Monday, April 22, 2019

Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review

Goodreads:  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Rating:  Loved It!
Source: Library (Audio)

Description: On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more--all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I had heard this recommended by the Modern Mrs. Darcy a number of times and I found the subject matter fascinating so I just had to listen to it!

My Impression:  I've been fascinated with shipwrecks since the day we got the National Geographic magazine all about the discovery of the Titanic in the mail.  Because of that I know a bit more about the Titanic than the Lusitania but I find it equally fascinating. 

This book turned almost everything I thought I knew about the sinking of the Lusitania on its ear and what it didn't change it fleshed out with such incredible detail.  This was one of the those books that I wanted to talk about all the time as I was reading it.  Each chapter brought interesting bits of information about the ship, the war, the passengers, as well as the sinking itself.  It was truly fascinating.  But what really connected me wasn't just the historical information but the biographies of the passengers.  Larson brought so many of them to life and at times had me teary listening to their poignant and tragic stories.  This was interesting, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking and a nonfiction book that not only kept me listening but that I was sorry to hear the end of.

The audio edition is narrated by Scott Brick who did a great job with the pacing and tone without ever lapsing into overly dramatic.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to listening to other books by Larson.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are even the slightest bit interested in this topic than this is a must not miss. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 21

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:

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz - This one reminds me a little bit of a show on TNT called Perception.  There's a cop and a professor who not only has been diagnosed with schizophrenia who sees crime related visions.  I'm really curious about this one! (Publisher)

Jackson by Emily March - I almost passed on this one because I don't like name titles but this one has a bookstore owner which I can never resist.  Plus, I've loved the last few books by March so I decided to get past that particular bias. (Publisher)

A Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry - There's an antique store in England.  And that was pretty much all I needed to know.  (NetGalley)

Dying for Devil's Food  by Jenn McKinlay - This is a fun cozy series though it does make me want to binge eat cupcakes! (Publisher)


Reading:  The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr and still reading The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Listening:  I'm almost done with Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts and I'm going to start Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Watching:  We've been heavy on the movies lately and I've watched a few episodes of MacGyver.  It's not the best show but it is entertaining.

Off the Blog:

This weekend was a three day weekend.  The Tornado had Friday off for a weather day (we lose them if we have a number of school days cancelled for weather concerns but it's been a mild year).  We had talked about going on a day trip but the next two weekends are going to be kind of nuts so we decided to stay home.  Luckily we did because the Tornado's teacher called me Thursday afternoon to tell me he was sick!  So we had more of a low key weekend than expected.  He's feeling much better though a bit puny and sorry for himself.

I'm sticking with the running and it's getting equally easier and harder.  I'm not as tired and it doesn't hurt as much but I'm seriously sore!  I'm also trying to up my strength workouts as that's supposed to help with the soreness but we'll see.

We've discovered our cat is scared of thunderstorms.  He's not quite two yet and apparently in most of those two years we haven't had many storms.  However, the last month or so we've had several drawn out storms and it is past pathetic.  He's literally paralyzed by fear.  I've had dogs who were afraid of storms and it was always sad but I could help them a little.  With him I have no clue.  I got some treats that are supposed to relax him but it's near impossible to get him to take them and when I do I haven't noticed any help.  Any advice?

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - The First Ten Books I Reviewed
Wednesday:  The Missing Years - Mystery Review
Thursday:  Books from the Backlog
Friday:  Friday Fives - My Favorite Slump Busting Reads
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Faithful - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Rating:  Very Good
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:  Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I heard so many good things about this one from bloggers who read all kinds of genres that I couldn't pass it up.

My Impression:  I'm going to be honest - for the first 25% or so I was pretty meh about this book.  Shelby is so full of self loathing and such a hot mess that it's hard to want to hear her story.  But then - around the time she adopted the General and Blinky - everything changed and I was completely hooked.  I didn't connect to Shelby necessarily but I rooted for her and very frequently I wanted to reach into the book and give her a good shake because she just couldn't readjust her vision of herself.

There aren't any magic wands in Shelby's world and her journey isn't easy or flawless but it felt authentic.  I loved Hoffman's ability to make me care and to make me believe that Marielle and Jasmine and Pablo and all the rest really existed and I became really invested as the book went on. This was my first book by Alice Hoffman but it definitively won't be my last.  While it took me a little bit to warm up to both her very unique style and Shelby herself I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this read and I was sad when it ended because that means my time with Shelby is over.

Audio note: Amber Tamblyn narrated this book.  While I thought her voice was perfect for Shelby her pacing was very slow.  I ended up increasing the speed quite a bit and I think it improved my enjoyment of the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  While I wasn't so sure of this one at first but Hoffman really sold me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  Even if this is a little outside your typical reading genres I think you'd enjoy it.  Though if you have the same audio edition I did I highly recommend increasing the pace even if you never do.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Fives - YouTube Channels I'm Loving

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week is one of the not so much weeks.  The last year or so I discovered YouTube (because clearly I'm on top of trends!).  I mean I knew what YouTube was but thought it was mostly for looking up how to do something or watching the occasional movie trailer.  But then I discovered different YouTube channels that I really enjoyed.  This happened right about the time we changed cable companies and I stopped being able to watch saved TV shows on my tablet.  And with the fact that my usual constant stream of crime shows started causing my crazy intense anxiety and I had to start looking elsewhere for my background noise.  Here are 5 of my favorite YouTube channels!

1.  Safiya Nygaard - Safiya was really the first YouTube channel I ever discovered and she's still my favorite.  She's funny but in a smart way and always seems to put a little bit of history or research in her videos.  Her videos range from topics like "I Dressed Like it was 1977" and "The History of Lipstick" to trying suspiciously cheap companies like Wish or Romwe.  She's also done stuff like buying an abandoned storage or a palette of Amazon Returns.  Really it'd be easier to talk about what she HASN'T done. 

2.  RachhLovesLife - I discovered this channel shortly after I found her somewhat more popular makeup channel but I think this one is really my favorite.  She tests all kinds of online "hacks" or top rated products and she is absolutely hilarious.  My favorite videos are the ones where she's playing Sims4 and I never like those kinds of videos but her spin on it is just so funny.

3.  TheTimTracker - This channel basically focuses on Tim and his wife Jen having adventures at all the Orlando area amusement parks with a special focus on Disney World.  They do a great job exploring all the different parks, festivals, tasting new food, and discovering new experiences.  They always give very honest well reasoned opinions but all the time coming off as upbeat and just super nice.  I may have found them when I was deep in my Disney World obsession (still there) but I keep watching them because they're just such fun.

4.  Yoga with Adriene - So this isn't really background noise as I'm usually actually doing the Yoga practice but I can't make a list of favorite channels without mention this one.  I have done one of her practices almost every day this year and I'm feeling better than I have in years.  I have several other yoga channels that I enjoy but Adriene is the one that I always go back to.

5.  Mellissa - Mellissa is a reseller on eBay and she does haul videos with her husband Bare showing what they picked up at the Goodwill Bins or other thrift stores.  They also do unboxings from different companies that are geared towards resellers.  She also videos about putting together packages.  Honestly, none of this stuff really appeals to me but Mellissa is just the absolute nicest person I've ever come across and I just love their videos.  Something about them is so calming and uplifting and even though their videos are LONG I never get bored or tired of them.

Do you watch YouTube?  Who are some of your favorites?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Hodge Podge of Reviews - What I've Been Reading #1

The Widow by Fiona Barton - I thoroughly enjoyed The Child by Barton last year and was curious how she handled this story involving what happens behind the scenes in the house and in the marriage of a man publicly suspected of the absolute worst kind of crime.  This was definitely kept me hooked and kept me guessing from start to finish.  Just what did happen to little Bella and just how much did "the widow" know.  I was relieved that while crimes against children was very front and center it wasn't graphic and was mercifully light on details.  While I didn't enjoy this read as much as The Child I really appreciate the way Fiona Barton tells a story and I'll definitely be continuing with her books.  I listened to the audio and it was fantastic which a wonderful voice actor for each POV.  Rating: Very Good

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis -This was a reread for me and a very fun one.  It's been quite some time since I visited Lucky Harbor and it was a fun visit.  I especially enjoyed Maddie's journey to not be the mouse anymore and the growing relationship between the sisters.  Yes the romance was fun too but it was the sisters that that really sold it for me.  I listened to the audio on this one and while it didn't detract from the book I didn't feel like it really added anything for me.  This is a fun start to a fun series that never disappoints!  Rating: Good

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz - I do love a tale of Gothic mystery - especially when it involves a crumbling estate.  Just what had the briefcase contained and why was Madeline's grandmother so desperate to hide it so long ago.  And even more importantly just who was after that information and what did they know?  This was a fun fast paced romantic suspense that while not perfect was an entertaining listen and cements Krentz as a guaranteed author for an enjoyable and suspenseful read.  Rating: Good

Always On My Mind by Belle Andre - I think I'm in the minority here.  The reviews for this one - even from bloggers I trust and usually have the same taste as - are pretty much glowing.  I had some issues with this one.  I loved Lori.  Her ability to not only see the good but find the fun in some serious hard work is endearing and I enjoyed watching her regain her confidence.  My issue was 100% with Grayson.  Grayson is a jerk.  I mean I get that there has been tragedy in his life but that doesn't give him the monopoly on hurt or betrayal.  The fact that he completely dismissed and undermined Lori's feelings when she opened up to him really set my teeth on edge.  He was mean to the point of cruel for really no reason other than he had decided not to get close to people.  Yes there was some redemption but in my opinion it was too little too late.  What kept me reading was Andre's writing which was really brought the characters to life.  While I didn't love Grayson (massive understatement) I loved the Lori and the world that Andre created enough that I won't hesitate to read more from her.  Rating: Just Okay

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Classic Movie Essentials - His Girl Friday (1940)

Setting:  A newsroom in New York city right before World War II. 

Walter Burns - Cary Grant
Hildy Johnson - Rosalind Russell
Bruce Baldwin - Ralph Bellamy
Sheriff Hartwell - Gene Lockhart

Premise: On the eve of her remarriage newspaper editor, Walter Burns, tempts his ex-wife, Hildy Johnson, back into the fast moving world of journalism with the race to stay an execution.

My Thoughts:  "Oh Walter you're wonderful in a loathsome sort of way" so says Hildy Johnson in the airy arch way that only Rosalind Russell can do with such perfection.  This movie has a blazing fast pace and a constant flow of incredibly witty banter.  It's funny and suspenseful and incredibly entertaining.   For the age of the movie it feels incredibly fresh and funny and feels shockingly undated - despite a lot of very dated opinions that get bandied around. 

My only negative would be that if you are even slightly hard of hearing you may want to make sure the background noise is at a minimum.  The dialogue is so fast and zippy it could be hard to hear clearly if there is any white noise.  And also as far as I can tell this is the only movie that Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell costar in and their chemistry is so fantastic that this is an absolute tragedy.

Why I Think It's Essential - This movie is funny and crisp and just a total delight.  And really more people should watch it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Rainy Day Reads

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is Rainy Day Reads.  I love the occasional rainy day and curling up with a good book is one of my favorite things!  Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - There was so much hype when this one came out that I ended up being a little disappointed with it but the story itself is sweet  with a touch of bittersweet and is a quick read that pulls you in.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

2.  The Mysterious Mr. Quinn by Agatha Christie - I love Agatha Christie's short stories and this is one of my absolute favorite collections.  They're light mystery and so entertaining - perfect to spend a gray drizzly afternoon.

3.   In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This is a spooky mystery with an oppressive setting and begs to be read in a thunderstorm.

4.  A Week Winter by Maeve Binchy - The setting for this book is a warm cozy house on the Irish coast and would be perfect reading when curled up with a blanket on a cold rainy day.

5.  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - While I love a rainy day more than two or three make me stir crazy and this is perfect for a little escapist reading when you just can't handle being inside anymore.

6.  The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels - A spooky read that really must be read during a thunderstorm - preferably with howling wind.

7.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - I think you really need to have a plateful of scones sitting by when you read this and a cold drizzly day is the perfect atmosphere.

8.  The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis - Every rainy day should have a little magic and this book is a one sitting block everything out and be completely delighted kind of read.

9.  The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor - I wouldn't read this when the weather is too bad as there are two actual hurricanes in the book but a bit of rain would add the perfect atmosphere to this heart breaking book.

10. Book 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton - This is the perfect "it's been raining so long that if it rains one more day I'm going to lose mind" kind of read.  It's so hot and dry in this book that a bit of rain won't seem quite so bad!

What are some of your favorite rainy day reads?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ramblings from the Stacks - Organizing Bookshelves

So I'm jumping the gun a bit here but I'm so close to having my very own personal library that I can just about taste it.   So my reading room/office used to be my daughter's room but since she left for college it's been kind of a catch all for the stuff everyone has left behind.  But now that the three older kids are on their own paths we are clearing up the stuff and turning the room into a usable space!  I'm so excited!

We have a number of bookcases scattered throughout the house but they're kind of shared space and nothing something I really want to rearrange at a whim.  But someday in the foreseeable future I'm going to have a wall of bookcases that are all mine to organize how I wish with focus on reading projects and TBRs and whim without any thought to aesthetics. 

But of course with unlimited choices comes a touch of "but what am I going to do?".  I'm leaning towards alphabetically by genre but at the same time I've been having a lot of fun with picking a theme for each month so maybe I categorize by theme?  Like all the books with bookstore owners together regardless of genre? 

What's your bookshelf space like?  How do you categorize your books?  And if you were starting over from scratch would you do the same thing or would you set it up all different?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 14

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:

The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts - I read a Sheila Roberts books ages ago and really enjoyed it and have been wanting to revisit her books ever since then.  This one looks good and I love the summery cover!  (Publisher)


Reading:  The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio and The Missing Years by Lexie Elliot

Listening:  I finished The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell and am now listening to Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts

Watching:  Mostly movies - I've been watching lots of Hallmark movies and we watched a fun Doris Day movie over the week.  Our Disney movie last weekend was Frozen and we are in the debating process for this weekend's.  I'm' trying for either The Rescuers, Tangled, or Princess and the Frog but not sure what will happen.

Off the Blog:

I started running again!  I'm doing a plan that's more for rehabbing which is lots of short intervals and so far it's going very well.  It feels great to be moving again and I'm really enjoying it.  I switched to a walking path versus my neighborhood as it's a lot more level and I don't have to worry about cars.  My legs are killing me at the moment but more in a sore way than an injury way so I'm happy about that.  I'm really looking forward to making progress.  Other than that it was a quiet week and next week isn't going to be too exciting either.  The Tornado is out Friday for a weather day (yay for not having enough bad weather that we lost it!) and I'm hoping it's a pretty day so we can go do something fun.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Ramblings from the Stacks - Organizing Bookshelves
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Rainy Day Reads
Wednesday:  My Classic Movie Essentials - His Girl Friday
Thursday:  Mini Reviews
Friday: Friday Fives 
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Goodreads:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks Come and Get It: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond

The Concept:  Fast, Simple, Family Friendly Recipes.

My Thoughts:  I'm a huge Pioneer Woman fan.  I own all her cookbooks and they are battered and very well used and many of her recipes are counted among the short list of family favorites.  This one, however, has been sitting gathering dust since I got it.  So I decided it was time to dust it off and give it a try. I didn't find this one as versatile as her previous books.  There's a lot of space dedicated to breakfast, salads served in different ways, appetizers, sides,  sheetpan suppers, and meatless marvels.  A lot of the recipes that sound good but not nearly as many that are just begging to be tried as I expect to find in her cookbooks.  Normally I flip through her cookbooks and am just dying to try tons of recipe.  This time - not so much.  There were plenty that looked like they might be tasty but not nearly as many that I really wanted to make.  But I picked two recipes and gave them a try.  The first was Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup and the second was Chicken Piccata.  I thought I'd share the Chicken Picatta reicpe:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped parsley, plus more for serving
1 lb angel hair pasta,cooked according to package directions

If the chicken breasts are overly thick, pound until slightly flattened.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge time in the flour.

Shake off the excess and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.  Fry two of the chicken breasts at a time until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Repeat with the remaining butter, oil, and chicken breasts and remove to a plate.  Set aside.

Pour in the wine, chicken broth, and lemon juice and whisk the sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the flavorful bits.  Let the sauce cook and bubble and thicken until reduced by about half.  Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper as it's cooking.

Turn the heat to low, pour in the cream and whisk the sauce, letting it cook for a couple of minutes to thicken.

Stir in the parsley, then taste and adjust the seasonings.  Expect the sauce to have a real lemony tang to it.  Counter it with a little more broth and cream if it's too strong.

Serve the chicken next to a pile of noodles and spoon the creamy sauce over the whole thing.

My Thoughts:  I followed the recipe exactly (with the exception of the pasta - I used rotini instead of angel hair because that's what I had on hand) and was pretty pleased with the result.  The lemon tang was definitely strong but I enjoyed it and it made for a tasty dinner that went over well.  The soup was a whole other story.  It was easy to throw together but there just wasn't enough to it.  It needed more chicken or more something other than just tomato and spice.  So a 50/50 result.  I'm going to keep experimenting with this book but I doubt it will become my favorite any time soon.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Fives - Five Books I've Gotten From the Library and Returned Unread

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week I got to thinking about all the books that I SOOOOO wanted from the library but ended up getting returned unread for whatever reason - okay not whatever reason but because I had to many OTHER books that needed to be read that jumped in front of it.  Here are five from that list:

1.  The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - I love Kate Morton's books and this one has a family secret and a moldering estate!  And it was returned to the library unread.

2.  The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson - I love Disney World and I love Middle Grade adventure stories so this book involving adventurses at Disney World after hours seems pretty perfect for me.  I've checked it out from the library twice and not read a page.

3.  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman - I decided to give this one a try after I discovered I enjoyed magical realism and read another Hoffman book that I enjoyed it.  Another one I checked out twice and not even opened.

4.  Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - This one may be the winner.  I've checked it out at least three times and am pretty sure I've yet to even pull it out of my library bag.  I got it a few months ago on an Audible sale so I think I'm going to try listening.

5.  The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick - I was so excited when I got this one and yet somehow never read it.  I'm a little annoyed that I never managed to pick it up despite having it actually on my desk but hopefully I'll get to it soon.

Am I the only one that gets big stacks of books from the library filled with all kinds of good intentions only to return them unread?  We aren't going to discuss my buying habits!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Books from the Backlog - Death on Eat Street

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!  This week is the first mystery in a cozy series that I've been wanting to read for ages - Death on Eat Street by J.J.  Cook.

Blurb:  When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama.
Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf: No real reason other than every time I see it I think "I really should read that book!"

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Alice and Gerald - A True Crime Review

Goodreads:  Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story by Ron Franscell

Rating:  Very Good
Source: Publicist

Description: Would you kill for love?
After Alice, a desperate young mother in a gritty Wyoming boomtown, kills her husband in 1974 and dumps his body where it will never be found, she slips away and starts a new life with a new love. But when her new love's ex-wife and two kids start demanding more of him, Alice delivers an ultimatum: Fix the problem or lose her forever. With Alice's help, he "fixes" the problem in an extraordinarily ghastly way ... and they live happily ever after. That is, until 2013, almost forty years later, when somebody finds a dead man's skeleton in a place where Alice thought he'd never be found.

Featuring a femme fatale whose manipulative, cold-blooded character rivals Lady Macbeth, this page-turner by bestselling true-crime author Ron Franscell revisits a shocking cold case that was finally solved just when the murderers thought they'd never be caught.

Genre: Nonfiction - True Crime

Why I Picked This Book:  The blurb really caught my attention and I wanted to know how the story played out.

My Impression:  Somehow I've never read any true crime.  I mean I've watched hours and hours (and hours) of true crime on TV and I've read a few books on Jack the Ripper which is technically true crime but more historical and heavy on the theorizing.  There was no real theorizing here.  We find out pretty early the ins and outs of at least one of the crimes and the bulk of the book focuses on the investigation. 

As someone who has experienced a lot of true crime through television I found this look at the evolution of the investigation.  On TV there's a brief mention of previous investigators but here the reader was right next to each investigator hearing there victories and failures, the progress and heartbreaking disappointment.  Each and everyone of them knew the whodunnit but the how do we catch them proved a little more elusive and completely fascinating.

The writer's style took a little getting used to.  There's an easy familiarity and casualness to his tone that I didn't quite expect but as the book progressed I really came to enjoy it.  I ended up being completely hooked by this book even before I realized it.  I had meant to split my reading time between this and another book but I found myself really only reading this one. 

This was a fascinating read and one that made me want to explore the genre a bit more.  I expected it to be all gore and violence but instead found an intriguing look at the progress of an investigation where the evidence is hard to find but the killers are known. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I'm intrigued to look into his other books.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy the story of an investigation than this is definitely worth reading - even if you aren't a reader of true crime.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

3 x 3 - Contemporary Romance Authors

Today I'm taking a lot at 3 of my favorite books by 3 of my favorite contemporary romance authors.  I've been loving contemporary romance lately and am really enjoying mixing it in with my usual mysteries.  I will warn you though that I tend to favor the low heat more women's fiction type romance versus the super spicy kind.  I love the evolution of the relationship and the characters as well as the community feel that frequently occurs in my favorites.

RaeAnn Thayne

Thayne is definitely the lowest on the heat scale with stories that tend to run to the sweet and heartfelt.  There's a lot of single parents and always a small town feel.  There's a certain sameness to Thayne's books which is why they're very rarely 5 star reads for me.  However, they're always a total feel good delight.

 Snow Angel Cove - This was the first Thayne I ever read and I completely fell in love.  It was sweet with wonderful characters and still makes me smile to think about it.

Sugar Pine Trail - One of the main characters in this one is a librarian and I can never resist a librarian.  There are also two boys looking for stability and a cynic who isn't looking for romance. 

Snowfall on Haven Point - A grumpy sheriff recovering from an injury and a no nonsense single mother who is determined to fulfill her promise to her friend.  Throw in two sweet kids and some Christmas magic and this was a fabulous read.

Nora Roberts

I don't think anything needs to say about Nora Roberts.  The woman knows how to tell a story and can create characters like no one else.   Plus I don't think there's a sub genre under the romance category that she hasn't tackled.

The Next Always - This is the first in a trilogy about three brothers and three friends in a small town.  It's one of the few high school crush carried into adulthood that really worked for me.  There's a bit of suspense and even a ghost but for the most part this is a fairly straight forward romance.  I reread it recently and enjoyed it as much if not more than I did the first time.

The Obsession - This is essentially a less graphic episode of Criminal Minds with a good romance plot and is one of my favorite romantic suspense titles from Roberts.

Key of Light - This is one of her paranormal suspense titles and it's a favorite.  Like many of her books it's the beginning of a trilogy and involves a quest with all kinds of supernatural craziness.  This one is about Malory who is an art lover and Flynn, a newspaper editor.  The second one in this trilogy is probably my favorite as it involves bookish characters but you simply must start with this one.

Jill Shalvis

Shalvis is on the higher end of the spice spectrum for me but also at the top of the fun spectrum.  There's always at least one laugh out loud moment in all of her books.  

Forever and a Day - Oh this was a good one!  I loved the combination of uptight doctor and relaxed live for the moment Grace.  

About That Kiss - I love a quest and this investigation was so fun.  Plus I really liked both characters and it made me want to dive into this whole series.

Lost and Found Sisters - I may be in the minority for this more women's fiction novel but I really loved it.  I loved the sister situation and watching the main character find her footing while figuring out just who she really is.

Have you read any of these authors?  What are some of your favorites?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Death Waits in the Dark - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads: Death Waits in the Dark (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #4)

Rating: Very Good
Source:  Publisher

Description: It's summertime, and Lena and Camilla are busy working away while a town vandal runs amok. Things get even more complicated when Jane Wyland pays Camilla a not-so-friendly visit and gives her an ultimatum: reveal Camilla's husband James's family secret, or she will. Lena assures Camilla that nothing will come of the woman's threats, since the family has no secrets to hide.
When Jane Wyland is later found dead, they're convinced that whatever secret she was planning to expose led to her death. With Lena's assistance, Camilla is determined to solve the case before the finger points at her...

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  To be honest, I thought this series looked intriguing but I didn't love the last book.  I thought I'd give the series one more chance with this one and I"m so glad I did!

My Impression:  Like I said above I didn't love the last book but I thought the premise was intriguing enough that I just had to give the series one more try.  And I finished in two sittings after thoroughly enjoying every page.  I'm not sure what didn't click with me in the last book but this one made up for it in spades.  I really liked the characters.  Lena and Camille have a sweet almost mother daughter relationship and I loved all their friends and other relationships.  Plus, there's a cat named Lestrade so that's pretty great too. 

The mystery was all about past secrets which is perhaps my favorite thing ever.  Yes, there's a modern day murder but the mystery itself is all about something that happened in the past.  There is all kinds of digging through letters and sifting through memories and I was completely on board for it.  I really wasn't sure how it was all going to work out and I didn't want to put the book down until I found out.

I'm so glad I gave this series another chance.  This was one of my favorite cozy mysteries so far this year and I'm looking forward to continuing the series!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I thoroughly enjoyed this one and am looking forward to going back and reading the first book and will be keeping an eye out for the next book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy cozies I definitely recommend this series.  Don't worry if you're new to the series.  Since most of the action takes place way in the past this is a great place to jump in.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Sunday, April 7, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 7

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:

Ten Years a Nomad by Matthew Kepnes - It's been awhile since I read a travel memoir and this one looked like a lot of fun. (Publisher)

The Scent of Murder by Kylie Logan - I've enjoyed cozies by this author so I'm looking forward
to seeing a thriller by her and this involves a cadaver dog which is an interesting twist.  (Publisher)

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger - I thought this one might be fun on audio and it was on sale so I couldn't pass it up.  (Purchased - Audible)

Blood Magick by Nora Roberts - I was kind of meh on the first book when I read it originally but I listened to it a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm planning on listening to the next two in the trilogy as well. (Purchased - Audible)

Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis - I've been wanting to read this series since I first saw someone mention it.  I had an extra credit and thought I had to get it. (Purchased - Audible)

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart - I've been wanting to read this one since it came out so when I saw it on sale on Audible I couldn't pass it up.  (Purchased - Audible)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Pretty much the same as above!  (Purchased - Audible)


Reading:  The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott and Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams

Listening:  Untraceable by Laura Griffin.  I'm almost done with that and am not sure what's up next.  Either a Middle Grade or another romantic suspense.

Watching:  I"m hitting the Hallmark movies hard.  They have a checklist app and it has me completely addicted.  Plus, they're predictable enough that I don't really have to pay attention.  They're like the perfect background shows.

Off the Blog:

Today is the day I have to make our dining reservations for our Disney trip!  I go full ham on all the planning a Disney trip involves but it's a bit difficult to decide in April where you want to eat in October.  Luckily I only have to make the reservations for the super hard to get into restaurants (Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom specifically) and can be a little more relaxed about the rest of it.  Well until Fast Pass day in August.  Dining Reservations 6 months out have NOTHING on deciding what rides you're going to feel like doing when two months from now.  This year we're ramping up the experiences a bit so I'm throwing in a couple of dessert parties where you get to eat themed desserts and then have special seating for the fireworks show.  I'm super excited!

Allergies have hit us hard here and everything is covered in yellow pollen.  The Tornado especially is feeling awful and we've started the Zyrtec regimen for him.  He always has two or three weeks a year when he's a wreck and this seems to be one of them!  But on the plus side spring is definitely here and things are blooming!  My tulips are gorgeous this year and I"m loving seeing their happy flowers.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Death Waits in the Dark - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday:  3 x 3 - 3 Books by 3 Contemporary Romance Authors
Wednesday:  Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story - True Crime Review
Thursday: Books from the Backlog
Friday: Friday Fives
Saturday: The Pioneer Woman Come and Get It - Cookbook Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

I Found You - Mystery Review

Goodreads:  I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Rating:  Very Good
Source:  Library (Audio)

Description:  'How long have you been sitting out here?''I got here yesterday.'
'Where did you come from?'
'I have no idea.'

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Two women, twenty years of secrets and a man who can't remember lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell's brilliant new novel.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I've been wanting to read this author for ages and this one sounded especially intriguing.

My Impression:  There are 3 story lines here.

One in 1993 featuring the very ordinary Ross family.  Two very ordinary parents and two ordinary kids - 18 year old Gray and 15 year old Kirsty.  They're on an ordinary summer vacation until things take a not so ordinary turn.

The second is present day Yorkshire in a little town on the bay where 40 something single mother, Alice, notices a man standing on the beach for hours.  A man with no memory other than occasional disturbing flashes.

And in Surrey 21 year old Lily Monrose, newly married and new to the country, is anxiously waiting for her husband to come home.  Except he doesn't.

All three of these storylines are connected though I changed my mind about how several times.    Of the three stories I liked Alice's the most.  She has a history of making bad decisions and she's got a bit of a chip on her shoulder but she's so honest and loves her children dearly and is just doing the best she can.  The fact that her relationship with the stranger isn't the best decision but I can't help but sympathize with her motivations.

I didn't really like Lily but I felt very sorry for her.  She finds herself completely alone with no resources in a country where she doesn't understand the culture.  She is abrasive and demanding but the thread of terror underlying all her actions kept her sympathetic.

The 1993 story was the hardest for me to listen to because there was such a sense of dread surrounding these perfectly nice people.

Watching everything slowly come together kept me enthralled and as dysfunctional as these characters were I was sad when the book ended because my time with them was over.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author

Would I Recommend this Book?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Fives - April Reads

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  Since this is the first Friday in April I'm looking at 5 books I'd like to read in April.  This month's theme is gardening - especially flowers and I pulled 5 books from my TBR that fit in that category.

1.  The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio - I love camellias and had just finished a novel by Sarah Jio that I loved when I picked this one up.  It looks gorgeous.

2.  Flowerbed of State by Dorothy St. James - Not only is the main character a gardener but she's a gardener at the White House.  I used to read a series that focused on the chef at the White House so this seems fun too!

3.  No Farm, No Foul by Peg Cochran - This takes place on a farm so the focus is probably more food than flowers but the main character is a blogger and there are gardening tips so I think this fits nicely. 

4.  Vanish with the Rose by Barbara Michaels - This is a reread for me and every time I read it I decide I simply must start a rose garden - full of the old fashioned roses of course.

5.  Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts - Another reread and while gardening isn't the main character's focus it is something she finds enjoyment it in. 

What are you hoping to read in April?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mother's Day Mayhem - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Mother's Day Mayhem (Tourist Trap Mystery #10.5) by Lynn Cahoon

Rating: Just Okay
Source: NetGalley

Description: Picturesque South Cove, California, is the perfect place to celebrate Mother’s Day, but not everyone is feeling motherly...
Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More is almost out of Mother’s Day cards. She has a few more in stock, but she’s set them aside because she needs Greg’s help choosing one for his mother. It’ll be Jill’s first time meeting her boyfriend’s mother, and she’s understandably nervous.

Turns out Jill isn’t the only one having feelings about mothers. Kyle, who works at the antiques store next door, needs to find the perfect card for a mother he hasn’t seen since he was five—when she went away to jail. But her arrival in South Cove isn’t exactly celebratory, her behavior toward her son unexpectedly restrained. Piqued, Jill discovers that a mother can never be replaced...

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  This is one of my favorite series so I couldn't pass this one up.

My Impression:  I love this series and always enjoy seeing more from Jill, Greg, Jackie and everyone else in South Cove.  This was no exception.  I enjoyed this read and it was definitely a one sitting novella.  I also liked seeing more of Greg's family than his cranky brother and there was a softer side of Josh that was nice to see.  I also really loved the family aspect be it blood or community.

However, I found this a bit unsatisfying.  Jill's mood seemed off for most of the book.  While she did mention feeling grumpy several times the tone of the book itself felt off somehow.  The mystery was definitely not the typical murder mystery which didn't bother me.  What did bother me is that there seemed to be a lack of focus of the story itself.  There's a lot crammed into 75 pages and none of it seemed to really get the attention it deserved.  While I love this series this novella just didn't quite work for me.  I waffled a bit on how to rate this one.  I did enjoy it but at the same time the story just didn't feel quite complete.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would.  Despite this one not quite working I did enjoy it and I'm hoping for more from this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy cozy mysteries I'd definitely recommend this series though I wouldn't start with this book.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

An Artless Demise - Historical Mystery

Goodreads: An Artless Demise (Lady Darby Mystery #7) by Anna Lee Huber

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  November 1831. After fleeing London in infamy more than two years prior, Lady Kiera Darby’s return to the city is anything but mundane, though not for the reasons she expected. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of imitating the notorious misdeeds of Edinburgh criminals, Burke and Hare—killing people from the streets and selling their bodies to medical schools. Then Kiera’s past—a past she thought she’d finally made peace with—rises up to haunt her.
All of London is horrified by the evidence that “burkers” are, indeed, at work in their city. The terrified populace hovers on a knife’s edge, ready to take their enmity out on any likely suspect. And when Kiera receives a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge details about her late anatomist husband’s involvement with the body snatchers and wrongfully implicate her, she begins to apprehend just how precarious her situation is. Not only for herself, but also her new husband and investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, and their unborn child.

Meanwhile, the young scion of a noble family has been found murdered a block from his home, and the man’s family wants Kiera and Gage to investigate. Is it a failed attempt by the London burkers, having left the body behind, or the crime of someone much closer to home? Someone who stalks the privileged, using the uproar over the burkers to cover his own dark deeds?

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the previous book in this series and am looking forward to reading more.

My Impression:  I'm so glad to get back to this series and spend time with Kiera and Gage again.  Kiera's pregnancy adds a sweetness and increases the stakes for clearing Kiera's name and reputation.   I enjoyed seeing Kiera adjust to being the focus of public scrutiny again as well as having people who care for her.  I liked her group of friends and how they stood up for her.

The mystery itself was fascinating and introduced me to the whole business of burking and burkers which I was vaguely familiar with though not by that term and not in such detail.  It was fascinating and terrifying and made me glad I wasn't running around London in 1831!  I mean there are a few more reasons too - corsets and lack of indoor plumbing are also high on that list.  I enjoyed the atmosphere that Huber created and I feel like she really made the time period and the setting come alive. 

This is a solid series with complex but likable characters and solid interesting mysteries.  Throw in the history and I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series and going back to the beginning.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy historical mysteries than this is an excellent choice.  While there are some relationships to sort out I think it'd be easy to jump into the series here.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted from That Artsy Reader Girl is one that I've done several times in various ways but never tire of talking about - Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book. 

1.  Family Secrets - This is especially true if there is a letter or manuscript discovered.  I love when a character is digging into family secrets!

2.  A Bookish Main Character - Murder solving librarian?  Bookstore owner who is finding herself after a rough patch herself?  I'm in!

3.  A Crumbling Estate - Inherited a crumbling estate?  Hired to fix up a crumbling estate?  Whatever the reason I do love a crumbling estate. 

4.  Everything Has Gone Terribly Wrong But the Main Character is Starting Over - A messy breakup?  A job loss?  Death of beloved family member?  Whatever it is that sends a character to a new place to start over and figure out what really makes them happy I'm here for it!

5.  Ireland - I do love an Irish setting no matter the genre.  I can never turn down an Irish setting.

6.  Antique Store Owner/ Collector/Auctioneer - I don't care how antiques come into the story but if there's antique shopping or collection in any form or manner I can't resist.

7.  Historical Mysteries - I've been loving historical mysteries lately.  Time period doesn't seem to matter just as long as somewhere in the past someone is solving a murder!

8.  A Foodie Main Character - Restaurant owner, baker, caterer - doesn't matter!  If someone is cooking I'm here for it!

9.  Sisters - I think it might be the only child in me but I love a book with a focus on sibling relationships - especially sisters.

10. A Ghost Story - I love a good ghost story - especially if it's one in a crumbling estate inherited by someone whose life went terribly wrong and they're now trying to put it right.  Bonus points if they're uncovering family secrets in Ireland.

What makes you want to pick up a book?