Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Best Books of 2017 So Far

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Best Books of 2017 So Far.
  I'm sticking with just books I've read in 2017 and not worrying about their pub dates though I am excluding rereads.

1.  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn - This one came highly recommended years and years ago yet somehow I never got around to it.  Then I managed to read her first book and her third book while never reading this one.  Finally when I was thinking of what my first book for 2017 would be I landed on this one and I loved it!  It inspired me to really get back to cooking and focusing on my techniques and what ingredients I'm using.

2.  The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart - Mariah Stewart is an author that I always enjoy but find somewhat inconsistent.  Sometimes her books are lacking just a bit of that something that really pulls you in.  This one had everything I wanted - family drama, secrets, and characters who are really trying to figure out what they're going to do now.  I aboslutely loved it and can't wait for book #2.

3.  Yes My Accent is Real and Other Things I've Never Told You by Kunal Nayyar - I'm a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory and have always enjoyed Raj though he's the character that really gets the least development.  This memoir by the actor that plays him was fascinating and hilarious.

4.  The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean - I read one book by MacLean ages ago and liked it but wasn't wowed.  Then I heard a few interviews with her on the podcast Avon on the Air (which really needs to come back) and absolutely loved her.  She's smart and funny and knows her romance so I decided I really needed to give her books another try.  I really loved this one and can't wait to continue with the rest of the trilogy.

5.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - I loved In a Dark Dark Wood by Ware and couldn't wait to read her 2nd book.  I'm sure I didn't hold my breath the entire length of this book but it felt like I did!  It doesn't hurt that the narrator (Imogen Church) is amazing if you go the audio route!

6.  The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry - I read this one through a blog tour but didn't really know all that much about it.  It wasn't the fastest read but it was so interesting and compelling.  There's history and lots of mystery and really memorable characters.

7.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this one.  I loved all the quest part but the real world stuff would sometimes get a little much for me (I'm not much of a science fiction/dystopian reader) but Wil Wheaton's amazing narration kept me going and by the last third I could not stop listening!

8.  Any Day Now by Robyn Carr - I've really enjoyed the Robyn Carr books I've read but none have really been home runs for me.  This one, which was the first in the Sullivan's Crossing book that I read though technically the second, had all the connection that I had missed in the previous books I had read.  I'm really looking forward to going back and reading the other books in the series.

9.  Watching the Detectives by Julie Mulhern - This is absolutely one of my favorite mystery series and this latest entry just may be my favorite yet.  I loved the investigation and catching up with the characters and the mystery kept me guessing until the very end.

10.  The Swallow's Nest by Emilie Richards - I just read this one but knew pretty much from the start that it'd be on this list.  Emilie Richards is a favorite author that I hadn't read in awhile and reading this book made me wonder why I'd waited so long to get back to her books and reminded me just why she's a favorite author.

What have been your favorite reads of 2017 so far?

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Swallow's Nest - Contemporary Fiction Review

The Swallow's Nest by Emilie Richards

Rating:  Very Good 
Source:  Author


Three women fight for the chance to raise the child they've all come to love
When Lilia Swallow's husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.

Toby is Graham's darkest secret, his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for, precious gift becomes a life-changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief change her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby's father.

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

Genre:  Fiction - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been a fan of Emilie Richards' books for years so I couldn't resist this newest book.

My Impression:  This is a challenging subject.  A custody battle is always unpleasant but especially when a small child with no voice is involved.  Toby is so young, so helpless, and so completely at the mercy of the people fighting over him and a court decision that it's heartbreaking.  Honestly, if this book had been written by anyone other than Emilie Richards I probably would have passed on this one.  Richards keeps this topic from becoming too grim or depressing without ever trivializing the issue or the emotions involved.

I loved Lilia.  She isn't perfect but she's trying her best.  Her reaction to Toby and the situation felt very realistic.  No one knows exactly how they'll react to unthinkable situations and at first I don't Lilia knew how to react but her struggles worked both for the situation and for the character.  Lilia is also a lifestyle blogger whose blog is the family's primary source of income.  It's not something she can abandon and it was interesting to see how she managed to talk about the changes in her life.  Marina and Ellen are much harder to like and sympathize with (especially Marina) but I did feel like I understood both women.  While their actions and choices were questionable at times they weren't one note villains.

The ending was touching and felt complete without being too pat.  It was one of those books that when you finish you just sit for a moment reflecting.  I felt like I knew these characters and that I had been fully in their world.  This was a wonderful reminder of why I love Emilie Richards' books so much.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author:  Absolutely!  After reading this book I went to my library and got out a bunch of books that I hadn't read yet.  I'm looking forward to some binge reading.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  If you enjoy books with real emotional connections and wonderful but flawed characters you really must try Emilie Richards.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

This Week in Reading - June 25

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:

Cocoa Beach By Beatriz Williams - I'm super excited about this one!  I'm a big fan of Williams' books so when I got an email from the publisher asking if I'd like a copy of this newest one I could say yes fast enough!

French Fried by Kylie Logan - I won this is in a giveaway over at Carstairs Considers and was thrilled when it arrived this week.  I have the first in the series and am really looking to reading this one as well.

That's it for this week though I have a bunch of requests pending over on NetGalley.  2 of my favorite publishers but some great looking books up while I was out of town so I had to do a bit of a request binge.


Reading:  My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill and Stardance Summer by Emily March

Listening:  I'm still listening to podcasts but I'm slowly getting caught up.  I was listening to a lot of Lazy Genius and What Should I Read I Next

Watching:  I watched a lot of movies with my Grandfather this week.  We watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Arsenic and Old Lace, and The Defiant Ones.  All were very good though I think Arsenic and Old Lace is my favorite.  I love Cary Grant.

Off the Blog:

The Tornado and I were out of town this whole week visiting my grandparents and had a good time.  Tropical Storm Cindy was not particularly kind and we had a lot of rainy weather and storms but we didn't really have to go anywhere and there were little breaks in the rain so we were able to go outside some.  The drive home had some rough spots but luckily not too bad or too long.  It does feel good to be home though!

This week the Tornado will be at Space Camp.  They have a day camp for younger kids but it's a full day - 8 to 5 - jam packed with activites so I have a feeling he will be exhausted when I pick him up!  Other than that not much is going on this week other than getting caught up from being out of town and getting ready for our next RV trip which will be around July 4th which is somehow NEXT week.  How did that happen?

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Swallow's Nest - Contemporary Fiction Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Best Books of 2017 So Far
Wednesday:  Booked 4 Murder - Cozy Mystery Review
Thursday:  My Cousin Rachel - Classic Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  Crime of Passion Fruit - Cozy Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - June Edition

I absolutely love Pinterest! My current pin count is just under 10,500 and I have dozens of boards. I alternate between pinning from the tons of food and craft blogs (I have a different system for book blogs!) and pinning after mindlessly scrolling through the "Everything" option where I can see all the pins that have been pinned and repinned recently.

At the first of the year I make a board called 52 Pins in 52 Weeks and fill it with 52 pins that I want to do over the course of the year. I've tried to include a good mix of food, holiday, and craft pins and push myself to step a little out of my comfort zone. I pin my results on my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Results board. Some pins are wins and some are most definitely fails but it's always interesting to attempt them!

This year I hope you'll share your Pin Wins and Fails with me and link up below! The format is totally up to you. Just post about the pins you've tried over the month (it can be multiple posts) and link up here! The link up will the the last Saturday of every month and I can't wait to see what everyone is doing!

This month is seriously light.  I've been in a bit of a cooking slump and between that and traveling not much got done!  2 of the pins I'm working on are gardening pins so I'm not quite sure if they are wins or fails.  One involves a squash plant but mine is currently sulking and refusing to do anything so it's hard to tell anything!

So here's the pin I did get done this month!

My Results:  I love all things lemon and the flavor of this was amazing.  However something about the texture was a little off - almost curdled.  The instructions say just to whisk everything together but I think next time I'd pull out my mixer and make sure that everything is really mixed well.  Though really I think I prefer regular lemon bars to these bars so there probably won't be a next time.

I've got cherry tomatoes coming in and a few pins I'm looking forward to using them with.  As well, the Tornado and I have a few projects planned for the next few weeks that we're looking forward too so July should be much busier.

If you've gotten any pins done this month I'd love to see what you've done and what you thought!

Friday, June 23, 2017

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:
If you are at a particularly good point in a book and the phone rings or the doorbell rings, do you stop reading or let the phone or doorbell go unanswered?

My Answer:
I do most of my reading at night so if the phone or doorbell is ringing at 11PM it's typically not something that can be ignored.  I have been known to get so wrapped up in my book that I don't hear the phone or anything else around me but for the most part if I hear it it'll eat at me until I know what's going on!  That said, I ignore a sensible time to go to sleep pretty much every night because I'm reading!

This week's book is Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.  This is another take 2 as I meant to read it last summer but somehow never managed it.  Now is the time!  My husband really enjoyed this book and we watched the BBC show that was based off this book and I loved it.  Well except for the last 5 minutes which I like to pretend didn't happen.  While there were a lot of changes between the show and the book the feel is pretty similar (apparently - I haven't read it but J swears this is the case) and the show did a pretty good job of capturing Adams' offbeat sense of humor.

The Beginning:
This time there would be no witnesses."

My Thoughts:
Well that sounds 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 have no idea why this is Gordon Way's life but it doesn't sound like it's expected.  I suspect most people are thinking inconsequential things most of the time.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Serenity Harbor - Contemporary Romance Review

Serenity Harbor (Haven Point) by RaeAnne Thayne

Rating:  Good
Source:  Publicist

Description: Computer-tech millionaire Bowie Callahan is about the last person that schoolteacher Katrina Bailey wants to work for. As far as she can see, he's arrogant, entitled and not up to the task of caring for his young half brother, Milo. But Kat is, especially if it brings her closer to her goal of adopting an orphaned little girl. And as her kindness and patience work wonders with Milo, she realizes there's more to sexy, wary Bo than she'd ever realized.
Bo never imagined he'd be tasked with caring for a sibling he didn't know existed. Then again, he never pictured himself impulsively kissing vibrant, compassionate Katrina in the moonlight. Now he's ready to make her dream of family come true…and hoping there's room in it for him, too…

Genre:  Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  Thayne is one of my absolute favorite contemporary romance authors so I can never resist her books!

My Impression:  I love RaeAnne Thayne's stories and her ability to make picking up a new Haven Point novel just like visiting old friends.  I love checking in on old friends but at the same time it never gets overwhelming or makes me feel like I need to remember all the details of something that happened 5 books ago.

This book was no different.  I loved catching up with the Haven Point residents and getting to know the youngest Bailey who seemed so different from her older siblings.  Katrina took awhile for me to warm up to.  While I sympathized with her struggle to figure out how her new priorities fits in with the Katrina that Haven Point has always known, she came off a little one note.  Her affinity for children - especially Milo is so sweet and feels genuine.  Bowie is also an interesting character.  He's brilliant, successful, and has made close friends but his past is horrible and he's spent most of life trying to forget it.  When he suddenly finds himself guardian of his six year old half brother he didn't know existed.  Milo has autism and is unable to communicate and Bowie is desperately trying to do his best.  Katrina comes along at the perfect time.

The story pulled me in from the beginning. Both Katrina and Bowie's relationship with Milo was really special and felt authentic.  However, the chemistry between the two took along time to click for me.  I just didn't feel this relationship even though I liked them.  These are very minor issues and didn't keep me from enjoying the book.  Thayne never fails to create a world I enjoy visiting.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author:  Absolutely!  I have the next book and am really looking forward to diving in!

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy contemporary romances that focus more on an emotional connection than heat than Thayne is an author you must not miss!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rather Be the Devil - Mystery Review

Rather be the Devil (An Inspector Rebus Mystery) by Ian Rankin

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Some cases never leave you.

For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria's killer has never been found.

Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I'd been wanting to try Ian Rankin for awhile and since this sounded like it centered on a cold case I hoped I could jump in here without any problem since I'm not going to go back 21 books anytime soon.

My Impression: I didn't realize how much I missed police procedurals until I started listening to this one.  This is set in Edinburgh so it's a little different than my usual reads that typically take place in London but that made it all the more interesting.  This is definitely not a cozy.  The atmosphere is very heavy and there is some violence though never to the point of it feeling gory.  The bad guys are seriously bad and sometimes it's hard to tell who is really a good guy.  There are some police politics as well though while they added realism to the mystery they never took over the story.

There's a lot of mystery here.  There's a cold case, a recent assault, a missing person or two, and a couple of murders.  As well there's several different organized crime factions and it's hard to tell just who really is involved. At first I struggled with keeping track of what was going on but fairly early on I got my footing and was fully pulled into the story.

While the mystery was very good and at times gripping what I enjoyed the most was the characters.  There's John Rebus, finally retired and in iffy health, who is trying to figure out just what being retired means to him.  As well are Malcom Fox and Siobhan Clark, both Detective Inspectors, whose friendship has been strained by Fox's promotion.  I loved watching them deal with their relationships with each other, bicker,and work together.

I'm so glad I finally tried this series!  I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, the characters,and the world Rankin creates.  I think you could jump into the series here and pretty quickly figure out what is going on though if you're like me you'll be wanting to go back to the beginning of the series as soon as you finish this one!

Audio Note:  James Macpherson did a good job with the audio.  His Scottish accent rang true and I finally feel like I know how to correctly pronounce Siobhan.  However, because his accent was so strung I think that it was had me dragging my feet at the very beginning.  Once I got used to it though I was off and running and thoroughly caught up in the mystery.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to spending more time with the characters and reading new mysteries in this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!  If you enjoy procedurals like Deborah Crombie I think you'd enjoy this series.