Saturday, November 29, 2014

This Week in Reading - November 30

It's Sunday Post time hosted by the awesome Kimba over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  It's time to look back on our week and talk about what we got, what we did and what's coming up.

What I Got:

I'm not sure I want to admit to what all I ended up with.   I got a few at the beginning of the week and than NetGalley decided to give me a Thanksgiving present and approve all my pending requests.  It got a bit out of control but Thanksgiving isn't exactly a day for moderation so I guess that extended to books as well.  Unless otherwise noted the books are from NetGalley.

A Taste of Merlot by Heather Heyford - it's an heiress whose trying to get out from under her family's shadow and become a jewelry designer and the son of a jewelry store chain owner.  It looks really cute.  I'm assuming with the title that there's wine involved.

Finding Hope by Stacy Finz - I really enjoyed the first one in this series and spent the whole book hoping that the second book would be Clay's story.  I was thrilled when I got to the end and the preview said it was for Clay's story!  

Stella Mia by Rosanna Chiafalo - There's mothers and daughters and generations and a family mystery.  Also, it looks like some of this takes place on an exotic Mediterranean Island.  Oh and there's an old diary.  I love old diaries!

Twisted Threads by Lea Wait - This is a cozy with a family mystery.  It's the first in a needlepoint series.  This is for a blog tour in January.

Broken Bonds by Karen Harper - I read the first one of this and didn't love it but I think it had more to do with my mood than the actual book.  I'm hoping to give Harper another (and fair) chance.

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries - I love Sabrina Jeffries and I've really enjoyed this series.  Plus this is a character whose story I've really been wanting to learn so I'm really excited about this one!

Full Tilt by Rick Mofina - This thriller involves another family mystery but this time it's much darker.  There's also a serial killer.  It kind of sounds like a book version of Criminal Minds which I'm all about right now.

Echo Lake by Carla Neggers - I've really enjoyed this series and am looking forward to a revisit.  This is a nice small town series that it's too fluffy or weirdly dark.  I recommend starting at the beginning partly oo you can get to know the characters and partly because the second book is really fun.

Dogwood Hill by Sherryl Woods - another small town and another author I really enjoy.  

Bonfire Night by Deanna Raybourn - a novella featuring Lady Julia Grey and her husband Nicholas Brisbane.  I read a novella from this series this summer and really loved it.  

Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper - It's like that movie with Kate Winslet and Jude Law called The Holiday except the sisters are switching Christmases.  One stays home and does the regular stuff while the other jets off to some warm and inviting island.  I'm assuming hijinks and craziness occur.

Christmas at Carriage Hill by Carla Neggers - this is a sweet novella and I've already read it so it doesn't count right?

How We Fall by Kate Brauning - I won this in a giveaway hosted by Alison over at Hardcovers and Heroines.  There's not much better than checking your email in the morning to discover a giveaway win!  This completely made my week!

So that's what happened this week.  I will be taking a break from book acquiring for awhile!  


Reading:  Still reading The Big Four by Agatha Christie.  I haven't made much progress on it lately.  The same goes with Yes Please by Amy Poehler which is fantastic but with all the holiday stuff I've been distracted.  Also,We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn for a blog tour this week.

Listening:  Still listening to Secrets of the Grave by Tami Hoag.  I like it though I think it might be a better read than listen.

Watching:  I'm so excited about The Taste which starts on Thursday!  I'm glad they're keeping Marcus Sameulsson because I love him and Nigella.  They kind of tone Bordain down a bit!  I enjoyed Major Crimes last week and I'm loving the direction Stalker is heading in!  So glad they seem to have dealt with Jack's personal issues.  I've been watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and that's almost done which is probably best because I'm getting a bit paranoid.  What should my next Netflix show be?  Anything I must watch?

Off the Blog:

Whew!  I'm about done for! We always do 2 days of Thanksgiving which always seems like a good idea until the day after.  We spend Thanksgiving day with my family, Friday with J's family and that way we get to see everyone and not have to shove down 2 meals in one day.   We had a really good time Friday, had a big lunch because Eleanor had to get back to the town her school is in for work and then later on J, me, J's brother and his wife went shopping and then met up with Paul and his girlfriend and ate at the restaurant where Emma works.  It worked out even better because she finished her shift while we were there and was able to join us.  Of course, today I'm worn out, overfull and feeling not so great. I really just want to go to bed.  Thankfully the Tornado has been outside "helping" J in the yard most of the day so I've gotten some rest.  Emma worked her first Black Friday shift - going in Thursday night at 10PM and got off work at 4AM.  Yet still when she got off work last night she ended up going right back out with friends.  The energy teenagers have is pretty amazing.

I'm working on Christmas lists and getting organized for Christmas but I'm not ready!  I'm hoping to get Christmas decorations up by the end of the week.  Speaking of getting organized I'm planning on getting some blogwork done.  I want to figure out what challenges I want to participate in next year and try to be a bit more organized about them.  There's so many great ones it's hard to just pick a few when I want to do them all!

On the Blog:

What Happened Last Week:

Thursday: The House on Blackberry Hill - review (where I suffer from some serious house envy)

Coming Up:

Monday: Christmas at Carriage Hill - Review
Tuesday: The Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015
Wednesday: We'll Always Have Paris - Review/Blog Tour
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Linkups with whatever book I'm reading
Saturday: Cookbook Challenge Linkup with The Magnolia Street Bakery Book

Happy Reading!

My Perfect Pantry - Review

For this review I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth over at Beth Fish Reads.

I adore Geoffrey Zakarian.  He's the only Iron Chef that consistently makes my mouth water at the dishes he prepares from some crazy ingredient in 60 minutes.  Don't get me wrong - I would put down some serious money to eat in Michael Symon's or Bobby Flay's restaurants but given a choice I'd go to Zakarian's.

So when I saw My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients over at Blogging for Books I couldn't hit request fast enough even though I did think that my definition of pantry staple and Zakarian's definition might not be the same!  And in some ways they're not.  Anchovies and Tuna aren't exactly foods I think about reaching for very often. I think my family would revolt if I tried to feed them a main dish with coconut milk (because they're weird when it comes to food).  But, most of these are pretty standard.  Things like ketchup, peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, oats, vinegar, pasta, rice, chicken stock and soy sauce are all things I think most of us have in pretty good supply.  Not to mention the fact they're all inexpensive and shelf stable.  There's also a pretty broad range of recipes - from garlic croutons to Huevos Rancheroes and Grilled Maple-Mustard Chicken Skewers to Maple Brown Sugar Rice Pudding and Chocolate Muffins.  There's a little something for everyone.  

I was thrilled when I got this book before Thanksgiving and after flipping through it I knew I had to add Brown Sugar Pie to my Thanksgiving Dessert Table.  The recipe is pretty simple:

2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
1/3 cup half-and-half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 8 to 9 inch pie shell (I use an all butter pie crust recipe from Four and Twenty Blackbirds)
Creme Fraiche, for serving (I went with very lightly sweetened whipped cream instead)

Preheat the oven to 350.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the ggs, sugar and half and half.  Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute (or just use a hand mixer if you're like me and don't own a stand mixer).  Add the melted butter and vanilla and mix to combine.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and mix just until smooth and no lumps remain.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake in the middle of the oven until pie is just set and no longer wobbly in the center, about 40 minutes. (If the crust is getting too brown and the pie is still not set, cover the edges of the crust with foil)  Let cool on a wire rack.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.  When plating top each slice with a dollop of creme fraiche.

So what does it taste like?  It's sweet but not so unbelievably sweet and it's rich and buttery and oh so amazing with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  The texture is similar to chess pie and the flavor is in the same genre but deeper.  It's unusual enough to be different but not so much as to cross into weird for the picky eaters.  Plus it's super easy to throw together even when you're in the midst of frazzled Thanksgiving cooking.  I would imagine it would travel beautifully as well.  And when you're eating that last piece of pie late at night when you really don't need anything else but can't resist all it needs is about 15 seconds in the microwave and you're golden!

I look forward to trying out Zakarian's other recipes but I can definitely see this pie being on my go-to dessert list.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Linkups: The Big Four

It's Friday and I love linking up with Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This Week's Question:
Do you visit the same blogs each week or do you branch out and try to find new blogs?

My Answer:
A little of both.  I have a pretty hefty list of blogs I follow on Bloglovin' and I try to keep up with those at least weekly though preferably daily.  I do try to visit every blog that linkups with memes that I participate with.  I also notice regular commenters on some of my favorite blogs and will sometimes go check out their blogs if their comment grabs my interest.

This week's book is The Big Four by Agatha Christie.  This is one of her international intrigue mysteries and one of the better ones.  To be honest, I prefer the straight up murder mysteries which is probably why I prefer Marple as a detective.  She doesn't do too much intrigue.

The Beginning:
"I have met people who enjoy a channel crossing; men who can sit calmly in their deck-chairs and, on arrival, wait until the boat is moored, then gather their belongings together without fuss and disembark.  Personally, I can never manage this."

The 56 (from my paperback):
"It is more serious than that, madame" said Poirot watching her.  "I propose to enter the villa next door, and release M. Halliday, if he is still alive.  I know everything you see."

I saw her sudden pallor. She bit her lip.  Then she spoke with her usual decision.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The House on Blackberry Hill - Review

The House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward

Rating: 4 Star
Source: Paperbackswap

Description:  When Abby Foster inherited a crumbling estate in a little town in Maine her idea is to sell it and get back to her life in Nova Scotia as quickly as possible.  Except that the crumbling estate starts revealing the secrets of the family she didn't know she had.  And the people of Jewell Cove welcome her and make her feel at home faster than she thought possible.  There's also the pesky little issue of handsome contractor Tom Arsenault.

Genre: Romance/Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: They're fixing up a house and it's got a ghost!  I can't resist that plot!  Especially when there's a dash of family secrets.

My Impression:
Pros:  Oh that house!  I feel like my family let me down by not having a mysterious aunt who I never meet who leaves me a sizable bank account and a huge mostly furnished house.  There's even a furnished library!  With books!  If you can't tell my favorite parts involved fixing up the house and watching Abby slowly unearth information about her family as she tries to figure out what caused a split that happened between her great-aunt and her grandmother.  The pacing on this part was very good and Alward did a fantastic job of giving us the story piece by piece.  I liked Abby and it made sense that she was hesitant to feel attached or start to think of Jewell Cove as home.  I also liked that when she told Tom about the things she was seeing in the house he took her seriously.  He admits that it sounds hard to believe but he doesn't dismiss her as seeing things or dreaming. I do like that we got to meet a number of characters in Jewell Cove without it feeling like character overload.  I met enough to really get the feel of a community and big family without it feeling like I needed to know the back story of everyone in the entire town.

Cons:  I wish the timeline had been clearer on Tom's past relationship.  It was made to sound like the relationship had been when he was much much younger but than something was said that made it seem like it was much more recent.  Things did get a bit clearer towards the end but it just felt a little unclear for much of the book.  Also, while I did find the ending satisfying the setup to the ending was kind of odd.  Abby was expecting something from Tom but it felt like she was maybe testing him an unrealistic amount.

Overall:  While the romance is nice this isn't a book I would read just for the romance.  What made this book a fun read for me was the mystery of what happened to the Foster family and watching Abby find her place in Jewell Cove.  And the house!  The house was amazing.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  Especially after the setup at the end of this one.  I'm glad I had already gotten my hands on the 2nd book!  Now I'm just hoping Josh has a book soon.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes though I recommend reading it more as a women's fiction than just a romance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cowboys for Christmas - Review

Cowboys for Christmas by Liz Talley, Kim Law and Terri Osburn

Rating: 3.5
Source: NetGalley

Description:  These are three stories about three friends set over the same 2 week period of time.
In Love Me Cowboy Claire had always had a crush on her best friend's little brother.  Is now the time to finally act on it?
In Kiss Me, Cowboy by Liz Talley Georgia Hightower is certain she's seen the last of small town Texas until her best friend's wedding brings her back and she meets veterinarian, Reed McCormack
And finally in Marry Me, Cowboy by Kim Law,  Mary Catherine is marrying who she's supposed to marry until a run in with an old flame makes her start questioning herself.

Genre:  Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  Even though I'm not a big cowboy fan Reed McCormack had come up as my book boyfriend on the Book Boyfriend Quiz at Romance at Random so how could I pass this up?

My Impression:  Love Me Cowboy by Terri Osburn -  the first story in this book centers around elementary school teacher Claire Campbell and her best friend's brother, Tyler Holly.  Claire and Tyler had known each other since they were kids and had always been attracted to each other which had ended in a one night stand a few years before.  Even after a significant weight loss Claire's self esteem is down the drain and Tyler is having to reevaluate his life after a bull riding accident had sidelined him.  There was a lot I loved about this story.  I loved that Claire and Tyler had been friends for years.   I really liked that he had noticed her before she lost weight and had found her beautiful before.  I liked that the characters did get their feelings hurt and did sulk a little like regular people but they were able to communicate.  Both characters were just plain nice so it's easy to see this relationship working long term.  There was some lack of connection but I find that is typically the case with short stories.  It was one of those stories where I was always conscious of reading it which I don't love.

Next up is Kiss Me, Cowboy by Liz Talley which is wild child Georgia Hightower and local veterinarian Reed McCormick.  This was probably my favorite story of the three.  Georgia has some serious self-esteem issues as well.  She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and always felt like everyone thought she was trash.  Georgia deals with her insecurities a little differently than Claire.  Choosing to show how much she's changed and how well life has turned out for her.  Except that things are starting to implode.  Reed has always wanted to be a cowboy and being a veterinarian in this little Texas town makes him happy.  He does want to settle down but he's not in a rush though he does have an image of the perfect wife in his head.  That woman is definitely not Georgia Hightower but he finds himself thinking about her all the time.  I like that while Reed has an idea of what he wants for his future he's flexible and doesn't get hung up on it when he realizes he wants something different. I also really liked that the end was satisfying without feeling like it wrapped up too neatly which often happens in the short stories where the main characters are meeting for the first time.  Reed and Georgia aren't quite as nice feeling as Claire and Tyler but they're definitely fun and I enjoyed watching their story unwind. 

And finally, Marry Me, Cowboy by Kim Law the story of Mary Catherine Holly's wedding that shouldn't be.  Going into this one I was a little hesitant.  I'm not a big fan of stories that involve even a whiff of cheating and I wasn't sure how this story could play out without that happening.  Law did a great job with a tricky topic.  This is more about Mary Catherine figuring out who she is than choosing between two guys.  Jax doesn't make a great first impression or really even a second or third but the more I saw of him the more I liked him and the more I sympathized with him. While I sympathized with Mary Catherine's trying to avoid arguing with her stepmother it did feel like it went a little too far.  My main problem with this story is that there so many great subplots - Mary Catherine's art, her relationship with her step-sister and Jax himself and the ranch he runs that it would've made a better full length book.

Overall:  While I'm not a big cowboy fan I do enjoy short story collections that are connected through a group of friends like this one.  I liked that they all took place over an overlapping time period so we saw some scenes multiple times through different angles.  I felt that the last two stories were stronger than the first but not so much that it felt jarring or inconsistent.  While I liked all the main characters there was the lack of the emotional connection that frequently occurs with short stories.  This is a fun holiday read especially for cowboy lovers!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will definitely look for more from all 3 of these authors but especially Liz Talley

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you're in the mood for a Christmas story and love cowboys than this isn't one to miss!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - My Winter TBR Pile

Today's topic from The Broke and The Bookish is the Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR Pile.

For the Fall TBR Pile I'd given up on reading TBR books and was just going to read review books in a fort made out of my TBR books as they've outgrown the bookcases and just about everything else.  For winter it looks like I'll still be in my book fort BUT my review books are starting to slowly get under control!  Maybe spring will involve reading some actual TBRs?

I'm keeping the books that were on my Fall TBR but am adding in some new ones as well.

1. Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan - It's New York in the 20s with a family mystery.  Cannot resist it!  Except obviously I can since it came out in May and was on my Fall TBR and yet I still haven't read it!

2. Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson - basically ditto to #1 except instead of New York in the 20s it's an old house in France.

3. Always on My Mind by Belle Andre - This is another book that's been on my TBR since the Fall and this is an author I'm really wanting to read.

4.  The Hexed by Heather Graham -  So I didn't do so well with the overdue Fall TBR because this is another book that's a hold over.  I loved The Cursed and am looking forward to this and the next book The Betrayed

5.  So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan - This is a new book on the list.  I was really excited when I got this book about what made The Great Gatsby a classic and I am really looking forward to reading it.

Coming Up:
6.  Hardcastle's Quartet by Graham Ison - this is the only holdover from the Fall list but since it only came out earlier this month I'm not too worried about it.  This historical mystery looks like a great read!

7.  Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King - A cozy mystery set around a book club.  2 of my favorite things in one book!

8.  A 50 Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot -  this is a memoir about a woman trying to solve the mystery of her grandparents' marriage an desperation.

9.  Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King -  King is one if my favorite authors so I'm really looking forward to this visit to Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.

10. Finding Hope by Stacy Finz - I loved the first one in this series and spent the whole book hoping the 2nd book would be about Clay.  So I was thrilled to see Clay's book was being published in January.

These are the books I'm looking forward to reading this winter.  Do you have a list you're hoping to get to?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Even in Death - Review

Even in Death: A Short Story Collection by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

Rating:  3.5 Stars
Source:  Kindly provided by the author for review

Description:  Even in Death, a collection of ten short stories, explores the thin line between love and hate; extreme emotions that even death cannot destroy.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I thought the concept looked interesting and I was curious to see how it was executed.

My Impression:

Pro:  I wasn't quite sure what to expect with 10 short stories about death.  I figured they'd lean towards horror or maybe supernatural.  But instead the stories are more about the people involved.  There is actual death in each story but there is also death of something else and that seems to be as strong and as poignant as the primary..  In "A Flower Story" we see the death not only of one of the characters but of a chance for something more.  In "Kayanna Pepper" the death is not only of a friend but of a passion as well.  The title story, Even in Death, really made me think and I've found myself mulling over which item would really represent me.  Probably my favorite story is "What Caught My Senses" which reads almost like a traditional mystery.  I really enjoyed each story and was always curious to see what would happen next each time I picked up the book.

Con:  While I was frequently intrigued and always interested in the stories I didn't really have an emotional connection to the characters.  I find this to be more a problem with short stories in general than a problem with this book.

Overall: This was an interesting and unusual collection of short stories.  While death featured prominently in all ten stories I found them more about human nature than death itself.  If you're looking for a quick read that's not too light and makes you think than this would be a great choice.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  I have her full length novel Jaded and am looking forward to reading it in the next few weeks!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!  This was a unique and interesting set of stories.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

This Week in Reading - November 23

It's Sunday Post time!  Time to link up with the awesome Kimba over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer to talk about what's going on blogwise and otherwise!

What I Got:

So this week wasn't silent like last week but I turned in more feedback to NetGalley than I got books so I'm calling it a win!
Sherlock Homes: The Missing Years Japan by Vasudev Murthy - Couldn't resist!  I love the Holmes story and am trying to read as many different versions as I can. Plus, I like the cover and it looks like this may be the beginning of a new series. (NetGalley)

Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup - I'm always trying to simplify and since next school year we'll have 2 kids in college the spending less part will certainly be useful!  (NetGalley)

Yes Please by Amy Poehler -  I've been wanting to read this since I first saw it mentioned so I was thrilled when I finally got to the front of the line for the ebook from my library!  (library)

My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian - I love Zakarian and am really excited about trying some of these recipes (Blogging for Books)


Reading:  The Big Four by Agatha Christie, Yes Please by Amy Poehler and Cowboys for Christmas by Liz Talley, Kim Law and Terri Osburn.

Listening: I finally finished The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister.  I ended up enjoying it though not quite as much as the first.  I'm still waiting for Food by Jim Gaffigan so until then I'm listening to Secrets of the Grave by Tami Hoag.  This is my first book by her and it took me a little while to get into it because it's obviously part way through a series but so far I'm really enjoying it.

Watching:  According to my DVR I'm not watching very much!  The stupid thing keeps filling up and I don't have time to watch it all!  Emma and I watch Criminal Minds together so I basically have the entire season sitting there because she's home so rarely.  Other than that I've been enjoying some of the Thanksgiving shows Food Network is showing.  As usual I'm loving NCIS and it's franchising.  I'm having mixed feelings about CSI this season.  I really loved the changes they made last season but I'm not liking this Gig Harbor Killer story arc. The nemesis plot device is not one I typically enjoy in crime shows.  Does anyone watch Forever?  I've thought about starting that one as all the episodes are on On Demand.   I'm also excited that Major Crimes is starting again this week.  I really enjoyed this past season of that.

Off the Blog:

We're gearing up for Thanksgiving here.  We actually just go to my mother's on Thanksgiving day but on the Friday after we have J's brother and his wife over and do the traditional massive meal.  It's lots of fun and because it's basically the same meal every year I've got it down to a science so it's not stressful at all.  I am thinking about trying the Brown Sugar Pie recipe that's in Geoffrey Zakarian's latest cookbook.  Anyone ever had one?

I'm trying to get organized for Christmas but can't quite get it to click how close December actually is!  I always have these big ideas of things I want to do but time always gets away from me.  I am having to admit that I'm just not quite as crafty as I want to be and stick to more food related things.

The Tornado went to a party at Build a Bear yesterday.  I had forgotten how much of a racket that place is!  The party included a bear but of course we had to buy an outfit.  Shockingly enough he picked the Darth Vader costume.  The kid is obsessed with Star Wars.  I'm not sure how J got it into his head but it's impressive.

Emma's finishing up her last full semester of high school.  Eleanor just moved out of the dorms and is now sharing a house with some friends she works with.  She's very excited to have her own space.  Paul is working on getting his license so that he doesn't have to take the bus when Emma switches to half days next semester.  I'm still having allergy problems but I think I'm starting to get them under control though all the medicine is starting to make me a little foggy.  Nothing too eventful this week and other than Thanksgiving celebrations I'm hoping next week will be fairly calm as well!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

Monday: Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol - Review
Wednesday: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown - Review
Thursday: Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan - Review
Friday: Friday Linkups featuring excperts from Amy Poehler's Yes Please

What's Coming Up

Monday: Even in Death: A Short Story Collection - Review
Tuesday: The Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR
Wednesday: Cowboys for Christmas - Review
Thursday - TBD
Friday - linkups featuring whatever book I'm reading
Saturday - something food related though I'm not sure what.  Maybe a review for Zakarain's cookbook?

Happy Reading!

Weekend Cooking: Thanksgiving

I'm linking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking where anything food related goes.  Since somehow it decided to be almost the end of November I've realized it's time for me to start working on my Thanksgiving menu.

I like to cook and I love to experiment and try new things but on Thanksgiving my sister-in-law and I are under strict orders from my husband and his brother to not "ruin Thanksgiving".  There's a lot of teasing about this and we threaten to pull out a hamburger bean pie recipe that traumatized them both during their childhood or to have a Russian food themed dinner or something like that but for the most part we stick with tried and true.  I've been pulling my recipes together to make sure I have all the needed ingredients.  We end up doing dinner with them on Friday so worst case if something gets forgotten stores are open but nothing causes frazzle worse than forgetting something mandatory and not realizing it until right when you need whatever ingredient.

So I thought I'd share my favorite Apple Pie recipe and a few of my go tos.  This apple pie actually came from some diabetic cookbook 20+ years ago when my grandfather was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Although his parents had both dealt with the condition we had all kind of assumed that fact that he was fit and healthy would make it skip him.  It didn't but it did help him deal with the condition.  He eats great and is still active at almost 91.  Recipes that are naturally low sugar like this apple pie really help!

4 cups apples, sliced and peeled
1/2 cup apple juice, frozen concentrate
1 1/2 tps corn starch
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinammon or apple pie spice

1. Mix apples, apple juice concentrate, corn starch and spice and stir until apples are well coated.  Add lemon juice, if desired, to keep apples lighter.  (I skip the lemon juice step)

2. Pour into a pastry lined pie pan and top with second crust or pastry strips.  Seal the edges and cut slits in the top crust to allow steam toescape

3. Bake at 425 for 40 to 45 minutes (watch it like a hawk after 35 though)

Now for a crust I use this All Butter Crust from Four and Twenty Blackbirds and it's amazing.  This was the first pie crust I ever made for an actual pie and it always comes out exactly how a pie crust should be.  I cut about 1/3 off the ball of dough after it finishes cooling, roll the 1/3 out, cut it into strips and than use that to make the lattice on top of the pie.  Top with some lightly sweetened whipped cream and it's seriously good! 

Also on the set in stone menu is mashed potatoes.  For most of my life I've been pretty take it or leave it with mashed potatoes.  They're okay but not amazing.  When I started hosting Thanksgiving I began to hate mashed potatoes.  It takes time to mash up the stupid potatoes and if you don't get them smooth they're awful.  I spent many a Thanksgiving cussing at a pot of potatoes.  And then The Pioneer Woman came to the rescue with her Delicious Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  You can make them ahead of time and pop them in the oven about 20 minutes before time to eat.  What's even better is if you don't get all the lumps out the baking does it for you!  These things are magic.  Even the Tornado eats them!  I did discover (kind of by accident) that you really only need 1 stick of butter for 5lbs of potatoes and the cream is also unnecessary though you can thin it with a little skim milk if you must and you can use 1/3 less fat cream cheese so they're practically healthy!  

All this thinking abut food got me in the mood to do some reading about food.  I enjoyed the Laurie Colwin book of foodie essays I read last week and Kathleen Flinn, Molly Wizenberg and Ruth Reichl are some of my favorite authors.  Looking through my NetGalley list I stumbled upon a book entitled Writing in the Kitchen edited by David A. Davis and Tara Powell and thought what could bet better than a book full of bookish and foodie essays?  This book is fascinating.  Everything about food and the South are explored - from farming and soil experiments in the 1700s to Scarlett O'Hara's famous radish.  There are essays about slavery and the difference with how the different classes ate.  There is discussion about where the recipes came from.  Seriously, if it involves food it's mentioned here.  

That being said, when I reach for a food related book I'm basically reaching for the book version of comfort food.  I want homey and warm and maybe even a little quirky.  I want to smell the herbs and feel the textures of the bread and hear the crisp sound of the knife hitting the cutting board.  I found this book to be a bit dryer.  While the information was fascinating it read a bit more like a textbook than I was expecting.  This isn't a book I want to curl up with on a rainy day but if the college near me starts teaching a class with this as part of the curriculum I'll be first in line to sign up!

So what do you expect out of your foodie books?  And for the American readers what foods do you expect to see on the table for Thanksgiving?  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Linkups: Yes Please

It's Friday so I'm linking up with Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

This week's question:
Do you have any advice for new bloggers?

My Answer:
It feels a little funny answering as I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing most of the time!  The one thing I got burned with recently is not being flexible with my schedule.  I had it in my head what date a review was going to be posted and forced myself to read the book even though I wasn't in the mood for it.  It definitely impacted my reading experience in a negative way.  I'm trying to be a little more flexible in the future.

I really like Amy Poehler though I'm not exactly sure why.  I'm not a big SNL fan and though it's on my Netflix list I haven't watched Parks and Recreation.  I think the main reason I was so excited to get this book is because Poehler is mentioned in both Tina Fey and Mindy Kalinger's books and she always comes off as just a great person!  SNL probably isn't happening anytime soon but if I enjoy the rest of this book as much as I've enjoyed the first part Parks and Rec will definitely be moving up my To Watch list!

The Beginning from Chapter 1:
"I was in fourth grade and in trouble.  The students of Wildwood Elementary School in Burlington, Massachusetts, shifted in their uncomfortable metal seats as they waited for me to say my next line.  A dog rested in my arms and an entire musical rested on my shoulders"

Page 56 (well actually page 57 because there's no text on page 56:
"I remember many details about the days my sons came into the world but very little about my own birthday.  Partly because I was a newborn baby, and partly because my mother was always a little coy about how the birth went down."

Keep reading?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maybe This Christmas - Review

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Tyler O'Neil is trying to make sure his daughter Jess has the best Christmas possible.  All around them Snow Crystal resort is booming with new business.  Tyler is still adjusting to life since his competitive skiing career came to a tragic end.  He's also having to deal with the fact that his long time friend Brenna is starting to look like more than a friend.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  I have read the first 2 in the O'Neil series and really enjoyed them.  I couldn't wait to read Tyler's story.

My Impression:
Pro:  I love the friends turn more story line and I've been rooting for Brenna and Tyler to get together since book 1.  It was also really lovely to revisit Snow Crystal again at Christmas.  Morgan makes snow and skiing seem so fun that even I kind of want to try it and I consider temperatures below 70 unbearable.   While I generally dislike the use of children in romances Jess's involvement and story line seems very natural.  I think that part of it is because we've gotten to know her over the 2 previous books and also because she's old enough where she doesn't really need to be taken care of and can participate in the story.  I liked the fleshing out of Brenna's character and making her more than the expert skier we'd gotten to know in previous books.  I also liked that even though Tyler wasn't aware of his feelings for Brenna we see hints in his behavior and he seems to be making an effort not to show anything.  It was great to see Kayla, Jackson and the rest of the O'Neil family.  I liked that Kayla's meddling was discussed and not always approved of as well as that it didn't always work.

While I liked that Brenna's character was more fleshed out she had so many self-confidence issues between her parents and the bullying that her love of Tyler made me cringe a little in the first half.  It felt like she needed to deal with her own issues before she could go into a relationship on equal footing.  There was also a lot of repetitive talk about the bullying and her issues with her parents.

Overall:  While this wasn't my favorite in the series it was definitely an enjoyable contemporary romance with a nice winter-y feel.  Morgan does a good job with mixing in humor without making it too silly.  It was fun to see Brenna and Tyler finally get their story and I was satisfied with the end.  While this could be read as a stand alone you definitely should start with Sleigh Bells in the Snow so you can really get to know the characters and the resort.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  Even though there are no more O'Neil brothers I'm hoping this isn't our last visit to Snow Crystal.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes but start at the beginning of the series.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie - Review

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown

Rating: 2 Stars
Source: NetGalley

(from GoodReads)
Sister Jane and the Jefferson Hunt Club have traveled from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky to ride with the members of the Woodford Hounds—in the teeth of foul weather. Sister knows better than anyone that an ill wind blows no good.

After the hunt, Sister Jane and her boyfriend, Gray Lorillard, head to a sumptuous party on a nearby estate, also home to a historic equine graveyard. The revelry is interrupted by jarring news: The discovery of grisly remains in the cemetery that are decidedly not equine.

Now Sister and her hounds are on the case, digging up clues to an old murder that links three well-connected Southern families. When mayhem follows the Jefferson Hunt back to Virginia, the deadly doings become all too real: A dear friend of Sister’s is found murdered. Sister and her animal friends must work fast to find a clever killer determined to keep deep-rooted secrets buried.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: Rita Mae Brown is an author whose books I've been seeing around for years.  While another series of hers didn't work for me I enjoyed her writing enough to give this one a try. 

My Impression:
Pro: The mystery itself is interesting and I definitely wanted to know more about how the body ended up buried with the horse.  The information about the Hunting clubs was new to me and it was fun to learn more about an activity I had heard so much about in a historical sense.  I visited horse country and Churchill Downs years ago and I enjoyed revisiting that area of the country.  Brown is very good at creating a likable and diverse group of people.

Cons:  I have found jumping in to a mystery series usually isn't an issue since mysteries tend to be plot driven.  This book however was a bit like the first day at a new job.  There are so many people busy with so many new tasks that I spent most of my time trying to remember who was who and what they were doing.  With all the characters and the hunt information the mystery itself got a bit lost.  

Overall:  If you are a fan of this series I suspect you will enjoy this one.  If you are new but want to try this series save yourself the headache and go back and start at the beginning.  Between the huge quantity of hunt and horse information and the enormous cast list I spent most of the time confused.  To give yourself and the series a chance start at the beginning.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  While I can see why Brown has a large following I don't think either series by her that I have read is for me.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Only to readers who are already fans of the series.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Anticipated Sequels

It's Top Ten Tuesday Time hosted by the amazing people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  So I guess it's time for a confession.  I don't go out and get a book I'm absolutely dying to read on the day it comes out.  If there's the slightest whiff of cliffhanger I wait until I can get at least 2 at once.  Obviously in a long running series it isn't possible to own all 15 books before I start reading (though I have tried) but I normally have at least 2 or 3.  If it's a trilogy or quartet I generally wait until I have all 3 or 4.  So for my Top Ten Anticipated Sequels I'm kind of drawing a blank.  After lots of thinking I went with the books that made me go buy the sequel or the next one in the series while I was still reading the first and then the authors whose books I request without without even reading the summary.

1.  Spackled and Spooked by Jennie Bentley - I love this series!  It's not a flawless cozy series but I love the home renovation mixed with mystery and love reading what Avery is getting up too.  There's always a little history connected to the mystery which is always a win for me.

2.  Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay - McKinlay is one of my favorite cozy authors and the library series is my favorite of her series.  She's a librarian!  How can I not love that?

3.  Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott - So while this sequel was probably published 100 years before I was born it took forever for me to find it!  I read Eight Cousins which was hands down my favorite Alcott book before the internet and the all reaching power of Amazon.  Finding this book took years and tons of searching.  I can still remember how excited I was when I finally had a copy in my hands!

4.  Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward - About 2/3 into The House on Blackberry Hill I knew I had to spend more time in Jewell Cove and went out and found Lilac Lane.  I'm really looking forward to reading it!

5.  Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine was weird but kind of awesomely weird and I wanted to see where the story goes.  Of course the sequel's been out for awhile and I still haven't read it but I'm looking forward to it.

6.  Nora Roberts - While I haven't loved every book she's written and I'd like to forget about pretty much every book she wrote in the 80s all I need to see is Nora Roberts on the cover and the book gets bought.

7.  Julia Quinn - Another romance author that I immediately buy.  I don't even have to look at the blurb!

8.  Tony Horwitz - I kind of want to be Tony Horwitz.  He comes up with great topics - like traveling Captain Cook's route and then does them and writes fascinating books that are informative and entertaining.  His book Baghdad Without a Map taught me more about the Middle East than anything else and made me laugh until I cried!

9.  Laurie R. King - I love Her Holmes/Russell series and even though I'm a few books behind it's always a series I look forward to revisiting.

10. Deborah Crombie - Basically everything I said about King!  Her Kincaid/James series is absolutely one of my favorite mystery series and her books are always on my autobuy list!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol - Review

Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol by Jim Piecuch

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Our last look at Tiny Tim was as a little boy on Scrooge's shoulder.  Now years later he is a well respected doctor who has let pressures from the other doctor in his firm and society keep him from doing what he set out to do - to do good.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  A story told through Tiny Tim's eyes seemed interesting and so very Christmas-y.

My Impression:
Pros: This was a thoroughly Christmas-y story.  Scrooge's part was understated and well done.  I liked Tim but even more I liked the supporting cast - Ginny, Bridget, Henry and the others.  These were characters I really rooted for and wanted to do well.  Watching Tim take a step back from the life he had kind of fallen into and reevaluate where he ended up was nice.  His realization of what was actually going on was also fun to watch.  The end of this book was really fun and Christmas-y and there were several moments that I had happy tears in my eyes.

Cons:  It took a little bit for me to get into this book.  The pacing of the beginning was a little off and I was very conscious of reading the "he said, he did, he thought" instead of falling into the story. However, after a slightly bumpy start this improved. The ending was a bit contrived and tied up neatly but it was so sweet and Christmas-y I was perfectly fine with that!

Overall:  While there were some pacing flaws this was a lovely and sweet story.  It was nice to see Tiny Tim all grown up and to see the aftermath of Scrooge's Christmas Eve lived out by the Cratchit family.  A nice Christmas-y read!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you're a fan of the Christmas Carol and looking for a Christmas-y book I think you would enjoy this.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This Week in Reading - November 16

It's time for Sunday Post time hosted by the very awesome Kimba over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

What I Got:

Nothing!  While it does make me a little sad I desperately needed a quiet week to help catch back up.  I have a few request pending so next week probably won't be silent but I am trying to get my NetGalley ratio up a bit.


Reading: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown and Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan

Listening:  Almost done with Erica Bauermeister's The Lost Art of Mixing.  I'm enjoying it but not as much as I enjoyed The School of Essential Ingredients.  Not sure what's up next.  I'm on the wait list for the audio version of Jim Gaffigan's Food. The wait list is fairly long so I'm looking for something to listen to while I wait.

Watching:  Sleepy Hollow and Elementary.  The beginning of Sleepy Hollow where Katrina and Crane were discussing the Bachelor made me laugh and I'm warming up to Kitty on Elementary.  I'm kind of bummed because I just found out that TNT is cancelling Perception which is one of my favorite summer shows.  This was after they cancelled Memphis Beat the year before which I also really liked.  Not happy!

Off the Blog:

Well our college trip was a success.  Emma and Paul enjoyed looking around the school and the Tornado and I kept ourselves busy.  The town has a small zoo but it had the audacity to be closed on Monday.  Luckily they had an enormous playground and he ran around happily for awhile.  It was a lot of driving in a very short time so we were all glad to be be fun.  The school is still Emma's 2nd choice but Paul really liked it so we'll see.  The ride there and back ended up being pretty funny as who ever was in the front seat was in charge of the radio and they kept trying to outdo each other.  At one point Emma landed on an 80s Hip Hop channel (what did we do before all 900 channels on satellite radio?) and they concluded that the 80s were a weird time.

How is already mid-November?  There's so much to be done!  Thanksgiving meals and then all the Christmas stuff.  December gets a little crazy for us.  Other than my parents the rest of my family lives out of state so we end up having a Christmas celebration with my dad before he leaves town and then with my mother before she leaves town and than Christmas Eve dinner with J's family.  It's lots of fun but come Christmas Day I'm ready for our lazy day tradition!

It looks like Eleanor is moving out of her dorm room this semester.  She works at a bookstore and some of the other employees rent a house and need another roommate.  She's so excited to have her own space and I think it'll be good for her to have to manage a budget a bit more.

The weather decided to get unusually cold here this past week and I'm not loving it.  We actually had a freeze the other night.  I'm just happy I moved my pepper plants inside before that happened!  Not loving the cold but I do love coats so that makes it a little better!

Also, anyone got any miracle allergy cures?  I'm pretty much allergic to everything that blooms and a few unfortunate foods (I'm allergic to goat cheese.  How did that even happen??) which I can deal with but twice a year for a few weeks they go really nuts, like so nuts my daily Benadryl won't help and I wander around the house wailing and wringing my hands.  I finally figured out what causes this (it's the stuff they spray on cotton.  I live about a mile away from a cotton gin and several cotton fields) so I can be prepared but it's starting to drive me insane! Any advice? At this point I'm open to just about anything short of animal sacrifice!

On the Blog:

What Happened Last Week:

Monday: Mission to Murder - Review - a fun cozy mystery series

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol - Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Anticipated Sequels
Wednesday: TBD
Thursday:  TBD
Friday: Friday Linkups
Saturday:  Writing in the Kitchen - Review

Happy Reading!

Home Cooking - Review

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  This is a collection of essays written by Laurie Colwin about cooking, kitchens and everything food related.  There are recipes sprinkled throughout for some of the foods she writes so poetically about.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I can't resist a food book and I'd heard good things about this author.

My Impression:
Pros:  Colwin's prose is beautiful and it flows in a warm comforting kind of way.  I imagine this would lovely in audio format but is still very nice in print.  She talks about cooking in all it's forms from the complicated and fancy to a tiny apartment that featured a small refrigerator, a hot plate and the bathtub she had to use to drain pasta.  Her descriptions are so vivid that you can almost taste the food, feel the textures and see the ingredients and spaces she's talking about.  I love that she isn't stuck on gadgets or "must have" tools and emphasizes working with what you have or what you want to do.  The recipes includes aren't overly fussy and connect back to the story before it.

Cons: This book was originally published in the 80s and it definitely has a slightly dated feel.  The kitchen gadget mentions especially showed age.  She mentions several things that have either disappeared or have come down in price enough that they're no longer considered a big deal - like a food processor.  While I enjoyed her writing trying to read large chunks at a time got a little monotonous.  It's all lyrical descriptions and is great for one story at a time but for story after story I could start feeling my attention wander.

Overall: This is an entertaining book and one that should never be read while hungry!  While it's not a book I'd sit down and read in one sitting since it's so descriptive is is a book that I'll pick up on and off for awhile to read a story here and there.  If you enjoy food and cooking I think you'll enjoy this book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!

I'm linking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Linkups: Head Over Heels

It's Friday and time to link up with Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader and The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

Book Blogger Hop Question:
As you grow in your blogging experience, have you become more particular in terms of what you will post on your blog or what books you will read for review?

My Answer:
I'm not sure anything has really changed that much.  I started just reviewing what I read and I still do that though I've started reading more genres.  I am more careful with my NetGalley requests than I was when I started but that's mostly because I got in way over my head!

This week's book is the 3rd Lucky Harbor book from Jill Shalvis - Head Over Heels.  This is actually a reread for me but I loved Chloe and Sawyer and now that I have the new Christmas novella featuring them I wanted to go revisit.  So far it is not disappointing!

From the Beginning:
"It wasn't often that Chloe Traeger beat her sisters into the kitchen in the morning, but with Tara and Maddie currently sleeping with the town's two hottest hotties, it'd been only been a matter of time.  And in the name of fairness, Chloe hadn't actually gotten to bed yet, but that was just a technicality."

From page 56 in my paperback:
""He didn't - we weren't-" Maggie sagged.  "Oh forget it." She clapped her hands to her cheeks.  "I jumped him on the way over here."
"While driving?" Tara asked in horror.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Review

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Blogging for Books

Description:  Tired of the plain old autobiographies and memoirs?  Want something a little different?  Try Neil Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography!  At each crossroad of his life you make the decision!

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been a fan of Harris for awhile and I've seen a few interviews that made me like him even more.  Plus, even though I always died unpleasantly I used to love the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

My Impression:
Pro:  I wasn't sure what to expect with this one!  You get the traditional Choose Your Own Adventure Format.  The prose is in 2nd person (you will do this, you said this) and at the bottom of each chapter you are presented with at least 2 choices and the page numbers.  Normally 2nd person makes me want to run in the opposite direction but I think because the chapters were so short and the format was so different it worked.  There's plenty of silliness - you can choose to make Neil have a miserable childhood or become more obsessed with magic or decide you really want to commit murder.  But you can also follow Harris's career in life through relatively calmer chapters.  It basically reads as a series of essays and some are very interesting and sweet.  Some are blatantly untrue but they're so blatant it's not hard to separate fact from fiction!  So far I've read this twice.  The first time I got a really interesting look at how Harris decided he wanted to become an actor.  The second reading I got a bit more into his personal life and loved the story of the treasure hunt birthday that Harris's husband David Burtka designed for him.  Who knows what more I'll learn in the next readings.  So far each time I've read it it's taken about 30 minutes so I can make different decisions without too much of a time investment.

Con: This isn't a standard autobiography.  Every 2nd page or so you're instructed to go to a wildly different page.  Some stuff is true some stuff is blatantly not.  If you're looking for a detailed look about how Harris got to where he is this probably isn't the book for you. While I very much enjoyed this book I'm not sure I would have gotten as much out of it if I wasn't already familiar with Harris.  Also, just the idea of reading this in ebook form makes my head hurt.  I'm definitely glad I got the print copy of this one!

Overall:  I've read this book twice already by making different decisions and definitely plan on reading it again.  It's sweet, interesting and silly all at once.  If you're a fan of Neil Patrick Harris this is definitely one to pick up - just do so in print form!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I would.  I've heard the audio version is read by Harris and is really a lot of fun so I'm looking forward to that.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, but only to Neil Patrick Harris fans.

*Book Provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Scandalous Summer Nights - Review

Scandalous Summer Nights by Anne Barton

Source: NetGalley

Description:  Olivia Sherbourne has been in love with her brother's friend James Averill for ten years.  While he's always been kind to her he's never once acted like he notices her as anything more than the child she was than they met.  When Olivia learns that James is set to go on an expedition to Egypt for 2 years she knows that before he leaves she must make him notice her.

Genre: Romance
Why I Picked This Book:  Barton has been highly recommended and I like friends turned more type stories.

My Impression:
Pro: I really liked the Olivia of the last 2/3 of the book.  She was kind, warmhearted and always ready to see the positive in things.  When she acts impulsively towards the end of the book she does think about her friends and family and tries not to worry them.  I liked that she actually reevaluated her actions and her life and decides to make changes.  I'm not sure I've come across a female lead in a romance novel who realizes that the way she's living isn't the way she wants to live and decides to change it.  James isn't a typical romance hero.  While he is friends with aristocrats he works for a living as a solicitor.  The pacing on this one was very good and even when I wasn't enjoying Olivia's antics I didn't want to stop reading the book.

Con: Olivia in the first 1/3 of the book made me want to shake her.  Her focus on James is so fangirlish and bordering on hysterical that she comes off as very immature.  For the first 1/3 it was hard to picture how a relationship could develop between James and Olivia that was in anyway healthy or balanced.  While James does work for a living and makes a couple of comments to that effect it isn't really developed.  I don't really have a picture of the difference in his life and Olivia's brother Owen's life.  It was also never addressed how that would affect Olivia.

Overall:  There was a rocky start but I was glad I had hung on.  While there were some flaws with both characters I did very much enjoy this book and when I finished I was looking forward to reading Rose's story.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Definitely.  While I didn't love parts of this one I was excited to see Rose's story is next and than hopefully Sophia's!  I also would like to go back and read the first 2 in the series.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I would definitely recommend the author but if you haven't read any books by her I'd try a different book.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Should Have Their Own Books

It's Top Ten Tuesday time!  Today's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Character who should have their own book.  This was a little difficult for me since I read a lot of mysteries which don't really have a large number of characters you want to see from their POV or romances where generally the character WILL have their own book.  These are some characters that really stuck with me!

1.  Lucy Eylesbarrow from 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie - Lucy rivals Miss Marple for finding out stuff and her job as housekeeper extraordinaire who never stays in one place for long would make for a really fun series!

2. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery - Every Anne book I reread last year had me wanting one thing - more Gilbert!  He's funny, he's practical, he's kind and romantic and just plain nice.

3. Rue and Thresh from The Hunger Games - Rue was my favorite character when I read this book and I'd love to know more about her and Thresh and the world they come from.

4. Sebastian Grey from What Happens in London by Julia Quinn - Okay, technically he got his own book but his personality was so muted it really didn't count.  I laughed until I cried over some of his antics in What Happens in London.

5. Edward Valentine in What Happens in London by Julia Quinn - Henry's brother Edward seemed to be just starting to pull himself out of the hole he drunk himself into and was starting to face his demons.  I'd definitely love to see more of him!

6. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - The image of that dusty room with Miss Havisham is one of the few things that stuck with me from Great Expectations.  I'd love to hear more about her.

7.  Lucille from The Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis - We all know Lucille from her crazy outspoken ways around Lucky Harbor but what's her story?  She strikes me as having some stories of her own that would be worth knowing.

8.  Meg from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Practical Meg, oldest daughter of the March clan doesn't get much page time.  What did she think of her father going off to war and all the family had to endure?  What was her life like after her marriage?

9.  Mrs. Craven from The Secret Garden - Mrs. Craven's death is the reason The Secret Garden becomes secret.  We know that she is beautiful and kind but absolutely nothing about her.

10.  Lady Danbury from pretty much any Julia Quinn - Yes back to Julia Quinn.  I love her characters and Lady Danbury is one that has been around from the beginning.  I'd like to see her take HER turn around the ballroom!

So those are my 10!  What do you think?  Did I leave anyone out?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mission to Murder - Review

Mission to Murder by Lynn Cahoon

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  In this second entry to Cahoon's Tourist Trap mystery series, coffee shop and bookstore owner Jill Gardner is trying to get the stone wall on her property certified as part of the historic mission that had once been in the area.  She was expecting red tape and headaches but she wasn't expecting to get blocked by a man who doesn't want to split the tourism budget.  She most certainly wasn't expecting him to turn up murdered a few afters she threatened him to leave her alone "or else".  Once again Jill is a murder suspect and she and her detective boyfriend must clear her name and find out what really happened.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I really enjoyed the first book in the series and was looking forward to seeing what happened next!

My Impression:
Pros: I enjoyed this second book.  The communication issue that had driven me crazy in the first book is cleared up and for the most part Greg and Jill communicate fairly well.  The mystery itself is well paced and I never felt like it was dragging or that I was bored with it.  On the other end, I never felt like it was moving so fast that it left out plot points or rushed through a motive.  I was glad to see Jill in more of a bookstore owner role and enjoyed the talks about running the bookstores.  Jill's Aunt Jackie is still around and still as bossy as ever but it felt like it worked better.  I could see their affection for each other and while Jackie is opinionated and feels she knows more about the business than Jill it feels like Jill's kind of made peace with that and works around her without getting too annoyed.  I found Toby's character entertaining.  I liked the side plot where Jill and Jackie find out about where all the extra business is coming from and that Toby isn't portrayed as a heartless jerk but a nice intelligent guy who is quite a bit of a flirt.  I liked that there were 2 aspects of the mystery - the murder itself and the documentation about the wall. This made it where Jackie and Jill could investigate the wall without stepping on the official toes too much.

Cons:  This suffered from a lot of common Cozy flaws.  Jill is super nosy.  She shows up places she shouldn't and asks questions that she really shouldn't.  Also, most of the cast is far too sensitive.  People get their feelings hurt or into arguments over little comments.  Luckily, no one holds a grudge for too long.  I would've liked to have seen more of Jill and Jackie investigating the mission claims especially since they talk so much about investigating.

Overall: While there were some flaws I really enjoyed this Cozy read.  The mystery was interesting, the side plot was fun and I liked seeing Jill and the other residents of South Cove.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely!  I already have the third in the series and am looking forward to starting it soon!

Would I Recommend this Book?: I think any cozy mystery reader would enjoy this series.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Week in Reading - November 9

It's Sunday Post time hosted by the awesome Kimba over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

What I Got:

A much quieter week here bookwise!  I do have a few more requests outstanding on NetGalley and a few books I'm interested in picking up in the next couple of weeks but this week I was pretty restrained!
I Saw Her Standing There by Marie Force - This is an author I've been wanting to try so I was thrilled when I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Steph at Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell - This is another author I've been wanting to try and anytime I see her books on NetGalley they're always for the UK only.  I was thrilled when I saw this one and it was for US readers as well.  I was even more thrilled when the approval came through!


Reading: Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis to get ready for the novella about Chloe and Sawyer, Scandalous Secrets of a Summer Night by Anne Barton and If the Shoe Kills by Lynn Cahoon.

Listening: The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister.  I'm not loving this one as much as the first one.  I think part of the problem with character driven novels is that if you don't love the characters it doesn't work quite as well.

Watching: Same basic stuff.  I'm liking the way Stalker is going.  They seem to be ending the Jack being a stalker subplot which I was not loving.  I'm still enjoying the various NCIS franchises and all that.  Food Network has a baking competition starting tonight that I'm really looking forward to.  

Off the Blog:

So today Emma, Paul, the Tornado and I are heading south to go look at her second choice school and a possibility for Paul.  Wish me luck entertaining a 4 year old in a city I'm relatively unfamiliar with!  Luckily it's close enough to family that we can stay there while for a few nights instead of having to crash in a hotel.  I'm looking forward to catching up on everyone's Sunday Posts on Wednesday when we get back.

Eleanor came home for the weekend and it was nice to see her.  This is her first year working in retail around the holidays so we're betting she won't be able to come home much until after Christmas.  

After reading At Home with Madame Chic (review link below) I've been trying to get back to the routines and habits that make the house run smoother.  It's only been a week but so far it's been really nice to feel more organized!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

Saturday - The American Plate - Review - mostly history with a dash of recipes

Coming Up:

Monday - Mission to Murder - Review
Tuesday - Top Ten Tuesday - Characters that Should Have Their Own Book
Wednesday - TBD but a review of some kind most likely
Thursday - TBD but also most likely a review
Friday - Linkups featuring whatever I'm reading by that point
Saturday - Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin - Review

Happy Reading!