Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Books I'm Buying for My Birthday

My birthday is next week and in celebration I'm going to buy myself a bunch of books!  I've actually declared the entire month of May the Month of Me and am focusing on really concentrating on things I love.  So what better way to start off the Month of Me with a big order of books?

1.  The Summoning by Heather Graham - So I may have already pre-ordered this one but I really enjoy the Krewe series and this one takes place in Savannah which is a place I've always wanted to vist.  

2.  The French House: An American Family, A Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All by Don Wallace - This has been on my TBR for ages and I think now it's time I finally order it!

3.  The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell - Pretty much the same as above.

4.  I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel - I really wanted to read Bogel's first book but never got around to it and honestly this one calls me even more.

5.  The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper to Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchock by Lucy Worsley - I don't really know all that much about this one but I like what I've seen from Worsley on a handful of documentaries and I love the topic.

6.  In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey by Samuel Fromartz - I've been in a bread baking mood and I love cooking project memoirs!

7.  The House We Grew Up in by Lisa Jewell - This was the first Lisa Jewell book I saw and it appealed to me instantly.  I finally read a Lisa Jewell book last year and really enjoyed it and this sounds good though a bit different.

8.  The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - I've checked this one out of the library several times and I think it's time I just buy it and get it read!

9.  The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams - I read a bunch of Beatriz Williams last year and have been missing her!  This is the first of the Schuyler Sisters and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

10. Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a Life by the Sea by Catherine Goldhammer -I know nothing about this one other than I love the title and the basic premise so I figure this is a good one to take a chance on!

What books would you buy yourself for your birthday present?

Monday, April 29, 2019

The View from Alameda Island - Fiction Kind of a Review

Goodreads:  The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

Rating:  Today is Not the Day
Source:  Little Bird Publicity 

Description:  From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.
Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I enjoy Carr's fiction stand alones and I love starting over kind of reads.

My Impression:  I'm in a bit of a cranky reading mood at the moment - the kind of mood where most fictional characters seriously annoy me.  Therefore I don't really trust my opinion of this one so I'm not willing to give it a star rating or extended opinion.

I will say that Robyn Carr has the impressive ability to create sympathetic but flawed characters.  She also creates fully developed communities where the reader gets to know many of the characters that inhabit the main character's life.  While I did feel that the beginning was a bit clunky once Lauren and Beau meet it gained some traction and the pacing improved.  This is a complex story of an unhappy marriage and an even unhappier divorce with all the widespread pain and malice that an ugly divorce can cause. 

If you enjoy Robyn Carr's writing and/or books involving complicated relationships than I think you'd enjoy this one.  While I was annoyed with this one it really wasn't due to any fault of the book so don't let that stop you from picking this one up.  For my sake I'm planning on rereading this one when I'm not as grumpy and I think I've learned a bit about trying to force myself to get through a book when I'm clearly not in the mood. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would.  Bad mood aside I usually really enjoy Carr's books and I don't think this one is any different.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like books about complicated relationships and families than I think you'd really enjoy this one.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Sunday, April 28, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 28

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 the Sunday Salon now hosted by Deb over at Readerbuzz

What I Got:

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves - I've been wanting to read Ann Cleeves for ages so I'm excited to try this first book in a new series.  (Publisher)

And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - I've enjoyed the first two books in this series but honestly, even if I hadn't, there was no way I could pass up a cozy mystery with a title that's a spin on an Agatha Christie title. (NetGalley)

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair - This is a historical set in post-World War II London.  There's a murder, a matchmaking agency, and amateur sleuths.  (Publisher)

Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter - A women's fiction-y type book with a beach house, a missing relative, and characters packing up a house while sorting through their issues is pretty much a book that was written for me!  (Blog Tour)


Reading:  The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay and Dying for Devil's Food by Jenn McKinlay

Listening:  I just finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and am just starting Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Watching: I'm caught up on MacGyver and am now watching the Magnum PI reboot.  It's definitely not as good as the original but it entertaining and predictable enough I can have it on as background noise.

Off the Blog:

This week was pretty quiet.  We are less than a month from the end of school which means we are seriously dragging in the mornings.  Throw in a hefty does of allergies and the Tornado is not fun to get out of bed every morning.  We are all counting down the days!  The summer is going to be pretty crazy but I'm looking forward to not having to get up early every day. 

We have started having regular movie night with a heavy lean on Disney movies.  So far we've watched Wreck It Ralph, Coco, Frozen, Inside Out, and in a non-Disney turn The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  What are your favorite family friendly movies?  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  The View From Alameda Island - Fiction Kind of Review
Tuesday:  Books I'm Buying for My Birthday
Wednesday:  A Hodge Podge of Reviews - What I've Been Reading #2
Thursday:  Murder on Trinity Place - Historical Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Fives - May Reads
Saturday:  Unhallowed Grave - Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Magnolia Table - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines

I somehow missed the whole Chip and Joanna Gaines Fix It Upper craze.  They had become super popular before they were even slightly on my radar and I don't think I ever even watched an episode until after it had already been announced that it was ending.  I like the show well enough and I like that it's different styles of house each time and that about sums up my feelings about it. 

So for some reason when this cookbook came out I absolutely had to have it.  So I bought it.  Flipped through it.  And then stuck it on a shelf without ever really experimenting with it.   But lately I've been feeling like cooking again so I dusted this one off and decided to get to work.  So far I've made Jojo's Biscuits, Country Potato Soup with Crumbled Bacon, Chicken Spaghetti, Mina's Lemon Bars, and Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Today I thought I'd share the recipe for the Chocolate Chip Cookies with you.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I think I only used 1 cup)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer (this is what I did)), beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and beat until blended.  Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture to the bowl.  Mix on medium just until the flour is mixed in, then turn the mixer to high speed for a few seconds to pull the dough together; it will be chunky.  

Add the chocolate chips and beat on high for about 5 seconds to thoroughly and quickly mix in the chips.

Drop by large spoonfuls on the lined baking sheet; don't flatten them.  Bake until lightly browned on top, 10 to 11 minutes.  Cool on the pan on a rack for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely  Repeat with remaining dough.
My Thoughts:  I almost didn't make these because the recipe breaks my main rule of cookie making which is pretty much more butter less sugar.  However, I'm so glad I took the chance!  They're so delicious and a bit different than my usual chocolate chip cookie recipes.  There's almost a caramel-y quality to these that make them a bit addictive.  In fact, just thinking about them makes me want to make these cookies again!

My Thoughts on the Cookbook as a Whole:  After playing around with this one a bit I really like it.  Out of the recipes I made the only flop was the biscuits.  While the flavor was very good the texture was way too loose and the biscuits just fell apart.  I have a friend who subscribes to a magazine that also had a Jojo's biscuits recipe in it and it was completely different and the results were way better.  The lemon bars were delicious but weren't quite as lemony as I'd like.  The chicken spaghetti and the potato soup were both absolutely delicious.  Both recipes made quite a bit but thankfully reheated incredibly well.  Don't forget the bacon on the soup it really takes it up a notch.

The cookbook itself includes a wide variety of recipes from breakfast to snacks to light meals to more substantial main courses.  There's pretty much something for everyone - from the pickiest kid to more adventurous eaters.  After cooking from this book over the last couple of weeks I'm excited to keep playing around with it and there are so many other recipes that I'm looking forward to trying.  This is one I'd recommend.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Fives - My Anti-Slump Reads

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This is a bookish week!  Every season change (well temperature change) seems to bring at least the threat of a reading slump and this change from cold to warm is no different.  I haven't hit full slump yet but I find myself really annoyed with most of the characters in the books I'm reading.  Does that ever happen to you?  Here are a few I'm going to pick up to hopefully keep the slumps away!

1.Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie - Agatha Christie's characters never annoy me and her clean straightforward writing style is always soothing when I find my tolerance for bad decisions by fictional characters especially low.

2. Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams - This is a bit of a gamble as I haven't actually read anything by Adams but a travel memoir usually keeps me entertained - especially if there's a bit of research or treasure hunting going on.

3.  After Many Days by L.M. Montgomery - This is a short story collection that borders on the over sweet but it's just the perfect thing for my somewhat grumpy mood.

4.  Out of the Past by Patricia Wentworth - I love a Patricia Wentworth mystery (except for The Grey Mask which is another story for another time) and this is one I haven't read yet.  They've got some of the cleanness that Agatha Christie has but are a little cozier and sweeter.  Plus, I adore Miss Silver - maybe even more than Miss Marple!

5.  Blood Magick by Nora Roberts - Nora Roberts' characters rarely bring me to rage induced screeching (normally it's something along the lines of "just tell them the truth!" at characters who insist on hiding or lying about something unimportant) and this is the third in a trilogy I've really been enjoying. 

What are some of your Anti-Slump Reads?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Books from the Backlog - Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!  I love Jenny Colgan and I love cupcakes so the fact that Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan has been sitting on my shelf for YEARS is just insanity.

Blurb:  Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that - Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe's bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she's made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own cafe.

My Thoughts:  This sounds wonderful and I absolutely loved the last Colgan book I read.  I need to move this to the top of the stack.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Missing Years - Mystery Review

Goodreads:  The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

Rating: Good
Source:  Publisher

Description:  Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.
Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I enjoyed the previous Lexie Elliott book I read and I adore this blurb so I couldn't pass it up.

My Impression:  This book has two of my very favorite things - a missing person case and a crumbling family estate stuffed with secrets.  This one got off to a bit of a slow start.  Is Ailsa losing her mind, is the house haunted, or is someone out to make her think both of those things?  Throw in a community who is either overly interested in the house or openly hostile (or a bit of both) and there is a lot going on in this book.  And just what happened to Ailsa's father all those years ago?  I think all the plots, subplots, and mysteries gaining traction slowed down the beginning.  It was always enjoyable and easy to read though at times for the first third I felt a little bit impatient with the story.

When things start moving they really start moving!  And while I had enjoyed the book from the beginning I was well in truly hooked by the second half.  I like that Elliot's characters are more sympathetic than the average psychological thriller character (or at least in my experience).  While Ailsa wasn't someone I'd always want to spend time with I could always sympathize with her.  This was quite a mystery -some old some new - and was fascinating to unravel! 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  This is the 2nd book by Elliot that I've read and I've really enjoyed both.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy an atmospheric mystery this is definitely a good read and one I think most mystery lovers will enjoy.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - First Books I Reviewed

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is the first 10 books I reviewed.  To make things simpler I'm going with first 10 books I reviewed on this blog which started in August 2013.  At the time I was doing a lot of multi-book reviews which is actually a style I've been revisiting.

1.  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - This was a surprise.  I vaguely remembered reading this one and reviewing it but I had no idea it was the first review.  I liked it okay and enjoyed the novelty though I ended up DNFing the 2nd one.

2.  When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James - I liked a lot about the writing but wasn't head over heels in love with the story itself.  So far this is the only full length Eloisa James I read.

3.  Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery - I was reading all of the L.M. Montgomery books in 2013 so I have read this one multiple times and every time I love it.

4.  Bossypants by Tina Fey - I liked this one fine when I first read it but I ended up listening to it a few years ago when I needed to fill an empty space in my audio list and I enjoyed it way more!

5.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers - I expected to fall absolutely in love with this one and the fact that I didn't was so disappointing that I think I ended up liking it even less.  I know I'm in the minority here but it just didn't work for me!

6.  Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery - Did I mention I was reading all the L.M. Montgomery books in 2013?  I didn't love this one when I first read this as a kid and didn't love it but when I reread it as an adult it became one of my favorites.

7.  Sour Apples by Shelia Connolly - This was one of the first cozy mystery series I ever read and I still feel a bit sentimental about it. 

8.  Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery - Another Montgomery book!  I enjoy this one even though it's a bit too sweet in moments.  There are some really hearbreaking and heartwarming stories mixed in the with sweet.

9.  Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis - I was dragging out getting to the end of the Lucky Harbor series with this one.  It ended up being a favorite.  I loved the main characters here even though the hero took some getting used to!

10. How to Moon a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale - This is a weird mystery series with no murders and lots of puzzles.  I think this was the last one I read and it was definitely intriguing though a bit overly complicated.

What were the first books you reviewed and where did you review them?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review

Goodreads:  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Rating:  Loved It!
Source: Library (Audio)

Description: On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more--all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I had heard this recommended by the Modern Mrs. Darcy a number of times and I found the subject matter fascinating so I just had to listen to it!

My Impression:  I've been fascinated with shipwrecks since the day we got the National Geographic magazine all about the discovery of the Titanic in the mail.  Because of that I know a bit more about the Titanic than the Lusitania but I find it equally fascinating. 

This book turned almost everything I thought I knew about the sinking of the Lusitania on its ear and what it didn't change it fleshed out with such incredible detail.  This was one of the those books that I wanted to talk about all the time as I was reading it.  Each chapter brought interesting bits of information about the ship, the war, the passengers, as well as the sinking itself.  It was truly fascinating.  But what really connected me wasn't just the historical information but the biographies of the passengers.  Larson brought so many of them to life and at times had me teary listening to their poignant and tragic stories.  This was interesting, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking and a nonfiction book that not only kept me listening but that I was sorry to hear the end of.

The audio edition is narrated by Scott Brick who did a great job with the pacing and tone without ever lapsing into overly dramatic.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to listening to other books by Larson.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are even the slightest bit interested in this topic than this is a must not miss. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 21

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:

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz - This one reminds me a little bit of a show on TNT called Perception.  There's a cop and a professor who not only has been diagnosed with schizophrenia who sees crime related visions.  I'm really curious about this one! (Publisher)

Jackson by Emily March - I almost passed on this one because I don't like name titles but this one has a bookstore owner which I can never resist.  Plus, I've loved the last few books by March so I decided to get past that particular bias. (Publisher)

A Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry - There's an antique store in England.  And that was pretty much all I needed to know.  (NetGalley)

Dying for Devil's Food  by Jenn McKinlay - This is a fun cozy series though it does make me want to binge eat cupcakes! (Publisher)


Reading:  The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr and still reading The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Listening:  I'm almost done with Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts and I'm going to start Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Watching:  We've been heavy on the movies lately and I've watched a few episodes of MacGyver.  It's not the best show but it is entertaining.

Off the Blog:

This weekend was a three day weekend.  The Tornado had Friday off for a weather day (we lose them if we have a number of school days cancelled for weather concerns but it's been a mild year).  We had talked about going on a day trip but the next two weekends are going to be kind of nuts so we decided to stay home.  Luckily we did because the Tornado's teacher called me Thursday afternoon to tell me he was sick!  So we had more of a low key weekend than expected.  He's feeling much better though a bit puny and sorry for himself.

I'm sticking with the running and it's getting equally easier and harder.  I'm not as tired and it doesn't hurt as much but I'm seriously sore!  I'm also trying to up my strength workouts as that's supposed to help with the soreness but we'll see.

We've discovered our cat is scared of thunderstorms.  He's not quite two yet and apparently in most of those two years we haven't had many storms.  However, the last month or so we've had several drawn out storms and it is past pathetic.  He's literally paralyzed by fear.  I've had dogs who were afraid of storms and it was always sad but I could help them a little.  With him I have no clue.  I got some treats that are supposed to relax him but it's near impossible to get him to take them and when I do I haven't noticed any help.  Any advice?

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Dead Wake - Nonfiction Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - The First Ten Books I Reviewed
Wednesday:  The Missing Years - Mystery Review
Thursday:  Books from the Backlog
Friday:  Friday Fives - My Favorite Slump Busting Reads
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Faithful - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Rating:  Very Good
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:  Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I heard so many good things about this one from bloggers who read all kinds of genres that I couldn't pass it up.

My Impression:  I'm going to be honest - for the first 25% or so I was pretty meh about this book.  Shelby is so full of self loathing and such a hot mess that it's hard to want to hear her story.  But then - around the time she adopted the General and Blinky - everything changed and I was completely hooked.  I didn't connect to Shelby necessarily but I rooted for her and very frequently I wanted to reach into the book and give her a good shake because she just couldn't readjust her vision of herself.

There aren't any magic wands in Shelby's world and her journey isn't easy or flawless but it felt authentic.  I loved Hoffman's ability to make me care and to make me believe that Marielle and Jasmine and Pablo and all the rest really existed and I became really invested as the book went on. This was my first book by Alice Hoffman but it definitively won't be my last.  While it took me a little bit to warm up to both her very unique style and Shelby herself I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this read and I was sad when it ended because that means my time with Shelby is over.

Audio note: Amber Tamblyn narrated this book.  While I thought her voice was perfect for Shelby her pacing was very slow.  I ended up increasing the speed quite a bit and I think it improved my enjoyment of the book.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  While I wasn't so sure of this one at first but Hoffman really sold me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  Even if this is a little outside your typical reading genres I think you'd enjoy it.  Though if you have the same audio edition I did I highly recommend increasing the pace even if you never do.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Fives - YouTube Channels I'm Loving

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week is one of the not so much weeks.  The last year or so I discovered YouTube (because clearly I'm on top of trends!).  I mean I knew what YouTube was but thought it was mostly for looking up how to do something or watching the occasional movie trailer.  But then I discovered different YouTube channels that I really enjoyed.  This happened right about the time we changed cable companies and I stopped being able to watch saved TV shows on my tablet.  And with the fact that my usual constant stream of crime shows started causing my crazy intense anxiety and I had to start looking elsewhere for my background noise.  Here are 5 of my favorite YouTube channels!

1.  Safiya Nygaard - Safiya was really the first YouTube channel I ever discovered and she's still my favorite.  She's funny but in a smart way and always seems to put a little bit of history or research in her videos.  Her videos range from topics like "I Dressed Like it was 1977" and "The History of Lipstick" to trying suspiciously cheap companies like Wish or Romwe.  She's also done stuff like buying an abandoned storage or a palette of Amazon Returns.  Really it'd be easier to talk about what she HASN'T done. 

2.  RachhLovesLife - I discovered this channel shortly after I found her somewhat more popular makeup channel but I think this one is really my favorite.  She tests all kinds of online "hacks" or top rated products and she is absolutely hilarious.  My favorite videos are the ones where she's playing Sims4 and I never like those kinds of videos but her spin on it is just so funny.

3.  TheTimTracker - This channel basically focuses on Tim and his wife Jen having adventures at all the Orlando area amusement parks with a special focus on Disney World.  They do a great job exploring all the different parks, festivals, tasting new food, and discovering new experiences.  They always give very honest well reasoned opinions but all the time coming off as upbeat and just super nice.  I may have found them when I was deep in my Disney World obsession (still there) but I keep watching them because they're just such fun.

4.  Yoga with Adriene - So this isn't really background noise as I'm usually actually doing the Yoga practice but I can't make a list of favorite channels without mention this one.  I have done one of her practices almost every day this year and I'm feeling better than I have in years.  I have several other yoga channels that I enjoy but Adriene is the one that I always go back to.

5.  Mellissa - Mellissa is a reseller on eBay and she does haul videos with her husband Bare showing what they picked up at the Goodwill Bins or other thrift stores.  They also do unboxings from different companies that are geared towards resellers.  She also videos about putting together packages.  Honestly, none of this stuff really appeals to me but Mellissa is just the absolute nicest person I've ever come across and I just love their videos.  Something about them is so calming and uplifting and even though their videos are LONG I never get bored or tired of them.

Do you watch YouTube?  Who are some of your favorites?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Hodge Podge of Reviews - What I've Been Reading #1

The Widow by Fiona Barton - I thoroughly enjoyed The Child by Barton last year and was curious how she handled this story involving what happens behind the scenes in the house and in the marriage of a man publicly suspected of the absolute worst kind of crime.  This was definitely kept me hooked and kept me guessing from start to finish.  Just what did happen to little Bella and just how much did "the widow" know.  I was relieved that while crimes against children was very front and center it wasn't graphic and was mercifully light on details.  While I didn't enjoy this read as much as The Child I really appreciate the way Fiona Barton tells a story and I'll definitely be continuing with her books.  I listened to the audio and it was fantastic which a wonderful voice actor for each POV.  Rating: Very Good

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis -This was a reread for me and a very fun one.  It's been quite some time since I visited Lucky Harbor and it was a fun visit.  I especially enjoyed Maddie's journey to not be the mouse anymore and the growing relationship between the sisters.  Yes the romance was fun too but it was the sisters that that really sold it for me.  I listened to the audio on this one and while it didn't detract from the book I didn't feel like it really added anything for me.  This is a fun start to a fun series that never disappoints!  Rating: Good

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz - I do love a tale of Gothic mystery - especially when it involves a crumbling estate.  Just what had the briefcase contained and why was Madeline's grandmother so desperate to hide it so long ago.  And even more importantly just who was after that information and what did they know?  This was a fun fast paced romantic suspense that while not perfect was an entertaining listen and cements Krentz as a guaranteed author for an enjoyable and suspenseful read.  Rating: Good

Always On My Mind by Belle Andre - I think I'm in the minority here.  The reviews for this one - even from bloggers I trust and usually have the same taste as - are pretty much glowing.  I had some issues with this one.  I loved Lori.  Her ability to not only see the good but find the fun in some serious hard work is endearing and I enjoyed watching her regain her confidence.  My issue was 100% with Grayson.  Grayson is a jerk.  I mean I get that there has been tragedy in his life but that doesn't give him the monopoly on hurt or betrayal.  The fact that he completely dismissed and undermined Lori's feelings when she opened up to him really set my teeth on edge.  He was mean to the point of cruel for really no reason other than he had decided not to get close to people.  Yes there was some redemption but in my opinion it was too little too late.  What kept me reading was Andre's writing which was really brought the characters to life.  While I didn't love Grayson (massive understatement) I loved the Lori and the world that Andre created enough that I won't hesitate to read more from her.  Rating: Just Okay

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Classic Movie Essentials - His Girl Friday (1940)

Setting:  A newsroom in New York city right before World War II. 

Walter Burns - Cary Grant
Hildy Johnson - Rosalind Russell
Bruce Baldwin - Ralph Bellamy
Sheriff Hartwell - Gene Lockhart

Premise: On the eve of her remarriage newspaper editor, Walter Burns, tempts his ex-wife, Hildy Johnson, back into the fast moving world of journalism with the race to stay an execution.

My Thoughts:  "Oh Walter you're wonderful in a loathsome sort of way" so says Hildy Johnson in the airy arch way that only Rosalind Russell can do with such perfection.  This movie has a blazing fast pace and a constant flow of incredibly witty banter.  It's funny and suspenseful and incredibly entertaining.   For the age of the movie it feels incredibly fresh and funny and feels shockingly undated - despite a lot of very dated opinions that get bandied around. 

My only negative would be that if you are even slightly hard of hearing you may want to make sure the background noise is at a minimum.  The dialogue is so fast and zippy it could be hard to hear clearly if there is any white noise.  And also as far as I can tell this is the only movie that Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell costar in and their chemistry is so fantastic that this is an absolute tragedy.

Why I Think It's Essential - This movie is funny and crisp and just a total delight.  And really more people should watch it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Rainy Day Reads

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl is Rainy Day Reads.  I love the occasional rainy day and curling up with a good book is one of my favorite things!  Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - There was so much hype when this one came out that I ended up being a little disappointed with it but the story itself is sweet  with a touch of bittersweet and is a quick read that pulls you in.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

2.  The Mysterious Mr. Quinn by Agatha Christie - I love Agatha Christie's short stories and this is one of my absolute favorite collections.  They're light mystery and so entertaining - perfect to spend a gray drizzly afternoon.

3.   In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - This is a spooky mystery with an oppressive setting and begs to be read in a thunderstorm.

4.  A Week Winter by Maeve Binchy - The setting for this book is a warm cozy house on the Irish coast and would be perfect reading when curled up with a blanket on a cold rainy day.

5.  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - While I love a rainy day more than two or three make me stir crazy and this is perfect for a little escapist reading when you just can't handle being inside anymore.

6.  The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels - A spooky read that really must be read during a thunderstorm - preferably with howling wind.

7.  The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - I think you really need to have a plateful of scones sitting by when you read this and a cold drizzly day is the perfect atmosphere.

8.  The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis - Every rainy day should have a little magic and this book is a one sitting block everything out and be completely delighted kind of read.

9.  The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor - I wouldn't read this when the weather is too bad as there are two actual hurricanes in the book but a bit of rain would add the perfect atmosphere to this heart breaking book.

10. Book 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton - This is the perfect "it's been raining so long that if it rains one more day I'm going to lose mind" kind of read.  It's so hot and dry in this book that a bit of rain won't seem quite so bad!

What are some of your favorite rainy day reads?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ramblings from the Stacks - Organizing Bookshelves

So I'm jumping the gun a bit here but I'm so close to having my very own personal library that I can just about taste it.   So my reading room/office used to be my daughter's room but since she left for college it's been kind of a catch all for the stuff everyone has left behind.  But now that the three older kids are on their own paths we are clearing up the stuff and turning the room into a usable space!  I'm so excited!

We have a number of bookcases scattered throughout the house but they're kind of shared space and nothing something I really want to rearrange at a whim.  But someday in the foreseeable future I'm going to have a wall of bookcases that are all mine to organize how I wish with focus on reading projects and TBRs and whim without any thought to aesthetics. 

But of course with unlimited choices comes a touch of "but what am I going to do?".  I'm leaning towards alphabetically by genre but at the same time I've been having a lot of fun with picking a theme for each month so maybe I categorize by theme?  Like all the books with bookstore owners together regardless of genre? 

What's your bookshelf space like?  How do you categorize your books?  And if you were starting over from scratch would you do the same thing or would you set it up all different?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

This Week in Reading - April 14

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 Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts - I read a Sheila Roberts books ages ago and really enjoyed it and have been wanting to revisit her books ever since then.  This one looks good and I love the summery cover!  (Publisher)


Reading:  The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio and The Missing Years by Lexie Elliot

Listening:  I finished The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell and am now listening to Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts

Watching:  Mostly movies - I've been watching lots of Hallmark movies and we watched a fun Doris Day movie over the week.  Our Disney movie last weekend was Frozen and we are in the debating process for this weekend's.  I'm' trying for either The Rescuers, Tangled, or Princess and the Frog but not sure what will happen.

Off the Blog:

I started running again!  I'm doing a plan that's more for rehabbing which is lots of short intervals and so far it's going very well.  It feels great to be moving again and I'm really enjoying it.  I switched to a walking path versus my neighborhood as it's a lot more level and I don't have to worry about cars.  My legs are killing me at the moment but more in a sore way than an injury way so I'm happy about that.  I'm really looking forward to making progress.  Other than that it was a quiet week and next week isn't going to be too exciting either.  The Tornado is out Friday for a weather day (yay for not having enough bad weather that we lost it!) and I'm hoping it's a pretty day so we can go do something fun.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Ramblings from the Stacks - Organizing Bookshelves
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Rainy Day Reads
Wednesday:  My Classic Movie Essentials - His Girl Friday
Thursday:  Mini Reviews
Friday: Friday Fives 
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Goodreads:  The Pioneer Woman Cooks Come and Get It: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree Drummond

The Concept:  Fast, Simple, Family Friendly Recipes.

My Thoughts:  I'm a huge Pioneer Woman fan.  I own all her cookbooks and they are battered and very well used and many of her recipes are counted among the short list of family favorites.  This one, however, has been sitting gathering dust since I got it.  So I decided it was time to dust it off and give it a try. I didn't find this one as versatile as her previous books.  There's a lot of space dedicated to breakfast, salads served in different ways, appetizers, sides,  sheetpan suppers, and meatless marvels.  A lot of the recipes that sound good but not nearly as many that are just begging to be tried as I expect to find in her cookbooks.  Normally I flip through her cookbooks and am just dying to try tons of recipe.  This time - not so much.  There were plenty that looked like they might be tasty but not nearly as many that I really wanted to make.  But I picked two recipes and gave them a try.  The first was Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup and the second was Chicken Piccata.  I thought I'd share the Chicken Picatta reicpe:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped parsley, plus more for serving
1 lb angel hair pasta,cooked according to package directions

If the chicken breasts are overly thick, pound until slightly flattened.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge time in the flour.

Shake off the excess and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.  Fry two of the chicken breasts at a time until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Repeat with the remaining butter, oil, and chicken breasts and remove to a plate.  Set aside.

Pour in the wine, chicken broth, and lemon juice and whisk the sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the flavorful bits.  Let the sauce cook and bubble and thicken until reduced by about half.  Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper as it's cooking.

Turn the heat to low, pour in the cream and whisk the sauce, letting it cook for a couple of minutes to thicken.

Stir in the parsley, then taste and adjust the seasonings.  Expect the sauce to have a real lemony tang to it.  Counter it with a little more broth and cream if it's too strong.

Serve the chicken next to a pile of noodles and spoon the creamy sauce over the whole thing.

My Thoughts:  I followed the recipe exactly (with the exception of the pasta - I used rotini instead of angel hair because that's what I had on hand) and was pretty pleased with the result.  The lemon tang was definitely strong but I enjoyed it and it made for a tasty dinner that went over well.  The soup was a whole other story.  It was easy to throw together but there just wasn't enough to it.  It needed more chicken or more something other than just tomato and spice.  So a 50/50 result.  I'm going to keep experimenting with this book but I doubt it will become my favorite any time soon.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Fives - Five Books I've Gotten From the Library and Returned Unread

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week I got to thinking about all the books that I SOOOOO wanted from the library but ended up getting returned unread for whatever reason - okay not whatever reason but because I had to many OTHER books that needed to be read that jumped in front of it.  Here are five from that list:

1.  The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - I love Kate Morton's books and this one has a family secret and a moldering estate!  And it was returned to the library unread.

2.  The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson - I love Disney World and I love Middle Grade adventure stories so this book involving adventurses at Disney World after hours seems pretty perfect for me.  I've checked it out from the library twice and not read a page.

3.  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman - I decided to give this one a try after I discovered I enjoyed magical realism and read another Hoffman book that I enjoyed it.  Another one I checked out twice and not even opened.

4.  Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - This one may be the winner.  I've checked it out at least three times and am pretty sure I've yet to even pull it out of my library bag.  I got it a few months ago on an Audible sale so I think I'm going to try listening.

5.  The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick - I was so excited when I got this one and yet somehow never read it.  I'm a little annoyed that I never managed to pick it up despite having it actually on my desk but hopefully I'll get to it soon.

Am I the only one that gets big stacks of books from the library filled with all kinds of good intentions only to return them unread?  We aren't going to discuss my buying habits!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Books from the Backlog - Death on Eat Street

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!  This week is the first mystery in a cozy series that I've been wanting to read for ages - Death on Eat Street by J.J.  Cook.

Blurb:  When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama.
Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf: No real reason other than every time I see it I think "I really should read that book!"