Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - My Favorite Picture Books

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish is all about the graphics. Since I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels I'm going with picture books.  At 7 the Tornado is getting a little past picture books and we've moved on to reading chapter books at night.  While I like the chapter books I'm missing the picture books!  Luckily he's able to read them to me now which is almost as good!  Here are some of my favorites -

1.  How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague - This was one of the first series we really started reading and the dinosaur hijinks were just so fun!  When he got a little older and became fascinated by dinosaurs it was fun to figure out which dinosaur is doing what and find the name which is always hidden somewhere on the page.  There are a number of books in the series but this one is my favorite.

2.  Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney  - This was one of those random library grabs and it quickly became one of our favorite bedtime reads.  I think I went on and ordered our own copy after 2 days because I knew we were going to be reading it a lot and we did!  We got the rest of the Llama Llama books and they're all good but this one is just great!

3.  Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh - When the Tornado was in a preschool he came home talking all about this book called Mouse Paint.  They had read it at story time and he had loved it.  With some help from Amazon Prime I had my very own copy 2 days later and could see why he liked it so much.  There's mischievous mice and a a lurking cat and the added benefit of showing what happens if you mix different colors.

4.  Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown - This is one of those books you get at baby showers.  I think it's mandatory to have a copy of this book if you have an infant.  My husband and I are very split on this one.  I love it and it gives him the creeps with the old lady sitting in the corner and saying good night to everything.  It's a great book to read in a rocking chair because you can slow the pacing of your reading and rocking which had a very relaxing effect on a colicky infant once upon a time!

5. The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose - This is a book we got fairly recently just as he was growing out of picture books and I'm so sad about that because it's awesome!  The whole premise is that squirrels live essentially just like us and the pictures of photographs of squirrels getting their mail from tiny squirrel sized mailboxes and taking baths in tiny squirrel sized bath tubs and it's amazing and hilarious.  If you have  small child or know a small child get this book!

6.  Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems - This was another random library grab and I was blown away by the way the dialogue was done and just how fun the whole concept was!  What kid wants to go to bed?  And it's impossible to resist a loud mouth pigeon who doesn't want to go to bed any earlier than they do!

7.  The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton - Anytime I see the cover of this book my brain instantly starts screaming "The sun has set not long ago now everybody goes below to take a bath in one big tub with soap all over scrub scrub scrub!"  I can keep going but you get the general idea.  This one is such fun to read aloud and Boynton's writing is amazing!  We had a ton of her books but this one is the universal favorite around here!

8.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert - This is such a great preschool age book because it features all the letters so it's easy to work into just about anything educational but the letters are falling out of a tree which just makes it a fun book!  Plus the title is said about 100 times and it's just fun to say getting louder and louder as you go!

While I miss the picture books I have had a good time introducing chapter books and these are 2 of our favorite intro chapter books!

9.  Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo - This series is the perfect pick for kids that are just a little too old for picture books but aren't quite old enough for many of the chapter books.   The illustrations are full color and absolutely gorgeous and Mercy Watson is a pig who is always creating chaos - normally while trying to get an extra helping of her favorite food.  The sisters who live next door are an extra fun bit of humor!

10. Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye by Geronimo Stilton (aka Elisabetta Dami) - These were some of Eleanor's favorite books when she was little so when I was looking for something for the Tornado to read they instantly sprang to mind and I can see why she loved them so much.  The text is wonderfully and creatively done.  If the word is fuzzy the letters look fuzzy and all kinds of other things.  It's all very colorful and eye catching and the stories are such fun to read as well.  They cover a huge range of subject matters from space to Vikings (though they're called Micekings) and there's even time travel involving dinosaurs.  Plus, unlike a lot of children's books they're fun for the adults as well!

What picture books are your favorite?

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Wicked City - Blog Tour Historical Fiction Review

About The Wicked City

• Hardcover: 384 pages • Publisher: William Morrow (January 17, 2017) New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family. When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy. In 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers. Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown. As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . .

My Review:

This is my 2nd Beatriz Williams in as many weeks and I can definitely say she's going to be a go-to author for me from now on.  This is a dual time line story with newly separated from her husband Ella finding her way in a tiny Greenwich Village apartment with neighbors that treat each other more like family in modern day alternating with street smart and daring Gin Kelly caught in a sticky situation in the 1920s.  Williams did a brilliant job at really making the story lines feel like they're in completely different time periods.  Ella's story is cleaner - more modern while there's a grit to Gin's and just feels like it's taking place in the dark and smoky speak easies that she frequents.  The women are also completely different with Ella trying to avoid the unpleasantness she's left behind and Gin is much more of a take no prisoners kind of woman.  While I enjoyed both I think I preferred Ella's story.  I liked her and found her easy to connect with while Gin had a much rougher time of it and it felt so real that I felt like I was right there with her.  As an added treat I really enjoyed checking in with the Marshall family and meeting Teresa's (the main character in a previous book - A Certain Age) son Billy.  If you enjoy historical fiction you simply must read Beatriz Williams and this is a great place to start!  My Rating: Very Good

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Beatriz Williams

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore. Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

This Week in Reading - January 29

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:

Red Clover Inn by Carla Neggers - I have an uneven history with Carla Neggers.  I've enjoyed some of her books, disliked one or two and was kind of meh about the others.  So I tell myself that I'm not going to request anymore and then a new one comes up and I request it.  This one has an inn!  How can I resist that??  (NetGalley)

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance - The theme this week is Inn because this one has an Inn too!  And this one's condemned and they're restoring it!  Seriously you could restore a garden shed and I'd be all about it but restoring in an inn is kind of my kryptonite. Plus, I've really enjoyed Chance's other cozy mysteries that I've read.  She always has fun quirky characters and just the right touch of humor.  (NetGalley)


Reading:  Back to Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie after taking a break to read A Wicked City by Beatriz Williams and At Close Range by Laura Griffin

Listening: I'm about to start a radio adaptation of Hounds of the Baskervilles while I wait for The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware which I'm next in line for!  Until then I'm still listening to podcasts and enjoying them.  My current favorites are my standby Read It and Weep as well as Smart Podcast Trashy Books and The Simple Show

Watching: Not a huge amount.  J and I are watching Top Chef and Remington Steel (featuring a very very young Pierce Brosnan) together.  On my own I've been watching my usual crime shows - Bull, NCIS, NCIS: LA, NCIS:NO, Criminal Minds - and am still enjoying them but there doesn't feel like there's anything new and fresh right now..  

Off the Blog:

For his birthday we got the Tornado a couple of sets of audio books from the Boxcar Children series and he's absolutely loving them!  He even stopped playing a video game early to go play Legos and listen to the Boxcar Children.  It make me so happy to see!  He's doing fine at reading at school but it's not really something he's really loving despite having an awesome teacher who really seems to value fostering a love of reading versus getting points.  Give him anything involving math and he's happy as can be but reading was getting more of a meh reaction until these.  I don't want him to lose him love of numbers but I do like that he's found a book series that he enjoys and I may have bought a few more of those audio books!

I've changed up my routine at the gym and apparently I was neglecting some muscle groups and they are NOT happy with me.  I'm limping badly and at the moment and I'm hoping I don't have to run away from anything quickly because it's not happening!  It's all sore muscles and nothing injured but it's amazing how much I'm feeling it!

My reading grove is going well and I've had all good reads so far this year!  I know that won't happen all year but it's nice while it lasts!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: A Wicked City - Blog Tour Historical Fiction Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - My Ten Favorite Pictures Books
Wednesday: Somebody Like You - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

52 Pins in 52 Weeks Linkup - January Edition

I absolutely love Pinterest!  My current pin count is just under 10,500 and I have dozens of boards.  I alternate between pinning from the tons of food and craft blogs (I have a different system for book blogs!) and pinning after mindlessly scrolling through the "Everything" option where I can see all the pins that have been pinned and repinned recently.  In 2015 I realzied that while I relied on Pinterest for all kinds of things a lot of my boards were being seriously neglected and even in the boards I did use regularly there were still plenty of pins collecting dust.  And that's where 52 Pins in 52 Weeks came from.  At the first of the year I make a board called 52 Pins in 52 Weeks and fill it with 52 pins that I want to do over the course of the year.  I've tried to include a good mix of food, holiday, and craft pins and push myself to step a little out of my comfort zone.  I pin my results on my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Results board.  Some pins are wins and some are most definitely fails but it's always interesting to attempt them!  This year I hope you'll share your Pin Wins and Fails with me and link up below!  The format is totally up to you. Just post about the pins you've tried over the month (it can be multiple posts) and link up here!  The link up will the the last Saturday of every month and I can't wait to see what everyone is doing!

Week 1

The Pin:  Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies from Something Swanky

The Basic Idea: This is supposed to be a recipe that Neiman Marcus charged a woman $250 for.  It's an urban legend but this is one of those recipes I see everywhere.

My Results:  These were really good chocolate chip cookies and definitely worth trying.  They're nice and crispy at the edges but still soft in the middle.  However, I don't think I like them as much as my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe so I probably won't make them again.

Week 2:

The PinBird feeders from Eighteen25

The Basic Idea: Shaped birdfeeders to hang from trees or where every else you can hang a bird feeder from.

My Results:  The Tornado and I enjoyed this one.  He picked out the cookie cutters and helped me fill them.  Today we're planning on getting them hung up in just the right places and then we'll see if the birds eat them so there's big bang for the buck.  The whole thing is pretty simple and the supplies are really inexpensive - especially if you own cookie cutters already.  My one issue is that if you want to make more than 1 or 2 you're going to need to quadruple the recipe.  I doubled it and got 3 good sized cookie cutters worth out of it.

Week 3:

The PinBakery Style Lemon Sugar Cookies from Real Mom Kitchen

The Basic Idea: A thick sugar cookie with a lemony frosting

My Results: It's been cold and gray lately so I'm all about lemon flavors!  I'd been burned by extract in citrus desserts before but this has enough actual lemon to counter the fake extract taste and it comes off as pleasantly tart.  The cookie isn't very sweet but is buttery with a nice texture and the frosting is nicely tart.  It sets up really well after about 20 minutes or so and they pack pretty well.  Due to time constraints I didn't have time to refrigerate my dough for 2 hours so I rolled it up in a cylinder in plastic wrap and froze it for about 30 minutes and then sliced off the roll.  This worked really well and is probably what I'll do next time I make these.

Week 4:

The PinLose 10 Pounds in 10 Days by Drinking Water

The Basic Idea: Drink 82 ounces of water a day to lose weight.

My Results:  82 ounces is a LOT of water.  I tried to follow the plan that was laid out in the article as an "easy" way to get all the water in but it proved impossible so then I just tried to always have a bottle of water with me.  I think I got 82 ounces in once or twice but was lucky to get 64 the rest of the time.  As for my weight it is down a little but I'm not sure how much of that is from drinking water as opposed to being back on routine, eating better, and going to the gym regularly again.  While I probably won't be drinking 82 ounces (or even 64) on a regular basis I did realize that drinking more water than I was makes me feel better so I will continue to implement the change.

Now your turn!

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Linkups: Ghost Shadow

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:
How many books have you started but just couldn't finish?

My Answer:
I typically don't count DNFs so I don't really have an exact number.  I do have a hard time making myself not finish books that I've started but I'm trying to make myself get better about it. There are too many great books out there to waste time on a book I'm not enjoying.

This week is pure book indulgence!  Heather Graham's books aren't always the best written and the plot frequently has some pretty large holes but there's just the right amount of ghostliness and suspense that they're always fun to read.  Ghost Shadow is the first in a trilogy set in Key West. I love the setting and the spooky atmosphere and have been enjoying this read!

The Beginning:
The blue light made the hallway dark and eerie, though just beyond the doors of the museum, the magic sunlight of the island glowed upon tourists and the few locals who considered early morning to be a time before noon.

My Thoughts:
Well that's certainly a creepy beginning!  And I'm definitely in agreement with the people who think early morning is before noon - especially on vacation!

The 56: 
Unconsciously, he'd waited to hear about another bizarre murder - or that someone had finally solved what happened to Tanya.

My Thoughts;
I love a cold case!  I'm excited to see how this all unravels.  There may not have been another bizarre murder before now but I'm betting there will be another one soon!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Rogue Not Taken - Historical Romance Review

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (Amazon link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Purchased

The youngest of the infamous Talbot sisters scandalized society at the Liverpool Summer Soiree, striking her sister’s notoriously philandering husband and landing him backside-first in a goldfish pond. And we thought Sophie was the quiet one…

When she finds herself the target of very public aristocratic scorn, Sophie Talbot does what she must to escape the city and its judgment—she flees on the back of a carriage, vowing never to return to London…or to society. But the carriage isn’t saving her from ruin. It’s filled with it.


The Marquess of Eversley was espied descending a rose trellis—escaping an irate Earl and his once-future countess. No lady is safe from Eversley’s Engagement Ending Escapades!

Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, a quality that results in a reputation far worse than the truth, a furious summons home, and a long, boring trip to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the trip becomes anything but boring.


He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, and suddenly opposites are altogether too attractive…

Genre: Historical Romance

Why I Picked This Book: I was looking for a new to me historical romance author and I've loved Sarah MacLean's interviews.  Plus this new series just sounds fun!

My Impression:  Sarah MacLean is an author who has been on my radar for years.  I read one book by her several years ago and it was good but I wasn't wowed and haven't exactly rushed out to get anymore books from her.  Last year or so I discovered Avon on the Air which is a podcast that focuses on romance authors.  It hasn't updated in awhile which makes me really sense but you can go back and listen to the ones are already up and they're so great.  My favorites are the ones with Sarah MacLean where they discuss classic romance books.  She comes off as so smart and funny that I found myself wanting to give her another chance and then when I discovered her latest series is a version of Regency TMZ I just couldn't resist!

The TMZ feel is very subtle so if you're not a celebrity gossip fan don't let that scare you off.  You don't have to know anything about the incident that inspired the beginning of the book (It involved Jay-Z and an elevator) to know what's going on in the book.

I loved the characters in this book.  Sophie is smart and funny and really does not want to be involved in the constant circus her family surrounds themselves with.  She misses a simpler life and desperately wants to go back to the time before the money and the title.  She's a bit reckless and somewhat unrealistic but it's not something that irritated me about her.  Even though she wasn't always making the best decisions I understood her motivations which made it work.  King is a victim of the old romance trope where he's not going to marry because the family line cannot continue for various reasons.  At the beginning he's deeply suspicious of Sophie's motives mostly because of her family's reputation. I'm never a big fan of a romance where one character has a lot of contempt for the other and refuses to see them differently though all their actions prove otherwise but thankfully this isn't one of them.  There are times when King doesn't trust Sophie but for the most part all of those times are justified even if not exactly right. King does some stupid stuff and is definitely hard headed but for the most part it's because of issues not because of what he thinks of her.   I even liked Sophie's family despite the fact they cause Sophie a great deal of stress.  They genuinely love each other (even the parents which was nice to see) and don't mean to make Sophie unhappy.  Even when they could easily blame Sophie for something they aren't mad and just know they have to fix it.

I really enjoyed this historical romance.  It's a quick read, with characters I instantly connected too, witty banter and a lot of heart.  It's the kind of book that made me love historical romance in the first place.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'm super excited about the next book in the series!

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy Julia Quinn type historical romances I think you'd enjoy this book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pretty Little World - Fiction Review

Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino (Amazon link)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  On a cozy street in Philadelphia, three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins.
Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need?

Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  The premise is so different from anything that I'd want to do in real life that I just had to explore it fictionally.

My Impression:  This book was definitely a step outside my comfort zone.  I'm typically drawn to books that I relate to or that that I like the characters.  The usual exception to this rule is thrillers and procedural type mysteries that are super plot driven.  This was the exception to that exception.  No one dies and it's definitely not a plot driven book.  Yes, stuff happens but there aren't big huge events exactly or a set story arc.  These are 3 couples who are living their life surrounded by friends who think things might just be better if they opened the walls and operated like one big family.  That in itself is as faraway from something I would consider doing that it might as well be science fiction.  This book made me realize just how much of an introvert I am as there is no way I could handle multi-family meals everyday and endless round of girls nights.
The characters are well-developed, seriously flawed, and interesting.  At one point or another I disliked each of them for but that was continually fluctuating as something would change and relationships developed or decayed.  But despite not always liking the characters I was always interested and I always wanted to find out what happened next.  This wasn't the easiest read - not because the writing wasn't compelling because it very much was - but because it felt a bit too real.  I felt like I was peering through windows and eavesdropping on conversations that weren't my business.  The ending is a bit open ended but while that usually drives me crazy it worked for this book.  Life is open ended and an ending tied with a bow would have just felt wrong on this book.  If you're looking for a read that's different and not easy but not full of angst or grief this is a good pick.  I'm definitely glad I read it even though it confirmed even more for me that I really need a house in the center of 100 acres!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would!  This was definitely a book I wanted to find out what happened next!

Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely!  It was an interesting read that I think would appeal to a broad range of readers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Signs You Might Be Nancy Drew

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie.  Like pretty much every mystery lover my childhood reading contained a lot of Nancy Drew and I still love the covers on the original series (we're going to pretend that whole Case File thing didn't happen).  I'm working on a project here that involves some Nancy Drew reading and I've noticed a few reoccuring themes.  So for today's freebie I thought I'd do Ten Signs You Might Be Nancy Drew.

1.  You have a very hard head and can endure countless hits and being knocked unconscious without showing any sign of concussion.

2.  You know a large number of impoverished widows with small children or orphans who were promised money from a beloved uncle/family friend but when said uncle/family friend died there was no mention of the widow or orphan in the will - only a cryptic clue.

3.  Your car is always a roadster and your shoes are always pumps.

4.  Your father is a lawyer and really doesn't seem to believe in client confidentiality because he tells you everything and frequently gets you involved in cases.

5.  Your mother died when you were young but it's fine - besides you have a housekeeper who is willing to fix you and your friends a basket of snacks before you go off to investigate a mystery.  If your mother is packing your basket of snacks than you're in the Hardy Boys.  If no one is packing your snacks than you're not a detective - snacks are very important to mystery solving.

6.  While the murder rate in your town is really low the crime rate is astronomically high between all the thefts, assaults and abductions that happen constantly.

7.  No one is never in a nursing home of their own free will and they're frequently not who they're supposed to be.

8.  It's really not hard to change your identity. Just get a wig and a fake accent.  No one - even people who have known you for years - will recognize you.

9.  Nothing is what it seems.  Every innocent item - clocks, books, statues, paintings - contains something else and every house has a secret passage.

10. You never find a dog who just got out of the fence.  Every lost pet you stumble across belongs to a victim of a kidnapping or someone who is in need of some kind of mystery solving help.

Were you a Nancy Drew fan?  Any signs that I missed?

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Certain Age - Blog Tour Historical Fiction Review

About A Certain Age

• Paperback: 352 pages • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 3, 2017) The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm. As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice. Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

My Review:

I have been wanting to read Beatriz Williams for a few years now but somehow never quite managed to make it happen.  So I was really excited when the tour opportunity for A Certain Age came up.  I love the time period and that cover is just ridiculous but what if it didn't live up to my expectations?  I will say that A Certain Age wasn't quite what I was expecting - it was better.  This is a lighter read but it isn't fluffy and it most definitely isn't silly.  The characters aren't perfect - in fact I didn't particularly care for Theresa at the beginning of the book.  But that didn't last long becasue as I got to know her I felt like I understood her and her flip remarks and shocking comments were just bravado - a shield to protect her real feelings.  The other primary characters - Sophie, Jay, Octavian - are also nicely flawed without being overdone.  I guessed the shocking family secret fairly quickly and I wasn't particularly surprised by the outcome of the book itself but that wasn't a negative.  I loved seeing the interaction between the characters and watching the story spin out around them.  While the story itself wasn't particularly surprising the writing was fluctuating between matter of fact, sarcastic, humourous and the occasional moments of heartbreak.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am glad I've finally read Beatriz Willimas.  I'm very much looking forward to reading more from her.  Rating: Very Good

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Beatriz Williams

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore. Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This Week in Reading - January 22

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.  I'm also linking up with What Are You Reading hosted by Kathryn over at Book Date

What I Got:

Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon - This is the 2nd book in the Cahoon's Bed and Breakfast/Writer's Retreat series and I'm really looking forward to it.  I love Cahoon's Tourist Trap series and am excited to see how this one is as I enjoyed the first in the series (Blog Tour)

One Wild Night by Melissa Cutler - This is a cowboy type romance with Dirty Dancing references!  How can I resist a romance with Dirty Dancing references? (Publisher)

Blood Red by Wendy Corsi Staub - I heard an interview from the author and was instantly intrigued.  I also read the first in her Lily Dale series and really liked it so I'm curious to see what she does in a more thriller type format. (Paperbackswap)


Reading:  Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie (though I may have to put this on hold to start The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams for a blog tour) and Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino

Listening:  I finished Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and am about to listen to the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming for comparison (and possibly to listen to David Tennant some more)

Watching:  J and I are finishing up Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency which we're enjoying even though it's only loosely based on the book because it feels like how Douglas Adams would have gone if he'd turned it into a TV show.  I also watched The Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire, Jane Powell and a whole host of other big names.  It has the scene where Astaire dances on the ceiling which I've always liked but never seen it in context.

Off the Blog:

I had a lovely visit with my grandparents last weekend and I was really pleased to be there for his 93rd birthday.  He's doing much better.  He's out of the neck brace and recovering from pneumonia. He's still pretty week and isn't as mobile as he wants to be but he's got physical therapy a few times a week and hopefully that'll help.  His biggest problem right now is just boredom.  He's always been incredibly active and now not being able to do anything is frustrating plus most of the things he enjoys - woodworking, taking care of the house and grounds, and traveling - aren't things he can do right now so he's a bit at a loss.  He's been listening to audio books (just finished Boys on the Boat which he really liked) and watching football but that can only go so far.

I've booked the Tornado's birthday party at one of those inflatable places here.  I like this one because it's reserved only for party guests so you don't have to fight off other kids.  His birthday is at the end of December but by that point I'm so worn out that there's no way I could handle a party and I imagine everyone else is exhausted as well.  We've not done one yet (other than the family party on his birthday) so I'm pretty nervous about it.  I'm always worried that no one will come and that he'll be disappointed. 

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: A Certain Age - Blog Tour Historical Fiction Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Freebie
Wednesday: Pretty Little World - Blog Tour Fiction Review
Thursday: A Rogue Not Taken - Historical Romance Review
Friday: Friday Linkups featuring teasers from current book
Saturday: 52 Pins in 52 Weeks - January Edition and first Linkup!

Have a great week and happy reading!

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School - Review + Recipe

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

This book has been on my TBR since pre-blogging days.  I got a text one day from Lisa over at Books Lists Life saying I just HAD to get this book.  So I did and fully meant to read it.  I even picked it up a few times but for some reason never actually started to read it.  Then I read her 3rd book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good which was about her growing up days and her family and loved it.  In 2016 I read her 1st book - The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry about her time at Cordon Bleu and adored it.  So this year when looking for the first book of the year I decided it was finally time to take The Kitchen Counter Cooking School off the shelf and actually read it.  And I'm so glad I did!  This is like pure inspiration wrapped in book form and is interesting and entertaining as well.

The book starts off with the author Kathleen Flinn in the midst of a bit of an existential crisis.  She's written her first book, she's graduated from culinary school - now what?  The spark of inspiration comes after an encounter in a grocery store with a woman who really just didn't know what to do with the ingredients in front of her.  After some t
hinking and planning she starts a cooking class with 9 volunteers.  All people who don't feel comfortable in the kitchen and who rely either on takeout or packaged food and all people who are curious about doing better.

Now I'm a relatively experienced cook.  I make dinner at least 5 nights a week and very rarely use prepackaged ingredients.  I went in feeling pretty smug - I mean what could she possibly teach me?   I bake bread regularly, I can follow a recipe but alter it if need be, I'm not scared of messing up and am always willing to try new things so clearly this book would only be for entertainment and maybe a few recipes.  I don't know if it was because I started this on New Year's Day when I'm always looking for a new project or if it was my vague awareness that I wanted to change something in my food habits but this book got me THINKING.  Not just the huh.. that's interesting I need to keep that in mind thinking but the making lists and planning strategies kind of thinking.  I suddenly have the urge to inventory my pantry and refrigerator.  I want to read all the labels and know where all my food comes from.  I want to experiment more, taste more, think more and I'm super excited about it.  I feel like this book gave me clarity for something I was trying to change but hadn't really figured out how or what or why.

If you're not looking for massive inspiration this is still a good read.  Flinn comes across as informative but not like her way is the only way to do things.  The different students are interesting and I liked seeing how they dealt with each class and how they interacted with each other.  I also really enjoyed the chapters at the beginning where we met them and saw how they cooked and the chapter at the end which was a  revisit.  Some were more successful than others and it was really interesting to see the takeaway.  I think anyone interested in cooking would really enjoy it and get something out of reading it - from confident experienced cooks to people who are interested in cooking but nervous about it and unsure of where to start.

For a recipe I'm sharing one that I've already made several times in the few weeks since reading this book.  While not particularly low fat it is simple and just amazingly good.

Basic Alfredo Sauce

8 ounces cooked pasta
2 cups heavy cream (2 tablespoons reserved)
1/2 teaspoon 
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the pasta according to package directions, Carefully reserve one cup of the pasta water to use in the sauce.  Over medium high heat, add all but 2 tablespoons of cream to a saute pan or skillet.  When it bubbles, add the salt.  Small bubbles will erupt into larger bubbles.  Stir.  When the sauce thickens enough to cover the back of a spoon or leave a clean line in the bottom of the pan when you pull a spatula across it, add the pasta water.  Cook over medium high heat for about 3 minutes, until it bubbles again and the sauce thickens.  Add the reserved 2 tablespoons of cream, heat through, and then add the cheese, garlic (if using - I haven't), and a few cranks of pepper.  Taste, and add more salt if needed.  Add the cooked pasta and any additional ingredients and stir well to coat.

This stuff is so good!  I could pretty much eat a whole pot of it myself but I do try to be good and share!

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Linkups: A Certain Age

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:
What was the one time you thought the movie was better than the book?

My Answer:
This is tough!  The only book/movie I can think of where I really liked the movie more than the book was Anne of Green Gables in the Disney movie version.  I had tried the book a few times and just never could get into it but when I saw the movie I immediately fell in love.  Of course then I went on to love the book and read everything else that L.M. Montgomery wrote but the movie was my gateway.

I've been wanting to read Beatriz Williams for several years now so when a chance came up to be part of the blog tour for A Certain Age I jumped at it.  I love the 1920s setting and that cover just slays me.  I'm not nearly as far along as I need to be on this one (There needs to be some pretty serious reading this weekend!) but I'm really enjoying it.

The Beginning:
At last! It's the day we've all been waiting for, dear readers: the opening of the latest and greatest Trial of the Century, and I don't mind telling you it's as hot as blazes inside this undersized Connecticut courtroom.

My Thoughts: 
This is from a gossip column and isn't the way the book is written thankfully but it does have me wanting to know more about the Trial of the Century!

The 56:
"Something's fishy.  Why would a man that rich live in a rinky dink townhouse so far south and east?"

My Thoughts:
I think how funny how confused Teresa (the speaker) is about why this family is living in an unfashionable area of town but she does have a point!  Why are they living so far out of the way?

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Any movies that you like better (or even as much as) the book?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Ruin a Queen - Nonfiction Review

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair by Jonathan Beckman

Rating: Good 
Source: NetGalley

Description:  In 1785, a sensational trial began in Paris that would divide the country and captivate Europe. A leading Catholic cardinal and scion of one of the most distinguished families in France stood accused of forging the queen’s signature to obtain the most expensive piece of jewelry in Europe: a 2,800-carat diamond necklace. Where were the diamonds? Was the cardinal innocent? Was, for that matter, the queen? The revelations from the trial would bedevil the French monarchy as the country descended into a bloody revolution.
In How to Ruin a Queen, award-winning author Jonathan Beckman tells of political machinations and enormous extravagance; of kidnappings, prison breaks, and assassination attempts; of hapless French police in disguise, reams of lesbian pornography, and a duel fought with poisoned pigs. It is a detective story, a courtroom drama, a tragicomic farce, and a study of credulity and self-deception in the Age of Enlightenment.

Genre: Nonfiction - History

Why I Picked This Book:  How could I pass up that blurb?  Plus, French history is one of those subjects that I know just enough about to be confused and I'd really like to learn more.

My Impression:  Obviously, I've been aware of Marie Antoinette since I started studying world history in school at some point.  Basically, I knew she was the Queen of France, she lost her head but not before she revolutionized fashion into much simpler styles which seems needed as at the time ladies were wearing bird cages and toy boats on their heads which seems headache inducing.  My first introduction to the diamond necklace affair came through a Nancy Drew computer game I used to play with the kids (which are really fun!  I want to play them again now that I don't have to share with kids who can't solve puzzles quick enough) in which the goal was to locate the diamonds in the famous and notorious diamond necklace.  As for the hows and whys I was still in the dark but I was definitely intrigued.
This book answered some of the questions I had and left me with more but in the best of ways.  I'm fascinated by the necklace and can easily see myself going out and reading everything I can find on the subject and debating answers to questions that will most likely never be answered.  The story itself is fascinating and characters are even more interesting.  There's Marie Antoinette stuck in the precarious position to end all precarious positions, the greedy and scheming Jeanne of royal birth but not wealth and the Catholic cardinal status hungry and lazy golden child of the Rohan family. Beckman gives enough background to make them come to life and to explain how the diamond necklace affair came to be.  While I wouldn't say this is like reading a novel it definitely isn't anywhere near a dry dull textbook.  I enjoyed the fact that Beckman states where his information is coming from and freely admits that some information is unreliable at best.  He includes a detailed cast of characters at the beginning which is helpful and there are also a lot of footnotes to clarify information.  The only negative for me was that I found both of these difficult to benefit from on an ebook.  I think this would read better in a print format.
If you're interested in French history and want to know more about this scandalous necklace and all the intrigue that led up to it this book is an interesting, informative and entertaining read.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would - especially if the topic is as scandalous as this one!

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would recommend this to history lovers and nonfiction readers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fudge and Jury - Blog Tour Cozy Mystery Review

Fudge and Jury (Bakeshop Mystery #5) by Ellie Alexander

Rating: Good
Source: Blog Tour

Description: It’s almost spring in Ashland, Oregon, and the town is preparing for the Shakespeare and the annual Chocolate Festival. Business is cookin’ at Torte, and the store is expanding as Jules’ team whips up crèpes filled with mascarpone cheese and dark chocolate. Torte stands a chance of being this year’s confectionery belle of the ball! Life couldn’t be sweeter—unless murder taints the batter.

Evan Rowe, of Confections Couture, makes a chocolate fountain that would put Willy Wonka to shame, and his truffles are to die for—literally? Yes, the world-renowned chocolatier has just turned up dead…right after sampling a slice of Jules’ decadent four-layer chocolate cake. Now all eyes are on Jules as she tries to find the mysterious ingredient in her own recipe. Can she sift out the truth before another contestant bites the buttercream?

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been reading this series since the beginning and it's one I've really enjoyed!

My Impression:  This is my 5th visit to Ashland, Oregon and the amazing sounding bakery Torte.  I was very much looking forward to spending more time with Jules, her mom Helen, Sterling and everyone else who inhabits the world Alexander has created.  Visiting with these characters is almost like visiting with old friends and I always look forward to catching up with them.
The food talk is amazing.  This is not a book to be read on an empty stomach - particularly if you have a sweet tooth.  In this book because of the Chocolate Festival (this needs to be a real thing and it needs to be near me!) the focus is most definitely on the sweet and the treats described are amazing sounding!  Luckily, there's several recipes in the back of the book which I'm hoping to attempt.  I was pleased not to see much of Jules' usual nemesis, Richard Lord, in this book, but would have loved some more time with Sterling, Andy, and Stephanie.  I'm super curious about the plans for Torte that are discussed some in this book.  I can't wait to see what happens next in that area!
The mystery was intriguing and I always love it when there are tons of suspects but the way it was done seems impossible.  I was pleased with the solution and enjoyed how it was done.  My only complaint there was that I had a hard time believing that Evan who knew he would be eating from different vendors and knew he had life threatening allergies wouldn't have an epi-pen with him but that's only a small piece.
While I like Jules there was a lot of complimenting her in this book and that got a little towards the eye rolling side.  Yes, I get that she's a brilliant pastry chef and attractive but it seems to be commented on a lot.  As well, I'm about ready for the subplot involving her estranged husband Carlos to be wrapped up.  While it isn't overwhelming it does take up space that I would have rather been focused on the mystery or the inner workings of Torte.
Despite a few small issues this is a series that I consistently enjoyed and am always left looking forward to my next visit to Torte.  While it is the 5th in the series I think it could be read on its own without any problem though the previous books are fantastic!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  This has been a series that I've consistently enjoyed and am looking forward to more.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a fun series and this is a really solid addition.  I think anyone who enjoys foodie cozies would thoroughly enjoy this book.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Hidden Gem Books I Read in 2016

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Hidden Gem Books I Read in 2016.  There are so many great books that not nearly enough people have read - or at least not rated on Goodreads!  I'm sticking with books I loved that have less than 200 ratings on Goodreads.

1.  Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern (135 Reviews) - This series is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series.  It's set in the 1970s and feels very much like it's set during the time but not like the setting is a gimmick.  The mysteries are always fantastic, the characters are interesting, and Mulhern has the most amazing Pinterest boards where you can actually see her inspiration for the clothes, cars, and everything else in her books.  If you've never read a cozy mystery this is a fantastic series to start with.

2.  Body in the Bayou by Ellen Byron (186 Reviews) - This is another cozy series and is set in the bayous of Louisiana.  This is a setting I'm super familiar with and I can tell that the author is as well as it's perfectly done.  The first two books in this series are both super entertaining and have just been a joy to read.

3.  Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France by Thad Carhart (101 Reviews)- This part memoir part history lesson is just lovely.  I loved getting to know the Carhart family (especially the mother who is my new personal hero.  I'm pretty sure that nothing shocked that woman) and learn about life in post-World War II France and thoroughly enjoying getting chapters on the history of France all centered around an amazing former residence of royalty.

4.  Better Get to Livin' by Sally Kilpatrick (83 Rating) - This was an accidental NetGalley request.  I'm not usually a quirky small town reader but this was so much fun without being silly.  I was absolutely delighted with it and if you enjoy small town stories with some seriously quirky characters this is one that absolutely should not be missed.

5.  How Secrets Die by Marta Perry (103 Ratings) - Another quirky small town but this one has a heavy dose of suspense, a sizable helping of characters making their peace with the past, and just a nice dollop of romance.  I'm excited that Perry has a sizable backlist because she's definitely an author I want to see lots more of!

6.  The Rain Sparrow by Linda Goodnight ((174 ratings) - I requested this one off of NetGalley the second I saw it took place in an inn without noticing the darkness of some of the other plot points.  I'm glad I didn't notice them because they may have kept me from reading what was one of my favorite books of 2016.  In a dual timeline book there's usually one timeline that is so much more interesting than the other but this was a rare exception.  I loved all the characters and was so very invested in all the stories.

7.  A Reckless Desire by Isabella Bradford (158 ratings) - This is the 3rd book in a trilogy about brothers and my favorite.  Bradford manages to blend deep social issues into an entertaining historical romance without making light of the issues and without making the book too heavy.

8.  Death and the Brewmaster's Widow by Loretta Ross (152 ratings) - This is a cozy series that needs more attention.  The characters are so unusual without being over the top and there's a history element in every mystery.  I have the third book in this series coming up and I can't wait to catch back up with the Death (pronounced Deeth) and Wren.

9.Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance (155 ratings) - All the books in this series have slight touches of fairy tale inspiration for an extra bit of fun.  It's a historical mystery which is unusual and the main character is edging towards con-artist which makes for a unique cozy and one that needs more attention.

10. The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio (212 ratings) - I'm cheating just a little because this has just over 200 ratings but it really should have more.  I can never turn down a bookish book - especially a mystery with books!  Not only do the characters in the series belong to a book club together but they talk about books - A LOT! In this story it's all about Rebecca and I adored every minute of book discussion. To make it even better it had a great mystery attached!

What books did you love that need a little more attention?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks - Reading in 2017

I love the beginning of the year!  There are new lists to be made, new projects to start, new ideas to put into work.  It's all very exciting!  Now I know that really January 1 is not any different from February 2 or November 17 but it FEELS different!  It feels fresh and new and clean.  Now is my time to look at my reading for 2016 and decide what I want to do in 2017.

My goal in 2016 was to push myself more in what I read and I feel like I did pretty well.  Not every book was a hit but I got something out of each one - even if it was learning that a particular sub-genre isn't for me.

But as 2016 wound down I found myself getting overwhelmed in book world.  I love my books and I love getting new books but I feel like I've lost control of the stacks.  There are so many books either stacked up in corners, on my Kindle or on lists to be borrowed from the library and I want to read them all but sometimes it feels impossible.   I've spent some time stacking books and making lists and reading about the challenges that other people are doing (and which I really enjoy following along with!) all the while thinking about what I want to do.  And after a bit of thinking and pondering and overthinking some more I came up with a strategy - I'm going to read what I want to read.  That's not exactly groundbreaking I know but my goal is to do it mindfully.

So I decided to schedule.  I flipped through my TBR and pulled out the first books that jumped out at me.  There's a mix of books - romance, mysteries, fiction and and even a science fiction book.  For now I'm only doing one a month with an occasional classic added in.

My schedule this year -

January - A Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean.  
Reason: I adore Sarah Maclean on the podcast Avon on the Air which has not had a new episode in far too long and have heard fabulous things about a book.  This is the first book in a series that she describes as Regency Era TMZ.

February - Still Life by Louise Penny
Reason: This is a mystery series I discovered after I started blogging and I've been meaning to read it since the beginning.  I love the sound of the Quebec setting and the more procedural style mystery.

March - The Lake House by Kate Morton
Reason: I read one Kate Morton book years and years ago and loved it and swore I'd read more.  That of course hasn't happened but after this book came out I decided I needed to make an effort to make it happen because this one sounds amazing!

April - Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper
Reason: I was so excited about this series when it came out.  I love cozies, I love teapots and a whole series involving both just seemed to good to pass up!

May: Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
Reason: It's been described as Regency Clue.  I really must read it.  Since May is my birthday month this book seems like a perfect birthday present to me!

June - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Reason: I love Douglas Adams' style of humor and this book sounds bizarre and hilarious and completely confusing!

July - Garden Spell by Sarah Addison Allen
Reason: The summer before last I read my very first Sarah Addison Allen book and it was such a perfect summer read.  I've been wanting to read Garden Spell ever since and it seems like it'd be another perfect summer read.

August - Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Reason: In August school starts back and I get a little bit of my brain back!  This book sounds like a good change of pace.

September - In the Woods by Tana French
Reason: Pretty much all that I said about Still Life except this one seems a little darker and is set in Ireland.

October - Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Reason: I wanted something a little spooky and I love all things Jack the Ripper!

November - Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey
Reason: Maeve Binchey is an author I've been wanting to read for at least a decade but somehow never did.  I own a copy of this one and it sounds wonderful.  I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

December - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Reason: Last year I attempted to reread Great Expectations which I hated when I read it in high school.  Turns out almost 20 years later I still didn't like it but I could really appreciate Dickens' ability to create atmosphere and memorable characters.  I've always loved this story and this is the year to actually read it!

I've got high hopes for the scheduling!  I'm thinking this is the year I'll finally get some of those "I've been meaning to get that read for ages" books read!  What changes do you hope to make going forward?  Anything you did in 2016 that you plan to keep going?