Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Week in Reading - February 1

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:

Nothing!  It's kind of relief.  There's a few I'm waiting on but this week I got nothing!


Reading:  The Hexed by Heather Graham and Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Listening:  I'm still listening to Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.  While I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with him he's so blatantly honest about himself I've found it hard not to admire him. Plus the chapter where he skewered Alice Waters made me laugh till I cried.

Watching: Everything.  We got our cable stuff switched around this week and to get HBO which was mandatory we ended up getting every other movie channel there is.  It's a lot less than we were paying and it's kind of fun.  Needless to say my reading has taken a hit but my TV watching has gone up.  On top of the movie channels we now have Smithsonian so I've been binging on documentaries.  Movie-wise I have The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring and Monuments Men coming up.  

Off the Blog:

Everyone here is sick but me.  Paul brought it home though of course for him being sick is the same whether it's a minor cold or the plague. He's nauseous and has a headache, then he sleeps for most of the day and is fine.  Emma, J and the Tornado haven't been so lucky and have been congested and feeling kind of crappy for several days.  I'm taking vitamins and drinking green tea like there's no tomorrow trying to keep the illness away!

J's and my 12 year anniversary was Friday and we had a nice day shopping and milling around town together.  Between kids and other stuff we don't spend as much time together as we used too so it was really fun.

I'm finally getting back on track and feeling a little bit more grounded.  The past few months it's felt like I'm continuously massively behind and overwhelmed but that's seems to be going away.  It's nice to be back to getting things done!

I'm still working on my Pinterest project.  This past week as a pin to get oil stains out of clothes which worked really well!  This week is Reese's Brownie Cheesecake Bars.  Or it's supposed to be but people keep eating the bag of mini Reese's Cups!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Criminal Confections - Blog Tour Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Mysteries I Can't Believe I Haven't Read
Wednesday: The Monogram Murders - Mystery Review
Thursday: TBD - Maybe The Empire Girls?
Friday: Linkups with whatever book I'm reading
Saturday: Weekend Cooking Linkup with Cook It Up Cookbook Challenge Linkup

Happy Reading!  

Make It Ahead - A Cookbook Review

Make it Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

While Ina's recipes aren't always the cheapest and definitely aren't the easiest I find them the most reliable.  I know if I make something of Ina's it's going to be good and usually not just good but deliciously good.

So when I heard she had a new cookbook coming out and it was about meals you could do the prep work ahead of time I had to have it!

So the question is - since this book has been sitting on my kitchen shelves for more than a month do I use it?  Answer?  Not really.

It's not that it's a bad book.  It's really really not.  It's full of interesting recipes and I've tagged a lot of them.  The main problem is I don't think it's full of regular recipes that my family would willingly eat on a Tuesday.  I'm looking forward to making Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Tomatoes and Burrata is high on my list of lunches for this summer when I'm drowning in tomatoes.  There are a few that would work - French chicken pot pies made in individual serving dishes and topped with (store-bought) puff pastry for example.  There's some interesting sides like Crusty Baked Potatoes with Whipped Feta or Parmesan Chive Smashed Potatoes.  As well as a handful of desserts like Fresh Apple Spice Cake or Decadent (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Cake.  The Tres Leches Cake with Berries sounds yummy and the day I make Ginger Shortbread will be a happy day..  However, this isn't a book I find myself turning to on a regular basis and the feel of it is a book geared more towards entertaining than a regular family meal.  While Ina will still be a trusted source for recipes I think I'd recommend Barefoot Contessa At Home or Back to Basics.

The one recipes I've made multiple times out of this cookbook is Sour Cream Corn Bread.  My husband is rather snooty about it and calls it "Yankee Corn Bread" It definitely is but it's delicious!  For the record I'm not a corn bread fan but I love this one!  This makes 2 loaves but I usually half it.

1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill medium grind yellow cornmeal (I couldn't find this brand so I used stone ground corn meal and it's fine)
1/2 cup sugar
2 T baking powder
1 T kosher salt
1 1/4 cup whole milk (I used skim once because that was all I had and it worked out fine)
3/4 cup sour cream
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (I used large and had no problems)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and line the bottom of 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 inch loaf pans with parchment paper (I used a regular loaf pan, no parchment paper and cooking spray and haven't had any trouble with sticking)
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking poser, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, and eggs and then slowly whisk in the melted butter.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix them together with a rubber spatula, until combined.  Don't overmix!
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Place the pans on a rack and cool completely.
*It's fantastic with soups - especially a corn and cheddar chowder from her first book!

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Linkups: The Hexed

It's Friday Linkup time!  I'm linking up with 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 is:
Do you ever get comments from authors when you have posted or tweeted your review?

My Answer:
Yes, though more frequently comments through twitter than here.  It's always very exciting though slightly nerve wracking!  Once I had a comment from an author thanking me for getting her book on a Sunday Post type post which was very exciting.  I also love when a favorite author follows me on twitter.

I've only read 1 Heather Graham but I loved it and promptly requested every Heather Graham on NetGalley I could find.  I now have 3 that are waiting on me not to mention a huge stack of her older releases and have read none of them!  I'm so excited to get to this one.
Book Beginning:
(from the Prologue)
""Help me, Rocky! Help me!"
Craig Rockwell - Rocky to family and friends - was seventeen, a high school senior.  It wasn't that he didn't like Melissa Wilson; he just wasn't interested the way she was interested"
(from Chapter 1)
"Every once in a while Devin Lyle couldn't help herself.  People did such outrageous things sometimes that she just had to step in."

My thoughts:
The prologue is a little perplexing.  While I understand that Rocky might not be interested in Melissa I wonder why that's an issue here when she's calling for help.  Also why is she calling for help?  So many questions!  As for the Chapter 1 I completely sympathize with Devin.

The 56:
"There was a presence behind her, but she didn't know.  She didn't see.
It was the killer.
For a moment, something glittered in the starlight.
A knife."
My thoughts: Nothing particularly interesting other than things look very very bad for whoever she is.  I haven't gotten to this part in the story yet so I'm not sure what's going to happen next.

So would you keep reading?  Do you have an author whose books you collect but for some reason never seem to read?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Valentine's Day is Murder - Review

Valentine's Day is Murder by Carolyn Arnold

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Publisher
Description:  Sara and Sean McKinley are thrilled that their friend Jimmy is giving romance a 2nd chance.  Until the phone call from Jamaica saying that Jimmy has disappeared.  Not only is Jimmy not the type to disappear without saying a word he definitely wouldn't have left his date to pick up the tab.  With the help of their tech savvy employee Adam, Sara and Sean investigate beautiful sunny Jamaica and discover that all is not as it seems in paradise.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: The premise sounded interesting.  How could I resist a mystery set in warm and sunny Jamaica when I'm shivering in January!

My Impression:
Pro: This is my first book by Carolyn Arnold and her writing style drew me in immediately.  While this is the 8th book in the series I didn't feel at a loss to figure out what's going on.  Pretty much the only thing I'm not sure about is what the different companies the McKinley's own are and how they got them.  But since I'm reading about them solving a murder and not investing money with them that didn't bother me too much.  The pacing on the story was fantastic and the character development was just enough.  Arnold did a fabulous job with her 130+ pages and I didn't feel like the plot or character development suffered.  The twists and turns were well done and the reveal was actually a surprise.  Also, Sara and Sean are both former police officers and now run a private investigation business.  The fact that Jimmy's girlfriend called them when he didn't show back up and the fact that they went to Jamaica to investigate made sense and that always makes me happy!

Con:  The dialogue is a little stilted - no one says darling quite that much - but not unreadable.  As well some of the avenues of the investigation weren't as explored as I might have liked but that was most likely a casualty of the length of the book.

Overall:  A fun cozy mystery with likable characters.  The story was action packed yet always clear as to what was going on.  I read this one without any previous knowledge of the series and had absolutely no problems with understanding or enjoying the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I look forward to getting to know Sean and Sara a bit better.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, if you're a cozy reader I think you'd really enjoy this one.  If you've been wanting to read one this might be a good one to try.

Challenges Met? New To Me (Author), Alphabet Soup (V)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If the Viscount Falls - Review

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Twelve years ago Dominick Manton was the 2nd son of a wealthy viscount, set up to study with the barrister of his choosing and engaged to the love of his life, Jane Vernon.  Until the day when it all shatters.  Forced to make a choice between saving his brother's life and keeping his own fortune Dom chooses his brother and loses his fortune and Jane.
Now, Dominick is Viscount Rathmoor, owner of a successful and famous investigative service and determined to get Jane back.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:Sabrina Jeffries is an auto-buy for me.  I love her characters and she tells amazing stories.
My Impression:
Pro: When I start a Sabrina Jeffries book I know I'm in for a great story, well developed and unusual characters, real and intense conflict and a book I just can't stand to put down.  If the Viscount Falls does not disappoint.  In the previous book we learned the full story of Dom's complicated family and how he had always been very close to his illegitimate siblings.  In this book we're able to really focus on Dom and learn what secrets he's hiding.  I liked Dom.  A lot.  He can be authoritative but he's quick thinking and kind hearted so it's okay.  He's been in love with Jane for most of his life and did the best he could when forced into an impossible situation.  He's incredibly loyal to his siblings - Lissette and Tristan and really wants to get the estate back on track for the good of the tenants.  The pacing of this book is great and while I figured out Nancy's secret pretty quickly there's still a lot of mystery.  I also absolutely loved Edwin and hope we get to see more of him.  Jane and Dom's chemistry seemed very authentic.  Despite Dom's tendency towards bossiness and Jane's tendency to get offended by being bossed they actually work very well together.  They both have pretty tragic back stories that make their issues make sense.  Oh and the scene where Dom tells Jane how he got the scar on his face? Tears.

Con: Jane's being so angry at Dom for making her jilt him annoyed me.  She kept saying she could go anywhere as long as they were together but I was fully behind Dom on his decision.  This wouldn't be a case of they'd be living in gentile poverty in a cottage in the country with only one servant.  This was very real poverty in a London slum with no guarantee of improvement.  Dom would have been leaving her alone for days at a time in an area that was very unsafe for a female alone.  While she does say something toward the end that makes me forgive her for the most part I wanted to shake her on that front.

Overall: Once again Jeffries proves why she's one of my favorite historical romance authors.  The characters were flawed and wonderful, the story was gripping and never melodramatic.  If you like historical romances and you haven't read any Sabrina Jeffries you're seriously missing out!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes!  I really don't know why I haven't read all her books as it is.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely but read How The Scoundrel Seduces first.

Challenges Met? Historical Romance, Alphabet Soup (I)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I'd Like to Read with a Book Club

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books I'd Like to Read with a Book Club.  This week's topic really had me thinking.  What makes a good book club book?  And also, what makes a good book club?  I've been a few but they've normally been connected to a Mom's Group I joined when the Tornado was a baby.  They were always a lot of fun but the discussions were very rarely on the book.  I think it'd be really fun to have a book club with some other serious readers.

1.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - I actually did read this for a book club and it was really fun.  The debate was pretty heatedly as some people absolutely hated the ending and some felt that it fit the craziness of the whole book.  I fell in the latter camp.

2.  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - This is a book you want to talk about but can only talk about with people who have actually read the book. I had joined an online bookclub that did this one but I didn't do very well at actually participating so I missed my chance.

3.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - So much to discuss with this one.  What really happened to Rebecca?  Is it possible to feel sympathetic towards her?  Is it possible to not want to shake the narrator and tell her to develop a backbone?

4.  The Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - This is another one that has a lot of discussion points.  I don't want to say to much because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it.  There are a lot of legal and morale arguments that take place in the book,  Also, do you agree with Poirot's decision?

5.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - The main question for this one would be did Agatha cheat?  This was quite a controversial book when it was printed and it'd be interesting to hear what everyone thinks.

6.  The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah - this would be a good one to read with fellow Agatha lovers.  Does it capture Poirot?  How does it compare to Agatha's books? How does it stand on it's own? (I have a review coming out on this one in a few weeks so I'll have my answers there!)

7. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman - a lot of fabulous bookish discussions could come from this one!  How people treat their books.  Who writes in them and who breaks out in hives at the thought?    Really the topics could go on for ages.

8.  A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot - This book made me think a lot about my own family and how secrets and family history affect present day generations.  I think it would lead to interesting discussions.

9.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - This would be a great book for any food themed book club meetings.  Plus you can compare the books to the movies and talk about who is your favorite Willy Wonka.

10. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio - Partly I just love this book but I also think there would be some good discussion points here.  What options could June try to avoid selling the bookstore?  What childhood books are important and how to they stay with us as we grow up.  That kind of thing.

So what makes a good book club book and what would you want to read?

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Rant of Ravens - Review

Amazon link: A Rant of Ravens by Christine Goff
Astor + Blue link A Rant of Ravens

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: publisher

Description:  After her marriage fails New York marketing exec Rachel Stanhope agrees to house-sit her aunt's bird habitat in Colorado.  Between fighting of her aunt's pet bird and tip toeing through the woods looking for a rare bird Rachel unexpectedly stumbles across a dead body.  Even worse it's the body of a man she heard having an argument with just a few days earlier.

Genre: Mystery
Why I Picked This Book:  I thought the premise sound intriguing.  I don't know that much about birdwatching and I like cozies that give me a peek into different hobbies and interests.

My Impression:
Pro:  This was an interesting mystery.  I liked that Rachel was new to the birdwatching and bird rescue field so that we learned along with her.  The information on the birds was fascinating and I frequently found myself looking up different birds to see what they look like.  I don't see myself ever going on a birdwatching expedition but it was interesting all the same.  The mystery was compelling and I definitely kept turning the pages to see what happened next.  There were lots of twists and turns and while I guess the who (I read a lot of mysteries so I'm generally surprised if I DON'T guess the who) but all the whys were interesting.  I'm not normally a big fan of a really hostile character but I thought Gertie was well used.  She obviously detested Rachel and Aunt Miriam but she was used just enough to be almost a devil's advocate and a counter-argument but not used so much that she got annoying.

Con:  While I found all the bird information interesting I got a little restless with the paragraphs about the different legislation. Some of the descriptions got a little detailed and technical.  Also, Rachel's behavior bordered on TSTL.  She confronts people and snoops in places she most definitely shouldn't.

Overall: While not perfect this was an interesting mystery that kept me reading and guessing the outcome.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I'd like to see what happens to Rachel next.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I think most mystery readers would enjoy this.

Challenges Met? New To Me (Author)