Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors.  Can I do top 100?  Or top 1000?  After much thinking and crossing out and adding and removing - seriously if this was a piece of paper it'd be ragged by this point - here is my Top Ten Favorites!

1. Agatha Christie - Well of course Agatha had to be on my list.  I started reading her in middle school or maybe early high school and haven't really stopped.  In college I kept a list of what books I had in my purse at all times just in case I happened to stopped by the used book store that I practically lived in at the time.  I still have my hodge podge collection of her books and I love them.  I tended to buy the oldest version of the book the bookstore had because their rule was 1/2 the cover price and the older the book the cheaper the cover!

2. L.M. Montgomery - So confession time - my first interaction with Anne wasn't through the book.  It was through the movie with Megan Follows.  I loved that movie and have watched it so many times that I start to cry as soon as the death scene happens several minutes before it actually happens.  After I watched the movie I decided to pick up the book which I read in one day and talked my mother into buying me the entire set when I stumbled on it in a bookstore the next day.  I spent that weekend reading the series.  And 25 years later I still love them!

3. Patricia Wentworth - About the time I discovered Agatha Christie I discovered Patricia Wentworth and I think I love her just as much.  Maude Silver is a fantastic character who really deserves more recognition.  Her first book - Grey Mask isn't a winner for me but I love any book that has the name Miss Silver in the title as well as The Girl in the Cellar, She Came Back, The Ivory Dagger and countless others.

4. Barbara Michaels - Michaels is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.  Some one gave my mother a copy of Houses of Stone when I was around 13 and I promptly stole it from her and stayed up most of the night reading it.  From there I read what everything by her that the library had as well as haunted the used bookstores for her books.  House of Many Shadows, Shattered Silk, Vanish with the Rose, and Into the Darkness are guaranteed reading slump busters.

5. Nora Roberts - I don't remember my first Nora book though I'm think it was Tears of the Moon of the Gallaghers of Ardmore series.  That's still one of my favorite trilogies and if you haven't read it you should.  Since then I've read almost every book of hers I could get my hands on and while some are better than others she never disappoints.  Several of her books are on my Keeper Shelf including the Gallagher books, Three Fates and Key of Knowledge (which features a librarian and a writer!)

6. Deborah Crombie - I'm not sure when I started reading Deborah Crombie but her first book A Share in Death was published in 1993 so it probably wasn't much later than that.  I love Gemma and Duncan and have enjoyed watching their professional and personal relationships grow.  I think Crombie has done a fantastic job of having the characters change but still seem like them.

7. Julia Quinn - I think the first one of Quinn's I read was The Duke and I and I was immediately in love.  She's still an auto-buy for me and I have a number of her books on my Keeper Shelf including The Viscount Who Loved Me, The Secret Diary of Miss Miranda Cheever, and It Happened in London.

8.  Rosamunde Pilcher - So if I was making a list of my favorite authors Pilcher probably wouldn't make the list because I don't currently consider her a favorite.  But since we're talking about ALL TIME favorites she definitely belongs on the list.  I discovered The Shell Seekers in high school and read my copy so many times that it literally fell apart.  As did the 2nd copy I bought!

9.  Dave Barry - This is another author that belongs on the list because of the All Time thing.  Dave Barry's columns used to run in our Sunday newspapers and I always looked forward to them.  His column on his son getting hit by a car literally brought tears to my eyes (the boy was fine - he was lucky) but so many times he has made me laugh till I cried.  Dave Barry Does Japan is fantastic as are many of his other collections.

10. Tony Horwitz - I accidentally stumbled upon Baghdad Without A Map years ago and absolutely loved it.  Since then I've read everything he's ever written.  He tackles each project objectively and with a good dash of humor.  The only one of his books that I wasn't completely sold on was Confederates in the Attic but Blue Hemisphere and A Voyage Long and Strange are not to be missed.

Those are my Top Ten All Time Favorites.  Did I get any of yours?  Any authors I simply must try?

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Residence - Blog Tour Review

The Residence

About The Residence

? Print Length: 320 pages ? Publisher: Harper (April 7, 2015)
A remarkable history with elements of both In the President?s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas. America?s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family. These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion?s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d?oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level?s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love. Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members?many speaking for the first time?with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy?s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband?s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon?s resignation and President Clinton?s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.
Add to Goodreads badge
Purchase Links

My Review:

The Residence is without a doubt one of my favorite reads of the year so far and I suspect it will be on my top ten best in December.  This reads like a can't put down, stay up too late turning pages to see what happens next work of fiction.  We start out with White House Doorman Preston Bruce hearing that John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas and his subsequent sprint to get to the White House so he could be there when Jackie arrived and the pace doesn't let up.  This reads like a mix of gossip column and history lesson and every page is brimming with fascinating tidbits about everyone from the Kennedys to the Obamas.  I have literally not shut up about this book since I started reading this with every sentence beginning "did you know..." And there is so much to know.  There are bits of good and bad about almost everyone and through it all runs a strong thread of humanity that at times brought tears to my eyes.  If it wasn't making me cry it was making me laugh or making me think.  The people who run the White House are truly an amazing an impressive group and this is definitely a book worth reading!  

About Kate Andersen BrowerKate Anderson Brower

Kate Andersen Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children. Follow Kate on Twitter, @katebrower.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Week in Reading - April 19

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:

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig - This one sounds really intriguing.  It's set in England in the 1920s and the main character's dear departed father isn't quite so departed. (NetGalley)

A Match Made on Main Street by Olivia Miles - I love a 2nd chance romance and one involving food is just too much for me to pass up! (NetGalley)

Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay - McKinlay is one of my favorite cozy authors and I have (but haven't read) the first in the series.  I love the title on this one!  (Paperbackswap)

That's Not English by Erin Moore - I won this in a giveaway hosted by the awesome Trish over at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity.  (Giveaway)


Reading:  Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer, Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (still!)

Listening:  I just finished the first Flavia de Luce on Friday and will probably re-download the David Sedaris I was listening to on Monday.  I'm on the waiting list for The Girl on the Train but it will be awhile!

Watching: I haven't actually watched it yet but I recorded A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery a few days ago and I'm really excited.  It's a Hallmark movie so I'm not expecting stunning quality but this the Aurora Teagarden series was my favorite of Charlaine Harris' books.  As well I'm watching my usual shows and I'm kind of ridiculously excited that Deadliest Catch is back on.  

Off the Blog:

Despite having the best intentions I still haven't gotten my garden in the ground.  I'm hoping to go on a bit of a plant buying spree today if the rain holds off.  I'm planning on trying lettuce this year which I'm kind of excited about.  Also, I can't wait for garden fresh tomatoes!  They're so much better than the grocery store version!

I have realized that school is going to be out in just over a month.  The older ones are pretty low maintenance but I'm trying to get some ideas for the Tornado.  He definitely needs some scheduled activities but finding that balance can be challenging.  I did find these:

which I think will be great.  They have a bunch of different ones and he's had a good time doing "excavations" before.  There's an added bonus that he's obsessed with dionosaurs.

I discovered this recipe for Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork Sliders from Your Home Based Mom buried deep on my Sandwiches, Burgers, Pizza, and Tacos Board and they are freakishly good.  I could seriously just drink the sauce.  It makes a pretty good bit but it is easily re-heatable.  I made if for dinner the other night and have been eating the leftovers for lunch since then.  So good!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: The Residence - Blog Tour Review (and one of my favorite books of the year)
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors
Wednesday: Lowcountry Boneyard - Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Linkups featuring current book
Saturday: Lighten Up Ya'll - Cookbook Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Food52 Genius Recipes - Cookbook Review

Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook by Kristin Miglore, Amanda Hesser, and Merrill Stubbs

Food52 Genius Recipes seeks to be more than just another cookbook but a book of recipes from culinary giants that will change the way we cook.  There are recipes from Nigella Lawson, Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, James Beard and a whole host of other famous names.

I have mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand I loved the format.  For each recipe there's a detailed explanation for why the recipe is deemed genius and a little information about the chef and what was going on in the culinary world when the recipe was developed.   There are a number of recipes that I'm interested in trying including - Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion, Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake, Marie-Helene's Apple Cake from Dorie Greenspan and several others .  I gave Penelope Casas' Garlic Green Bean recipe a try a few nights ago and it was kind of life changing.  Instead of the very regimented method of cooking green beans that I have used in the past this was a little more hands off with a good 10 minutes cooking covered on the stove with only the occasional stirring.  The result?  Pretty amazing.  They didn't have the almost waxy squeak that green beans can have nor were they cooked to mush.  They were soft but still had texture and the flavor was green beans and garlic but nicely mellowed to an almost caramelized flavor.  This will most definitely be my new way to cook green beans since the results are tastier and the method is easier!

 On the other hand, this doesn't feel like a cookbook I would use regularly.  While there is are 100 recipes I wouldn't deem most of them particularly family friendly or conducive to weeknight cooking. I do think this would be an invaluable book to vegetarians who like to cook and want some new recipes as the vegetarian options seemed to outweigh the other categories.

Verdict?  Interesting cookbook with some intriguing recipes but probably not a must buy for me.

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Linkups: Heroes are My Weakness

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:
Ending a book I loved is sad and beginning a new one is apprehensive for me.  What about you?

My Answer:
Yes and no.  I don't really mind ending a book I loved but I'm always a littler nervous starting a new book in a series or by an author I really love.  I'm always a bit afraid that the latest book just won't live up to my expectations.  I have found that I generally need a few days to a week before starting a new audio book after I finish the one I was listening to. I'm not quite sure why it takes so much longer to reset between audios than it does with books but it definitely seems to be the case.

This week's book is Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I've really enjoy Phillips' books though I haven't read them all.  I figured I would get to this one eventually but last week at the library I picked this up and read the blurb which happened to contain magic phrases like "He's a reclusive writer" and "the mysterious mansion that hovers above the cottage" and next thing I know the book is jumping into my library bag before I could stop it.

The Beginning:
"Annie didn't usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn't exactly herself these days."

My thoughts:
I think Annie and I are going to get along just fine.  I have a habit of talking to myself or to inanimate objects when on my own though I can't remember talking to a suitcase unless I can't find it or I manage to stub my toe on it.

The 56: 
"She had every reason to tell Jaycie she couldn't do this anymore.  Every reason except an absolute certainty that she couldn't live with herself if she let her fear of Theo Harp force her into abandoning the girl who'd once saved her life."

My thoughts: 
I'm not quite to this point here so I have no real idea why Theo is so scary though he does seem seriously strange.  I also don't know what Jaycie did to save Annie's life but I'm seriously curious.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  To books sometimes sneak into your library bag or shopping cart or what have you?  Or is that just me?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eight Cousins - Review

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Library

Description: Rose Campbell is the only girl in a family full of boys.  Recently orphaned she arrives at "Aunt Hill" to wait for her new guardian, the mysterious Uncle Alec who she has never met.  When he arrives, he turns her whole life on it's head by insisting that she run about and even play with those horrid boys.  But Rose quickly discovers boys aren't quite so bad.  Friendships develop, adventures occur and much fun is had by all.

Genre: Children's/YA

Why I Picked This Book: This one of my absolute favorite books as a child so I was curious to reread it as an adult.

My Impression: I don't remember where or when I got my copy of Eight Cousins though I remember what it looked like.  It was a regular paperback size though the paper was really thin for some reason and the binding only held up for the first 100 reads or so.  And read it I did!  While I had never really connected with Little Women (the whole Laurie/Amy/Jo thing never sat well with me but that's another review) I instantly was caught up in Rose's adventures.  I loved the idea of the old houses full of nooks and crannies and brimming with treasures brought home by generations of sea captains.  Rose with golden curls and leanings towards vanity and impatience was a girl who was easy to like and how could I not enjoy the mischief caused by the hoard of cousins.
When I was thinking of books for my Classics Club list Eight Cousins came up as one I really wanted to reread especially since I had reread and very much enjoyed The Secret Garden, another childhood favorite, a few months before.
I'm not sure Eight Cousins holds up quite as well as The Secret Garden.  As is typical for the time the story is incredibly virtuous.  In this case it's a bit on the side of tooth-achingly wholesome and the "Clan" is a little on the overly perfect side.  There's not a huge amount of character development though I did love what there was.  Seeing Rose come out of her shell and watching her friendship with Phebe was really lovely and I liked seeing her interact with the boys - especially with Mac.  The imagery of the warehouses and the trunks full of treasures is wonderful and I would dearly love to see a fireworks show like the one described early in the book.
While I didn't enjoy this as much in adulthood as I did as a child I can see what drew me to the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will.  I want to reread it's sequel Rose in Bloom as I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as a child but I think I would like it better now.  I'm also looking forward to rereading Little Women.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I'm not sure anyone who didn't already have a connection to this one would be blown away.

Challenges Met? The Reading Assignment Challenge (April), Library Challenge

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gummi Bears Should Not Be Organic - Review

Gummi Bears Should Not Be Organic: And Other Opinions I Can't Back Up With Facts by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Really the title says it all here!  This is Stefanie Wilder-Taylor's take on all the trends, studies and opinions that surround parenting today.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book: I've really enjoyed her previous books and the title made me giggle.

My Impression:  Having teenagers and a preschooler there's not many sections of parenting that I haven't been involved in.  Well except maybe dance because as a family we're not particularly graceful but I had friends in dance so I heard their stories.  We did our share plus more of sports and other organized activities and I've spent plenty of time on PTA boards, as chair of something or other for various schools and sitting in parks listening to mothers like the ones Stefanie rants about. Needless to say I could relate to a lot of these stories!  She explains the struggle to find a balance between protecting your kids and letting them make their own mistakes and learn how to do things on their own very well and with a good dash of humor.  There are also some pretty funny chapters on yoga pants, "gifted" kids, parks and other places she hates, and making friends.  While she's definitely on the snarky side I do love that it feels like she genuinely loves her kids and enjoys spending time with them.  I always get a little squeamish when humor comes across as mean - especially involving children.

There are a few flaws. At times it the writing feels a little forced and there's a feeling of repetitiveness throughout some of the chapters.  Since this is such a quick read that didn't keep me from enjoying this book especially since that's a fairly common issue I have with most humor books.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  While this wasn't my favorite book of hers I did enjoy it and I really liked her previous books so I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of hers.  Plus I already have her previous book, I'm Kind of a Big Deal, sitting on my shelf.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I'd definitely recommend this author especially to parents of younger kids though I'd probably recommend Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay or It's Not Me, It's You over this one.

Challenges Met?  Alphabet Soup (G)