Monday, May 22, 2017

Buns - Contemporary Romance Review

Buns (Hudson Valley #3) by Alice Clayton

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Clara Morgan is living the dream, if you can call rebranding hotels that are desperate for a new life and running any kind of marathon a dream. Which she does. But the career she loves and the endurance races that keep her adrenaline pumping have kept her too busy to put down any roots. Growing up in foster care, she’s never been able to establish traditions of her own, which may be why she’s fascinated by the rituals that generations-old family resorts are known for. She’s especially interested in the Bryant Mountain House, and not just for their secret recipe for the yummy, gooey, can’t-get-enough-of Hot Cross Buns….
Archie Bryant, the man with the Buns, is fifth generation and one-day-owner of the charming yet run-down Bryant Mountain House in Bailey Falls, New York. He’s determined to save his family’s legacy from the wrecking ball the old-fashioned way—by gritting his teeth and doing what needs to be done. There’s no way Archie will be influenced by the new hotel branding expert his father brought in to turn one hundred and fifty years of tradition on its head just to attract a faster, younger, slicker crowd. But when some of Clara’s ideas start bringing in new, paying customers, Archie can’t deny that she may have just given him a shot at keeping his resort open.

It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s sweet, it’s Buns.

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book: I've heard raves about Clayton's romances forever and keep meaning to try her books so when I saw this on NetGalley I couldn't resist (even though the title and cover make me cringe a little!)

My Impression:
The Couple - 
Clara - Clara's backstory is heartbreaking and fits how she's chosen to live her life as adult with herself firmly in the drivers seat and refusing to let anyone in.  She struggles with traditions and holidays because she doesn't quite understand how to be a part of either.

Archie - Archie firmly believes in family and tradition first.  He's worked his entire life to keep the family hotel up and running and is not so crazy about having an outsider come in and tell him what to do.  However, he's not so hardheaded that he refuses to listen to reason and is intelligent and motivated to make things work.

What I Liked:
Both characters have baggage from very real circumstances but neither dismisses the other's issues.  I also liked that Clara had some trepidation about spending time with Archie in the home he shared with his late wife.  She's not melodramatic about it but she's uncomfortable and that felt very real.

They're both good at their jobs and it was fun to watch them in action.  Sometimes they even worked well together and that was even more fun.

While this is definitely a spicier romance than I usually read I did feel like there was an emotional connection between Archie and Clara.

The setting is amazing.  I loved the hotel and I loved the town.  The employees and friends really added a lot of joy to the reading.

What I Didn't Like:
Way heavy on the sexual innuendos or just comments without the innuendo - especially from Clara's friend Natalie.  I get that she and Oscar are having a lot of sex but seriously talk about something else occasionally.

Overall:
I expected a fun and funny read but I was surprised by the amount of heart that ran through the stories.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and getting to know Hudson Falls and am looking forward to going back and reading Roxie and Natalie's stories.  The title and the cover made me cringe a little but that's what Kindles are for!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  This was a fun read.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy contemporary romance and don't mind a lot of spice and even more language than this is a must read!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Week in Reading - May 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:

A Stardance Summer by Emily March - I absolutely love the Eternity Springs series and I'm super excited to have this next book.  Plus this has a best friend's little sister/brother's best friend plot which I love.  (Publisher)

A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray - I really don't know all that much about the series but it takes place in 1906 Scotland, there's an old castle and an archealogist.  I'm thinking I'll enjoy it!  (NetGalley)

I've got a couple of request pending - 1 I'm pretty sure I'll get and 1 that I don't think I'll get but it couldn't hurt to request it!  I'm trying to cut down on the number of books I'm getting and I figure 2 isn't too bad a number!




Currently:

Reading:  Three Fates by Nora Roberts, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (almost done!), and Love and Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea

Listening:  I'm listening to podcasts while I wait for my next audiobook to be available.  Right now I'm going through the backlist of The Babysitter's Club Club where they're talking about Babysitter's Club book #19 Stacey's Mistake.

Watching:  I'm getting caught up on this season of Doctor Who and I'm really enjoying it.  Capaldi seems to be really comfortable in the role and I love the new companion Billie.  She kind of reminds me of Donna.

Off the Blog:

We are in the middle of the end of the school year festivities.  Friday was Field Day which involved a whole day outside doing games and then the fire truck came with the fire hose and sent water high up into the air so that it fell kind of like a waterfall.  The kids loved it and were completely drenched.  I volunteered in the concession stand all day which was fun and crazy.  Thankfully, the weather cooperated and it was clear and sunny though a bit hot at right around 90.  The Tornado and I were both asleep by 9 on Friday night!

I had a DNF this week which was disappointing as it was a book I've been wanting to read for awhile.  I realized that it was time to DNF it when I voluntarily called my cell phone provider to talk about my plan instead of reading!

Eleanor's 22nd birthday is tomorrow.  She's always the easiest one to buy presents for and I've had a good time trying to go with a mix of things that she'll find useful and things that are just fun.  We're also going out to the Melting Pot because who doesn't love to dip stuff in cheese?

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Buns - Contemporary Romance Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - 10 Books on my Summer Reading List
Wednesday: Watching the Detective - Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Review + Giveaway
Thursday:  Love and Death in Burgundy - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  52 Pins in 52 Weeks - May Edition

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hello Fresh - Subscription Review

The box is giant!
I love a subscription box!  Seriously, send me a box of miscellaneous stuff and I'm all in.  I've subscribed to Birchbox, ipsy, MyIreland, Le Tote, Stitch Fix and FabFitFun. Then I started seeing all the ads for the different dinner subscriptions and while I was intrigued I just didn't see it working for me.  For one thing I was cooking for 4 to 5 people and for another most of the people I'm cooking for are ridiculously picky.

But then all of a sudden I was only cooking for 2 actual people and 1 child who mostly exists on air AND I was in the middle of a serious cooking slump.  I mean I did still cook but I definitely wasn't feeling it - especially when you throw in list making and grocery shopping.  So when my sister-in-law mentioned that they'd had a really great experience with Hello Fresh AND Anna at Herding Cats and Burning Soup posted her positive review the next day I figured it was a sign.  So I signed up and I gotta say - I've been loving it!

What It Is:

Essentially a subscription box of 3 meals.  Everything you need for those 3 meals (with the exception of the very basics - salt, pepper, olive oil) is included along with detailed recipe cards.  You can pick what meals are in your box or skip a week all together.  I've found the ingredients of good quality and the meat is labeled as to where it came from and is antibiotic and hormone free.
The Meal Box - Everything but the protein is in here

Why Sign Up:

For me, I've enjoyed having someone else do the shopping and planning for me.  It's nice to have all the ingredients I need for one meal all together.  Plus, choosing from their menus has shaken me out of my slump a bit.  I've also found that I'm willing to try different techniques because I'm following instructions and everything is right in front of me.

After my success, my mother signed up for the service as well.  Her husband is not a very confident cook but his commute is much shorter than hers.  Having everything together and the detailed recipes has made it easier for him to have dinner on the table when she gets home and has kept them from eating out as much.
Inside of the box 

The Good:

Some of my favorite meals so far:
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Potatoes and Zucchini - Probably not the most unique meal but the flavors were amazing!  
Bacon Apple Breakfast Pizza - This I got just for me and I'm glad because I did not want to share!  Between the apple, the ricotta, the balsamic onions and the bacon I just couldn't get enough.
Chicken Lo Mein with Carrots and Green Beans - The sauce was restaurant quality and the udon noodles were amazing.  
Hunan Cumin Beef Stir Fry - I had never really done anything with cumin seeds before so I thought that was interesting.  The flavor combination was delicious and unusual and made for a yummy bowl of food.

The Bad:

While none of the meals I've gotten have been really bad there were a few that I probably wouldn't get again.
Winning Pork Medallions - This has Brussels Sprouts which we decided we just weren't fans of and I thought the Tarragon Cream Sauce was a little heavy on the Tarragon.
Sesame Beef Tacos - I liked the pickled veggies but not sure I liked the red cabbage mixed with the ground beef on my tacos.
The Recipe Card - Lots of pictures and clear instructions.  Everything you need for the recipe is listed on the left hand side

When Something Goes Wrong:

No company is perfect but for me the main thing is how a mistake is handled.  On my 2nd box the proteins were left out completely.  Luckily, UPS gets to my house pretty late so I wasn't planning on having one of the meals for dinner and I could run by the grocery store the next day so my meals weren't ruined but it's still not okay.  I emailed their customer service that evening and within 30 minutes I had an email from a person with an apology and a credit for a free box which left me a pretty satisfied customer!  

Other Issues:

I've noticed these subscriptions (not just Hello Fresh but all the meal subscriptions) seem to be ridiculously controversial on social media so I thought I'd respond to some of the biggest complaints.
Amount of packaging - There's a decent amount.  There's the big box it comes in, the individual box each meal comes in and the different containers plus the ice packs.  However, most of the packing material is from recycled materials and they have recycling instructions on their website.  Plus if you have kids in sports or do anything that requires a cooler those ice packs are reusable and pretty great.
Cost - This isn't low cost but I don't find it crazy expensive either.  For a 2 person Classic plan box it's $59 (so around $20 per meal - $10/serving).  I can definitely eat cheaper if I really try but it's definitely cheaper than getting a similar quality meal at a restaurant.  Plus I do notice a corresponding decrease in my grocery bill on the weeks when we have a Hello Fresh box.
Processed or Flavorless Food - This seems to come up a LOT and I think most people who complain about this don't understand what the service is.  You're actually cooking so you're in control of salt and pepper or any other seasoning.  As for processed foods I haven't seen much of it.  If a recipe calls for a zucchini I pull an actual whole zucchini out of the box.  

Overall:

I've really enjoyed my Hello Fresh subscription and get excited anytime the box arrives.  We don't get it every week but only on weeks where the meal selection has 3 we really want to try.  So far that seems to be 2 or 3 times a month.  Something about having everything all together makes cooking seem easier and more fun.  Not to mention it's encouraged my husband and myself to try new things and we've found a few new favorites!  

If you'd like to try a box for $20 you can use my link for the discount.  They have a few different options including a vegetarian box.  There's no contract or anything so no worries if you decide after 1 box that it isn't for you.   If you do try it I'd love to hear what you think and your favorites!

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



Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Linkups: Three Fates














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

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
What do you do with books you no longer want?  Do you donate them?  Do you take them to a half-price bookstore?  Does a friend or family member benefit?

My Answer: 
If I have a friend or family member who I think will enjoy the book I'll pass it onto them.  Otherwise, I typically use paperbackswap and exchange the book for credit to get more books!  If I can't trade them I'll donate them.  So a little bit of all!

This week's book is off of my reread shelf and so far I'm really enjoying it!  Three Fates by Nora Roberts is kind of like a trilogy in one book and is lots of fun.  It also has a lot of factors I always enjoy in a book - strangers coming together to work as a team, historical mystery, research, treasure hunts and different personalities bringing out the best in each other!  I'm really glad it's living up to my memories of it.

The Beginning:
May 7, 1915
Happily unaware he'd be dead in twenty-three minutes Henry W. Wyley imagined pinching the nicely rounded rump of the young blonde who was in his direct line of sight.  It was a perfectly harmless fantasy that did nothing to distress the blonde, or Henry's wife, and put Henry himself in the best of moods.

My Thoughts:
I think 'I'd like Henry W. Wyley.  He's got a little bit of mischief in him but enough common sense and respect for those around him that he doesn't act on it.

The 56:
Cleo went straight to her apartment, though calling the single room an apartment was like calling a Twinkie a fine dessert.  You had to be either really your or stupidly optimistic.

My Thoughts:
I had to laugh at this one!  I know the kind of apartment she's talking about and the term is definitely stretching it a bit!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

James Bond Book vs Movie - Diamonds are Forever

Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming
Setting:  Sierra Leone, New York, Las Vegas, Ocean liner on the Atlantic
Characters: James Bond, Tiffany Case, Felix Leiter, Jack Spang, Seraffimo Spang, Wintt, and Kidd

My Thoughts:  Well this was a bunch of craziness!  The book starts out from a scorpion's point of view on a landing pad near a diamond mine and then is off to the races quite literally at times.  The story itself was inspired by an article Fleming read about diamond smuggling and he later went on to write a nonfiction book on the subject (creatively titled The Diamond Smugglers published in 1957 and I'm now on the search for a copy.) as well as a trip to the US aboard RMS Queen Elizabeth which figures into the last part of the book.  There's diamond smuggling, gambling, horse racing, the American mob, a real old West ghost town and car chases.  There's even humor as Bond starts out completely dismissing the American mobsters and realizing later that that was a mistake.  Our old friend Felix Leiter has a role in this book and I think I was just as delighted to see him as Bond.  The now former CIA operative is just as funny as I remembered and is just as quick to tease Bond or just give him a hard time but is there in a tough spot without fail. While I don't think I enjoyed this book quite as much as I did Moonraker it did make for an entertaining read.  Tiffany is an interesting Bond girl.  She's smart and she's tough and she' brings out the sensitive side of Bond a few times which is always fun to see. Rating: Very Good

Diamonds are Forever (DVD)
Setting:  South Africa, Holland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baha, California
Characters: James Bond (Sean Connery), Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Ernst Stavro Blofield (Charles Gray), Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood), Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), Professor Metz (Joseph Furst) , Felix Leiter (Norman Burton)

My Thoughts: So if we're still playing the drinking game that was started while watching Moonraker where you take a drink every time something that happened in the book happens in the movie you might be kind of tipsy by the first half but you have the entire last half to sober up.  The movie starts off pretty similar to the book - there's even the scorpion which I thought wa a nice touch.  However, once Bond and Tiffany land in Los Angeles things take a dramatic left turn towards insanity and never looks back.  Suddenly Bond's fleeing from people on a moonbuggy (sure why not), girls are getting thrown out of 5th floor windows and landing in swimming pools completely unhurt, and there seem to be a few clones with voice boxes running around.  Since I'm going in order of the books not the movies this is my first Sean Connery Bond and I must say I found his portrayal much closer to the original Bond than Roger Moore's.  There's much less focus on gadgets and toys and more focus on either sneaking around or a flat out fist fight.  There are times where he's quick with a witticism which I really enjoyed despite book Bond famously lackng in sense of humor. Rating: Just Okay

Other Thoughts: I'm always interested with how Fleming treats the female characters in his books.  The Bond books and the franchise in general are known for their sexism but to me in the books I've read so far it's a little more complicated than that.  Yes, the women are discussed in a dismissive tone but so far they're not women who really let themselves be dismissed.  When we first meet Tiffany Case she is very clearly in charge of the situation and it is she that comes up with the way to smuggle the diamonds.  Later in the book she very much saves the day and Bond with it.  She's a woman who has managed to hold her own against the worst of mobsters over a period of years and her back story is horrific.  She doesn't trust men and makes no apologies for it and really is an interesting character in her own right.  As well while rape is lumped in with "light" crimes it is very clear that Bond is very adamantly against it as well as the ill treatment of women (which while doesn't mean he deserves a medal does put him head and shoulders about Connery's Bond who slaps Tiffany in the face).  The movie franchise is very different.  The movie version of Tiffany Case is decorative but not particularly bright.  She's often nervous and never seems to know what to do in a crisis without guidance.  Without the book Tiffany Case James Bond doesn't make it to the next day while without the movie version Bond sees one less woman in a bikini.

Overall - The movie is fun and silly with super villains and lots of girls in bikinis.  The book has far fewer girls in bikini but lots more danger and a plot that doesn't stray into complete science fiction.  If you want to watch a fun action movie and don't mind stretching believability there are worse ways to spend an evening than watching Diamonds are Forever.  If you want a good mystery about diamond smuggling and the Mafia give the book a try.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Reference to Murder - Cozy Mystery Review

A Reference to Murder by Kym Roberts

Rating: Very Good
Source:  NetGalley

Description:  Charli Rae Warren is back home in Hazel Rock, Texas, spending her time reading, collecting, and selling books—at least, the ones that don’t get eaten first by her father’s pet armadillo. Running the family bookstore is a demanding job, but solving murders on the side can be flat out dangerous…
The Book Barn is more than just a shop, it’s a part of the community—and Charli is keeping busy with a fundraising auction and the big rodeo event that’s come to town. That includes dealing with the Texas-sized egos of some celebrity cowboys, including Dalton Hibbs, a blond, blue-eyed bull rider who gets overly rowdy one night with the local hairdresser . . . and soon afterward, disappears into thin air.

Dalton’s brother also vanished seven years ago—and Charli is thrown about whether Dalton is a villain or a victim. After a close call with an assailant wielding a branding iron (that plays havoc with her hair) and some strange vandalism on her property, she’s going to have to team up with the sheriff to untangle this mystery, before she gets gored . . .

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: The first book in this series intrigued me because it involves a bookstore so when the second book showed up with a missing persons case in the blurb I couldn't resist it!

My Impression: I am on a roll with good cozies and A Reference to Murder kept the streak going!  Charlie is still trying to adjust to moving back to her hometown and is trying to repair her relationship with her father.  Her days are busy working in the Book Barn, participating in a fundraising auction, and keeping her pet armadillo from eating the stock.  Throw in some tangled feelings for the mayor, Cade, and the sheriff, Mateo, and her plate is more than a little full.

When Dalton Hibbs strides into Hazel Rock, charms Charli's best friend Scarlet, then disappears leaving nothing but questions just like his brother did years before Charli has no choice but to get involved.  I have no interest in bull riding and have never been to a rodeo but I did enjoy the tidbits that were in this book.  It was fun to get a look inside the business.  I doubt I'll ever go to a rodeo but I think I have a new appreciation for bull riders.  I liked the town of Hazel Rock a lot.  There are a few quirky characters and quite a number of likable and interesting people.  I'm curious about the direction Charli's love life will go and how she continues to make her adult home in her hometown.

The mystery was entertaining and there were a lot of different threads.  What happened to Dalton?  Who attacked Charli with a branding iron?  Who broke in to Scarlet's trailer?  What happened to Wyatt all those years ago?  I think I changed my mind about a dozen times while reading!  I was surprised by the reveal but I thought it felt a little rushed.  All the questions were answered but I would have liked a little more time to get everything resolved.

Overall, this was an entertaining mystery with a likable main character.  I'm looking forward to visiting Hazel Rock again in the future!

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

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would!  If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a fun series that I hope will be around for awhile.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Memorable Fictional Mothers

In honor of Mother's Day this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a Mother's Day freebie.  So I thought I would do a list of memorable mothers - not main characters who are mothers but the mothers of main characters.  Some are good, some not so much but all stick in my mind for some reason or other.

Lillian Gilbreth - The mother in the famous Cheaper by the Dozen and the lesser known Belles on Their Toes.  She's also not so fictional and a fascinating woman in her own right.

Emily Inglethorp - This overbearing mother was Agatha Christie's first victim in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and far from the last mother she killed off but she was one of the most entertaining.

Violet Bridgerton - I adore Violet Bridgerton because how can you not?  She's one of the best side characters in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series.  She's funny and nice but has her own bit of snark to her.  Plus she can hold her own against her own strong willed children.  Since I know how her own romance ends I don't think I want a book about her but more books with her as a side character please!
Marmee -  The long suffering mother from Little Women at times drove me a bit crazy with all her listen giving but she was also a woman in a seriously tough situation and it was hard not to respect her even though I thought she was WAAY to easy on Amy.

Harriet de Luce - She's not really an active character but her presence is most definitely felt in the Flavia de Luce series.  I love learning about her along with Flavia.

Mrs. Bennett - Well I can't have a list about memorable mothers without including the matchmaking Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice now can I?

Ma Ingals -She might not have the charisma that Little House on the Prairie's Pa has but Ma keeps the family going with her kindness and good sense.

Marilla Cuthbert - While she's not Anne Shirley's mother in Anne of Green Gables Marilla is definitely the most important maternal figure in Anne's life.  Marilla's change through the course of the Anne books is one of my very favorite things.

Sophie Stern - Sophie's more like a sister to The Shell Seekers Penelope Keeling but with her French accent, gentle manner, and sparkling sense of humor she's a delight any time she's on the page.

Iris Stanford -  She's a little more recent but Iris from The Honeychurch Hall series of cozy mysteries from Hannah Dennison is definitely memorable.  She has more secrets than she knows what to do with and a gift for meddling in her daughter, Kat's, affairs.

What memorable mothers have you come across in your reading?