Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Obsession - Review

The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Rating: Very Good
Source: Library

Description:  Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods.  In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father's crimes and made him infamous.  Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she's ever known, Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up - especially the determined Xander Keaton.  Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she's always secretly craved.  But as she's learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  It's Nora Roberts.  Her books are basically auto-buys.  Especially her romantic suspense titles.

My Impression:  Nora Roberts has this ability to just draw me into the world of her stories and make me not want to leave until the end.  It made it super disappointing when her books over the last few years just haven't done that.  I was pleased when last year's stand alone title, The Liar, had that ability but worried that that was a fluke.  If anything The Obsession was even better - like an episode of Criminal Minds but with a love story and really likable side characters.  Roberts' takes us inside the serial killer's lair and in the 2nd half of the book inside his mind.  While it isn't super gorey there are some details that the more squeamish readers might want to avoid.

Naomi is smart and talented and a little skittish with people.  She's always been on the go without dependents and is surprised when she suddenly finds herself with a house, a dog and even more surprising - friends.  I loved the uncles and appreciated the struggle Naomi's mother went through.  You can see that's she's trying but is just so lost.

There are two basic plots in this book.  One centers around Naomi and her trying to adjust to the idea that she's really making a home here in Sunrise Cove.  The second centers around a serial killer who lurks in the shadows.  Both were fascinating and kept me turning pages and they went together well.  I liked the spaces where Naomi is thinking about her house or her family or her dog.  It lightened the book up a bit from the grimmer scarier stuff that was going on in the past and present day.

I'd absolutely love to see a book with Naomi's brother Mason as the main character.  He's absolutely fascinating and I found his and Naomi different methods for dealing with their past interesting and could see both sides. Jenny and Kevin were also great side characters and I found it impossible not to like them and would really love to see some of Jenny's work!  This is definitely a town I'd like to spend time in - minus the serial killer of course.

If you're a fan of romantic suspense this is a good one that has a good mix of both elements.  If you're familiar with Roberts' books I'd say this is similar to The Witness in terms of intensity and level of bad guys.  Overall, this is everything romantic suspense should be - entertaining, page turning, with a lot of suspense but also a lot of heart.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I can't wait to pick up Bay of Sighs - the latest in her newest trilogy - and I'm really looking forward to her next romantic suspense title.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you love romantic suspense this is a must read!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lovers and Newcomers - Fiction Review

Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas (Amazon link)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Rosie Thomas, beloved by readers for her brilliantly realized characters and twisting, page-turning plots, turns her "sharp nib" (Washington Post Book World) to a group of older friends in this evocative story of camaraderie and its challenges.

Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting.

To begin with, the omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change.

But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back. When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. The past is revealed – and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I adored Thomas' Iris and Ruby earlier this year and definitely wanted to try more of her books.  I liked how different this one sounded from Iris and Ruby as well.

My Impression:  I'm pretty sure inviting 5 friends to come live with me even in separate houses may be one of the ideas that appeals to me the least in real life so I was curious to see what I thought of it in fiction form.  The answer?  So not for me but very entertaining to read about!

I did find that with this one, like many books with an ensemble cast, it took me awhile to get drawn into the novel and really get a feel for the characters.  In addition to the 5 friends Miranda invites to her home there are also several characters from the town, members of an archaeological team, and a handful of children of some of the friends.  With all the characters there is also quite a bit going on with backstories both from long ago and recently, current relationship issues, coming to terms with aging, ancient discoveries and dealing with adult children.  I didn't find it confusing but it was hard not to be a little detached at first.  However, even when I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be I was still interested.

Once I did get to know the characters and understand what was going on a bit better it swiftly became a book I didn't want to put down.  Something about how the relationships between the characters reminded me of Rosamunde Pilcher - especially Shell Seekers and September.  I did feel like it was a bit darker but there was the same matter of fact dysfunction that Pilcher excels at portraying.

If you enjoy fiction packed with characters that have interesting backstories than I think you'd enjoy Lovers and Newcomers.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  While I didn't enjoy this book as much as Iris and Ruby I'm looking forward to seeing where else Thomas takes me!

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would definitively recommend this author and I would recommend this book but be prepared for a slower start.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Halloween Reads

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a Halloween Freebie.  I thought I'd talk about some of my favorite Halloween reads.  While I don't tend to read a lot of horror there are a few book of varying degrees of scariness that I feel the urge to read when the weather starts getting cooler and pumpkins start appearing.

1.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - I see this book on horror lists occasionally and I really wish it wasn't because I don't think it's really a horror book.  If you go in expecting that I think you're going to be disappointed.  However, it is incredibly creepy and all kinds of eerie and fantastic for this time of year!

2.  The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde - There is nothing scary about this book featuring a traditional English ghost in a traditional manor house who is not at all happy when an American family moves in and is decidedly un-scared by his ghostly behavior.  While the ending is a little odd I love the rest of this short little incredibly entertaining book!

3.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I just read this one for the first time and really enjoyed it.  I'm not sure if I'll be rereading this every year but I can definitely see trying to get it in audio next Halloween!

4.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe - I don't think I'd heard of this little book about a vampire bunny until Stormi mentioned it as her favorite Halloween book a year or two ago and then I was lucky enough to win it in a giveaway.  It's been the bedtime book for the Tornado this past week and he's loving it.  I was worried it'd be too scary but it really isn't and it's just wildly entertaining.  I see there are more books in the series and I'm looking forward to getting them next year.

5.  The House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels - I love Michaels' spooky gothic-y stories and this one about a spooky house with a long history is one of my favorites.  Plus, I have a little house envy as none of my family members has yet to leave me a big house crammed to the gills with boxes of who knows what!

6.  The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud - I really enjoyed this first one in the series about a group of adolescent ghost hunters.  The main characters are smart and entertaining and the ghosts are definitely menacing.  This is a series I'm really looking forward to continuing.

7.  Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side by L.M. Montgomery - When you think of Montgomery books what tends to come to mind are stories of optimistic hard working people who always look on the bright side of things.  In this short story collection things take a bit of a different turn with unsettling events, miserable characters and more than a couple of ghosts.  While most do have a happy or at least positive ending they're much darker than I would normally expect from the creator of Anne, Emily, Jane, and Marigold.

8.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle - I read this years and years ago but as I've been getting reacquainted with Holmes through reboots like Sherlock and Elementary I'm anxious to reread this one!

9.  The Moonstone Castle by Carolyn Keene - I have this one on my nightstand ready for a reread before Halloween happens.  While I devoured all of the Nancy Drew books as quick as I could as a child this one really sticks out in my head as one that gave me a serious case of the creeps. I'm looking forward to seeing just what it was that I found so creepy!

10.  Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey - After Liberty Hardy describe this book on the Book Riot All the Books Podcast I knew there was no way I could pass it up!  She compares Colin Dickey to a somewhat more morbid Mary Roach and it's all about ghosts!  I just started this one and I'm so excited about it!

What reads do you want to pick up at Halloween time?

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Graveyard Book - Review

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Amazon link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Purchased

Description:  After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

Genre: Children/YA

Why I Picked This Book: I've been wanting to try Neil Gaiman's books for years and this one intrigued me.

My Impression: My only real exposure to Gaiman is through the episodes of Doctor Who that he's written and to be honest they weren't my favorite.  They're on the weird side - even for that show and I just never really clicked with them.  When I saw a review awhile ago for The Graveyard Book I knew that was one I wanted to start with.  For one thing I love graveyards and love wandering through and looking at the names and inscriptions so I figured a book set in one couldn't go wrong.  But I did wonder how on earth this could be a children's book?  I mean there's a grisly murder in the first paragraph of the blurb!
But somehow Gaiman really does make this a children's book - a weird one yes but one I think a child in late elementary school would love.  It's also one that I think captures the imagination of adults as well as it definitely captured mine!  The story is told in a series of stories as Bod grows from a toddler into a young man.  Each story gave me a better picture of the graveyard world he lives in and I felt like I got to know Bod himself better.
The book itself has an almost magical hazy quality that sharpens into focus with the telling of each individual story.  The writing felt almost stark but also managed to bring the inhabitants of the graveyard to life.  There is poignancy, sweetness, and humor running throughout the book with a constant undertone of dread.  While it wasn't a book that I read in one sitting it was one that I was immediately pulled into anytime I put it up and one that stayed with me even when I wasn't reading.  There is a bizarreness that wouldn't work for everyone but I think this would appeal to many readers. I've heard raves about the audio version and after reading this I can see how it would be amazing.  I'd definitely "reread" this through audio.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  While I'm not sure I'm ready for his full on adult stories I'm looking forward to reading Coraline and Neverwhere soon.

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would but with some reservations.  This is definitely a captivating story but you have to be in the right mood for it and be okay with a heaping spoonful of magical.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

This Week in Reading - October 23

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:

Dead and Breakfast by Kate Kingsbury - This is the first in a new series featuring a Bed and Breakfast.  If that wasn't enough there are rumors that the place is haunted and an actual skeleton in the closet!  I can't wait!  (NetGalley)

And that's it!  I have a few requests pending but they're all for 2017 books and therefore don't count.


Reading:  Ghostland by Colin Dickey and Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas

Listening:  Everything Everything by Nicole Yoon

Watching:  We finished season 3 of The Blacklist with mixed feelings.  I think we're going to go on and watch season 4 but we need improvement quick!  I've also been streaming a show called Heir Hunters that's on Netflix.  Basically it follows researchers looking for heirs for unclaimed estates in England and I'm soo in love with it at the moment.  It's my new dream career!

Off the Blog:

This week was pretty busy on the school volunteer front.  Wednesday I chaperoned the Tornado's field trip to a local pumpkin patch/farm.  Because nothing says fall like standing in a field in 90 degree heat.  Than on Friday the school did a celebration for all the A and A/B students and I helped with that.  It was really fun to see the kids so excited.  Monday I get to help pass out cookie dough from the fundraiser and the week after is the book fair.  We also tackled the Halloween costume issue this past weekend and settled on a Ninja costume.  This is the first year he hasn't been a Star Wars character so it's taking some getting used too!

Tonight (Sunday) I'm going to go see Sarah Vowell speak and I'm looking forward to it.  I've only read her book Assassination Vacation but I really enjoyed it so I'm curious how she is in person.  The interviews I've seen of her seems like a little could go a long way so it should be interesting.    I've been exhausted lately.  I've really tried to go to bed early all week but all that's happened is I'm just as tired but without as much free time.  I think I may just up my coffee intake and hope it evens out!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: The Graveyard Book - Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Halloween Freebie
Wednesday - Newcomers and Lovers - Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: 52 Pins in 52 Weeks - October Edition

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cuba - Cookbook Review + Recipe

I think the first time I had Cuban food was in this little restaurant when we were in Tampa, FL one summer.  The restaurant was kind of a hole in the wall so my hopes weren't high but the food was amazing and I've been in love with Cuban food ever since.

So when I saw Cuba: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Golberg, Andrea Kuhn, and Jody Eddy on Blogging for Books I couldn't resist.  And this cookbook is gorgeous. The photographs are vivid and stunning showing everything from scenery to mouthwatering food to the people of Cuba.  This cookbook could double as a coffee table book since in addition to all the eye catching photos there are small stories that accompany each chapter and each recipe.

The chapters are divided a little unusually.  There is one on basics - stocks, rice, and plantains.   Then there are recipes on snacks, sandwiches and salads, main courses, small plates, and desserts and ending up with a number of cocktail recipes.

Unfortunately for me the cookbook involves a lot of seafood.  This isn't a shock given Cuba's location but I had hoped for more meat or vegetarian dishes.  A few things like Savory Goat Stew, Fried Whole Snapper with Salsa Verde, and Grilled Octopus with Jicama Slaw and Yuca Fries probably won't be made here anytime soon though they do sound delicious.  There are a number of recipes that have my mouth watering and I'm really looking forward to trying Fried Plantain Chips with Mojo, Roasted Pork Chop, Pork Chops with Warm Grapefruit Vinaigrette, Pureed Plantain Soup with Crispy Shallots, Chicken Stew with Corn, and a Cubano.  For dessert I might just have to have a big slice of Mojito Cake with Rum-Infused Whipped Cream and Lime Zest and maybe a Cafe Cubano Batido to go with it!

For now since the temperature has finally decided to drop below 90 here I thought I'd share the recipe for the

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

2 pound dried black beans
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, halved, and seeded
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup Lime Crema (recipe below)

Put the beans, the halved onion, the halved pepper, and the bay leaves in a large pot and cover with water by at least 3 inches.  Place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

Pour the beans and their soaking liquid into a large pot.  Make sure the water covers the beans by 1 inch, adding or removing water if necessary.  Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the beans are tender, 45 to 55 minutes.  Stir in the salt.

Let the beans continue to simmer while you make the sofrito.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.  Stir the sofrito into the beans.

Remove the now mush halved onion and pepper and the bay leaves from the bean pot and discard the bay leaves.  Place the vegetables in a blender and ladle in about 2 cups of the beans.  Puree the beans and vegetables.  Stir this puree back into the beans in the pot.  Add the chicken stock.  Bring the soup to a simmer and add the oregano, cumin, sugar, and vinegar.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot with dollop of Lime Crema.

Lime Crema
1 cup Mexican crema
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest

Whisk together all ingredients except the salt.  Season to taste with salt.  Refrigerate the crema until ready to serve.

While this cookbook isn't one I'm planning on using all the time it is one I'll reference for special occasions or when I'm the mood for something a little different.  It's definitely one I recommend browsing through.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Linkups: The Woman in White

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:
Instead of giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, you're going to give out homemade bookmarks.  What would the bookmarks look like?

My Answer:
I think I'd use a picture of Nancy Drew with her magnifying glass.  I love the look of the Nancy Drew illustrations and it's kind of Hallween-y.

This week's book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  This is one of those books that I really have no idea why I haven't read it yet or why it took so long to get on my radar.  Going in I knew nothing about it other which added an extra bit of fun!

The Beginning: 
This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.

My Thoughts:
Hmmm.... Not sure what I was expecting but this wasn't it.  It seems a little more "classic" than I expected.  Also, I wonder what the woman here is enduring.  It doesn't sound like anything good!

The 56:
Our morning meal - once so full of pleasant good-humoured discussion of the plans for the day - was short and silent.

My Thoughts:
Things definitely don't sound like they are going well - maybe it's all the enduring that the Woman at the beginning was doing?

So what do you think?  Keep reading?