Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last Chance Matinee - Women's Fiction Review

The Last Chance Matinee (Hudson Sisters #1) by Mariah Stewart

Rating: Loved it!
Source: Publisher

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes the first novel in her all-new series, The Hudson Sisters, following a trio of reluctant sisters as they set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish. In the process, they find not only themselves, but the father they only thought they knew.
When celebrated and respected agent Fritz Hudson passes away, he leaves a trail of Hollywood glory in his wake—and two separate families who never knew the other existed. Allie and Des Hudson are products of Fritz’s first marriage to Honora, a beautiful but troubled starlet whose life ended in a tragic overdose. Meanwhile, Fritz was falling in love on the Delaware Bay with New Age hippie Susa Pratt—they had a daughter together, Cara, and while Fritz loved Susa with everything he had, he never quite managed to tell her or Cara about his West Coast family.

Now Fritz is gone, and the three sisters are brought together under strange circumstances: there’s a large inheritance to be had that could save Allie from her ever-deepening debt following a disastrous divorce, allow Des to open a rescue shelter for abused and wounded animals, and give Cara a fresh start after her husband left her for her best friend—but only if the sisters upend their lives and work together to restore an old, decrepit theater that was Fritz’s obsession growing up in his small hometown in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Guided by Fritz’s closest friend and longtime attorney, Pete Wheeler, the sisters come together—whether they like it or not—to turn their father’s dream into a reality, and might just come away with far more than they bargained for.

Genre: Fiction - Women's

Why I Picked This Book:  I really love Stewart's romantic suspense and have enjoyed her more recent Chesapeake Diaries series.  Also, the premise just really grabbed me.

My Impression:  This is going to be a hard review to write because I'm really trying hard not to gush. You know those books that are just easy to read?  The kind where you're immediately pulled into the world and can just visualize the characters?  The kind where you want to know what happens next and want to sneak off to read just a few pages more?  This was one of those books for me. Right from the start I was completely pulled into the story.  I loved seeing the sisters' relationship with each other and themselves grow.  Des and Cara are easy to like but Allie is super prickly and not so easy.  However, my heart broke for her because she's trying so hard at things she can't win and holding grudges that just make her miserable.  At the beginning of the book she's so incredibly unhappy and doesn't even fully realize it.

With the sisters building new relationships and trying to figure out how to get started with the renovation of the old theater the romance between Joe and Cara is kind of just a side plot but it is fully developed. We get to meet Joe and understand some of his motivations and see his relationship with his family and particularly his sister.  He's a good guy who is straight forward about his interest in Cara and it was funny to see Cara, who is typically open and relaxed suddenly go prickly.

While this first book is about all the sisters there is a slight focus on Cara who I really enjoyed getting to know.  She's a smidge on the granola-y side but very much a live and let live person.  Watching her relationship with Des grow was really wonderful as was the development of her relationship with Joe.  

I really loved this book.  It has heart and warmth and humor and was just a delight to read.  My only complaint is that I have to wait a year for the next book!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'll be counting days until the next book is published and I'm looking forward to going back and reading the rest of the Chesapeake Diaries series.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely!  If you enjoy books about relationships with wonderful characters then this is a great read and a fantastic start to the series.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pressed to Death - Cozy Mystery Review

Pressed to Death (A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery #2) by Kirsten Weiss

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski has the perfect exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But when she’s accused of stealing the press, and her accuser is murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie. Knowing the perils of amateur sleuthing as she does, Maddie is reluctant to get involved . . . until her mother insists she investigate.

Does her mom have a secret agenda? Or is she somehow connected to the murder? Facing down danger and her own overactive imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: I loved the first book in the series and couldn't wait to find out what mess Maddie got herself into next and what artifact she solved the mystery for.

My Impression:  This may be the absolute best concept for a cozy mystery series!  Maddie Kosloski owns a Paranormal Museum which is crammed full of haunted (maybe) and mysterious (definitely) items all which have their very own history and a mystery to solve.  On top of that people have an unfortunate habit of dropping dead around her which leads to a very present day mystery to solve.

In this book the mysterious object is a cursed grape press and the former owner who is now claiming that Maddie stole the object happens to wind up dead.  Everyone seems to have a different perspective on the murder victim which makes Maddie's job of unraveling who really did him in all the more difficult.  I absolutely loved the mystery around the grape press.  There's something so intriguing about solving an old cold case and that was probably my favorite part of the book.

I loved catching up with Maddie's friends, Harper and Adele, and really enjoyed Dieter's larger part as well as the addition of Leo, Maddie's new employee.  The antics of the Ladies' Aid and the the rival group had me laughing.  I've worked in enough volunteer organizations to know that while slightly exaggerated some of it wasn't that far outside reality.

The only thing that I didn't enjoy about this mystery was the detective and Maddie's nemesis, Laurel Hammer.  I get that Laurel hates Maddie but her behavior drifted over to down right unprofessional and unethical. and there were a few things she did that I don't think were legal (especially taking "evidence" without a warrant).  She had a larger part in the first part of the book but thankfully she faded more into the background for the majority.  Maybe she can take a vacation in book #3?

Despite my one issue this is a really fun addition to a great cozy mystery series.  I'm excited to see what trouble Maddie gets into next and what artifact in the museum gets investigated.  Plus, what other mystery series has a rather surly ghost detecting (GD for short) cat?  While reading the first book in the series isn't necessary I do think it would help the enjoyment of this book as it explains a lot about the museum and how Maddie got mixed up in it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  Do I really have to wait a year for book #3?

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would!  If you like cozy mysteries (or just quirky books with a history element) than you really must not miss this series!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - One Sitting Reads

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is One Sitting Reads.   I divided up the topic into books I actually read in one sitting and books I really wish I could have read in one sitting because I didn't want to put them down!

Books I Actually Read in One Sitting

1.  84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - This little book of letters between American writer and a British bookstore employee shortly after World War II is an absolute delight and a super quick read. If you haven't read it you absolutely should.

2.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - I didn't love this story about a crabby bookstore owner as much as I expected but it was one of those books where the problem was my expectations not the book itself.  It was a really lovely story and made for a wonderful rainy evening tucked under a blanket.

3.  The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde - I adore this quick little story about a British ghost dealing with a very unimpressed American family.  It definitely turns the typical ghost story on its head.

4.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming - I didn't realize that this children's book is written by the same author who gave us James Bond but after reading a few Bond novels and reading this one you can definitely see a similar writing style.  This is tons of fun and one I was glad was fairly short because I didn't want to end.  If you can get the audio read by David Tennant I highly recommend it.

5.  Carry on, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse - I had heard of Jeeves and Wodehouse but never read any of the books.  This little collection of short stories about poor hapless Bertie and the perfectly resourceful butler Jeeves was an absolute delight and a quick listen!

Books I Wish Were 1 Sitting Reads Because I Didn't Want to Put Them Down

1.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - If I could have listened to this one in one day I would have.  Imogen Church is an amazing narrator and this story had me holding my breath wanting to find out what was going to happen next.

2.  Moonraker by Ian Fleming - While I had enjoyed the first two Bond novels this third book really hooked me.  I really enjoyed getting to know Bond better and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next.  If you've seen the movie don't worry about it spoiling the book - there is absolutely no connection between the two.

3.  The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - This book was comfort reading at it's absolute best.  There's a little bit of romance, a whole lot of books and a woman who is trying to figure out what really makes her happy.  I absolutely loved it!

4.  The Obsession by Nora Roberts - This romantic suspense book was like an episode of Criminal Minds but with a romance and I loved it!  It was one I kept sneaking off to read just a little bit more!

5.  The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown - I didn't expect to really be hooked by this book about a woman trying to figure out what she's going to do with herself finding a diary written by her grandmother in Paris decades earlier.  I expected to like it but it was one of those surprise books that absolutely hooked me.  I loved the characters and wanted to know what happened.  It took me a little longer than one sitting but not much longer and was one of those books I finished up at 3AM when I should have gone to bed hours before.

What books have you read in one sitting?  What books did you want to read in one sitting?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks - Series Reading and Genre Fatigue

Back long long ago in the pre-blogging days the books I read weren't picked by date published or blog tour commitments.  I actually didn't even have a Kindle so all of my reading was done in paperback.  I was a big user of paperbackswap.com and frequently didn't even discover a series until they were way underway which meant I could have 4 or 5 of one series at a time.  Now since I enjoy the series it'd make sense that I'd want to read all 4 or 5 in a row right?  Well that's what I thought at first and I'd stack all the books up and get reading.  Except pretty soon I started noticing something - I loved the first book and usually the second.  But by the third book I was much less interested and by the fourth the primary characters could have all been hit by a bus and I'd have been okay.  This was before the word "slump" became a concept I was familiar with but even then I did notice my reading was sliding and I was wanting to read less and less.

After some experimentation I discovered that I needed at least 4 or 5 books in between each book in a series to keep me reading and keep me enjoying the series.  Now that blogging has changed the way I read and the way I pick current read it's a little harder to read a whole series close together.  And because I'm discovering new series at the beginning I'm not going to have the first four books ready to dive into so I don't have the series reading problem anymore or at least not as frequently.

But now I have a different problem - genre fatigue.  Lately. I've been noticing that if I have a lot of the same genre in a row then I start getting that feeling you get when you're 2/3 in to a ridiculously large dessert.  It's not that it's bad it's just that there's so much left and I've already eaten so much.  I need to mix it up with something - anything of a different feel or tone.

Can you read a series all in a row?  Do you suffer from genre fatigue?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

This Week in Reading - March 19

It's Sunday Post day!  This is hosted by the awesome Kimberly over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and it's always such fun to check up on what everyone has going on!

I just got back into town after a long trip visiting my grandparents.  We were super busy but had a good time and I'll definitely be updating later.  I'm not even sure if I even got any books this week!  Until I get settled in here's what happened last week and here's what's coming up:

What Happened:

Monday:In Farleigh Field - Historical Fiction Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR
Wednesday: Someone to Love - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday:  Yes My Accent is Real - Memoir Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with The Grapes of Wrath
Saturday: Forever a Cowboy - Contemporary Romance Review

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks - Binge Reading
Tuesday:  Top Ten One Sitting Reads
Wednesday:  TBD
Thursday:  Last Chance Matinee - Women's Ficton Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  52 Pins in 52 Weeks - March Edition

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Forever a Hero - Contemporary Romance Review

Forever a Hero (Carsons of Mustang Creek #3) by Linda Lael Miller

Rating: Good
Source:  Publicist

Description: Mace Carson is no hero. Back in college, he came upon a woman in trouble and intervened—but he was just one irate Wyoming cowboy with his boots planted firmly on the side of right. Now a successful vintner, Mace is shocked to be reunited with the woman he saved. But it turns out she's in Wyoming on business…a corporate executive representing the company that wants to buy his winery. Only, he's not selling.

Kelly Wright has never forgotten that horrible night ten years ago when Mace came to her rescue, has never forgotten him. The surprising success of a winery in the middle of ranch country has brought her to Mustang Creek, and she's secretly thrilled to discover Mace at the helm. Reluctant to mix business with pleasure, Kelly vows to keep things professional, until her attacker is released from prison and comes for vengeance…against both of them.

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book: I've read the other two books in this series about Mace's two brothers so of course I had to read Mace's story!

My Impression:  I really enjoyed the 2 previous books about the Carson brothers and was really looking forward to seeing Mace's story.  The blurb had me a little worried though.  While I'm all for a good knight in shining armor story I'm very picky when it comes to balance of power and if there's a sense of obligation or heavy gratitude between Mace and Kelly I knew I was going to struggle with it.    Luckily this isn't an issue as Mace takes care of that pretty early on and makes it clear that he is not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship where gratitude is a key part.  I liked Mace.  He's intelligent and a hard worker.  He knows what he wants and has very little self-doubt.
While I liked Mace I connected with Kelly more.  She's also intelligent and a hard worker but is having some doubt about what she wants to do and whether her original plan is really what she still wants.
The Carson family is a strong presence in the story and I especially enjoyed catching up with the 2 couples from the previous books.  All of the characters have some leanings towards perfection and as I've found in other LLM books there is a bit of a race to commitment that seems a little quick.  However, that doesn't stop this from being a fun read that pulled me in almost immediately.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I've really enjoyed this series and would like to read more from LLM.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy Western contemporary romance this is a really great series!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Linkups - The Grapes of Wrath














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 read a lot of diverse or own voices books?  Why or why not?

My Answer:
Not really.  I'm not purposely choosing to not read them it's just I typically read genre fiction like mysteries and romance which I'm not sure really have options that fall under the diverse or own voice tag.

This week's book is a classic I've been wanting to read for awhile.  I've really enjoyed everything I've read by Steinbeck (except The Pearl but I refuse to speak of that one) but somehow never managed to read The Grapes of Wrath which feels like the book he's best known for.  So far I'm really enjoying it.  There's something about Steinbeck's writing style that I always enjoy and I'm reading a chapter or two of this a night.  It's like a little treat at the end of the day just with lots of dust and sorrow.

The Beginning:
To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

My Thoughts:
I love how visual this is.  I normally don't think of Steinbeck being particularly descriptive but I can just see the rain and the earth.

The 56:
Muley observed, "Judge says he give you a light sentence 'cause it wasn't all your fault"

My Thoughts:
I love how matter of fact Steinbeck's dialogue is and this scene is a really perfect example of that.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Are there any classics that you've been meaning to read but just somehow haven't picked up yet?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Yes My Accent is Real - Nonfiction Memoir Review

Yes, My Accent is Real and Some Other Thins I Haven't Told You by Kunal Nayyar
Rating: Very Good
Source: eStories.com

Description: Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.
Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet. Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)

Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role of a lifetime.

Genre: Nonfiction - Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm a huge Big Bang Theory Fan and I really wanted to learn more about the actor who plays Raj.

My Impression:  I have wanted to read this book since it came out but I really wanted to listen to the audio when I found out Kunal himself was reading it.  When I was offered a chance to try out an audio book for eStories this was the one I knew I wanted to listen to and I was not disappointed!  It was an absolute delight.

Kunal starts out the book by stating that this really isn't a memoir because he's only 34 but more a collection of stories that explain how he got to where he is now.  Some were silly, some thought provoking, some touching, but all were funny.  I enjoyed listening to stories about his childhood growing up in New Delhi and I adored getting to know his family.  His bond with his family really shines through and his dad sounds absolutely amazing.  Normally when an entire chapter is dedicated to things a family member says I tend to skim through it because frankly their mother/grandmother/father/grandfather/aunt isn't nearly as interesting as the writer thinks they are but in this case it was one of my favorite chapters.  For starters Kunal's father is just awesome.  He sounds intelligent and funny but also soft spoken and caring but with a tough edge.  I also really enjoyed that for each piece of advice Kunal gave an example as to how his father applied the advice to real life.

I really enjoyed his stories about how important his culture is to him as well as learning to fit in at a US university and his first entries into the acting world.  The book itself was highly entertaining and I felt like I knew Kunal a lot better after reading/listening to it.  My only complaints are that the beginning he jumps around several times timeline-wise and it could feel a little disjointed though I enjoyed the stories themselves and as a huge Big Bang Theory fan I wanted more behind the scenes stories!

If you enjoy memoirs about growing up in countries that aren't the US and about someone trying to make their dreams a reality I think you'd enjoy this one - even if you're not a Big Bang Theory fan.

Note about the audio - Kunal himself did the reading of this book and unsurprisingly did a fantastic job.  While I think this would be good in print form the audio was an extra bit of delight.

I used the eStories app to listen to this book and found it super user friendly and was able to immediately listen without having to go through a lot of steps or figure anything out.  I really liked that it showed the % complete and how much time was remaining in the book. It works on all devices and has unlimited cloud storage which makes it super flexible.  80%+ of the audiobooks are DRM free so you are free to do as you like with them once they're downloaded. At $11.95 a month it's definitely worth checking out.  You can start a free 30 day trial here.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'll be reading anything else he writes and in the meantime I've been doing some Big Bang Theory re-watching!

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would!  Even if you're not a fan of The Big Bang Theory I think it's an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Someone to Love - Contemporary Romance Review

Someone to Love (Darling, VT #2) by Donna Alward

Rating: Good
Source:  Publisher

Description: SOME WISHES DO COME TRUE

Ethan Gallagher is a firefighter in Darling, Vermont, who followed tradition and pledged his love on the Kissing Bridge to ensure lifelong happiness. A few years later, he s a widower with two rambunctious boys who no longer believes in magic. But even he has to admit that free-spirited Willow Dunaway fills him with wonder and an attraction he cannot deny.

Willow s come back to Darling a different girl than the one who left after high school. Overcoming her past and owning her own business has made her into a strong, independent woman. Single dad Ethan appeals to her in a way she didn t expect, even though settling down is the last thing on her mind. But after fire destroys the local food bank, the town rallies, and a fling between Ethan and Willow leads to unintended consequences. Can they find a way out of their heartbreak to make a home in each other s hearts?

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book: I've been a fan of Alward's for awhile and I loved the first book in this series.

My Impression:   I have slightly mixed feelings about this one.   I absolutely loved Willow and Ethan and their interactions were a lot of fun to read.  They have very different outlooks on life and -especially at the beginning- misinterpret what they see of each other but they're both honest and direct with each other which kept it from being frustrating.  I really appreciated that Ethan's marriage had been a happy one and that he isn't afraid of love but of loss and having his children hurt.  I loved checking in with the Gallagher family and with Darling, Vermont.  In the previous book it was clear that Willow had quite a back story.  It was nice to get to know her better and to learn her story.

My mixed feelings come from the last third of the book or so.  While I understand Willow's reaction to the conflict given her history I struggled with the fact that she avoided Ethan for several weeks given the fact that she had formed an attachment with his children and them with her.  I understood his anger as his fear of letting someone in to their lives and then them disappearing had been realized.  As well I wasn't entirely comfortable with her deceptive phrasing to Ethan regarding the conflict.  I understood her motivation but the lack of honesty seemed out of character.  Willow's back story could be considered controversial but it was handled so sensitively and honestly that I don't think anyone would have a problem with it.

Despite my minor hesitation with this book I really did enjoy the read.  I found the characters unique and interesting and just plain likable.  I loved seeing more of the town and I absolutely can't wait for the next book!


Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I have the next book in the series and I'm super excited to start it!

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely!  If you enjoy contemporary romance like Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallory, or Sarah Morgan you will really enjoy this series!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - 10 Books On My Spring TBR

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR.  I love this topic because it gives me time to think about what I want to read in the next little while.  This is what I want to read this spring!

1.  The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - I've seen several modern interpretations of this story but have never read the actual book.  I've seen several Oscar Wilde plays and there's a certain wit to them while this story sounds much darker.  I'm curious to see how it all comes together.

2.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - I had zero interest in reading this one when it first came out.  The whole gamer science fiction thing just didn't catch my attention.  But then I started seeing the reviews and they were beyond glowing.  And THEN I discovered that Wil Wheaton reads the audio and that my library has a copy on audio on their digital site.  How can I pass that up?

3.  Three Fates by Nora Roberts - I love new and shiny books but lately I've been realizing that I miss my old favorites so I'm trying to throw in a reread every so often.  This book involving 2 countries, 2 time periods, 3 couples and a whole host of villains is the one I'm hoping to reread this spring.

4.  Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost - I've really enjoyed Troost's previous two books that chronicle his time spent on an atoll in the Pacific and then Tahiti so I'm super excited to read about his adventures in China.

5.  Tightening the Threads by Lea Waite - I've really been enjoying this cozy mystery series featuring a group of needlepointers and a former PI granddaughter.  They all have a historical element that always makes me happy and this newest one is supposed to solve the mystery of one of my favorite side characters who I'm really looking forward to getting to know better!

6.  Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen - Because what TBR would be complete without a thriller with an unreliable narrator?  I'm super excited about this one about a woman whose boyfriend has quite literally disappeared without a trace.

7.  Any Day Now by Robyn Carr - Robyn Carr is one of those authors that I'm always meaning to read more of but never quite manage to read as much as I'd like.  I'm really looking forward to this 2nd book in the Sullivan's Crossing series.

8.  Until You by Denise Grover Swank - I loved the first book in this contemporary romance series and am super excited about this second book!

9.  Death in the Abstract by Emily Barnes - This cozy series about a former police chief turned artist  has been on my radar for awhile and this one features a missing person mystery which is one of my favorite kinds of mysteries.

10. The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King - I'm woefully behind in this Sherlock Holmes?Mary Russell series.  I read the one right before this last year and there were a lot of things left unresolved.  I'm really looking forward to finding just how everything works out!

What are you looking forward to reading this spring?

Monday, March 13, 2017

In Farleigh Field - Historical Fiction Review

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II by Rhys Bowen

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publicist

Description:  World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.
As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I can't resist the Bletchley Park connection and I've really enjoyed other books from Rhys Bowen in the past.

My Impression:  I've been a long time fan of Bowen's Royal Spyness series - a cozy mystery series set in the 1930s around Lady Georgiana, 34th in line from the throne.  While this series is always entertaining and always a good read it has a tendency to go a little silly at times.  While this works for Georgie and her hijinks I wasn't sure how it would translate to WWII era Bletchley Park. Really though I should have trusted Bowen because while there was an occasional humorous interaction this book never once strayed to hijinks or silliness but instead was a solid, ridiculously readable, and compelling mystery.

The mystery itself is intriguing - who was the man who fell to his death in the middle of the night?  Who was he trying to meet up with?  What is going to happen next?  I loved the different elements of how the mystery unraveled between Ben work at MI5, Pamela's work at Bletchley Park, and the very curious and intelligent Phoebe, 12 year old sister of Pamela, and her new found friend the out of place Cockeny Alfie.

But my favorite part of this read were the characters themselves and the different challenges they faced.  There is the intelligent and observant Pamela who struggles to be taken seriously as an interpreter at Bletchley, the injured and friend-zoned Ben, unable to serve because of a careless accident shortly before the war but devoted to his country, the resentful Dido who is stuck and Farleigh and angry that she neither gets her debut nor is able to go to London to take part in the war work.  They all add to the wartime feel of the mystery easy to identify and connect with.  I adored the relationship between Phoebe and Alfie - her young lady of the manor mixed with his Cockney bravado is frequently funny and I found it sweet to watch their friendship develop though they both would be horrified by the use of the world sweet.

While this isn't silly it also isn't a particularly dark or angsty read.  I really enjoyed the look at Bletchley and the countryside of England during wartime.  It definitely made me want to read more about both.  If you're looking for a light but not fluffy historical fiction and can't resist a World War II setting this is one you must not miss!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I really enjoy her Royal Spyness series and and I was really impressed with this book.

Would I Recommend this Book?: 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Week in Reading - March 12


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 Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco - I enjoyed the first in this series last summer and am looking forward to this one!  This involves a wedding day and I'm guessing many hijinks will ensue.  (NetGalley)

Until You by Denise Grover Swank - I really loved the first book in this series and I love when a series is about 2 groups of friends who all end up together.  That way you can check in with earlier couples and it works with the book.  (NetGalley)

Hospitality and Homicide by Lynn Cahoon - I've really been enjoying this series by Cahoon and I'm super excited about this newest book.  She's started another cozy series recently which I also like but I'm constantly worried she's going to abandon this one.  (NetGalley)

Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper - Apparently murders around weddings is my kryponite these days because I just couldn't resist this one!

Currently:

Reading: Forever a Hero by Linda Lael Miller, The Lake House by Kate Morton and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Listening: Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

Watching:  Actually not a huge amount.  Major Crimes is back on TNT so J and I have been watching that.  I've been catching up on NCIS and all it's franchises.

Off the Blog:

Apparently this is spring forward weekend.  I'm not ready!  Sure daylight and all that is good but I need that extra hour of sleep!  Luckily it's occuring on what is Spring Break for us so I at least won't have to get up an hour early.

Speaking of spring break the Tornado and I are heading south to visit my grandparents.  My grandfather had a fall back in November and is still not feeling quite himself.  We're going to go and hopefully distract him and help my grandmother with a few things that need to doing.  This is the first time in his life he hasn't been able to be super active (he's 93) and all the sitting has him bored and stir crazy.  His eyes get tired if he reads a lot but he's just discovered audio books.  Any recommendations?  He was career Army and was a pilot in World War II and really enjoys books set around those.  He also listened to The Boys in the Boat and Seabiscuit and enjoyed those.  He also really enjoyed a book he read about Apollo 13 but I can't remember what it was.  Any suggestions - especially for really great audio books will be much appreciated!

Since I'll be out of town I won't be around too much this week but I hope everyone has a fantastic week and I'll be back to visit you soon!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

Tuesday:  The Fives

What's Coming Up:

Monday: In Farleigh Field - Historical Fiction Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books on My Spring TBR
Wednesday: Someone to Love - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: Yes, My Accent is Real - Memoir Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: Forever a Hero - Contemporary Romance Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Sally's Baking Addiction - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Sally's Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes and Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix by Sally McKenney
It's no secret that I've got a sweet tooth of pretty massive proportions nor is it a secret that I've got a teensy bit of a cookbook addiction.  I've been a long time fan of the blog Sally's Baking Addiction so one day when I was in a cookbook buying mood and I saw this was on sale at Amazon I just knew I had to have it!  Now, I know there are people who don't like buying blog related cookbooks because of the availability of the recipes on line.  I'm not one of those people.  While I get a lot of the recipes I use off the internet I find a cookbook so much more pleasing and more useful that this doesn't worry me.  I will say that the majority of these recipes felt unfamiliar to me which leads me to believe that this book isn't just recipes pulled from the blog.

The book itself contains a ton of recipes - all with beautiful photographs.  While the book does contain the cookies, cupcakes and desserts the title promises there are also several chapters on breads and muffins and other breakfast treats as well as a chapter on lighter fare such as granola bars and energy bites.  As well you can find a large selection of cookies (from the gorgeous Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies on the cover to Mom's Gingersnaps and Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies), cakes and pies (the Sweet Peach Pie is calling my name) and a variety of sweet snacks and tasty treats.  I've made several recipes in this book and all have turned out beyond delicious.  However, the one I thought I'd share today went beyond my expectations and I could have happily eaten the entire pan on my own!

Cinnamon Roll Blondies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
5 tbsp salted butter, melted (I used unsalted because that's what I had)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 in pan with aluminum foil. leaving an overhang on all sides.

Make the Blondies:  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the nutmeg together.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla extract, whisking vigorously until combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, stirring with a large spoon or rubber spatula until combined.  Do not overmix.  The batter will be thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.  In a small dish, mix the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar together.  Sprinkle over batter.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.  Allow the blondies to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Make the Glaze:  While the blondies are cooling, mix all of hte glaze ingredients together in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps of confectioners' sugar.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled blondies.

Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares.  The blondies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.

My Results:  These were just ridiculous.  They were so soft and gooey and buttery that I was afraid they were underbaked.  But not only were they not underbaked they held together and packed wonderfully.  But seriously the texture and the flavor were perfection.  I'm glad I was taking most of the pan somewhere or I would have eaten them all myself!  They also came together super quick.  I had the idea of making them about an hour before I was supposed to leave and they were put together, baked, and cooled (with a short stay in the fridge) enough and ready to go within that time.  The only thing that didn't come out exactly as pictured was my glaze.  As you can see in the picture - while tasty it isn't winning any beauty prizes.  Both of these are user error.  For starters I was lower on confectioners' sugar than I thought and only had just over 1/2 a cup.  As well the blondies were still warm when I added the glaze causing it to melt.  I'm sure if I had taken my time and had the proper quantities it would have been photo-worthy.

Will I make this again?  Absolutely!  In fact I'm thinking I need to go make another batch right now!  You should too!  You won't be sorry!

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Linkups - The Lake House














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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question
How far in advance do you read the books you have scheduled for review?

My Answer:
Not nearly as far in advance as I'd like!  My goal is to be at least 2 weeks ahead but now I'm lucky if I'm a full week ahead.  I haven't even started the book I'm scheduled to review on Thursday!

Do you ever read a book by a new to you author and think "That was fantastic!  I need to read everything this author has written!" and then proceed to never read them again?  Well that's me with Kate Morton.  In the pre-blogging days I read The Forgotten Garden and absolutely fell in love with it,. I was thrilled when I saw that she had written several other books and I knew I was absolutely going to read those.  But they're pretty long and heavy on atmosphere so I didn't want to jump into the next one at once so I put off a little bit.  Well fast forward four years later and I'm not finally picking up another book by her!  When I saw the blurb for The Lake House which involves and abandoned house I knew I just wouldn't be able to resist it and I'm super excited to finally be getting back to Kate Morton's world!

The Beginning:
Cornwall, August 1933
The rain was heavy now and the hem of her dress was splattered with mud.  She'd have to hide it afterwards; no one could know that she'd been out.

My Thoughts:
This sounds like very unpleasant weather to be out in.  I'm definitely wondering where she was and what she was doing - especially since she has to hide the fact that she'd been out.

The 56:
Sadie cursed into the reciever as the phone line went dead and dug around in her pockets for more change.  She redialed but the call went straight to Donald's voice mail.

My Thoughts:
For starters who uses a pay phone anymore?  I didn't really know you could still find them.  And why did the line go dead?  Did she run out of time or did Donald hang up on her?  I'm thinking the latter since it's going to voice mail.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Are there any authors you've been neglecting that you really mean to read?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bel of the Brawl - Cozy Mystery Review

Bel of the Brawl (Belfast McGrath Mystery #2) by Maggie McConnon

Rating:  Good
Source:  Publisher

Description:  Bel McGrath loves her work as a wedding chef. But with her latest event set to take place at Shamrock Manor, she just can't seem to catch a break. The Casey wedding has left her with ten thousand greenbacks in the hole, a missing staff member, and a dead groom. Now, in between Guinness beers and pub brawls, Bel must find a way to crack the case--even though what she should be cracking are eggs into the batter of the wedding cake. A good Irish girl's work is never done. . .
What begins as local town fodder for an episode of "Wedding Gone Wild" is turning into "Gangsters with Guns." With the Casey family spiraling out of control, and billable McGrath hours being lost by the minute, Bel is definitely in too deep. With all these shenanigans, she barely has time to obsess over her new boyfriend and her own unsolved mystery from years ago! Time is running out on getting the next couple down the aisle before the so-called luck of the Irish takes a deadly turn... Bel of the Brawl will keep Maggie McConnon's fans, new and old, guessing.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I love old mysteries and I can't resist a place called Shamrock Manor.  Plus the new mystery sounds all kinds of crazy!

My Impression:  This is my first visit with the whirlwind that is the McGrath family but it definitely won't be my last!  I love a wedding in a mystery because there's so many things that can go wrong and pretty much all of them happened in Bel of the Brawl!  Really I'm not sure much can be worse than a dead groom but there were plenty of other mishaps that developed as the book went along.  Throw in Bel's more than a little whacky family and hilarity ensues though I definitely had some sympathy for Bel with a plethora of siblings, a mother with rather set in stone opinions, and a father who just loves to discount things she has a LOT on her plate.  And all that's without even thinking about the drama the finding of evidence from a decade old missing persons case has unearthed.  I enjoyed how multi-layered the mystery was with the current murder, figuring out just what is going on with the families involved, all the details involving the missing staff member, and the old mystery and all the emotional ramifications Bel has from that.

While this is the second book in the series this is my first visit with the McGrath family.  For the most part this wasn't a problem as what had happened in the past was easily explained and most of what I needed to know happened on the page.  I did get a little confused early on with all the names regarding the missing persons case -both in the flashbacks and with the present day discussion.  As well it took me a little while to get the names of a few of Bel's siblings straight - especially with a cousin thrown in the mix.

Despite the minor flaws (and there's a distinct possibility that my confusion early on was caused more by copious amounts of cold medicine coupled with a pretty massive head cold than by the book itself) I really enjoyed this mystery.  It was fun, quirky and really cute and I'm curious about what will happen next with the McGrath family.



Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely!  I'll be on the lookout for more from this author and am looking forward to going back and reading the first in this seriesl.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a really fun series.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Home at Last - Contemporary Romance Review

Home at Last (Sanctuary Island) by Lily Everett

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Marcus Beckett left Sanctuary Island after his mother's funeral, and he hasn't been back since. Until now. Needing a change from the high-risk, high-stakes life of a bodyguard, Marcus makes a solitary life for himself running the neighborhood bar in his hometown. His only mistake? Seducing and then dumping the town's sweetheart, Quinn Harper. Marcus knows he did the right thing—a good girl like Quinn has no business with a broken man like him. But now no one will come to his bar, and he's watching his last chance at a peaceful life go up in smoke. So when Quinn proposes a fake four-week courtship, he can't refuse...even though he knows it's a bad idea.
It's a romantic charade that will buy Quinn time to distract her mother and father from their own martial problems—and will help Marcus welcome back some paying customers besides. But what begins as an engagement of convenience slowly transforms into a deeper connection, one that heals both of their hearts...and ignites the simmering passion between them. Could it be that pretending to be together is just what Quinn and Marcus needed to give their real love a second chance?

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book: I read the first Sanctuary Island book and really liked it and then read the book right before this one (Coming Home) and loved it!  I really enjoyed the relationship between Marcus and Quinn in the last book so I was really looking forward to them getting their own story.

My Impression:  *Happy sigh* I expected to enjoy this one.  I had really enjoyed getting to know Quinn and Marcus is the previous book.  They had great chemistry and serious baggage and brought out the best in each other even though they didn't really realize it.  I wasn't expecting all the feels and alll the sweetness that this story contained.  Plus, there's a fake relationship!!  I love a fake relationship!  And with all good fake relationships the reasoning makes some sense, benefits both characters and is totally a cover for the fact that this really isn't such a fake couple after all.
I loved getting to know Marcus better.  In the previous book there were slight hints as to his past and while it took awhile to get the full story I enjoyed the peeks behind his reserve - especially his friendship with. It's Patty.
Quinn's parents play a big role in the story and and the plot is very much focused on their marriage.  I normally worry when a character gets too wrapped up in their parents' lives as it can feel a bit childlike.  However, in this case the concern made a lot of since.  As well I didn't feel like Quinn's reaction was too off the mark.  My parents got divorced when I was an adult and there is a certain feeling of being adrift - and I was a whole lot more settled than Quinn was.  I also really enjoyed that the book really shows the challenges of a long term marriage and how it can be as difficult or more difficult than a relationship that is just starting out.
This was a really wonderful contemporary romance that focuses on a number of different relationships with all the complications and wonder.  I truly enjoued this visit to Sanctuary Island and loved getting to know Quinn and Marcus.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I really think this might be the last Sanctuary Island boo but luckily there are still a few earlier ones I haven't read yet.  And of course I'll be eagerly awaiting the next book from Lily Everett

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!  This was an absolutely wonderful read - especially if you like contemporary romance like RaeAnne Thayne and Emily March.  While not necessary I think this book will be more enjoyable if you read Coming Home first.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Fives!

Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish seems to be on a well deserved hiatus so today I'm doing The Fives!  This is a post that I found that I had done way back in February of 2014 that I had seen Trish over at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity and Lisa over at Lit and Life do.  I thought it was really fun then and it turned out to be really fun to do again!

5 Books I've Recently Added to My TBR List

1.  Dragonslayer by Emilie Richards - I love Richards' books though I don't read them enough and Kathryn over at Book Date gave this one high marks.

2.  At Fairfield Orchard by Emma Cane - The cover is so pretty I couldn't resist!

3.  The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters - I read this one years ago but I've been wanting to revisit Elizabeth Peters' books.

4.  Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh - I love Balogh but haven't read enough and Lark over at Bookwyrm's Hoard rhas really enjoyed this series.

5.  The Magic Bedknob by Mary Norton - This is the first in the Bedknobs and Broomsticks series.  I saw the movie ages and ages ago but I'm really wanting to read the book!

5 Books I'm Planning to Read in the Near Future

1.  Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - I love Steinbeck and have read most of his books but somehow I've never gotten the book he's most known for.

2.  Scandal in Skibberdeen by Sheila Connolly - Sheila Connolly is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and I really enjoyed the first book in this series set in Ireland.  I'm really excited about the second book.

3.  Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christe - I'm making my way through Christie's Poirot books and this is the next one.  It's one of my favorites.

4.  Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming - It's been awhile since I read the 3rd James Bond book, Moonraker, so it's time to go back and pick up #4!

5.  Key of Knowledge by Nora Roberts - I just reread the first in this trilogy and really enjoyed it so I'm looking forward to rereading the second which was my favorite!

5 Books I Own but Still Haven't Read

1.  Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - I'm almost scared to read this one.  I loved the Bridgerton series so much that I'm afraid this one won't live up to my expectations.

2.  A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch - I've been wanting to start this Charles Lennox series for years and don't even remember when I bought this book but I'm determined to get to it this year.

3.  Untraceable by Laura Griffin - I've loved the most recent two in this series and am really looking forward to retracing my steps with book one of the series.

4.  Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story by J. Maarten Troost - The title itself is amazing.  I'm super excited about it!

5. An Expert in Murder by Nicole Upson - The detective in this book is mystery writer Josephine Tey.  I've been reading her books for years so I'm looking forward to reading a book that focuses on her.

5 Books from a Series I Need to Continue

1.  Cress by Marissa Meyer - I read the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles and absolutely loved them.  I need to finish the series.

2.  God of the Hive by Laurie R. King - I've been reading this series about Mary Russell and her husband, a very retired Sherlock Holmes, since college and have always really loved it.  Somehow I've gotten seriously behind and desperately need to catch up.  Part of me wants to go back and start at the beginning since it's been so long since I read the early books but that's probably not going to happen so I've kind of locked up.

3.  Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - I read The Screaming Staircase last year and really enjoyed it.  There were some hints dropped in that book about this one and I've been looking forward to reading them ever since.

4.  Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle - This is a super solid cozy mystery series all about a book restorer named Brooklyn.  The mysteries are always great and the descriptions of books are absolutely amazing.

5.  Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts - I absolutely loved the first book in this trilogy and swore I'd read the 2nd book as soon as it came out which was June of 2016.  Now my goal is to get to it before June of 2017!

5 Soon to Be Released Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

1. Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart - I love Mariah Stewart and I love series that focus on sisters so this first book in a series about sisters written by Mariah Stewart sounds amazing!

2. Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen - This book about a woman who comes home to find her boyfriend not just gone but erased sounds pretty page turning!

3.  Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance - Maia Chance's cozies always make me giggle and this one involving an inn sounds like the beginning of a series I'll love!

4.  The Girl with the Make Believe Husband by Julia Quinn - It's by Julia Quinn.  The title could be "this is the most boring book ever" and I'd still probably be excited about it!

5.  Our Sweet Basil Kitchen by Cade and Carrian Chesney - I love the Sweet Basil blog so I'm super excited for this new cookbook!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reviews from the Children's Section - Mandy

One of my favorite genres and one that is the easiest for me to push aside is middle grade fiction. This year to make sure I get a little more children's and young adult fiction I thought I would designate the first Monday of every month Middle Grade Monday.  Some of the books I'll be picking are old childhood favorites, some are classics that I missed for whatever reason, and some will be newer releases that I just couldn't resist!

This month's book is a book published in 1971 but I didn't hear about it until after I joined Goodreads in 2011.  Not sure how I missed it!

Mandy by Julie Edwards

Mandy is by Julie Edwards better known as Julie Andrews (yes - THAT Julie Andrews.  Mary Poppins wrote a children's book!).  It's the story of a little girl named Mandy growing up in an orphanage.  She's never known who her family is and desperately wants a place to call her own.  When a trip over the wall leads to the discovery of an old abandoned cottage she thinks she's found her place.  But everything isn't quite as simple as it seems nor as perfect.

I can't tell you how much I wanted to love this book- I mean it's a children's book by MARY POPPINS!  How could I not love it?  Except I kind of didn't.  I loved the idea of the abandoned cottage and this little girl with no true place of her own making it hers.  I understood why she wanted to keep it a secret.  I loved the descriptions of her time at the cottage and all the animals she saw there.  I also really enjoyed the development later in the book surrounding the cottage.  But I struggled with Mandy in other situations.  There's a lot of lying and lying to everyone - even to people who truly care about her.  While I'm not a huge fan of regular lying in a children's book I think it would be pretty clear to the youngest of readers that the lying was not the way to go.  Mandy spends a good chunk of the book so stressed and anxious that I found myself stressed and anxious.  At one point I realized I was holding my breath a little like I was reading a thriller.  Not exactly the magical adventure I was looking for!  I also got a little frustrated with Mandy in the latter half of the book for being so discontented.  There were a few times I just wanted to tell her to stop complaining and be happy that all these people love her.

While this book wasn't quite as wonderful for me as an adult I suspect it would really speak to children - especially those in a little bit of upheaval.  That need to have some control over your environment is so clear on the page and Mandy does a fantastic job of voicing her uncertainty, her jealousy, and just the frustration of not being able to be in charge of her own destiny just because she's a child.  While she does lie a lot the book very clearly shows the consequences - not just getting caught but the stress and how it hurts those around you which I think would be more effective than a heavily moral story.  And there's a happy ending that I think would satisfy all readers.

While I didn't fall head over heels in love with this book and it isn't landing on my Keeper Shelf I am glad I read it.  It was well written and hooked me even when I didn't care for what was happening on the page.  I have heard that Edwards has several other books and I'm curious about them. While I think I would have rated this Really Good or even Loved it as a child as an adult I'm rating it: Good

Saturday, March 4, 2017

This Week in Reading - March 5

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:

Nothing!  I got nothing!  I did start to go run and request some stuff once I realized my shelf was empty for the week but I restrained myself!  I'm hoping that I'll continue to make progress on reading down my review books.




Currently:

Reading:  Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon and I just started The Lake House by Kate Morton

Listening:  I finished Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty earlier this week and tomorrow I'm going to start Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming.

Watching:  I'm super excited that my guilty pleasure is back on!  I love Catfish on MTV and was almost giddy when it started back up this week.  We also finished up this season of Top Chef.  I was happy with who one but I did kind of want it to go the other way.  

Off the Blog:

Tonight (Saturday) we're going to go see the play Miss Nelson is Missing which is based off one of my favorite books as a child.  I'm super excited - far more than the Tornado though I think he'll enjoy it.  After that I think we'll be taking it easy for the rest of the weekend.  We all seem to be coming down with some kind of bug which I'm not real happy about.  Typically we don't get sick very often but the last little bit we've been struggling.  Does anyone else's teeth hurt when they're really congested?  My dentist says it's normal but the rest of my family looks at me like I'm a weirdo when I complain about it.

I tweaked a muscle at the gym earlier this week so I took a couple of days off.  I decided I wanted to do a few yoga videos so I tried Yoga with Adriene on Youtube.  I'd been hearing about her for awhile and the recommendations were not wrong - she's amazing!  There's a huge collection of videos and she's really easy to follow even for beginners.  I'm looking forward to trying some more on off days.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Reviews from the Children's Section - Mandy
Tuesday: The 5s!
Wednesday: Home at Last - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: Bel of the Brawl - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: Sally's Baking Addiction - Cookbook Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Pekoe Most Poison - Cozy Mystery Review + Recipe

Pekoe Most Poison (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.
But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.

The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse...

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed a book I had read in her Scrapbooking series as well as one in her Cackleberry Club series.  I had read the first few in this series years ago and really wanted to revisit it.

My Impression:  This was a delightful cozy mystery!  Laura Childs was one of the first cozy mystery writers I discovered when I first started reading cozy mysteries -around 15 years or so ago - and her mystery game has only gotten stronger.  I loved seeing Theo and Drayton getting involved in the investigation and it was super fun to watch the mystery unravel.  It's always fun when it starts out looking like there couldn't possibly any suspects and then things quickly became more complex than they originally seemed.

While a good mystery is always the fundamental thing in a mystery, Childs manages to make the setting of Charleston, South Carolina itself and Theo's tea shop just as enjoyable.  Charleston is a beautiful city with a fascinating and diverse history and I really enjoyed seeing little tidbits of this pop up throughout the book.  As well I really enjoyed seeing the inside of the tea shop and my mouth absolutely watered with all the mentions of Haley's yummy sounding creations.  Luckily there are tons of recipes and tips on tea at the back of the book.  This is a fantastic read for a rainy day - just make sure you have a big steaming cup of tea and a tasty scone.  I recommend the apricot scones from the recipe below!

My copy of Pekoe Most Poison is a review copy and didn't have the recipes but luckily my library has a bunch in this series (which I'm looking forward to reading) and I picked up Steeped in Evil which has a recipe for Apricot Scones that turned out absolutely fantastic!

Apricot Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, diced up
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, combine flour, sguar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until crumbly.  Stir in cream, then add apricots.  Knead dough 5 or 6 times on a lightly floured surface until dough forms a ball.  Roll dough into a circle about 6 inches thick.  Cut into approximately 16 triangles.  Place scones on greased baking sheet, sprinkle a little extra sugar on top, and bake 16 to 20 minutes.

Now I just wish I had some of that Devonshire cream that Theo always serves with her scones!

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




Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday Linkups: Mandy














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 start reading a novel, do you prefer to be plunged right into the action or do you prefer a slower more descriptive introduction to the plot and characters?

My Answer:
It depends on the book itself I think.  If the plot is all action than I like leaping right in but if the book is more character driven or relies more on the atmosphere than a slower descriptive introduction works.  The main thing for me is regardless of the speed of the start I'm immediately interested in the story!

This week's book is one I'm really excited about and one I wish I had discovered when I was a kid as it would have been a book I think I would have loved.  I discovered it on Goodreads when I first joined up and was looking through the recommendations and it's one of the reasons I really wanted to up my Middle Grade fiction reading this year.  Mandy by Julie Edwards (better known by her maiden name Andrews) is a story about an orphan with her own private refuge and a book I'm absolutely loving!

The Beginning:
On the outskirts of a pretty country village called St. Martin's Green, there stands a large, white house called St. Martin's Orphanage.

My Thoughts:
In the blurb it mentions that the Matron is kind to her but I like that it opens with pleasant imagery.  So often orphanages in this kind of fiction are gloomy and miserable but this sounds pretty.

The 56: 
Sue spoke in a soft voice, "Mandy, shall we go to the old quarry tomorrow and play?  It's Sunday and it would be fun."

My Thoughts: 
The quarry does sound like a fun place to play though it does make me wonder just how much supervision these kids have as it doesn't sound very safe!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Wild Night - Contemporary Romance Review

One Wild Night by Melissa Cutler

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: A cowgirl at heart, Skye Martinez has a rebellious streak she's determined to shake. Especially since she's poised to take the reins of her family's business at Briscoe Ranch Resort. It's time for her to settle down and get serious about her future...right after one last night of fun with a handsome stranger she meets in the resort's stable. But when a midnight horseback ride turns into a red-hot weekend with one of country music's biggest stars, Skye's world is rocked beyond her wildest dreams...
Gentry Wells rode his bad boy image all the way to the top of the country music charts. But churning out hits has dried up his creativity, and he can't remember the last time his life was his own. Skye is a sexy distraction he can't resist, especially since she breathes new life into his music. They bring out the wild side in each other, which is great for Gentry's career—but a major threat to Skye's. Too bad he's fallen in love with her. With their hearts and futures on the line, can Gentry convince Skye to turn their joyride into a real chance to ride off into the sunset together?

Genre: Romance - Contemporary 

Why I Picked This Book: I like contemporary romance and I'm always looking for new to me authors.  I also loved that Gentry is a celebrity.

My Impression:  There was a lot I liked about this one.  I loved the family feel and Skye works with many of her relatives and her mother and both grandmothers play important roles in the story.  I enjoyed the grandmothers' hijinks and seeing the more serious relationship with her mother.  I especially enjoyed the work type scenes.  It always drives me crazy when a character has a specific job for a plot point and then after she finds the dead body (that'd be more of a mystery than a romance) or meets the guy or his mother or his dog - never goes to it again.  Skye is warm and funny with a serious rebellious streak but also wants to settle down and make her parents proud of her.
I really loved Gentry.  He's got this bad boy image that's more than a little created by management and he's kind of at a cross-roads professionally, creatively, and personally and at the start of the book comes off as a little lost and just plain sad.  From the first run in with Skye it was fun to see the light kind of show back up in him.  I loved the relationship between him and his band mate Nick and enjoyed the not always flattering commentary on the music industry.  Plus, the man understands the meaning of the term "grand gesture" which is always an added bonus in a romance.
For the most part I enjoyed the conflict.  It made sense that Skye wouldn't trust Gentry given her past and his reputation.  It also made sense that Gentry isn't always the clearest on just what he wants in life since at the beginning of the book he seems so lost.  There's also another conflict that is one I typically dislike the most but actually worked here which was a surprise.  There were a number of issues that cropped up in the book but their reactions felt right and it was easy to believe that these people would react like that which is a big plus for me.

There were some things I didn't like.  Skye's rebellious streak is very prominent and seems to head towards self-sabotage at times.  I think it's not unrealistic but I didn't relate to her as much as I'd like because there were times I thought she was being super irresponsible and I wanted to shake her.  At times the book felt slightly disjointed with some parts being almost slapstick and then at other times it strayed towards angsty.

Overall, this wasn't my favorite read of the year but it was an enjoyable.   I love the setting the author has built up and am looking forward to reading more of the series.  This is the 3rd in the One and Only Texas series but honestly I would have had no idea it wasn't a stand alone if Goodreads hadn't told me.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:   I would!  I'd like to see a little more of Briscoe Ranch Resort and get to know more of the characters.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you enjoy contemporaries - especially with a Western theme I think you'd like this.