Saturday, May 31, 2014

Come Home to Me - Review

Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak

Rating: 2 Stars

Description:  After 2 years Presley Christensen is back in Whiskey Creek.  This time she's straightened out her life and has her little boy Wyatt in tow.  She had heard her ex-boyfriend Aaron Amos was leaving town soon and hoped she could avoid him until he left.  That doesn't work out in her favor when she runs into Aaron in a bookstore after only being in town a little while.  Can Presley not slide back into temptation with Aaron?  And can she protect the one secret that means more than anything else?

Genre: Romance

My Impression: 
Cons:  There is a secret child, the potential for a surprise pregnancy, an adult acting like a child and so many BIG secrets you trip over them every time you turn around.  I didn't love the relationship between Presley and Aaron.  It was more that they couldn't resist each other and had a history of great sex that Aaron wanted to revisit versus they actually loved each other.  If this had only been at the beginning it would've been okay but it continued well past 50% of the book.  I thought Presley deserved more and it seemed like some of the psychological pitfalls she had overcome were all to present in her dealings with Aaron.  Then we get to the subplot involving Cheyenne and Dylan. I spent most of the book wanting to shake Cheyenne.  I can understand her not wanting to hurt her husband but the situation isn't quite as bleak as she made it seem.  The method she used to make this all work was incredibly dishonest and I can't see it staying a secret.  However, I was surprised to see that at-home kits like she talked about really do exist.  So despite doing a google search that's going to give me some strange ads for awhile I was glad to see that it wasn't inaccurate just illogical.

Pros: Novak created characters I really loved and that felt real.  I loved Presley and you could really feel how hard she was working.  There was a period in the book where she was just emotionally done and really came alive.  It didn't feel like she was sulking or whining.  You could just sense her resignation and that's impressive.  The pacing was good and if I'd been able too I could've easily read this book in one sitting.

Overall Impression: Despite the book containing almost a perfect storm of my most disliked plot devices Novak still wrote a book I wanted to read and wanted to find out what happened in.  I definitely want to spend more time in Whiskey Creek though maybe just not with this particular book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely - any author who can keep me reading with a secret child in the plot is definitely worth revisiting.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Probably not this exact book but I would recommend Novak as an author.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

It's Fridays so I'm linking up with Rose City Reader for Book Beginnings and Freda's Voice for The Friday 56.

Today's book is Arthur Hailey's Hotel.  This book was published in the mid-60s and went on to inspire a movie and a television series.  Hailey also wrote the book Airport which inspired a movie and sequels and my personal favorite - the spoof Airplane.  I almost didn't pick this book up when I saw it on NetGalley but I was intrigued by the idea of a look inside the workings of a large independent hotel in New Orleans over 5 days.  I've been really enjoying it and look for my review on Monday!

Book Beginning:

"If he had had his way, Peter McDermott thought, he would have fired the chief house detective long ago.  But he had not had his way and now, once more, the obese ex-policeman was missing when he was needed most."

Friday 56:

The rules are pretty simple - go to page 56 or 56% and pick a line that grabs you (no spoilers!)
Here's mine:

"Compared with the normal easygoing method of handing out room keys, today the desk clerks were being cautious.  As guests requested keys, the clerks asked names, then checked the answers against a registration list.  Undoubtedly, Keycase reasoned, his coup of early this morning had been reported, with security tightened as a result."

So what do you think?  Would you keep reading?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

At Home - TBR Review

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  Bryson sets out to write a history of the home after being inspired by his Victorian parsonage and discovers that the history of the home incorporates the history of just about everything else.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression: Wow this book is dense with information and I mean that in both a positive way and a negative way  I loved the concept and the format as Bryson goes room by room discussing it's origin and important aspects.  The writing is truly Bryson at his best - informative with little bits of humor here and there but without feeling like he's trying to hard.  That being said - Wow there's a lot of information in this book.  Some of it is fascinating - like where the phrases "Room and Board" and "Make the Bed" come from but some of it makes my eyes cross.  If you're curious about how people have lived throughout history this is a great book.  He is even in his coverage of all types of homes and all levels of income.  I do wish he had stuck to one country instead of jumping back and forth from the UK to the US as it can be a little confusing.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes especially if it's another book like this or Walk in the Woods (which is great and very funny)

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, though this book reminded me why I tend to pick paperback over hardcover as it was a bit unwieldy.  If you're interested in how our homes came to be then definitely pick this up.  Just expect a LOT of information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Murder at Honeychurch Hall - Review

Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  Kat Stanford is done with the popular TV show Fakes & Treasures after an unfortunate incident.  She wants nothing more than to open an antique store with her recently widowed mother.  However, Iris Stanford, has other plans.  Much to Kat's shock she finds her mother has up and moved to an isolated village and purchased a falling down carriage house from a dilapidated estate.  Suddenly there's a missing nanny, a dead body, and all kinds of secrets both old and new.

Genre: Mystery

My Impression:
Pros: When I first came across this book I was really excited.  A mystery on a falling down grand estate?  Definitely sounds like my kind of thing. Then I read a few reviews that mentioned Kat and Iris bickering with each other and I started to worry.  The reviews were extremely positive BUT immature characters are one of my biggest pet peeves.  I suddenly wasn't sure if I wanted to read a book that featured 2 characters that acted liked children.  Luckily for me I went on and picked it up.  Turns out that Kat and Iris do bicker and argue but they don't act like children.  They act like adults who genuinely care for each other and so aren't always 100% logical.  I'm not sure I've come across a book where the characters' flaws were part of what made them so likable.  I understand Kat's frustration with her mother and why she is in the situation she's in regarding her love life.  I understand Iris's wanting to do what she wants to do and not liking be told what to do by her daughter.  The came across as very much real people and people that'd you want to spend time with.  The mystery itself is very well done.  There are so many threads to it that I found myself sitting up reading long after I should have been asleep because I wanted to find out one more thing or see what would happen next.  There's history, there's family intrigue, there's betrayal and it's all well done.

Cons: The ending was a bit abrupt.  The story had been building and building and there were so many different little story lines and then all of a sudden they get tied up in the last 10 pages.  It felt a bit like a whirlwind.  This in no way diminished my enjoyment of the story, however.  It took awhile to get everyone sorted out as there are a lot of characters and the timeline can be slightly confusing.

Overall Impression: I've read a lot of mysteries this year but so far this has been my favorite one.  I really enjoyed reading this one and am really hoping #2 is coming out soon.  There's so much more I want to know about the Stanfords!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely.  Will definitely be looking for the 2nd book in the series!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes I think any mystery lover would love this.  It's not cutesy for those that don't care for cozies but not too dark for cozy readers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'd Buy Today

This week the Top Ten Tuesday linkup with The Broke and The Bookish is a freebie which means we get to pick what our list is about.  I can't wait to go see what everyone came up with!  I decided - after much internal debating - on the top 10 books I'd buy today.  If I went into a bookstore today and had to buy 10 books (and someone else was paying the tab because buying 10 books would probably make me pass out as I'm getting cheaper and cheaper the older I get.  Thanks Dad) these are the ones that I would buy

1.  The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel -
The recovery of artifacts and art after the war fascinate me and this book features a distant relative of mine which adds a little extra personal interest.

2.  Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts
I probably shouldn't since I didn't love the 1st one in the series but in general I love Roberts' books set in Ireland so I've been itching to pick this one up!

3.  My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
I have it in ebook form but it definitely would work better in cookbook form.  The stories and recipes are amazing!

4.  Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West
I've been dying to read this ever since I read Andi's review at Estella's Revenge.  I love the idea of an insider's look at what living in the White House is really like.

5.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Partly because of the title and partly because the book looks really interesting.

6.  The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
This is a fictional account of an actual disappearance of a judge in the 1930s.  I know a little bit about the original crime and can't wait to read this!

7.  The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I read and loved The Forgotten Garden but for some reason have yet to pick up another one of her books.  People seem to really love this one so I think this would be my next pick.

8.  The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley
This book keeps popping up on my Goodreads recommendations and it sounds very interesting.  There's a vineyard, a magnificent chateau and lots of hidden secrets.

9.  Cornish House by Liz Fenwick
I love books set in Cornwall almost as much as I love books set in Ireland.

10. The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf
Because I couldn't go on a spending spree without a cookbook.  I've made banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting from this book and it's to die for!  I'd love to have the entire cookbook.

So that's what I'd buy if I was let loose in a bookstore today!  What would you get?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Contemporary Romance - Snapshot Reviews

I find that I tend to read romances seasonally.  Winter is all about historical romances while in summer I lean towards the Contemporary.  Since mentally at least Memorial Day is the start of summer here's 2 snapshot reviews of the contemporaries I've been reading lately.

When I first stumbled on Pappano in a collection of short stories I really liked the concept of the Tallgrass series.  This a group of army wives who have been widowed and are trying to survive.  A Man to Hold on To is about Therese Matheson who has been left not only a widow but with 2 stepchildren who she's not sure how to handle.  Keegan Logan has come to Tallgrass looking for the father of the little girl his ex-girlfriend left with before she took off.  When he stumbles on Therese a friendship quickly grows and then turns to more.  There was a lot I liked about this book.  Pappano's characters are real and strongly drawn.  I could feel Therese's desperation and just bleakness and she struggles with dealing with her stepdaughter.  Keegan's hopelessness basically leaps off the page.  When they're happy the reader is happy.  I didn't care for the storyline that was obviously setup for the next book as Therese and Keegan were strong enough on their own.  I also tend to not care for books with a SECRET and this book definitely contained that.  However, I was so connected with the characters, especially Therese that I was ultimately satisfied with the book.  3 Stars

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins

Higgins is one of those names I've seen around and always seems to show up on favorites and auto-buy lists.  I was thrilled when I was able to grab a copy of Waiting on You for review.  I was pretty quickly able to see what makes Higgins show up on all this list.  Her writing is fast paced, funny but emotional and attention grabbing.  While I enjoyed the writing and the setting the main characters never quite gelled for me.  I liked Colleen O'Rourke but don't think I loved her as a main character.  Lucas seemed a little too judgmental for me and while I love a 2nd chance romance I'm not sure I realliy believed in this one.  Overall, though I enjoyed the other characters so much that it was still a fun read.  I definitely will be looking for Kristan Higgins' other books 3 Stars

Memorial Day - Thinking of My Almost Grandfather

My Grandfather the glider pilot shortly before he left for Korea
My Grandfather who served in the 11th Airborne - Picture taken in 1950
My uncle who earned his Purple Heart on D-Day at Normandy when the transport he was riding to the beach took a hit killing the person next to him and knocking him into the water.

Both my grandfathers were Army and for both of them World War 2 ended just in time.  One was a paratrooper on the way to Japan for the invasion.  The other was training to be a glider pilot.  Neither jobs have the best odds for survival.  The glider pilot was actually on the way to the front lines in Korea when he was pulled over to a more administrative position where they were only sometimes being shot at versus always being shot at.  It's really and truly amazing that I'm here at all considering they both seemed to be drawn to the most dangerous things they could possibly do.

But in particular Memorial Day always makes me think of another man.  A man I never met and am
in no way related to but is just as real and just as much a part of me as my paratrooper grandfather who died before I was born.  His name was Arthur and he was my grandmother's first husband.

He was born in 1916 in a little town in Georgia. Like most farming families he came from a large family and was the 2nd oldest boy.  At some point before 1940 he moved to another small town in Georgia that had a cotton mill and met and married my grandmother.  They moved to another small town but this time in Alabama where he managed a movie theater and he and my grandmother used to watch movies after the theater closed just the two of them.  In 1943 he left that little town in Alabama, left his wife and his infant daughter and found himself in North Africa.  I can't imagine what that must have seemed like to him.  His biggest move before then was a move of maybe 200 miles and now here he is across an ocean and on a completely different continent.  I don't know if he was drafted or enlisted due to patriotism or hoping to provide financial stability for his family.  I do know he was a nice man, a man who was so skinny my grandmother used to tease him she weighed more than him (and she was by no means a big person), a man who loved movies, a man who loved his wife and was enchanted with his baby daughter and a man who suddenly finds himself in North Africa and then in some of the worst fighting in Italy.  He died in Italy.  My grandmother had the bible that he had in his shirt pocket on that day tucked in among her pictures and other mementos.  I don't know if I'd have wanted to keep that but I can understand how difficult it must have been to believe he was really gone and how you might want a piece from that day to hold onto.  His daughter is gone now too - last year to cancer but his granddaughter is watching her children, his great-grandchildren, go to college and the oldest has his last name as her middle name.

My grandmother went on to remarry and have several more children and bunches of grandchildren.  We're not related to Arthur but we know him.  When my cousin went to Italy she found his grave.  One of my most vivid childhood memories is looking for his name on the list of fallen soldiers from Alabama on the U.S.S. Alabama.

So on  Memorial Day I always think about Arthur and I wonder what that farm boy from Georgia must have thought.  I think about Arthur and the thousands like him that have gone and come home or not come home and I am grateful.
I have no picture of Arthur but this is my grandmother shortly after she remarried.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Showcase and Post: What I Got and What I Read

It's Sunday so it's time for the Sunday Post from the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Sunday Showcase from Books, Biscuits and Tea
This week wasn't quite as crazy as last week.  I got a few books that I'm excited about but not quite as many. I'm really excited about what I did get!


Secrets of Hallstead House by Amy M. Reade
This is a new to me author but I'm definitely looking forward to reading this one.  After suffering from personal tragedy Macy Stoddard takes a job as a private nurse in the mysterious Summerplace on Hallstead Island.  There's winding halls, sinister secrets, veiled threats. and hostile servants.  Can't wait!  Next good thunderstorm this book is definitely coming out.

Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater
I've heard of Nigel Slater but I've never tried any of his recipes.  I'm really excited to give this book a try.  I think "Simple, every day foods" sounds perfect for summer cooking.


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 
I've heard such good things about this book so I was thrilled when I was finally able to get it from the library.

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
Another one I've really been wanting to read and have heard great things about.  I was thrilled when I stumbled on it on an Amazon monthly sale.  The only downside is that since it's in e-book form I don't get the cover which is stunning.

Just One Kiss by Susan Mallery
I don't know why this happened.  It came up on Kindle Daily Deal and I thought I haven't read any Mallery in awhile.  

Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly
The 2nd in her series set in Ireland.  I really loved the first one and can't wait to read this one.

What Was on the Blog This Week:

review for a new mystery series - A Garden Plot by Marty Wingate
I loved this East meets West food memoir - Biting Through the Skin by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
Ever read a series that you really wanted to love but just aren't? That's this one for me - Almost Home by Mariah Stewart

My Top Ten Books Abut Friendship
My thoughts on when the author in a series changes
And my Friday 56 where commentors actually gave me new perspective on a book I've reread countless times.
On a personal note there's my Friday 5 - 5 facts and 5 pictures from my week.

What's Coming Up Next Week:

The pretty weather has kind of messed up my plans to get organized for the upcoming week but my garden is looking great!  What I have managed to get together:

A snapshot review of a few contemporary romances for tomorrow
A review of one of my favorite mysteries this year will be out on Wednesday.
A review for Bill Bryson's At Home on TBR Thursday

And as always my Top Ten Tuesday and Friday 56/Book Beginnings.

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England - Review

Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England by Allen J. Frantzen

Description:   A look at food in a more everyday sense than just feasts and celebrations.  This takes a look at the meaning of food and the activity of food preparation in everyday like during Anglo-Saxon times in England by examining texts and archaeological finds.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression:  This is an intensely researched all encompassing look at food and everyday life for the Anglo-Saxons.  This is a subject that fascinates me and is definitely on trend with the growing interest in farm-to-table eating and knowing where your food comes from.  In this book we are able to see food in a back to basics way long before anything approaching industrialized farming.  While this is an interesting topic put forward in a readable manner it is more of a text book than a read for pleasure style book.  I liked that Frantzen included a very detailed table of contents so that it was possible to go to the sections you were most interested in.  As well I think this would work better in hard copy form as it contains a large number of foot notes and that would make it easier to flip to different sections.  This would be a fantastic research source.

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

Would I Recommend this Book?:  This would be an excellent source for any kind of project of class regarding the way food was used in everyday life in Anglo-Saxon times.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday 5 - School's Out!

It's Friday which means I'm ending my week with Emmy Mom and 5 facts and 5 pictures from this past week.

1.  School is officially out, finals are done and we are off duty for a few months.  With the bigger kids it's easier because they just kind of do their own thing and it ends up just meaning there's less going on.  With the Tornado it's a little more challenging since it is now my job to come up with stuff to do every day all day.  Plus, he really enjoyed this first year of school and is really going to miss his friends and teachers.

2.  Eleanor's birthday was this week!  Hard to believe she's 19 and has finished her first year of college.  This whole them getting grown up thing is just weird.  Not necessarily bad but definitely weird.

3. Going out with some friends tonight for a birthday/end of school year get together and am really looking forward to it.  While I do love relaxing evenings it'll be nice to get out of the house for a little bit.

4.  I've GOT to get the rest of my plants this weekend.  I put some tomatoes and peppers in my garden a few weeks ago and they're very happy but then I got busy and completely forgot so this weekend is going to involve at least a trip to Lowe's for some mint, squash, cucumbers and zucchini and maybe tomatoes because I can never have enough.

5.  It's been a great month for subscription boxes.  I've gotten all 3 and loved them all.  Birchbox and Ipsy should be up this week but they were great.  Have already tried out pretty much everything in both boxes.

It's a baby tomato!  So excited!

Eleanor opening presents

Trying to get a last day of school picture is way harder than it should be
The Tornado being Darth Vader
End of school treat.  The others were eaten to fast to actually be in the picture.

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

It's time for Book Beginnings, a linkup with Rose City Reader and the Friday 56 with Freda's Voice.

We're back to Agatha this week with her book from 1945 entitled Sparkling Cyanide or Remembered Death depending on if the publisher is using the UK or the US title.

This is classic Christie.  A different twist on a locked room murder - this time a table at a nightclub that no one outside the party could have approached.  There's a beautiful rich heiress, her various lovers and other groupies, her shy younger sister, her pompous older husband. I'm really enjoying this reread.  Here's what it starts with:

"Iris Marle was thinking about her sister, Rosemary.
For nearly a year she had deliberately tried to put the thought of Rosemary away from her.  She hadn't wanted to remember."

And now for the Friday 56:

Pretty simple rules - flip to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader and find a passage that grabs you (no spoilers!).

Here's a passage from page 56 of my copy:

"She didn't realize.  She didn't care.  She took no interest in his work, in his ambitions, in his career.  All that she wanted was to her him reiterate again and again that he loved her. "Just as much as ever? Tell me again that you really love me?""

So what do you think?  Interesting?  Would you keep reading?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - 5/22

I've been following Reading is Fun Again for a little while now and have been intrigued by her Thoughtful Thursday linkup.  This week I decided to jump in and participate!  Thinking about books and book related issues has never been anything I've had to do.  I've always read and I've always read a lot but I've never had to read FOR anything.  My time in college was mostly math and computer stuff so my lit classes were very few and far between.  To be honest I didn't really care for them.  An hour long discussion on the symbolism of a particular passage always drives my very literal left brain a bit nuts.  So now I'm going to do Thoughtful Thursday to think about different book issues.

The question of the day is:

 "Do you continue with a series even after the original author has stopped writing for it? (This could be for any sort of reason including death, the original author has lost interest in the series, or even that the publisher fires the author but continues using the original author's name.)"

My answer is most likely yes as long as the spirit of the characters and the stories are kept intact.  My primary example of this actually isn't book related it's movie related.  I'm a huge Anne of Green Gables fan and I've always loved the mini-series that was on Disney (was it Disney?) back in the late 80s.  I actually own Anne of Green Gables and the 2nd movie as well and have watched both of them so many times I've lost count.  The 2nd one in particular has very little relationship to any of the Anne books.  There are completely made up characters, there are characters that have been completely cut, situations are dreamed up BUT the spirit of the book is still very much there.  Anne is still Anne and her actions are still Anne-ish.  The feel of the book is still there.  And the ending - oh the ending... I feel the need to go rewatch it now.  

Then I came across the 3rd one.  I was in college and my brain was tired from finals or trying to make a program do something it didn't feel like doing and I came across a NEW Anne show.  I was thrilled.  Here was the perfect antidote to my tired studyworn brain.  Until it came on.  Suddenly Anne's in the middle of World War 1.  But I shrugged it off.  The time period's not right since Anne's children were the ones who were involved but the 2nd movie made some massive changes and I love it.  Then Anne starts talking.  It seems Anne is flirting with a doctor and she and Gilbert are estranged.  That was the end of it for me.  The whole flavor of the book was completely different and it made in unwatchable for me.  Does that make sense?

If I'm reading a series and it's a cozy that suddenly gets a major makeover and suddenly it's dark and gritty or vice versa there's a chance I'm going to drop it because most likely what I liked about it in the first place is gone.  It doesn't matter about the author it matters about the individual book.  

Pamela makes some good points about feeling like cheating on the author which I don't disagree with especially if the reason the author is no longer writing is on the scandalous side.  If it something like that it probably would affect my reading of those books and I'm now wanting to do a little research to see what's going on with some of my favorite series.

So what do you think?  Are you loyal to the author or the tone of the books themselves?  Are you in the know or oblivious to the author/publisher gossip like me?

Almost Home - TBR Thursday Review

Almost Home by Mariah Stewart

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Steffie Wyler has wanted to do 2 things her childhood - 1. make ice cream and 2. marry Wade MacGregor.  Number 1 comes true when she opens her wildly successful ice cream store Scoop but number 2 doesn't look very hopeful.  Especially since Wade has moved to Texas and started a business there.  Now he's back but for how long?

Genre:  Romance

My Impression:
Pros: There was so much about this book I really loved.  I loved Steffie and her friendship with Vanessa, her house and her family.  I liked the small town feel and Stewart did a pretty good job of giving us enough characters so we get the feeling of a complete town but not overburdening us with back story.  I liked how she, Wade, Beck and Grady dealt with the adversity that showed up towards the end.  I'd like to see a lot more of Beck actually.  I may have to back and read his and Mia's story from Stewart's Dead series.  This is a nice story about nice people.

Cons: But... I wasn't totally in love with the Wade/Steffie relationship.  It felt a little too Steffie chasing after Wade and him letting her date him.  There was something very highschool-y about the whole thing.  It could be I'm just not sold on the MacGregor family as a whole since I wasn't able to finish Dallas MacGregor and Grant Wyler's book.

Overall Impression: While this wasn't my favorite book it was a nice entertaining read after I got into it.  I really liked Steffie and her family and found all the ice cream talk interesting.  Also, it did introduce me to the Madisons who both have books coming up that I'm really looking forward too.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I have at least the next 2 books of the series in paperback and the newest 1 on my Kindle for review.  She's also been a pretty consistent author for me.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  On it's own merits probably not.  There are just better small town contemps out there.  However, if you're reading the series it's a nice read and helps with character development for later books.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Biting Through the Skin - Review

Biting Through the Skin by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  When Nina Mukerjee Furstenau is a small child in the 1960s her parents take her and her brother and leave India and move their family first to Chicago and then to the small town of Pittsburgh, Kansas.  This is Nina's tale of growing up while trying to find the balance of holding on to her heritage and culture and fitting in.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression: 
Pros:  I love a good food memoir and this one had a special interest to me because I haven't had much dealings with Indian food.  The recipes looked very tasty and with very few exceptions called for ingredients I've seen at my local grocery store.  Nina's writing is so lyrical and descriptive you can almost taste the vibrant flavors and see her mother making curry or roti.  There is so much information I didn't realize about the Indian food itself and the differences between our American versions of Indian cuisine and the variety of foods in the different regions of India.  I also found her family trying to fit in a somewhat universal issue here in the U.S.  Many of us have had family who have maintained their cultural links in secret while trying to fit in to the world around them.

Cons: While for the most part I enjoyed Furstenau's writing style there were times she got a little too caught up in the descriptions and I found myself skimming.  It also lacked a little focus and at times felt a little like she was jumping around a bit.

Overall: I enjoyed this look at Indian cuisine and culture through the eyes of someone coming of age in America.  I loved her focus on the food being so important to holding on to her heritage. While I didn't fall in love with the book it was an enjoyable and interesting read.

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

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books About Friendship

This is a link up with The Broke and The Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday is our top ten books about friendship.  I've been reading a lot of contemporary romance/fiction lately and most of them feature a strong friendship theme but often the friendship is mainly there to help provide continuation for the series.  It's not a bad thing and most of them time it feels like the characters are actually friends but their friendship isn't really a major feature of the story.  The ten I chose are ten that I feel the friendship was really important to the development of the story or character or that really make me feel that friendship develops or strengths over the coarse of the story.

1.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - This book is just crisscrossed with friendship.  There's the obvious Anne and Diana, then there's Anne and Gilbert, Marilla and Rachel, Marilla and Matthew, Matthew and Anne, Gilbert's friendship with the boys in school, Anne's friendships with the girls in school, Anne's friendship with Aunt Josephine, Anne's friendship with Miss Stacey.  LOTS of friendships.  The book is pretty much a big giant log book of friendships with some other events thrown in.  As each friendship develops Anne becomes a little more at home.

2 . Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie - Really all the books involving Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings.  While they drive each other crazy these two really in truly are friends.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles is where we first meet them and they first meet each other.

3.  84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - If you haven't read this lovely little book told in letter form you really really should.  Here we meet actress Helene Hanff writing to a bookstore in London to find beautiful books.  She meets Frank Doel and an unlike friendship develops.  It's really a charming book.

4.  The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson (Review) - Piper has just about given up on everything in this odd mix of dystopian and steampunk.  She mostly wants to be left alone and work on her machines.  That is until Anna stumbles into her life and she decides to take the girl back to where she belongs.  During their journey a friendship emerges and through it Piper finds where she's meant to be.

5.  Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski (Review) - This book about a flu vaccine which gives a bunch of 15 year olds the ability to read minds is all about friendship teenage style and is enough to make me glad that the teenage years are very far behind me.

6.  Home to Seaview Key by Sherryl Woods (Review) - The friendship between Hannah and Abby is really the star of this book.  These are 2 women who were best friends all through childhood and up until they graduated high school and then they went their separate ways.  Hannah is married to Abby's high school boyfriend but is recovering from cancer and not feeling her best so is intimidated by Abby's put togetherness.  Abby is out of a bad marriage and worse divorce and really needs a friend.  I loved that these two were honest with each other and were able to try and work through their issues.

7.  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - When this book starts married couple Jack and Mabel are very much alone even though they are together.  However, as their friendship with the little girl develops as does their friendship with a neighboring family and finally each other.

8.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - The friendship between Eliza and Rose really is what drives everything that happens in this book.

9.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Spoiled little Mary Lennox has no one - especially not friends.  However, when she comes to Misselthwaite Manor this begins to change as does her spoiled selfish nature.  First there's the housemaid Martha, then there's her brother Dickon and finally a little boy as unhappy and spoiled as Mary named Colin.  As the friendships develop so does Mary's personality.

10. Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - This whole series is really about friendship as 4 women who really don't fit in for various reasons become friends on the edges of London ballrooms.  However, this one is my favorite so it's the one I'm talking about.  It's Evie's friendship with Annabelle, Lillian and Daisy that drives her away from them in order to protect them.  It's Evie's friendship with St. Vincent and Cam that keeps her safe.  It's Evie's friendship with Lillian and St. Vincent's with Westcliff that protects them both.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Garden Plot - Review

The Garden Plot by Marty Wingate

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  American Pru Parke desperately wants to stay in England, the place where she feels at home and where her mother grew up.  Staying depends on finding a job as a gardener and with her time and savings rapidly decreasing she begins to give up home.  When she takes a temporary job making a garden presentable she doesn't expect to stumble on a Roman mosaic and she really doesn't expect to stumble on a dead body the next day.

Genre: Mystery

My Impression:
Pro: I really liked that Pru's future was as much of a mystery as the murder.  This isn't a case of someone who has a decision to make.  This is someone who has made her decision, who really wants to stay where she is and is trying her best but it might just not work out.  I liked the characters in the book.  Pru, Christopher and Jo were nice people and seemed to all genuinely like each other.

Con:  While I did like the characters and the focus on Pru's future the murder itself got a little lost.  I also didn't quite understand her insta-loyalty to the Wilson's.  They were nice to her but she hadn't really known them that long.  There was an incident where the both a character and the incident itself came out of nowhere.  It felt a bit manufactured to give the plot a bit of a boost.

Overall Impression:  This was a nice cozy mystery with a unusual premise and an older main character.  It wasn't perfect but it was an enjoyable read.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I'll definitely keep an eye out for the next in the series.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  This isn't a drop everything and go buy it right now kind of book but if you like cozy mysteries and gardening you would enjoy this book.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Showcase and Post - What I Got and What I Read

It's Sunday so I'm linking up with Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea to show off what books I got and kimbacaffeinate at Caffeinated Reviewer to talk about what's been going on this week!


The Phantom of Fifth Avenue by Meryl Gordon
This is the biography of Huguette Clark, the daughter of copper magnate William Andrews Clark.  It tracks her life from socialite to mysterious recluse.  Really looking forward to this one.

Day of Vengeance by Jeanne Dams
I've read some Jeanne Dams before years ago and always found them enjoyable cozy mysteries.  This involves American Dorothy Martin who lives in England with her retired policeman husband Alan Nesbitt.  Apparently someone decides it's time to start killing off clergyman.

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
The cover on this one is stunning and I've been in a historical fiction mood lately so this fictional account of Eleanor of Aquitaine definitely caught my eye.

How to Ruin a Queen by Johnathan Beckman
This is the story of Marie Antoinette and the famous diamond necklace affair.  Looking forward to learning more about the events that started the French Revolution

The Wizard of Oz FAQ by David J. Hogan
Eleanor is a huge Wizard of Oz fan and I thought this look at behind the scenes of the movie looked like a fun read.

Always on My Mind by Belle Andre
This is totally and completely the Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reader's fault!  After her review I couldn't pass up this contemporary romance.

Engaged at The Chatsfield by Melanie Milburne
I normally don't grab the Harlequin Presents titles but this one looked interesting and obviously I needed more books this week.

No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards
Richards is one of my favorite authors so I'm excited to try her newest series

Hotel by Arthur Hailey
I'm intrigued by this look into the workings of an upscale hotel and I've never read any Hailey before.


Amazon has been tempting me with this one for months with the subtitle - The Maniac, The Model, And The Murder That Shook The Nation.  How could I pass it up when it was a daily deal this week?

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

This was recommended given my love of home renovations and old mysteries.  Can't wait to read it!

On the Blog this Week:

On of my favorite books this year: The Forgotten Seamstress
The Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down
The giant gaps in my reading education
One of my childhood favorites - The Four Story Mistake
MyIreland box review
Friday 56 and Book Beginnings about Bill Bryson's At Home
My Friday 5 - 5 thoughts and 5 pictures to wrap up the week
One of my favorite biographies ever with Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams

Next Week:

Haven't been in the readingest mood this week due to being grumpy but I've got a review for a new cozy mystery series - The Garden Plot - coming up on Monday.
Tuesday will be my top ten books about friendship
On Wednesday I've got a review coming up about a Indian woman growing up in Kansas and trying to connect through food to both worlds.  

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Louisa Catherine - Review

Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams by Margery M. Heffron

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  This is an in-depth biography of the lesser known Mrs. Adams and the only first lady to be born on foreign soil.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression:  The Adams family has been getting quite a lot of press the last 10 years ago with David McCollough's book, the HBO miniseries (which is fabulous by the way) and countless other books about John, Abigail or their relationship.  I personally have read an Abigail book recently (Dear Abigail - really enjoyed it) so I felt pretty up on my Adams history.  However, with all the press John and Abigail have gotten it feels that his son, John Quincey has been kind of swept into a corner and forgotten.  We know his name because of who his father is and because he is 1 of 2 father/son presidential sets but for me that's about it.  I know even less about his wife.  I don't think I even really knew her name until I stumbled across this book on NetGalley.  In this book we meet Louisa Catherine Johnson.  She is the daughter of an American merchant and an English woman of whom very little is known about.  She grew up in France and is the only foreign born First Lady.  She is reserved, sensitive and intelligent and thrust into the rather formidable Adams family with the extremely formidable Abigail as a not overjoyed mother-in-law.

In non-fiction and especially biographies I sometimes have a problem with the author getting too involved with details.  While I'm obviously interested in the subject I'm reading about I don't necessarily need to know what they had for breakfast on a given Tuesday unless it plays a role in the development of the character or events.  On the other side of the coin, I've found authors who skim over too many details making it hard to get a grip on the actual person you're reading about.  Heffron does a fantastic job of walking this particular line.  Louisa is the 2nd of 8 children but other than the names and birth years we aren't given all that much detail about her siblings - especially the younger ones - because she was not particularly close to them and they didn't play a role in her life. However, we do learn quite a bit about her parents because they were so influential.  As a reader I didn't feel like the sibling information was purposely left out or that I was missing gaps in the story.  Heffron's writing is very natural and I was able to pick it up for a few minutes and immediately jump in to the story which isn't always the case with non-fiction.

Heffron treated Louisa sympathetically but also realistically.  It didn't feel like she was trying to make Louisa perfect but nor was she trying to make her look bad or focus on the negatives sides of her personality.  I thoroughly enjoyed this biography on one of the lesser known First Ladies and feel that I have a much better understanding of Louisa, John Quincy and the world they lived in

At the beginning of the book it is noted that Heffron died shortly after finishing this book and before it had been accepted by any publishing company.  The book being published at all was due to the effort of her family and friends who took the necessary steps to make it happen.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes, I wish she had been able to write more biographies on lesser known First Ladies.  I would've loved to read more of her work.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday 5 - Mostly Prom Stuff

It's Friday which means I'm linking up with Emmy Mom for 5 facts and 5 pictures from my week!

1. Prom is over and done with for the year and it is definitely for the young!  Between the hair appointments and picture taking and dropping off and texting to make sure I knew where everyone was it was exhausting!  I did something I never ever EVER thought I'd do which was agree to a co-ed sleepover.  It was at Emma's best friend's house and we've known them for 10 years and we joke that they're Emma's other family and vice versa.  The girls stayed on one floor with the mom after 3AM and the boys stayed on another floor with the dad (who's also an Army Colonel).  It got them all home earlier since they were back at the house by just after midnight and it worked out really well but it was definitely strange.  I'm trying not to think about the fact that next year I could potentially have 2 going.

2.  Emma is also driving now which is a bit of a mental adjustment.  Elinor got her license right before she left for college so there wasn't much time to get used to her driving before she actually moved so this is really the first time we've experienced having a driver.  It's weird!  It's time to go to work she goes to work.  It's time to meet up with a friend she goes and meets up with a friend.  She needs to go pick something up she just goes and does it.  We did experience a bit of a problem yesterday when we realized she'd yet to drive her car at night.  We figured this out when she was at work and realized she had no idea how to turn her headlights on for the drive home.  Luckily that got sorted out but whoops!

3.  Have you ever had a week that's rough for no real reason?  Nothing's bad has really happened but I just feel totally worn out and in a bad mood.  J is working crazy hours right now and is hardly ever here so I'll feel bad about complaining about needing a break when he most definitely isn't getting one but I definitely feel in need of some unwinding.

4.  It's getting a bit better though because I've discovered the awesomely awful Dance Moms.  I know I'm horribly behind the curve on this one and feel free to judge both on my lateness and on watching such awful television but I'm loving it!  I used to be kind of snobby about how I didn't watch reality tv but then came the food competitions followed by Dancing with the Stars and then I added The Bachelor/Bachelorette last year because I had some friends who watched it and I wanted to know what they were talking about.  Now with the addition of Dance Moms I can no longer feel superior but it is a lot of fun!

5.  We are down to our very last days of school!  The Tornado had his end of the year program today which was adorable and then will have 2 days next week.  Paul and Emma will be done on Wednesday but it and Tuesday are only half days.  Simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the summer!

Emma and her date
Emma and her group of friends.  It's hard to get a good picture of all of them standing still.

And when it is done normally at least 2 or them look pretty awkward.

The Tornado in the green shirt at his school's program today

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings

Today I'm participating in 2 linkups - Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 hosted by Freda'sVoice.

My book this week is At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.  I was so interested in this book when it came out that I ended up buying it new in hardcover which is something I never ever do.  That was 2010 and I've yet to so much as open it until this week!

Let's start at the beginning:

"Some time after my wife and I moved into a former Church of England rectory in a village of tranquil anonymity in Norfolk, in the easternmost part of England, I had occasion to go up into the attic to look for the source of a slow mysterious drip."

I think any homeowner can identify with that sentence.  Plus I've read enough Bryson to know that if he does identify the mysterious drip he's not going to really know what to do about it!

And now for the 56!

First the rules:
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It's that simple.

"All his applies to the homes of the comparatively well-t-do but two things need to be borne in mind: superior homes were not necessarily all that superior, and inferior homes were not necessarily all that bad."

So would you keep reading?  Have you read this one? Have you ever bought a book new only because you absolutely had to have it only to let it sit around at the bottom of your TBR for years??

Have a lovely weekend all!