Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Week in Reading - January 31

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:

Shadow of a Spout by Amanda Cooper - I love the idea for this series and this 2nd book sounds really fun! It makes me want to go buy teapots! (Paperbackswap)


Reading: Murder on Wheels by Lynn Cahoon and The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Listening: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Watching: Obsessively watching Top Chef!  I love Richard Blais!

Off the Blog:

I'm procrastinated on getting this done this week and today is mine and J's anniversary (13 years!) and we're going to be out and about today.  Hope everyone has a great week!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Star of Fortune - Contemporary Romance Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Historical Settings I Love
Wednesday: A Disguise to Die For - Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Review + Giveaway
Thursday: Beyond the Books: Parenting Tips
Friday: Friday Linkups with excerpt from current book
Saturday: Murder on Wheels Blog Tour Review + Giveaway

Have a great week and happy reading!

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - January Edition

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.
Right now I have around 9,600 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.

Week 1

The PinForgotten Laundry from A Slob Comes Clean
Reason Picked:  I have a fuzzy sock obsession and some had stayed in the washing machine a bit too long and I just couldn't get rid of the stale scent.
The Basic Idea:  Add vinegar to the machine when I was them
The Results: At first I was a bit underwhelmed because while the smell was better it wasn't entirely gone BUT it did disappear completely the next time I washed the socks.  I had washed them multiple times before and the scent hadn't budged so I'm calling this a success!  Not to mention it's super easy and I always have vinegar on hand.

Week 2:

The PinHow to Polish a Stainless Steel Sink with Flour from The Kitchen
Reason Picked: I wanted my sink to be shinier
The Basic Idea: Pour a little bit of flour into the sink and buff the stainless steel surface
The Results  Maybe my sink wasn't dirty enough but I really couldn't tell a difference except for the fact I had flour gummed up in the drain.

Week 3:

The Pin:Cream Cheese Filled Crumb Muffins from Lauren's Latest
Reason Picked:  I love all things cream cheese
The Basic Idea: This is a cinnamon muffin with a cheese cake type cream cheese filling with a delicious crumb topping
The Results:  So so so so good!  They're a little tricky as you have to make the batter, the filling and the topping but the results are worth it.  I used 2 heaping tablespoons of batter for the first layer and I think next time I would use less because I barely had enough batter to cover the filling.  It still tasted amazing but wasn't quite as pretty.

Week 4:

The PinHoney Mustard Pork Scallopini from Full Bellies, Happy Kids
Reason Picked: I like pork dishes but for some reason I hadn't tried this one yet
The Basic Idea: A thinly pounded pork loin brushed with honey mustard, breaded and lightly panned fried.
The Results:  Meh not great.  I didn't love the flavor and most of the breading slid off even after I increased the amount of oil in the pan.  I've made other pork scallopini dishes that were more successful so I'll stick with those.

Week 5:

The PinCopycat Zax Sauce from Domestic Superhero
Reason Picked: I've been craving Zax sauce but am trying to cut down on eating out which means no Zaxbys.
The Basic Idea: If you're very unlucky and have never eaten at Zaxbys Zax sauce is this tasty peppery sauce that they give you to dunk the chicken in.  It also works for french fries, bread, and probably the napkins as well.
The Results:  It was good though I'm not sure it's quite as good as Zax sauce.  It also comes together really easily and contained ingredients that I always have on hand.  I'll definitely be making this sauce anytime I'm making my own chicken fingers.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Linkups: Lockwood and Co. The Screaming Staircase

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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Can you pass by a bookstore without stopping in?

My Answer:
Actually yes!  I'm not a huge book buyer and then kind of lock up when I'm in a bookstore because I have so many books to read I feel guilty.  The library is a whole other story though and I can do serious damage in a used bookstore.

This week's book is Lockwood& Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.  This has been on my radar for awhile as I love Middle Grade mystery/adventure series and this one looks really interesting.  The final push for me to actually pick this one up is that this week my favorite podcast, Super Serials, talked about this one and I thought it would be the perfect time to pull this one off the TBR!

The Beginning:
Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.

My Thoughts:
I like the sound of the narrator in this first sentence.  There's a little bit of humor and it definitely sets the stage for a pretty dramatic story!

The 56: 
But it was a decade or so later that a bloody series of cases, such as the Highgate Terror and the Mud Lane Phantom, attracted serious attention.

My Thoughts:
I'm seriously intrigued.  I like the sound of all these cases with lots of drama and mayhem!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Spring at Moss Hill - Review

The Spring at Moss Hill (Swift River Valley) by Carla Neggers
Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Kylie Shaw has found a home and a quiet place to work as an illustrator of children's books in little Knights Bridge, Massachusetts.  No one seems to know her here - and she likes it that way.  She carefully guards her privacy in the refurbished nineteenth-century hat factory where she has a loft.  And then California private investigator Russ Colton moves in.  Russ is in Knights Bridge to keep his client and friend, eccentric Hollywood costume designer Daphne Stewart, out of trouble.  Keeping tabs on Daphne while she considers starting a small children's theater in town doesn't seem like a tough job until he runs into Kylie.  Her opposition to converting part of the old hat factory into a theater is a challenge.  But his bigger challenge is getting Kylie to let loose a little... like the adventurous characters she depicts in her work.  Kylie and Russ have more in common than they or anyone else would ever expect.  They're both looking for a place to belong, and if they're able to let go of past mistakes and learn to trust again, they might just find what they need in Knights Bridge...and each other.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I've really enjoyed the past books in this series and how can I resist a main character who illustrates children's books and lives in a hat factory?

My Impression:  I always love a visit to Knights Bridge but I do have to say that this one wasn't my favorite.  My primary problem was that secret that Kylie was keeping just didn't seem that big of a deal.  I can get why she didn't want to advertise who she was but I had a hard time understanding her level of worry about being discovered.  I kept expecting there to be a crazed stalker or something in her past but there wasn't.   I was also surprised with how much of an impact some rumors about faulty construction on Moss Hill had.  Both the contractor and the architect are trusted members in Knights Bridge and they were both confident in the solidness of the building but we seemed to spend a lot of time on Ruby's worries about the building and that would impact the class she had scheduled with Daphne Stewart.  Ruby herself needs to learn yoga breathing or something.  I get that she's young but she's also incredibly wound up and at times just rude - especially to Kylie who she doesn't even really know.
But there was a lot I enjoyed in this story as well.  Kylie is an interesting character and I loved seeing her process for her work.  It was good to see her allow herself to have fun and become more involved in the community.  I liked Russ' character as well and I liked how he handled his discovery of Kylie's secret.  They're both pretty closed off private people so watching them get to know each other was really lovely.  I also liked catching up with the O'Dunn clan - especially the mother who I haven't seen much of in awhile.
As I have come to expect from this series Carla Negger's writing is immediately engaging and the world of Knights Bridge is beautifully drawn.  I liked seeing a bit more of Dylan and Olivia and I really like both the characters.  It was also nice to catch up with Julius and Loretta and Daphne is always entertaining.  Even though this wasn't a favorite I still enjoyed reading it and will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series!
While both characters are new to the town there is a lot of discussion about Daphne and her costumes so if you're interested in reading this I definitely recommend reading That Night on Thistle Lane first.  It's a wonderful story in it's own right and will clear up the hows and whys of who Daphne is and the rest of the details.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I thoroughly enjoy all my visits to Knights Bridge

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction I think you'd enjoy this series though I recommend starting at the beginning of the series or at least with That Night on Thistle Lane.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Agatha Christie - Poirot Part 3

Murder on the Orient Express/Murder in the Calais Coach (1934) - 

This is definitely one of her best know books and has been the subject of at least 2 movies and a PC game (which was really fun).  This mystery deserves it's fame and is one of the ones Agatha clearly toys with the idea of what justice really is.  This mystery is incredibly detailed making rereads almost mandatory as with each read through I pick up something new. 5 Stars

Murder in Three Acts/Three Act Tragedy (1935)

- I loved how this is set up into almost a play format with three very distinct acts.  The characters are all very interesting and the pacing was fantastic.  Poirot is more of a puppet master than usual in this story and I love his interactions with Egg.  This also might have the best final line of any Agatha mystery ever.  4 Stars

Death in the Clouds/Death in the Air (1935)

Agatha takes the classic locked room mystery to the sky in this book where a respected and feared money lender is murdered on a plane somewhere between France and England.  Thankfully, Poirot is on board!  Air travel has changed so much since 1935 that the descriptions give this book a wonderful vintage feel.  I also liked adventure loving Jane and her developing relationships with dentist Norman Gale and archaeologist Jean Dupont.  While the solution makes sense I do question how many hints Agatha gives the reader.  Even knowing the solution in the reread I didn't see anything that pointed in the correct direction.  4 Stars

The A.B.C. Murders (1936)- 

It starts with a letter to Hercule Poirot signed A.B.C. stating that a murder will happen in Andover on a specific date and when a Mrs. Ascher is murdered on the designated date a search begins for an alphabet obsessed killer.  In this book Christie shows once again that she is a master of making the complicated simple and the simple oh so complicated and nothing is as it seems.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this one and even knowing how things were going to work out I couldn't put it down!  5 Stars

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Will Read This Year No Matter What

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish is actually a freebie so I'm making a list of 10 books that I absolutely must read this year!  Last year I did a lot of "safe" reading.  I didn't really go outside a few genres or topics and while I enjoyed most of the books I read there aren't all that many standouts.  This year I'd really like to push my genre boundaries a bit more.  I don't necessarily want to avoid all my usual genres but more read some that I don't usually read and read more books out of genres I really neglected last year (especially middle grade and historical romance).

1.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer - Seriously this will happen.  I've been wanting to read this one for ages and with Winter coming out a few months ago now is the time!  I've heard great things about the audio so I may go that route.

2.  The Lake House by Kate Morton - I read and loved The Forgotten Garden a few years ago and swore I was going to go read Morton's other books.

3.  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - This is another series I've heard lots about and an author I know a lot of people really love.   I want to read/listen to this book soon.

4.  Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards - I've had this middle grade magical tale about a deserted cottage on my shelf for years.  Plus, it's by THE Julie Andrews which makes me even more curious!

5.  When the Marquis Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke - Laura Lee Guhrke is one of my favorite romance authors and this is the 1st book in her latest series.  Last year I read 1 new historical romance and had 2 rereads.  It's definitely a genre I'd like to spend more time with.

6.  The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan - Because I'm just about the only person in the world who has yet to read Riordan.

7.  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - This is on both my "Classics" list and "Authors I Can't Believe I Haven't Read Yet" list.

8.  In the Woods by Tana French - I've heard nothing but raves about French and I love a good police procedural but haven't read many of them lately!

9.  A Good Marriage by Stephen King - The movie based off of King's Pet Semetery scared me to death when I watched it at a slumber party when I was 8 (not sure what the mother was thinking there)  and by the time I got over that and saw and loved some of his other movies his page counts scared me off a bit.  This one sounds pretty manageable!

10. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger - I love the whole idea of this series now that it's drawing to a close it's definitely time to get reading!

This list could go on forever and I didn't even look at nonfiction!  However, I'm trying to be somewhat reasonable and am going to hold myself accountable to actually getting these read this year!  What do you want to read this year?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reckless - Review

Reckless (Rescue Squad #1) by Kimberly Kincaid
Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Zoe Westin may be a fire captain's daughter, but feeding the people in her hometown of Fairview is her number one priority.  Running a soup kitchen is also the perfect way to prove to her dad that helping people doesn't always mean risking life and limb.  But when she's saddled with a gorgeous firefighter doing community service after yet another daredevil stunt, the kitchen has never been so hot.  Alex Donovan thrives on adrenaline, and stirring a pot of soup doesn't exactly qualify.  He's not an expert at following the rules either, not even when they come from the stubborn, sexy daughter of the man who's not only his boss, but his mentor.  Determined to show Zoe that not every risk ends in catastrophe, Alex challenges her both in the kitchen and out.  One reckless step leads to another, but will falling for each other be a risk worth taking, or will it just get them burned?  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  I love Kincaid's Pine Mountain series and was excited to read this one after meeting Alex in All Wrapped Up

My Impression:  At the beginning I wasn't sure about this one.  While I love the whole firefighter idea, Alex comes off a bit too arrogant and a little too careless.  When we meet Zoe it's almost the opposite.  She's too straight laced and too uptight.  I wasn't sure I was really going to connect with these characters and I really didn't see how they were going to connect with each other in a way that was even remotely believable.  Let's just say I greatly underestimated Kimberly Kincaid because not only did I love these characters by less than half way through the book but I was rooting full force for the HEA.
The thing that really worked for these characters is that they actually listen.  There's a scene pretty early on where Alex, who isn't paying attention, incorrectly stores meat in the pantry and by the time Zoe finds out it's too late and the meat is ruined.  She (justifiably) flips out and at first he tries to blow it off because what's the big deal.  But then he listens and he understands why losing that meat is a death blow to their budget and that feeding these people who have no where else to go is just as important to Zoe as fighting fires is to him.  It's really a great moment.  I love how the characters reacted to each other.  They might not take problems perfectly but they're generally willing to listen once they settle down.  I really enjoyed getting to know the characters better and I loved seeing the relationship between Zoe and her dad.
This was a really fun contemporary romance where we really get to know and understand the main characters.  I can't wait for the next one!  I'm hoping for Cole's book next though I'd be okay with Rachel's story too.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I can't wait for the next one in this series and I have a few books in her Pine River series left to read.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you like contemporary romance this is definitely a fun read and Kincaid is quickly making it on my list of must-read authors

Saturday, January 23, 2016

This Week in Reading - January 24th

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

What I Got:

The Skeleton Garden by Marty Wingate - One of my reading goals this year is to get caught up on her books.  I really loved the first one but even though I have them all I haven't read anymore. (NetGalley)

A Reckless Desire by Isabella Bradford - I read the first book in this historical romance last year and enjoyed it.  I'm really looking forward to this one. (Publisher)

A Disguise to Die for by Dianne Vallere - This is the first book in a new series by Vallere and so far I've loved everyone.  This one about a costume store sounds like lots of fun.  (Publisher)

Beauty, Beast and Belladonna by Maia Chance - This is for a blog tour in February and I'm so excited I can barely stand it!  I really liked another book by her and this fairy tale retelling/cozy mystery series is one I can't wait to read!  (Publisher)

Going Organic Can Kill You by Staci McLaughlin - I love foodie cozies and this one set at a health spa/organic farm (or something like that) sounded to good to pass up!  (Paperbackswap)


Reading: Disguise to Die for by Diane Vallere and Spring at Moss Hill by Carla Neggers

Listening: Deadly Night by Heather Graham

Watching:  I'm still watching and loving Top Chef on Hulu (though what was the deal with Season 2??  That got a little to vicious for me so I ended up skipping it.)  J and I also started watching War and Peace that's on the History Channel.  The first part was last Monday and part 2 is tomorrow.  So far I'm really enjoying it.  It's beautifully done though I can't compare it to the book since I haven't read that one.

Off the Blog:

Winter decided to show up here which turned this week into chaos.  We don't get much winter-y weather here so we don't really have ways to deal with it.  We don't have salt trucks or snow plows or snowsuits or all the other stuff one needs to deal with snow and ice.  So on Tuesday we had a 3 hour day delay and then on Friday schools got out at 11:30.  Which meant the Tornado didn't end up going to school at all on either day.
We actually do have about an inch of snow on the ground though it's melting fast.  For most of my life we never ever had snow at all and for the last 5 years or so we've had a little every year.  I'm not a big fan of the stuff but the Tornado loves it.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Reckless - Contemporary Romance Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday Freebie
Wednesday: Agatha Christie Project - Poirot Reviews Part 3
Thursday: Spring at Moss Hill - Contemporary Romance Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: My First  52 Pins in 52 Weeks Pinterest Project Post

Have a great week and happy reading!

Chocolate Chip Cookies - The Ones My Family Will Actually Eat

The kids and some of their cousins at dinner at the beach in 2011.  Emma is on the left, Eleanor is on the right , Paul is in the back in the red and my dad is the adult standing holding the biggest piece of Key Lime Pie I've ever seen

I've mentioned before that my family isn't adventurous when it comes to sweets.  I don't mean to say that they're picky eaters because for the most part they're not (except the Tornado because that child willingly eats like 3 things on a good day) (and come to think of it Emma isn't winning any prizes either) when it comes to main dishes.  For the most part they eat what I put in front of them as long as I don't put fruit in the meat dish or add in butternut squash (which I LOVE!) or something like that.

However, when it comes to baking they like simple - brownies, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and above all else - Chocolate Chip Cookies.  This week I thought instead of sharing something that my family won't eat I'd share a recipe that always goes over well.  These cookies are always tasty and since they involve melted butter and not softened can be made quickly and without a mixer.

This recipe originally came from Cook's Illustrated: The New Best Recipe.  I've trimmed the recipe down a bit.  Cook's Illustrated loves complicated steps and after the first 100 times of making these there were quite a few of these steps that I determined weren't necessary.   These cookies are great if you have to bring a dessert somewhere on short notice or are about to have company or just want some cookies without having to do much work!

Simplified Thick and Chewy Cookies
- Adapted from the Cooks Illustrated Recipe
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt (recipe calls for 1/2 but I like a little extra)

12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (recipe calls for 2 teaspoons)
1 cup chocolate chips (recipe calls for 1 1/2 cup)

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

Combine butter and sugars.  Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add dry ingredients 1/3 at at time, blending after each addition.

Drop in 2 tablespoon balls onto a cookie sheet (I use a stoneware cookie sheet) 2 inches apart.

Bake at 325 for 15 to 18 minutes.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes then transfer to wire rack.

I actually go a little lighter on the chocolate chips because I love the taste of the cookie itself and not that I'm saying I eat cookie dough but seriously - the cookie dough for this one is amazing!

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Linkups: Star of Fortune

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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Can you recall a time in your life when you were not reading?

My Answer:
There were times in college where I didn't read because there was just too much going on and I don't think I read all that much the first year I was married.  Neither of these were times where I consciously decided I wasn't going to read but more that reading fell a little farther down the priority list.  I do remember really enjoying getting back to regular reading.  Other than that I've always read even if it was just a few pages a night.

This week's book is Star of Fortune by Nora Roberts.  Roberts has been an auto-read author for me for years but I've been underwhelmed by her books the last few years.  However, I really loved last year's stand alone The Liar and so I have high hopes for this one.  The opening scene reminds me strongly of her Three Sisters trilogy from about 15 years ago but I love that this book is set in Corfu and I always enjoy an ensemble cast so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

The Beginning:
(From the Prologue)
Once, in a time long ago, in a world beyond our own, three goddesses gathered to celebrate the dawn of a new queen.

(From Chapter 1)
Dreams plagued her, waking and sleeping.  She understood dreams, visions, the knowing.

My Thoughts:
The prologue opening makes me a little nervous as it is very reminiscent of the Three Sisters series (and the last series that was set in Ireland for that matter).  However, the beginning of Chapter 1 gives me hope.  I want to learn more about the dreams and what she knows.

The 56:
Miles flew by as they argued about it, and as Sasha began to see herself in a losing battle.

My Thoughts:
I'm curious about what battle Sasha is losing and what exactly they're arguing about!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Any authors you've been reading for awhile suddenly start to disappoint?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beyond the Books: Favorite Beauty Products

This week I'm linking up with KissinBlueKaren for Beyond the Books.  This is a meme where we all answer a non-bookish question.  It's always so fun to see everyone's answers and get a peak at the blogger beyond the books.  This week's topic is - Favorite Beauty Products

I love beauty products!  They're my 3rd favorite category closely trailing foodie stuff with bookish stuff in the lead.

I don't have many products that I'm super loyal to.  I wear makeup pretty much every day and I always use the same type of products - tinted moisturizer, concealer, lid primer, bronzer, blush, highlighter, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, and at some kind of lip product.  However, because I have subscriptions to both Ipsy and Birchbox the brands are constantly changing.

Birchbox and Ipsy are subscription boxes.  For $10/month each I get a box (with Birchbox) or a makeup bag (Ipsy) stuffed with 5 or 6 different products.  Sometimes they're full size, occasionally they're foil packets but most of the time they're travel size products.  Some months I'm seriously underwhelmed but I've also found some really great products.  Plus, it's like getting presents in the mail twice a month!  Birchbox tends to be more classic products and colors.  The brands are usually high end boutique brands but a full size product is very rare.  Ipsy is much trendier and I've gotten some really fun products.  The brands tend towards lower end though I've gotten some department store brands (Tarte, Benefit, etc) and a full size product are pretty common.

There is one thing I just can't live without -
Neutrogena Light Sesame Body Oil.  This stuff is amazing!  I have crazy dry skin on my legs and it gets so much worse in winter.  This stuff has been life changing.  My legs are moisturized and not itchy and dry at all.  I used to go on a quest every winter to find a moisturizer that actually worked and never really succeeded until I stumbled into this.  I actually like the generic Target brand a little better.  It's quite a bit cheaper and while it doesn't absorb quite as well it feels a bit thicker which seems to last longer.  If you have dry skin buy a bottle and put it on right after the shower or bath before you even dry off.  It's amazing!

So those are my favorite products though probably calling the subscription boxes a product is a bit of a stretch!  I do try lots of fun products thanks to them though so I guess it counts.

What do you love?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling - Review

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley
Description:  Over twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his home.  The hilarious book he wrote about that journey, Notes from a Small Island, became one of the most loved books of recent decades, and was voted in a BBC poll as the book that best represents Britain.  Now, for his first travel book in fifteen years, Bryson sets out again, on a long-awaited, brand-new journey around the UK.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Nonfiction - Travel

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed Bryson's other books of this type and enjoyed Notes from a Small Island very much.  I was curious to see what had changed in 20 years.

My Impression:  If you've read any of Bryson's books before you pretty much know what to expect here.  If you haven't - it's basically Bryson meandering around the English countryside and discussing everything that interests him.  Obscure and not so obscure landmarks, some interesting and not so well known historical tidbits, the way some areas are so carefully preserved and celebrated and others no less important and beautiful completely ignored.  He discusses traffic, the British love of systems that are far less systematic than they appear, and everything else that comes into his head in an ordered stream of conscious fashion.   I mean all of this in the best possible way.  Bryson is mildly grumpy with a low tolerance for idiots but his sense of humor and curiosity really carries the book.  There were plenty of times throughout the book when I found myself laughing and just had to read the passage out loud to my husband.  Bryson also validated my fear of cows and earned my eternal gratitude.  I knew they weren't to be trusted and were always ready to trample someone to death.
This was a book I read a little bit at a time and I always enjoyed it.  Bryson's voice is gentle even when he's contemplating if violence is appropriate when someone allows their dog to poop on a public walk and then covers it up with leaves.  The book is divided into chapters that discuss different regions - Cornwall, London, etc - and for each chapter he explores that region.  He has the unique perspective of someone who has lived there for decades and is familiar with the country and able to see how things have changed but he is still just slightly a foreigner.
This is a perfect book to read a chapter at a time.  It's light and entertaining but still full of fascinating tidbits of information about a huge range of subjects.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I definitely will.  I really enjoyed this one!

Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes definitely!  If you're a fan of Bryson's work this is a must read and if you're new to him this would be a great book to start with.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Recently Added to My TBR

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and The Bookish is The Top Ten Books Recently Added to My TBR.  These are the latest ten that landed on my TBR due to blogger recommendations!

1.  A Tangled Thread: A Family Mystery Set in England and Scotland by Anthea Fraser - It's a family mystery!  I can't resist a family mystery with lots of secrets!

2.  Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - Last year I really neglected some authors whose books I enjoyed and this year I'd like to fix that and Rowell is high on the list.

3.  The Tiare on the Terrace by Kristen Kittscher - This is a Middle Grade adventure/mystery novel which I never can resist.  Middle Grade is a genre that got sadly neglected in 2015 and I'm hoping to fix that!

4.  To Scotland with Love by Patience Griffin - It's a quilt shop in Scotland!  I'm not sure why I'm just stumbling on this series.

5.  Rain Dogs: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel by Adrian McKinty - I hadn't heard of this police procedural before I stumbled on a review of this book but it sounds like something I'd enjoy.

6.  The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary - Did I mention I've been neglecting Middle Grade?  This is another one I'm really looking forward to reading.  Plus with the Japanese setting and supernatural elements it sounds a bit outside my usual reading and I wanting to stretch my comfort zone a bit this year.

7.  How to Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks - I sadly neglected Historical Romance last year as well and this is a new book by a new-to-me author and I can't wait to give it a try!

8.  A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro - I love the Sherlock Holmes spin offs and this one about Sherlock Holmes' great-granddaughter and Watson's great-granddaughter sounds wonderful.

9.  To Brew or Not to Brew by Joyce Tremel - A cozy mystery about a brewery?  Cannot resist!

10. Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams - This author has been on my radar for quite awhile but this was the book that finally landed on my TBR.

What books have you just added to your TBR?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Casino Royale - Review

Casino Royale (James Bond #1) by Ian Fleming
Rating: Good
Source: Library (audio)

Description:  In the first of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, 007 declares war on Le Chiffre, French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH. For incredible suspense, unexpected thrills, and extraordinary danger, nothing can beat James Bond in his inaugural adventure.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:J and I spent the Christmas break staying up far too late and watching the Daniel Craig movies so when I saw my library had this book in audio I couldn't resist.

My Impression:  The whole Bond franchise is so huge and well known that it's impossible not to compare the book itself to the movies and the different portrayals of the primary character.  I found this fit very closely with the Daniel Craig Bond portrayals (or at least the first 3.  I haven't seen the newest one).  There aren't any gadgets and Bond isn't the charming smooth talker that I've seen so often.  Instead his personality is more the cold controlled efficiency that I've seen in Craig's films.  The book itself has a lot of similarities to the movie and the changes made for the film make sense.  In some case the villain in the book wouldn't really work today as it did in 1953 and there is some action added to the movie that wasn't in the book.
 The book itself is short - just under 200 pages (or 4 hours and 30 minutes if you're listening to it) and very much to the point.  I wasn't surprised to see in Fleming's bio that he was both a naval commander and a journalist.   The writing is crisp and clear and detailed without being overly descriptive or lyrical.  There is a very strong masculine vibe to it without it being macho and while it is decidedly vintage it feels classic rather than dated (except for Bond's attitude towards women).  For a Bond story the book has actually very little violence in it.  There is a torture scene and while I had no doubt as to what was happening it wasn't incredibly detailed or gory or particularly long.
Bond himself has a few introspective moments and a moment of two of self-doubt and I enjoyed the way the story was wrapped up.  I'm very much looking forward to reading/listening to more of Fleming's books and getting to know Bond a bit better.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely.  I'll probably stick with the audio version.  They're not super complex stories so I can listen while I'm doing something else and not get lost.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you've ever thought about reading a James Bond book I wouldn't hesitate to pick this one up.  It's a quick read and an interesting one.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

This Week in Reading: January 17

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

What I Got:

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King - I tried to talk myself out of requesting this one because I'm so far behind in the series but I am weak.  (NetGalley)

Flawless by Heather Graham - I'm not sure if this is another Krewe book or not but I'm good either way.  I always enjoy Heather Graham's books!  (NetGalley)

Last Wool and Testament by Molly MacRae - I've seen this series around and thought it'd be good to start with the first book.  (paperbackswap)

Shoreline Drive by Lily Everett - I read the first book in the series (Sanctuary Island) and am looking forward to reading Merry's story.  (paperbackswap)

Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehman - There's vintage clothing and a diary sewn up into something from the turn of the century.  I love hidden diaries and vintage clothes so I'm excited about this one.  (paperbackswap)


Reading:  Reckless by Kimberly Kincaid and The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Listening: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard

Watching:  I'm binging on Top Chef right now on Hulu and loving it!  I love seeing some familiar faces from other foodie stuff in the early seasons!

Off the Blog:

This week was really quiet which was not a bad thing!  I feel like I'm finally caught up from Christmas and everything.  We have food, the house is clean and everyone is fairly healthy again. I've gotten back in the mode of cooking every night which has been good for both our budgets and our diets.  I had had a slightly complicated meal picked out the other night but when it came down to cooking I just wasn't feeling it and along with a marinated chicken I ended up making this super simple Parmesan Basil Orzo.  It was so good!  Even the Tornado loved it which never happens.  I didn't have fresh basil because it's winter so I used 2 teaspoons of dried and it worked fine though really I think the basil can be left out entirely.  I don't think it added all that much flavor wise but I'll try it again with fresh.
I'm getting back on track with blog visiting though there are so many blogs I'd like to visit that I don't end up getting too.  I need to figure out a system for that.  I've also been making some progress in getting a few weeks of posts scheduled out.  I'm still behind a bit in reviews but I've made some real progress with the memes I participate in.  I'm very excited about that!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Casino Royale Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Recently Added To My TBR
Wednesday: The Road to Little Dribbling - Nonfiction Travel Memoir Review
Thursday: Beyond the Books: Favorite Beauty Products
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Have a great week and happy reading!

Crispy Praline Cookies and the Cookie of the Month Club

My Dad is incredibly challenging to buy gifts for.  He's a pretty low maintenance guy and doesn't really care for things like gloves or scarves.  He has hobbies but other than golf it's mostly just fixing things around the house or working in the yard or doing pool related maintenance so there's not much gift giving ideas there.  So a few years ago around his birthday I was fussing at him about difficult he was to buy gifts for and he said "Just make me cookies."

And from that our kind of Cookie of the Month club was born.  I love it because I get to try out new recipes and he gets cookies so we're both happy.  My family is much more of a chocolate chip cookies only and so this allows me to try out new recipes and have the results not go to waste and he gets different cookies.

This month's cookie came from Southern Living 2002 Annual Recipes.  I used to be a big fan of Southern Living cookbooks but had kind of drifted away in the last 5 or 6 years.  I realized when I was cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas this past year that so many of our absolutely favorite it can't be Thanksgiving without that on the table dishes are from Southern Living and thought it might be fun to revisit some of their older cookbooks.  I'm very glad I did as these cookies are delicious!

Crispy Praline Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light because that's what I had)
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (these were optional but when are chocolate chips actually optional?)

Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl, blending well.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 for 13 to 15 minutes (I did just 13).  Cool on baking sheets 1 minute; remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

And that's it!  Other than using light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar I made no changes.  My oven is older and somewhat temperamental so I did use a stoneware baking sheet because that seems to regulate the baking temperature a little bit better for the cookies so I can't say if these would stick to a regular cookie sheet.  They came off the stoneware easily.

My Results:  Oh my these were good!  I didn't find them particularly crispy but they might have been if I'd cooked them a little bit longer.  I'm not a huge lover of crispy cookies so I was good with that.  They were soft but held together, full of nutty pecan flavor and lots of yummy chocolate chops.  If you're a fan of pecans make these cookies!  You won't regret it!

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Linkups: The Princess Diaries

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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do you think you will ever get tired of blogging?

My Answer:
At this point I don't think so.  After a few rough patches I've gotten better about just blogging the way I want too and not worrying as much about stats or getting books from publishers and I'm pretty happy.  Plus I would miss the book blogger community too much!  But things may change and I may decide to move on to something else but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

This week's book is a little unusual for me since I'm not much of a YA reader.My oldest was a big fan of this series and I did enjoy the movie but The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot was never high up on books I wanted to read.  However, I've been listening to this podcast called Super Serials which is a weekly book club where they talk about MG/YA books.  Most of them are books that I loved as a kid like The Babysitter's Club and Nancy Drew but they've done a few more recent books and this is one of them.  I thought I'd read it before listening to the discussion.

The Beginning:
Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is lie.

My Thoughts:
I like this opening.  It's intriguing yet since it's the diary of a basically regular 14 year old I don't take it to mean she's telling lies about crime or espionage.  It definitely makes me want to learn more about her.

The 56:
My mom's face totally lit up as she started listing the lovely things I could have if I went to live in Genovia, but her voice sounded strange, as if she were playing a mom on TV or something.

My Thoughts:
Teenagers always know when you're lying - or at least 90% of the time!  I am excited to see how the book version differs from the movie.  

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What genre is out of your comfort zone?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Beyond the Books - Stress Relievers

This week I'm linking up with KissinBlueKaren for Beyond the Books.  This is a meme where we all answer a non-bookish question.  It's always so fun to see everyone's answers and get a peak at the blogger beyond the books.  This week's topic is a freebie so I'm doing a topic that I missed - Stress Relievers.

Here are a few ways I try to relax when I too frazzled to function:

Rearranging bookshelves - It actually de-stresses me more than actually reading the books.  Something about handling all the books and looking at the pretty covers and reading the blurbs is very soothing.

Baths - I love a steaming hot bath and there's something immediately relaxing about it.  I'm a big fan of Dr. Teal's bath salts - especially the Clay and Ginger type - and I love Lush bath bombs.  Sometimes I read, sometimes I watch Netflix or Hulu on my Kindle and sometimes I listen to an audio book or a podcast.  I always feel better.

Watching TV - especially while looking at cookbooks - Relaxing and watching one of my shows (either cooking or crime) is always a pretty good way to unwind.  I'm even happier when I have a new cookbook to page through and plan out the recipes I want to try.

Listening to Podcasts - I've just discovered podcasts in the last couple of months but I've really been enjoying them.  I can listen to one while I'm putting up laundry or doing something else equally mundane and I automatically feel calmer.  Some of my favorites are:
 Super Serials - a Snarky Bookclub that reads mostly MG books like the Babysitter's Club and Nancy Drew,
TV Crimes with Wil Wheaton and Mikey Neumann where they talk about really bad TV shows
Avon on the Air which features short interviews with Avon Authors
Dancing with the Stars or Bachelor AfterBuzz depending on which show is in season
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
The Readers 

I've also figured out that having to much going on at once ends up making me a stressed out frazzled mess.  I can multitask with no problem but if I'm trying to do something and have multiple people talking to me and TV and radio noise I end up a basket case even if nothing stressful is happening and I was in a good mood before.  Now that I've figured out this problem my goal this year is to get better about dealing with chaotic situations.

What are your stress relievers?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Killer Run - Review

Killer Run (Tourist Trap Mystery #5) by Lynn Cahoon
Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Jill Gardner - owner of Coffee, Books, and More - has somehow been talked into sponsoring a 5k race along the beautiful California coast.  The race is a fundraiser for the local preservation society - but not everyone is feeling so charitable...  The day of the race, everyone hits the ground running...until a local business owner stumbles over a very stationary body.  The deceased is the vicious wife of the husband-and-wife team hired to promote the event - and the husband turns to Jill to help in clearing his name.  But did he do it?  Jill will have to be very careful, because this killer is ready to put her out of the running...forever! (from Goodreads)

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  This is actually the 5th book in the series and I've read and enjoyed each one.  Plus, I can never resist a mystery with a bookstore and a main character who loves to read!

My Impression: I have a review for Cahoon's 6th book in the series coming up at the beginning of next month so I knew I needed to get this one knocked out before then.  I've been reading this series since it began and I've always enjoyed them though the last was a little flatter.  I was very pleased that when I started this one I was immediately drawn into the book and I loved catching up with Jill and everyone else.
I really enjoyed the interaction of the town and seeing the race get organized.  I wasn't surprised by who got murdered and I wasn't surprised by who did it but I did very much enjoy getting from the point of body discovery to the reveal.  There's a subplot involving a train store that I thought could have had a bit more page time especially since that's what Jill was supposed to be investigating.
I thought the book really shone with the development of characters and relationships.  I liked seeing Jill struggle with Greg's work schedule and it's effects on their vacation plans.  It felt real and I liked that Jill wasn't 100% okay about it all.  I also liked seeing the occasional flash of Jackie's tender side.  Her personality can be so abrasive that it was really nice to see the feelings underneath.  I also thought Sasha really came into her own and of course I always love seeing Toby!
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable mystery with characters I enjoy visiting with.  This is a series best read from the beginning as you get to see the relationships develop.  The teaser Cahoon drops at the end regarding the next book has me very glad I don't have to wait to long!  Can't wait to see what trouble Jill gets into next!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I always enjoy a visit to South Cove and catching up with Jill, Sasha, Toby, and everyone else.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you've been reading this series you definitely need to pick up this book.  If you're new I think you might enjoy it more if you started out with the first book, Guidebook to Murder.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Releases I Meant to Get to But Didn't

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant to Get to But Didn't.  My immediate thought was "all of them" but since that didn't seem very interesting I went through my 2015 ARCs and pulled the ones I'd been really excited about getting and then for whatever reason never actually read.

1.  Be Afraid by Mary Burton - This is a suspense author I've been wanting to try.  A lot of my blogger friends really enjoy her books and I love a good creepy read sometimes.

2.  The Beekeeper's Daughter by Santa Montefiore - Montefiore's book Secrets of the Lighthouse was one of my favorite books in 2014 and while this book isn't set in Ireland it does have a dual timeline plot that I love!

3.  First Time in Forever/Some Kind of Wonderful by Sarah Morgan - I loved Morgan's O'Neil Brothers series and this was set in an island in Maine sounds great.  Both the first and second books came out this year.

4.  Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell - I love historical mysteries and murder set in the Gilded Age is probably one of my favorite settings.

5.  The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak - I really enjoy Novak's writing but some of her plot lines in her Whiskey Creek series were not for me (I still haven't gotten over the turkey baster insemination by her husband's BROTHER).  I'm really excited about this more romantic suspense type book with secrets from the past!

6.  No One Needs to Know by Kevin O'Brien - This is another creepy author and I know several people who enjoy his books.

7.  The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright - I love books that involve traveling to a destination and have a character figure themselves out.  Plus I love the cover on this one!

8.  Second Chance Summer/My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis - Now that I've fully accepted that the Lucky Harbor series is over I feel like it is time to explore her new Cedar Ridge series.  I have book 1 and 2 and am looking forward to getting to know the characters.

9.  Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs - Wiggs is one my favorite comfort read authors and while I'm disappointed we aren't revisiting the Bella Vista series I am looking forward to visiting Willow Lake.

10. Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain - I know so many people who absolutely love her books so I'm excited about finally giving her a try.

What 2015 releases were you excited about but didn't get to?