Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Linkups - Key of Light














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:
How do you feel about books with multiple narrators?

My Answer:
It depends on how it's done.  Some of my favorite books have involved multiple narrators but if the different voices aren't clear and easy to keep track of I'll most likely DNF it.

This week's book is a spur of the moment library pickup as I'm trying to keep myself from sliding into a reading slump.  I've been reading a lot of cozy mysteries lately and while they've all been good books there's a certain repetitiveness that happens when I read too many of one genre.  I thought I'd mix it up a little and grab an old favorite from a trilogy I've been thinking about rereading - Key of Light by Nora Roberts.

The Beginning:
The storm ripped over the mountains, gushing torrents of rain that struck the ground with the sharp ring of metal on stone.  Lightning strikes spat down, angry artillery fire that slammed against the cannon roar of thunder.

My Thoughts:
I love a good thunderstorm as long as I don't have to be out in it but this one sounds a little to strong even for me!

The 56:
Moe immediately dropped his heavy head on her knee.  "Could you call off your dog?"
       "Not as long as you've got cookies."

My Thoughts:
I had forgotten about Moe and I just about squealed with delight when he showed up on the page.  He's such a great dog who regularly forgets how big he is.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What books do you reach for when you feel yourself sliding into a slump?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Facials Can Be Fatal - Cozy Mystery Review

Facials Can Be Fatal (A Bad Hair Day Mystery) by Nancy J. Cohen

Rating: Good
Source: Author

Description: During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: I really enjoyed the previous book in the series and really wanted to see Marla on her home turf.

My Impression:  I read Cohen's previous book in this series (Peril by Ponytail) around hair stylist and salon owner, Marla Vail, last year and while I really enjoyed reading about Marla and her new husband having adventures on their honeymoon I was really looking forward to getting a peek into their daily lives.  I loved seeing Marla at her salon dealing with clients, her stylists and the regular daily emergencies.  As well, I really enjoyed seeing Marla and Dalton settle in together and their interactions with and about Dalton's daughter Brianna were lots of fun.  I thought it was funny how resistant Dalton was to letting her drive with her newly acquired learner's permit.

We don't have to wait long for the first body to fall and the story really got rolling then.  Just who would have disliked Val enough to kill her and was it really murder in the first place?  When a question was answered it seemed to bring up more questions and it was lots of fun navigating the clues and the giant pool of suspects.  I also really enjoyed the look into the political and not always nice world of historical preservation.  This one kept me guessing and my inner history nerd was made even happier with the talks of diaries, shipwrecks and preserving old architecture.  The setting for the final showdown alone is worth giving this book a read!

If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a fun, light series, with a likable main characters and enjoyable side characters.  This is my 2nd book though is I think #13 in the series and while previous mysteries are mentioned not having read them didn't impact my enjoyment or comprehension of the book.
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Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'm really looking forward to going back and reading earlier books in the series!

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a great pick!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Cast of Vultures - Cozy Mystery Review

A Cast of Vultures (Sam Clair #3) by Judith Flanders
Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Usually sharp-witted editor Sam Clair stumbles through her post-launch-party morning with the hangover to end all hangovers. Before the Nurofen has even kicked in, she finds herself entangled in an elaborate saga of missing neighbours, suspected arson and the odd unidentified body. When the grisly news breaks that the fire has claimed a victim, Sam is already in pursuit. Never has comedy been so deadly as Sam faces down a pair from Thugs ‘R’ Us, aided by nothing more than a CID boyfriend, a stalwart Goth assistant and a seemingly endless supply of purple-sprouting broccoli.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  This was described as Bridget Jones meets Agatha Christie.  How could I pass it up?

My Impression:  While I couldn't resist an Agatha Christie/Bridget Jones mashup going in I was a little hesitant.  I mean how would this actually work?  Agatha Christie is known for her clearly plotted precisely done mysteries and Bridget Jones is known for kind of being a mess.  How it worked was delightfully!  Sam's voice is breezy, chatty, and occasionally snarky and lots of fun.  It felt like listening to a conversation with a best friend telling me all about the crazy stuff that had happened to her.  In the middle of it all is a tightly wound complex little mystery with arson and a missing persons case thrown in.

I wasn't surprised to see that the author had spent a number of years working as an editor at publishing houses just like the Sam, the main character in this series.  The scenes at Sam's work just felt so authentic that I could just feel it came from experience.  As a reader I really enjoyed the look into the not so glamorous world of publishing!  Along with the publishing house, there are a number of characters sprinkled through Sam's world from the residents of "the empty house", to her boyfried who just happens to work for CID, to her gardening neighbor who never leaves his apartment, over to Viv another gardening neighbor who plays an important role in getting her mixed up with the mystery.

If you're going for just a straight mystery this may not be the read for as there is quite a lot going on and at times the mystery is in the background.  It never felt forgotten, there were just times it was't the focus.  If you're looking for a book with a fun, intelligent if sometimes frazzled main character, love a bit of publishing house gossip, and don't mind a dead body and an additional felony or two then you can't miss with this one!  I did note that this is actually the 3rd Sam Clair book but I was actually unaware of that until I finished this book.  I don't think you'll have any problem diving right in with this one!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Definitely!  I actually already own several of Flanders' nonfiction books that I'm looking forward to reading and I'd like to go back and start from the beginning with the Sam Clair mysteries.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!  Just be prepared that it isn't a straight up mystery.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would.  It's always such an amazing feeling to go into a book expecting to like it okay and end up being blown away and on the opposite end it is such a disappointment to expect to love a book and end up feeling meh at best about it.  Here are five books that blew me away and 5 that were pretty epic disappointments.

More

1.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer - Everyone I knew had raved about this book - even people who typically didn't read YA or sci-fi type reads.  I absolutely loved the cover so I decided to give it a try and I absolutely loved it!  I read Scarlet right after and then took a break but I'm dying to pick up Cinder.

2.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I'm a big Doctor Who fan but I'd been hesitant to read any of Gaiman's books because his episodes of Doctor Who were frequently my least favorite.  I found a gorgeous copy of this at a bookstore and couldn't pass it up and I'm so glad I didn't!  It was so weirdly wonderful!

3. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - I really had no plans to read this book.  I don't like disaster books, I don't like books where children are in peril, and I don't enjoy books about media frenzy.  BUT when I was offered a copy by someone who had read and really enjoyed it I just couldn't turn it down and I ended up really enjoying it.  It was so cleverly done that I was mad with curiosity to see how everything played out.

4. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - I expected to like this book - it has the world bookstore in the title so how could I not.  But instead of the book about books that I expected this ended up being a fast paced treasure hunt that was just so fun to read!  The audio is awesome!

5.  The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown - I almost passed on this book when I was offered it for a blog tour.  It seemed high on the angst-y scale but I decided to give it a chance since one of the story lines takes place in 1920s Paris.  I'm so glad I took the risk because I loved this book.  I loved the characters, I loved both story lines, and I just didn't want to put it down.  One of my favorite reads of 2016.

Less

1. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll - I wanted to love this one!  I love middle grade fiction and I really like the Disney movie.  I was prepared for there to be lots of nonsense but it kind of felt like it was ALL nonsense - especially Through the Looking Glass.

2.  Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey - You know when a book sounds so you that you absolutely must have it right that minute?  This was one of those.  Ghosts?  History?  Traveling around and full of random trivia?  Sold, sold and more sold.  I was so sold I bought this new in hardback and bumped it to the top of my TBR.  I just knew I would love it.  Except I didn't.  I really really didn't.  I made it about 100 pages before I DNF'd it.

3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon - This was a really good story with interesting characters and it was totally not for me.  I could see the value in the book itself I'm just not a fan of YA romance.

4.  Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris - I've always been hit and miss with David Sedaris but I had listened to When You Are Engulfed in Flames and laughed until I cried so I figured I couldn't lose with another audio book from him.  The best I can say about this one is that some of it was kind of funny.

5.  Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer - I wanted to like this.  I've read several books about the death industry so I was intrigued by this one that focused on a funeral home in New York.  I ended up being mostly irritated.  The author comes from an extremely wealthy family and she never let the reader forget how privileged she was.  She was getting up to go to work at *gasp* 8AM when her friends were just getting home from a night out.  The horror!  The sacrifice!  Who goes to work at 8AM on a Tuesday?  Oh wait - pretty much everyone.  As well she spent a lot of time complaining that people thought about money when planning a funeral.  She was appalled by how cheap they were.  Now I don't know about you but I have participated in planning a couple of funerals and while no one wants to think about money the reality is most of us do not have an unlimited budget.  I read this at least 2 years ago and I'm still getting mad about it!

So what books have you loved more or less than you thought you would?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks - They'll all get read right?


My To-Read list on Goodreads is 1,923 books.  My Wish list on my library's digital site (for ebooks and audio books) is 1,396 books.  My To-Be-Checked-Out list on my library's website is 251 books.  My Wish List on paperbackswap.com is 345 books.  I don't even know how many books I actually own but it's a lot.  There's some overlap on these lists but not as much as their should be and there are some books that aren't on it at all either because I bought it before it made it on a list or it's an author whose back list I want to read and just haven't added all the books. For measurement;s sake I'm going with just these actual numbers and assuming the overlap balances out the ones that are left out all together.

All together there are 3,915 books that I really want to read at this specific moment in time.  Now on average I read about 130 books a year.  So if I keep my reading speed constant and don't add any books to my TBR and don't do any rereads then it will take me just over 30 years to read them all.

That's totally doable right?  I mean in 30 years I'll only be in my mid-60s and my reading time will probably increase as my dealings with small children decrease.  In fact I have decades worth of wiggle room to add books!

Every once in awhile I'll hear someone say casually that they "know they'll never get all the books to want to read read" and it's just shocking to me.  I mean how can you think that? I can feel my pulse increase when I even think about not getting to all those books I want to read.

Though if I'm being completely honest - I probably won't.

How many books are on your various TBR lists?  Do you expect to read them all?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Week in Reading - February 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:

Occult and Battery by Lena Gregory - How can I resist murder at a haunted mansion?  Plus I just love that the main character is a former psychiatrist pretending to be a psychic.  (Blog Tour)

Lost in You by Jules Bennett - Bennett is a new to me author but the story involves a hero who gives the heroine cooking lessons AND a resort.  I'm a sucker for hotel type settings.  (NetGalley)

Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon - A murder, a missing person all at a place called Shamrock Manor.  There's food and lots of talk about the luck of the Irish so I'm pretty excited about this one.  (Publisher)

Tightening the Threads by Lea Waite - This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and this particular story line dives into the backstory of antique dealer Sarah Byrne who I've been dying to find out more about since the first book! (NetGalley)

Currently:

Reading:  Facials Can Be Fatal by Nancy J. Cohen and Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Listening:  I'm almost finished with The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  I've really enjoyed it but it'll be almost a relief when I'm finished with it because I keep catching myself holding my breath while listening!

Watching: We've been watching movies lately.  We went and saw The Lego Batman Movie which we enjoyed though we all probably liked The Lego Movie more.  Later we watched Man of Steel and then Black Mass with Johnny Depp as Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger.  It was good and Depp always amazes me with how he completely changes from role to role.

Off the Blog:

We have survived the Tornado's birthday party!  His birthday is actually at the end of December but with Christmas and school break and all the madness around that there's no way a party is happening.  We didn't have as many guests as I would have liked but all the kids who came were kids he really liked and they had a really good time.  I was pleased with the venue we had picked - one of those places with inflatables.  Basically all we had to do was get a cake, invite kids, and show up at the appointed time.  They did the rest and then when it's over you just leave and they take care of clean up and all that.  If we ever do another birthday party (doubtful) I'd definitely use them again.

The Tornado is going to Space Camp Monday!  It's a trial program for day camps but he's really excited and I'm really excited to hear about it when he gets home!  Living in a town that revolves around the space industry and having a father who is an aerospace engineer he's pretty used to space related things but this is something of his own.

Eleanor and her boyfriend adopted a Husky puppy a few weeks ago and it is the absolute cutest thing.  Right now she's only about 12 weeks old but she's just a giant ball of good natured fluff.  It almost makes me want a puppy - but only almost.  Luckily they don't live too far away so I can just get my puppy fix by visiting them.

I've been on a really great reading streak lately but it seems to be slowing down.  It's not that I'm reading bad books it's just that they're all only good.  All good books isn't much to complain about but there's something repetitive about reading the same quality of book.  I need to have to mix it up a little bit or switch genres because I can feel myself heading towards a slump.

Next Saturday is my 2nd 52 Pins in 52 Weeks linkup.  If you have any posts about Pinterest pins you've tried - wins or fails - I'd love for you to stop by and link up!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from Stacks - They'll All Get Read Right?
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would
Wednesday:  A Cast of Vultures - Cozy Mystery Review
Thursday:  Facials Can Be Fatal - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with current book
Saturday:  52 Pins in 52 Weeks - February Edition and Linkup

Have a great week and happy reading!

Cooking with Mary Berry - Review and a Recipe

From the very first time I watched The Great British Bake Off (or The Great British Baking Show as American PBS seems to call it) I adored Mary Berry.   She seems so nice and she says things like "scrummy" and always seems to be delighted when people do well and so sad and sympathetic when they do poorly.  Her creations always look delicious and gorgeous and I'd been dying to try one of her recipes but hadn't had much luck finding any of her cookbooks over here in the US.  That is until Cooking with Mary Berry popped up on my Amazon feed and I knew I just had to own it.

Published in 2016 for an American audience this cookbook is crammed full of delicious looking recipes ranging from Breakfast to Main Dishes to Sides to Breads to Desserts.  Almost every recipe has a gorgeous photo as well as a calorie count per serving and occasional tips for how to prepare specific ingredients.  Since I only know Mary Berry for baking I was curious to see what a standard cookbook from her would contain and I was pleasantly surprised by the enormous variety.  There are a number of dessert and baked good recipes but there are just as many main dish and savory recipes like French Onion Soup, Coq au Vin, Turkey and Lemon Stir-Fry, Teriyaki Beef, Pork Chops with Mixed Peppercorns, Penne with Spinach and Stilton, and Calzones.  The recipes are clear and easy to follow and the ingredient list contain ingredients that you could find at just about any good grocery store. My primary problem is that why she includes oven temperatures she doesn't list stove top temperatures.  I'm a reasonably experienced cook so I know what heat level to brown beef at but if you don't I imagine it would be frustrating. Since Mary Berry is a well known British cook I figured the obvious choice for a recipe test would be her classic lasagna.  Actually what happened is I hadn't made lasagna in awhile and the picture accompanying this recipe was cheesy and gooey and looked absolutely amazing and I just couldn't resist!

Classic Lasagna

Meat Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
2lb ground beef
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
6 celery stalks, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper

For the white sauce
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the lasagna
4oz Cheddar cheese, grated
10 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
6 oz no boil lasagna noodles
chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375.  Make the meat sauce: heat the oil in a saucepan, add the beef, and cook, stirring until browned.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute, then add the stock, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic tomato paste, and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper adn bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  (I only used 1lb good quality ground chuck and it was really good.  I also left out the celery)

Meanwhile, make the white sauce; melt the butter in a saucepan, sprinkle in the flour, and cook stirring for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and gradually blend in the milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the mixture thicnes.  Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in in the mustard and nutmeg, and season with salt pepper.

Spoon one third of the meat sauce into a large shallow ovenproof dish (I used a basic 9x13 dish) and cover with one third of the white sauce and one third of the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses (I used Mozzarella instead of cheddar because my family is picky but I expect cheddar would be tasty too).  Arange half of the lasagna in a single layer.  Repeat the layers, finishing with the Cheddar and Parmesan (I added some extra mozzarella on top).

Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes until the pasta is tender and the topping is a golden brown color.  Serve at once, sprinkled with parsley.

My Results:  Despite the title this wasn't exactly what I would consider classic lasagna.  Most lasagnas I've made have a heavier ricotta/egg layer and a much saucier meat sauce.  However, I found this absolutely delicious.  The white sauce gave it almost a creamy element and it was hearty and cheesy as well.  I liked that it was super tomato-y but my husband did request more of a tomato flavor next time and I think I will replace the tomato paste with double the amount of tomato sauce.  While it isn't the simplest meal to prepare I found it very logical.  I could make the the meat sauce and while it was simmering make the white sauce and then assemble the whole thing.  While this isn't what I would consider classic I think it will be come a new classic for us!

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