Sunday, August 28, 2016

This Week in Reading - August 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:

Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs - This is the 2nd Laura Childs book I've gotten in as many weeks and I'm looking forward to reading this one as well!  I read the first in the series years ago so I can't wait to catch up!  (NetGalley)

Masking for Trouble by Dianne Vallere - Her 2nd book in the costume shop mystery and I can't wait!  I loved the first book in the series and always enjoy her mysteries.  (Blog Tour)

Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels - So this is apparently the year of cowboy romances for me.  I've always said they weren't for me but if I'm counting right this is my 5th this year so I might have to rethink that!  This is a new author for me though I know she's been around for quite some time.  I'm looking forward to reading this one!  (Blog Tour)


Reading:  Beauty at the End by Debbie Howells and Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

Listening:  I just finished My Name is Lucy Barton and am about to download the 3rd book from the Flavia de Luce series.   I can't wait!

Watching:  I've started watching Blindspot on Hulu.  I really liked the first few episodes but it's getting a little conspiracy-esque and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I'm definitely going to keep watching though.  J and I are watching season 3 of Northern Exposure and still enjoying the series.  Quirky doesn't even begin to describe it!

Off the Blog:

I have been a terrible blogger this week.  Mostly because I have joined a gym and me being an all or nothing person have been obsessed with it!  Plus, classes are hard and I haven't been able to move my arms!  I really had no plans on joining a gym but a friend of mine spent basically all summer trying out different gyms and had found one she really liked.  I've been wanting to exercise more but other than some videos at home hadn't really done much with it.  So I've been loving my membership so far.  I had forgotten how much I really loved gyms!  This one has a lot of classes that I really like and tons of equipment.  I'm looking forward to some time on the elliptical machine with my earbuds and an audio book!

Getting used to the gym has been most of my week.  We are having a busy weekend.  We had dinner at Eleanor's apartment Friday night and it was really nice.  She's always had a good eye when it comes to decorating and clothes but she's done a fantastic job with decorating her apartment on a budget.  Then Saturday was dinner with J's brother and his wife and was also a lot of fun.  However, that's about enough social activity for this family of introverts!  I expect today will be spent at home not talking to anyone who doesn't live here.  Or at least that's the goal!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  A Story to Kill - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Good and Bad Required Reading
Wednesday: Last Chance Rebel - Blog Tour Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkup with current book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - August 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.

August was a really successful month which was lots of fun.  For September I'm hoping to get some more craft type pins done since I have a little more time now that school has started and we're getting into the flow.  And in October come a few Halloween treats!  I'm really looking forward to those!

Week 31:

Reason Picked:  I like cucumbers and am always looking for different things to do with them.

Basic Idea: A sweet tangy fresh relish made from cucumbers, red onion, and apple in a apple cider vinegar honey dressing with a touch of dill.

The Results:  This was so good!  I didn't have any fresh dill so I used dried and halved the amount as it seemed a little dill heavy to me.  It was really tasty.  I ate it as almost a side (like you would with coleslaw) and topped some grilled chicken with it on a tortilla and both ways were tasty.  

Week 32:

Reason Picked:  I love a good peanut butter frosting and You Cup of Cake is one of my go to blogs when it comes to cupcake recipes.

Basic Idea: A rich doctored cake mix chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter frosting with actual Nutter Butters in the frosting.

The Results:  This was another winner though really it's hard to fail on a cupcake.  The cake was good and the additional ingredients kept it from tasting like a mix.  The frosting was peanut butter-y but a little lighter with the Nutter Butter addition.  

Week 33:

Reason Picked: I love brownies and I love pie so 2 great things go great together.  Plus, Cooking Classy is one of my favorite food blogs.

Basic Idea:  A buttery pie crust with a rich brownie filling.  The original recipe includes a bottom layer of pecans but my family is very strange and doesn't like pecans so I left them out.

The Results:  I'm not entirely confident in the pie crust because they're not really in my skill set.  This one came together pretty easily but it definitely isn't pretty and there aren't going to be any fluted edges anytime soon!  The filling is rich and chocolately though a little on the messy side.  I think it would've been better with pecans like the recipe calls for.  Otherwise, it's fantastic warm with vanilla ice cream!

Week 34:

Reason Picked:  I always feel like I'm wasting basil as I don't end up using all my plants before it freezes and I regularly forget about drying them!

Basic Idea:  Pack basil in olive oil in a mason jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a year.

The Results:  Well I can't exactly say how successful it was because it's only been about a week and a half but the leaves till look pretty good and it was super easy to do.  Plus I love the idea of not only having fresh basil year round but having basil infused olive oil.  Basil is about the only thing my garden has produced this year and I have a few different types of basil so I'm hoping to have a few different jars.  

Week 35:

Reason Picked: Because date night was a rare thing and we wanted to fix that

Basic Idea:  A list of ideas for things that you can do at home that are fun and inexpensive and a little different.

The Results:  Okay I'm going to be honest here and we haven't actually had a stay at home date night BUT this did realize what we were doing wrong and that was the planning and scheduling.  While a lot of these aren't for J and me (we are not karaoke people) there were a ton of good ideas that will be a lot of fun and links to even more lists of ideas.  So next Saturday we have scheduled a Video Game Date.  I'll be working on our menu and figuring out what games we're going to play this week.  I'm really excited!  Next I'm thinking board games or quizzes or a game of Would You Rather.  They all sound really fun.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Linkups: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

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:
Can I say the sentence "Reading is my passion" describes me?

My Answer:
I'm not sure that I'd say reading is my passion but it's definitely been my constant.  It's something I've loved all my life and books are something I reach for to feel better or forget when times are tough and are part of my happy days as well.

This week's book is pretty much Lark from The Bookwyrm's Hoard's fault.  I was familiar with Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams because it's one of my husband's favorite but I had for whatever reason never thought about actually reading it.  But then Lark posted this post which included the sneak preview of the BBC America show and that brought the book front and center in my mind.  Adams' sense of humor really appeals to me but but I've mostly stuck with Hitchhiker's Guide so I'm especially looking forward to this one! 

The Beginning: 
This time there would be no witnesses.
This time there was just the dead earth, a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable light drizzle from the northeast by which so many of the world's most momentous events seem to be accompanied.

My Thoughts:
This sounds surprisingly serious for Adams.  Something about that first sentence sounds especially ominous.

The 56:
This was the evening of the last day of Gordon Way's life, and he was wondering if the rain would hold off for the weekend.

My Thoughts:
I think if you looked at the thoughts of most people on their last day their thoughts would be similarly mundane.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Whiskey Sea - Blog Tour Review

The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea.  The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water.  When Silver sells his fishing boat to WW1 veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda she's outraged.  But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won't have to marry.  Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic's wages won't support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor.  Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work - and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who's in it just for fun.  As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground - and to a love that will sustain her?  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book: I love this time period and seeing a woman take on not only the unusual role of boat mechanic but then rumrunner intrigued me!

My Impression:While the 1920s has always been one of my favorite time periods to fictionally visit I've normally stayed more on the high society end of it with the pretty clothes and the wild parties where the inside just maybe a bit rotten.  Bootlegging is always mentioned and alcohol is always there but I've never really given much thought to the people behind the scenes who are making sure that Jay Gatsby can continue to provide enough gin for his guests.
But now that I've met Frieda Hope that will change a bit.  From the moment we meet her as a serious little girl trying to be strong I immediately liked her.  Throughout the book there were times that I wanted to reach out and shake her but I always felt like I understood her.  Frieda has a lot of baggage and an enormous chip on her shoulder and all for pretty good reason.  However, to the people she loves like her sister Bea and their adopted father Silver she is fiercely loyal.  She's also incredibly determined to help her sister get a better education and through that a better life and provide security for herself.  Compared to her the side characters are a little flat but not because they have no personality but more because Frieda has such a demanding one.

The actual business of rum running was absolutely fascinating and definitely kept me involved in the story.  I ended up doing some outside reading to see how much of the events in this book were true (pretty much all of it) which is always a good sign!  I really enjoyed this look behind the scenes of something that is frequently brushed over.  This really had me seeing the reasons why usually law abiding people got involved in an illegal business and why some didn't and it really had me thinking about what I would have done in a similar situation.

I enjoyed getting to know Frieda and watching her grow up as well as seeing the world around her change.  This was at times heartbreaking and at times action packed but consistently a good read!  I'm looking forward to reading more from Ann Howard Creel

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to finding more books from her.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes!  If you like historical fiction this is a great read.

This book was provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Always a Cowboy - Review

Always a Cowboy (A Carsons of Mustang Creek) by Linda Lael Miller

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  He's the middle of the three Carson brothers and is as stubborn as they come - and he won't thank a beautiful stranger for getting in his way!  Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy.  In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of life, its pleasures and heartbreaks.  Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down.  When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing - and the challenge - she stirs in him.  Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals - and with ranchers.  The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son.  Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing ranch mares.  But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything - for both of them.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the first in the series and I liked Drake's character so was thrilled to see him get his own book.

My Impression: Linda Lael Miller is an author that I've seen around for ages but I'm relatively new to her books.  Counting a holiday novella, this was my third by her and definitely my favorite. I loved Drake and Luce.  They're both intelligent and hard working people who have very similar views on environmental aspects as well as a deep love of animals especially horses though Luce's love is more on the academic side than Drake's.   As usual we get the whole Carson clan with Drake's mother Blythe taking a very front and center role.  I loved getting to see more of the family and how they interacted - especially the brothers.  I also found the occasional mentions of their father who is deceased really touching especially from Drake who is very similar to his dad.  Luce's family is only peripheral but her conversations with her sister were entertaining and felt very real.  As well as the Carson clan we have a number of residents of Mustang Creek - many of whom have featured in other books.  I haven't read any of their stories but after meeting them I'd really like too.

The romance was on the quick side which seems to be a common occurrence in Miller's books but it wasn't insta-love.  Drake and Luce spend a lot of time together before anything develops which made it easier to root for them.  Drake's very alpha-male but a quiet one.  His protectiveness mostly made sense as Luce really hadn't had much hands on experience with wild animals though I did think with Drake admitting that she was a very experienced hiker that he could also admit that she understands the basics (aka don't approach a wild animal).  However, I did have to support his "with a mountain lion on the prowl who is drawn to livestock perhaps a lone unarmed woman shouldn't be out wandering around".

I really enjoyed the inside look at the ranching world.  Animals are a very large part of it - between livestock, pets, and wildlife - and while Drake's attitude is realistic it was also very compassionate with a focus on being responsible and humane which really worked for me.  I don't know if I would classify this series as a favorite but it is one I consistently enjoy and Miller has created an interesting community with characters I do want to see more often.  I was really excited to see that the Hallmark movie channel is working on a series based on another of Miller's series - Big Sky Country.  I'll definitely be looking out for that premiere and for the next book in the series!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will!  I'm looking forward to Mace's book.  It'll be fun to see him fall hard for someone!

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy a good cowboy romance I think you'd enjoy this one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books that Have Been on My TBR Since Pre-Blogging Days

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten Books that Have Been on My TBR since Pre-Blogging Days.  That list is embarrassing long and I really only have a record from 2011 when I started Goodreads.  Before that it was random scraps of paper and notebooks full of lists.

1.  Agatha Christie by Laura Thompson - So I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan I've heard really good things about this biography.  Not to mention the fact I literally have it sitting on my shelf and it's been there for years!

2.  The Maltese Manuscript by Joanne Dobson - This is the 5th book in the Karen Pelletier series about an English professor who regularly gets caught up in mysteries involving rare book related things.  It's been so long since I've read any from this series that I don't remember all that much about the books other than that I enjoyed them.

3.  All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge by Kee Malesky - I heard an interview with Malesky on a podcast years and years ago and just had to have the book.  She's the librarian for All Things Considered on NPR and she talks about all the weird and random facts she's researched through the years.

4.  The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery by D.T. Max - This is a nonfiction book about a family who suffered from a sleeping order that presented them from sleeping and different sleep related conditions as well as something called prions which I know virutally nothing about but hopefully this book will fix that!

5.  False Mermaid by Erin Hart - The main character in this book is an American pathologist living in Ireland.  This is the 3rd in the book and a subplot through the first 2 was the murder of her sister.  This is the book where that murder finally gets investigated and hopefully we (and the main character) get answers about what happened.

6.  A Killing in Antiques by Mary Moody - This is the first in a cozy mystery series focused around an antique shop owner.  I love cozy mysteries and I love antiques and when the two are combined there's frequently a chance for an antique to have some kind of secret history or even better - a secret compartment!

7.  A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch - I own a copy of this book, I've heard great buzz about this series AND it's a historical mystery which are my favorite things.  Have I read it yet?   Nope!

8.  Queen of the Road: The True Tales of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of it's Own by Doreen Orion - I think the title says it all!

9.  Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran - Curran was given access to Agatha's notebooks by her grandson and this book is all about all the notations and story ideas and fascinating stuff he found.  I have a copy of this book on my shelf which I bought new in hardback YEARS ago.  I have no idea why I haven't read it!

10.  Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories by Bonny Wolf - I love foodie memoirs and I just the subtitle for this one!

What books have been sitting on your TBR since pre-blogging days or just far too long?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Agatha Christie - Poirot Part 4

With these 4 books Agatha Christie has really hit her stride when it comes to Poirot's books.  She's been writing to good reviews and success and her name has grown in prestige.  She's also remarried to Max Mallowan who is a renowned archealogist and as different from Archie Christie, her flashy fighter pilot first husband as possible.    In these 4 books we have some of her more clever plots and it feels like she's really enjoying writing out these puzzles which makes them a pleasure to read.

Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) - Reading this book reminds me that Agatha Christie had real personal experience in the field of archaeology.  I love seeing how the dig sites are set up, how the work is distributed, and how the members of the dig live because I know she experienced much of this herself.  In this book we have Mrs. Leidner - Lovely Louise - who is feeling threatened and nervous to the point that her husband hires the very practical Nurse Leathern to look after her.  Louise's fear is dismissed as just nerves until one afternoon she is discovered dead in her room.  Poirot steps in to help with a murder investigation and he and Nurse Leathern proceed to work as a team.  The investigation is very straight forward.  They interview, they check alibis, Poirot sends telegrams but Agatha does a fantastic job of making the mystery itself having some interesting twists - not everything is what it seems.  I very much enjoyed this one.  It's probably one of my favorites to read though I always seem to forget just how much I enjoy it until I pick it up for a reread.  4 Stars

Cards on the Table (1937)- Mr. Shaitana likes to collect things - unusual art and priceless artifacts but his favorite is unusual people.  His greatest piece of performance art is a dinner party with 8 guests followed by games of Bridge and ending with a murder.  Because 4 of Mr. Shaitana's guests were murders and 4 were detectives.  And so the game begins.  Was Mr. Shaitana right about his 4 murderers?  Were they really murderers?  And which one had felt driven to protect themselves?  The chase is fun to watch as Poirot, Mrs. Oliver, and Superintendent Battle are really on their game.  I do feel like Agatha Christie is having a good time writing this.  You can almost feel her thinking up the next twist behind the words.  Is a challenging and carefully constructed book all without feeling too forced and definitely keeps you guessing.  My primary problem is that the murder takes place around a game of bridge and so there are little mentions and discussions throughout the book.  I don't know the faintest thing about the game other than it takes 4 people and uses cards so I think I missed a few clues.  Even with that minus it's a fun read and it's always fun to watch it all play out.  4.5 Stars

Dumb Witness or Poirot Loses a Client (1937)- It's not uncommon for Hercule Poirot to receive pleas for help through the mail but when there's a month between the writing of such a plea and the actual mailing it catches his attention.  Doubly so when the writer of the letter, an elderly woman who suspects her family of trying to kill her, turns out to have died in the weeks that followed her writing Poirot.  Determined to help Emily Arundell, even if his help is too late to save her, Poirot examines her last few weeks hoping to find out who she was scared of and why.  Captain Hastings indulges Poirot in what he considers an academic exercise until suddenly it isn't.  This is a solid mystery and Christie does a good job of leaving us clues as the book goes along.  However, there isn't all that much that makes this stand out from her other books.  I also could have done without Bob the dog's conversation.  It didn't quite work with her matter of fact, practical writing style.  4 Stars

Death on the Nile (1937)- This is one of Christie's better known books and for good reason.  It's one of her many locked room type books except in this case the locked room is a boat cruising down the Nile.  The cast of characters is jammed full of memorable personalities.  We have the romance author who has cast herself as the expert on sex, her long suffering and sullen daughter, a nice British woman and her devoted son, an Italian archaeologist, an outspoken Communist, a strict wealthy American woman, her nurse and impoverished cousin, and a brilliant but quiet doctor.  However, all eyes are on a trio of characters - Linnet - incredibly wealthy, incredibly sure of herself and recently married to Simon who is none of these things and trailing behind is Jacqueline of the fiery temper who was Linnet's dear friend and previously engaged to Simon.  For the most part the story progresses strictly through Poirot's eyes.  We don't see an event if he doesn't see it and we don't know anything he doesn't know.  It adds an interesting element to how the mystery unravels.  I love that Colonel Race fills the role usually filled by Hastings because he's one of my favorite reoccurring characters and I love seeing how Poirot and Race interact. I can't even begin to count how many times I've read this book and each time I get the same amount of delight watching the story unfold and the end is just as shocking.  If you have read some Christie but not read this one you need to pick this one up right away and if you've never read Christie this is a great one to start with.  5 Stars