Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Week in Reading - February 1

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week!

What I Got:

Nothing!  It's kind of relief.  There's a few I'm waiting on but this week I got nothing!


Reading:  The Hexed by Heather Graham and Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Listening:  I'm still listening to Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.  While I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with him he's so blatantly honest about himself I've found it hard not to admire him. Plus the chapter where he skewered Alice Waters made me laugh till I cried.

Watching: Everything.  We got our cable stuff switched around this week and to get HBO which was mandatory we ended up getting every other movie channel there is.  It's a lot less than we were paying and it's kind of fun.  Needless to say my reading has taken a hit but my TV watching has gone up.  On top of the movie channels we now have Smithsonian so I've been binging on documentaries.  Movie-wise I have The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring and Monuments Men coming up.  

Off the Blog:

Everyone here is sick but me.  Paul brought it home though of course for him being sick is the same whether it's a minor cold or the plague. He's nauseous and has a headache, then he sleeps for most of the day and is fine.  Emma, J and the Tornado haven't been so lucky and have been congested and feeling kind of crappy for several days.  I'm taking vitamins and drinking green tea like there's no tomorrow trying to keep the illness away!

J's and my 12 year anniversary was Friday and we had a nice day shopping and milling around town together.  Between kids and other stuff we don't spend as much time together as we used too so it was really fun.

I'm finally getting back on track and feeling a little bit more grounded.  The past few months it's felt like I'm continuously massively behind and overwhelmed but that's seems to be going away.  It's nice to be back to getting things done!

I'm still working on my Pinterest project.  This past week as a pin to get oil stains out of clothes which worked really well!  This week is Reese's Brownie Cheesecake Bars.  Or it's supposed to be but people keep eating the bag of mini Reese's Cups!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Criminal Confections - Blog Tour Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Mysteries I Can't Believe I Haven't Read
Wednesday: The Monogram Murders - Mystery Review
Thursday: TBD - Maybe The Empire Girls?
Friday: Linkups with whatever book I'm reading
Saturday: Weekend Cooking Linkup with Cook It Up Cookbook Challenge Linkup

Happy Reading!  

Make It Ahead - A Cookbook Review

Make it Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

While Ina's recipes aren't always the cheapest and definitely aren't the easiest I find them the most reliable.  I know if I make something of Ina's it's going to be good and usually not just good but deliciously good.

So when I heard she had a new cookbook coming out and it was about meals you could do the prep work ahead of time I had to have it!

So the question is - since this book has been sitting on my kitchen shelves for more than a month do I use it?  Answer?  Not really.

It's not that it's a bad book.  It's really really not.  It's full of interesting recipes and I've tagged a lot of them.  The main problem is I don't think it's full of regular recipes that my family would willingly eat on a Tuesday.  I'm looking forward to making Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Tomatoes and Burrata is high on my list of lunches for this summer when I'm drowning in tomatoes.  There are a few that would work - French chicken pot pies made in individual serving dishes and topped with (store-bought) puff pastry for example.  There's some interesting sides like Crusty Baked Potatoes with Whipped Feta or Parmesan Chive Smashed Potatoes.  As well as a handful of desserts like Fresh Apple Spice Cake or Decadent (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Cake.  The Tres Leches Cake with Berries sounds yummy and the day I make Ginger Shortbread will be a happy day..  However, this isn't a book I find myself turning to on a regular basis and the feel of it is a book geared more towards entertaining than a regular family meal.  While Ina will still be a trusted source for recipes I think I'd recommend Barefoot Contessa At Home or Back to Basics.

The one recipes I've made multiple times out of this cookbook is Sour Cream Corn Bread.  My husband is rather snooty about it and calls it "Yankee Corn Bread" It definitely is but it's delicious!  For the record I'm not a corn bread fan but I love this one!  This makes 2 loaves but I usually half it.

1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill medium grind yellow cornmeal (I couldn't find this brand so I used stone ground corn meal and it's fine)
1/2 cup sugar
2 T baking powder
1 T kosher salt
1 1/4 cup whole milk (I used skim once because that was all I had and it worked out fine)
3/4 cup sour cream
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (I used large and had no problems)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and line the bottom of 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 inch loaf pans with parchment paper (I used a regular loaf pan, no parchment paper and cooking spray and haven't had any trouble with sticking)
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking poser, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, and eggs and then slowly whisk in the melted butter.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix them together with a rubber spatula, until combined.  Don't overmix!
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Place the pans on a rack and cool completely.
*It's fantastic with soups - especially a corn and cheddar chowder from her first book!

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Linkups: The Hexed

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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question is:
Do you ever get comments from authors when you have posted or tweeted your review?

My Answer:
Yes, though more frequently comments through twitter than here.  It's always very exciting though slightly nerve wracking!  Once I had a comment from an author thanking me for getting her book on a Sunday Post type post which was very exciting.  I also love when a favorite author follows me on twitter.

I've only read 1 Heather Graham but I loved it and promptly requested every Heather Graham on NetGalley I could find.  I now have 3 that are waiting on me not to mention a huge stack of her older releases and have read none of them!  I'm so excited to get to this one.
Book Beginning:
(from the Prologue)
""Help me, Rocky! Help me!"
Craig Rockwell - Rocky to family and friends - was seventeen, a high school senior.  It wasn't that he didn't like Melissa Wilson; he just wasn't interested the way she was interested"
(from Chapter 1)
"Every once in a while Devin Lyle couldn't help herself.  People did such outrageous things sometimes that she just had to step in."

My thoughts:
The prologue is a little perplexing.  While I understand that Rocky might not be interested in Melissa I wonder why that's an issue here when she's calling for help.  Also why is she calling for help?  So many questions!  As for the Chapter 1 I completely sympathize with Devin.

The 56:
"There was a presence behind her, but she didn't know.  She didn't see.
It was the killer.
For a moment, something glittered in the starlight.
A knife."
My thoughts: Nothing particularly interesting other than things look very very bad for whoever she is.  I haven't gotten to this part in the story yet so I'm not sure what's going to happen next.

So would you keep reading?  Do you have an author whose books you collect but for some reason never seem to read?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Valentine's Day is Murder - Review

Valentine's Day is Murder by Carolyn Arnold

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Publisher
Description:  Sara and Sean McKinley are thrilled that their friend Jimmy is giving romance a 2nd chance.  Until the phone call from Jamaica saying that Jimmy has disappeared.  Not only is Jimmy not the type to disappear without saying a word he definitely wouldn't have left his date to pick up the tab.  With the help of their tech savvy employee Adam, Sara and Sean investigate beautiful sunny Jamaica and discover that all is not as it seems in paradise.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: The premise sounded interesting.  How could I resist a mystery set in warm and sunny Jamaica when I'm shivering in January!

My Impression:
Pro: This is my first book by Carolyn Arnold and her writing style drew me in immediately.  While this is the 8th book in the series I didn't feel at a loss to figure out what's going on.  Pretty much the only thing I'm not sure about is what the different companies the McKinley's own are and how they got them.  But since I'm reading about them solving a murder and not investing money with them that didn't bother me too much.  The pacing on the story was fantastic and the character development was just enough.  Arnold did a fabulous job with her 130+ pages and I didn't feel like the plot or character development suffered.  The twists and turns were well done and the reveal was actually a surprise.  Also, Sara and Sean are both former police officers and now run a private investigation business.  The fact that Jimmy's girlfriend called them when he didn't show back up and the fact that they went to Jamaica to investigate made sense and that always makes me happy!

Con:  The dialogue is a little stilted - no one says darling quite that much - but not unreadable.  As well some of the avenues of the investigation weren't as explored as I might have liked but that was most likely a casualty of the length of the book.

Overall:  A fun cozy mystery with likable characters.  The story was action packed yet always clear as to what was going on.  I read this one without any previous knowledge of the series and had absolutely no problems with understanding or enjoying the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I look forward to getting to know Sean and Sara a bit better.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, if you're a cozy reader I think you'd really enjoy this one.  If you've been wanting to read one this might be a good one to try.

Challenges Met? New To Me (Author), Alphabet Soup (V)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If the Viscount Falls - Review

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Twelve years ago Dominick Manton was the 2nd son of a wealthy viscount, set up to study with the barrister of his choosing and engaged to the love of his life, Jane Vernon.  Until the day when it all shatters.  Forced to make a choice between saving his brother's life and keeping his own fortune Dom chooses his brother and loses his fortune and Jane.
Now, Dominick is Viscount Rathmoor, owner of a successful and famous investigative service and determined to get Jane back.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:Sabrina Jeffries is an auto-buy for me.  I love her characters and she tells amazing stories.
My Impression:
Pro: When I start a Sabrina Jeffries book I know I'm in for a great story, well developed and unusual characters, real and intense conflict and a book I just can't stand to put down.  If the Viscount Falls does not disappoint.  In the previous book we learned the full story of Dom's complicated family and how he had always been very close to his illegitimate siblings.  In this book we're able to really focus on Dom and learn what secrets he's hiding.  I liked Dom.  A lot.  He can be authoritative but he's quick thinking and kind hearted so it's okay.  He's been in love with Jane for most of his life and did the best he could when forced into an impossible situation.  He's incredibly loyal to his siblings - Lissette and Tristan and really wants to get the estate back on track for the good of the tenants.  The pacing of this book is great and while I figured out Nancy's secret pretty quickly there's still a lot of mystery.  I also absolutely loved Edwin and hope we get to see more of him.  Jane and Dom's chemistry seemed very authentic.  Despite Dom's tendency towards bossiness and Jane's tendency to get offended by being bossed they actually work very well together.  They both have pretty tragic back stories that make their issues make sense.  Oh and the scene where Dom tells Jane how he got the scar on his face? Tears.

Con: Jane's being so angry at Dom for making her jilt him annoyed me.  She kept saying she could go anywhere as long as they were together but I was fully behind Dom on his decision.  This wouldn't be a case of they'd be living in gentile poverty in a cottage in the country with only one servant.  This was very real poverty in a London slum with no guarantee of improvement.  Dom would have been leaving her alone for days at a time in an area that was very unsafe for a female alone.  While she does say something toward the end that makes me forgive her for the most part I wanted to shake her on that front.

Overall: Once again Jeffries proves why she's one of my favorite historical romance authors.  The characters were flawed and wonderful, the story was gripping and never melodramatic.  If you like historical romances and you haven't read any Sabrina Jeffries you're seriously missing out!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes!  I really don't know why I haven't read all her books as it is.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely but read How The Scoundrel Seduces first.

Challenges Met? Historical Romance, Alphabet Soup (I)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I'd Like to Read with a Book Club

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books I'd Like to Read with a Book Club.  This week's topic really had me thinking.  What makes a good book club book?  And also, what makes a good book club?  I've been a few but they've normally been connected to a Mom's Group I joined when the Tornado was a baby.  They were always a lot of fun but the discussions were very rarely on the book.  I think it'd be really fun to have a book club with some other serious readers.

1.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - I actually did read this for a book club and it was really fun.  The debate was pretty heatedly as some people absolutely hated the ending and some felt that it fit the craziness of the whole book.  I fell in the latter camp.

2.  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - This is a book you want to talk about but can only talk about with people who have actually read the book. I had joined an online bookclub that did this one but I didn't do very well at actually participating so I missed my chance.

3.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - So much to discuss with this one.  What really happened to Rebecca?  Is it possible to feel sympathetic towards her?  Is it possible to not want to shake the narrator and tell her to develop a backbone?

4.  The Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - This is another one that has a lot of discussion points.  I don't want to say to much because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it.  There are a lot of legal and morale arguments that take place in the book,  Also, do you agree with Poirot's decision?

5.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - The main question for this one would be did Agatha cheat?  This was quite a controversial book when it was printed and it'd be interesting to hear what everyone thinks.

6.  The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah - this would be a good one to read with fellow Agatha lovers.  Does it capture Poirot?  How does it compare to Agatha's books? How does it stand on it's own? (I have a review coming out on this one in a few weeks so I'll have my answers there!)

7. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman - a lot of fabulous bookish discussions could come from this one!  How people treat their books.  Who writes in them and who breaks out in hives at the thought?    Really the topics could go on for ages.

8.  A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot - This book made me think a lot about my own family and how secrets and family history affect present day generations.  I think it would lead to interesting discussions.

9.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - This would be a great book for any food themed book club meetings.  Plus you can compare the books to the movies and talk about who is your favorite Willy Wonka.

10. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio - Partly I just love this book but I also think there would be some good discussion points here.  What options could June try to avoid selling the bookstore?  What childhood books are important and how to they stay with us as we grow up.  That kind of thing.

So what makes a good book club book and what would you want to read?

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Rant of Ravens - Review

Amazon link: A Rant of Ravens by Christine Goff
Astor + Blue link A Rant of Ravens

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: publisher

Description:  After her marriage fails New York marketing exec Rachel Stanhope agrees to house-sit her aunt's bird habitat in Colorado.  Between fighting of her aunt's pet bird and tip toeing through the woods looking for a rare bird Rachel unexpectedly stumbles across a dead body.  Even worse it's the body of a man she heard having an argument with just a few days earlier.

Genre: Mystery
Why I Picked This Book:  I thought the premise sound intriguing.  I don't know that much about birdwatching and I like cozies that give me a peek into different hobbies and interests.

My Impression:
Pro:  This was an interesting mystery.  I liked that Rachel was new to the birdwatching and bird rescue field so that we learned along with her.  The information on the birds was fascinating and I frequently found myself looking up different birds to see what they look like.  I don't see myself ever going on a birdwatching expedition but it was interesting all the same.  The mystery was compelling and I definitely kept turning the pages to see what happened next.  There were lots of twists and turns and while I guess the who (I read a lot of mysteries so I'm generally surprised if I DON'T guess the who) but all the whys were interesting.  I'm not normally a big fan of a really hostile character but I thought Gertie was well used.  She obviously detested Rachel and Aunt Miriam but she was used just enough to be almost a devil's advocate and a counter-argument but not used so much that she got annoying.

Con:  While I found all the bird information interesting I got a little restless with the paragraphs about the different legislation. Some of the descriptions got a little detailed and technical.  Also, Rachel's behavior bordered on TSTL.  She confronts people and snoops in places she most definitely shouldn't.

Overall: While not perfect this was an interesting mystery that kept me reading and guessing the outcome.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, I'd like to see what happens to Rachel next.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I think most mystery readers would enjoy this.

Challenges Met? New To Me (Author)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

This Week in Reading - January 25

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week!

What I Got:

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Woolstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon - How could I resist?  2 Women I've heard of but really don't know much about.  (NetGalley)

Then things got a little crazy and I went on a mystery spree and ended up with:

Gilt by Association by Karen Rose Smith - To be honest getting this one is kind of hazy because I was in a requesting daze but it looks good!
Toured to Death by Hy Conrad - I was going to resist this one but than I saw it was written by one of the writers on the TV show Monk and I couldn't resist.
Second Street Station by Lawrence H Levy  - I enjoy historical mysteries with women detectives and this sounds quite interesting.

and a romance/women's fiction:
Hearth Stone by Lois Greiman- this was compared to Susan Wiggs and I love her contemps so I thought I'd give it a try.

all from NetGalley.

I also got 2 cozies in the mail:

Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay - this is the newest in her cupcake series which I enjoy though not as much as her library series.

A High End Finish by Kate Carlisle - I love her bibliophile series so I'm really excited to start her home renovation series.


Reading: The Monogram Murders by Agatha Christe/Sophie Hannah. You know when you read a book and you have a hard time coming up with enough to say in a review?  That won't be the case with this one though so far I am very much enjoying it.  If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries.

Listening: I started listening to Wild by Cheryl Strayed but after a couple of hours decided that Strayed is not for me and moved on to Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain.

Watching: We're changing cable companies and they're coming to do the install on Monday so I'm frantically trying to get all the things on the DVR watched before it goes away. So I'm watching a lot of those true crime shows and the backlog of Sleepy Hollow.

Off the Blog:

We are nailing down Emma's college expenses and it's starting to make my head swim.  I remember with Eleanor how confusing it was the first time so I know that it won't be a big deal next semester but figuring out dorms and meal plans is headache inducing.  Plus, it's becoming real that in August we'll be down to only having 2 kids in the house.

Speaking of schools we're having to make decisions for the Tornado in terms of kindergarten.  I'm so not prepared for this to be happening.  Time just seems to be flying.  At this point we're thinking of keeping him in the school he's in now for Kindergarten.  It's private so it'll be a small class and a shorter day without having to worry about nap time and all that.  However, he'll be at the very good public school for first grade and is it better to have him start there in Kindergarten?  I'm not worried about the academics but more the social aspects.  Of course the Tornado seems to be one of those kids you can pitch into just about any situation and he'll be fine.

No Spend January is still going though we've had a little cheating - I couldn't resist getting a chicken biscuit the other day from a fast food place.  February is going to be a bit stricter.  I'm already working on the list of rules!

Challenge Progress:

So far I'm doing pretty well in keeping up with my challenges!  I decided to add a little section for the last Sunday Post of the month to keep me honest!

This month I've read:
4 out of 14 to 18 books in the Foodie Reads Challenge
1 Library book
3 New to Me Authors
0 Historical Romances
January's Reading Assignment Challenge Book
I've read books that start with C, F, R, J and T
and visited Maine and Colorado in book form.
To see what challenges I'm doing check out my sidebar or visit my Reading Challenge Page

On the Blog:

What Happened This Week:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:A Rant of Ravens Mystery Review 
Tuesday:Top Ten Books I'd Like to Read with a Book Club
Wednesday: TBD though hopefully If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries
Thursday: A Valentine's Day Murder - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Linkups with whichever book I'm reading
Saturday: TBD 

Happy Reading!

A Kitchen in France - A Cookbook Review

A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse by Mimi Thorrisson

This book is huge and absolutely gorgeous.  It took me at least 3 times of flipping through it to actually look at the recipes because of all the stunning photographs.  This would be a book you could leave out and people would happily flip through.  The food is gorgeous, the land and flowers and people are all stunning.  The recipes are divided by season and all have warm and friendly little stories about them and why they're special.

I really really wanted to love this book.  I wanted this book to be one I turn to regularly and is thumbed through and stained due to repeated use.  I wanted the food to be as glorious as it looks and sounds.  But it wasn't.  I really tried.  I tagged all the recipes that looked good and like my family would eat them (the recipe calling for Veal Sweetbreads didn't make the cut) and there was a pretty decent number of recipes and a good variety.  And so I got to cooking.  First there was the Potatoes a la Lyonnaise which were decent but a huge amount of work.  Then their was the Potato Pie with Comte Cheese.  This one smelled divine but the crust was like a cracker and there wasn't enough cook time in the world to actually cook the potatoes through.  Then there was the Garlic Soup.  At this point J is starting to nervously ask me if the meal comes out of "that book".I actually liked the garlic soup and J liked the flavor but the little strands of egg whites were a bit too much of him. The Coq au Vin was the final straw.  I'm a fairly experienced cook and can do some relatively complicated techniques.  I was all right with this one being complicated and time consuming but I"m not all right with it being incomplete.  The ingredients for the broth are completely missing in the ingredient list so I'm guessing on quantities.  What is there is confusing.  In one step it tells you to strain the marinade reserving the liquid and then a few steps down talks about using the solids from the marinade which if I hadn't read the entire recipe through multiple times I probably would've tossed. This isn't the only step like this.  I've read the recipe through multiple times and I'm still not 100% sure what's going to happen next.  At this point I don't care if it's the most amazing mouthful ever I most likely won't be remaking it.

Verdict: If I keep it it will be as a coffee table book not as a cookbook.
*Side note - I did find the ingredient list for the broth.  It was on the other page.  However, I just spent 24 hours on a dish that was merely okay so I'm not feeling much more enthusiastic about the book.

On the positive side here's the recipe for the Garlic Soup which was pretty tasty.  If the egg white texture freaks you out like it did my husband I think you could easily leave it out.

2 T duck fat or Olive Oil (I used olive oil)
1 onion, finely diced
1 whole head of garlic plus 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 T flour
5 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 T olive oil
2 eggs, separated
1 T sherry vinegar (I think I used white wine vinegar)

In a large pot, heat the fat/oil over medium heat.  Cook the onion for 2 minutes.  Add the sliced head of garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes.  Add the flour and stir well, then pour in the chicken stock and bring to a low boil.  Season with salt and pepper, add the thyme sprigs, lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Fry the remaining sliced garlic until golden and slightly crisp, about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towel.  (I skipped this step.  It wasn't that kind of day)
Puree the soup in batches in a blender.  Return the soup to the pot and set over medium heat.  (I used my immersion blender in the pot.  Worked perfectly)
Beat the egg whites in a small bowl and then drizzle, whisking constantly into the soup.  You should see thin strands of egg white form in the soup; immediately remove from the heat.  Whisk the egg yolks with the vinegar in a small bowl, then slowly add a little of the soup whisking constantly.  Add the egg yolk mixture to the soup again whisking constantly to prevent curdling.  (I think you could leave the egg white step out without issue if the idea scares you)
Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with fried garlic and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, if desired.

This was an interesting and unusual soup that was pretty simple to make.  I will probably make this one again though I'll leave out the egg whites.

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Linkups: The Monogram Murders

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

This Week's Blogger Hop Question:
How do you feel when someone continues to put the exact same comment on your blog each week?

My Answer:
This hasn't really happened to me but I don't think it'd bother me too much.  I probably wouldn't spend much time on my response though.

This week's book is The Monogram Murders featuring Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot by Sophie Hannah.  So far I'm enjoying it as long as I'm not comparing it to Christie.

The Beginning:
""All's I'm saying, is I don't like her," the waitress with the flyaway hair whispered.  It was a loud whisper, easily overheard by the solitary customer in Pleasant's Coffee House"

My thoughts:
I'm intrigued by who "her" is and what's so unlikable!

The 56
"Did the killer arrive at the Bloxham with a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream in his hand, as well as a pocket full of monogrammed cufflinks and poison? It seemed far-fetched"

My thoughts:
I love the sarcastic tone of this line.  It definitely sounds a bit far-fetched.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper - Blog Tour Review

The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper by Sally Carpenter

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  Former teen idol, Sandy Fairfax, is hoping to rebuild his career as a performer on a cruise ship, the SS Zodiac. His main concern is making peace with his sister,Celeste, who is also a musician and who he has talked into performing with him.  But plans when he stumbles on a dead body in his dressing room and when someone objects to him nosing around it could have dangerous consequences.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: A murder on a cruise ship sounded fun and I'm not sure I've read a book that takes place on one before.

My Impression:
Pro: I really liked the Sandy Fairfax/Ernest Farmington character.  He was very flawed, sometimes obnoxious but also genuinely nice.  He came across as a very real character who was honest with himself about the highs and lows of being a former celebrity.  I loved the cruise ship setting and the behind the scenes look that we as readers got through Sandy.  I liked the relationship between Sandy and his sister as well as between Sandy and his fan club.  The mystery itself is well done and well paced.  While I had some hints as to the who it was still interesting to get there.

Con: One of the things that annoys me frequently in cozy mysteries is the amateur detective and Sandy is definitely an amateur detective.  He asks questions from people who have no reason to answer him and sticks his nose where it doesn't belong regardless of personal risk and requests of law enforcement.

Overall: This is definitely a cozy with the amateur detective, a cast of somewhat over the top characters and mostly off screen violence.  While it wasn't perfect it was an entertaining read .  It is the 3rd in the series it can easily be read as a standalone.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would.  This isn't an auto-buy series for me but I enjoyed this one enough that I would read others if the plot intrigued me.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I think cozy lovers would enjoy this one.  It's definitely a unique premise.

Challenges Met?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

City of Blood - Blog Tour Review

Author Frédérique Molay on Tour January 15 – February 3 with

The City of Blood

[police procedural / thriller] (translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman) Release date: January 20, 2015 at Le French Book 212 pages ISBN: 978-1939474186 Website | Goodreads ***


When a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky and his team of elite crime fighters rush to La Villette park and museum complex. There, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art, twenty-seven years after burying the leftovers of a banquet. In front of reporters from around the world, excavators uncover a skeleton. Could it be the artist’s own son? And does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”? On the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses, the investigation takes Nico and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who has turned this Paris park into a city of blood. [provided by the publisher] ***


I loved the concept of this book.  An art exhibit that is buried to be dug up 30 years later with great fanfare?  That's brilliant and then when a skeleton is discovered in the remains of the buried art exhibit during the very public exhumation of that exhibit?  Also brilliant!  Now Nico and his colleagues have a 30 year old murder to investigate but are shocked when a recent series of murdes seem to have a tie in to the skeleton.  

While the murders are very brutal and everything is clearly dealt with there's a distance to the book itself that will keep you turning pages but won't give you nightmares.  The writing style approaches the murders from almost an academic perspective even though everyone is involved is very motivated to solve the murders.  The book reminded me very much of early Aaron Elkins books which I gobbled up by the handful years ago.

It was fascinating to get a look into the French legal system, attitudes on art, on homosexual lifestyles, and just day to day life in Paris.  There's a subplot with Nico's mother that I ordinarily would object to but the author did a fantastic job tying in to Nico's motivations to solving the murders.  

My only complaint is that it was a little hard to keep the characters straight but I suspect that it is because I'm starting the series on the 3rd book.  I think I would've enjoyed it more if I'd started at the beginning.  

If you're looking for an unusual mystery with interesting characters than The City of Blood is not one to pass up!


Frederique MolayCalled, “the French Michael Connelly,” Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. She worked as chief of staff for the deputy mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and then was elected to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. The first in the Paris Homicide series, The 7th Woman, won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award and went on to become an international bestseller, allowing Molay to dedicate her life to writing and raising her three children.
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Jeffrey Zuckerman was born in the Midwest and lives in New York. He has worked as an editorial assistant, a lifeguard, and a psychology researcher. Now an editor for Music and Literature Magazine, he also freelances for several companies, ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to old-fashioned book publishing. He holds a degree in English with honors from Yale University, where he studied English literature, creative writing, and translation.
Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] International giveaway: US residents: print or digital copy Other residents: digital copy 8 winners


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Random Books from my Shelves

Today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie so I decided to visit my dusty shelves and list the top ten books that catch my eye.  My bookshelves are overflowing but regularly get ignored in favor of new shiny releases or ARCs.  After my recent visit I'm definitely going to have to start getting more use out of them.  It was hard to narrow it down to 10!

1.  All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge by Kee Malesky - I first heard about this book in an interview on NPR.  Malesky is a librarian at NPR and is in charge of answering pretty much every question that comes up.

2.  The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey - City dweller Kate is ready to put down roots when she marries Joe Krause and moves to a small farming town in Iowa.  She's not expecting just how hard it will be - between the work, the mother-in-law she was unaware that she would be living with and long hidden secrets.

3.  The 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames - When recently divorced Agatha Christie needed a vacation she found herself traveling on the Orient Express.  In this look at the writing of one of her most famous books Eames merges biography with travel adventure!

4.  Hats and Eyeglasses by Martha Frankel - Frankel's memoir about growing up in a family of gamblers.  It looks both funny and heartwarming.

5.  Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey - In 1935 a young mother wrote a letter to a magazine expressing frustration and asking for help.  Dozens of women wrote back.  This is a collection of their letters and personal stories.

6.  Cheerful Money by Tad Friend - A look into the family secrets of the author's illustrious family.  I love family secrets!

7.  Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay - This is the first in the newest series from McKinlay.  Florida resident Scarlett Parker leaves her life behind her to move to London and work in a hatshop with her cousin, Vivian Tremont.  The future looks bright on arrival except that Vivian seems to be missing and a client has been murdered and wearing a custom made cloche hat.

8.  Mind Over Murder by Allison Kinglsey - Ana Jordan has made no secret of her feelings about The Raven's Nest Bookstore so when she's found murdered by an Edgar Allan Poe bust it's up to cousins and bookstore owners Clara and Stephanie Quinn to find out what happened.

9.  When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton - Dressmaker Annabelle Honeycote overhears the steamiest of secrets and has no problem using them to her own advantage as long as she follows her own rules of course.  Until she runs into Owen Shelbourne, Duke of Huntford.

10.  The Murders of Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Beal by Jill McGown - Two murders and two very complicated victims.  It's up to newly promoted DI Judy Hill and DCI Lloyd to sort it all out.

What fascinating books are collecting dust on your shelves?  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jaded - Review

Jaded (Nirvana series 1) by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Source: Provided by author

Description:  Sixteen year old Jade is content living in Nirvana dealing with her feelings for her best friend Ty and trying to decide which parent's life path she wants to follow.  That is until her Grandmother Ruby dies and leaves Jade a diary containing secrets she wishes she didn't know.  Now Jade is faced with a crushing decision - Go and leave everyone she's ever known and risk exile and blindness or stay and live a lie.

Genre: Ya/SciFi

Why I Picked This Book:I'm trying to read more outside my standard genres and I liked the mystery mixed with the SciFi.  Plus I had enjoyed a short story collection (In Death) by this author.

My Impression:
Pro:  I liked how Gillespie fleshed out Nirvana.  I really could visualize what the compound looked like.  It's well drawn with just enough characters to really bring it to life but not so many that it's impossible to keep them straight.  The rules of Nirvana were interesting and laid out nicely.  I found the whole issue with children and life paths interesting and gave a real reason for Jade to feel torn.  When Jade is faced with a very serious life and death decision I thought she behaved very realistically - at times wishing she didn't know what was really going on.  There's some interesting twists and turns and I definitely wanted to keep reading to see where the story was going.  Jade is a sympathetic and interesting character as are her parents, Peaches and Ty.

Con:  I got a bit impatient during the last 1/3 of the book.  While I appreciated how difficult the decision was I wanted steps to start being taken one way or the other.  This led to a little too much dialogue with friends and family as well as internally.

Overall: This was an interesting read and while not quite my usual reading I still enjoyed it.  This is definitely the first book in the series.  While the ending wasn't necessarily a cliffhanger we're left with a lot of questions.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, while not my favorite genre, I'm curious to see what happens with Jade and her friends and family.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, especially if you enjoy YA and dystopian-type books.

Challenges Met? Alphabet Soup (J)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Week in Reading - January 18

It's Sunday Post time!  Hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all to recap our week!

What I Got

Recipes for a Beautiful Life by Rebecca Barry - The blurb on this one really grabbed me. The house needs work, the bills need to be paid and will the children ever eat anything other than peanut butter and cake?  This is published in April and it sounds like good spring reading. (NetGalley)

The Dead Play On by Heather Graham - It's Heather Graham and set in New Orleans.  I can only resist so much! (NetGalley)

Valentine's Day is Murder by Carolyn Arnold - It's a Valentine's Day themed cozy that sounds really fun! (from the publisher)

Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach - This is the next book from the author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The plot sounds like something right up my alley -and there's a house being restored!  (from the publisher)

Death in a Dacron Sail by N.A. Granger - The 2nd book in a cozy series set in Maine. I read the first few pages right after downloading it and I'm excited to see where the story goes.  So far there's a finger in a lobster trap! (from the author)

The Monogram Murders by Agatha Christie/Sophie Hannah - I don't want to talk about it.  It just jumped in my bag when I was picking out books for the Tornado. (Library)


Reading: The City of Blood by Frederique Molay and Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

Listening: I'm almost done with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and plan on starting Wild by Cheryl Strayed in the next couple of days.

Watching:  So after being bereft that The Great American Bake-Off didn't happen this summer I was thrilled to discover that PBS is playing The Great British Bake-Off. I'm loving it!  One of the hosts is off the show The Supersizers Go which J and I loved.  I'm now on the hunt for a Mary Berry cookbook.  J and I are watching Worst Cooks of American which is always entertaining.  I've developed a new appreciation for Tyler Florence.  He's hilarious in this.  

Off the Blog:

No Spend January is still going well.  We did cheat a little bit and went out to lunch on Saturday but other than that we've been pretty good.  We're watching some of the movies we either own or have on Amazon or Netflix and have been meaning to watch and have been tackling some projects that had been getting put off.  Part of my New Year's resolutions this year was to actually use my Pinterest account and I've been doing one new pin a week.  So far I've done 2 cleaning pins and this coming week I'm making Apple Cider Donut Cake.  I'm really looking forward to it!

We're looking at changing cable companies because the one we've had for ages has been slowly raising our bill and in the final straw they dropped BBC America.  The other one that services our area has a data cap on their internet.  Does anyone else have one?  How much data do you find yourself using?  The starter package is for 350 GB/month but they go up to 1000 GB/month. I'm just not sure!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

Saturday: Relish - Review

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Jaded (a SciFi YA novel) - Review
Tuesday: Top Ten List which is a freebie this week!
Wednesday: City of Blood - Blog Tour Review
Thursday: Cunning Cruise Ship Caper - Blog Tour Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with whatever book I'm reading
Saturday: Kitchen in France - Cookbook Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Relish - Review

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Library

Description:  In this graphic novel Lucy Knisley tells the story of her upbringing with food loving parents.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I really hadn't enjoyed Knisley's book French Milk but everyone was raving about this one.  When I saw Trish's review of it and she mentioned that fact that she hadn't loved French Milk either I figured it was worth a try.

My Impression:
So despite the good reviews my expectations were pretty low going into this.  I had found French Milk pointless so I didn't expect this one to change my mind.  Except that it was kind of awesome.  Once I got used to the format - which did take several pages - I was caught up in the quirkiness of the story.
In graphic novel form Lucy tells the story of her parents and growing up in a household obsessed with food.  I think I really started enjoying this book when Lucy and her mother moved to upstate New York after her parents' divorce.  For a kid born in Manhattan country living took some getting used too.  When Lucy called herself a brat for her behavior on a trip to Italy with her father I laughed and liked her just a little bit more.  The descriptions of food are mouthwatering and made me long to hurry to the nearest cheese counter.  The stories are funny and range from coming of age to random but are all food related.  I enjoyed this one as much as I was apathetic about her previous book.
She included recipes at the end of each chapter which were very clear.  The cookies and carbonara have both been calling my name and if it was summer I'd already have made the pesto.

If you love food books but are iffy on graphic novels this is one to try.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would definitely be interested.  While I won't be clearing out the graphic novel section of my local library I'll be more open minded about trying them.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, though give a few pages so that you get used to the format.

Challenges Met? Alphabet Soup (R), Foodie Reads, Library Challenge

This post is being linked up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Linkups: Jaded

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

This Week's Blogger Hop Question:
Do you feel comfortable enough approaching a stranger when you see he/she is reading a book to ask what they are reading?

My Answer:
I probably wouldn't go up and ask a total stranger what they're reading but if they're reading a print book I definitely try and check out the cover and sometimes not so subtly!

This week's book is Jaded by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie.  This was kindly sent by the author along with a short story collection last year.  I really enjoyed her short story collection - In Death - and I though this YA SciFi would be perfect after all the holiday romances I've been reading lately.

The Beginning:
"My heart is frost bitten.  The ache in my chest is so pronounced it hurts to breathe."

My thoughts:
I like the imagery that Gillespie conjures up with these words.  The setting just seems so cold and bleak and I know just how she feels.

The 56 (well kind of.  Taken from 11% which is approximately page 56);
"And of course the guards are still here.  Some will remain at Samsara and others will accompany Rust and Saffron at the cemetery."

My thoughts:
I'm still seeing a very cold and bleak world here.  I'm wondering why there are guards and why it's so accepted that they're there.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Teardrop Lane - Review

Teardrop Lane: An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March

Rating:4 Stars
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Town physician Rose Anderson has put her personal life on the back burner and her love life in the freezer after a disastrous past relationship.  But she's intrigued when glass artist Hunter Cicero comes to town trying to manage his late sister's children.
Hunter Cicero has always focused far more on his art than his personal life but when his sister's death leaves him trying to help her four children he finds himself focusing far more on his personal life.  And finds himself intrigued by the kind and lovely Dr. Rose.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book: I really enjoyed the previous book in the series that I read - Dreamweaver Trail - and was excited to see Cicero's story.

My Impression:
Pro: I love Eternity Springs and was really excited that almost the entire book was set there.  The town is a pretty town with the slightest hint that miracles can happen.  It was nice seeing Gabi and Flynn from Dreamweaver Trail but this book easily reads as a stand alone.  I like that while Cicero is actually a nice guy he does have an artistic temperament and that he and Rose have to work out a balance with dealing with it.  Both Rose and Cicero have some pretty serious baggage but I think it helps them understand each other a bit.  The children seemed a bit overdone at first but became realistic especially considering the upheaval in their lives.  I thought Misty especially was a very authentic character.  She tries so hard to be good and helpful but is also a little angry and under it all is a 9 year old girl.  The heat is on the low side - not quite fade to black but pretty close.  I thought that worked with the overall tone of the book as an explicit scene would feel a bit out of nowhere.

Con:  While I loved meeting Rose and seeing Cicero as more human than he was in Dreamweaver Trail a lot of drama happened.  It wasn't quite as dramatic (or violent) as it had been in the previous book but this couple has to go through a lot.  Even though I enjoyed the read I think several of the twists could have been taken out and it wouldn't have hurt the reading experience.

Overall:  This is a lovely book filled with truly nice people in a beautiful little town.  It's isn't a light easy contemporary but it's a compelling read.  Just don't start it when you have to be up early the next morning.  I kept turning pages far to late because I was anxious to find out about what happened to the characters.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Definitely!  I've already know who I hope the next book will be about.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes.  If you like contemporaries but don't want just fluff than this is a good choice.

Challenges Met?  Reading Road Trip (Colorado)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Fifty Year Silence - Review

A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  As a child Miranda's grandparents seemed so unalike and so distant that she was shocked to learn that they had once been married.  As she gets older and gets to know her grandfather more she becomes fascinated by their story.  What happened to them?  What were they like as a couple and what does a ruined house in France have to do with it all?

Genre: NonFiction

Why I Picked This Book: I'm fascinated by family secrets and the lives of regular people in history.

My Impression:
Pro:  I think going in I was expecting a simpler book.  The story of her grandparents - what they went through and what ultimately caused their parting of ways.  But this is a story about real people and so of course it's never simple.  While we do get the story of Anna and Armand we get the story of Miranda as well.  How her family past influences her present and her future.  How the ghosts and the weight of their history affects her choices.  We see the story unfolding through her eyes and through her pace.  It's organized not chronologically the way it happened but chronologically the way she uncovered it.  While that didn't make for the most coherent story of the past it really made me understand who Anna, Armand and Miranda are now and it made me think quite a bit about my own family and the secrets that are hiding back through the generations.  On a side note - there are a handful of pictures scattered throughout the book but they work very well in e-book format.

Con: I would have liked some clarification on the background of both her grandparents.  They were in France during World War 2 and Armand is originally from Switzerland but I'm not 100% clear on Anna's heritage.  There were hints that she was Romanian but that part was a little too vague for my list making little brain.  This did get clearer but only at the end.  While in general I enjoyed how the story unraveled I think I would've enjoyed it more if this had been nailed down a bit more.

Overall:  I think anyone interested in the history of ordinary people would enjoy this.  While I enjoyed the read all the way through I didn't realize until the end what a truly powerful story this really is. I felt the heartbreak of it for days. It's a unique style of narration and interesting look into people who lost the right to be ordinary.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, though not necessarily an auto-buy.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes.  I think history lovers would find this interesting.

Challenges Met? Alphabet Soup (F), New to Me (Author)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read but Didn't Get To.  I believe the expression that would describe my list for this is - a hole with no bottom.  There's so many great books I really wanted to get to but just haven't yet!

1.  So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan (pub. September 9, 2014) - I love books about books and this book on why The Great Gatsby went from popular novel to the enduring classic it is today sounds fascinating.

2.  It's in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis (pub. August 26, 2014) - I was literally checking NetGalley every few minutes to see if this request had gone through for DAYS.  This was in August.  I have the next 2 as well and haven't read them either.  I have no explanation for this except maybe not wanting the series to end?

3.  The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow (pub. August 28, 2014)- The Forgotten Seamstress made my list of favorite reads from 2014.  Obviously I was excited to get my hands on her next book.  This was in August.

4.  Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King (pub. December 30, 2014) - It's a murder in a book club.  How did I not read this?  Though this one isn't super late so I'm not sure if it counts as "missed" yet.

5.  The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate (pub. November 4, 2014) - When I looked at my November schedule the second book in the Garden Plot series was one I could not miss.  Except it's January and I did.

6.  How to Ruin a Queen by Jonathan Beckman (pub. September 2, 2014) - I've been fascinated about the story of Marie Antoinette and the diamond necklace for years though I know almost nothing about other than it didn't end well.

7.  Silent Witness by Nigel McCrery (pub. September 1, 2014) - This is a nonfiction about forensics which is one of the most fascinating subjects ever for me.

8.  Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn (pub. September 30, 2014) - a book from one of my absolute favorite authors set in one of my favorite time periods with excellent reviews.  It's been sitting on my Kindle untouched since August.

9.  Secrets of Hallstead House by Amy Reade (pub. July 17, 2014) - I have no idea why I haven't gotten to this bit of gothic-y goodness.

10. No River to Wide by Emilie Richards (pub. June 24, 2014) - Another book by one of my favorite authors that has been sitting on my Kindle for months.  No idea what happened or how I didn't get to this one!

So what books were you excited for 2014 that just didn't quite get read?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Review

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Source: Loaned from a friend
Description:  Charlie Bucket is barely scraping by eating a diet of cabbage soup with a bar of chocolate once a year on his birthday.  When the announcement that reclusive chocolate factory owner is going to let five children tour the factory if they find a golden ticket Charlie barely dares to hope.  But with the help of Grandpa Joe Charlie's dream (and more!) come true!

Genre: Children's

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed the movies and always meant to read the book but somehow never did

My Impression:
Pro: When I first picked up the book I thought how can this little book have all the weird and wonderful imagery of the movies?  But it really did!  Augustus Goop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beuregarde and Mike Teavee are really just as awful as possible.  Willy Wonka is eccentric and the Oompa Loompas are vividly drawn even though their only lines are songs inspired by the misbehaving children.  The sketches really add to the overall feel of the book.  This is a super quick read and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  Dahl's world is wonderfully weird and one that was fun to visit.

Con:  This isn't really the book's fault but I found that the movies are so ingrained in my head and the story is so vivid that I was constantly comparing the book to the movie.

Overall:  I really enjoyed this one though I do wish I had discovered it before I watched the movies.  I'm looking forward to reading it aloud to the Tornado in the next year or two as I think he'll really love it.  If you haven't read it yet you really should just be sure to have some chocolate ready for when you finish!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I'm already planning on searching the library for Charlie and the Glass Elevator next time I'm there

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!

Challenges Met?: Alphabet Soup (C), The Reading Assignment, Classics Club, Foodie Reads

Saturday, January 10, 2015

This Week in Reading - January 11

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives everyone a chance to recap their week.

What I Got:

A Kitchen in France:  A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson - This book is massive and absolutely gorgeous.  It's basically a coffee table book with recipes.  I haven't had a chance to really look at the recipes here but I loved that they're divided up by season. I saw some delicious looking soups in the winter chapter.

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan - I discovered Sarah Morgan last summer and then went on to finish off the O'Neal series in a matter of months.  I'm still a little sad that that series is over but I have high hopes for this one set in a small town.

Death of a Liar by M.C. Beaton - I'm undecided how I feel about Beaton - especially her Hamish Macbeth books but I can't stop reading them!


Reading: Teardrop Lane by Emily March and Relish by Lucy Knisley

Listening: I finished Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan and am now listening to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  Next up I think will be Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Watching:  Finally had time to sit and watch the Christmas special of Doctor Who and I will never sleep again.  Other than that J and I have been enjoying The Taste.  We watched Jack Ryan the other day on Netflix and really enjoyed it.  It's an action movie but a lot of fun.

Off the Blog:

After reading Living Well Spending Less I have pronounced this month No Spend January.  I think J is hoping I won't be reviewing anymore self help books anytime soon. Because we're staying home more we've been watching more movies off Netflix or Amazon which has been really fun.  And I've been cooking more so I'm trying out my Pinterest boards more often.. I'm enjoying actually doing all the things we never get time to because we're always rushing around. So far the only real challenge is not stopping at the Vietnamese sub shop down the street for bubble tea or one of their amazing sandwiches.  So far I've held strong!

School has started back for everyone though it's hard to take Emma's schedule seriously.  She doesn't have to show up until 11:30 and is only there a few hours.  Other than that life is back to normal which is nice after the craziness that was last month.  The Tornado is almost back to being on his regular sleep schedule which improves his behavior immensely.

I haven't had nearly as much time to read as I've wanted so I'm starting to feel behind.  Luckily I am building a stack of reviews for books off the TBR shelf so that should help some with keeping up my resolution and keep the panic reading at bay.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Review
Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Didn't Get To
Wednesday: A Fifty Year Silence Review
Thursday: TBD Review
Friday: My Regular linkups with whatever book I'm reading
Saturday: Relish Review

Happy Reading!

Home for Dinner - Review

Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids by Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D.

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: NetGalley
Description:  The benefits for family dinners seem to be what everyone is talking about right now.  Family therapist Anne Fishel breaks down the benefits and provides tips to make the act of getting everyone to the table possible and more stress-free.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  To be honest I didn't fully read the blurb so I was under the impression that this was more of a weeknight meals cookbook with conversation tips.

My Impression:

My Thoughts: We're big believers in eating dinner together but it can be challenging.  With 4 kids and 3 close together in age it seemed like for years someone had something every night and that was with us limiting the number of activities they could sign up for.  There was a lot of juggling, a lot of planning (every Thursday was slow cooker meal night for YEARS), and some crazy late dinners but for the most part we ate dinner pretty much every night together.  Even now with Eleanor at college and Emma barely here and a revolving door of their friends who show up to be fed we still eat dinner together most nights.  At 6 (ish) whoever is here sits down to dinner.  Sometimes it's just J, the Tornado and myself and sometimes we're trying to see how many extra chairs we can squeeze around the table.  After reading this book I interrogated Emma (I'd interrogate Paul but teenage boys aren't the most observant and he'd just stare at me blankly) about how many of her friends eat with their families.  It seems to be split.  For some of her friends family dinner is pretty normal though it does seem that it is more frequent with families where 1 parent is at home.  For others it never happens.  For those that don't it was a mix of everyone on their own and 1 person would prepare something or pick something up and then everyone would go to their own rooms to eat at whatever time they felt like eating.  Now most of Emma's friends are 17 or 18 so they're perfectly capable of using an oven.  I don't know how things were handled when the kids were younger.  She did say that all of her friends who came over who didn't eat with their families always commented on how we eat together and in a positive way.

Pro: Obviously I'm not a new convert to the eating dinner together thing so I went in agreeing with her overall point.  I loved how she talked about statistics. Eating dinner together causes countless benefits but she discusses the sample sizes of the studies and that dinner doesn't exist in a vacuum.  There are other things going on in the family other than that they shovel chicken into their mouth while sitting across from each other.  I liked that she addressed this point and even talks about starting with dinner and essentially "fake it till you make it".  She broke her ideas down by age group which was useful as eating dinner with an 11 year old offers different challenges from eating with a 4 year old.  She even talked about eating together once the children have left which isn't something I'd actually thought about.  Fishel covers a wide range of topics from how to get your family to eat and talk as well as situations she dealt with in her family therapy practice.  I really appreciated that her attitude isn't "This is what we do and and if you don't you're wrong" but instead offered examples and stressed finding what works best for your family.  There's plenty of tips for those that already eat together and lots of good ideas for those that are trying to work towards that.

Con: This is a pretty dense book.  There's a lot of information and while she does a good job mixing in personal stories it still reads like a textbook in part.  The handful of recipes that were included weren't something I can see my family eating.  While dumplings - particularly as a group activity for making dinner - sound like a lot of fun I think my family would mutiny.  Obviously, this is strictly personal as your family may be willing to eat interesting foods.

Overall:  While definitely not a cookbook there is a lot of useful information in here about how to get your family sitting for a meal and enjoying each other's company.  While there is a certain textbook feel it never felt like Fishel was preaching or saying "You must do it my way."  This is definitely an interesting read for families of any age.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely.  I really liked how she made her points.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes.  I think this would be a good resource for any family.

Challenges Met?  Foodie Reads