Saturday, December 31, 2016

First Book of the Year - 2017

Today I'm linking up with Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer for the Sunday Post and Kathryn over at Book Date for What Are You Reading?  I'm also super excited to be linking up with Sheila over at Book Journey for her First Book of the Year.

Every year I spend a lot of time coming up with the perfect first book to read.  I go back and forth between taking a risk and reading something that seems safe that I know I'll enjoy.  That backfired on me a little bit last year as the travel memoir that focused on following Agatha Christie's Orient Express turned out to be a DNF.  This year I'm going a bit safer!  I've read two books by this author and loved them both plus I do love a foodie memoir!

So this year I'm going with Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
I'm excited about this one as it's been on my TBR for years and somehow I just never got around to reading it.  I loved Flinn's Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good which talked about her family and how their culinary influence as well as Flinn's first book The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry which definitely showed me that I really never wanted to go to culinary school.  I'm hoping for a good read and maybe to pick up a few new tips and tricks!

And because I'm never reading just one book here's what other first books I'll be tackling.

What's On My Kindle:

My first book on my Kindle is a sadly neglected review book.  I loved Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance when I read it in 2015.  It's a fun cozy set in the 1920s about a society wife who is suddenly a widow and suddenly broke.  It's full of quirky characters and set around a solid mystery.  I was thrilled when I got the 2nd book from the publisher but somehow it slipped down my TBR.  So my first Kindle book will be Teetotaled by Maia Chance.

What I'm Listening To:

For the first week or two while the Tornado is still on Christmas break I'll be listening to podcasts exclusively.  Some of my favorites are:
Happier with Gretchen Rubin 
Super Serials -where they talk about Middle Grade series books like Babysitter's Club
What Should I Read Next - from the Modern Mrs. Darcy 
The History Chicks - which is about women in history
Read It and Weep - where they talk about mostly bad movies, tv shows, or books and is my current favorite 
True Crime Garage 
Thinking Sideways - which is mostly about crime but also about other unexplained mysteries
The Vanished -which is about missing people.

When school starts back and we start getting back into our routine I'm going to be listening to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce.  I loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and it's one of the things that inspired me to start reading the James Bond books as they're both by Ian Fleming.  I'm a little worried about this one since the author is different and that can frequently be disastrous but the amazing David Tennant is the narrator so I figure it can't be too bad!

That's how I'm starting my year in reading!  What are you going to be reading?

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - 2016 Conclusion

Whew!  2016 is coming to a close and with it is the end of this year's 52 Pins in 52 Weeks project.  I ended up finishing only 49 because unforeseen events and some time management issues got in the way.  However, I think I learned a lot and I'm really excited to continue this project in 2017 - hopefully with some of you linking up! I'm going to add the 3 I didn't complete so it will actually be 55 pins in 52 weeks but I'm hoping I've learned a few lessons to make it work out.  In 2017 I'll be making this a linkup on the last Saturday of every month.  I'm hoping that you join me by trying some of your pins and showing how it went!

My original goal for this project was to tackle some of the pins that had been setting ignored and neglected for way too long but in the end I think I got a little more out of it than just using up the pins so here are a few things I've learned along the way.

What I've Learned:

1.  While other people are able to do put some paint on a canvas and have it look good I am not one of those people.  And even if was it doesn't tend to be something I'd really want to hang up on my wall.

2.  I need to plan WAY in advance for crafts.  I'm not good at getting them completed or um... starting them at a moments notice.

3.  Trust my instincts.  While it's always fun to take a risk with flavor combinations or new to me methods if I think there's too much extract and not enough fresh ingredients in a recipe  or if I feel like the batter will be too bready I'm probably right.

4.  I really don't have to do every pin I pin.  Sometimes - especially early on - I just got caught up in the fun of pinning and just because something looks cute doesn't mean I have to do do it if it isn't something I'd enjoy.  It's okay to delete those pins.

Changes I want to make going forward:

1.  Plan, plan, and plan some more.  The reason a lot of these pins are sitting there neglected is because they take time to prepare or at least be thought out ahead of time.  If there is something I want to do I need to actually take the time to plan it out.

2.  Do more holiday or seasonal pins.  The Tornado just turned 7 and I feel like the end of his enjoyment of seasonal type projects and food is within sight.  If I want Easter bunny bark to be part of his Easter or whatever I need to actually get to doing it and I need to start soon.

3.  Get better about cleaning out pins.  I love Pinterest and pinning and all of that BUT having so many pins means things get lost.  When a pin doesn't work I need to start making an effort to delete it quickly so that I clear some space and don't attempt it again!

4.  Don't plan to get any pins accomplished between Christmas and New Years.  It just isn't going to happen.

I'm using today to pin 52 things I want to try in 2017 and make sure all the flops from last year are deleted.  I'm looking forward to getting started on another fun year of not just pinning but attempting!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Linkups: Bay of Sighs

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 Hope Question:
Your New Year's Resolution is to read a classic novel that you have never read before. What book will it be?

My Answer:
It's hard to narrow this one down!  There are so many classics that I have yet to read but are on my TBR.  I'm thinking Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  While I have read pretty much everything else Steinbeck ever wrote I somehow missed his masterpiece.  Runner up is Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.

This week's book is one I've really been looking forward too so I figured it'd be a great last book of 2016.  I had spent the last few years being seriously underwhelmed by Nora Roberts' trilogies so I was pleasantly surprised when I read and thoroughly enjoyed Stars of Fortune which was the first in The Guardians Trilogy.  This is the 2nd book - Bay of Sighs - and while it is about the characters I was the least interested in the first book there are a number of challenges that I'm really curious to see how Roberts pulls off!

The Beginning:
The story was told, generation by generation, in song and in story, until time misted it into myth.  But some believed, as legends brought comfort.
And some knew the story was the truth.

My Thoughts:  
I'm always a little nervous when Roberts starts a book when this kind of sing songy myth type language because she's started a lot of books like this and one of my biggest problems with the last trilogies is that they've felt repetitive.  However, since this is the 2nd book and I loved the first book I'm all about it!

The 56:
"We're all afraid, Anni."
Surprised, she looked up at him.  "No one seemed afraid but me."

My Thoughts:
One of the reasons I don't like Anni who is part of the main couple in this book is because she's so oblivious.  The reasons for that make sense but I thought it might be irritating as the focus of a book.  However, so far I've really enjoyed it as she comes off as more vulnerable and eager than purely oblivious and I think this snippet shows that pretty well.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What classic have you not read that you really want to read?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 Library TBR

Yesterday I talked about the 10 books I hope to read off of my physical TBR shelf.  In 2017 one of the things I'd really like to do is make better use of my library.  I have a great library within just a few miles of my house.  It's little but the children's section is amazing and the variety of available books is pretty impressive.  Not to mention the people are so nice.  Because it's a branch in a much larger system I also can go online and find just about any book I want and have it delivered to my library.  While I really enjoy having all of that available other than the children's section I rarely end up using it.  This year I'd like to make more of an effort to get more use out of it instead of just thinking about it!  Here are 10 - 5 print and 5 audio - that I plan on checking out from the library this year.


1.  The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King - I love this mystery series that I've been sadly neglecting for far too long.  I read The Language of Bees in 2016 and really enjoyed it.  This is a continuation of the larger story of that book and I can't wait to find out what happens.  Plus, anytime spent with Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is time well spent!

2.  A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn - Raybourn is one of my favorite authors because of her ability to create a world that her characters inhabit.  She always pulls me in and it's almost a shock to look up from the book and realize that I'm in my very own bedroom and not the one that she has so richly drawn.  This is the first in a new series and looks really intriguing AND the cover is gorgeous!

3.  And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander - Apparently I'm in a historical mystery mood!  This is a series I've been hearing about since I started blogging but haven't managed to read yet.  This is the year!

4.  First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower - The Residence by Brower was one of my top ten reads of 2015.  I loved her ability to really take a look at the experiences of the staff in the White House and focusing on the humanness and the history without really getting into politics.  I'm hoping the same for this book.  I'm planning on getting it in book form for the photographs as I felt like I missed out a little in the last book.

5.  The Hollow by Ransom Riggs - I really enjoyed Miss Peregrine when I read it years ago and meant to pick up The Hollow when it first came out to find out what happened next.  Of course I needed to get it in print because all of the weird photographs are half the enjoyment of the book.  For one reason or another I never managed to pick it up


1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce - I'm not going to lie - the main reason I'm really looking forward to this one is because David Tennant is the narrator!  I listened to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang last year and loved it partly because the story is just so fun and partly because I could listen to Tennant read a phone book (which I know is out of date but you know what I mean) and be fascinated.  I'm a little worried that this is not by Ian Fleming who is the original author but I figure it'll still be fun!

2.  The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin - This has been on my radar for awhile but J and I watched the movie Infamous about Truman Capote a few weeks ago and I was so intrigued by Capote's "Swans".  

3.  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - This book has been on my radar for ages and I'm finally going to listen to it this year.  I've heard some mixed reviews on it which is why I'm thinking I'll go audio.  I tend to be braver about books I've heard mixed things about with audio than print for some reason.

4.  Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong - J and I are big Seinfeld fans and references to that show frequently find their way into our everyday life (and I may have texted that entire car rental scene EVERY time I rent a car because it's still same).  This book looks really fun and since I don't know much about it other than the topic I'm really looking forward to it.

5.  Faithful by Alice Hoffman - Hoffman has been on my radar for ages and she's always been one of those authors that I knew I should read but just hadn't been inspired to do so.  However, this book has been recommended to my by a number of people including several bloggers who I really trust so I'm thinking now is the time!

Do you use your library as much as you'd like?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My 2017 TBR List

Like pretty much every reader I have piles of books stuck in every corner I can find.  And probably like lots of you I tend to ignore the books I already own in favor of newer shinier review books that land on me through the year.  So last year I'm combed through my physical TBR shelf and came up with 12 I wanted to read and tried to get them all read.  The results?  Seven out of twelve read which I'm calling that a win.  For 2017 I made a list of 10 books I want to read this year.  I'm hoping to make another list of library checkouts as well and I also want to read the 5 books I didn't get to in 2016.  Plus 10 is such a nice round number!

1. Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost - I've read 2 previous travel memoir type books from Troost and really enjoyed them.  This book set in China sounds really different than his previous books which were set in more tropical locations so I'm really excited about it.

2.  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn - This has been on my TBR for YEARS.  It was the first book by Flinn that was recommended to me and for some reason I've read the books on either side of this one but never this.  2017 is the year!

3.  All Facts Considered by Kee Malesky - This is a book written by the research department for All Things Considered.  I heard an interview about the book years and years ago and it sounded really interesting and now I'm going to get around to reading the book.

4.  The House on Tradd Street by Karen White - There's ghosts and houses being renovated all in Charleston which is one of my absolutely favorite settings!

5.  False Mermaid by Erin Hart - This is a mystery series with an archaeological spin that takes place in Ireland.  I read the first book or two years ago and really enjoyed them.

6.  Ghost Night by Heather Graham - This is actually the 2nd in a trilogy and the first was on my 2016 TBR list and I haven't read it yet.  So first I have to read that one and then I'll read this one but they both look like seriously spooky fun.

7.  Unhallowed Ground by Kate Ellis - I discovered Kate Ellis in a used bookstore pre-Amazon days and fell in love with the 2 books they had but wasn't able to get anymore.  I've acquired quite a collection and am looking forward to reconnecting with the procedural style mystery series.

8.  Untraceable by Laura Griffin - I love really suspenseful romantic suspense and I read the most recent book in this series earlier this year and loved it.  This is the first book so I'm looking forward to understanding the structure and the characters a little better!

9.  A High End Finish by Kate Carlisle - I love Kate Carlisle's Bibliophile series and I love home renovation so I'm expecting good things from this series about restoring old houses.  There's also going to be a Hallmark movie series on these books and I'm so excited I can barely stand it!

10. Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - I reread the first book in the Bridgerton series earlier this week and remembered why I love them so much so I'm really looking forward to this prequel!

What are you hoping to read in 2017?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - My Best Books for 2016

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is My Best Books for 2016.  2016 was a good reading year.  I read a little more outside my comfort zone than normal and I think because of that most of my reading was really enjoyable.  My list this year is just based off the books I read IN 2016 and not what was released in 2016.  One thing that surprised me is the lack of non-fiction on this list - only 2.  I think in my effort to widen my reading genres I stepped away from nonfiction which is typically one of my favorite.

1. Love from Boy: Roald Dahl's Letters to His Mother by Donald Sturrock - I loved this book of letters from Roald Dahl to his mother!  I especially loved the biographical information that Sturrock added so that not only did I get an idea of what was going on in Dahl's life at the time of the letter writing but how it appears in his books later on.

2.  Matilda by Roald Dahl - I finally got around to reading (well listening) to this book this year and I absolutely loved it.  I went the audio route which was read by Kate Winslett and it was such a treat.  It definitely lived up to expectation.

3.  Moonraker by Ian Fleming - This is the third James Bond and by far my favorite.  I loved getting a sense of Bond in his personal life and I loved the character of Gayla Brand.  This was really a fascinating mystery.

4.  The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - This was the ultimate comfort read.  It was cozy and fun and heartwarming and by the end I wanted to surround myself with books and move to Scotland!

5.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - This one had been on my TBR for years but I really didn't know what it was about.  I listend to the audio and was absolutely blown away by it.  The voices were wonderful and the story was at times heart wrenching and at times laugh out loud funny.  The characters have stuck with me long after I finished the book.

6.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer - This is another one I'd been wanting to read for ages and that I finally got around to reading.  I loved how Meyer managed to combine cyborgs and fairy tales and make it fresh and interesting and it completely hooked me!

7.  Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas - Normally when I read a book with 2 separate timelines I absolutely adore one and just suffer through the other while I wait to get back to the one I like.  This one was different because I absolutely loved both.  I loved seeing Egypt during World War 2 and I loved watching the interactions of Iris and Ruby in modern day.

8.  The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn - I read one of Flinn's books last year and loved it so was curious about her first book about her time at Cordon Bleu.  It was fascinating and entertaining and made me never ever want to attend class while still being a book I just couldn't put down.  I have one more book by her left to read and I can't wait!

9.  In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This was one of those books where the audio made it amazing.  The mystery was interesting the setting was terrifying without being obvious and I couldn't wait to see how it all unraveled.  However, what made it absolutely amazing was Imogen Church's narration which was unbelievable.  I was so excited to see that she is narrating Ware's newest book.

10. Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts - I have no idea how many books Roberts has written but it's a ton.  The last few years I've been underwhelmed to say the least - especially with her trilogies.  I didn't have particularly high expectations for this one and only got it because it was displayed at the library one time when I was there. And I really enjoyed it!  It was so nice to really enjoy a Roberts again as it had been so long.  I picked the 2nd book in the trilogy up at the library the other day and can't wait to get started!

What were your favorite books this year?

Monday, December 26, 2016

This Week in Reading - December 26

Today I'm linking up with Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer for the Sunday Post and Kathryn over at Book Date for What Are You Reading?


The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - One of my Christmas gifts to me this year has been rereads and I've been loving it!  This is an old favorite and it's every bit as good as I remember!

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - I know I've been reading this one forever but I'm really enjoying it.  I'm close to done and I'm dying to see how it all gets wrapped up.

I'm loving my podcasts right now!  My favorites are Read It and Weep, Pack Your Mics (about Top Chef), and Stuff You Missed in History Class but of course that's always subject to change!

We've been watching some Hallmark Christmas movies lately and are going to watch Christmas Story tonight.  After that we're going to do some Star Trek movie watching.

What I Read:

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn - This was my first reread and it's one of the books I forgot how much I enjoyed it.  There is one scene that makes me a little squeamish but the rest of it is just so good!  I'm looking forward to reading The Viscount Who Loved Me soon.

That's been pretty much it.  It's not been the best reading week.

What's Coming Up:

I'm still trying to decide what my first book of the year will be!  I've got a few possibilities but haven't narrowed it down yet.

I'm planning on starting Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts as soon as I finish Devil in Winter.  For some reason romances have been calling my name more than any other genre and I've been enjoying reveling in it! 

Blog-wise I have a Top Ten list coming up tomorrow about my best reads of 2016 and after that who knows!  We've still got a couple of Christmas celebrations coming up as well as the Tornado's birthday and New Year's Eve so it's going to be a busy week!

Have a great week and happy reading!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!  Regardless of what you celebrate I hope everyone is having a lovely day with some time with family and friends and maybe a stolen moment or two with a good book!

Santa should have visited my house by now and I'm sure we're knee deep in presents and about to start our traditional Christmas Day lazy day which is always a welcome break from the craziness on either side.  I will see you all tomorrow and happy holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - Christmas Edition

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.

Right now I have around 10,000 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.  I'll be posting my results the last Saturday of each month.

Today I'm talking about 3 Christmas-y pins I squeezed in this week!  I always love the idea of doing some of the Christmas-y pins but when it's actually December things are so busy that I always forget up until now.  I also wanted to mention that I'll be turning this feature into a linkup in 2017.  On the last Saturday of every month I'm going to do a 52 Pins in 52 Weeks post and share what I've been doing and I hope you'll join me and share what you've been doing too!

Week 48

Pin: Peppermint Meltaway Cookies from Silver Boxes

Why I Picked It: I love peppermint cookies especially with all the rich food I eat around this time of year!

Basic Idea: A meltaway dough that's lightly flavored with peppermint with a sweet minty glaze.

Results: So good!  Be careful not to overbake because they fall apart if too dry.  The flavor was nice and light and the texture was divine.  The glaze sets up nicely and is hard enough that these cookies can be packed.  Just be sure if you're adding sprinkles to add them quickly otherwise the glaze will harden and they won't stick!

Week 49:

Pin:Make Your House Smell Like Christmas from Lulu & Georgia (link just to pin because I couldn't find the graphic on the blog itself)

Why I Picked It: I love all the Christmas-y scents and this seemed easy.

Basic Idea: Fill a pot with yummy stuff, add some water, and let simmer all day.

Results: Meh.  I didn't love the scent - the cinnamon and rosemary were really overpowering and the orange and cranberry was nonexistent.  Plus even at a simmer there's still some steam which is fine if you don't have cabinets over your stove but left some white marks on mine.  Lucky they faded when the wood dried.  This wasn't awful but not worth losing a spot on the stove.  I think I'll just light a candle or two instead!

Week 50: 

Pin: Grinch Truffles from Tatertots and Jello

Why I Picked it: I love all things Grinch!  And even with my limitations in decorating I was pretty sure that I could handle sticking a heart shaped sprinkle on a cake ball!

Basic Idea: A red cake ball coated in green candy coating with a red heart on top.

Results:  Wilton Candy Melts and I don't get along.  I always seem to overcook them so the coating gets too thick and then I have to add shortening and it's always such a pain.  That aside these were pretty fun and easy.  I made the cake balls using vanilla cake mix with red food coloring and a few tablespoons of chocolate frosting because my family doesn't like red velvet (they're really weird).  It definitely looks Grinch-y and was a lot of fun!

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Linkups: A Holiday Yarn

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:
Do you participate in reading challenges that have you reading for 24 hours, challenges that have a yearly goal, challenges that have you reading certain genres, or do you not participate in challenges?

My Answer:
First I have a couple of notes.
1.  Isn't the new button cute!  I love it!
2.  Last week I said I like to drink boiled custard around Christmas without realizing how regional of a drink that is.  Boiled custard is kind of like egg nog but without the spice.  It's basically a thick creamy drink that kind of reminds me of melted vanilla ice cream.

I love the idea of participating in a 24 hour reading challenge but have yet to actually make it happen due to timing.  I had hoped to kind of do my own this year but time got away from me though maybe I can make it happen between Christmas and New Year.  I do the Goodreads Challenge where you pick a number goal but as for all the other challenges I quit participating in them because I was just so awful about keeping up with them.

This week's book is a random library grab.  I've been in a bit of a slump these last few weeks and while I was at the library with the Tornado last week I browsed through the Christmas books they had displayed and picked up a few that looked good.  I've been wanting to read the Seaside Knitters mystery series by Sally Goldenbaum for awhile and I just couldn't resist the cover of A Holiday Yarn.

The Beginning:
In the confusing days that followed, one thing that would stand out in Nell's mind was that each member of the Thursday night knitting group had talked to Pamela Pisano that day.

My Thoughts:
Very intriguing especially since I know from the blurb that Pamela isn't going to make it much longer and I know from reading a little further just what Pamela spends all her energy talking about to the knitters!

The 56:
"It wasn't suicide?" Nell asked softly. "She didn't kill herself?"

My Thoughts:
Can't you just hear the "dah dah dum" after that sentence?  Things look a bit sketchy here!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What are your favorite reading challenges?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Perfect Christmas - Romance Review

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Rating: Good
Source: Library

For Cassie Beaumont, it's meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing's worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What's left? A professional matchmaker. He's Simon Dodson, and he's very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she's astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa's elf at a children's party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all --- and she's finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  This was a library random grab.  I was wandering around and this one caught my eye.  I haven't read Debbie Macomber in awhile and the blurb sounded really cute.  There's also a chance that the cover might have caught my eye as I was more than a little hungry at the time!

My Impression:  While I have read and enjoyed several books by Debbie Macomber over the years I realized with quite some surprise that I've never read any of her Christmas books which is probably what she is best known for.  I've watched several of the Hallmark movies but this book was the first Christmas story by her that I've actually read.  After reading it I can tell why they are so often made into successful Hallmark movies.  The story is delightful, simple, and fairly predictable in the way good romantic comedies are predictable.

The tasks that Simon assigns all have a comic element as well as a heartwarming one and it was very entertaining to watch Cassie suffer through and finding a few moments of joy or heartache within it all.  I liked her relationship with Angie, her best friend, and her relationship with Shawn, her brother.  The neighbors added an entertaining element and the regular irritation was pretty funny.  Yes, I guessed what the happy ending would be halfway through but it was fun to see how Cassie got there.  This is a quick read full of Christmas spirit and just a lot of fun.  I'd love to see Hallmark turn this story into a movie as the flying Elf scene would be absolutely hilarious!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I'll be sure to pick up another of her Christmas stories next year and I'd like to catch up on her regular fiction in between.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you're looking for a Christmas-y story this one is perfect!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Holiday for Murder - Agatha Christie Mystery Review

A Holiday for Murder (also titled Hercule Poirot's Christmas) by Agatha Christie

Rating: Very Good
Source: Purchased

Description: Motives for Murder: A fortune in uncut diamonds, hidden by an eccentric old man A woman's love, too freely given A business empire built on ruthlessness Each of them may have been a motive for the brutal slaying of wealthy old Simeon Lee. Coupled with Lee's family, each member of which hated him and wished to see him dead, they presented Hercule Poirot with a baffling challenge--one which the astute detective solved only through his uncanny ability to see "the little things."

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: It's an Agatha Christie Christmas murder mystery.  How could I not read this around Christmas?

My Impression:  I just a good Agatha Christie mystery!  And this one did not disappoint.  This book was published in 1938 which was a happy time for Agatha personally and her mysteries from this time period benefit from that as they are all absolutely excellent.

One of the things that I love best about this book is a note at the very beginning from Agatha to her brother-in-law James hoping that this will fulfill his desire for "a good violent murder with lots of blood." since he felt her murders had been getting too refined.  I just loved that personal touch and the peek behind the scenes it offers.

While this murder is definitely on the bloody side it's still a Christie mystery and the violence occurs off page.  The characters are a huge mix of personalities and are more developed than is typical with Christie's characters.  There's agreeable but meek Alfred, calm and kind Lydia, mean and selfish George, con-artist Harry, spirited and impulsive Pilar and looming over all of them is elderly but powerful Simon Lee - the patriarch who enjoys watching them all dance to his bidding.  When the murder comes just about everyone has motive and opportunity and the missing diamonds add even more possibilities to the overwhelmed detectives.  Luckily, Hercule Poriot is in town visiting his friend Colonel Johnson and is happy to lend a hand.

This is one that I remembered the end but I still got as much pleasure reading this as I did the first time I read it.  Looking at the motives and how skillfully Christie added details and dropped clues was an absolute treat and I held my breath just like I did the first time I read it as the ending unravels.  The holiday was also nicely incorporated and while it isn't a Christmas I would want to take part in it does feel Christmas-y!

I hope James enjoyed his blood soaked mystery as much as I did!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Of course!  I'll be starting the next Hercule Poirot mystery soon and I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with Miss Marple.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely!  If you are new to Agatha this would be a good one to start with and if you are already a fan you must read this one immediately!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under the Tree

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under the Tree.  I love this topic!  I tend to lock up in bookstores because I have so many books to read and there are so many books that I want and my brain just kind of shuts down and I don't end up getting anything.  With this topic I did some pretend shopping in my TBR and some of my favorite bloggers' TBRs and this is what I came up with.  This pile of books would make me a pretty happy reader!

1.  Island of Glass by Nora Roberts - I loved the first book in this trilogy and am just about to start the second.  This book features my favorite couple and I'm so excited to find out what happens!

2.  The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple by Anne Hart - This sounds like a biography of Agatha Christie's Jane Marple which was put together from clues in the Miss Marple books.  It's a look at the real Jane both as a person and with how Agatha created the character.  I feel like this is a must read for me!

3.  The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry - I'm not a big musical fan but I love Chicago and this just sounds fascinating!

4.  The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman - This sounds a little bit like the show The Librarians with a touch of Doctor Who which just sounds like pretty great reading!  I meant to get this soon after it came out but now somehow the 3rd book has been released and I still haven't read this one!

5.  Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent - I forgot where I first came across this one but it sounds fascinating.  I love the idea of an unexpected friendship growing between two people based on food and common interests regardless of differences in age.

6.  All the Presidents' Gardens: From Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses - How the White House Grounds Have Changed With America by Marta McDowell - I'm fascinated by the White House and the Presidents in general which is a little strange since I avoid politics.  I love the history of the institution and this sounds absolutely fascinating!

7.  The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales - How can I resist a title with an exclamation point?  Plus this book just sounds like an assassin-y good time.

8.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - I'm not sure what it is about this book but I'm fascinated by the title and it sounds like a delightful read!

9.  Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi - I love Padma on Top Chef and what I've read about her life is fascinating and definitely has me wanting more.

10. Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes - I love Shonda Rhimes.  While her shows aren't my favorite (I get antsy with story lines that span over several episodes because I despise cliffhangers and have a short attention span) I've been enthralled by every interview of her and how she manages to become more and more successful while staying true to her brand.  I also love the concept of this book and am really excited to read it.

What books would you like to find under the tree?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ramblings from the Stack - Reading Different Books

This year one of my stated goals was to expand my reading a little bit.  Take on some books that I would have thought weren't for me or that my knee jerk reaction was to say no too.  The reason for this was because while 2015 was a good reading year there weren't many greats and I think the big reason was because I stayed within my comfort zone.  So now that the end of 2016 is shockingly close I figure it's time to look at what I read for 2016 that fell under the "different" category for me and what I thought of them.

1. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Why I Would Have Said No: I have it in my head that more masculine type action books are heavy and ponderous type books and automatically lumped in the James Bond books in with that.

What I Thought: Going in I was surprised to discover how short these books are.  I've read 3 and they're all around the 200 page mark.  Fleming's background as a naval officer and journalist come through as while things are described the prose is very straight forward and too the point.  I've really enjoyed the 3 I read this year and am looking forward to reading more.

2. Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Why I Would Have Said No: Honestly the blurb makes it sound pretty angsty

What I Thought: While the book itself definitely has some angst it also had a chilling atmosphere and a plot that kept the pages turning!

3. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Why I Would Have Said No: The Pulitzer Prize winning author is an automatic turn off for me.  I tend to distrust books that are too critically acclaimed.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this though I wasn't blown away.  The story was quiet yet stuck with me and made me think in ways that were unexpected.  While I don't think I'll be automatically picking up all award winning books I don't think it will be as much of a "no" for me going forward.

4.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Why I Would Have Said No: Two words - ugly cry.  That did not appeal to me at all!

What I Thought: I loved this book.  I think I was expecting more angst because Moyes writes about so many really heavy subjects but despite the heavy emotions that were wound all through this book there was also a matter of factness and even a touch of humor that made it wonderful.  It was even worth the ugly cry at the end.

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Why I Would Have Said No: I don't typically read sci-fi or YA so just based off the genres this didn't really grab me.

What I Thought: I loved this book!  I loved how the fairy tale was woven in.  I loved Cinder, I loved Iko and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.  I've gone on and read Scarlet and am looking forward to finishing up the rest of the series and finally finding out what happened.

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Why I Would Have Said No: Is Neil Gaiman really in anyone's comfort reading list?  Not in a bad way but he does have a reputation for being odd and startling and eye opening

What I Thought: I was hooked by this magical bit of madness and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm hoping to get my hand on an audio edition because I'm sure it's fantastic in audio.

7. Everything Everything by Nicole Yoon

Why I Would Have Said No: A YA romance-ish book with a sick character is not usually something that I want to read.

What I Thought: I thought the book was well done and the characters were interesting but it definitely was not for me.  While I could appreciate the author's ability this is the kind of book that I probably should have stuck with the "no"

8. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Why I Would Have Said No: I don't like disaster books - especially if children are involved in any way.

What I Thought: I ended up really enjoying this book and found it fascinating reading.  The book itself was cleverly done and it was so interesting to see the story unravel.  I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending which was a nice bonus!

Have you read anything that your first impulse was to say no to?  How did it work out?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This Week in Reading - December 18

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:

Mrs. Pargeter's Public Relations by Simon Brett - I've seen the name Simon Brett around for awhile but I've yet to read any of the books.  The blurb on this which involves rescued cats and a woman claiming to be the sister of Mrs. Pargeter's late husband reminds me a little bit of Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax for some reason.  It sounds like it could be a fun mystery! (NetGalley)

Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts - I loved the first book in the series and have been looking forward to reading this one.  While this isn't about my favorite couple I am looking forward to seeing how Roberts handles one character in particular.  (Library)

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber
A Holiday Yarn by Sally Goldenbaum - These were both on display at the library and they caught my interest.  I'm not sure if I'll get them both read but I like having the option! (Library) 


Reading: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (still but I'm really enjoying it!  I might even have it finished by next Sunday!), A Holiday for Murder by Agatha Christie (which I'm finishing tonight - not sure what I'll pick up next), and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Listening: I'm listening to podcasts at the moment and enjoying them.  My favorite at the moment is Read It and Weep which is hilarious and love how they tackle something new and normally pretty awful once a week.  They also have another podcast called Pack Your Mics were they talk about Top Chef which is pretty great.

Watching: I've been watching some Hallmark Christmas movies which are always pretty fun as well as some other Christmas movies.  The Tornado's favorite is Rudolph so we watched that earlier this week along with Charlie Brown's Christmas and J and I watched Scrooged with Bill Murray this weekend.  I'm hoping we get The Muppet Christmas Carol in before Christmas.  TV-wise I've been watching Top Chef and am not sure how I feel about the returning chef/new chef thing.

Off the Blog:

I wouldn't say I'm caught up on all the Christmas stuff but I'm definitely catching up!  The house is decorated and I've gotten about 80% of my shopping done.  The rest I'm thinking will be done from my couch and delivered to me!  There are some menus to be figured out but that's about it.  I'm starting to not feel quite as frazzled and actually start enjoying the season!  Today J and I are taking the Tornado to see Rudolph the Musical.  I know nothing about the production so it should be interesting and hopefully lots of fun.  We're also celebrating with my Mother today and then my Dad later in the week and then J's family on Christmas Eve.

The reading slump is still kind of happening.  It's not so much a slump and more just feeling a bit apathetic about a lot of the books I have. I'm still kind of just going by what catches my interest and that seems to be working because I'm still reading!  I'm trying to think of what I want to do in 2017 and am struggling with that because my motivation is in the meh level.

The one thing I am thinking about doing is turning my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks into a linkup if anyone is interested.  I'll probably do a more official post the last Saturday of December but basically the whole point is to use some of the pins we're all pinning and then talk about how it worked out.  I'm planning on having a linkup on the last Saturday of every month.  I'm going to kind of do a repeat of what I did this year where I pick out 52 pins ahead of time but I'm going to leave the rules pretty open and people can just do what works best for them.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Ramblings from the Stacks - Looking Back over 2016
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under the Tree
Wednesday: TBD
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkups featuring teasers from Current Book
Saturday: 52 Pins in 52 Weeks - November December Edition Pt 2

Have a fantastic week, happy reading and Merry Christmas!

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - November/December Edition Pt 1

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.

Right now I have around 10,000 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.  I'll be posting my results the last Saturday of each month.

I'm catching up from missing November's pins.  This wasn't the most successful trying month but I did get some pins cleared off my boards and discovered a new main dish meal so that's a win!  I'm hoping to have Christmas-y pins next Saturday and then a few not-so Christmasy pins for the after Christmas Saturday!

Week 44

Pin: Striped Painting from

Why I Picked It: This was one of my earliest pins and I think I had originally pinned to recreate it for one of the girls' rooms.

Basic Idea: A stripy painting in a similar color palette

My Results: I didn't end up doing this.  I learned in the last painting project that things like this just really aren't for me.  Plus, the girls both have their own places now and this is really not my kind of thing.

Week 45

Why I Picked It: Because I love cupcakes and Oreos are one of the few things that everyone in the house will eat.

Basic Idea: Vanilla cake with chunks of Oreos mixed in and a cream cheese frosting topped with a mini Oreo

My Results: The frosting was delicious and not too sweet.  Definitely a frosting I will make again.  The cake was not as successful.  I had some misgivings when I saw the directions which involved adding the sugar last and not creaming it with the butter which is what I normally do but it came together and the batter tasted pretty good so what do I know?  Turns out my instincts were right as the cake was dense and almost bready in texture.

Week 46:

Why I Picked It: I like steak tips!  And for some reason I thought this was a slow cooker recipe.  It ended up being a stove top recipe but was still pretty simple.

Basic Idea: Browned steak tips simmered in a thick gravy with onions and mushrooms (though I left out the mushrooms)

My Results: Yum!  These were pretty tasty and while they took awhile to cook were pretty simple to put together.  I left out the mushrooms which I think would have added a little umph to the flavor.  I think I'd add a little red wine vinegar or something to add a little bit of acid and maybe double the gravy recipe so I'd have a little more sauce to eat up the steak tips with.  Mashed potatoes are delicious with this!

Week 47:

Why I Picked It: I have tons of boxes from my Birchbox subscription that I wanted to figure out something to do with it.

Basic Idea: Take the top of a thick cardboard box and wrap it in fabric.

My Results: Yeah this isn't in my skill set.  I couldn't get the fabric snug enough to be really smooth against the top and I think something went horribly wrong with my cutting.  I think this would look great if you're more crafty than me though!

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