Monday, August 31, 2015

Threads of Evidence - Review

Threads of Evidence (Mainely Needlepointers #2) by Lea Wait - Amazon link
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  It's hard to imagine anything bad ever happening in picturesque Haven Harbor, Maine - until a famous face rolls into town and unthreads some very dark secrets...
Angie Curtis and the Mainely Needlepointers are all too familiar with the Gardener estate.  The crumbling Victorian mansion, known as "Aurora" has been sitting vacant for nearly twenty-five years and some say it's haunted by the ghost of Jasmine Gardener, the teenage girl who died there in 1970 under mysterious circumstances...
Harbor Haven is abuzz with excitement when Hollywood actress Skye West decides to buy Aurora and sell off its furnishings.  And Angie is intrigued when Skye asks her to appraise the estate's sizable collection of needlepoint pictures.  But the more she examines the pieces, the more they seem to point toward Jasmine's murder - and the murderer - and it's up to her to stitch the clues together.  (Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved the first book in the series and can never resist a crumbling mansion and a 40 year old murder!

My Impression:  I really loved the first book in the series and I love that once again Wait has given us a mystery with connections to the past.  In this case the mystery was fascinating and I loved getting to poke around Aurora with Sarah and Angie.  The pace was good and it didn't feel like it was dragging or too slow at any point.  As for the mystery itself not only is it a case of whodunnit but also was there even a crime committed.  As the interviews proceed there are countless suspects but also plenty of reasons to think that it was just an accident.
It was fun to see Angie's life in Haven Harbor proceeding and her settling in more.  I liked seeing her grandmother though she is a much smaller part in this book.  Getting to meet more of the Harbor Haven residents was nice and I especially enjoyed seeing Dave, the science teacher with the poison garden again.
The only thing that didn't work for me was some of Angie's personality quirks.  She seems a little more immature and emotional than she did in the first book but what really didn't work for me was her drinking.  It wasn't that she was drinking it was the amount she TALKED about drinking.  It was a bit like being around a teenager who has recently gotten access to alcohol and talks about it all the time.  I'm hoping this doesn't become an issue in future books as there are some hints that she may have a problem.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  Can I go on and sign up for book 3?

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you enjoy a cozy mystery this is a series not to be missed and if you have any interest in needlepoint at all I think you'll really love it.

Challenges Met?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

This Week in Reading - August 30

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:


This week I didn't get any review books! However, I've been craving a trip to the used bookstore and I gave in a few days ago.  I managed to get out with only 11 but that was because I made myself stop.  I could've easily left with 3 times as many!
For this trip I got:
Echo Lake by Carla Neggers
The Betrayed by Heather Graham - These two I actually have for review in ebook form but I think I can get to print faster.
Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee
Ghost Moon
Ghost Shadow
Ghost Night - a trilogy by Heather Graham that I've been wanting to read
Waking the Dead by Heather Graham
Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews
A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes
Requeim for a Dealer by Jo Bannister

This trip ended up heavy on Heavy Graham but otherwise is a mix of a few new authors and others that I've enjoyed but have been wanting to read more of.  Now to figure out where to put them!

Currently:

Reading:  A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup by and Harbor Island by Carla Neggers

Listening: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall.  I'm enjoying this but not in love with it.  I'm hoping I get more pulled in soon.  I finished listening to a creepy children's mystery called Christina's Ghost by Betty Ren Wright which was really fun.

Watching: Not a whole lot.  I'm definitely feeling the between seasons slump.  I'm still enjoying NCIS on Netflix and will probably be going back to Murder She Wrote soon.

Off the Blog:

This week is J's birthday we'll be going out to dinner and the regular stuff.  We're going to try to watch Gone Girl tonight as well.  He's been wanting to see it and I do want to see it but have been dragging my feet about it.  I really liked the casting they did and I've heard pretty consistently good things about the movie but I'm a little hesitant to get sucked into that world of craziness again!

In general we're trying to get away from collapsing in front of the TV most nights once the Tornado goes to bed and have been having pretty good luck.  It's not that we're anti-TV but it was getting to be where that's all we do in the evening and there's only so many shows we watch together so it frequently ends up with us just flipping and finding nothing.  The one bad thing about watching less TV at night is that that was the time I used to reply to comments so now I'm incredibly behind.  I read all the comments I get and really appreciate them!  I just need to work out a new reply system.

On the Blog:

What Happened:



What's Coming Up:

Monday: Thread of Evidence - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Characters I Didn't Click With
Wednesday: The Peach Keeper - Fiction Review
Thursday: Girl in the Glass - Blog Tour Thriller REview
Friday: Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD but most likely something foodie

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays + Dulce de Leche Brownies

Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman, is one of my automatic buys when it comes to cookbooks.  While they're not books I use daily I always enjoy looking through them and the recipes are always reliably good with easy to find ingredients and just unique enough to be interesting without scaring off the pickier eaters. I'm very excited about her newest book - The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime which comes out in September and it inspired me to pull out her last book- A Year of Holidays.

Of her three current cookbooks this massive volume is probably my favorite.  Not only are there a huge variety of recipes but the layout is just so fun.  Instead of being divided by type of recipe the chapters for each book are divided by holiday.  I love the idea of having a holiday themed meal without it being a big deal.  And of course you can use any of the recipes whenever you want like these Dulce de Leche Brownies from the Cinco de Mayo chapter.  I'm definitely glad I didn't wait until May to make these!

Dulce de Leche Brownies

5 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 a 14 ounce can dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 325.  Generously spray an 8 inch square baking pan or an 8 x 10 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and nuke it in about 45 second intervals, stirring each time, until it's completely melted.  Set it aside to cook for 20 minutes or so.
Add the butter and the sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream them together until they're light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.
With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the chocolate until it's all combined.
Add the flour and the vanilla and mix until is all combined, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through.
Spread the batter into the greased pan.
Open the can of dulce de leche and place half of it in a glass bowl.  Warm it in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, just to make it a little more stirrable.
Drop large dollops of dulce de leche on the surface of the batter.  Then use a knife to slowly swirl it through the brownie batter.  Don't drag the knife sideways through the batter; hold it so the thin side of the knife leads the way.
Bake the brownies for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center is almost totally set.
Let cool before slicing.
Changes I Made:  I added more dulce de leche but other than that followed the recipe exactly.

Changes I'll Make Next Time:  I used the 8" square but next time I'll use a bigger pan as these were a little to thick.

Results: As embarrassing as it is to admit I've always preferred brownies from a mix but these were SOO good.  They're rich and chocolate-y and the dulce de leche is a fantastic addition.  My only problem is that these were really thick and were so rich and chocolate-y it was almost too much.

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Linkups: Harbor Island















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:
What time of year does your library have it's library sale?

My Answer:
Both the branch that I use and the main library had their library sales a few weeks ago.  I haven't been to one in awhile because the timing seems to always be bad but the few times I have been I've gotten some great books.

I've very much enjoyed Carla Neggers' Knight's Bridge series and am looking forward to trying her more suspenseful series.  Plus, this is set partly in Ireland which always appeals to me.  I'm finishing up a reread tonight and will hopefully be starting this tomorrow!

The Beginning:
As she wound down her run on the Boston waterfront, Emma Sharpe could feel the effects of jet lag in every stride.

My Thoughts:
I'm not sure I'd have the strength to jog while suffering from jet lag.  That seems like more of a sleep late situation!

The 56:
"Does whatever happened here have anything to do with why you're in Ireland?"

My Thoughts: 
So I'm guessing we're in Ireland at this point and it sounds like bad stuff has already happened.  I'm also thinking that whatever happened is exactly why that person is in Ireland!

So keep reading?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beyond the Books: If I had $1000 I Would Buy



Today's Beyond the Books topic hosted by KissinBlueKaren is one I've really been looking forward to talking about and seeing how everyone else spends their money.  So if I was given a thousand dollars today and told I absolutely had to spend it after I would buy:

This Straight Fit Duffle Coat in Dark Indigo from Burberry.  Granted I'd have to kick in a little but I could manage it.  There is nothing I love more than coats and Burberry is my absolute favorite though until I get a few kids out of college their coats are a little above my pay grade!  I do have quite a selection but I love this one because of the toggles and I don't have anything in that dark blue.  I have royal blue, teal, and light blue but nothing in the indigo/navy range.  Definitely a hole in the collection.  And we're not going to talk about the green and gray varieties.

The funny thing is when people talk about spending $1000 on purses I think they're crazy but coats I get.  Probably because my coats aren't abused too much and my purse has a pretty tough life being crammed with all kinds of stuff and shoved into corners or dumped on the floor.

If I was being semi-responsible with the money I would make a substantial deposit into the Let's Go to Disney World fund.  I love Disney and we've been wanting to take the Tornado before he gets much older.

If I was being really really responsible I'd put the money in savings but how exciting is that?

If you had $1000 what would you buy?  Do you have any spending weaknesses?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Good Mourning - Review

Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer (Amazon link)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  In this funny insightful memoir, a young socialite risks social suicide when she takes a job at a legendary funeral chapel on New York City's Upper East Side.  Good Mourning offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous funeral homes in the country where not even big money can protect you from the universal experience of grieving.  It's Gossip Girl meets Six Feet Under, told from the unique perspective of a fashionista turned funeral planner.
Elizabeth Meyer stumbled upon a career in the midst of planning her own father's funeral, which she turned into an upbeat party with Rolling Stones music, thousands of dollars worth of her mother's favorite flowers, and a personalized eulogy.  Starting out as a receptionist, Meyer quickly found she had a knack for helping people cope with their grief, as well as creating fitting send-offs for some of the city's most high-powered residents.  Meyer has seen it all: two women who found out their deceased husband (yes, singular) was living a double life, a famous corpse with a missing brain, and funerals that cost more than most weddings.  By turns illuminating, emotional and darkly humorous, Good Mourning is a lesson in how the human heart grieves and grows whether you're wearing this season's couture or drug-store flip-flops. (from Goodreads)


Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed books about the death industry in the past but haven't read any from the perspective of a funeral home.

My Impression:  I'm not sure where to start with this one so I think I'll break it down by good, bad, and overall.
The Good: Elizabeth's genuine concern for her clients really felt genuine.  Her primary purpose really was to make sure the deceased was treated respectfully and that the family was able to honor their loved one in the best and most fitting way possible.  I also thought that this was an interesting way of working through her grief after the death of her father while actually bringing comfort to other families.  The pacing was good and even at the times when the book was making me cringe I never stopped turning pages.  And I loved Bill.  Can Bill please write a book?
The Bad: Any time the subject of money came up I spent most of my time cringing or suppressing an eye roll (it's hard to read when you're rolling your eyes).  She spends quite a lot of time being horrified that they're actually worried about money in the business.  She's shocked that some of her fellow employees seem to be in it for the money and are worried about their paychecks.  She seems completely oblivious to the fact that most of her coworkers are using their income to keep a roof over their head, lights on, and refrigerators stocked.  She calls her salary as a receptionist basically doing charity work for the Upper East Side.  While her fellow receptionist, Monica, is incredibly unprofessional both in her actions towards Elizabeth and her actions towards the clients, I could understand why she wouldn't necessarily warm to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth also is appalled when clients start tried to haggle prices for funeral services and caskets or look for ways to save money.  She questions how people are able to do this when they are in the middle of grieving their loved one.  While Elizabeth was able to plan her father's funeral without any consideration of cost it never truly seems to occur to her that not everyone is able to do that and while you want to give your spouse/parent/child the best you can if the money isn't there there isn't a magical way to make it appear.
Aside from the money issue I don't feel like I learned that much about the funeral industry.  This book was much more about Elizabeth's journey than the funeral business itself and while there mentions of different funerals or different methods I wanted more detail.
Overall: This was an incredibly readable book.  The pacing was good and never once did I feel like it was dragging.  However, this book focused more on the narrator than the industry and it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Probably not.  While the pacing was good I don't feel like I really connected with Elizabeth and there was just too many minor issues that irritated me.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Probably not.  If you're interested in gossip column meets funeral home than it's definitely worth reading but you might want to pick this up from the library instead of buying it.

Challenges Met?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Syllabus

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books On My Syllabus if I taught a Classic Mystery 101 class.

1.  The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey 
Reason: It's a fantastic mix of history and modern day (well modern-ish) detective work.  Plus it illustrates that you can have an interesting and complex mystery with the detective not even leaving his bed.  And really this is just one everyone should read.

2.  Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Reason:  There are so many reasons why this one should be examined.  The fact that you really can't trust anything that you are simply told.  An example of how easy it is to have conflicting physical evidence.  And of course, the concept of justice in the first place.

3.  Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Reason: This was the book that really made Agatha famous and for good reason.  There could be some really great discussions on twists and authors can effectively use clues within the book.  Then there's the question - did she cheat?

4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Reason:  While probably not technically a mystery Jackson's ability to magically infuse a book with atmosphere is definitely something that needs to be studied.  And Hill House is definitely more than a little creepy though in my opinion not as terrifying as it's reputation makes it sound.

5.  False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
Reason: Partly because Marsh should be represented and partly because this is the clearest example that the motive for a murder doesn't have to be big or sinister and the murderer doesn't need to obviously be a madman.

6.  The Listening Eye by Patricia Wentworth
Reason:  Patricia Wentworth is another author that really must be represented when talking about classic mysteries.  Her Miss Silver has the art of interrogation down to an exact science and this book has a particularly interesting motive.

7.  The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Reason: I need an American mystery writer in with all these Brits!  Rinehart was writing in the same time period as Christie and Sayers so the comparison between the British and American mysteries would be interesting and The Circular Staircase is just a good mystery!

8.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Reason: Not only is this a fascinating look at the legal and ethic definitions of murder but it takes the classic locked room murder to whole new levels.

9.  Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Reason: Lord Peter Wimsey is such an unusual character and Sayers' books are just so smart they are definitely worth studying.  I love the whole disturbance of the class structure and how it bothers both the police detectives and Wimsey's peers.

10. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
Reason: Because a mystery doesn't always have to have a murder and be a typical whodunnit and this is one of the best examples of that.

These would be the books I would make my students read if I was teaching a class on classic mysteries.  What kind of class would you teach?  Have you read any of these?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Plantation Shudders - Review

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  It's the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana.  The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival - elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys.  But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other - one from very unnatural causes - Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.
With the help of Bo Durand, the town's handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time.  And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives.  Decades - old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron's charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.  (From GoodReads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I love books with old houses and this is a new-to-me cozy mystery author.

My Impression:  A new cozy series with a puntastic name, a setting I'm familiar with, and a old plantation house?  How could I pass that up?  And it turns out I'm really glad I didn't.  I really enjoyed this mystery.  The setting definitely felt like small town Louisiana and Byron has definitely spent some time in the humidity of bayou country.  There's a heaping helping of motives and secrets that very slowly get unraveled.  Maggie makes a good amateur detective and her motives for getting involved with the investigation are completely understandable.  Sheriff Ru Durand is awful but Bo and the rest of the officers are good enough that it doesn't seem over the top.  I loved Bo, the Crozat family, and the rest of the Pelican residents - especially Maggie's friend Gaynell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and flew through it.  The pacing is great without feeling rushed and while the solution does seem a little far-fetched it tied up all the loose ends nicely and was entertaining.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  Byron mentions a 2nd book in the notes at the end of the book and I can't wait!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you're a fan of cozy mysteries this is a really fun read.

Challenges Met?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

This Week in Reading - August 23


It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

All I Want by Jill Shalvis - I didn't even read the blurb before I requested this one!  Shalvis is an author who always provides a good read and I really enjoyed the previous book in the Animal Magnetism series.  I was especially excited when I did take a break to read the blurb and found out it was about Zoe who was one of my favorite characters in the last book.  (NetGalley)

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance by Jennifer L. Scott - I thoroughly enjoyed Scott's previous book (At Home with Madame Chic) and am looking forward to hearing what she has to say in this new venture.  I could definitely use some lessons in everyday elegance!  (NetGalley)

The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman - A thriller featuring murders committed 108 years apart.  I was really excited to be able to participate in the blog tour for this one!  Can't wait to get started reading it.  (Edelweiss)

Currently:

Reading:  The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen and Threads of Evidence by Lea Waite

Listening: I finished Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich which was cute but not especially memorable.  It's worth a listen if your library has it but not worth going out and buying.  I'm now listening to a radio drama of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None which I'm thoroughly enjoying.  Next up is a children's book called Christina's Ghost which I read about 1000 times when I was a kid.

Watching:  I'm catching up on last season's Criminal Minds before the new season starts.  That's a seriously creepy show!  I'm really excited about the spin-off featuring Gary Sinise.

Off the Blog:

We are officially back in school mode and it feels good to be back in a routine!  The house is finally clean again and I'm starting to make a dent in my rather mammoth To-Do list.  I've also been including exercise back into my weekly routine and I'm really enjoying it.  I have exercise-induced asthma and have a really hard time with high impact/high paced cardio so I tend to avoid it.  I've found an instructor who does more dance based pilates inspired workouts and I'm absolutely loving them.  Her name is Ellen Barrett and I've used about 4 or 5 of her workout DVDs.  They definitely get my heart rate up and I'm feeling a bit sore but they don't get me so out of breath that I can't recover.

A long with getting started with the routine this week has been the week of getting used to the new normal around here.  It's not that Emma was here all that much but now that's she's no longer living here it's really having an impact.  When Eleanor left we still had 3 kids and since both Emma and Paul had crazy schedules and neither were driving I spent quite a bit of time keeping up with their schedules.  Even when they both started driving there was a constant in and out.  But now that we're down to 2 it suddenly seems a lot quieter.  And next year we will be down to 1.  One of the many good things about being a reader is that books are always there.  To read, to think about, to plan, to discuss.  Going down to a single child family and then eventually to an empty nester is definitely bittersweet but for now I'm focusing on the sweet.  Though with the Tornado just starting kindergarten we've got awhile till that happens!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Plantation Shudders - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books on My Syllabus
Wednesday: 
Thursday: Beyond the Books - I'm really excited about this week's topic
Friday: Linkups with my current book
Saturday: TBD but something foodie!

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Foodie TBR

Two of my very favorite things are food and books so of course I have a TBR pile that's on the verge of toppling just crammed with books about food - especially nonfiction and mysteries though my cookbook selection is by no means small!

However, it doesn't matter how badly I want to read a book when I get it more often than not books I own end up getting pushed aside by newer shinier review books.  This summer I've been trying to refocus a little (and admit that I don't have any place left to cram a book) and try and read the books I have.  So after some digging around my bookshelves here's my Top Ten Foodie book TBR:

Non-Fiction:

1. My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss - Despite my husband's love of all foods German (we even went to a German Restaurant on our first date) when I think food I do not think Berlin but this one has been on my radar (and my shelf) for awhile.

2. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn - I absolutely loved Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Flinn and have had this book and another one by her sitting on my shelf for far too long!

3.  Yes, Chef by Marcus Sameuelsson - I'm cheating a little with this one because I don't physically have a copy of this book on my shelf.  However, I'd gotten a digital copy from the library a couple of years ago when I first got me kindle.  Read about 25% of it, loved it and then got distracted and never finished it.  This was pre-Paperwhite days so I was doing all my Kindle reading on my big 9" Kindle Fire tablet which is really too heavy and bulky for me to read comfortably.  I'm really hoping to get a chance to finish this one.

4.  Consuming Passions: A Food Obsessed Life by Michael Lee West - I love a a good food memoir and this one involves travel as well!

5.  The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman - I've seen Ruhlman's name attached to better known (to me at least) chefs on tons of cookbooks but I know virtually nothing about who he is.  I'm hoping this will fix that.

Fiction:

6.  Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams - This is the first in the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery series. I also have the second book in the series right next to it.  I like Adams' writing style and have been in a pie mood lately. 

7.  A Spoonful of Murder by Connie Archer - I read the 5th book in the series and absolutely loved it.  Great characters, interesting small town and absolutely delicious sounding soups!  I'll probably wait until it gets a little cooler to review this one so I can try out one of the yummy looking recipes in the back of the book.

8.  Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell - I love the idea of a little shop specializing in cookie baking.  Not so much a bakery but a shop full of flavorings and sprinkles and cookie cutters.  I could probably spend hours in a store like that.

9.  An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette - One of my favorite things in a book is if I'm familiar with the series.  I love Key West and Key Lime pie!  This one may be coming up soon because now is the perfect weather for the pie!

10. Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay - This is the 3rd in the Cupcake Bakery series.  I've read the first 2 and really enjoyed them and I love the rest of McKinlay's other series.   Not only do I have the 3rd book in the series but the 4th, 5th, and 6th as well.

This list could've gone on endlessly but these are my current top ten and I'm hoping to have reviews up for a few of them soon.  Are there any here that catch your eye?  Or any foodie book - fact or fiction - that I simply must read?

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


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Linkups: The Peach Keeper















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:
When you read a book that isn't for review, do you still feed the need to write a review of it?

My Answer:
Yes and no.  Helpful right?  For the most part it depends on the book.  If it's a read that's not especially memorable in any way than I probably won't.  The audio book I'm listening to right now I'm probably won't write a review for because I don't have much to say about it.  I'm enjoying it but it's not something that's going to stick with me.  But, in general I do write a review.  Partly because it helps me remember the book itself better and partly so I'll have some reviews on standby so I'll have something to post if a week gets away from me!

This week's book is The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.  Allen is one of those authors I've been wanting to read since pre-blogger days (mostly because of her painting-like covers) but just never got too.  A little while ago I was in the library with the Tornado when a book entitled The Peach Keeper caught my eye.  During the summer I have a hard time resisting anything peach - the fruit, baked goods, scented items, etc - so I knew I'd be picking up the book and I was even more delighted to see that it was by an author I'd really been wanting to read.  I'm planning on starting this one tonight as I just finished the print book I was reading so I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

The Beginning:
The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she'd had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned white as bleached cotton.

My Thoughts:
I'm quite curious what is in the envelopes that involve good stationary and a calligrapher.  Wedding invitations maybe?  The visual of the rain turning the sky white is interesting.  I'm not sure I've seen it rain that hard but it does make me visualize a super heavy rain.

The 56:
It'd been much longer in high school, and she's always worn it in a messy braid.  Actually, he really didn't know if she'd always worn it like that, it was just how he remembered it the last time he saw her, walking out of the school.

My Thoughts: 
Since it doesn't sound like these two knew each other very well (if at all) I'm curious why he remembers the last time he saw her so vividly.

So have you read this?  Any authors that you really want to read but for some reason just haven't?  Is the better question how many authors do you really want to read but haven't?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Beyond the Books: My Favorite Game


I'm excited to be linking up with KissinBlueKaren for her really fun Beyond the Books feature.  Every week there's a new topic to talk about that makes us talk about ourselves a little more and I always love to see what everyone has to say.  This wee's topic is My Favorite Game.

There's a little something that most people don't know about me - I'm crazy competitive. I used to think I just really didn't like board games but what it really is is that I really don't like to lose.  I do okay at long winded strategy games like Monopoly or Life or games where there isn't really a clear winner like Apples to Apples but give me one wrong move in Trouble or Sorry and let's just say it doesn't bring out the best in me.

Emma, Eleanor, and Paul at an Atlanta Braves game about 5
years ago
Sports-wise I like watching football and baseball but I have a hard time watching games of my favorite teams if the score is close.  Baseball I'm generally okay but college football (War Eagle) is another story. I scream and yell and cover my eyes and fall backwards on to the couch.  Then I pace and yell some more.  Apparently I watch football just like my dad which is just one more bit of evidence that I'm slowly turning into him.

When Emma was much younger and playing soccer I ended up coaching her team.  Not because of a great love of soccer - though I do enjoy it - or great skill on my part - I have none - but because I understood the strategy and was competitive enough to focus on it.  I loved coaching soccer and we did really well.  While I was never a "it doesn't matter if you win or lose" kind of a coach I wasn't a "win or die" coach either so it worked out.


Then there are video games.  These are the only things I'm good at being bad at am I really really am!  My husband and I used to play Lego Star Wars on the Xbox but things got busy and we stopped.  We bought a WiiU for the Tornado a few months ago and I bought a Lego Pirates of the Caribbean and am hoping to revive the tradition.  Lately though the Tornado and I have taken to spending rainy days playing Super Mario which is pretty great!

So what about you?  Are you a game person?  Or are you like me and have to take deep breaths and remind yourself that it's just a game when your 5 year old is trouncing you at Candyland?  Don't even get me started about Chutes and Ladders!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Year Without a Purchase - Review

The Year Without A Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting by Scott Dannemiller
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description: The Year Without a Purchase is the story of one family's quest to stop shopping and start connecting.  Scott Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, are former missionaries who served in Guatemala.  Ten years removed from their vow of simple living they found themselves on a never ending treadmill of consumption where each purchase created a desire for more and never led to true satisfaction.  The difference between needs and wants had grown very fuzzy, and making that distinction clear again would require drastic action; no nonessential purchases for a whole year.  No clothes, no books, no new toys for the kids.  If they couldn't eat it or use it up within a year (toilet paper and shampoo, for example) they would buy it.
Filled with humorous wit, curious statistics, and poignant conclusions, the book examines modern America's spending habits and chronicles the highs and lows of dropping out of consumer culture.  As the family bypasses the checkout line to wrestle with the challenges of gift giving, child rearing, and keeping up with the Joneses, they discover important truths about human nature and the secret to finding true joy.  The Year Without a Purchase offers valuable food for thought for anyone who has ever wanted to reduce stress by shopping less and living more.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:After paying two college tuition bills and all the regular beginning of school craziness I was feeling broke and stressed.  Plus I love project books like this!

My Impression:  A number of years ago I decided to go a whole year without buying anything personal.  No clothes, no cosmetics or toiletries that weren't a replacement, and nothing else personal.  It went well until about 8 months in I bottomed out and ended up just being miserable.  I didn't really understand why.  While I do like to shop and enjoy finding new things my life doesn't revolve around it and I actually shop very little.  After reading this book I got a little more insight.  It wasn't the not buying anything, it was doing all denial without adding any positives.  I removed the purchasing which is fine but I didn't replace it with experiences or anything positive.
This book was an interesting look at going an entire year without making a purchase.  Dannemiller and his family explored not just buying but giving and paying attention to each other and the community around them.  I really enjoyed the humorous tone Dannemiller brought to the book.  It was entertaining and interesting watching him work through the problems he encountered as the year went on.  I loved how non-judgmental this book was.  The attitude was very "this is what we did and this is what happened" without any "everyone really must do this the same way".
It really got me thinking about my own spending habits as well as figuring out more ways to bring joy to my everyday life.  It also sparked several interesting conversations with my husband about buying stuff versus spending money for experiences.  That to me is a win!
Going in I was expecting a decent amount of religious discussion and the bible passages that headed each chapter and relating the lessons learned from spending to lessons taught by God were interesting.  However, periodically it felt like Dannemiller went on a long religious ramble - especially at the beginning.  At these times it felt like this was a supplemental text for an adult bible study class and the subject of the book got a little lost.
Despite the flaws, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to figuring out my own no purchasing plan.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I definitely would - especially if the subject catches my eye like this one did.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you're considering trying to simplify this is a great resource - especially if you have children.

Challenges Met?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors


This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is my Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors.  I don't actually buy too many new books but I do when I have too!  These are the authors that when I see a book by them I am going to get - either request, put on hold on the library, track down used, or actually buy new.

Non-Fiction

1. J. Maarten Troost - A few years ago an acquaintance and I were talking books and I mentioned that I really enjoyed travel type books.  She all but clapped her hands and said you've got to try J. Maarten Troost!  Then when she was telling me a little bit about the books she started laughing.  I went and hunted down The Sex Lives of Cannibals and spent half my time laughing and half my time rereading bits outloud to my husband who was intrigued enough that HE read it and enjoyed it as well.  I've read several books by him now and continue to enjoy his books.

2. Tony Horwitz - I discovered Horwitz kind of by a fluke.  My grandmother (and number one book pusher) was getting rid of a bunch of books and she had put Baghdad Without a Map in a pile of books she thought I'd like.  I think it sat on my shelf but when I finally picked it up and I laughed till I cried through portions of it and promptly went out to find all his other books.  I've loved all of them with the exception of Confederates in the Attic.

3.  Rebecca Barry - Earlier this summer I got stuck in a bit of a reading rut where I just couldn't settle on anything until I stumbled on Rebecca Barry's Recipes for a Beautiful Life.  It was funny, and poignant, and so easily relatable that I loved reading it and it knocked me out of my rut.  

Mystery

1. Jen McKinley - I started with McKinley's cupcake series because I'm a big fan of cupcakes and combining cupcakes and murder was too good to pass up.  Then I discovered her Library Lover's series and was really hooked.  She has a hat shop series too that takes place in London but I'm ridiculously behind on my TBR shelf and haven't gotten to them yet.  

2. Sheila Connolly - Sheila Connolly is an author I just click with for some reason.  The mysteries aren't perfect but I always really enjoy the read.  Something about how she does her writing style, her characters,and her settings just really works for me.  I've really enjoyed her Irish series though I've only read the first one.  Her Apple Orchard series is probably my favorite though I do enjoy her museum series as it reminds me of my days working in a museum.

3. Deborah Crombie - Crombie's first Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery, A Share in Death, was published in 1993.  I'm not sure when I first read it but it probably wasn't too long after that.  This is a series that has really grown in the best of ways.  At the beginning the mysteries were a bit more straight forward police procedurals but as time has gone on the relationships have deepened but not gone off the deepened.  If I was making a Top Ten list of authors who I'd like to completely reread their books, Crombie would be at the top.

Romance/Fiction

1.  Nora Roberts - I always enjoy a Nora Roberts book.  It may not end up being a favorite but I know I'm in for a good story and interesting characters every time I pick up a book with her name on it (well except for her more early books but we're pretending those don't exist).  Some of my favorites are Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, The Witness, Blue Dahlia, and Key of Knowledge though there's plenty of others that I've enjoyed.

2.  Sabrina Jeffries - Back about 15 years ago, when I first started reading romances Sabrina Jeffries was one of the authors that I discovered.  I loved her books and read everything that the used bookstore had in stock.  Then I kind of forgot about her.  Probably 3 or 4 years ago I decided to reread some of my favorite romances from the beginning.  Most didn't fare so well but the Jeffries book was an exception.  Since then I've been trying to catch up on her books that I've missed and have been enjoying them - especially the Duke's Men series.

3.  Susan Wiggs - Susan WIggs is another author I used to read and when I first got my Kindle one of the first books I checked out from my library's site was The Apple Orchard.  I fell in love and have been trying to catch up ever since!

4.  Jill Shalvis - I love pretty much anything Shalvis writes.  Her characters are fun, entertaining, interesting and other than the fact that all the males are ridiculously good looking, very different.  While I've enjoyed the Animal Magnetism series my favorite is still Lucky Harbor.  I'm still in a bit of denial that the series ended.  So much in denial that I've actually just started the final trilogy which came out a year ago.  I just don't want it to end!

There are so many other authors I could mention but these were the first 10 that came to mind.  I could probably do a Top 20 or 30 on this topic without any problem!  Who are your auto-buy authors?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Let Me Tell You - Review

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Rating:
Source: NetGalley
Description: From the renowned author of "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House, a spectacular new volume of previously unpublished and uncollected stories, essays, and other writings
As we approach the centenary of her birth comes this astonishing compilation of fifty-six pieces - more than forty of which have never been published before.  Two of Jackson's children co-edited this volume, culling through the vast archives of their mother's papers at the Library of Congress, selecting only the very best for inclusion.

Genre: Fiction/Short Stories

Why I Picked This Book: How could I resist a new collection of Jackson's work?

My Impression: Shirley Jackson is a master of the eerie, the creepy, and the sinister.  In these short stories and essays nothing really happens.  These are regular men, women, and children going about their day.  There's a man coming home from work, a little girl celebrating her birthday with her parents and their friends, a college professor's wife having tea with a few of her husband's students, and countless other ordinary stories.  Except they're not.  In each story something is horribly wrong.  There's evil lurking, hidden agendas, and misdirected motives.  But none of those show up in the written word.  In each story Jackson manages to convey a sense of wrongness in the most subtle but obvious of ways.  This isn't a book to be gobbled up in one sitting.  I read one story at a time each time setting the book down with an almost overwhelming sense of unease and had to let the story roll around in my mind for a little while before reading the next story.
If you are new to Shirley Jackson or a long time fan this is definitely a book worth picking up.  This is Jackson in her stride - ordinary, sinister and oh so creepy.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Definitely!  There are several of Jackson's books that I haven't read and really want to and a few that I have read and really want to reread.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Of course. Shirley Jackson is an author I think everyone should read!

Challenges Met?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

This Week in Reading - August 16


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:


Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller - I've been wanting to try her books for ages and just never quite got around to it so I'm excited to try this Christmas story!  (NetGalley)

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong - I won this in a giveaway hosted over at Bea's Book Nook and am really excited about it!  Bea and some of my other favorite bloggers are all big fans of this author and her blurbs have been catching my eye for awhile. (Giveaway)






Currently:

Reading:  One in a Million by Jill Shalvis and Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

Listening: After trying a memoir type book that just didn't work for me I'm now listening to Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly.  I'm not in love with it but it's okay.

Watching: Nothing really new.  I've got the end of Major Crimes and Food Network Star to watch and then it will be a little while before the new shows start up.  I haven't heard of any new fall shows that are on my must watch list.  Any suggestions?

Off the Blog:

We got Emma into her dorm room this week which was exhausting.  The getting home was weird and now I'm definitely outnumbered gender-wise here!  It's going to take some getting used too.  The actual moving in went pretty smoothly and it was fun to look around the campus and the town.  While the small town the university is in is near the interstate Emma really didn't want to drive through the major city that you have to pass through to get there so we ended up taking highways and county roads instead of the interstate.  It made for an interesting drive and I saw a lot of Alabama that I'd never really seen before.

The Tornado did really well starting school this week and so far is loving Kindergarten.  Since he's at the same school he went to preschool in it hasn't been too big of a change.  Next year when he moves to the bigger elementary school might be a challenge.

Now that things have settled down I'm hoping to get back into a routine especially an exercise routine.  I want to lose a little bit of weight but most importantly exercise seems to help keep a couple of old injuries from flaring up.  I'm also hoping to get back to my usual blog visiting and comment replying!  As for now, I mostly just feel like I need a nap.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson - Fiction Short Story Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors
Wednesday: A Year Without a Purchase - Nonfiction Review
Thursday: Beyond the Books - My Favorite Game
Friday: Linkups Featuring My Current Book
Saturday: TBD but something foodie

Have a great week and happy reading! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lavender Truffle Recipe with Kathy Aarons


Today I'm so excited to be hosting Kathy Aarons!  I've had Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, her first mystery in the Chocolate Covered series, on my TBR since I first came across it last year and I'm really excited about her 2nd book - Truffled to Death - which was released just a couple of months ago.  There's chocolate, a bookstore and murder!  What more could I ask for?


Today Kathy is going to share a recipe I cannot wait to try.  One more reason this series is firmly on my TBR - the recipes!  To find out more about Kathy and her books you can visit her websiteGoodreads, and Amazon


And now here's Kathy to show a yummy truffle recipe!


Below is one of the first truffle recipes I tried and it made me fall in love with chocolate all over again! 

I’m Kathy Aarons, author of the Chocolate Covered Mystery series by Berkley Prime Crime. Lucky for me, I just have to try all of the recipes in my books. The recipes are supplied by chocolatier Isabella Knack, owner of Dallmann’s Fine Chocolates in San Diego. Her truffles are gorgeous works of art that taste better than anything I’ve ever eaten. Mine are ugly little lumps that still taste amazing!


Lavender truffle
Recipe by Isabella Knack

Ingredients:

12 fresh lavender flower heads
1/3 cup heavy cream
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

Place the flower heads and cream into a small in pot. Heat on high until cream starts to simmer. Take off heat and set aside to steep 15 minutes.

Divide the chocolate into equal portions, and set one portion aside.

Heat up the cream again and using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the cream into the chocolate; discard the flower heads and bits of lavender.

Stir the cream and chocolate together until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until somewhat firm, but not hard, about 1 hour.

Melt the other half of the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments until liquid.


Line a baking sheet with a piece of waxed paper. Roll the lavender mixture into 1 tablespoon-sized balls, and dip into the melted chocolate mixture using a skewer or toothpick. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours to harden.

Thanks Kathy!  I can't wait to try these and dive into her latest books.  It definitely sounds like a book to be enjoyed with a big box of chocolates nearby!  I'm also glad I'm not the only one whose culinaryexperiments end up being tasty but a bit unattractive!

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


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Linkups: Three Act Tragedy















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:
Are you ever without a book?

My Answer:
At no point do I not have a book I'm in the process of reading.  Even when I finish 1 book I usually have another book going as well.  In terms of having a physical book with me at all times probably not.  If I'm going to be away from home for any length of time or if I go somewhere where I know I'll have to wait I always bring my Kindle but if I'm just out running errands I probably am bookless.  That's bitten me a few times!

For this week I'm back to Agatha Christie!  Three Act Tragedy is one of my favorites though it's been a long time since I've read it.  There's a whole host of interesting characters, motives galore, and complete lack of motives at other times.  Plus she structured it like a play which is really fun to read.

The Beginning:
Mr. Satterthwaite sat on the terrace of Crow's Nest and watched his host, Sir Charles Cartwright, climbing up the path from the sea.

My Thoughts:
Mr. Satterthwaite is one of my favorite Agatha characters.  While my favorite Satterthwaite book feature Harley Quin is still a fun treat to get to meet him much earlier in her writing.

The 56:
"Miss Sutcliffe has made a suggestion to us.  She suggested that the man had left the house through a secret passage."

My Thoughts:
Just the words secret passage sound magical!  If I ever build a house I'm putting a secret passage in it.  The question is is Miss Sutcliffe right?  And if not where did he go?

Would you keep reading?  Do you have a book with you at all times or only when you think there will be time to read?


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Other Daughter - Review

The Other Duaghter by Lauren Willig
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly.  Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three months before.  He's an earl, respected and influential and he is standing with another daughter - his legitimate daughter.  Which makes Rachel...not legitimate.  Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past - even her very name is a lie. (From GoodReads)

Genre:  Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:This is an author I've been wanting to read for awhile and the blurb really caught my attention.

My Impression:  I really loved this one.  From pretty much the beginning I was pulled into the story and I wanted to get to know the characters better and find out what really happened.  Rachel is an incredibly likable character.  She's smart, independent, with a spine of steel and a good sense of humor.  She's someone I would love to have as a friend.  While some of her actions throughout the novel are a bit questionable it's easy to understand why she's acting the way she is.  Her world has been devastated and then turned on it's end and she is struggling to figure out exactly what she wants, she's acting on impulse and at times she's lashing out but she does so in such a way that I really sympathized with her.
The setting is drawn enough that you get a sense of London in the 1920s but not so heavy handed as to become monotonous.  I really would have loved a look at Rachel's wardrobe.  It sounds gorgeous!  I loved Simon and never knew what to expect from him.  From the beginning it's obvious that there's more to him than he lets on and I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure it out.  I was very satisfied with the ending though I did feel like one part wrapped up a little too fast.  The characters aren't perfect but they're easy to related to and multi-faceted.
Overall, this was a fantastic read in a gorgeous setting with an interesting mystery.  I hated to put it down and was always excited to get back to the story.  I'm definitely looking forward to reading more by this author.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I just wish I could read more about Rachel.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!  So far this is one of my favorite books of the year.

Challenges Met? Alphabet Soup (O)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Collector - Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

Anne-Laure ThiƩblemont

on Tour August 10-29 with Collector

The Collector

(mystery) Release date: August 11, 2015 at Le French Book 211 pages ISBN: 978-1939474445 Website | Goodreads ***

SYNOPSIS

Some people collect art, others collect trouble. Marion Spicer spends her days examining auction catalogues and searching for stolen works of art. She is a top-notch investigator when it comes to eighteenth-century art. But for her it’s just a job and her life is well ordered. All this changes when she inherits a huge and very prestigious collection of pre-Columbian art from a father she never knew. There are conditions attached: she must first find three priceless statues. That is when her troubles begin. Her father’s death sparked much greed, and Marion finds herself facing the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, with its sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams, and attacks. Her quest draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty. ***


My Review:

I love a good art theft mystery and couldn't resist this one!  We really get a glimpse into the backroom of the art world.  We go to private parties given by famous collectors, behind the scenes at auction houses and into the offices of those whose job it is to track down stolen treasures.  All with a big heaping of juicy gossip!  
However, despite all the good points this didn't end up being the perfect for me.  Maybe because I'm unfamiliar with pre-Colombian art so I had to go look up a few of the types of sculptures that get mentioned in the book.  Partly, I think because there were a number of characters whose personalities weren't distinct enough for me to really keep them separate so I did spend more time than I like remembering who was who.
But just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for you.  If you love Art Theft type thrillers this one is definitely worth picking up!  Plus, it's set in Paris which makes it a little more tempting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Collector Anne Laure Thieblemont ©RobertTerzian An art reporter and trained gem specialist, Anne-Laure ThiĆ©blemont is known for her investigations into stolen art and gem trafficking. She currently works as a magazine editor, and splits her time between Paris and Marseille.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Sophie Weiner is a freelance translator and book publishing assistant from Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in French from Bucknell University and New York University, Sophie went on to complete a master’s in literary translation from the Sorbonne, where she focused her thesis on translating wordplay in works by Oulipo authors. She has translated and written for web-based companies dedicated to art, cinema, and fashion as well as for nonprofit organizations. Growing up with Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince, Sophie was bitten by the Francophile bug at an early age, and is fortunate enough to have lived in Paris, Lille, and the Loire Valley.
 
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*** You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 5 participants will each win a copy of this book. Print/digital format for US residents Digital for all other residents   ***

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Gilded Grave - Blog Tour Review + Giveaway


Rating:
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  In 1895, the height of the Gilded Age, the social elite spend their summers in Newport, Rhode Island.  Within the walls of their fabulous "cottages" competition for superiority is ruthless...and so are the players.
During her first Newport season, Deanna Randolph attends a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline.  The Manchesters are an immediate success - along with their exotic manservant and his fortune telling talents.
But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead - and suspicion falls on Joseph Ballard, a member of one of the town's most prestigious families.
Joe humiliated Deanna when he rebuffed an engagement to her, but while he may be a cad, she knows he isn't a killer.  Now the reluctant allies must navigate a world of parties, tennis matches, and seances to find the real murder.  But a misstep among the glittering upper classes could leave them exposed to something far more dangerous than malicious gossip (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: So many reasons!  First I've really wanted to read this author since I discovered her Celebration Bay cozy series, then there's the time period which always catches my attention, and finally the blurb!  It just sounds intriguing.

My Impression:  Think Downton Abby meets Murder She Wrote (with a much younger main character) and you've got the basic feel of this book.  The description of the scenery, the locations, and the clothing made me wish I was there.  It was all stunningly beautiful - especially the gowns and the jewels.
There's enough characters to really fill out the book but not so many I felt like I needed a cast list to keep everyone straight and I loved the combination of upstairs/downstairs.  Deanna is fascinating.  She understands why she needs to act certain ways and does her best but she can't help but miss her childhood days when decorum wasn't quite so important.  Mrs. Randolph is kind of a Gilded Age Mrs. Bennett without the heart and it was fun to see Deanna out-manipulate her a time or two with the help of Deanna's friend Cassie and Mr. Randolph.
I went into the mystery thinking it was going to go a certain way and it ended up having a few more twists than I was expecting.  There's a lot going on in general with romances - failed and on-going -, business politics, social politics, and solving the mystery in general.  The language was a little stilted and a bit more formal than we would regularly speak but I felt like that was accurate for the time period.
The mystery was well done and well paced with interesting characters and a gorgeous setting.  Now, I need to go book a trip to Newport to go look at the "cottages"!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely Deanna is a character I want to spend more time with and I'm really looking forward to trying more books by Freydont.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes definitely!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Challenges Met? Reading Road Trip (Rhode Island)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Baker's Blue - Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

Baker's Blues by Judith Ryan Hendricks
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  In Wyn Morrison's world a 5 A.M. phone call is rarely good news.  It usually means equipment trouble at her bakery or a first shift employee calling in sick - something annoying but mundane, fixable.  But the news she receives on a warm July morning is anything but mundane.  Or fixable.
Mac, her ex-husband, is dead.
He's not just in a different house with another woman, but actually, physically gone.  Ineligible for widowhood, Wyn is nonetheless shaken to her core as she discovers that the fact of the divorce offers no immunity from grief.
As Mac's executor, Wyn is now faced with not only sorting his possessions and selling the house, but also with helping his daughter Skye deal with financial and legal aspects of the estate - a task made more difficult by Skye's grief, anger, and resentment.
Ironically, just when Wyn needs support most, everyone she's closet to is otherwise occupied.  Her mother and stepfather have moved to Northern California, her best friend CM has finally married the love of her life and is commuting to New York, and her protege Tyler is busy managing the bakery and dealing with her first serious love affair.  They're all sympathetic, but bewildered by her spiral into sadness.  After all, it's been three years since the divorce.
On her own, she stumbles at first.  For the last several years Wyn has been more businesswoman than baker, leaving the actual bread making to the others.  Now, as she takes up her place in the bread rotation once more, she will sift through her memories, coming to terms with Mac and his demons, with Skye's anger, and with Alex, who was once more than a friend.  Soon she will re-learn the lessons that she first discovered at the Queen Street Bakery in Seattle... that bread is a process - slow, arduous, mess, mysterious - and best consumed with the eyes closed and the heart open.  (From GoodReads)

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I love books that involve healing and healing through food is even better!

My Impression: The day this book arrived I wasn't expecting it.  So when a package shows up in my mailbox from an address I didn't recognize I was so curious I opened it as I was walking down the driveway/  This led to me opening the book as I was walking which in turn led to me standing in the garage reading for the next 15 minutes.  The writing immediately pulled me in and I was swept into the story.  Even though I couldn't really identify with Wyn in a lot of ways, I really liked her.  Her thoughts were shown so clearly and so sympathetically that I understood her.  This is really a book that appeals to the senses.  I could feel the bread dough as Wyn kneads it and smell it as it's baking.  Everything is beautifully described and brought to life without getting too bogged down in details.  I also really enjoyed the characters.  They're not perfect and they don't always behave perfectly but they're not so flawed as to be completely unlikable.  I might want to reach into the book and give a character a good shake but the motives for their actions were always understandable if not logical.

This is the 3rd book in the series which was actually a surprise to me after reading it as it works so well as a stand alone.  The book did drag a bit in places and I think could have been a little shorter but it also could be that I'm feeling the pressure of a rather mammoth TBR.  Overall, this was a lovely book.  I liked the characters, loved the writing and was fully satisfied with the ending.

Giveaway:

The publisher is giving away 1 copy of this book for each tour stop!  To enter just leave the email address where I can reach you if you win.  On Monday 8/17 at 11:59 CST I'll pick a random number and whichever commentor corresponds with that number wins!  (US/Canada Only)

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will definitely read more of this author though since I know how everything ends I'm not sure I'll go back and read the earlier books in the series though I am curious.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes!  If you love foodie fiction or stories that really focus on relationships between people I think you'd like this one.

Challenges Met?