Monday, October 22, 2018

Glitter Bomb - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans and scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand is excited to be attending the Pluvius Parade along with her best friend Ava. Carmela's ex-husband Shamus rides by the duo on his float at the head of the parade, when suddenly the revelry turns to disaster. Shamus' float crashes and explodes, and although Shamus escapes unhurt, a member of his krewe is killed.

Carmela and Ava plunge into an investigation of the krewe-member's death, but as they dig deeper it starts to look less like an accident and more like a murder....and Shamus seems less like a victim, and more like a suspect.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:
This is one of the first cozy series that I discovered and I was such a fan.  I missed a bunch in the middle but I read the previous one and really loved it so I couldn't pass this one set in Mardi Gras up! 

My Impression:
  This was one of the very first cozy mystery series I ever discovered but then I kind of lost track of it. Honestly, when I rediscovered it a year or two ago I was surprised to see it was still going since the popularity of actual physical scrapbooking seems to have decreased.  I was really intrigued to see how Childs has updated Carmela's store and how she fills her time.  It was fun to see all her different projects and it made me feel far craftier than I am!

This was a fun read with a murder occurring smack in the middle of a Mardi Gras parade.  I'm not sure there can be a more New Orleans-y murder than that!  It also adds a bit of challenge as the police have to deal with crowd control, mass quantities of tourists, and all the madness that accompanies Mardi Gras.  I liked seeing a bit more of Carmela's past with Shamus and his sister as well as getting a peek inside the secrets and scandals in the hedge fund world.

My main problem with this series is that Carmela is just a little too perfect and a little too noisy.  Everyone seems to love her except when she's asking questions she really has no business asking - which happens frequently.  This didn't keep me from enjoying the book and looking forward to seeing how the mystery would unravel.

While there is a bit from Carmela's past here I don't think newcomers to the series would have any problem jumping in here and understanding what's going on.  If you're looking for a fun lightweight cozy with a great setting and entertaining characters this is one you really must read! 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm really looking forward to going back and reading the series from the beginning as well as keeping an eye out for the newest book.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy lighter cozies and haven't read this series you really need to fix that!  

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

Sunday, October 21, 2018

This Week in Reading - October 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:

The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell - I love the sound of this one.  I love the title and I've enjoyed previous books by this author so I'm super excited about this one!  (NetGalley)

Chocolate a la Murder by Kirsten Weiss - I love the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum series so I couldn't help picking up the next in the series!  (NetGalley)

Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins - I don't know much about this author but I love genealogy and a mystery regarding genealogy is one I can't pass up!  (NetGalley)

The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne - I love RaeAnne Thayne and this appears to either be a new series or a standalone.  Either way I'm super excited and this one is about sisters which is one of my favorite plots.  (NetGalley)

A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle - I haven't read the earlier books in the series but I have been enjoying the Hallmark series and I enjoy other books by Kate Carlisle so my hopes are high.  (Publisher)

City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson - I loved the first book in this series and have enjoyed everything I've read from Victoria Thompson so I'm excited about this one. (Publisher)

Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder by Jon Land - I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the previous book in this series so I'm excited to spend a little more time with Jessica.  (Publisher)

Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine - I don't know much about this one but I do love a Christmas-y cozy so I'm looking forward to giving it a try.  (Publisher)


ReadingMardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron and Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Listening Dead Ringer by M.C. Beaton

Watching:  We've been catching up on The Big Bang Theory and are probably going to start watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.

Off the Blog:

We are back from Disney and almost caught up on sleep!  I don't have any photos uploaded so I won't be inundating you with photos until next week but we had the best time!  We had 2 full off days which were such fun.  We even went and played mini golf at one of the Disney courses and it was so cute!  I spent a lot of time planning and reading up on where to eat and what to do and it was nice to see it really pay off.  I already miss it!  I did buy a Mary Poppins and a It's a Small World mug to go with the Chip and Dale mug I bought last year and I really like having my coffee in one of them every morning.

Now I have to start planning next year's vacation!  We're talking Southern California (with a stop at Disneyland of course).  It'll be the Tornado's first flight and a practice run for bigger things year after.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Glitter Bomb - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday:  TBD
Wednesday: Marilla of Green Gables - Historical Fiction Review
Thursday: Mardi Gras Murder - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  Murder on Millionaire's Row - Cozy Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Donna Hay: Modern Baking - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Modern Baking: Cakes, Cookies, and Everything in Between by Donna Hay

I've tried a number of Donna Hay's savory recipes and have always been pleased with the results.  I was surprised and very excited when I saw that she was coming out with a baking book and this is the baking book to end all baking books!  It's a behemoth at almost 400 beautifully illustrated pages and full of unusual recipes or twists on the basics.

Want a chocolate layer cake?  How about the Salted Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache?  Cinnamon rolls?  Try the Crème Fraiche Glazed Cinnamon Scrolls!  There's a Blueberry Thyme Tart and a Banana Bread that involves yogurt, coconut, and maple syrup.  Every recipe (and there are so many) sounds delicious and isn't something I've come across before which is surprising since I've gone through more than my share of baking books in my day!

There are 5 chapters - Chocolate, Caramel Toffee and Coffee, Sugar and Spice, Fruit and Berries, and Milk and Cream.  Each chapter consists of a mix of cakes, cookies, tarts, panna cottas and anything else you can think of!  While not all of the ingredients can be easily found in my pantry almost all are easy to find at a good grocery store or online.

Today I thought I'd share a recipe for Fudgy Brownie Muffins.  They are as just as rich and gooey as the name suggests!

Fudgy Brownie Muffins:

225g unsalted butter, chopped
200g dark chocolate, chopped
350g 70% dark chocolate, chopped
4 eggs
1 cup (220g) white sugar
1 cup (175g) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (150g) plain (all purpose) flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Line 12 x 1/2 cup capacity (125ml) muffin tins with paper cases.  Place the butter, dark chocolate and 200g of the 70% dark chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until melted smooth.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the eggs, both the sugars and the vanilla in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the flour, baking powder and the remaining 150g of the 70% dark chocolate and mix until well combined.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until slightly fudgy when tested with a skewer.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely in the tins.

My Thoughts:  Oh these are delicious!  All rich fudgy brownie goodness that is almost too much to eat in one sitting.  I did use all 60% instead of 70% dark chocolate.  The texture was super fudgy though it did tend to come apart a little when removed from the liners.  This could be because the 60% has a little more moisture or it could be that I should have greased the muffin tins.  But since my preferred method for eating these treats is in a bowl topped with a little ice cream or whipped cream the coming apart wasn't an issue.  Using my standard (US at least) muffin tin I ended up with 16 instead of 12 and cooked them for 25 minutes instead of the 30 called for.

Overall Thoughts On This Book:  This is a decadent and unique baking cookbook.  While it isn't one I'd reach for all the time it will be a go to when I'm looking for a dessert or cake for a special dinner.

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Linkups - Giltter Bomb

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:
If you were able to dress up as a literary figure for Halloween who would it be?

My Answer:
Nancy Drew!  Especially if I could drive the blue roadster.  Or maybe Ariadne Oliver from Agatha Christie's Poirot books.  

This week's book is the newest in a long time favorite series.  I think I discovered Laura Childs' scrapbooking series back when I originally discovered cozies more than a decade ago.  They're so fun and the addition of Terri Farley Moran a co-writer has only made the series even better.  So when I saw Glitter Bomb was released there was no way I could resist!

The Beginning:
"Lookit!" Ava cried.  "There's your butthead of an ex-husband riding up there on the King Neptune float."

My Thoughts:
I do love that this mystery is taking place over Mardi Gras.

The 56:
"This looks like the beginning of an exciting Hardy Boys adventure," Carmela said.  "But is there a legitimate reason for my being here?"

My Thoughts:
Okay so this was technically page 58 but this line made me laugh so I had to use it.  I love  Carmela's sarcasm here.

What do you think?  Keep reading?  What literary character or author would you dress up like?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Books fro the Backlog - Shanghai Girls

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!  Today's book is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

Blurb:  May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.

But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)—where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months—they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.

A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See.

Why I Need to Get This Book Off the Shelf:  This has been sitting on my shelf for literally years (I think I bought it before the Tornado was born and he's 8!) and it's past time to read this one!

What's hiding on your shelves?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My Classic Movie Essentials - The Haunting (1963)

Setting: A creepy old house in Massachusetts

Dr. John Markway - Richard Johnson
Eleanor "Nell" Vance - Julie Harris
Theodora "Theo" - Claire Bloom
Luke Sanderson - Russ Tamblyn
Mrs. Dudley - Rosalie Crutchley

Premise:  3 strangers spend several days in a seriously creepy haunted house as part of an experiment led by a doctor who is studying paranormal activity.  

My Thoughts:   This is one of those movies that starts out a bit slow and the creepiness just slowly builds and builds until you realize you're sitting all tensed up clutching your hands.   Then there is the brief scenes with Mrs. Dudley of the "No one can hear you if you scream in the dark" line.  Really she could give Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers a run for her money in terms of ominous behavior.  

While the book really focuses on the psychological terror as the reader for the most part sees things through Nell's thoughts the movie has some extra flash.  I think they did a good job adding in fear without going completely over the top and the additions they made to the movie made sense and didn't change the tone of the story.  This is a great movie for this time of year - especially if you don't love super scary movies.  There's a big helping of creepiness and jump moments but no gore which I really enjoyed.

What Makes This Movie Essential:  I don't really think this is necessarily the most essential scary movie but it's definitely one that has stuck with me the most.  I will never ever be able to sleep with a hand or foot not covered by blankets thinks to this movie!

Read Alike -  Well obviously The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  While the book and the movie have quite a number of similarities the perspective is so different that I think they'd be interesting read and watched in the same time span.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter - Historical Fiction Review

About The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 9, 2018)

 From The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events, and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years. They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”
 1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart. 
1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.  

My Thoughts:  I have now read 3 Hazel Gaynor books and I think it is safe to say that I'm a fan.  I was shocked to see that this one is over 400 pages because I read it in 2 sittings. Sarah, Grace and Matilda were all characters that I loved and was always so glad to see that I didn't mind the POV switch.  I loved Grace and her desire to have a quiet life and her confusion with all the attention she suddenly gets.  I felt for Matilda and her desire for affection and attention as well her fears for her future.  And then there was Sarah.  Sarah's story broke my heart to ugly cry levels.  There is a lot of loss and grief in this story but at the same time there is courage, determination, and hope which kept this from being melodramatic or too tear soaked.  I was sad to see the end of this book as I miss these characters and want to spend more time with them!  I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Hazel Gaynor and am looking forward to reading her earlier books that I've missed.  Rating:  Loved it!

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Deasy Photographic 

About Hazel Gaynor

HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from the Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. In 2017, she has published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of 'Ten Big Breakout Authors' for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.