Saturday, September 27, 2014

Weekend Cooking - Tea and crumpets with Agatha Raisin - Book Review of "The Blood of An Englishman" by M.C. Beaton



Shining a spotlight on M.C. Beaton's 25th Agatha Raisin mystery - "The Blood of An Englishman!  And what better way to celebrate than with a lovely cup of tea and a plate of genuine crumpets!  (see below the book description for a wonderful crumpet recipe!)


The Blood of an Englishman (Agatha Raisin Series #25)

About The Book:

"Fee, fie, fo, fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman..."

Even though Agatha Raisin loathes amateur dramatics, her friend Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, has persuaded her to support the local pantomime. Stifling a yawn at the production of "Babes in the Woods," Agatha watches the baker playing an ogre strut and threaten on the stage, until a trapdoor opens and the Ogre disappears in an impressive puff of smoke. Only he doesn't re-appear at final curtain.

Surely this isn't the way the scene was rehearsed? When it turns out the popular baker has been murdered, Agatha puts her team of private detectives on the case. They soon discover more feuds and temperamental behavior in amateur theatrics than in a professional stage show—and face more and more danger as the team gets too close to the killer.



My Thoughts:

While it is often difficult to jump into a series midstream, let alone with the 25th installment, I was pleased to find that I could pick up "The Blood of an Englishman" and immediately join in the fun as amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin (what a cool last name!) and her friends as they try to find out who killed the "Ogre" from a local play production.

I loved the wonderfully cozy English flavor of this mystery, and was charmed with the cast of characters who work so well together.  I'm inspired to go back and read the previous 24 books in this series!  And I highly recommend this one!




About The Author:

M. C. BEATON has been hailed as the “Queen of Crime” (The Globe and Mail). Chosen as the British Guest of Honor at Bouchercon 2006, she is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four previous Agatha Raisin novels, the Hamish Macbeth series, and an Edwardian mystery series. Born in Scotland, she currently divides her time between Paris and the English Cotswolds.

Check out her website at www.MCBeaton.com







Curl up with a steaming cup of tea and a plate of these easy-to-make crumpets, and you'll have a wonderful afternoon of reading and snacking!  One of my favorite teas is Stash Teas - they have so many flavors to choose from - I love the English Breakfast Tea and the Raspberry tea that they have!


Classic Crumpets

(recipe from www.greatpartyrecipes.com)
1/2 cup warm water (105° - 115°)
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups milk
In a large bowl, stir the sugar or honey into the warm water. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the top and let it sit until it bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and let it sit for about half an hour in a warm place.

Grease a griddle or frying pan and the crumpet rings or cookie cutters. Place the rings on the cooking surface and preheat all.

Crumpet and English Muffin Rings, GreatPartyRecipes.comPour about 3 tablespoons of batter into each 3" ring and cook over medium low heat until set, about 10 minutes. (Avoid cooking them too quickly.) The top should be full of holes when they are ready to turn.

Remove the rings from the crumpets, turn, and brown the other side, if desired, for a minute or so. Repeat until all the batter is used.

Makes 16 crumpets.



My thanks to Minotaur Books and Stash Teas for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.com

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme sponsored by BethFishReads.com  Check out what other bloggers are cooking up and reading! www.bethfishreads.com


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two new cozy mystery series - Death Is Like A Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons and Fat Cat At Large by Janet Cantrell


With the first day of fall here I wanted to share two new cozy mystery series with you!

One features chocolate and the other one kitty cats - two of my favorite things! 



About The Book:

Whether it’s to satisfy a craving for chocolate or pick up the hottest new bestseller, the locals in charming West Riverdale, Maryland, are heading to Chocolates and Chapters, where everything sold is to die for….

Best friends Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell are celebrating the sweet rewards of their combined bookstore and chocolate shop by hosting the Great Fudge Cook-off during the town’s Memorial Day weekend Arts Festival. But success turns bittersweet when Main Street’s portrait photographer is found dead in their store, poisoned by Michelle’s signature truffles.

As suspicion mounts against Michelle, her sales begin to crumble and her career seems whipped. With Erica by her side, Michelle must pick through an assortment of suspects before the future of their dream store melts away…
 
Includes Scrumptious Chocolate-Making Recipes!


My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. As with any first book in a series there were a lot of characters introduced, but each and every one was essential to the story and by the end, they all felt like old friends.

The two main characters, Michelle (the chocolatier) and Erica (the bookseller), are sassy and smart and I loved the mixing of the chocolate shop and the bookstore. And when someone threatens their livelihood, the girls are determined to stop the threat and save their businesses. I look forward to more stories about these spunky gals.

Be sure to check out author Kathy Aarons' website at www.kathyaarons.com





About The Book:

When she’s not dreaming up irresistible dessert bars for her Minneapolis treatery, Bar None, Charity “Chase” Oliver is running after her cat, Quincy—a tubby tabby with a gift for sniffing out edibles. But what happens when this cat burglar leads Chase to the scene of a real crime?

The jig is up for Chase’s adorable plus-size cat, Quincy. His new vet says “diet”—that means no more cherry cheesecake bars. From now on he gets low-calorie kibble only. But one taste of the stuff is all it takes to drive him in search of better things. Quincy’s escape is the last thing Chase needs after the nasty run-in she has with underhanded business rival Gabe Naughtly.

Chase tracks Quincy down in a neighbor’s kitchen, where he’s devouring a meatloaf, unaware of the much more serious crime he’s stumbled upon. Gabe’s corpse is lying on the kitchen floor, and when Chase is discovered at the murder scene, she becomes suspect number one. Now, with a little help from her friends—both human and feline—she’ll have to catch the real killer or wind up behind bars that aren’t so sweet.


My Thoughts:

Tubby kitties and yummy dessert bars are the stars of this fun new series! Oh, and there is a murder to solve for the humans too. 

Main character Chase Oliver has a lot on her plate - her business is thriving, but someone is stealing from the till; she loves her kitty, but poor Quincy is too fat for the handsome vet's liking; and her business partner Anna is showing signs of confusion.  And on top of that, Chase finds her nemesis murdered while her cat sits munching meatloaf on the kitchen counter. Whew!

Author Janet Cantrell keeps the action moving and her characters hopping in this first story in her new "Fat Cat Mystery" series, and readers will be delighted to join in the fun.  I enjoyed it and look forward to more from this talented writer!



My thanks to Penguin/Prime Crime Books for providing the review copies of these books!  I was not compensated for my opinion.


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Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



It's Monday, and tomorrow is the first day of Autumn - hooray!!!

I just love the Fall season when the weather is cooler and I seem to be able to think better!  While here in North Texas our leaves will not be turning for another month or so, it is just enough coolness to the breeze (ok, wind!) to make me want to jump for joy - or go find a pumpkin spice latte!

And with Fall comes the new crop of Fall books, and there are some excellent ones coming up!  Here is what I'm reading this week -

What I'm Reading Now:



What I Plan To Read:










Hope you have some great books lined up to read this week too!


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme sponsored by Sheila at Bookjourney.  Check out what other bloggers are reading this week - www.bookjourney.blogspot.com




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Friday, September 19, 2014

My first audio book! Forever and Always by Jasinda Wilder



I'm listening to my first audio book (yes, I know, I'm behind the times!).  "Forever and Always" by  Jasinda Wilder is the first book in her young adult series, the Ever Trilogy.

So far so good!  Watch for my review to come of this book and book two, "After Forever."



Here's a little excerpt from this book:

Ever,
These letters are often all that get me through week to week. Even if it’s just random stuff, nothing important, they’re important to me. Gramps is great, and I love working on the ranch. But…I’m lonely. I feel disconnected, like I’m no one, like I don’t belong anywhere. Like I’m just here until something else happens. I don’t even know what I want with my future. But your letters, they make me feel connected to something, to someone. I had a crush on you, when we first met. I thought you were beautiful. So beautiful. It was hard to think of anything else. Then camp ended and we never got together, and now all I have of you is these letters. S**t. I just told you I have a crush on you. HAD. Had a crush. Not sure what is anymore. A letter-crush? A literary love? That’s stupid. Sorry. I just have this rule with myself that I never throw away what I write and I always send it, so hopefully this doesn’t weird you out too much. I had a dream about you too. Same kind of thing. Us, in the darkness, together. Just us. And it was like you said, a memory turned into a dream, but a memory of something that’s never happened, but in the dream it felt so real, and it was more, I don’t even know, more RIGHT than anything I’ve ever felt, in life or in dreams. I wonder what it means that we both had the same dream about each other. Maybe nothing, maybe everything. You tell me.
Cade
~ ~ ~ ~
Cade,
We’re pen pals. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever be. I don’t know. If we met IRL (in real life, in case you’re not familiar with the term) what would happen? And just FYI, the term you used, a literary love? It was beautiful. So beautiful. That term means something, between us now. We are literary loves. Lovers? I do love you, in some strange way. Knowing about you, in these letters, knowing your hurt and your joys, it means something so important to me, that I just can’t describe. I need your art, and your letters, and your literary love. If we never have anything else between us, I need this. I do. Maybe this letter will only complicate things, but like you I have a rule that I never erase or throw away what I’ve written and I always send it, no matter what I write in the letter.
Your literary love,
Ever




About The Author:

049

NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL and international bestselling author Jasinda Wilder is a Michigan native with a penchant for titillating tales about sexy men and strong women. Her bestselling titles include ALPHA, STRIPPED, WOUNDED, and the #1 Amazon and international bestseller FALLING INTO YOU.  
 
You can find her on her farm in Northern Michigan with her husband, author Jack Wilder, her five children and menagerie of animals.
 
Check out her website at www.jasindawilder.com
 
 
 
 
My thanks to Jennifer Musico at Lisa Weinert Consulting for providing the copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion or thoughts.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Desire: The Restoration Series by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley - Book Review



 
 
About The Book:

For two years, Allen and Michele have been trying to have a baby. For Michele, it has become an obsession. But Allen seems content to spend his time–and their money–saving orphans in Africa. As Michele researches their options for fertility treatments, she begins to resent Allen’s divided attention.

And yet, God has a plan for Allen and Michele that they could never have imagined. All it takes to set it in motion is a change of heart . . .

With a keen eye toward the give-and-take of the marriage relationship, along with the ability to weave an engaging story, Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley show readers what it is to have godly desire and show selfless love. Fans will love this heartwarming story. -

See more at: http://www.danwalshbooks.com/books/books-with-gary-smalley/the-desire


My Thoughts:

"The Desire" is book three of Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley's Restoration Series, which follows the Anderson family and their journeys toward a more fulfilling and faithful life.

While the main story in "The Desire" centers on Michele and Allen's quest for having a baby and Allen's mission to Africa, there is also intertwined the story of Christina, a young girl who is pregnant and has no place to go and no one to turn to.  When she meets Marilyn Anderson, Christina's life is turned around by this caring Christian family who help her make some difficult life decisions regarding her unborn child and her future.

I don't often cry when I read, but both of these stories really touched my soul and my heart. 

Dan Walsh is one of my favorite Christian authors and the work he has done since partnering with renown author Gary Smalley has been just short of miraculous. Their storytelling in this series is inspirational, but not the "beat you over the head" style, but a more quiet and gentle approach to finding joy and love and faith.

I enjoy this series and look forward to the fourth book, "The Legacy" which will be out this coming spring.  I highly recommend these books.



About The Authors:



Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Learn more at www.danwalshbooks.com.

Gary Smalley is one of the country's best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of 16 books, along with several popular films and videos. He has spent over 30 years learning, teaching, and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Extra, The Today Show, and The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, as well as numerous national radio programs. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 50 years and live in Colorado.


My thanks to Revell Books for providing the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.
 
 
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Q&A with Randy Susan Meyers, author of "Accidents of Marriage"


I'm thrilled today to host author Randy Susan Meyers.  Her latest book, "Accidents of Marriage" is an amazing novel that deals with family dynamics, anger issues, infidelity and how one family deals with the aftermath of a horrible accident.

Randy Susan has graciously taken time to answer a few questions about her book, her writing process and why you should take the time to read her book.





1. Can you tell us a bit about the book and the relationship between the characters?
Accidents of Marriage asks what is the toll of emotional abuse on a family. It’s an account of life inside a marriage that seems fine to the outside world, an account of emotional abuse, traumatic injury, and how a seeming accident is really the culmination of years of ignored trouble. It’s the story of an unexpected gift of clarity making the difference between living in hell and salvation.

For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben is her greatest blessing and biggest curse. Brilliant, handsome and charming, Ben could turn into a raging bull when crossedand despite her training as a social worker Maddy was never sure what would cross him. She kept a fragile peace by vacillating between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their three children, until a rainy drive to work when Ben’s temper gets the best of him, and the consequences leave Maddy in the hospital, fighting for her life.





Accidents of Marriage, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Emma, takes us up close into the relationships between all family members. The children, lost in the shuffle, grasp for sources of comfort, including the (to them) mysterious traditions of their Jewish and Catholic grandparents. Emma and her grandparents provide the only stability for the younger children when their mother is in the hospital. Ben alternates between guilt and glimmers of his need to change, and Maddy is simply trying to live. Accidents of Marriage reveals the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

2. How many different titles did you experiment with before deciding on Accidents of Marriage?
My first working title was A Thousand Suppers (which comes from a line in the book, but ultimately made no sense out of context.) The title I used when I presented it to my editor was simply Maddy & Ben. After many long sessions with poetry books, anagrams of words, and other methods that I use, I came up with Accidents of Marriage.


3. How has working with batterers and victims of domestic violence influenced your writings?
Working with batterers taught me far more than I can put in a paragraph, but here is my version of the most important take-away: Never underestimate the hatred some men have of women. Never think that people (other than the truly damaged) ‘snap’. If they chose to find it, people can access at least a sliver of decision-making. We have agency. We do not choose to hit and scream at our bosses. We choose to hit and scream at people in our homes. The hierarchy of power always comes into play.

Women (and men) do not choose abusive people as their lovesthey pick the charming folks they meet in the beginning of a relationship. There might be signs to look out for, but abusers keep those traits in check until the relationship has solidified, when breaking up is more difficult.

There is not a black and white line between being abusive and not being abusive. There is a continuum of behavior, and most of us fall on the wrong side of the best behavior at some pointwhether is be yelling, silent treatment, or some other hurtful conduct. Learning that this can be controlled is a job for everyone.

Batterers can change; we can all change our behaviors, but most often we choose not to do the difficult work that change requires. This is something I hope I bring to my writing.


4. Can you discuss the role of Maddy and Ben’s daughter in the book?
Emma is an average teenager who is thrown into very un-average circumstances. She becomes the stand-in mother, a role she takes on without credit or even being noticed. She is also the keeper of secrets, an impossible position for her to take on. In every stage of her family’s trauma, she is the silent absorber, who ultimately will break or find strength.


5. How did you portray someone with a traumatic brain injury so well?
I did an enormous amount of study. Luckily I find medical research fascinating. My shelves are crammed with memoirs of those with TBI and caretakers of those with TBI, workbooks for those with TBI, and medical textsas well as spending time on line reading medical information for those in the field and information for those affected by brain injury. I had someone in the field read the novel and am also lucky enough to have a doctor in my writer’s group.


6. Did you have any say in choosing the cover for the book?
Yes! The final cover was the fourth one presented. It was tough finding the right ‘mood’ for the cover, but I was very pleased with the final version. Of course, most authors (including me) would love to actually design the cover, but my guess is our final products would not be the graphic success we imagine.


7. What made you choose a car crash as the tragic turning point between Ben and Maddy?
Abusive and bullying behavior very often plays out in driving. Road rage is a real problem on our motorways and seemed the logical vehicle for demonstrating how Ben’s bad choices result in devastating consequences.


8. Parts of this story make the reader begin to empathize with Ben. Why did you choose to do this?
I don’t believe books that present characters as all good or all bad can adequately capture life’s totality or experiences. It’s important for me to tap into how we are all the stars of our own show and how we often convince ourselves why it is ‘okay’ to act in awful ways. Ben is not all bad, despite doing awful and bad things. The question I explore about Ben (among others) is can he change? Is he, are we, capable of change, and if so, how does will and can that change manifest?


9. Is Maddy modeled after anyone that you know?
Maddy is modeled after about a thousand people I knowincluding myself and my friends and family. Most of us have some Maddy in us, at least at some point. We close our eyes to the worst, or we use drugs or alcohol or food or something else to tamp down our feelings. We live in a maelstrom of problems and pretend its all okay. We deny and lie to ourselves. Until we can’t anymore.


10. What do you hope readers will take away from reading Accidents of Marriage?
Abusive behavior is wrong, whether it is physical, emotional, verbal or any other type of hurtful behavior. It overwhelms a family. Raising children with verbal and emotional violence is harmful and the ramifications last forever.

Most important, we can control our behavior.

But, most of all, I hope readers take a page-turning story from my book. I don’t write to lecture; I write to tell the stories that mesmerize me, and thus, I hope, fascinate others.


 

For more information on Randy Susan Meyers and her books, check out her website at www.randysusanmeyers.com



My thanks to Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for their assistance in obtaining this interview and for the review copy of the book. I was not compensated for my opinion.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday - Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James


One of my favorite cozy mystery authors, Miranda James (aka Dean James) has a new series debuting next month - can't wait to see what fun this promises to be!


Release Date - October 9th

About The Book:

The new series from the author of The Silence of the Library and Murder Past Due...

New York Times bestselling author Miranda James returns to Athena, Mississippi, with an all-new mystery featuring Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, two snoopy sisters who are always ready to lend a helping hand. But when a stressed socialite brings murder right to their doorstep, even they have trouble maintaining their Southern hospitality…

With the Mississippi sun beating down, An’gel and Dickce are taking a break to cool off and pet sit their friend Charlie Harris’s cat, Diesel, when their former sorority sister, Rosabelle Sultan, shows up at their door unexpectedly, with her ne’er-do-well adult children not far behind.

Rosabelle’s selfish offspring are desperate to discover what’s in her will, and it soon becomes clear that one of them would kill to get their hands on the inheritance. Suddenly caught up in a deadly tangle of duplicitous suspects and deep-fried motives, it will take all of the sisters’ Southern charm to catch a decidedly ill-mannered killer…





Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme sponsored by Jill at Breaking The Spine (www.breakingthespine.blogspot.com).  Check out what other bloggers are waiting for!


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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review - A Good Year For The Roses by Gil McNeil


Over the summer, I read some fabulous books - and at the top of the list of great reads is "A Good Year For The Roses."




About The Book:

Life hasn't been a bed of roses for Londoner Molly Taylor lately. Newly divorced and struggling to find a new home and a way to support her three boys, she's stunned when her beloved Aunt Helena dies and leaves her Harrington Hall, a three-hundred-year-old manor house on the Devon coast, where Molly grew up.

But does Molly really want to run a bed-and-breakfast in an old house where the only thing that doesn't need urgent attention is Aunt Helena's beautiful rose garden? Or care for Uncle Bertie, an eccentric former navy officer with a cliff-top cannon? Or Betty, his rude parrot that bites whomever annoys it?

Yet Molly's best friend Lola is all for the plan. "My heart bleeds. Your very own beach, the beautiful house, and Helena's garden. All you have to do is grill a bit of bacon."
 
But with Molly's conniving brother running the family hotel nearby, the return of a high school flame with ulterior motives, and three sons whose idea of a new country life seems to involve vast quantities of mud, this is not going to be easy. And then Harrington Hall begins to work its magic, and the roses start to bloom...
 
Warm, witty, and chock-full of quintessential British charm, A GOOD YEAR FOR THE ROSES is a story for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting over...with or without bacon.



My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the family dynamics in this story - the cast of characters are personable and lively and eccentric - just like most families!  I could especially relate to Molly, the mother of three energetic boys that keep her on her toes consistently (have four of my own - I know how tiring but how fun it can be!)

I also admired how Molly gained her self-confidence through the story, becoming strong enough to stand up to her bullying father and brother and be sure of what she was proud of accomplishing.

Fans of contemporary women's fiction will adore this book.  I highly recommend it!




About The Author:



Gil McNeil is the author of The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, Needles and Pearls, and Knit One Pearl One. She lives in Kent, England, with her son.




My thanks to Hyperion Books for supplying the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.


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