Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eat - Cookbook Review

Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater

I really wanted to like Eat.  I love cookbooks, I love British stuff.  I generally love most British cookbooks.  Then throw in the fact that this is supposed to be fast food that is tasty and I was sure I would love it.

Except I didn't.  Partly, I think this book is geared more towards the British palate than the American.  There are a number of recipes featuring Kippers, smoked Haddock and Mackerel.  My main problem, however, was the format.  This is a personal issue and something I don't think makes the book "bad" as just not for me.  Instead of a list of ingredients with measurements followed by the instructions we get the title of the recipe followed by a paragraph that combines both the instructions and ingredients.  In many recipes there aren't actual measurements.  My hardwired left brain needs to know that it's a tablespoon of paprika and not just "a good bit".

The variety of dishes is incredible.  Slater isn't kidding when he says 600 ideas.  I like that he includes variations with many of the recipes.  However, if you prefer your recipes in a more standard format you may want to give this one a miss.

Linked up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Linkups: The Haunting of Hill House

It's Friday so it's time to link up with Coffee Addicted Writer for Book Blogger Hop, Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

Book Blogger Hop Question:
How important is a book's cover to your overall impression of it?

My Answer:
The cover has a pretty huge impact on me.  If it's a favorite author or a highly recommended book than I barely look at the cover.  However, if I'm browsing a bookstore or NetGalley the cover is what draws me in.  If the cover doesn't grab me I probably won't stop to see what the premise is.  This probably isn't particularly fair to the books but that's what seems to happen!  That being said once I've chosen the book the cover generally doesn't affect my overall impression unless it's misleading.

This week's book is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  I became a bit obsessed with Shirley Jackson as a teenager and stumbling upon an audio edition of Hill House reawakened that a bit.  I have now listened to the audio book, watched 2 movies and am almost done with a reread of the book!  Look for a review of it all on Thursday.

The Beginning:
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.  Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more."

From page 56 of my Penguin Classics edition:
""At any rate, the older sister died of pneumonia here in the house, with only the little companion to help her - there were stories later of a doctor called too late, of the old lady lying neglected upstairs while the younger woman dallied in the garden with some village lout, "

So would you keep reading?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dangerous Denial - Review

Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Provided by the author

Description:  To say Trevor Mayhew's childhood was horrible is an understatement.  His father is an abusive psychopath and his grandmother desperately wants to protect him.

BK Hartshaw has been neglected and put down by her mother who she'll never be thin enough or good enough for.

Can these two put their paths behind them?  Will they survive when their presents collide?

Genre: Mystery
Why I Picked This Book:  I was intrigued by the blurb with the author contacted me so I decided to give it a try.
My Impression:
Pros:  This book was a roller coaster. I went from being gripped by fear, to relief, to fear, to dread and then just when I was about to give up there was a glimmer of hope.  This was a hard book for me to read - especially the first 40% or so when Trevor and BK were children.  The characters were so real and Trevor's life especially was so brutal that it was painful to read.  This was one of those books that you stay up a little extra or squeeze in reading time because you just have to find what happens next.  It did become an easier read when BK was an adult though it was no less intense.  I'm kind of glad the next book I plan on reading is a middle grade children's book.  After this one I kind of feel like I need a nap!

Cons: There was a lot going on at the end and it felt a bit disjointed as we jumped from past to present and to different scenes.  I had to go back and reread to clarify a few things.  I also didn't get much personality from BK.  Trevor, Max and Shelby's characters seemed more developed and in comparison she seemed a little flat.

Overall: From the cover and blurb I was expecting a kind of DaVinci Code kind of thriller.  What I got was something deeply personal and intense.  Despite some disjointedness this was an excellent read though I do advise that if you have small children that you have them close by while reading.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, though I think I'll be a little more emotionally prepared for the next one!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I would though just be aware it's not as light as the cover suggests.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dreamweaver Trail plus Rival's Challenge - Review

Dreamweaver Trail by Emily March

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Gabi Romano takes a temporary job on a tropical island to give herself time to pick up the pieces after a job switch and a terrible break up.  Little does she know that her neighbor, Flynn Brogan is hiding out with a new name and trying very much to forget his past.  As the two who are trying so hard to forget their past get to know each other their present suddenly starts looking a whole lot brighter and maybe just maybe the future as well.  That is until a shocking act of violence ends everything.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  I liked the cover and I'd been having pretty good luck with the women's fiction type romance so I thought I'd try a new author.
My Impression:
Pros:  I really loved the characters in this one.  I was a little afraid when the book opens during the wedding reception of the couple from the previous book that it was going to basically be a continuous march of characters from past books but it really didn't end up that way.  While a lot of characters from previous books were there we see them mostly with how they relate to Gabi.  I also loved Gabi and Flynn together.  They were both truly nice people who had it rough - though Flynn far more than Gabi - and were still trying to find a connection.  Bismark is a fantastic character throughout the book and any fears I had of something happening to him ended up being groundless.  The only problem is I now want a Newfoundland and I don't exactly live in the climate for that.  These are two people you really root for and they really deserve their happily ever after.  I also found Gabi's interest in glass blowing interesting.  It's not a subject I really know anything about and March gave us a little information without overdoing it.

Cons:  While I think this book could have gotten monotonous if there hadn't been some kind of conflict I think I could have lived with less conflict.  Having Flynn's rather awful past along with the new source of violence just seemed too much.  The almost spiritual discussions of the magic of Eternity Springs was also a bit much at times.  While I like the idea of one town having the power to heal Gabi went on some mystical rambles that I didn't love.  They seemed a bit unnecessary.

Overall:  Despite the flaws I really enjoyed my first experience with Emily March.  She created likable characters and 2 interesting and beautiful settings.  I do wish Flynn had to endure a little less as that did get almost painful to read.  I also liked that this is a series that does not need to be read in order.  I picked this up at #8 and immediately connected with Gabi and Flynn.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes though I will make sure to read the blurb before I read as I know at times she tackles some pretty awful topics.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes.  I think if you like the small town contemporary romance genre you'd like this one.

Rival's Challenge (The Chatsfield) by Abby Green

Rating: 3 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Antonio Chatsfield has one job - negotiate the takeover of the Kennedy Group hotels to help show the world and the new CEO that the Chatsfield family is still capable of doing business on their own.  Orla Kennedy has to negotiate the takeover for her father but she knows there are other ways to save her family's hotel brand.  The problem is when Antonio and Orla set down for their meeting they each find themselves face to face with their one night stand from the night before.  What makes things more complicated is that they both want more.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book: To say that I didn't like the prequel to this series would be an understatement.  However, I was intrigued by the idea of a series set within the walls of a luxury hotel so I decided to give this another try.

My Impression:
Pros: Orla is a great character.  She's nice, she's very intelligent and an incredibly hard worker.  She's also spent her entire life trying to prove to her father that she's capable of running the hotel.  As the relationship develops there are really sweet aspects that begin to develop.  These two really understand each other because they've spent their lives in similar situations.  It was nice to watch them both unwind as they got to know each other.

Cons: As frequently happens with these series books this one really suffered for it's lack of length.  It would have been really lovely to see this relationship unfold a little more naturally instead of the rushed feel this book has.  Also, in their first interaction after their identities are revealed his reaction borders on slut shaming and I was very close to putting the book down.  I'm glad I didn't but it definitely affected my overall opinion.

Overall:  While there were a lot of aspects that I enjoyed there were also a number that I didn't.  I think the biggest problem was the length so I'd definitely be willing to try this author in a full length novel.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, if it was a full length book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Unless you're absolutely in love with the premise than probably not.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I've Only Read 1 Book From

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and The Bookish is the top ten authors I've only read 1 book from but NEED to read more.  This is a pretty fitting topic for me as I'm always finding authors I love, reading one book from and then never reading more.

1.  Kate Morton - I read The Forgotten Garden a year or two ago and loved it and swore I was going to read more.  My library has copies of all of her books. How many have I read?  0

2.  Kate Ellis - Pre-internet days (or at least pre-everything is available on the internet days) I discovered a Kate Ellis British murder mystery featuring Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson called The Bone Garden.  I loved it and promptly began haunting by used bookstores looking for more only to never find any.  I now own at least 3 but have yet to read them.
3.  P.J. Alderman - I read and really enjoyed the first ghostly mystery in the Port Chatham series entitled Haunting Jordan.  Have yet to start book #2 even though I've owned it for years.

4.  Rachel Bertsche - Ever since I read Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me (review) I've been meaning to read more of her work.  So far it hasn't happened.

5.  Molly Harper - I adored the lovely frothiness that was Better Homes and Hauntings (review) and have been told that it's not even close to her best book.

6.  Catherine Aird - I loved the one book by this classic British author I've read - A Most Contagious Game.  In fact I enjoyed them so much that I picked up 3 last time I was at the used bookstore.  Haven't read a one yet!

7.  Hannah Dennison - Murder at Honeychurch Hall (review) was one of my favorite cozies of the year so far.  I'm dying to read some of her other books.

8.  Liz Trenow - The Forgotten Seamstress (review) was one of my favorite books of the year so far but I still haven't read any of ther others even though I have her newest book waiting for me on my Kindle.

9.  Jo Bannister - I read the first book in the Castlemere series and while I loved the nicely done British Police Procedural I haven't picked up another one even though she's written dozens!

10. Eowyn Ivey - I read The Snow Child last year for book club and fell in love with her rather stark and beautifully descriptive writing style.  I'm not sure she's written any other books but if she has I need to read them.  I can still vividly recall some of the images this book painted.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Blood of an Englishman - Review

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

Rating: 3.5
Source: NetGalley

Description:  When the village baker, Bert Simple, is murdered during an amateur theatrical production Private Detective Agatha Raisin is called in to help solve the mystery.  With plenty of suspects but a general lack of motive could this be the mystery that even Agatha Raisin cannot solve?

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read other Agatha Raisin's in the past and enjoyed them.  I also enjoyed the last Hamish MacBeth

My Impression:
Pros:  While I have read other Agatha Raisins I definitely haven't read them in any kind of order.  I really don't feel that that affected my enjoyment of this mystery.  While it's obvious that there were earlier mysteries no part of the plot or real character development hangs on knowing what happened in earlier books.  Agatha is an interesting character.  For the most part she's not terribly likable - she's arrogant, petty and at times close minded.  However, in an odd way I found myself liking her.  I wouldn't want to have coffee with her but I found her funny and entertaining as well as believably intelligent.   The mystery itself was well done and you see how she works out the solutions to the different problems.  Her staff was also interesting without side stories that took over the main plot but allowed for more information than just Agatha herself could have come up with.

Cons:  While I actually kind of like that Agatha isn't the most likable of main characters the "man mad" aspect of her personality does get a little annoying. While at times it does help the plot there are several rants and one particular incident that just seemed to waste time.   I also didn't like that Bert was killed in such a complicated way.  There were 2 paragraphs of explanation and it was still hard to understand.  That definitely could have been simplified but it's a minor point.

Overall: It has been awhile since my last Agatha Raisin but if my memory is correct this was a stronger mystery and more enjoyable which leads me to believe the series is getting stronger.  It's a fun cozy with some darker aspects handled fairly lightly.  Agatha isn't everyone's cup of tea but I did find she grew on me.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I will definitely be on the lookout for new books in the series and if I have time I may pick up some of the earlier books.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I think most cozy mystery readers would enjoy this one once they get path Agatha's quirks.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This Week in Reading - September 14

It's time for the Sunday Post hosted by Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer where we talk about what we got and what's going on.

What I Got:

This week was even quieter than last week on the book acquiring front.  Only one of these is really a sit down and read kind of book and only one book from NetGalley!

The American Plate: A History of the United States in 100 Bites by Libby H. O'Connell, Ph.D - It's a history book and a cookbook combined!  (NetGalley)

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan (Paperbackswap) - I can't resist anything involving cupcakes and I enjoyed the last Colgan I read.

Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candies, and More from the editors of Food Network Magazine (Blogging for Books) -I've had time to flip through this one and I'm really excited.  Can't wait to try something out of it!


Reading: The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie which I keep putting down to read other books.  I don't really know why because it's very good.

Listening:  I finished The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister which I loved and plan on reviewing.  Now I'm listening to Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James which I'm enjoying though maybe not quite as much.  Next up is the sequel to Essential Ingredients - The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

Watching: Not a huge amount though I am excited about seeing the new shows.  I'm planning on trying Selfie because I love the 2 main characters, Stalker because I love Criminal Minds and this looks similar and How to Get Away with Murder because it looks different.  Of course NCIS: New Orleans is on the top of my list.  Also, my favorite guilty pleasure - Dancing with the Stars is coming back.  

Off the Blog:

I need to find an interesting way to say things are about the same.  Everything's going good, everyone's relatively happy.  This week has been much calmer than the last 2 weeks so I feel much less frazzled and more on top of things.  
In an effort to save money we've cut back on eating out and it turns out we've really been enjoying eating here more.  We always eat at home during the week but during the weekends we'd either pick something up or go out.  Without the hassle of figuring out where and what to eat we've had more time to hang out at home and do fun things.  
It is now after Labor Day and we are officially in the land of pumpkin everything.  Here's a confession - I don't like pumpkin.  I've really tried but about the only pumpkin thing I like are Reese's pumpkins which aren't quite the same.  I'm on board with salted caramel, apple anything and cinnamon whatever but I'm definitely not a pumpkin convert.  I wish I was though.  Some of the stuff out there looks amazing!
I'm torn about seeing the movie for Gone Girl.  I read the book and found it compelling but I'm not sure I want to see those people again.  I do think Ben Affleck makes a good Nick.  He has that kind of frat boy charmed life look.  I like Neil Patrick Harris as well.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Review for M.C. Beaton's latest Agatha Raisin
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Authors I have only read 1 book from but need to read more
Wednesday: Dreamweaver Trail by Emily March - Review
Thursday:  Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray - Review
Friday:  regular Friday Linkups
Saturday: Eat by Nigel Slater - cookbook review