Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Linkups: Behind the Attic Wall

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 years have you been blogging?  Is there a story behind your blog's name?

My Answer:
I've technically been blogging about 2 years but I didn't really start trying to post every day and focusing on this particular blog until last March so really about a year and a half.  In regards to the name there isn't much of a story.  I had actually started another blog first that focused on food but thought it might be fun to have a book blog as well and the name just kind of came to me.  Plus it's just true!

This week's book is a ghostly looking children's book that caught my eye when my 5 year old and I were at the library last week.  I've been enjoying listening to children's books lately and there's not much I enjoy more than a good ghost story.  I hadn't heard of Behind the Attic Wall before now but it sounds kind of like The Secret Garden just with ghosts instead of a garden.

The Beginning:
Today was the Anniversary.  May fourteenth.
Last year they had all promised one another that  they would meet again on this day and on every Anniversary, forever.

Chapter 1:
The man waiting at the station when she first stepped off the train was the tallest person she had ever seen.

My Thoughts:
The first line from the prologue sounds like it could go either happy or sinister.  It's in italics which makes me think it's happening considerably before the rest of the story. I'm very curious to see what the anniversary is for. As for chapter 1'm thinking we've drifted to a child's perspective.  I'm not sure if the man being so tall is a good thing or a bad thing!

The 56:
A bare room, and yet everything about it suggested the presence of someone suddenly gone.  A darkened rectangle of floor varnish outlined a rug now removed, and at the center of each wall hung a hook that held no picture.

My Thoughts:
I just love the visual of this passage.  I can just picture this abandoned room and it makes me curious to know more.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Girl in the Glass - Blog Tour Review

The Girl in the Glass

About The Girl in the Glass

• E-book • Publisher: Witness Impulse (August 25, 2015) Two identical women. Two identical murders. Two lives brutally cut short 108 years apart June 1904. Aimée Garnier Whitby, a beautiful French artist and wife of one of Maine's richest and most powerful men, is found near death on the Whitby family's private summer island, the letter "A" mysteriously carved into her chest. June 2012. Veronica Aimée Whitby, the eighteen-year-old descendant and virtual double of the first Aimée, becomes the victim of a near perfect copycat murder. With another beautiful, promising young Whitby woman slain, the media begin to swarm and pressure builds for Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage to bring the killer quickly to justice. But the key to solving Aimée's death just might have been buried with her beautiful ancestor. The latest McCabe and Savage thriller from USA Today bestselling author James Hayman is a crackling, twisty novel of suspense, perfect for fans of J.A. Jance and John Sandford. Add to Goodreads badge
Purchase Links

My Review:

Going in I wasn't sure what to expect.  Two identical women killed in identical ways 108 years apart.  Was it supernatural somehow?  Was there a connection?  What a I found was a solid mystery with a hefty supply of motives and no shortage of suspects.At 18, Aimee is no innocent and doesn't care who she hurts on the way to what she wants.  I thought I had solved both mysteries a number of times only to be proven wrong.  This was a super fast read and I really liked getting to know both Maggie Savage and McCabe.  They're intelligent and flawed (especially McCabe) characters but don't let their problems affect the investigation.  My only negative with this book was that the end wrapped up almost too quickly and seemed a little out of left field.  Despite that it was a satisfying mystery and I'm really looking forward to my next McCabe and Savage book.

James HaymanAbout James Hayman

James Hayman, formerly creative director at one of New York’s largest advertising agencies, is the author of the acclaimed McCabe and Savage series: The Cutting, The Chill of Night, Darkness First, and The Girl in the Glass. Find out more about James at his website and connect with him on Facebook.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Peach Keeper - Review

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Source: Library
Description:  The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town's famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.
It's the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with ruin generations ago.  The Blue Ridge Madam - built by Willa's great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water's heyday, and once the town's grandest home - has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal.  And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow.  No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the halves and the have-nots.
But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate - socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood - of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top flight inn.  Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes.  But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property's lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.  (From Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  Sarah Addison Allen has been on my TBR for awhile and I was in a peach kind of mood when I happened to stumble on this one at the library.

My Impression: To be honest I was a little nervous about this going in.  People kept telling me how great she was and that I'd really love this one but I was a little concerned about the whole magical realism thing.  I had read a book by another author that had that and I wasn't a fan of the book.  I didn't know if the problem was the book itself or the magical realism.
But it turned out I had no reason to be nervous.  I absolutely loved this book.  Just the reading experience as a whole was lovely.  I was immediately drawn into the town and the story and could visualize it all so clearly.  I did periodically want to reach into the book and give Willa and Paxton either a shake or a hug depending on what was going on but the book read so quickly I didn't have much time to feel that way.
I couldn't wait to find out what happened and watch everything come together.  The magic that I was so concerned about was barely there.  Enough to make itself felt but much more of a whisper than a shout.  And I was really excited when I realized that the caterer was the same Claire that is in the Garden Spell.  I'll definitely be reading that one soon!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'm very much looking forward to spending more time in Sarah Addison Allen's world.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes definitely.  Especially if you're a little concerned about magical realism.

Challenges Met?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I Didn't Click With

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Characters I Just Didn't Click With.  Every once in awhile I'll be reading a book and one of the characters just doesn't work for me.  I'm not talking Amy Dunne from Gone Girl level terrifying but more just annoyances.  The kind of person you try to avoid if you accidentally run into them at the grocery store.

1.  Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I know this is blasphemy in the book world but I never really clicked with Jo.  Maybe because I don't have a real desire to write?  It's been awhile since I read it so I can give specific examples as to why she annoyed me but I remember not liking her and feeling guilty because I knew even at 10 that I was supposed to.  I do remember what really annoyed me was the whole Jo/Laurie/Amy thing.

2.  Olivia Pennywort from The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen - This was my first experience with magical realism and the cover is gorgeous.  I really wanted to love this one and the descriptions of the garden were stunning.  However, Olivia was so stand-offish I just never could connect with her and after awhile I lost interest in the book.

3.  Kendra Michaels from The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen - One of the things I have realized when reading mysteries is that I don't have to really like the characters to enjoy the book and this is a great example of that.  While Kendra would definitely not be someone I would want to spend time with if I'm murdered I'd definitely want her investigating.

4.  Ava Wilder from London From My Windows by Mary Carter - On the other hand some genres are so character driven that not liking a character makes the book basically unreadable to me.  Unfortunately, this one was one of them.  I didn't expect to really be able to relate to Ava but I need to be able to like her in some way and I just couldn't.

5.  Ella Preston from Sanctuary Island by Lily Everett - Ella had been trying to hard her entire life to keep everything together and it make her a little difficult to really get to know in Sanctuary Island.  However, while I wouldn't want to go to coffee with her I could sympathize with her and I liked the other characters enough that it made this book a good read.

6.  Pip from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - When I had to read this in 9th grade I wasn't a fan.  So I decided to reread it this year thinking that surely my tastes would have evolved in the 20 years that have passed.  And they have.  I was absolutely amazed by Dickens' writing but I still wanted to drown Pip.  I get what Dickens is trying to show with Pip's character but seriously - the boy could not stop whining.

7.  Katherine Huxtable and Jasper Finley from Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh - These two have everything I don't like in a romance -  A physical scene with some ick factor, the not redeemed enough bad boy, zero emotional connection, and some misunderstandings.  It was readable because it's written by Mary Balogh but this was definitely one of my least favorites.

8.  Preseley Christensen and Aaron Amos from Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak - This is another one with so many problems that if it had been written by any other author it would've been unreadable.  Preseley didn't really annoy me too much because I could see where she was coming from but Aaron was just a jerk and I thought Preston deserved better.

9.  Cordelia Gray from An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James - I really wanted to love this one.  I enjoy James' mysteries but her Adam Dagliesh books can get a little long.  I loved the idea of a private detective and I had seen this book on so many Must Read Mystery lists.  However, not only did I not like the book I ended up not caring who the killer was.  Cordelia was hard to like or to understand and there were some things she did that just seemed bizarre.

10. Mary Poppins from Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers - This is another book I wanted to love.  I love the movie and I figured with all the magic and wonder of the Julie Andrews version of Mary Poppins the book must be even more so.  But I didn't really like Mary and I didn't really like the book.  This is one of the very few times where I like the movie better.

So what characters have you not clicked with?  Are there certain genres that you find it more important to click with characters than others?  Also, please tell me someone else is not completely in love with Jo March!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Threads of Evidence - Review

Threads of Evidence (Mainely Needlepointers #2) by Lea Wait - Amazon link
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  It's hard to imagine anything bad ever happening in picturesque Haven Harbor, Maine - until a famous face rolls into town and unthreads some very dark secrets...
Angie Curtis and the Mainely Needlepointers are all too familiar with the Gardener estate.  The crumbling Victorian mansion, known as "Aurora" has been sitting vacant for nearly twenty-five years and some say it's haunted by the ghost of Jasmine Gardener, the teenage girl who died there in 1970 under mysterious circumstances...
Harbor Haven is abuzz with excitement when Hollywood actress Skye West decides to buy Aurora and sell off its furnishings.  And Angie is intrigued when Skye asks her to appraise the estate's sizable collection of needlepoint pictures.  But the more she examines the pieces, the more they seem to point toward Jasmine's murder - and the murderer - and it's up to her to stitch the clues together.  (Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved the first book in the series and can never resist a crumbling mansion and a 40 year old murder!

My Impression:  I really loved the first book in the series and I love that once again Wait has given us a mystery with connections to the past.  In this case the mystery was fascinating and I loved getting to poke around Aurora with Sarah and Angie.  The pace was good and it didn't feel like it was dragging or too slow at any point.  As for the mystery itself not only is it a case of whodunnit but also was there even a crime committed.  As the interviews proceed there are countless suspects but also plenty of reasons to think that it was just an accident.
It was fun to see Angie's life in Haven Harbor proceeding and her settling in more.  I liked seeing her grandmother though she is a much smaller part in this book.  Getting to meet more of the Harbor Haven residents was nice and I especially enjoyed seeing Dave, the science teacher with the poison garden again.
The only thing that didn't work for me was some of Angie's personality quirks.  She seems a little more immature and emotional than she did in the first book but what really didn't work for me was her drinking.  It wasn't that she was drinking it was the amount she TALKED about drinking.  It was a bit like being around a teenager who has recently gotten access to alcohol and talks about it all the time.  I'm hoping this doesn't become an issue in future books as there are some hints that she may have a problem.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  Can I go on and sign up for book 3?

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you enjoy a cozy mystery this is a series not to be missed and if you have any interest in needlepoint at all I think you'll really love it.

Challenges Met?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

This Week in Reading - August 30

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:

This week I didn't get any review books! However, I've been craving a trip to the used bookstore and I gave in a few days ago.  I managed to get out with only 11 but that was because I made myself stop.  I could've easily left with 3 times as many!
For this trip I got:
Echo Lake by Carla Neggers
The Betrayed by Heather Graham - These two I actually have for review in ebook form but I think I can get to print faster.
Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee
Ghost Moon
Ghost Shadow
Ghost Night - a trilogy by Heather Graham that I've been wanting to read
Waking the Dead by Heather Graham
Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews
A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes
Requeim for a Dealer by Jo Bannister

This trip ended up heavy on Heavy Graham but otherwise is a mix of a few new authors and others that I've enjoyed but have been wanting to read more of.  Now to figure out where to put them!


Reading:  A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup by and Harbor Island by Carla Neggers

Listening: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall.  I'm enjoying this but not in love with it.  I'm hoping I get more pulled in soon.  I finished listening to a creepy children's mystery called Christina's Ghost by Betty Ren Wright which was really fun.

Watching: Not a whole lot.  I'm definitely feeling the between seasons slump.  I'm still enjoying NCIS on Netflix and will probably be going back to Murder She Wrote soon.

Off the Blog:

This week is J's birthday we'll be going out to dinner and the regular stuff.  We're going to try to watch Gone Girl tonight as well.  He's been wanting to see it and I do want to see it but have been dragging my feet about it.  I really liked the casting they did and I've heard pretty consistently good things about the movie but I'm a little hesitant to get sucked into that world of craziness again!

In general we're trying to get away from collapsing in front of the TV most nights once the Tornado goes to bed and have been having pretty good luck.  It's not that we're anti-TV but it was getting to be where that's all we do in the evening and there's only so many shows we watch together so it frequently ends up with us just flipping and finding nothing.  The one bad thing about watching less TV at night is that that was the time I used to reply to comments so now I'm incredibly behind.  I read all the comments I get and really appreciate them!  I just need to work out a new reply system.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Thread of Evidence - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Characters I Didn't Click With
Wednesday: The Peach Keeper - Fiction Review
Thursday: Girl in the Glass - Blog Tour Thriller REview
Friday: Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD but most likely something foodie

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays + Dulce de Leche Brownies

Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman, is one of my automatic buys when it comes to cookbooks.  While they're not books I use daily I always enjoy looking through them and the recipes are always reliably good with easy to find ingredients and just unique enough to be interesting without scaring off the pickier eaters. I'm very excited about her newest book - The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime which comes out in September and it inspired me to pull out her last book- A Year of Holidays.

Of her three current cookbooks this massive volume is probably my favorite.  Not only are there a huge variety of recipes but the layout is just so fun.  Instead of being divided by type of recipe the chapters for each book are divided by holiday.  I love the idea of having a holiday themed meal without it being a big deal.  And of course you can use any of the recipes whenever you want like these Dulce de Leche Brownies from the Cinco de Mayo chapter.  I'm definitely glad I didn't wait until May to make these!

Dulce de Leche Brownies

5 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 a 14 ounce can dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 325.  Generously spray an 8 inch square baking pan or an 8 x 10 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and nuke it in about 45 second intervals, stirring each time, until it's completely melted.  Set it aside to cook for 20 minutes or so.
Add the butter and the sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream them together until they're light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.
With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the chocolate until it's all combined.
Add the flour and the vanilla and mix until is all combined, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through.
Spread the batter into the greased pan.
Open the can of dulce de leche and place half of it in a glass bowl.  Warm it in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, just to make it a little more stirrable.
Drop large dollops of dulce de leche on the surface of the batter.  Then use a knife to slowly swirl it through the brownie batter.  Don't drag the knife sideways through the batter; hold it so the thin side of the knife leads the way.
Bake the brownies for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center is almost totally set.
Let cool before slicing.
Changes I Made:  I added more dulce de leche but other than that followed the recipe exactly.

Changes I'll Make Next Time:  I used the 8" square but next time I'll use a bigger pan as these were a little to thick.

Results: As embarrassing as it is to admit I've always preferred brownies from a mix but these were SOO good.  They're rich and chocolate-y and the dulce de leche is a fantastic addition.  My only problem is that these were really thick and were so rich and chocolate-y it was almost too much.

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