Sunday, May 29, 2016

This Week in Reading - May 29

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:

The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio - I have been wanting to read this series for awhile and actually have one of the books but when this newest one showed up on NetGalley I couldn't resist requesting it even though I really didn't expect to get it.  There may have been a moment of dancing when that approval email showed up!  This entry into the series which follows a book group focuses on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca which is one of my favorite books.  I'm SO excited!  (NetGalley)

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown - I never got around to reading The Weird Sisters by this author but when the publisher offered me an ARC of her newest book I absolutely could not resist.  This one centers around the discovery of the main character's grandmother's diary which tells of a life in Jazz Age Paris.  This is another one I'm really excited about.  What little I've read looks so interesting and this is one of my favorite settings.  (Publisher)


Reading:  A Golden Cage by Shelly Freydont and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.  I'm also rereading It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas.

Listening: Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming - I'm not like it nearly as much as Casino Royale but it's still entertaining.

Watching:  J and I are still watching The Blacklist.  We're about halfway done unless Netflix gets the 3rd season soon.  I'm taking a break from Supernatural and watching 1800-Missing which was on probably around 2006 and loosely based on the Meg Cabot series by the same name.  I wouldn't say it's quality but it is entertaining.  I'll probably go back to Supernatural soon.

Off the Blog:

We are now officially done with school!  Paul's graduation was Tuesday and it wasn't quite as long as I expected.  The class size was just under 600 but they moved through them pretty fast.  It was a bit more emotional than I expected because it really brought home that my days of running a big family are done and I'm a little sad to see that chapter come to an end.

We had a bunch of appointments Wednesday and then a super lazy Thursday and Friday so I'm no longer feeling like I've been hit by a truck which is nice.  I'm hoping we'll be getting together with friends soon.  There's a walking trail around a playground here so my friends and I can run while the Tornado and his friends are playing.  It would pretty well.  I'm also wanting to get to the Botanical Gardens here.  They have a new exhibit on habitats and he always enjoys a visit.

I've been using the downtime to get somewhat caught up on blog stuff.  I'm not quite where I want to be but I'm definitely making progress.  I'm also aware that we're coming up on the halfway point for the year and I'm trying to reevaluate my reading to decide if I want to change things up or direct my focus somewhere.  My main goal is to get caught up on review books but I'd also like to read more out of my comfort zone.  I've done some this year and enjoyed it but I'd like to keep expanding.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Deep Dark - Romantic Suspense Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Beach Reads
Wednesday: TBD but hopefully a review of A Golden Cage
Thursday: Beyond the Books - Favorite Room or Space 
Friday: Friday Linkups featuring Excerpts of My Current Book
Saturday: America's Best Breakfasts - Cookbook Review

Saturday, May 28, 2016

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - May Edition

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.
Right now I have around 10,000 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.  I'll be posting my results the last Saturday of each month.

This month ended up being all food because it was all I could do to actually feed people this month.  Something about the end of the school year has me crawling across the finish line in total exhaustion.  Anyway, it was a pretty solid month.  No spectacular failures and some pretty fantastic successes.  Next month I'll probably be using some of the kids crafts because I have a little one out of school who might need something to occupy his time!

Week 19:

Pin: Gourment Chicken from Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake

Reason Picked:  I love chicken dishes in cream sauce and this one has bacon!
The Basic Idea: Browned chicken baked in a creamy cheese sauce with bacon added
The Results:  This was good though I'm not sure it's fancy restaurant good as it's claimed in the original recipe.  It took longer than I expected because I had to bake it for so long and the sauce got a little grainy.  I'm not sure this is a recipe I'll be anxious to make again.

Week 20:

Pin: Strawberry Banana Bread from Baking Bites

Reason Picked: I love banana bread and the strawberry/banana combination plus it's strawberry season and I'm always looking for ways to use up strawberries.
The Basic Idea: A yummy banana bread with either freeze dried or finely minced fresh strawberries added.
The Results:  So good!  I actually made this for someone else as I'm the only one in my house who eats banana bread but I kept a few slices.  It's a good banana bread on it's own and the strawberries just add a little punch of freshness.  I used fresh and chopped them up fairly fine but not into a mince.  If you like banana bread this is one not to miss.

Not the prettiest but this was not the month for piping bags and the like!

Week 21: 

Pin: Salted Caramel Cupcakes from My Baking Addiction

Reason Picked: This is one of my favorite blogs and I love all things salted caramel - and cupcakes
The Basic Idea: A chocolate cupcake filled with a salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla buttercream.
The Results: While this is one of my favorite blogs this is one of her older recipes and is really more of a formula than a recipe.  The caramel sauce from her link was really good but put together with everything else it got kind of lost.  It ended up being too much work for just a decent cupcake.

Week 22:

Pin:  Carmelita Cookies from Cookies and Cups

Reason Picked: I've seen a billion recipes for Carmelita cookies on Pinterest and Cookies and Cups is always reliable.
The Basic Idea: An oatmeal chocolate chip cookie wrapped around a Rolo candy
The Results: Delicious!  If you didn't want to mess with the Rolos than you could just make excellent chocolate chip cookies with the dough.  You do freeze the Rolos but I just tossed the bag in the freezer overnight and had no problem unwrapping them so you don't have to unwrap the candy and figure out where to put them and all that.  You do have to chill the dough as well so do all the prep the day before you need them and then you can just make them the day of so it didn't seem like a lot of work.  Plus, these are just seriously good cookies!

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Linkups: Dumb Witness

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:
Have you ever started a meme that became popular and is still in existence?

My Answer:
No, I've never started one.  I do participate in several - the 3 here, Top Ten Tuesday, Sunday Post, and Beyond the Books.

This week I'm going back to Agatha Christie with Dumb Witness (or Poirot Loses a Client).  This isn't one of my favorites but it is one I always enjoy reading.  Plus, because it's not one of her most memorable I never remember the ending so it's always a nice surprise to see how the puzzle works out.

The Beginning:
Miss Arundell died on May 1st.

My Thoughts:
There's a lot of setup in this sentence especially given how short it is!  Just from reading this I'm quite sure that Miss Arundell did not die of natural causes!

The 56:
"Her companions didn't stay as long as her servants," said Poirot, smiling.
The woman flushed.

My Thoughts:
I don't think Agatha Christie was overly fond of companions.  She's rather disparaging towards them in a number of her books.  In this book Miss Arundell's companion is a very important character.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beyond the Books: Best Part of My Day

This week I'm linking up with KissinBlueKaren for Beyond the Books.  This is a meme where we all answer a non-bookish question.  It's always so fun to see everyone's answers and get a peak at the blogger beyond the books.  This week's topic is - Best Part of My Day

This is hard!  There are lots of times that feel like the best part of the day.

I love when the Tornado climbs in bed first thing in the morning to cuddle.  He doesn't do it much anymore I do try to really enjoy it when it happens.

I love when I'm working on a project and have an audio book on and no one is bothering me.

I love when the Tornado is home from school and we play a game or watch something together.

I love dinner time when we're eating together and talking and go off on tangents about obscure topics.

But if I'm being completely honest my favorite time of the day is after bedtime is done and stories are read, dinner has been eaten and cleaned up, and there is nothing else I'm going to do for the day.  J and I will take some time to sit together.  We have all these plans to do a puzzle or play a game or something but most of the time we're tired and end up watching TV or a movie.  Right now we're watching Blacklist and after that maybe Hannibal?  We're still in discussions.  Our TV watching doesn't typically intersect but lately we've been making an effort to find something to watch together and I think we've both been enjoying it.

What is your favorite time of the day?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Review

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Rating: Loved It
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:  "I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject.   Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb...
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends - and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - born as a spur of the moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island - boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.  Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives.  Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will changer her forever.  Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written world in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising way.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I just saw the words literary society in the title and couldn't resist!

My Impression:  I loved this book.  I really didn't expect too.  I expected to like it - it's a Literary Society after World War II which is one of my favorite topics and one of my favorite settings.  But it's also a story told in letters from multiple different characters.  While I do like an epistolary novels I don't always make the biggest emotional connections to the characters and since this had multiple senders there's the worry that it would end up being really confusing.  
That wasn't the case at all with either concerns.  From the beginning I loved Juliet's voice.  Her humor came through clearly and I especially loved her exchanges with the very dry Sidney who is her publisher and longtime friend.  But the book really gets started with the first letter from Dawsey Adams arrives and Juliet first learns about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  From there we meet Isola, Amelia, Ebon, John and a whole cast of other characters all with stories to tell about the occupation and books.  The stories of the occupation where tragic, heartbreaking and fascinating.  I was so interested that I frequently found myself looking up a particular fact or story to see if it had really happened.  I always think it's a good sign if a fiction book makes me want to research a nonfiction subject!
As far as emotional connection it was definitely not a problem.  I really enjoyed getting to know these characters and there were several times I found myself with a tear or two in my eye.  Sometimes they were happy tears and once or twice they were not.  I hated for the book to end because I loved these characters so much and wanted to know even more about them.  My only complaint is that the end was a little overly tied up and happened kind of in a rush.  While I was pleased with how it ended I think I would have liked it if had come together a little slower.

Audio Note: The audio is fantastic for this one!  There several narrators and they all do a wonderful job.  I was a little worried that it would be hard to keep track of who was saying what but the voices were so distinctive that it was no trouble.

Overall, I really enjoyed not only the story itself but the experience of listening to it.  The story is at time funny and at times heartbreakingly poignant and I thoroughly enjoyed ever minute of it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely!  Especially if you enjoy books about the home front in World War II

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - 10 Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is 10 Books I Feel Differntly About After Time Has Passed.  I think since I'm mostly an escapist reader I rarely think back on what I have read and when I do it's mostly on the experience of reading it and not the book itself.  I did get 7 books (or 6 and an author) and most of those are a change of perspective as I've gotten older and not a change in the book itself.

1.  Peril at End House by Agatha Christie - This is one of Christie's most readable books.  It's glamorous and just full of "bright young things" and all the parties and atmosphere of the late 1920s.  I always thought of it as one of my favorites and was surprised when Agatha Christie said she didn't even remember writing it in her autobiography.  Reading it again not to long ago and paying attention to the mystery more than the atmosphere I can see why she didn't remember.  It's a decent mystery but definitely not her best and relies on some serious coincidences.

2.  Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery - When I first got the whole Anne of Green Gables series I thought Anne of Windy Poplars was just about unreadable.  I wanted so much more Anne and Gilbert and instead all I got were letters and stories.  I was shocked when I finally made myself read it again as an adult and discovered I absolutely loved it.  The stories are delightful and it's just a wonderful read.  I think it might be one of my favorites in the entire Anne series!

3.  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - I was a little surprised when I started this one to find that it was way more self-help than I expected.  I think I was expecting more of a memoir type book but while she does talk about her own experiences it definitely leans towards more instructional.  Since I don't read much of that genre it took me awhile to get used to it and it didn't help that I didn't exactly warm to Rubin herself as I was reading it.  However, I feel like I learned so much from that book in terms of how to change my surroundings and my mood that I reference it frequently and recommend it regularly!

4.  Pretty much every book by Heather Graham - Let me start off by saying that I love Heather Graham's books - so much in fact that I chose her as my author in Anna from Herding Cats and Burning Soup's Read All the Books Challenge.  But while I always enjoy reading them after I finish I start realizing that there are a few things (sometimes minor, sometimes major) that just don't make sense.

5.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I read and loved this book in high school.  I loved the whole world Fitzgerald brought to life and ended up reading several other books by him.  It was one of the first audio books I listened too a year or so ago and while I remember that it wasn't happy I was surprised by just how unhappy it was!

6.  The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - For years this was my absolute favorite book.  I went through the binding on 2 copies and was well into the 3rd copy when I discovered a few authors and got caught up in other books I wanted to read.  When I reread it recently I was surprised with how my attitude had changed.  As a teenager I thought the Richard character was so romantic and wonderful but as an adult it was hard to get past the tragedy for him and for her.

7.  Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens - This was the first romance book I ever read and I loved it.  I'm pretty sure I read it in one sitting and was swept up into the whole genre and for months read nothing else.  A year or two ago I decided to go back and reread my early romances and this of course was on that list.  Wow is it dated.  Instead of loving the characters and the romance I thought Devil needed a stern talking too about taking the whole alpha thing to far and Honoria needed a bit more spine and a bit less prickliness.

So those are my books that I've changed my mind on as time has gone on.  Do you have any that just aren't the same or ended up sticking with you longer than expected?

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Madness of Mercury - Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

The Madness of Mercury (A Zodiac Mystery #1) by Connie di Marco
Rating: Good 
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle.  Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts.  One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy.  To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long lost nephew arrives.  The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become.  Is the young man truly a member of the family?  Can astrology confirm that?  Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods- he was a trickster and a liar as well.  (From Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: The astrology aspects interested me and I love this author's books under the name Connie Archer.

My Impression:  I must say this is the first book I've read about an astrologer.  I'm familiar with horoscopes but never gave much thought to all the retrogrades and what have you.  I found it interesting that while Julia is an astrologer she's very clear about how different that is from psychics or mediums and all the other things that get kind of lumped together.  Julia herself is an interesting character.  She's intelligent and a bit damaged without being angsty about it.  She takes her job seriously and I liked that she was professional in how she dealt with her clients.  It always drives me a little crazy when the main character in a cozy mystery has a job but never actually seems to do it.  With Julia not only do we see her doing her job but we see how the protests from the followers of Reverend Roy impacts her professionally and personally.  I also enjoyed seeing members of the occult community coming together.
I was a little annoyed with Julia's reluctance to report certain events to the police.  As the story progressed it became clear why she didn't trust them but it did bother me that she refused to make a police report and then would immediately encourage a colleague to call the police so that there would be a pattern of harassment.  It didn't make sense.  There's also a little more telling than showing which at times kept me from getting fully into the mystery.  Since I've read and loved other books from di Marco under the name Connie Archer (A Clue in the Stew is fantastic) I think this is because it is the first book in the series and a lot of setup is required.
I really enjoyed the mystery itself.  There's a lot going on but di Marco never let the story get confusing or muddled but kept me guessing throughout the book.  I was never certain how things were going to unravel until they did.  This was a fun read with an entertaining and unique main character.  I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Julia gets into next and how she and her friends get themselves out of it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'll definitely be picking up the 2nd book in the series and I'm looking forward to catching up on her Soup Lover's series under the name Connie Archer.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely!  There are a few first book in the series flaws but the mystery and the characters are so much fun!