Monday, March 30, 2015

ASIAN PICKLES: JAPAN by Karen Solomon

ASIAN PICKLES: JAPAN
Recipes for Japanese Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Tsukemono
Author: Karen Solomon
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607744788
Pages: 54 Genre: Asian Cooking, Pickling

About the Book:
A DIY guide to making the salty, sweet, tangy, and sometimes spicy pickles of Japan, featuring 16 recipes for traditional tsukemono as well as new favorites with innovative ingredients and techniques.

For Asian food aficionados and preservers and picklers looking for new frontiers, the natural standout is Japan's diverse array of pickled products and innovative flavor pairings that wow the palate. In Asian Pickles: Japan, respected cookbook author and culinary project maven Karen Solomon introduces readers to the unique ingredients used in Japanese pickle-making, such as koji rice, fermented rice bran, shiso leaf, miso, soy sauce, and numerous other techniques beyond the basic vinegar brine. And for the novice pickler, Solomon also includes a vast array of quick pickles with easily-accessible ingredients. Featuring the most sought-after Japanese pickle recipes--including Pickled Ginger, Umeboshi, and more--plus beautiful photography, Asian Pickles: Japan will help you explore a new preserving horizon with fail-proof instructions and additional resources.
My Thoughts:

A delightful book filled with a nice conversational prose as well as some interesting Asian pickling recipes. There is one thing to be said about the recipes - they may not taste exactly like you might think. Japanese cooking and pickling is quite a bit different than American cooking, and the recipes show that. I tried a couple of the recipes and questioned how they turned out. We have a Chinese friend that said they were perfect and that they are supposed to taste just like I made them!

With that said, the recipes appear to be quite authentic. It also appears that some of these may be an acquired taste. If you like Asian cooking (real Asian - not the Americanized type) or you are an adventurous cook, then you may really enjoy this book!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Hello From the Gillespies
Author: Monica McInerney
Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP NAL
ISBN: 9780451466723
Paperback: 624 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction

About the Book:
For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth....

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways….
My Thoughts:

It is said that everyone has two different lives: a public life and a private life - one we share and one is where we keep all our family secrets hidden from everyone. What would everyone think if they KNEW about all the things that go on behind closed doors?

"Hello From the Gillespies" is a story about what happens when secrets are revealed. Enter Angela - a wife and mother who shows the world how wonderful her life is. Every year she sends out the Christmas newsletter telling about the family and all the great things going on. It is again time to write the newsletter, but she is having a hard time with it because things aren't bright and shiny - so instead she writes a long email newsletter telling exactly what is happening and exactly how she feels. This email was never to be sent, but something she needed to do to get things off her chest. Great idea, except the email IS sent.

A humorous account of what happens when one accidentally airs their dirty laundry and how a family deals with the hidden truths, feelings and situations. Although light-hearted, this story rings with truth and I'm sure everyone can identify with it at some level.

Although a fun read, this 624 page tome was just a bit too long and detailed for my taste - personally, I think it could have had the same effect being it a bit shorter. It was definitely worth reading - the humor kept it light enough to enjoy, but there was a bit too much drama at times and I found myself skimming those parts.

Overall, this is still a book worth reading and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who likes women's fiction with a touch of humor.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The New Lean for Life by Cynthia Stamper Graff, Reginald Allouche, M.D.

The New Lean for Life
Outsmart Your Body to Shrink Fat Cells and Lose Weight for Good
Authors: Cynthia Stamper Graff, Reginald Allouche, M.D.
Publisher: Harlequin Nonfiction
ISBN: 9780373893034
Hardcover, 320 pages

About the Book:
Lose up to 20 pounds in 4 weeks!
750,000 success stories.
Over 15 million pounds lost.
It's your turn to get lean for life!

Stop fighting your body with traditional diets that slow your metabolism, and discover the program that has helped hundreds of thousands of people get lean—for life. The New Lean for Life is proven to shrink fat cells twice as much as conventional diets through four powerful phases.

Phase 1—Prepare your body for fast weight loss.
Phase 2—Shrink your fat cells without feeling hungry or deprived.
Phase 3—Recalibrate your metabolism so that you can eat more food without gaining weight.
Phase 4—Stay lean for life by committing to one high-protein day a week.

The Lean for Life program has been used for over 40 years in Lindora Clinics to help over 750,000 people lose millions of pounds—with an incredible 79 percent keeping weight off!

Now this classic bestseller has been completely revised and updated based on groundbreaking new research about the brain's role in weight loss. The New Lean for Life uses a revolutionary "smart carb" program coupled with powerful behavioral modification to shrink fat cells while stabilizing blood sugar, healing inflammation and establishing new habits that will sustain a leaner, healthier you. The easy-to-follow daily plans anticipate your thoughts, needs and cravings before they hit so that you are sure to stay on track and succeed. Results are quick—you'll experience rapid weight loss in just 4 weeks—and lasting. And best of all, you won't feel hungry or deprived!

Now it's your turn. Join the Lean for Life movement and lose weight—for good.
My Thoughts:

While going through my list of books, I am embarrassed to have discovered that I never reviewed this one. At the time I received it, I decided to test "The New Lean for Life" and see if it would hold up to its claim. Yes it did work. I lost weight - 24 pounds to be exact and I was excited! Then I slipped and went off the diet and never went back on. Sadly, I gained almost all the weight back.

This seems to be the problem for me with all the structured type diets. They restrict where I feel deprived and after a while I get bored and boom - back to the dark side (they have cookies!). My problem is I need to learn how to eat things I love along with a good diet. A healthy approach and I didn't find it with this method.

I know that this method works for others - I've read the success stories, but if you don't make the diet into a lifestyle that you are happy with. If you have that type of an outlook, you will probably have success, but if you don't look at it as a lifestyle, you may end up in the same boat I did (and do).

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Cultured Food for Life by Donna Schwenk

Cultured Food for Life
How to Make and Serve Delicious Probiotic Foods for Better Health and Wellness
Author: Donna Schwenk
Publisher: Hay House, Inc.
ISBN: 9781401942823
Paperback: 256 pages

About the Book:
Cultured Food for Life is a part of a new genre of cookbooks gaining popularity among a growing demographic of health and wellness aficionados. In this work, fermentation guru Donna Schwenk introduces readers to the healing properties of kefir, kombucha, cultured vegetables, sprouted flour, and sourdough. Fermentation has been used in food preparation for thousands of years, but in the past few decades it has moved from being a commonplace kitchen ritual to being something done only by a few health-conscious proponents. Most fermentation now is done at factories, whose processes strip away some of the abundant vitamins, minerals, and healthy bacteria that make this way of preparing foods so beneficial. But Donna Schwenk is working to bring this staple of food preparation back to readers by showing that these now-unfamiliar processes are actually easy and fun. And by doing this, she opens the door to a world of foods that can help rid readers of health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies, acne, hypertension, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome. After telling the astonishing story of how she healed herself and her family with these probiotic foods, Schwenk walks readers, step by step, through the basic preparation techniques for kefir, kombucha, cultured vegetables, sprouted flour, and sourdough plus more than 120 recipes that use these foods to create dishes to please any palate. With recipes like Herbed Omelet with Kefir Hollandaise Sauce, Sprouted Ginger Scones with Peaches and Kefir Cream, Kefir Veggie Sprouted Pizza, Apple Sauerkraut, and Sprouted Brownies Kefir Cupcakes, along with inspirational stories from Donna’s family and friends, readers will enjoy a diet that’s as delicious as it is healthy.


Visit Donna's website at: http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/

My Thoughts:

Donna's story is not unusual. Cultured foods have been around for centuries, but somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how important these foods are to us. As we continue down the road of prepared foods and fast foods, we are losing the most valuable asset we have - just good plain food. This is the key to both health and wellness and Donna shows the reader this.

Filled with some delicious recipes, the reader (no matter what type of diet one is on) will benefit by following Donna's suggestions, recipes, and simple eating habits. This way of eating certainly won't harm anyone and all it can do is help. If you have problems with any of the ailments that she describes or just want to eat better before you are affected, grab a copy of this book NOW. This book will lead you on a more healthy lifestyle without being drastic. Kefir and other foods are easy to make and not expensive at all. There's really nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain by reading this book!

Highly recommended!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

A Winter Discovery by Michael Baron

A Winter Discovery
Author: Michael Baron
Publisher: The Story Plant
ISBN:9781611880274
Paperback: 60 pages

About the Book:
Reviewers have rejoiced in Michael Baron's "emotionally charged relationships" (RT Book Reviews), "deep sensitivity" (#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs), and "talent and depth" (Romance Writers Reviews), while calling his work "a masterpiece" (Book Reviews R Us), "unforgettable" (Fresh Fiction), and "beautiful" (My Book Retreat). Now Baron presents us with his first novelette and his first holiday story, a touching, luminous, and openhearted tale of love, wonder, and revelation.

Returning to the characters of his first novel, When You Went Away, Baron takes us again into the world of Gerry Rubato, a man who has been marked by loss and revived by love, and his son Reese, now five, who celebrates life at a remarkable level but is only now starting to understand that he was robbed of the chance of ever knowing his mother. Reese is old enough now to get caught up in the excitement of the Christmas season and he throws himself into it with abandon. His sense of celebration takes on entirely new levels of meaning, though, when it leads him to an unexpected and most remarkable discovery.

At once buoyant and poignant, and filled with irrepressible spirit, A Winter Discovery is a story of that will take you to new places in your heart.

Michael Baron is the fiction pseudonym for a successful author of nonfiction books. He is the author of five novels, When You Went Away, Crossing the Bridge, The Journey Home, Spinning and Anything.
My Thoughts:

This holiday story will warm your heart and is perfect for holiday reading as well as any time you want a nice sweet story. Centered around a 5 (almost 6!) year old boy named Reese, who lives with his step-mother and father and has an older sister that is in college. Reese wants nothing more than to spend some time with his mother. She died not long after he was born, so he doesn't know her, but he feels the need to want to get to know her.

Reese is a delightful child who has a very vivid imagination. This imagination will charm you and make you smile. He's adorable and funny and he makes the reader want to grant him his wish.

Put this on you must reads for your holiday reading or just any time you may want a good short story that warms your heart. This could be considered the second story in the "series". It follows "When You Went Away" but can also be read as a stand alone. The reader won't feel like they have missed anything.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making

Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making
From Color to Quilting: 10 Design Workshops by Your Favorite Teachers
Editors at Lucky Spool
Publisher: Lucky Spool Media
ISBN: 9781940655000
Paperback: 192 pages

About the Book:
Ten of the best known and most respected teachers in modern quilt making, many bestselling authors in their own right, share one of their most popular workshops with you. Each class is designed to help you improve your own composition and design choices whether you create your own patterns or want to follow one of the 16 patterns included. The final workshop is an inspirational gallery of 50 modern quilts that exemplify the tone, color work, and techniques found in modern quilt making today. This is the must-have collection of modern quilt making.
My Thoughts:

First, I must comment on the cover. I buy books when their covers impress me. Yes, I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I can't help it - I love covers. This cover is bland and boring to me, and if I saw it on the shelf I wouldn't have purchased it. That would have been my loss, as there is so much great information to be had here.

Let's look at the table of contents:

1. The Principles of Color
2. Working with Solids
3. Working with Prints
4. Improvisational Patchwork
5. The Alternate Grid
6. Circles and Curves
7. Paper Piecing
8. Large-Scale Piecing
9. Modern Quilting
10. A Study of Modern Quilts
Plus templates to make 16 quilts.

My largest downfall with quilting or really any project is color. I know what I like when I see it on covers, quilts, afghans, etc. but I have no talent when it comes to putting the colors together on my own. This book goes into detail about color and color theory and has a LOT of good information in it that helped me.

I also like the sections on Circles and Curves as well as Paper-Piecing. They are well done and helped me with some of my problems that I've had in the past when it comes to these techniques.

This is a book I will be purchasing the hard copy of to keep in my quilting library to reference over and over again. It's a great book and will help beginners as well as experienced quilters alike. Make sure to add this to your quilting library - you won't regret it.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Make Ahead Bread by Donna Currie

Make Ahead Bread
100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day
Donna Currie
The Taunton Press, Inc.
ISBN: 9781627103954
Paperback: 208 pages

About the Book:
Two Steps to Breaking Bread. Make Ahead Bread de-mystifies the bread-baking process with simple recipes and easy-to-follow steps for fresh-from-the-oven bread. Plus there's an entire chapter devoted to baking ingredients and equipment. Follow home baker Donna Currie's simple two-step process to baking delicious, fresh, yeast breads:

Step One – mix and knead the dough, then let it rest for 1-2 days while you enjoy life Step Two – bake.

Yes, it's that simple.

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Breads. Your home will smell amazing while you bake any of the 100 recipes in Make Ahead Bread, including all of these:

Loaf Breads – Bacon, Tomato and Cheddar Loaf; Maple Sugar and Walnut Loaf Buns, Rolls, Breadsticks – Slider Buns; Cheesy Breadstick Twists Flatbreads – Chicago-style Pan Pizza; Semolina Focaccia Pastries – Breakfast Sausage Danish; Traditional Croissants, and more. Now, you're never too busy to bake bread! Yeast bread isn't complicated to make, but because it needs time to rise, it’s not always easy to fit it into time available - that’s until now. Make Ahead Bread gives inexperienced bakers and busy home cooks the information you need to make flavorful, freshly baked bread on a schedule that works for you.

Leftovers? Just in case you have any leftovers, this book also features many recipes for your extra bread like Almond Butter Bread Pudding; Artichoke, Olive and Tomato Strata; and Overnight French Toast. Plus recipes for scrumptious butters and spreads are included, such as: Chunky Apple and Cinnamon Spread and Chocolate Butter to name a few.
My Thoughts:

Refrigerating bread dough to allow for a slow rise is nothing new. It has been done for years - my mother did it and so did my grandmother.

I was excited to get a copy of this to review. I have tried this technique when I've been in a time crunch or when I want a nice delicate loaf. When I tried some of the recipes from this book, I was surprised to find they didn't always turn out the way I wanted. I had problems with the second rise, so sometimes I would just skip the first rise, knead the dough, form it and then put it in the fridge to have a slow rise. I did have success that way.

The recipes are yummy - but you may need to experiment on how to get these to raise the way you want them to.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Jack Templar Monster Hunter by Jeff Gunhus

Jack Templar Monster Hunter
The Templar Chronicles - Book One
Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
ISBN: 9780988425903
Paperback: 204 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

About the Book:
Orphan Jack Smith has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. But the day before his fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day to prepare before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.

As if that weren't enough, Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.
My Thoughts:

Jack is a character that I totally adore! Told from his point of view, I had no choice except fall in love with his character. Jack is to the point, quirky, hilarious and just a teen that wants to be a teen, however that's not in his future. When Jack finds out that his life is not what it appeared to be, he embraces what faces him and does what he needs to do.

I love the voice that Jeff Gunhus gave Jack - perfect for a  14 year old boy. I also love how when he is telling the story, Jack stops and interjects something for the audience and that pulls one into the story even more! But lets not stop with Jack - Eva is great, too, and she's a strong female character that "works" well with Jack.

Perfect for the male young adult audience, but not exclusive. This great beginning to the series will bridge both sex and age groups. Jack Templar Monster Hunter has been likened to Percy Jones, but I think it's better. I love the storyline and more importantly, I love Jack. Add this to your TBR list. It's a fun read and a must for a day when you need to unwind and just be entertained!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Return to Grace by Karen Harper

Return to Grace
A Home Valley Amish Novel #2
Author: Karen Harper
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
ISBN: 9780778313236
Paperback: 368 pages
Genre: Amish fiction, mystery

About the Book:
In the shadows of a graveyard, a SHOT rings out…

Hannah Esh fled the Home Valley Amish community with a broken heart, throwing herself into her worldly dreams of a singing career instead. But as much as she tries to run from her past, something keeps pulling her back. On a whim, she brings four worldly friends to the Amish graveyard near her family’s home for a midnight party on Halloween. But when shots are fired and one of her friends is killed, Hannah is pulled back into the world of her past.

The investigation into the shooting uncovers deep-buried secrets that shock the peaceful Amish village to its core. Determined to prove her value to the community she left behind, Hannah attempts to bridge two cultures,working closely with both handsome, arrogant FBI agent Linc Armstrong and her former betrothed, Seth Lantz,now widowed with a young daughter.

Caught between Seth and Linc, between old and new, Amish and worldly, Hannah must choose her future. Unless a killer, bent on secrecy, chooses it for her.
About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper is a former high school and college English teacher. Winner of the 2005 Mary Higgins Clark Award for her outstanding novel Dark Angel, Karen is the author of seventeen romantic suspense novels and six historical novels, as well as a series of historical mysteries. Karen and her husband, who divide their time between Columbus, Ohio, and Naples, Florida, love to travel both in the U.S. and abroad. For additional information about Karen and her novels, please visit www.KarenHarperAuthor.com.

My Thoughts:

The story line for "Return to Grace" was an exciting and page-turning experience, but I did have issues with it, and those issues detracted from the enjoyment of the story for me. First let me clarify why. I live in an area of Old Order Amish and have an Amish friend. This story's Amish customs are  far from the Amish customs and community that I know here. I'm not saying they are incorrect as each order has their own ways, but they don't match with what I know.

With that said, the story and the characters didn't ring true to me. The sheriff felt contrived and quite forced and I really couldn't "get into it" the way I would have liked. Yes - my problem and not fair to the story.

Another issue I had was coming into the series with this as my first book. I don't think that helped at all and I honestly think I should have started with book one. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in this series should start at the beginning.

Lastly - I don't like any type of sex in my Amish fiction. It has to be clean for me.

If you like Amish fiction and don't get hung up on the different ways of each order and don't mind your story being a little risque, you shouldn't have any issues with this. Really, the basic story is good. I just got hung up on the details.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fatal Puzzle by Catherine Shepherd

Fatal Puzzle
Zons Crime Book One
Author: Catherine Shepherd
Translator: Julia Knobloch
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
ISBN: 9781477826508
Paperback: 154 pages

About the Book:
1495: In the peaceful medieval city of Zons, on the banks of the Rhine, a young woman is found hanging from a parapet, raped and mutilated. A month later, another maiden falls prey. Bastian Mühlenberg, head of the City Guard, is determined to decipher the murderer’s gruesome code, unaware that he and the woman he loves are in the killer’s sights. With the help of an old psychic, a priest, and the stars above, Mühlenberg must solve the “fatal puzzle” before it’s too late.

Present day: Journalist Emily Richter is thrilled when she’s assigned a series of articles about the historic Zons killings. However, right before her stories are to be published, a young woman’s body is found hanging from a city tower—grossly maimed and wearing a linen gown, like her medieval predecessors. Detective Oliver Bergmann leads the investigation, tapping the knowledge of the attractive young journalist. Working together—and using Mühlenberg’s old notes—they race to stay one step ahead of the copycat killer.

About the Author:

Thriller author Catherine Shepherd lives with her family in the medieval town of Zons, Germany, the setting of Fatal Puzzle. Since leaving her successful career as a project manager at a major German bank, Shepherd has devoted herself to writing full-time. Fatal Puzzle, the first book in the Zons series, hit number one on Amazon's bestseller list in Germany.

My Thoughts:

This mystery thriller is definitely worth taking notice of. From the beginning, I was really taken in by the shifting of time frames and how the story unfolded. In the late 1400's we are introduced to a serial killer and the detective that "hunts" him. In the present day, we are introduced to a journalist who is researching that killer. As she researches why the killer did what he did, and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, there is a real life serial murder going on that mimics the 500 year old murder mystery.

As I read more and more translated novels, I'm finding that I love the fresh take on story telling they provide. This story was no exception! Full of suspense and a some red herrings, I really didn't figure out who did it until close to the end when it was revealed. I love stories that keep me guessing and I love the fact that there was a puzzle involved where you learned along with the main character.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of Catherine Shepherd's work translated into English. The translator (Julia Knobloch) for "Fatal Puzzle" did a superb job and there was no awkward feel to sentence structure or any misunderstanding in what was being said.

This is a great mystery/thriller to settle in with. It's not very long and the characters are fleshed out enough to really enjoy them. If you enjoy translated works, a good thriller or mystery or just like a well told story, then this is a must to add to your reading list!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Coffee Gives Me Superpowers - Review

Coffee Gives Me Superpowers
An Illustrated Book about the Most Awesome Beverage on Earth
Author: Ryoko Iwata
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 9781449460839
Hardcover: 96 pages

About the Book:
For coffee lovers and those who love them, Coffee Gives Me Superpowers is a fun, graphic design-centered book focused on one of the world's most addictive and beloved substances--coffee.

If coffee is the foundation of your food pyramid, then this is your book. Inspired by Ryoko Iwata's popular Web site, I Love Coffee (en.ilovecoffee.jp), Coffee Gives Me Superpowers is overflowing with infographics and fun, interesting facts about the most awesome beverage on earth written by Ryoko, a Japanese coffee-lover living in Seattle. The book includes the most popular pieces on the site, such as "Your Brain on Beer vs. Coffee," "10 Coffee Myths," "The 15 Most Caffeinated Cities in the U.S.," "The Best Time of Day to Drink Coffee (According to Science)," and "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know about Caffeine," plus 25 percent new, original material that is available only in this book.
My Thoughts:

Brightly colored and wonderfully illustrated, you'll find this book both engrossing because of the information and as addictive as coffee itself! I found myself going back to the book again and again. I told myself it was because I wanted to re-read the the fun and informative facts, but honestly I enjoy the bright colors and the presentation and the overall entertaining way everything is presented.

Perfect for gift-giving or just a great book to present yourself with, Coffee Gives Me Superpowers will have you coming back again and again to make you smile, shake your head, and just overall enjoy!


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Handbag Workshop by Anna M. Mazur

Handbag Workshop
Design and Sew the Perfect Bag
Author: Anna M. Mazur
Publisher: Taunton Press, Inc.
ISBN: 9781621137771
Paperback: 208 pages
Genre: Sewing, Crafts

About the Book:
From chic wristlets to functional carryalls (and everything in between), each project includes easy-to-follow instructions, pattern template, and detailed photos. All the sewing basics readers need are here, but the range of patterns, stylishness of the bags, and design instruction (so readers can build their perfect bag) are what sets this book above the rest.

A THREADS contributor and THREADS-reader favorite, Anna’s bags have been gracing the pages of the magazine since 2001. She is known for her clever designs and for her simple, clear instructions that yield amazingly sophisticated results.
My Thoughts:

Tauton Press usually does a nice job on printing and photographing books covering crafts, sewing, cooking, etc., however, I won't be able to really comment on the completeness or the quality of photographs for the "Handbag Workshop" since I received a digital copy from Netgalley. For me, that could make or break a great book, but sadly, my hands are tied on this aspect.

Those photos that I do see look quite good and the instructions seem complete enough, however, I did notice that the level for these bags is a bit more advanced than some I've seen in other books. This could be a good thing, but could also be a drawback for an over adventurous beginner. It wouldn't stop me though from recommending this book to anyone who wants to learn how a bag is constructed and sewn and the instructions are good enough to definitely try. Beginners should expect mistakes - it's a given when sewing and since these are more advanced patterns and explanations, it would be normal to have a few issues.  Don't let that stop you though. This is truly a great book and it's good enough that I want to add a finished paperback to my sewing library.

Recommended to those that want to learn handbag construction, sewers and those that are just curious about the process.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

ARCHETYPE by M.D. Waters

ARCHETYPE
Author: M.D. Waters
Publisher: Dutton
ISBN: 9780525954231
Hardcover: 384 pages
Genre: fiction, sci-fi, futuristic, suspense

About the Book:
Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.
My Thoughts:

Emma is a woman who has powerful and pulling dreams. They, at times, seem more real than the life she leads with her husband, Declan. These dreams are disturbing and bother Emma, yet she is reluctant to divulge these dreams with anyone. Until she meets Noah. He could be the key to what is really going on in Emma's life. Or is he?

ARCHETYPE is a novel that kept me quite intrigued to the end. The reader only finds out information when Emma does, so this keeps one wondering and trying to figure out what is really going on. I love this style of writing. As each piece of the puzzle is revealed, the story picks up to a heart-pounding bittersweet ending. Well, ending for book one of the series anyhow. The ending is satisfying enough that you could walk away from the series with closure, but you still have the type of ending where you want to go on to see where things go from here.

I enjoyed Emma's character. She's strong and smart and she's a ... oh well, you'll have to read the book to find out exactly what she is - that's part of the intrigue of the story line.

Make sure you add this to your must read list today. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi, dystopian, or futuristic type novels. While you're at it, you may just want to pick up the second one, "Prototype" as well!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Plain Admirer by Patricia Davids

Plain Admirer
Love Inspired Series
Author: Patricia Davids
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 9780373878178
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages

About the Book:
Love Is Only A Letter Away

So what if Joann Yoder's Amish community deems her a spinster? She's content to stay single. In the meantime, she's working hard to finally buy her dream house. So it's problematic when she's fired from her job to make room for the nephew's owner, Roman Weaver. His blue eyes aside, she simply can't stand him! Good thing she has the secret letters she's been exchanging with a mystery man to keep her going. But who is writing her letters? And could she possibly fall for him in real life, too?
My Thoughts:

Since her parents died, Joann Yoder no longer has a real home to call her own. She is passed from brother to brother since she is now their responsibility. She dreams of having her own home and works hard at her job - saving for that dream. Then, she finds she will be losing her job and has to train Roman, her new replacement.

The only way Joann copes with things when they get tough, it to go fishing. On one trip, she loses her pole and a later trip back, she finds it along with a letter. This starts an unusual and very understanding relationship with someone she has never met.

A well executed story, "Plain Admirer" kept me quite engrossed throughout. It was a hard book to put down because I had to see what the next letter would bring and wondered if and when the big reveal would be. This was a quick read with a spirited female and a broken male that could capture the reader's heart. Although the story was predictable, it was still a very satisfying read.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys Amish or clean romance or anyone who enjoys a quick read with a satisfying outcome.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Stonefly by Scott J. Holliday

Stonefly
Book one of the Jacob Duke series
Scott J. Holliday
Haley Road Publishing
ISBN: 9780988555433
Paperback: 326 pages
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

About the Book:
Jacob Duke has come back to Braketon­—a sleepy, backwoods town bordering Dover, the mental institution where he spent his formative years. Jacob's intention is to enjoy Braketon's woods and water for the first time as a free man, but he soon discovers that Dover isn't through with him yet. Driven by a curse that compels him to grant any wish he hears, Jacob is drawn back into his disturbing former life by a young boy's desire to see his own father dead.

Complicating things is the irresistible and erratic Lori Nelson, who continues to put new boyfriends in Jacob's path, along with Motown, Jacob's friend from his years at Dover, who carries a secret that rocks Jacob's foundation and makes him question his own morality.

Stonefly is a suspense thriller that rockets to a surprising, but satisfying end. Stay tuned for the second book in the series, Broken Horizon.

My Thoughts:

I am totally ashamed to say that I thought I had published my review of this book and found that it sat in my drafts with only notes and didn't get reviewed. This is a true travesty as this book was so worth the recognition that I should have given it, but didn't. So, here's the recognition that it should have gotten.

"Stonefly" is one of those books that you might just pass up because of the title or maybe the cover. It was on a whim that I chose it and I really didn't expect a whole lot from it. Instead, it pretty much knocked my socks off! It was brilliantly written, better yet, memorable. It's been a long time since I've read it, and Jacob Duke still stands out in my mind. He is pretty much an unforgettable character for me - especially with how he tried to deal with ridding himself of his gift.

Written in Jacob's point of view, one can really come to feeling things and experiencing things through Jacob's eyes. Things make sense this way, where as a by-stander, things may not at all be understandable and more importantly,why would they since Jacob has come out of a long stay in a mental hospital. This really gave me a great connection to the story - and that's what made it so unforgettable.

If you enjoy suspense, a great main character, a bit of supernatural, a gift that is really a curse and some great storytelling, then this is truly a novel you will enjoy. Make sure to add it to your must reads today!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Unbreakable
Book 1 of the Legion Series
Author: Kami Garcia
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316210171
Hardcover: 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult

About the Book:
I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn't know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy's room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon -- a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother's place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon -- battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.


My Thoughts:

Do you love great books that include ghosts and demons and those that hunt them? Then grab yourself a copy of Kami Garcia's "Unbreakable" and prepare yourself to curl up with a true spine-tingling page turner!

Did I love this book? YES! It held everything I adore about haunting fiction. We have the unsuspecting main character that hears whispers, a cat, a death of someone close, a couple of weird twins that appear out of nowhere... And then the fun begins!

Written for the young adult audience, this book easily will entertain and please the adult audience. It is fast paced, full of action, creepy and suspenseful - everything that any reader would appreciate. Make sure to pick up a copy soon. Best part is the second of the series, "Unmarked" is already available, so you won't have to wait to see what happens next!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Boy in the Cemetery by Sebastian Gregory

The Boy in the Cemetery
Sebastian Gregory
Publisher: Carina
Kindle Edition, 122 pages

About the Book:
This is the story of a girl who didn’t want to live…

Carrie Anne is desperately unhappy. Tangled in a web of abuse, she seeks solace in the cemetery that backs onto her garden. But something creeps between the gravestones. Carrie Anne is not alone…

…and a boy who cannot die.

The cemetery is home to a boy. He has guarded these forgotten bones since meeting a gruesome end two hundred years ago. Neither dead nor alive, he has been watching for a long time. And now, he finally has the visitor he’s been waiting for…
My Thoughts:

There is a boy that goes by the name Boy because he cannot remember his name, was an abused child from the 1800's that ended up alone and then went to a graveyard to find the dead's secrets.

In present day, there is a girl, Carrie Anne, who is an abused child that wants to sleep in death. Her family moves to a new town with a graveyard behind their home. As she tries to hide her family secrets, her macrabe fascination shines through and makes her stand out and she becomes a target.

This story is creepy, macrabe and downright gross at times and should please any reader that enjoys that kind of a story. This story is not full of fun and games but takes on some serious issues like child abuse, attempted suicide and sexual abuse. With those issues, I'm not sure how to approach where to categorize the genre. It has a child main character so I would lean that way, but at the same time the abuse and suicide issue is touchy. I would suggest an adult read this book before handing it to their child to make sure they are mature enough for the subjects.

With that said, I was entranced by the whole story and enjoyed it throughout. The ending was one that I didn't totally see coming but looking back it made sense and seems there would be nothing that would be more appropriate. I love the characters and wanted to rescue both and became quite involved with the story because of this.

This is one story that I won't be forgetting for quite a while. I recommend it to all that love horror and enjoy children as main characters. This is truly perfect for those that like Tim Burton's and possibly even Neil Gaiman's style. Not sure I'd recommend it for young adults because of the subject matter and feel that it needs to be a parental decision.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Ireland

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Ireland
Book #5
Authors: Patti Wheeler, Keith Hemstreet
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
ISBN: 9781626341951
Hardcover: 192 pages
Genre: Young adult, adventure, travel

About the Book:
While on vacation in Ireland, Gannon and Wyatt visit medieval castles, climb the Cliffs of Moher, and explore the ancient Newgrange monument. But after Gannon kisses the Blarney Stone their adventure takes a dramatic turn. While volunteering on a farm to connect with their Irish roots, they learn that a deadly blight is wreaking havoc on the Irish farmland. Determined to uncover the true cause, the courageous explorers embark on a secret mission to gather evidence against a ruthless suspect, but soon find themselves running for their lives. Ultimately, they must rely on their wilderness survival skills and Gannon’s “gift of gab” if they hope to bring justice to their ancestral home.

In the tradition of the historic journals kept by explorers such as Lewis and Clark, Dr. David Livingstone, and Captain James Cook comes the adventure series Travels with Gannon and Wyatt. From Africa to the South Pacific, these twin brothers have traveled the world. You never know what they will encounter as they venture into the wild, but one thing is certain wherever Gannon and Wyatt go, adventure is their constant companion.

You can find Gannon and Wyatt’s blog, photographs, and video footage from their real-life expeditions at travelswithgannonandwyatt.com.
My Thoughts:

Get ready to go on adventure with Gannon and Wyatt in Ireland! Book number 5 of the Travels With Gannon and Wyatt series, this book will take you on an adventure to the Emerald Isle! Visit some exciting landmarks including the Blarney Stone (complete with pictures). I had no idea how "fun" it would be to kiss that stone until Gannon gives it a try!

Full of adventure with two home schooled boys, this novel is sure to keep the reader engrossed to the end! Throughout the boys travels, one will see and experience Ireland and the locals as well as become entwined in a great mystery adventure.

Gannon and Wyatt are both great characters. Like most brothers, they are both interested in life but from different points of view - one from the scientific side and the other from the humanities side. This leads to some disagreements but also shows how things are viewed from all sides and creates an interesting story from both points of view.

Great for middle school boys and girls, this series can be started anywhere. Match them to your studies to bring a sort of living history to them. This series is fun, so don't be surprised if your young reader wants to read them all!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Invasion by Jon S. Lewis

Invasion
A C.H.A.O.S. Novel - Book #1
Author: Jon S. Lewis
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9781595547538
Hardcover: 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

About the Book:
He didn't ask to be a hero, but now all that stands between us and chaos . . . is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He's forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he's sure he's never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents' death wasn't an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world's largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn't go public?

Vowing to uncover truth, Colt is drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible getaways.

The invasion has begun.
My Thoughts:

A great start to a fun trilogy, Invasion keeps readers interested both emotionally and with lots of action. The main character, Colt, has a hardship that takes him to live with his grandfather. This hardship may end up being much more tragic that first expected and Colt intends to find out exactly what happened.

This young adult sci-fi novel starts out a bit slow but picks up with lots of action and secrets. Of course with sci-fi, there has to be fighting and aliens, so get ready to snuggle up with a book that takes the reader "out of this world"!

This book is recommended for young adults as well as older readers that enjoy a young male protagonist. Great to give to pre-teen/early teen readers, especially boys.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Holiday Hats for Babies by Debby Ware

Holiday Hats for Babies
Caps, Berets & Beanies to Knit for Every Occasion
Author: Debby Ware
Publisher: Taunton Press, Inc.
ISBN: 9781627101028
Paperback: 128 pages
Genre: Crafts, Knitting

About the Book:
These sweet and sassy baby hats will bring a smile to your face! 25 adorable patterns for every celebration of the year: Birthday Cupcake Cap, Halloween Hat, Holly Holiday Hat, Baby Chick Cap, Crystal Party Hat, Firecracker Topper, Leaf Peeper Cap, and more.
My Thoughts:

If I had to describe the hats in "Holiday Hats for Babies" in just one word, it would be ADORABLE! There are hats for every occasion including birthday, Halloween, Easter, Spring, Mother's Day, etc. The instructions are easy to read and follow.

Each hat is made to fit babies with a 14" or 18" head by using the recommended DK yarn and needles. However, if you use a worsted weight/Aran type yarn, larger needles or both, you will end up with a larger hat that can fit a child's larger head. This would make this book even more useful and fun - especially for children who love to dress up or for those that want to look like their baby brother/sister.

I had a lot of fun trying out some of these patterns and had no issues with any of the instructions. They were clear and easy to understand.

This is perfect for anyone who loves to knit for the wee ones, enjoys making hats, or just enjoys to knit something different that will put a smile on someone's face!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

The Amish Baking Cookbook by Georgia Varozza and Kathleen Kerr

The Amish Baking Cookbook
Plainly Delicious Recipes from Oven to Table
Authors: Georgia Varozza and Kathleen Kerr
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Spiral-bound: 272 pages
ISBN: 9780736955386

About the Book:
Building on the success of The Homestyle Amish Kitchen (more than 58,000 copies sold), Georgia Varozza partners with experienced baker Kathleen Kerr to give you a cookbook filled with the foods most associated with the Plain and simple life: baked goods. This delicious collection of more than three hundred classic baking recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, bars, and breads inspires you who love Amish fiction and are drawn to the Plain lifestyle to roll up your sleeves and start baking!

Whether you consider yourself a novice or a veteran in the kitchen, Georgia and Kathleen make it easy to make delicious baking recipes such as Amish Nut Balls and Brown Sugar Pie. Find the perfect recipe to prepare for that large weekend potluck, tonight’s intimate family dinner, or a fun activity with the kids.
My Thoughts:

Being blessed with living in Amish Country, the one thing I know to be a fact is that the Amish really know how to cook, and they do it well! "The Amish Baking Cookbook" is worth its weight in gold as it contains many of the delicious recipes I have found in my area. I was excited to find recipes for Blueberry Bagels, Brown Sugar Pie, Rhubarb Coffee Cake as well as many other delightful baked goodies.

Each recipe is easy to follow and everything I've tried has come out wonderfully delicious. Besides the recipes, there is a guide to ingredients and a section about the Amish and their beliefs.

No matter how many cookbooks you have, if you really enjoy delicious home cooking, you really have to add this to your collection. You won't be sorry you did!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Forced Alliance by Lenora Worth

Forced Alliance
Love Inspired Suspense
Author: Lenora Worth
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 9780373446018
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Romance

About the Book:
AN UNEASY PARTNERSHIP

By-the-book FBI agent Josie Gilbert has no business falling for her confidential informant, but she can't walk away. She needs this case—her career needs this case. And suave thief turned FBI asset Connor Randall is too deep in the mob syndicate to pull out now. But when the crime boss they are trying to take down becomes a target himself, Josie is forced to take Connor into hiding without blowing his cover. Now, dodging hit men and fighting a perilous attraction, she has to make a life-and-death decision. Can she trust the man who has stolen her heart…or is he working one last con?
My Thoughts:

This quick paced, action packed thriller kept me turning pages to see what happened. Every time I think I figured it out, some twist would make me second guess myself. Although quite formulaic and predictable, I still enjoyed the story line and the characters. Josie is a strong woman and Conner is a great con-man that you can't help but like but not sure you trust. These characters both worked for me and worked well in the story. Nothing seemed out of character and all seemed quite realistic.

Forced Alliance is a good quick read that will keep you flipping the pages to see what happens next. I enjoyed it enough to want to read more by this author and also from Harlequin's Love Inspired Series!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

On Her Father's Grave by Kendra Elliot

On Her Father's Grave
Rogue River Novella Book 1
Author: Kendra Elliot
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Print Length: 100 pages
Kindle Edition - no ISBN

About the Book:
The first of four thrilling Rogue River novellas, On Her Father’s Grave launches a new romantic suspense series from Kendra Elliot and Melinda Leigh, with each author alternating writing books in the series.

In a small town like Solitude, Oregon, keeping a secret can be murder.

Stevie Taylor had left her sleepy Oregon hometown for a more exciting life. But after her police chief father passes away, the LAPD cop returns to Solitude and signs on as a patrol officer, hoping to heal from her loss…and from the horrific things she’s seen in the city.

In Solitude, everyone knows everyone else’s business—and, to Stevie’s dismay, local gossip soon ties her to the new police chief and a man from her past. Tragedy then shakes up the small town when a teenager dies after taking a strange new drug. Now, the seasoned LA cop must hunt down the dealer while investigating the most important case of her life, one that could divide her tranquil town.
About the Author

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Kendra Elliot has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female sleuths and heroines like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden before proceeding to devour the works of Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, and Nora Roberts. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. A Golden Heart, Daphne du Maurier, and Linda Howard Award of Excellence finalist, Elliot shares her love of suspense in Hidden, Chilled, Buried, Alone, and Vanished. She lives and writes in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and a Pomeranian, but dreams of living at the beach on Kauai.

My Thoughts:

Stevie Taylor left Oregon to work for the LAPD. After her father dies and she has tired of seeing everything going on in the big city, she decides to return to her hometown - not only to relax but to heal after the passing of her father. Things don't remain quiet though and Stevie is thrown into something that reminds her of her past dealings in LA.

I enjoyed the first book to the series and must read the others. The characters are interesting, Stevie is layered and is slowly revealed throughout the story. She is quite a complex person and she has guilt issues among other things. She is not only interesting but is pretty enough to catch the attention of her boss, but will there be love? Business and pleasure don't mix or do they?

A great story line and good characters make this beginning of the series one to add to your TBR list. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in Stevie's not-so-quiet town, the mystery behind her father and finding out if there will there be a love interest after all.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery

Ovenly
Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery
Authors: Erin Patinkin, Agatha Kulaga
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 9780373892952
Hardcover: 240 pages

About the Book:
With lines out the door for their coveted Bloody Mary scones, pear and sour cherry cardamom pie, and caramel bacon hot tarts, New York's award-winning bakery Ovenly is world-renowned for their innovative and exquisite treats.

Using unexpected flavor combinations by playing with tradition, testing the limits of indulgence and perfecting the balance of savory and sweet—adding just a hint of spice—it's no wonder Ovenly consistently receives rave reviews and has dedicated cultlike fans and clientele.

The Ovenly cookbook is packed with all of their greatest hits—the best ever chocolate chip cookies; dense, crumbly shortbreads; smoky, beer-slicked caramel corn; buttery scones; rich, layered cakes; bacony peanuts—plus pages devoted to recipe riffs and spin-offs. As self-taught, curious cooks, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin have a straight-talking approach that is never too fussy and always encourages experimentation. Above all, they believe that cooking (and eating!) should be an adventure.

With tips and anecdotes, exquisite photos, and pantry and kitchen tool essentials, Ovenly contains experimental yet perfected recipes for the most inventive and out-of-this-world breakfast pastries, desserts, and snacks.
My Thoughts:

I dare you to sit down and not be tempted to bake anything after looking at the book. Full of delicious recipes that will treat your taste buds and fill out your waistline (because it's hard to stop at just one piece or cookie!!), you will certainly have a love hate relationship with this book. It's addictive and scrumptious and has some of the most decadent recipes that you'll ever make.

I love the tips and information that this book holds, plus the photos are drool worthy. It's just worth taking the time to sit down and read the tips and picture browse. I promise, you'll want to do it again and again.

Put this book on your must buy list - you'll be so glad you did!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Made in America: A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes by Megan Garrelts and Colby Garrelts

Made in America
A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes
Megan Garrelts, Colby Garrelts
Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 9781449458140
Pub Date Apr 14 2015
Hardcover: 168 pages

About the Book:
An American collection of heirloom recipes from a chef's point of view designed for home cooking. Award-winning chefs Colby and Megan Garrelts present 50 handcrafted recipes passed down through generations and celebrated around American tables.

This beautiful collection of traditional American recipes is an invitation to reminisce with generations around the kitchen table. Acclaimed Kansas City chef and recipient of the 2013 James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest, Colby Garrelts and his wife, Megan, a James Beard semifinalist for Best Pastry Chef, feature their favorite library of American classics redefined by easy, chef inspired techniques, quality ingredients, and a love for regional flavors from their Midwestern roots. These recipes will soon be the classics you refer to again and again for true Americana cooking. Made in America features 50 handcrafted recipes sorted by the cooking methods commonly used in American kitchens from daybreak, to the bakeshop. Many recipes begin with a childhood memory from Colby or Megan that describes the roots and the journey of each recipe.

This heirloom collection from a modern point of view includes such as Biscuits and Gravy, Corn Fritters with Fresh Sheep's Milk Cheese, Quick Pickles, Panfried BBQ Pork Chops with Tomato Horseradish Sauce, Grilled Garlic-Thyme Kansas City Strips, Garrelts Fried Chicken, Lemon Meringue Pie, and Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies, to name a few. Suggested menus for festive America holidays such as Mother's Day, 4th of July, Back to School night, and Christmas are also included. Sidebars throughout showcase handcrafted cocktails such as the Bloody Mary, The State Fair, and the Pimm's Cup that pair well with the different recipes within. Love and pride are woven together to create this collection that will remind you of your favorite recipes that define the comforts of home.
My Thoughts:

I don't think there's anything as delicious as Southern foods and this book is filled with them - many done with added flair making these recipes extraordinary. Get ready to drool and then have an overwhelming desire to whip up a dish or two. You just can't help yourself when paging through. The photography that pairs with the recipes are beautifully done and I swear you can taste the deliciousness of each dish.

Make sure to try the Christmas Casserole. This one is better than others I've tried and my guess is because of the addition of cremini mushrooms and Gruyere cheese. Then there's the Braised Bacon with Bourbon, Raisins, Nuts and Fried Eggs... Oh man - swoon worthy for sure! The Worcestershire-Grilled Rib Eye is a must for summer grilling and of course you can't have a good Sunday dinner without Garrelts Fried Chicken! One can't forget dessert and a must to try is the Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream, Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies and don't forget the Lemon Meringue Pie!

With all this talk about the recipes contained in this book, I want - no - I NEED to stop writing about this amazing book and get to the kitchen and bake something - and FAST!!

If you haven't guessed it, you really need to add this to your cooking library - especially if you love Southern Fare. Yes, it's just that good!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

The Dead I Know
Scot Gardner
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: March 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0544232747
Hardcover: 208 pages
Genre: Young Adult

About the Book:
Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up.In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living.
My Thoughts:

Aaron Rowe is a likable but truly haunted kid. He walks in his sleep and has terrible nightmares that he can't get rid of. The only thing that Aaron seems to be able to identify with and find comfort from are the dead that he works with. You see, Aaron is apprenticing to become a funeral director and even though he has a hard time with things from time to time, he is good at it and seems to really understand life and death. Yet, something still haunts him to the point of putting him in dangerous predicaments.

I adored Aaron from the beginning. I guess there is something about one being broken that makes me just attach to the character. He is a likable guy and he seems to try doing his best for others, including his grandmother who suffers from dementia.In this great coming of age story, Aaron finds that no matter how hard he tries to hold things together, things start unraveling and he can't control the outcome. As secrets surface and control goes away, he finally learns about just being human.

This is a great story for anyone who loves young adult and darker stories with some dark humor. The Dead I Know is not just for teens but will appeal to the adult audience as well.

This book was supplied through the Amazon Vine Program for me to honestly review.

Blue Ribbon Canning by Linda J. Amendt

Blue Ribbon Canning
Award-Winning Recipes
Author: Linda J. Amendt
Publisher: Taunton Press
Pub Date: Apr 28 2015
ISBN: 9781627107693
Paperback: 272 pages

About the Book:
Blue Ribbon Canning takes readers on a canning journey and celebrates two American traditions--preserved food and state fairs--with more than 140 prize-winning recipes for jams, preserves, pickles, vegetables, fruit, and more, plus tips and methods for making delicious--and safe--blue ribbon recipes at home.
My Thoughts:

When one hears mention of canning and preserving, for many it seems to have a connection with older women or someone's grandmother and days gone by. I have been told that canning is going out of style. Why should one work so hard to produce things that could be purchased in the store for close to the same cost to possibly even cheaper than it can be made?!

Blue Ribbon Canning answers that question with the delicious recipes that are provided in this gorgeous book. These are award winning recipes from fair and competition winners and will be winners on anyone's table! Believe me, there is nothing that comes close to the taste of home canned food and preserves. Remember when you thought no one cooks like Grandma? It's true. You can't get these great tasting foods from the grocery store. It just doesn't happen.

Perfect for the newbie as well as the seasoned canner, this beautifully photographed book will delight the eyes while making the mouth water as one tries to find the perfect recipe to start with. There are so many to choose from ranging from the everyday Strawberry Jam to some of the more unusual recipes like Eggplant Caponata and Georgia Peach and Basil Preserves.

The book is well written with clear and concise instructions. It has canning safety information and USDA recommendations and seems to have food safety well covered. I love the stories of the blue ribbon winners that have been included throughout the book and especially love the serving suggestions that are included with the recipes. It's nice knowing how to use these more unusual recipes once you've put them up. At the end of the book are secrets for canning for competition for those that want to "show off" their talents.

This is a wonderful book that would be a well-used addition to any canning library. Make sure to add it to your must haves - you won't be sorry that you did!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Publisher: Random House Children's
ISBN: 9780385753548
Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fantasy

About the Book:
A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.

Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
About the Author and Illustrator:

KAREN FOXLEE is the author of two young adult novels, The Anatomy of Wings and The Midnight Dress. She lives in Gympie, Australia, with her daughter.

YOKO TANAKA has illustrated children's books by Kate DiCamillo, Sara Pennypacker, R.L. LaFevers, Laura Godwin, and Keith McGowan.

My Thoughts:

"Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy" is truly a charming and enchanting book that will delight all audiences - not only the younger sect. Well written, this novel was impossible to put aside until it was finished. I adored Ophelia and when she happens upon the Marvelous Boy (whom I also was enchanted by), all the pieces of the puzzle start falling together. She now understands her father's actions, the wicked "step mother", why things are happening the way they are...

Well described as a modern-day fairy tale, this book has all the elements of one - magic, mystery, good -vs- evil, a character that needs rescued and a hero. Unlike many of the other stories I've read, this one has a gender role reversal with the female being the strong character.

If there is one book you'd love to pick up to get lost in, this is the one. Yes, it is written for middle grade, but it seems that it is geared towards many ages. Between the beautiful prose and the tale, it was probably my favorite read of 2014. Make sure to add this one to your must reads list!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Sekret by Lindsay Smith - Review

Sekret
Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 9781596438927
Hardcover: 352 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Teen

About the Book:
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
About the author

Lindsay Smith's love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She writes on foreign affairs and lives in Washington, D.C. Sekret is her first novel.

My Thoughts:

Yulia and the other children have abilities that get them kidnapped and trained for missions that will help Russia undermine the United States. Taking place during the Cold War in the 1960's this novel will have you on the edge of your seat at times. Russia was not known as a place that treats their prisoners well, so the children are basically prisoners with above average psychic abilities - so you can imagine how things are for them.

Even so, the children have learned to adapt and learned how to do things to keep them off radar. The are strong, intelligent and of course, have feelings that they learn how to protect.

This novel was both disturbing and exciting. I had a hard time putting it aside and an even harder time when I closed it up and realized it would be a while before I could read the next installment. The characters were engrossing to me - each had personalities that were quite a bit different than the rest, but they all had the same problem/outcome facing them. I really appreciated the mix and the feelings that to me were quite true to form for that situation.

This book should appeal to most that enjoy fiction centered around true historical time periods/events as well as those that just enjoy a great page-turning young adult novel. I loved it for both reasons.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Publisher: Macmillian Children's Publishing Group
ISBN: 9781596439382
Genre: young adult, dystopia

About the Book:
From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own. The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the ridges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

My Thoughts:

Rosie Sinclair is a student at the Forge School - a school where you are voted to stay or go (much like American Idol or other reality shows). Everything is televised and nothing is private. The more that is disclose to the audience, the more votes a student may receive. At night, each student goes to sleep in a pod after taking a sleeping pill. This pod is designed to subliminally help the students become more creative.

Rosie is a rebel and doesn't take her sleeping pill. This allows her to stay awake and be "normal" for a bit. She wants some alone time and can only find it at night. Then she starts discovering what happens at night when everyone is asleep and as time goes on, Rosie finds out too much information...

This is a fantastic story that keeps the reader both interested and guessing. Not the run-of-the-mill dystopia, "The Vault of Dreamers" has an interesting premise and the characters as well as the ending aren't predictable. Being the beginning of a series, the book ends leaving the reader with questions and wanting answers - but not in a frustrating way.

Great start to a new dystopian series! I can't wait for the next installment!!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Love is Pink! by Roxann Hill

Love is Pink!
Author: Roxann Hill
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
ISBN: 9781477826836
Genre: Romance

About the Book:
Michelle has everything: good looks, a great job, a fancy apartment, and cash to burn. She also has a boyfriend, Valentin—her dream man. There’s just one tiny snag: his wife.

Valentin promised Michelle that as soon as his children were grown, he would leave his marriage to be with her. But when the time comes—and to no one’s surprise but her own—Valentin chooses his wealthy wife, leaving Michelle stranded in the French Alps. Michelle finds herself lost and without a way back to Berlin. Out of options, Michelle hitches a ride in a rickety pink Citroën with the attractive but ostensibly penniless David and his precocious daughter, Emma.

Over the course of their three-day trip, Michelle comes face-to-face with the life she’s created. With David and Emma offering a fresh perspective, Michelle redefines what love is, and wonders whether it might truly be pink.

My Thoughts:

"Love is Pink" has to be one of my favorite romances. It is a fun and quirky romance that actually made me laugh-out-loud at times. I loved David and his daughter and Michelle was just hilarious! She was a character that I didn't much care for in the beginning, but as the story continued, she grew up and became someone I really liked.

Written by Roxann Hill who was born in the Czech Republic and now lives in Germany, this translated novel is not the formulaic romance that seems to be popular today. This novel was fresh and fun and boy didn't hate girl nor did girl hate boy. This was a well laid out story with no sex or anything objectionable. It was truly a fun and feel good story that had a great ending.

I highly recommend this story to anyone that just enjoys a fun and sweet read with a little romance sprinkled in.


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah

Nowhere to Be Found
Author: Bae Suah
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
ISBN: 9781477827550

About the Book:
NOWHERE TO BE FOUND is a starkly elegant story about a young woman’s search for meaning in contemporary South Korea that translator Sora Kim-Russell calls “a road novel turned inside out, a story of a woman’s journey out of and into desire told as only Bae Suah could tell it.” As the nameless narrator passes through her life haunted by poverty, conformity, and dysfunctional relationships, she learns to turn inward to discover the truth at the core of her imagination and ultimately to find value, if not reassurance, in her own existence.

Written in Bae Suah’s unique and interpretation-defying style, NOWHERE TO BE FOUND heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in modern world literature.

My Thoughts:

This novelette is a fast yet very powerful read. It is in a sense sad and depressing, but at the same time quite eye-opening as this unnamed young woman takes you through her life of poverty. It is raw and unnerving at times and and makes the reader think of how this existence could be acceptable to live. I questioned why she didn't leave and why she took the abuse of her mother and her other relationships.

It is hard to say I enjoyed this book as it is haunting and depressing - as it seems odd that one could enjoy something of that nature. This story is well written and appears to be well translated. It is gripping and quite different than most novels I read.

If you want to get a good look inside the life of a poverty stricken woman in Korea, this is certainly a story that will do it. It is at times difficult to read, but the insight and the story is well worth the effort. I highly recommend "Nowhere to Be Found" to anyone that enjoys translated novels, modern literature and just outright gritty and realistic stories.


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

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