Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Loved and Hated Required Reading

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a Back to School Freebie.  I've been thinking about required reading lately and am even planning on doing my own back to school required list here.  This got me thinking about the required reading that I did have to do in high school and which books I really enjoyed and which ones were just misery to get through. This is in no way a complete list but these were the first that came to mind and the ones that stick out the most.  I'm also sticking with books I had to read in high school.  I majored in Computer Science in college which required only the basic English comp classes so I didn't really have any required reading then.  If you did I'd love to hear what you read!


1.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - This was required reading before 9th grade and even though it was years and years (and years) ago it's one of those books that really still has stuck with me.  It's such a powerful story for it's simplicity.  It inspired me to read more Steinbeck.

2.  Macbeth by William Shakespeare - Macbeth was 11th grade and I was enthralled.  My 11th grade English teacher was one of my favorite teachers and the way she taught this play is why.  I had read a number of Shakespeare's plays before this point in other classes but for Macbeth we listened to a radio adaptation and every once in awhile she would pause it and we'd discuss meanings and what what was going on.  This is by far my favorite of Shakespeare's work.

3.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I read this in 9th grade and loved it.  I did seek out more about Fitzgerald and read several books on him and on Zelda as well as more of his work.  I did discover that he seems to use the same theme repeatedly but it's still one of my favorite time periods.  I listened to the book not to long ago and was surprised by just how dark it was.  I remembered that it wasn't an upper but I hadn't realized just how grim it was.

4.  The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole - In my AP English class my senior year of high school we each had to write a major paper at the end of the year from a given topic.  Mine ended up being The Introduction of Gothic-ism into English Literature with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto.  I didn't end up doing all that well on the paper (her grading seemed to be based on how well she liked the student - I wasn't a favorite.  I never made anything less than an A on any paper I wrote in college but in that class I couldn't make higher than an 80) but I did love the book.

5.  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - This was another book I read in 12th grade.  In my high school 12th grade was International Literature and Madame Bovary was a welcome relief in between all the Russian authors we were reading.  I don't remember all that much about the book itself other than that it was incredibly readable and I felt sorry for the main character as she didn't seem like a person who could actually ever be happy.


1.  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce - This was another book we had to read in 12th grade and I think I would've preferred another Russian.  For starters my teacher was terrible.  I ranted about her grading system earlier (that was a condensed rant - almost 20 years later I have a full length one I can go off on on a moment's notice).  The way she taught was we read in class for a set number of days and then we took an essay style test with questions like "What was the last thing character A said to character B and what did it mean".  This book was just hard.  For starters stream of consciousness is not my go-to style and I remember a lot of study groups where we would debate just who was "she" and what exactly was the narrator talking about in chapter 6 and did anyone understand just what was going on?  The answer was usually no.

2.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - This was 9th grade and I hated this book.  My summary was "Pip is poor and he complains and then he's rich and he complains and then he's poor again and still complaining".  I actually attempted to reread it earlier this year and my summary wasn't all that different.  The main difference between 14 year old me and 36 year old me is that this version can appreciate Dickens' writing whereas 14 year old me just hated it all.

3.  The Pearl by John Steinbeck - In general I really enjoy Steinbeck's works but I don't know what this mess was. It's so different from his usual matter of fact everyman kind of story.  I don't know anyone who has enjoyed this one.

4.  Absalom Absalom by William Faulkner - This may make me lose my Southern card but I'm not a fan of Faulkner.  No sentence should take up 3 pages.  It just shouldn't!  In general I'm not a huge fan of any of his work but Absalom, Absalom especially brings back bad memories.  He does this delightful little thing where he changes narrators without letting you know so it just ends up seriously confusing.  I have no idea what this book was about and if I recall even the Cliff Notes (do people still use those?) stated that the book was confusing.

5.  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - I actually find the basic story interesting and like all that it shows about religion and class and social stigma.  It would've been a fantastic short story but slogging through all the pages of wandering made me develop a rather strong dislike for Hawthorne!

So what about you?  Did you have any required reading that you loved?  Or any that still give you nightmares?  Any books on my list that you felt the opposite about?  

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Story to Kill - Cozy Mystery Review

A Story to Kill (Cat Latimer #1) by Lynn Cahoon
Rating: Good 
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Former English professor Cat Latimer is back in Colorado, hosting writers' retreats in the big blue Victorian she's inherited, much to her surprise from none other than her carousing ex-husband!  Now it's an authors' getaway - but Cat won't let anyone get away with murder...
The bead and breakfast is open for business and bestselling author Tom Cook is among the first guests.  Cat doesn't know why he came all the way from New York, but she's glad to have him among the quirkier - and far less famous - attendees.  Cat's high school sweetheart Seth, who's fixing up the weathered home, brings on mixed emotions for Cat... some of them a little overpowering.  But it's her uncle, the local police chief, who she'll call for help when there's a surprise ending for Tom Cook in his cozy guest room.  Will a killer have the last word on the new life Cat has barely begun?  (from Goodreads)
Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been reading Cahoon's Tourist Trap series since the beginning and always enjoy it.  I was excited to see what she did with a mystery set around a writing retreat.

My Impression:  We briefly met Cat Latimer in the last Tourist Trap mystery but I didn't really remember much about her so I was excited to get to know her better in this first book in the new series.  As I have come to expect from a mystery from Cahoon A Story to Kill provided a fascinating mystery, likable characters, and a setting I instantly feel at home in.

While I have no interest in actually writing a book myself I'm fascinated by the behind the scenes of the writing process.  With all that was going on in this mystery - Cat and her right hand woman, Shauna, getting their writing retreat business off the ground, home renovations featuring Cat's "the one who got away", making peace with her ex-husband's rather nefarious past, murder, and the usual mayhem that accompanies an investigation - I was worried that the writing retreat aspect would end up being talked about but rarely shown.  Thankfully we get just the perfect amount to really see them writing but not so much that it feels like a how to book on how to write a book!  I also really enjoyed Cat and Shauna's interactions as they're figuring their way through the first week of business.   I also really enjoyed seeing how Cat and Seth interacted as they became reacquainted after years apart.

The mystery itself kept me reading.  While I did guess the bad guy pretty early there were a few misdirections along the way that had me guessing and I didn't know the whys and hows of the situation until the end. Plus there's the a few hints throughout the book and a tease at the end about the next mystery and I can't wait!  Is it 2017 yet?

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I can't wait for the next one in this series and the next Tourist Trap book.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely!  If you enjoy cozy mysteries Lynn Cahoon is an author you shouldn't miss.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This Week in Reading - August 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.

What I Got:

Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs - This is the 2nd Laura Childs book I've gotten in as many weeks and I'm looking forward to reading this one as well!  I read the first in the series years ago so I can't wait to catch up!  (NetGalley)

Masking for Trouble by Dianne Vallere - Her 2nd book in the costume shop mystery and I can't wait!  I loved the first book in the series and always enjoy her mysteries.  (Blog Tour)

Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels - So this is apparently the year of cowboy romances for me.  I've always said they weren't for me but if I'm counting right this is my 5th this year so I might have to rethink that!  This is a new author for me though I know she's been around for quite some time.  I'm looking forward to reading this one!  (Blog Tour)


Reading:  Beauty at the End by Debbie Howells and Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

Listening:  I just finished My Name is Lucy Barton and am about to download the 3rd book from the Flavia de Luce series.   I can't wait!

Watching:  I've started watching Blindspot on Hulu.  I really liked the first few episodes but it's getting a little conspiracy-esque and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I'm definitely going to keep watching though.  J and I are watching season 3 of Northern Exposure and still enjoying the series.  Quirky doesn't even begin to describe it!

Off the Blog:

I have been a terrible blogger this week.  Mostly because I have joined a gym and me being an all or nothing person have been obsessed with it!  Plus, classes are hard and I haven't been able to move my arms!  I really had no plans on joining a gym but a friend of mine spent basically all summer trying out different gyms and had found one she really liked.  I've been wanting to exercise more but other than some videos at home hadn't really done much with it.  So I've been loving my membership so far.  I had forgotten how much I really loved gyms!  This one has a lot of classes that I really like and tons of equipment.  I'm looking forward to some time on the elliptical machine with my earbuds and an audio book!

Getting used to the gym has been most of my week.  We are having a busy weekend.  We had dinner at Eleanor's apartment Friday night and it was really nice.  She's always had a good eye when it comes to decorating and clothes but she's done a fantastic job with decorating her apartment on a budget.  Then Saturday was dinner with J's brother and his wife and was also a lot of fun.  However, that's about enough social activity for this family of introverts!  I expect today will be spent at home not talking to anyone who doesn't live here.  Or at least that's the goal!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  A Story to Kill - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Good and Bad Required Reading
Wednesday: Last Chance Rebel - Blog Tour Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkup with current book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - August Edition

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.

Right now I have around 10,000 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.  I'll be posting my results the last Saturday of each month.

August was a really successful month which was lots of fun.  For September I'm hoping to get some more craft type pins done since I have a little more time now that school has started and we're getting into the flow.  And in October come a few Halloween treats!  I'm really looking forward to those!

Week 31:

Reason Picked:  I like cucumbers and am always looking for different things to do with them.

Basic Idea: A sweet tangy fresh relish made from cucumbers, red onion, and apple in a apple cider vinegar honey dressing with a touch of dill.

The Results:  This was so good!  I didn't have any fresh dill so I used dried and halved the amount as it seemed a little dill heavy to me.  It was really tasty.  I ate it as almost a side (like you would with coleslaw) and topped some grilled chicken with it on a tortilla and both ways were tasty.  

Week 32:

Reason Picked:  I love a good peanut butter frosting and You Cup of Cake is one of my go to blogs when it comes to cupcake recipes.

Basic Idea: A rich doctored cake mix chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter frosting with actual Nutter Butters in the frosting.

The Results:  This was another winner though really it's hard to fail on a cupcake.  The cake was good and the additional ingredients kept it from tasting like a mix.  The frosting was peanut butter-y but a little lighter with the Nutter Butter addition.  

Week 33:

Reason Picked: I love brownies and I love pie so 2 great things go great together.  Plus, Cooking Classy is one of my favorite food blogs.

Basic Idea:  A buttery pie crust with a rich brownie filling.  The original recipe includes a bottom layer of pecans but my family is very strange and doesn't like pecans so I left them out.

The Results:  I'm not entirely confident in the pie crust because they're not really in my skill set.  This one came together pretty easily but it definitely isn't pretty and there aren't going to be any fluted edges anytime soon!  The filling is rich and chocolately though a little on the messy side.  I think it would've been better with pecans like the recipe calls for.  Otherwise, it's fantastic warm with vanilla ice cream!

Week 34:

Reason Picked:  I always feel like I'm wasting basil as I don't end up using all my plants before it freezes and I regularly forget about drying them!

Basic Idea:  Pack basil in olive oil in a mason jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a year.

The Results:  Well I can't exactly say how successful it was because it's only been about a week and a half but the leaves till look pretty good and it was super easy to do.  Plus I love the idea of not only having fresh basil year round but having basil infused olive oil.  Basil is about the only thing my garden has produced this year and I have a few different types of basil so I'm hoping to have a few different jars.  

Week 35:

Reason Picked: Because date night was a rare thing and we wanted to fix that

Basic Idea:  A list of ideas for things that you can do at home that are fun and inexpensive and a little different.

The Results:  Okay I'm going to be honest here and we haven't actually had a stay at home date night BUT this did realize what we were doing wrong and that was the planning and scheduling.  While a lot of these aren't for J and me (we are not karaoke people) there were a ton of good ideas that will be a lot of fun and links to even more lists of ideas.  So next Saturday we have scheduled a Video Game Date.  I'll be working on our menu and figuring out what games we're going to play this week.  I'm really excited!  Next I'm thinking board games or quizzes or a game of Would You Rather.  They all sound really fun.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Linkups: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Can I say the sentence "Reading is my passion" describes me?

My Answer:
I'm not sure that I'd say reading is my passion but it's definitely been my constant.  It's something I've loved all my life and books are something I reach for to feel better or forget when times are tough and are part of my happy days as well.

This week's book is pretty much Lark from The Bookwyrm's Hoard's fault.  I was familiar with Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams because it's one of my husband's favorite but I had for whatever reason never thought about actually reading it.  But then Lark posted this post which included the sneak preview of the BBC America show and that brought the book front and center in my mind.  Adams' sense of humor really appeals to me but but I've mostly stuck with Hitchhiker's Guide so I'm especially looking forward to this one! 

The Beginning: 
This time there would be no witnesses.
This time there was just the dead earth, a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable light drizzle from the northeast by which so many of the world's most momentous events seem to be accompanied.

My Thoughts:
This sounds surprisingly serious for Adams.  Something about that first sentence sounds especially ominous.

The 56:
This was the evening of the last day of Gordon Way's life, and he was wondering if the rain would hold off for the weekend.

My Thoughts:
I think if you looked at the thoughts of most people on their last day their thoughts would be similarly mundane.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Whiskey Sea - Blog Tour Review

The Whiskey Sea by Ann Howard Creel (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Blog Tour

Description:  Motherless and destitute, Frieda Hope grows up during Prohibition determined to make a better life for herself and her sister, Bea.  The girls are taken in by a kindly fisherman named Silver, and Frieda begins to feel at home whenever she is on the water.  When Silver sells his fishing boat to WW1 veteran Sam Hicks, thinking Sam would be a fine husband for Frieda she's outraged.  But Frieda manages to talk Sam into teaching her to repair boat engines instead, so she has a trade of her own and won't have to marry.  Frieda quickly discovers that a mechanic's wages won't support Bea and Silver, so she joins a team of rumrunners, speeding into dangerous waters to transport illegal liquor.  Frieda becomes swept up in the lucrative, risky work - and swept off her feet by a handsome Ivy Leaguer who's in it just for fun.  As danger mounts and her own feelings threaten to drown her, can Frieda find her way back to solid ground - and to a love that will sustain her?  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book: I love this time period and seeing a woman take on not only the unusual role of boat mechanic but then rumrunner intrigued me!

My Impression:While the 1920s has always been one of my favorite time periods to fictionally visit I've normally stayed more on the high society end of it with the pretty clothes and the wild parties where the inside just maybe a bit rotten.  Bootlegging is always mentioned and alcohol is always there but I've never really given much thought to the people behind the scenes who are making sure that Jay Gatsby can continue to provide enough gin for his guests.
But now that I've met Frieda Hope that will change a bit.  From the moment we meet her as a serious little girl trying to be strong I immediately liked her.  Throughout the book there were times that I wanted to reach out and shake her but I always felt like I understood her.  Frieda has a lot of baggage and an enormous chip on her shoulder and all for pretty good reason.  However, to the people she loves like her sister Bea and their adopted father Silver she is fiercely loyal.  She's also incredibly determined to help her sister get a better education and through that a better life and provide security for herself.  Compared to her the side characters are a little flat but not because they have no personality but more because Frieda has such a demanding one.

The actual business of rum running was absolutely fascinating and definitely kept me involved in the story.  I ended up doing some outside reading to see how much of the events in this book were true (pretty much all of it) which is always a good sign!  I really enjoyed this look behind the scenes of something that is frequently brushed over.  This really had me seeing the reasons why usually law abiding people got involved in an illegal business and why some didn't and it really had me thinking about what I would have done in a similar situation.

I enjoyed getting to know Frieda and watching her grow up as well as seeing the world around her change.  This was at times heartbreaking and at times action packed but consistently a good read!  I'm looking forward to reading more from Ann Howard Creel

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to finding more books from her.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes!  If you like historical fiction this is a great read.

This book was provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Always a Cowboy - Review

Always a Cowboy (A Carsons of Mustang Creek) by Linda Lael Miller

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  He's the middle of the three Carson brothers and is as stubborn as they come - and he won't thank a beautiful stranger for getting in his way!  Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy.  In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of life, its pleasures and heartbreaks.  Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down.  When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing - and the challenge - she stirs in him.  Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals - and with ranchers.  The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son.  Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing ranch mares.  But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything - for both of them.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the first in the series and I liked Drake's character so was thrilled to see him get his own book.

My Impression: Linda Lael Miller is an author that I've seen around for ages but I'm relatively new to her books.  Counting a holiday novella, this was my third by her and definitely my favorite. I loved Drake and Luce.  They're both intelligent and hard working people who have very similar views on environmental aspects as well as a deep love of animals especially horses though Luce's love is more on the academic side than Drake's.   As usual we get the whole Carson clan with Drake's mother Blythe taking a very front and center role.  I loved getting to see more of the family and how they interacted - especially the brothers.  I also found the occasional mentions of their father who is deceased really touching especially from Drake who is very similar to his dad.  Luce's family is only peripheral but her conversations with her sister were entertaining and felt very real.  As well as the Carson clan we have a number of residents of Mustang Creek - many of whom have featured in other books.  I haven't read any of their stories but after meeting them I'd really like too.

The romance was on the quick side which seems to be a common occurrence in Miller's books but it wasn't insta-love.  Drake and Luce spend a lot of time together before anything develops which made it easier to root for them.  Drake's very alpha-male but a quiet one.  His protectiveness mostly made sense as Luce really hadn't had much hands on experience with wild animals though I did think with Drake admitting that she was a very experienced hiker that he could also admit that she understands the basics (aka don't approach a wild animal).  However, I did have to support his "with a mountain lion on the prowl who is drawn to livestock perhaps a lone unarmed woman shouldn't be out wandering around".

I really enjoyed the inside look at the ranching world.  Animals are a very large part of it - between livestock, pets, and wildlife - and while Drake's attitude is realistic it was also very compassionate with a focus on being responsible and humane which really worked for me.  I don't know if I would classify this series as a favorite but it is one I consistently enjoy and Miller has created an interesting community with characters I do want to see more often.  I was really excited to see that the Hallmark movie channel is working on a series based on another of Miller's series - Big Sky Country.  I'll definitely be looking out for that premiere and for the next book in the series!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I will!  I'm looking forward to Mace's book.  It'll be fun to see him fall hard for someone!

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy a good cowboy romance I think you'd enjoy this one.