay to have animals at Thanksgiving dinner)
Mrs. Weasely from Harry Potter because she seems like someone who'd be fun to talk to but helpful if the turkey didn't turn out right.
Lady Danbury from Julia Quinn's books because she says exactly what comes into her mind and she's always been one of my favorite characters.
Claire Waverley from Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - while I haven't read Garden Spells Claire plays a small role in The Peach Keeper which I did read and her food sounded amazing and she came across as a very calming presence which I think we'll need between Poirot and Lady Danbury.

5.  What is a book that is stuffed with action?
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.  It wasn't the greatest book but they did nothing but run from place to place.  I felt like I needed a nap after I finished it!

6.  If you could make any food item from a book and serve it for Thanksgiving what would it be?
I would love a box of Turkish Delight as mentioned in both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott.  The descriptions made my mouth water and I desperately wanted to try some.

7.  One Fall-ish book others should read for Thanksgiving
Not really Fall-ish but The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  I was hesitant to read it because I was afraid it would be preachy but the message is absolutely amazing and it really puts everything in perspective.  It's everything humanity should be in the face of the worst humanity can be rolled into 1 book and heartbreaking and calming at the same time.

8.  Two books you are thankful for
Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - I haven't read this book in awhile but it was my sanity for so long.  I think I read through 2 copies and was working on a 3rd!
The Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie - I love this book and have read it countless times and always discover new little details.  This was the first book by Agatha that I really fell in love with it and it remains a favorite.

9.  Which two books mashed together would you like to read
I can't think of 2 specific books but I'd love to see a book featuring both Miss Marple from Agatha Christie and Miss Silver from Patricia Wentworth.  Since both writers are deceased this isn't likely to happen but they'd be fabulous together!  I can picture them sitting somewhere knitting and gossiping together and noticing every tiny detail.

10.  In general what are you thankful for this year?
So many things!  I'm thankful that my 3 older kids seem to be finding their way with what they want to do in life.  I'm thankful that the Tornado is adapting so well to kindergarten.  I'm thankful that J's stress at work has diminished a little and he's actually been able to relax some lately.  I'm thankful for all the wonderful books I've gotten to read this year and all the wonderful people online that I've gotten to talk about them with.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christmas at Evergreen Inn - Review

Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Welcome back to Jewell Cove, where this holiday season, there happens to be no room at the inn...When a December Nor'easter roars up the eastern seaboard, Jewell Cove cop Todd Ricker spends his day off being a Good Samaritan to stranded holiday travelers.  But when the roads close and Todd can't make his way home, he discovers that the Evergreen Inn is full up.  Until another Good Samaritan opens her doors and offers him a place to stay.  Lainey Price is not looking forward to Christmas, but just because she's not filled with the holiday spirit doesn't mean she's going to turn Todd out into the stormy night.  Even if it means offering the handsome police officer the couch in her tiny cottage.  But when the weather takes a turn for the worse, the two are snowed in for a wintery evenings by the fire.  With Christmas only a few days away can Todd convince Lainey to open her heart to the season...and love?  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  Donna Alward's Jewell Cove series is one of my favorites so I'm always excited to try the new book!

My Impression:  I have mixed feelings about romance novellas.  On the plus side it's a great way to get a taste of an author's writing style without committing to a whole book.  On the negative it's hard to cram a full fleshed romance with a HEA into 100 pages.  Because of that my favorite type of novella is one where the couple already has a history.  They could have dated before or in Todd and Lainey's case been friends since childhood.

Todd has been around in previous Jewell Cove books.  He's a good guy, a bit of a flirt, but always willing to lend a hand.  He's had his eye on Lainey for years but more an eye of admiration versus unrequited love.  On her side Lainey has been aware of Todd for years as well.  She thinks he's somewhat of a player but deep down a nice guy.   This is a difficult time for Lainey and she's really not feeling the Christmas spirit.  I loved that Todd stepped into fix it and he was really sweet about it.

This was a nice novella with a lovely little story about re-finding your Christmas spirit.  Lainey and Todd aren't the most memorable characters but they worked for a novella.  And I also discovered that Todd would most definitely consider me a city person as I saw nothing wrong with what Mr. Sewell was wearing to drive north!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes!  I'm already anxious for the next Jewell Cove book!

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you're not already a fan of this series than no probably not.  Go start with House on Blackberry Hill (which is fantastic!).  But if you've been the Jewell Cove series for awhile this is a nice little treat until we get our next full length novel!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - My Top Ten Books about Food and Family

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a Thanksgiving freebie.  When I think of Thanksgiving the 2 things that jump to mind are food and family so that my decision for the freebie part of this pretty easy!

My Top Ten Favorite Books about Food and Family:

Too Many Cooks: 4 Kids, 1 Mom, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin - This was a fun book about Franklin's yearlong experiment trying to get her kids to try different things.  Some was successful and some not so much but I love her laid back attitude about the whole thing.  Plus there were some pretty yummy recipes to try!

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg - I had heard so many raves about this book that I was a little nervous going in and was thrilled when I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  And her food descriptions made me hungry.  Don't read it on an empty stomach!

Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts - This is the 2nd in the Gallaghers of Ardmore series and centers around Shawn the cook in the family bar.  There's food, friends to more, and a little bit of a ghost story.  What more can you ask for?

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This was a childhood favorite but when I reread it a few years ago I was surprised about how much of the book centered around food.  There's talk of meat preserving, butchering day, and all kinds of different treats and meals.  The majority of their day is spent acquiring, preserving or preparing food and I found it absolutely fascinating.

Make the Bread Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch - Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese - I got this from the library thinking it was a cookbook but it was so much more.  I learned a number of things from this book including I don't want to make cheese, if you have chickens trouble will find you, and turkeys don't make good pets.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn - I laughed and cried with this one.  There's family, heartbreak, fun, strength, a very angry rooster, and lots and lots of food.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor - This is just an amazing story of survival.  The food only really becomes a focus in the last quarter or so of the book but family is always there and it's just an amazing read!

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley - I was resisted reading this one for awhile because I was lukewarm at best about her earlier book, French Milk.  But I finally gave in and got it from the library and ended up really really loving it!  I found her relationship with both her parents interesting and the food sounded amazing!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - Do not read this book without a box of chocolates nearby.  Actually the book should come with chocolate.

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander - The only thing I didn't like about this cozy mystery set in a bakery called Tort was that it isn't actually real.  Jules' concoctions sounded beyond amazing and my mouth absolutely watered.  Plus, I loved her relationship with her mother as she tried to figure out how to get what she wanted to do figured out.

So what are your favorite books about food and family?

Monday, November 23, 2015

What I've Learned From Reading Challenges This Year

I love Reading Challenges!  The pretty buttons and the variety make me sign up happy every year.  Plus, the ideas are just so awesome!  Read a book for each letter of the alphabet?  Set in each state of the U.S.?  Foodie books?  Cozy Mysteries?  Library books?  Historical Romances?  Yes please!  Sign me up!
And that's what I've done for the last 2 years.  There are so many fascinating, interesting and just plain challenging challenges that it's hard to resist them.  So what have I learned after 2 years of signing up for them?

Long story short - I suck at them.

I mean, I do the reading but for some reason the tracking, linking up and all that just doesn't happen.  Or it does until all of a sudden the wheels come off and it just doesn't anymore.  This year I think I made it to April.

And this year one of my resolutions was to actually keep track of my challenges.  I love the idea of challenging myself more in my reading and looking for books that fit the different categories but after 2 years of trying and 1 year
of really committing to trying I'm going to have to admit that it's just not going to happen.  At least not right now.

This is the time of year that I'd be signing up for all the fun stuff so I've decided that I'm going to use the time I'd spend looking for fun stuff figuring out on what I CAN do that will challenge me.

So this post is my white flag of surrender to challenges.  I will be living vicariously through your signup posts so sign up for good stuff!

And while I'm pondering my reading for next year let me know how you feel about challenges.  Do you love them?  Avoid them?  Do you keep up with them?  And if so please give me hints!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

This Week in Reading - November 22

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:

On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander - I loved the previous 2 books in this series and am excited to be on the blog tour for the 3rd.  I can't wait to see what's going on now at Tort.  I've read enough to know I'll need to have pastries handy!  (Blog Tour)

I do have 1 request pending and a book on its way from paperbackswap so next week won't be quite as quiet but I am doing okay on slowing down the number of books I"m getting which is definitely good!

I am heading to the used bookstore this week but am going to try to keep the number a little more manageable.  I'm hoping to find some Patricia Wentworths and Catherine Airds that I'm missing.


Reading: Dead to the Last Drop by Cleo Coyle and A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates

Listening: I finished Go Set a Watchman this week.  I enjoyed it though I can see why it was rejected originally.  If you're on the fence about reading it I definitely recommend the audio.  Reese Witherspoon does a good job narrating it and her accent actually sounds right.  This week's Super Serials podcat episode is about The Hunger Games so I'm really looking forward to that.

Watching: I'm still watching Waking the Dead on Hulu and am still very much enjoying it.  There's apparently a spin off about ME called Body Farm that I'm going to try next.  Other than that J and I have been watching Major Crimes and The Big Bang Theory and enjoying both.

Off the Blog:

This week is going to be pretty busy.  All the kids are out of school for the week.  Emma will be coming home from college Monday night and Eleanor is still transitioning between where she's finishing up the semester and where she's moving.  Paul actually is spending this weekend at Emma's college visiting her so there's been lots of back and forth.  I think tomorrow the Tornado and I are going to Birmingham with some friends to go to the zoo and this Peruvian market one of the friends if familiar with.  I think it'll be a lot of fun!

Coordinating Thanksgiving will be a bit of a challenge this year with 3 families in town but it will a fun few days with lots of food and lots of visiting!  I'll probably need to fast next weekend!

I've been actually in the mood to cook this week which has been fun.  I tried lots of new recipes but I think the winner was this Crock Pot Mississippi Pot Roast.  I'd been seeing the recipe around Pinterest for ages and when the grocery store had a great deal on a chuck roast I decided to give it a try.  It was seriously tasty.  I did brown it as suggested but I'm not sure that made much of a difference flavor-wise.  I shredded the meat about 20 minutes or so before serving and let the meat soak in the sauce which really let the flavor set in.  At first I thought it was really greasy but I finally realized was that what I thought was grease was actually the very flavorful melted butter so be sure to mix that in!  It was fantastic on mashed potatoes and was even better when we had the meat on slider buns with a little bit of provolone!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: What I Learned from Reading Challenges
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - My Top Ten Favorite Food and Family Reads
Wednesday: Christmas at Evergreen Inn - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: Beyond the Books: Thanksgiving
Friday: Linkups with excerpts from current book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week, a fantastic Thanksgiving, and happy reading!

Miss Marple Orange Iced Scones from Caught Read-Handed

I've been reading cozy mysteries for years and years and they've always been my go-to genre after a bad day or to bust out of a slump or when I just don't feel like handling violence or difficult themes that can happen so often in more standard mysteries.  One of my favorite things about cozies, especially in the last 10 years or so, is the variety of cozies.  There are PIs, Investigative journalists, mayors, antique store owners, artists, dog trainers, contractors, clothing store owners but my 2 favorite types are either the bookstore owner/librarian or the baker/chef/restaurant owner.

So when I got Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran for a blog tour back in July I was thrilled to discover that this book had a little bit of both!

In Moran's Read Em and Eat series the main characters Sassy and Bridgy own a cafe/bookstore named Read 'Em and Eat.  And if I could make fictional places real this place would be high on my list.  All the food has a literary name and inspiration but the best part are the tables.  Each table is named and decorated for a particular author.  There's Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, as well as my personal favorite and where I would be sitting - the Agatha Christie table, and a big selection of other tables.

Ever since I've been reading cozies I've wanted to try the recipes that often appear in the back of the foodie mysteries and when I got to the end of this one and discovered that the recipe included was for Miss Marple's Orange Iced Scones I knew this was definitely one I could not resist trying!

Miss Marple's Orange Iced Scones

from Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375
Place first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Use a stand mixer or hand (I used a pastry blender) to blend the butter into the flour, sugar and baking powder until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Mix in egg and milk.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  With a spoon or ice cream scoop drop 12 equal amounts of scone batter onto the baking sheet.  Leave 2 inches between the scone batter balls to allow for spreading.  Bake at 375 until the edges and tops of scones turn a golden brown.
Orange Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 of a large orange, juiced
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl.  Add the graded orange rind to sugar.  Squeeze the orange half over the rind mixture.  Use a spoon to mix the icing together.  Icing should be fairly runny.  Spoon drizzle over warm scones.

Best served with a pot of Earl Grey tea and a Read 'Em and Eat mystery

My changes:  I made the scone batter exactly as the recipe says except I ended up adding the tiniest extra splash of milk.  When it came to the icing I had to get a little creative as I had decided to make this on a whim and I didn't exactly have an orange.  Luckily I had a jar of dehydrated orange peel and a bottle of orange juice.  I used close to a quarter of a cup of juice and that was a bit to much.  Next time I'll add it with by tablespoon until I get the right consistency.  Also I mixed the icing with a fork but that's just because I've found that combines powdered sugar and liquid easier.

My results: Yum!  The scones are light and buttery sweet without being sugary and the orange glaze (because mine is much more of a glaze than an icing) add a delicious citrus-y note.  These would be perfect for a breakfast roll or an afternoon snack and would be lovely with a cup of Earl Grey as Moran suggests!

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Linkups: The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry

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 read everyday?  If so do you have a "page goal"?

My Answer: 
Yes, I read every day even if I'm really exhausted I read a page or two before going to sleep.  I don't really have a page goal for ebooks but I always try to shoot for at least 50 pages with print books.

This week's book is The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn.  I heard such fantastic things about her 2nd book - The Kitchen Counter Cooking School - that I bought it new several years ago but then somehow never read it.  Then last year I read her 3rd book - Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good - and loved it and somehow in all that I go her first book which is this one.

My Beginning:
As a little girl, while other children played house, I played restaurant.

My Thoughts:
I love that food is such a presence in her life even from a young age.  I can't even imagine knowing what I wanted to do that early on.

The 56:
It's 8:00 a.m. and we're wandering through the Saxe-Breteuil market in the Seventh arrondissement, one of the city's largest outdoor markets.  The Eiffel Tower looms at the end of the stalls, presiding over the the market like a guardian.

My Thoughts:
I love how she sets the scene.  I can just picture it all!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?