Friday, January 31, 2014

This Week in Reading

Last week I was on fire reading-wise so this week was a bit of a letdown.  Given the growing number of books to read both on the Kindle and on my bookshelves I don't have time for slumps!

What I Read:

This was probably my favorite book this week.  It's been awhile since I've read a Historical that I've really loved so it was a lot of fun to really enjoy the genre again. I thought it was different that the characters were Dutch and that the heroine had a trade that made sense.  I also like that the secrets that were kept really needed to be kept and the consequences they were worried about were actually very serious.  This was a great book and I was thrilled to discover I'd bought the one before this months ago and had just forgotten!  I'll be digging into that one very soon.

I have no idea why it took me so long to get to this series but I'm so glad I finally did.  Phrynne was a refreshing change from the either silly or emotionally traumatized leads in other mysteries that are set in this time period.  I loved the talk of clothes, jewelry and other bits of pop culture.  The mystery was well done and I'm looking forward to reading the 2nd one.  

This was the third time I've read this book and I'm no closer to understanding it than I was before I read it.  This was Christie's last novel and it is definitely one of her weakest.  Unless you're a Christie fanatic or trying to read all of them in a year I'd skip this one.

What I'm Reading:

This is the latest book by one of favorite authors.  I've read the first one of this series and I've been pleased on how well #7 hold up without having to read all the ones in between.  I'm about half way done with this one.

This is the first of Christie's non-series books and it's been a really nice change from the confusing muddle that was Postern of Fate.  I'm 10% done with this one.

What's Distracting Me:

Just general craziness of life.  It seems like someone always needs to be taken somewhere or picked up from somewhere.  The Tornado has been on the clingy side.  I'm also thinking I was abducted by aliens at some point because I've gotten NOTHING done pretty much all week yet I feel like I've been crazy busy.   I'm hoping this weekend will be nice and quiet.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Agatha Christie Challenge Review - Tommy and Tuppence

I finished the last book of Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series with a sigh of relief last night.  This series is her shortest spanning over her entire writing career.  It's probably also her least known.  Sometimes I discover little known books or authors and wonder why they're not better known.  Not the case with this one.  Two are good and the rest are just okay.  I'd probably only recommend these to the serious Christie fan and they'd already know about them.

The Secret Adversary (1922)
This is Christie's second book and the book where we meet Tommy and Tuppence for the first time.  It begins as the childhood friends run into each other on the street in London.  Both are looking for work after World War 1.  He is a decommissioned solider and she a former nurse/driver.  They're bored, they're broke and they decide to go into business together.  Soon they're swept up in espionage,  criminal masterminds, and American millionaires.  It's definitely not her best but it's a fun adventure story and would be a great one to introduce Christie to younger readers.  It's also free on Kindle right now.  4 Stars

Partners in Crime (1929)
It's been 6 years since we last saw Tommy and Tuppence.  They're now happily married.  Tommy has an office job and Tuppence is trying her hand at being the perfect housewife.  They are given the opportunity to run a private investigator's office while looking for spies.  This sets into motion a series of connected short stories.  They try to reenact the methods of a classic detective in each chapter.  I'd heard of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and that's about it.  This book didn't age particularly well and is probably best left to Christie fans.  3 Stars

N or M? (1941)
Tommy and Tuppence are now middle aged and frustrated with their inability to find a way to help at the start of World War 2.  Luckily their espionage past comes back to help them out and they are sent to a boarding house on the coast to sniff out a spy.  This is a solid mystery set in wartime England.  The struggle Tommy and Tuppence have to find their place in this war after being so involved in the last one is interesting and not something I've ever really thought about.  There are some classic red herrings and misdirections.  This one's good but a little slow.  3 Stars.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968)
This book mostly features Tuppence with Tommy coming in towards the end.  The main problem with this one is that it is coincidence piled onto coincidence.  Tommy and Tuppence visit Tommy's elderly aunt who happens to send Tuppence out of the room who happens to sit next to another elderly woman who happens to say something disturbing who happens to give Tommy's aunt a picture and disappear which happens to be of a house that Tuppence has seen which happens to lead to a mystery which happens to connect back to the disturbing comment.  The mystery itself is interesting with a good Christie twist and is entertaining if you can get past all of the coincidences.  Under no circumstances should anyone watch the movie which is on AmazonPrime.  It has Miss Marple in it which I thought would could be a good thing but it was very very bad.  I'm okay with some changes of plot if the story stays true to the character but this one made Tuppence a drunk and their marriage strained.  It also made the mystery even weaker.  3 Stars.

Postern of Fate (1973)
This is the last novel Christie wrote so I try to cut it some slack but unfortunately I lost count of the number of times I said "Wait, What??" and gave up trying to go back and figure something out.  If I had to describe this book in one word that word would be Confused.  The mystery, the plot, the characters, the time line and myself as the reader were all confused.  I've read this three times and each time I keep hoping it will make sense but it never does.  Tommy and Tuppence move into a home when the retire and find evidence of a murder that occurred sometime in the house's past.  Sometimes it seems like the murder took place around World War 1 and sometimes they're talking about it taking place in someone's Grandmother's time which would be around 1840.  I still haven't figured out why Tuppence riding a toy horse and cart down a hill makes sense or who exactly was trying to kill them in present day.  If I wasn't trying to read all the Christie's in 1 year I wouldn't have finished this one.  1 Star.

After the confusion of Postern of Fate and the astounding number of coincidences in By the Pricking of My Thumbs I'm looking forward to starting a new series.  Next up will be her Stand Alone books starting with the 1920s.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Reading Chair

It's cold in Alabama right now.  We're not prepared for multiple days in the single digits.  We don't have the clothes or outerwear required and most of our houses are heated with heat pumps that struggle against the cold.  Right now it's all I can do to keep myself from burrowing in my nice comfy chair with warm sweats, cozy socks, piles of blankets and stack upon stack of books.  One day I tell myself that will be my schedule for an entire day.  One cold day I will do nothing but read book after book until I can't read anymore.  But I stop myself before I allow myself to wish for that day to come.

You see, if I wish for that day to come I will be wishing for a time when my house is quieter than the chaos it's usually in right now.  I will be wishing for the time when someone needs me to drive them somewhere, play with them, ask for my opinion, complain about work or school or any of the countless things that cause interruption into my reading time, to be over.  It already feels like time is rushing by so fast I can barely focus as it is.  Eleanor is already gone.  Home to her is becoming increasingly her dorm room on a campus 90 miles away.  Her visits home are sporadic, maybe a weekend a month, major holidays, a month or so in summer.  There are visits to friends who no longer live down the road but are in other cities.  With Emma we are racing towards her senior year with increasing speed.  Already the talk is of test scores and scholarships, pros and cons of colleges and early graduation.  I feel like if I look away or get distracted when I look back she will be gone too.  Her visits will be even more sporadic than Eleanor's because the schools she is looking at are far away, in other area codes, other states.  Ringo is right on her heels as we talk about his classes next year and what will put him in the best position to start applying for schools in 18 months.  As it is the time they are here is decreasing.  Between school and work, extra curriculars, AP seminars and practice tests, and friends they are gone more often than they are here.  Our goal is for 1 night a week where everyone eats dinner together and even that sometimes is a challenge.  Within weeks Emma will be driving - she is past overdue for that as it is and our talks going place to place will drift away.  After she goes Ringo will go.  The Tornado will be here awhile longer.  But even he, my baby, is no longer a baby.  He is already all long skinny legs, knees and elbows.  Already, we debate private Kindergarten versus public, which T-ball program and soccer programs to sign him up for, science camps versus sports camp.  Soon it will be just him and then before I know it it will be his turn to talk about colleges.

I don't mean to sound sad.  I'm not dreading the the time when it's just J and me.  I have all kinds of plans, plans to travel, plans to learn new things, things to catch up, days spent in my reading chair.  The older kids at least know what their rooms will be turned into once they are no longer their rooms.  But for right now I remind myself to enjoy this time, to live in this time instead of wishing for other things.  So I will spend my time coordinating and juggling and squeezing my reading time into the hours I stay up too late before I go to sleep or snatched moments here and there.  And in a little while, when I have done all the coordinating, and juggling and planning, my reading chair will be sitting right there waiting for me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Ireland Reading Challenge 2014

Since I've never been one to do things in a small way I found another reading challenge that I'm really excited about!  The Ireland Reading Challenge involves reading books that are either set in Ireland or written by Irish writers.  I'm a sucker for all things Irish but the only books I've ever read that are set in Ireland were Nora Roberts (which were good) and the only Irish author I've read was James Joyce (did not enjoy).  I think this will be a great way to explore my Irish roots through books.  I'm going to sign up for the Luck 'o Irish level which is 6 books.  Now please someone remove me from my computer before I sign up for anything else.  Have I mentioned I'm reading all the Agatha Christie's this year?  Do not expect a clean house from me right now.  I've got way too much reading to do!

Foodies Read 2014!

I've been looking around at all the different challenges that are out there and none have really grabbed me.  That was until I stumbled up the Foodies Read 2014 challenge.  I think I can take a break from all the Agatha Christie's to read up to the Pastry Chef level (4 to 8 books).  I'm actually pretty sure I've got close to that already sitting on one of my TBR shelves!

Cocaine Blues - Review

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  This is the first book in the Phryne Fisher series.  Hard nosed and logical Phryne solves a mystery at a dinner party and is quickly begged to go to Australia to check on a wealthy and influential couple's married daughter who has been ill under mysterious circumstances.  There she is embroiled in a hunt to catch a brutal and illegal abortionist and the primary cocaine distributor.  Along the way interesting side characters are introduced with Dr. Elizabeth MacDonald, Dot the maid looking for revenge, and 2 cabdrivers - Bert and Cec.

Genre: Mystery

My Impression:  I love the 1920s time period but have never been able to find a series that I really enjoyed.  I read some of Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series and while I enjoyed the first one I got tired of everything linking back to World War 1 and the emotional turmoil.  Greenwood's Fisher is much lighter without being silly.  Phyrne is very independent and quick thinking but with just enough commonsense and kindness to keep her from being too prickly.  The mystery was well done if a bit vague.  There is a lot of talking about clothes and fashion which I enjoyed and thought fit with Phryne's character and into the story line but some might find that tedious.  All in all I thought Greenwood presented an interesting character and setting and managed to not make the time period overwrought and silly.  I don't know why it took me so long to discover this one but it definitely won't take me as long to continue with the series!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes - the Kindle edition is only $.99 right now!

Friday, January 24, 2014

When the Rogue Returns - Review

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  This is the second book in the Duke's Men series by Sabrina Jeffries.  Victor Cale knew his wife was a talented jeweler with the ability to create beautiful faux gems.  He never imagined she would use that skill to steal royal jewels and disappear.

Isa thought her husband was kind and honest but begins to believe his reserve is hiding a more twisted and greedy side than she has seen in their brief marriage.  When her husband uses her work to steal royal jewels and then abandon her she is forced to fend for herself.  Until they meet again and realize all is not quite what it seemed.

Genre: Romance

My Impression:  I have read a few Sabrina Jeffries before but it has been several years.  It was a fun surprise to rediscover how much I love her books.  Once of my least favorite plot devices in romance is the misunderstanding so I was a little nervous going into this one.  I needn't have worried.  Despite the fact that the whole plot of the book rests on a giant misunderstanding it was well done.  Victor and Isa's reasons for keeping secrets from each other made sense as did their struggle to trust each other again.   I found it hard not to like Victor and Isa.  They come off as good people who came out of bad families and landed in an even worse situation.  There is a heavy vein of suspense and they figure out how to deal with the past without losing their future.  I've read several romances where the suspense feels like it was stuck in at random but it's woven beautifully into the story.  If anything I thought the romance scenes didn't quite fit.   Without giving away anything I do need to say that I absolutely loved the ending.  I had no idea how Jeffries was going to wrap this story up but she did a wonderful job.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I need to go hunt up book #1 very soon and am looking forward to the next entry in the series.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I think most fans of historical romances would enjoy this.

This Week in Reading

What I Read:

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson (Review) - I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was completely surprised by it as well.

Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliott (Review) - Didn't love this one.  Thought it was a bit all over the place and didn't find the main characters very likable or interesting.  I did like how the last half of the book was handled.  I also did like the main character's sister and am looking forward to reading Elliott's next book which is about her.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie - This is the second to last of the Tommy and Tuppence books.  I'll review all of them together next week.  This one is okay.  The basic premise is interesting but it's definitely one of her weaker books.

Queen of Hearts: Vol 1 The Crown by Colleen Oakes (Review) - I really enjoyed this prequel to Alice in Wonderland.  It was well written and wonderfully atmospheric.  The main problem right now is I have no idea where this can be purchased.  It's due out on February 14th so I'll be keeping a look out for it. 

What I'm Reading:

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jefferies - I'm almost done with this one and so far am liking it.  Jefferies isn't a new author to me and I've liked her previous works.  This one is a bit different from most historicals I've read in the past and so far it's been done well.  

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie - The last in the Tommy and Tuppence series and so far my least favorite.

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson - I keep putting this one off.  So far it's good but not grabbing me.  To be fair I haven't given it much of a chance.  My goal is to buckle down and get this one read this week.

What's Distracting Me:  

Actually, I haven't been too distracted this week.   I've gotten some serious reading done and it's been kind of nice.  My 4 year old has been playing some serious Temple Run lately so I have spent some time playing that as he's starting to get better than me.  Other than that and the occasional TV show I've been doing lots of reading.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Queen of Hearts - Review

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Rating:  4 Stars

Description:  This is the story of the Queen of Hearts before she was Queen, before she was mad and just as she's realizing everything is not quite as it seems in Wonderland.  We first meet Dinah, Princess of Hearts when she is 15 and a strange girl is introduced into the Court.  This is when Dinah first begins to question the world around her and it sends her on a twisted and exciting adventure.

Genre:  YA/Fiction

My Impression:  What a great story idea!  It's like Wicked but for Alice in Wonderland.  Seriously, why has no one thought of this before?  The cover of this book was what first caught my eye and I was further intrigued when I read the summary.  The actual book did not disappoint.  The world of Wonderland is well drawn and Oakes does a good job of making Dinah a sympathetic if fairly unlikable character.  The imagery is at times fairly dark so this is not a book geared towards young children though I think a 4th or 5th grader would enjoy it.  I do have to confess that my only true knowledge of Alice in Wonderland is through the Disney movie and even that's been awhile. I think I would've enjoyed it more if I remembered more of the original story.  I wasn't confused but I think I would have understood more of the references.  My main problem with this book is that this is a continuing story which means I have to wait until Volume 2 comes out to see what happens.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes - Can't wait for the 2nd book.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Madhouse Cookbook - Review

The Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt

I was thrilled when I saw this book on Netgalley.  Having 4 kids of various ages and activity levels I can definitely identify with the word madhouse.  The book is divided into 3 chapters - Monday-To-Friday Survival, The Busy Weekends, and Cling Onto Your Social Life.  British food writer, stylist, and TV host Jo Pratt tries to take a realistic look at putting food on the table between work and activities.  I do wonder how well some of the recipes translate to American diets.  Smoked salmon, anchovies and beans on toast aren't a regular part of my diet as a rule.  I don't see my children (or in some cases my husband) eating many of these recipes willingly.  There are some very tasty dinner ideas like Simple Slow Roast Chicken dinner, Pan-Fried Chimichurri Steak, and Mozzarella and Risotto Primavera Cakes.  There is a sizable collection of desserts including some delicious looking crumbles and a fruit yogurt brulee as well as the standard frosted cakes and cupcakes.  This may not be the book that keeps your pickiest kids fed but it's a book full of intriguing recipes that could help break you out of the same old same old cooking rut.

Verdict: Recommended with reservations.  Not a book if you're looking for a solid go-to family cookbook but perfect if you're looking for something new.

Scandalously Yours - Review

Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliott

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Olivia Sloane had an unusual childhood with her forward thinking archaeologist father.  She's far more interested in political issues than parties and finds chess far more interesting than fashion.  The Earl of Wrexham is back from the war and has been labeled the Perfect Hero.  He has taken his seat in the House of Lords to argue for social reform.  He is shocked to discover that the political columnist he's been so avidly reading and searching for just happens to be the same Miss Sloane who never seems to be able to keep her hair or her tongue under control.

Genre: Historical Romance

My Impression: I don't even know where to begin on this book my reactions were so mixed.  I didn't really care for the first half at all.  I found Olivia somewhat irritating with her outspokenness and inability to understand that her actions in society could affect her sisters.  John had basically no personality.  He was intelligent but had no warmth and that included his dealings with his son, 10 year old Prescott.  I liked Prescott but his role was fairly large in the first half of the book and it definitely would've hurt the romance factor for me if there had been any at that point.  The first half of the book almost reads as two separate stories.  One is a serious historical romance regarding social reform, the second is a lighthearted children's book about a precocious child and his friend trying to find his father the perfect wife.  It was a little jarring to say the least. The physical relationship that develops seems completely out of sync with John's personality.  At about the halfway mark something happens which almost made me put the book down and call it a day.  Then I read a few more pages.  Somehow John and Olivia go from people I didn't like to a team that works together and respect each other.  Suddenly the relationship developed and it really seemed to work.  I ended up finishing this book enjoying it and believing that John and Olivia could actually work as a couple and isn't that the entire point of a romance?

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  With reservations, I'm looking forward to Anna's book but don't know if I'll read any further

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Probably not just a little too uneven for me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter - Review

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Rating:  5 Stars

Description:  When her father is killed in a coup led by her uncle 15 year old Laila finds herself living in a small apartment outside of Washington D.C. with her mother and younger brother.  A far cry from their life as the royal family Laila and her family, especially her mother, struggle to adapt and survive.

Genre: YA/Fiction

My Impression:  This book was not at all what I expected from the cover and the summary.  I was expecting a thriller - kind of Tom Clancy but for young adults and instead I got the story of a family's survival told through the eyes of 15 year old former princess Laila.  Laila is completely out of her element as she tries to fit into an American public school.  She honestly tries to fit in and assimilate with mixed results with how she interacts with her classmates both male and female.  She also comes across uncensored internet and begins to learn about how the world really viewed her father and some of the things that happened during her father's regime that she had always been sheltered from.  While there is some international policy the bulk of the book focuses on Laila as she figures out her way through relationships with boys, having a friend for the first time and dealing with her mother who seems to be disintegrating daily.  She doesn't always act perfectly and sometimes she is completely and totally lost but through it all she comes across as a very real very confused 15 year old.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and don't think I've ever come across anything like it.  I'm so glad I Netgalley provided me with this book.  Left on my own there's no way I would've picked it up and would've ended up missing something great.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Brooklyn Graves - Review

Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Single mother and PhD candidate Erica Donato has her hands full between her job at a museum, her studies and her 15 year old daughter Chris.  When her friend and the father of Chris's best friend is found murdered she finds herself trying to provide comfort to Chris and the man's family while also trying to get some answers.  She doesn't have time to deal with arrogant Tiffany expert Dr. Flint of the project he drops on her lap.  However, she does find herself intrigued with the letters from an unknown "Tiffany Girl".  Soon the search for old secrets coincide with new tragedies and Erica finds herself caught in the middle.

Genre: Mystery

My Impression:  I really enjoyed this mystery.  I loved the look back into history through the letters especially as it was an era and industry that I don't know that much about.  Erica is ambitious, smart, kind and flawed all at once.  She tries to be a good mother and a good student but doesn't' always get it right.  I really loved that she didn't exhibit any beyond stupid investigative behavior and didn't seem to feel that she had the right to ask whoever she wanted want ever she wanted.  This is a pet peeve of mine with amateur detectives.  It drives me nuts when a character barges in and demands people answer questions when they have no reason to ask them.  It also drives me nuts when characters exhibit To Stupid To Live behavior.  I read a book once where the woman brought her 3 year old son to a confrontation with someone she knew was a murderer completely by herself telling no one where she was.  Anyway, that's another rant.  Erica didn't do any of this.  When it looked like her questions were pointing towards the Russian mob she stepped away and let the police handle it.  When she did let curiosity get the best of her she admitted that that had been stupid.  The only thing I didn't like about her was her relationship with her father.  I felt there was a little too much time caught up with what felt like teenage temper tantrums regarding him when he wasn't really doing anything particularly awful or controlling.  I thought Erica was better than that.  All and all this was a good book, the mystery was wrapped up satisfactorily and the link between past and present was done well.  This is the 2nd in a series but can be read on its own.  In fact, I didn't even know it was part of a series until I looked it up online.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes, in fact I'm going to go hunt up the first in the series.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Friday, January 17, 2014

This Week in Reading

What I Read:

N or M? by Agatha Christie - Only 2 more in the Tommy and Tuppence series!

When We Touch by Brenda Novak - A good start to the series. Interested to see where it leads. (Review)

Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein - A good mystery.  The review will be up next week.

What I'm Reading:

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson - so I started this last week but got distracted.  Not quite my thing so far but still interesting.

Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliot - haven't really started this and am a little apprehensive as my friend Lisa over at Books, Lists, Life didn't care for it.  

What's Distracting Me:

Once again, TV.  This time it's my DVR.  I got a little over confident when all the shows were on break during December and wasn't watching much TV.  This isn't really a bad thing but now the shows have come back on and I feel like I'm just barely treading water while I frantically watch one show to clear room for the show I'm currently recording.  I'm thinking this is a problem.  I could do the sensible thing and let go of the shows that I don't absolutely love but it just doesn't seem to happen.  My dream vacation right now involves staying home, yoga pants and doing nothing but watching TV and reading.  To be fair, it's cold and a large part of me wants to hibernate.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Messy Baker - Cookbook Review

The Messy Baker by Charmian Christie

This is a review for a book obtained from Netgalley so I haven't tried quite as many recipes as I usually like to do before I review a cookbook.

This book isn't quite what I expected from the yummy looking brownies piled up on the front cover.  I think I was expecting a standard collection of baked goods - chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, brownies, cakes with frostings with maybe a handful of savory or breakfast recipes.  What I got was a beautifully photographed book of baked good for grown ups.  The recipes are separated by texture.  The chapters are entitled things like "Flaky", "Crumbly", "Dippable".  She clearly lays out the tools you will need to make the recipes and the great thing is no special tools are required - not even a stand mixer.  Her attitude on baking is a nice change from the books of perfectly decorated cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, etc.  Baking should be fun, it should be messy and it should be delicious.  It's hard not to be charmed by that.  There is a recipe for a puff pastry that I'm dying to try as well as recipes for savory tarts and sweets that include ingredients that may not be the most kid friendly but sound amazing to make for lunch with friends (candied ginger, combinations of cherry and chipotle, espresso and hazelnut).

I made the Basil and Aged Cheddar Scones this morning intending on saving them for dinner tonight.  After I tried 1/4 of one that became a half and then a whole I'm not sure they'll last that long!  The recipe came together beautifully and the texture of the finished product is everything a scone should be.  The flavor combination of a sweet scone with the cheddar and basil is both familiar and unusual at the same time.  If this is an indication of how all the recipes turn out I will be getting a lot of use out of this book even if the audience isn't exactly what I expected.

Verdict: Buy! This book will be published August 26, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When We Touch - Review

When We Touch by Brenda Novak

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Wedding planner Olivia is back home in Whiskey Creek to plan the wedding of her sister Noelle.  The catch?  The man that Noelle is marrying in none other than Kyle, Olivia's very recent ex-boyfriend.  To make matters worse, Noelle happens to be pregnant.  When she finally gives into the sobbing fit she so deserves who does she run into but professional skier, handsome adrenaline junkie Brandon who just happens to be Kyle's stepbrother.  As the wedding forces Olivia and Brandon together more and more could it be possible that there could be something there?

Genre: Romance

My Impression:  Someone had recommended this series to me because I enjoyed Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor books and Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series (well except for all the babies.  Really people birth control works!).  This novella was a good way to get a glimpse into the series before committing to a full length book.  I liked Olivia and Brandon and I like that Kyle wasn't just a one note shallow villain.   It also very loosely introduced the characters for the rest of the series.  I don't know how much the rest of the series will relate to this book but I do plan on standing out.  Another thing I liked is that this book didn't end with a giant ribbon tied up around the loose ends.  With just 100 pages in the book it always seems so rushed and forced when a short story or novella ends with a wedding.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes,  I'm interested in seeing where the series goes.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Tastemakers:Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue - Review

The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up With Fondue by David Sax

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  David Sax takes the reader on a trip through food trends, food fads and the people who make them happen or have to deal with the consequences.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression: The cover of this book was what really grabbed me initially and then I was intrigued my the concept.  Sax did not disappoint.  This was a detailed look at everything food trend related.  He covered cupcakes, artisan cheeses, gourmet burgers, health and diet trends, the people who make the trends happen both on the production and marking level, the effects of social media and what happens when a trend fades.  I was especially pleased in the food truck chapter when he very clearly explained both sides of the controversy surround them in a way that I sympathized with both sides.  This book was a fascinating look at food from almost an academic level.  There aren't recipes and Sax is a writer not a chef.  This is definitely a perspective I haven't read before and introduced  me to an industry that I wasn't aware even existed.  It was a great read though I did learn that it's a terrible idea to go into a specialty market while reading this book.  My trip to pick up a few dollars worth of bulk spices ended up with me walking out with chia drinks, fancy apples and cheeses, gummy bears and a bacon jam.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes definitely.  Especially to anyone interested in food.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Come Home To Supper - Cookbook Review

Come Home to Supper by Christy Jordan

This is the second cookbook from Christy Jordan of the blog Southern Plate.  Some of the recipes can be found on her blog but many are new and can only be found in this book.

Cookbook Genre - family friendly/weeknight cooking

Number of Recipes I've Made - 7 (so far.  About 50 I want to try!)

This book consists of mostly main dish and side dish recipes with small chapters for breads and desserts.  The main dishes are broken up by protein (chicken, pork, etc) with beef and chicken having the most pages devoted to them.  The recipes I've made have basically gone from start to table in 30 minutes or so.  All ingredients are easy to find at just about any grocery store.  While there is some reliance on cream of whatever soups, especially in slow cooker meals, she includes recipes for DIY cream of soups that are pretty simple to make and would refrigerate well.   While this isn't a book I would recommend if for dinner party food or cooking to impress this is the perfect book for a Tuesday when you just need something tasty to put in front of the family.  Also, there's a recipe in the desserts for an old fashioned peanut butter pie that looks to die for.  Can't wait to make it!

This is definitely a book I'm glad I bought.  While it may not be the most exciting food it is solid comforting food that's easy to put together and satisfying to eat.

Friday, January 10, 2014

This Week in Reading

Finished -

I'll review these when I finish all 5 books in the Tommy and Tuppence series.  

I'm reading:

This Week's Distractions -

Waking the Dead.  I discovered this BBC show on Netflix and I've been binge watching it ever since.  The focus is on a cold case unit run by smart but not tactful Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd who is pared with 2 other detectives, a psychologist and a forensic specialist.  The crimes are interesting and the character development is good.  I love that unlike most shows they don't try to make them a family.  They respect each other and some of them are friends but they also get on each other's nerves quite frequently.  It's a good solid British Police Procedural that looks into old cases.  Loving it!  I've only go 2 seasons left and I'm going to be very sad when it's over.

I've also been watching The Taste.  If there's a cooking competition I normally end up watching it.  An added bonus is that I absolutely love Nigella Lawson.  So far she hasn't done very well and I wonder if her lack of professional experience is a detriment in being able to pick a team.  

It's far too cold to do anything other than read and watch TV when I'm not doing all the everyday stuff.  Right now I just want to hibernate with my Kindle.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 Wrap Up

So I'm studiously avoiding watching the National Championship because it is very very bad for my stress level and I tend to yell when it's Auburn football time.  This means I now have time for a post I wasn't planning on making till tomorrow - the complete wrap up of 2013 reading!

Number of Books Read - 130

Favorite New to Me Author - Catherine Aird - stumbled on her by accident and so glad I did!  How did I just now discover her?  She's classic British mystery which is quite possibly my favorite type of mystery.

Most Read Author - L.M. Montgomery - big shock considering I spent most of the year rereading every book that she wrote

Favorite Book - I'm not counting the Montgomery's since I already went through them.  My favorite book this year was probably A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  It doesn't hurt that all the recipes I've tried from the book so far are really good.  I also reread and re-fell in love with The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I got this right after I first got my kindle because it was free but not really expecting to like it as much as I did when I was a kid.  I loved it!  I probably enjoyed it more as an adult than I did the thousands of times I read this throughout elementary school.

Least Favorite Book -   I don't have very many 1 star books this year.  Mostly because I got better at just giving up on a book I wasn't enjoying.  There were 3 this year that I read from start to finish mostly because I expected them to get better.  My absolute least favorite was An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James.  I really feel like I should love P.D. James.  She's one of the classic names in British Police Procedural books.   I remember her being a bit dry so I thought this one which features Cordelia Gray instead of Adam Dagliesh might be a bit better.  Unfortunately the only thing I liked about this book was that it was short.

Breakdown by Genre-
Mystery - 39
Young Adult (includes the Montgomery's) - 37
Romance - 27 -
Non-Fiction - 23
General Fiction - 4

Not a bad spread.  I'd like to read more non-fiction books this year but I'm going to be so busy with the Agatha's I'm not making many other goals.  The main thing is to just READ!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis - Review

Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Rating:  3 Stars

Description:  Aubrey was a bit of a wild child in high school but is trying to get her act together and make her about to be opened bookstore a success.  That is until she learns her jerk of an  ex-boyfriend is about to publish a tell-all book.  The tell-all portion being a tell-all about her.  Giving into impulse she tries to throw a drink in his face but misses and hits town golden boy Ben McDaniel. Ben's been trying to recover from the death of his wife for the last 5 years.  After spending most of that time bouncing from one war zone to
 the next he decides to come home for a bit which is when he gets a drink tossed in his face.  Neither of them want a relationship and no one thinks they should be together but sparks start to fly after Aubrey's uncle hires Ben to help fix up her bookstore.

Genre: Romance

My Impression:  Shalvis's Lucky Harbor is one of the most consistently enjoyable contemporary series.  I really liked Aubrey even though I thought she beat herself up way too much.  She was smart, tough and completely self-reliant.  I also enjoyed seeing Jack, Leah, Luke and Ali again and I'm now looking forward to Sam's book.  Ben was okay.  I liked his willingness to get involved when he thinks people need help.  I like that falling for Aubrey was a challenge for him but his reaction to her secret and the length and strength of his anger kind of took the book down a notch for me.  I was kind of annoyed by Aubrey's feeling so guilty and so many people holding such big grudges against her.  She really didn't do anything worse than what most of the guys did and their mistakes are more considered teenage fun and laughed off..  I also wish she could have gotten some sympathy for being written off as an idiot for most of her life because she was pretty.  Overall, this is a fun read full of likable characters and in  a lovely setting.  I'm looking forward to reading the books I've missed and can't wait to see where the series goes next.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes though not my favorite in the series.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy for review purposes!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 Book Breakdown - Influencing books

Looking over my list of the books I read in 2013 there are 2 that stand out.  Not because they were the best or they were my favorite but because I feel that they both had a big effect on my life is some way.

This wasn't a book I couldn't put down or one that I eagerly returned too.  I don't feel some great kinship with Rubin.  If I had to pick an author to have coffee with she's pretty close to the bottom of the list.  However, the information and the mindset she presented were definitely eye opening.  I found that when I was thinking about making myself happier I WAS happier.  If I was happier my marriage, my children, my energy level and just about every other aspect of my life benefited and was improved.  I've become much more organized and much more proactive in identifying and improving areas that I felt were stagnant and this book had a lot to do with it.  

When I was reading this I found it lightweight and entertaining.  It was a quick read but not something I would heavily recommend to anyone.  But it got me thinking about the library.  When the first group of kids were little we used to to the library once a week during the summer.  We'd get movies and books and have a great time but then somehow rack up a huge fine and quit going for awhile.  The cycle repeated for years.  Then one year it didn't.  We never paid off our fines and I kind of forgot about the library for awhile.  Between Paperbackswap and used bookstores I was good. Right after I read this book I discovered there was an actual branch library within 2 miles from my house.  Since then the Tornado and I have been regular library visitors.  We've found tons of new favorites for both of us and I've saved my self serious money by checking out cookbooks.  Even better, I found their digital book section which convinced me that a Kindle would be financially feasible.  With the Kindle came Netgalley which opened up a whole new world of books.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

TBR - January edition

2014 is off to a slightly slow start.  After the mad reading pace of December my reading has slacked off a bit.  I may get some reading done this weekend but Auburn is in the National Championship game on Monday and I'll be way to keyed up to read.  Anyway, what I want to read for January:

1 - 8 Agatha Christies.  I'm starting with the Tommy and Tuppence series and then moving on to her standalones

9.  Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis
10. The Tastemakers by David Sax
11.  ?
12.  ?
13.  ?
14.  ?
15.  ?

So 8 Agatha's, 2 books from Netgalley and 5 opens.  I have a Brenda Novak from the library on my Kindle that I'd like to read.  She's a new to me author that I've heard some good things about.  The new Nora Roberts is on its way.  I have the new Julia Quinn and a whole shelf of mysteries.  Not to mention the shelf full of non-fiction and the library full of new releases.  I don't think I'm going to have much trouble filling those 5 spots!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Whew! December Wrap Up

I got all the 18 books read this month.  I'm hoping my time management is much better this year because most of December was spent staying up way too late until my eyes burned trying to get the books finished.  A few of these were short which I feel like is kind of cheating but I had to get past it.  So in the month of December I read:

1.  Akin to Anne - L.M. Montgomery
2.  Road to Yesterday - L.M. Montgomery
3.  Along the Shore - L.M. Montgomery
4.  Among the Shadows - L.M. Montgomery
5.  Christmas with Anne - L.M. Montgomery
6.  At the Altar - L.M. Montgomery
7.  Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel
8. Coming Home by Mariah Stewart
9.  It Had to Be You - Jill Shalvis
10. Christmas Mysteries - Patricia Wentworth, Charlotte MacLeod, et al
11. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy - Karen Foxlee
12. Ramshackle Glam - Jordan Reid
13. A Christmas to Remember - Jill Shalvis
14.  Reunion with Death - Sheila Connolly
15.  Deadly Ambition - Laura Bradford
16. Christmas on 4th Street - Susan Mallery
17. American Afterlife - Kate Sweeney
18. Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts - Kathryn Tucker Windham

Favorite Book - Probably American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney.  Pretty much all the books I read were really good with a few exceptions.  Kathryn Tucker Windham is one of my favorite authors.  Susan Mallery surprised me with her Christmas on 4th Street which to my delight featured no unplanned pregnancies and a great female character.  It Had to Be You by Jill Shalvis also featured a great female character and was highly entertaining.  I also love the community that started in Coming Home by Mariah Stewart and am looking forward to reading the next 6 in the series that are currently sitting on my bookshelf.

Worst Book - Without hesitation or question the book I liked the least this month is Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel.  I actually feel like I have less of an understanding about the book than I did before I read this.

Most Unusual Book - Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.  This is a children's adventure story that takes place in a museum.  It features a little girl who isn't the strongest or the most put together who decides to save the world and does.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Reading Goals

So 2014 is 39 minutes old.  I've got 1 book review and a look back at both my December reading and my 2013 to put up but first I want to start fresh with my reading goals for 2014.

1. Since I finished 130 books in a panic with 20 minutes to spare I think I'm going to leave the number as is and just try to manage my time a little better next year.  So once again I'm shooting for 130 books.

2. I tried this in 2012 and didn't make it but I'm going to give it another try.  For 2014 I want to read all of Agatha Christie's books.  I'm going to read them chronologically by character (all the Poirot's in order followed by all the Miss Marples, etc) because as much as I love Agatha her books in the mid-60s and onwards are very hit or miss.  I also want to read her autobiography and her memoir about her time spent working with her 2nd husband in archaeology.    I don't think I'm going to review all her mysteries individually though.  Maybe I'll break it up into 12 reviews or by character or something.  I've got time to figure this system out.

3.  I'd like to read or reread more classics this year.  I'm hoping to get a list of 12 books that fit into this general category in the next week or so.

4.  I'd like to not finish my reading goal in an absolute panic at 11:30PM on New Year's Eve.