Sunday, July 15, 2018

Looking Forward - July 2018

     Here are the New Releases for July 2018 that I'm excited about.  Let me know if you are planning to read any of these, or if I missed any that you are looking forward to reading!

July 3, 2018:


Buddha Bowls By Kelli Foster:  When I first saw this book I wasn't really sure what a Buddha Bowl was.  But the idea of having an easy, healthy meal all in one bowl sounded great!  I've already bookmarked several recipes to try.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble
**I was provided a free copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Unicorn Your Life: Wondrous Ways to Make Everything More Magical by Mary Flannery with Illustrations by Bree Wagner: Ummm, why would you not want to Unicorn Your Life?  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

July 8, 2018:

Pagewalker by H. Duke: This is the first book in a new series called The Library Gate Series. It's about a librarian who guards a portal into the world of books.  I like to read books about people who love books.  It's short, Goodreads says it's approximately 45,000 words long.  Find it on Goodreads or Amazon

July 12, 2018:

Magical Mystery Paws by Mandy Morton: This is part of a series.  It's hard to find much information online about the series, but I think I was able to gather that this is the fifth book in the series that is called The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency, but it might also be called the Hettie Bagshot Mystery Series.  Regardless, there are cats and the books are told from the POV of the cats.  Find it on Goodreads or Amazon.
**I was provided a free copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

July 17, 2018:

Maze Master by Kathleen O'Neal Gear: This is an apocalyptic thriller in which the end of the world is happening via a plague.  I love a good apocalypse.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
**I was provided a free copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: A comedy fantasy from two of my favorite authors and the first in the new series The Tales of Pell.  I think this is going to be a really fun book to read.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

July 24, 2018: 

Contagion by Erin Bowman:  First the cover caught my attention so I went to look it up.  This novel sounds amazing.  Amazon says: "Perfect for fans of Madeleine Roux, Jonathan Maberry, and horror films like 28 Days Later and Resident Evil, this pulse-pounding, hair-raising, utterly terrifying novel is the first in a duology" and I cannot wait to read it.  I want it now!  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

July 26, 2018:

Barnanbas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan:  This is the first Barnabas Tew Mystery featuring a supernatural detective in Victorian England.  I'm hoping that this will be a fun, entertaining read.  The book was previously released in physical book form.  This release is of the ebook version.  Find it on Goodreads or Amazon.
**I was provided a free copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

July 31, 2018:

Death Over Easy by Maddie Day:  This is the fifth book in the Country Store Mystery Series.  It's a cozy mystery and there's a cat on the cover.  Need I say more?  I have not ready any other books in this series, but I've purchased and started the first already.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.  
**I was provided a free copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Don’t Always Feel Like Cooking

I’m a good cook, and I enjoy cooking. But I don’t always feel like cooking. We try not to buy takeaway more than once per week, so that means I have to come up with something for dinner even when I don’t feel like it. Every week when I grocery shop I grab something easy with this in mind. Usually it’s marinated chicken breasts from Wegmans, and premade mashed potatoes. I bake the chicken breasts in the oven about 25 minutes and the potatoes cook in the microwave for about 6 minutes. Then I add in a tossed salad or a vegetable like broccoli or carrots that I can toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at the same time as the chicken. It’s easy. It’s ready in less than 30 minutes. And I still made dinner.   I feel better after eating it than I would if we ordered takeaway, and I have the emotional satisfaction of knowing that I cooked dinner. 

What do you do for an easy dinner when you don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to order takeaway?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

If You've Got It, Haunt It - Review

Title:  If You’ve Got It, Haunt It
Author: Rose Pressey
Series: A Haunted Vintage Mystery #1

Synopsis: “Cookie Chanel has a passion for fashion – and a murder mystery to Solve!
     “Cookie Chanel has opened her own vintage clothing boutique, It’s Vintage; Y’All, in the charming town of Sugar Creek Georgia.  Always on the lookout for stylish second-hand steals, she attends the estate sale of deceased socialite Charlotte Meadows.  But she gets a lot more than she bargained for when Charlotte’s ghost appears before her – offering fashion advice and begging Cookie to find out who murdered her.
     “As the persistent poltergeist tags along and a possibly psychic pussycat moves into the shop, Cookie sorts through racks of suspects to see who may be hiding some skeletons in the closet.   Do a clothing store owner and a disembodied socialite have a ghost of a chance of collaring a killer – or will Cookie’s life be the next one hanging by a thread?”

Review:  I needed something light after my last read, which was dark and heavy. (If that interests you see my review of The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin here)  Any novel written by Rose Pressey that I’ve ever read has always been entertaining, light and fluffy to read.  If You’ve Got It, Haunt It was no exception.  I enjoy reading about vintage clothing connoisseurs, and I enjoyed Cookie as a character.  Cookie is a reluctant detective.  Solving mysteries and hunting for murderers is not really her idea of a good time.  She just wants to live her quiet life and run her vintage clothing store.  Charlotte bullies her into it, like that scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze annoys Whoopie Goldberg until she agrees to do what he wants.  Here’s a video in case you don’t remember that scene:

     If you are looking for a serious, edge of your seat, thrill ride of a read this is not it.  If you are looking for something more light hearted and fun then definitely give the A Haunted Vintage Mystery series a try. 

Publisher: Kensington Publishing

If you like this book you may want to read:

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) by Juliet Blackwell

Caught Dead Handed (Witch City Mystery #1) by Carol J. Perry (Read BookGirlR’s review here)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Vanishing - Review

Title:  The Vanishing  
Author:  Sophia Tobin

Synopsis: “On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lie White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets.  Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.
     “When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodging seems a blessing.  Only later does she discover the truth.  But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…”

Review:  I’m going to be straight up and tell you right now that The Vanishing is dark and terrifying.  I read it in pretty much one sitting.  I started reading it sitting on the couch after dinner last night while SuperSteve was watching television.  I took a break midway to brush my teeth, put on my pajamas and climb into bed.  I finished at 11:30pm last night.  That’s an hour and a half after my bedtime, but I just couldn’t put it down!
     I requested this novel to review based solely on the cover.  It’s different, it grabbed my attention.  I thought it might be a light historical romance.  It is not!  Be warned, it is full of triggers.  There’s rape, drugs and the death of a child within these pages.  It started out a little slow, but the description of the moors, and the isolation found there, drew me in.  It was probably around 30% of the way in when I realized I was not going to sleep until I was finished with The Vanishing.  Even after I finished reading and turned out the light I lay there in the dark wide awake and thinking about Annaleigh and White Windows.  I'm immediately buying more books by Sophia Tobin and I highly recommend this novel to anyone who can deal with the aforementioned triggers.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.****

Publisher:  Simon Schuster UK

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The Widow’s Confession by Sophia Tobin

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

No Cure for the Dead - Review

Title: No Cure for the Dead
Author: Christine Trent
Series:  A Florence Nightingale Mystery #1

Synopsis:  “When a young nurse dies on her watch, Florence Nightingale must uncover the deep –hidden secrets someone will kill to keep buried.
     “It is 1853, Lady of the Lamp Florence Nightingale has just accepted the position of Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Temporary Illness in London.  She has hardly had time to learn the names of the nurses in her charge when she suddenly finds one of them hanging in the Establishment’s library.  Her name was Nurse Bellamy.
     “Florence’s mettle is tested by the dual goals of preserving what little reputation her hospital has and bringing Nurse Bellamy’s killer to justice.  Her efforts are met with upturned noses and wayward glances except for her close friend and advocate inside the House of Commons, Sidney Herbert.  As Florence digs deeper, however, her attention turns to one of the hospital investors and suddenly, Sidney becomes reluctant to help.
     “With no one but herself to count on, Florence must now puzzle out what the death of an unknown, nondescript young nurse had to do with conspiracies lurking about at the highest levels of government before she’s silenced too.”

Review:  I found No Cure for the Dead to be a highly entertaining read.  I appreciate historical novels with strong female main characters that also strive to maintain some historical accuracy.  The willingness of the police officers and several male members of the board who oversee the Establishment, to dismiss Florence’s concerns, simply because of her gender, is infuriating but also accurate to the time period of the novel. 
     I’ve been reading more historical mysteries since I’ve discovered my love for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, which I will be discussing in an upcoming post later this month.  There are a few moments during No Cure for the Dead when the story lags due to some areas of large chunks of description where we are given vast amounts of historical nursing procedures all at once.  These sections could have been handled a bit differently as they are not truly relevant to the story, but they are relevant to the true story of Florence Nightingale, and you can easily skim past them and still retain all of the information that is pertinent to the story.  I did not guess who the murderer was before it was revealed, which is unusual for me.  Trent spends a lot of time bringing many of the nurses and patients of the Establishment to life and I appreciate that aspect of storytelling.  I truly came to care about the characters and look forward to reading the rest of the series.  I recommend fans of mysteries and fans of historical fiction give this new series a try. 
*****I was provided with a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
If you like this book you may want to read:

Lady of Ashes (Lady of Ashes Book #1) by Christine Trent (Read BookGirlR’s review here)

The Lion’s Courtship: A Dark Victorian Crime Novel (Anna Kronberg Mysteries Book #0.5) by Annelie Wendeberg

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Looking Forward - June 2018

     Here are the New Releases for June 2018 that I'm looking forward to.  Let me know if you are planning to read any of these or if I missed any that you're excited for!

     June 5, 2018:

The Hills Have Spies by Mercedes Lackey: Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite authors.  Her Valdemar series is my favorite series of all time.  I found out about this book today and immediately told SuperSteve that I HAVE to go to Barnes and Noble on Tuesday.  It's an emergency.  This is not a drill.  I will be there when the doors open! Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire: Seanan McGuire is another of my favorite authors.  This is a rerelease of the first book in the Ghost Roads series in anticipation of the sequel that is being released in July.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*****

Adrift by Rob Boffard: This is a science fiction thriller about tourists stranded in space and their struggle to survive.  I'm hoping this will be an "edge of your seat" adventure.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin: This is the release of the paperback edition, the hardcover came out in January 2017.  This is a historical fiction novel that I requested mainly because I loved the cover.  I'm guilty of judging books by their covers and this one is absolutely stunning!  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler: This is a non-fiction book that may answer the question: What happened to the colony of Roanoke.  I'm trying to read more non-fiction this year, and this should be an entertaining read.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exhange for an honest review*****

     June 8, 2018:

Modern Guide to Energy Clearing by Barbara Moore:  I'm looking forward to this book because I think we all could use a little energy clearing and help filling our lives with more positive energy.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

     June 12, 2018:

Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King: Apparently this is #15 in a series.  I did not realize that when I requested this from NetGalley, although I have now gone out and bought #1 (The Beekeeper's Apprentice) which I will be reading this month, so I guess it's not a total loss for NetGalley.  From my understanding it's kind of like Sherlock Holmes fanfiction.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

The Spook in the Stacks by Eva Gates: This is #4 in a cozy mystery series.  Cozy mysteries are my guilty pleasure.  I prefer cozies with cats, food and magic or witches in them.  This installment in the series is set during Halloween, which makes it even better!  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

     June 15, 2018:

Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise by Paul Briggs: I love post-apocalyptic fiction.  And technically this is post apocalyptic climate change fiction, which I find fascinating (and extra scary because there is an element of truth here).  This is first in a new series.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

     June 19, 2018:

Outcasts of Order by L.E. Modesitt, Jr: The Saga of Recluce is one of my favorite fantasy series.  This is #20 in the series.  I can't wait for this novel.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
*****I was provided a free copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*****

Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey:  This is #4 in the Felix Castor series.  I love this series about a freelance exorcist.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

     June 26, 2018:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: This is an exciting debut from a new author, and it's the first in a new series.  The cover is beautiful too.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews: I love Ilona Andrews, and this is the first in her new series.  But can I just say that I really dislike this cover.  I'm sorry, but, minus the magic she is holding in her hands, it looks like a cheesy historical romance.  I'm going to read it anyway because it's Ilona Andrews.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Death by Espresso by Alex Erickson: This is #6 in the Bookstore Cafe series (yes, it's another cozy mystery) and there is a cat on the cover.  I don't think there's anything that could make me want to read this book more.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The Ghost Between Us by Pete Nunweiler:  It's a horror novel, about ghosts.  Enough said.  Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Recipe: Cinnamon Cheesecake Stuffed Banana Muffins

     I love to bake.  I love cooking too, but there is something special about baking that relaxes me.  It's soothing to mix all of the very different ingredients together and watch them transform into something yummy in the oven.  And the smells, oh my goodness, the smells in a kitchen while baking are the smells of dreams.  Baking can be challenging, and I'm gluten-free which comes with even more challenges.  If you're gluten free then you know that baking gluten free is hard.  Stuff comes out dry and crumbly, nothing rises right, and even if your finished product looks good it probably has some texture issues when you try to eat it.  That's because in baking gluten is what stretches and holds everything together.  When that's missing, things can get weird.
     I was extremely discouraged when I first tried baking after being diagnosed with celiac disease.  Everything I tried to make was gross, or looked horrible, or both.  But I didn't give up.  I've been practicing, forcing family and coworkers to try my gluten free baked goods.  And all that practice has paid off.  I think I'm pretty good at gluten free baking now.  I've learned how to adjust recipes and which products to use.  So, I'm going to start sharing my recipes here.
     We are starting with muffins.  Muffin batter is really the same as quick bread batter, we are just pouring it into muffin tins instead of a loaf pan.  At first glance this recipe seems hard, we are mixing up a topping, a filling and a batter.  But if you prepare your ingredients for each step before starting and just go step by step it's actually pretty simple!  Quick bread batter is very easy to make gluten free.  It's a very moist batter, and it stays fairly dense even after it rises in the oven.  The trick is to make sure you don't overmix the batter.  You can use a mixer (stand mixer or hand mixer) for the filling and to start the batter, but when you add the dry ingredients just stir it in by hand, and only stir until the dry ingredients have been mixed in.
     For this recipe I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 baking flour.  This is my go-to baking flour.  It's a mixture of several different flours and the xanthan gum already mixed in.

Cinnamon Cheesecake Stuffed Banana Muffins
Makes 10 large muffins; prep time: 25 minutes, bakes for 22 minutes = total time 47 minutes

Streusel Topping:
6 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons salted butter, cold and cubed

Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffin Batter:
3 over-ripe bananas
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
½ cup vanilla greek yoghurt (can also use sour cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Streusel topping:
In a small bowl mix together flour, brown sugar and ground cinnamon until well blended.  Add butter and rub into dry mixture with fingertips until all dry ingredients have been mixed in and the whole thing is the texture of wet sand.  Put in refrigerator to chill until right before baking.

Cheescake Filling:
In a medium bowl blend together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, using a hand mixer and beating until smooth.  (If your cream cheese is lumpy it means it is still too cold.)  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Add the flour and ground cinnamon and beat until well blended.  Set aside.

Muffin Batter:
In a large bowl beat the bananas with a hand mixer until fairly smooth.  (You can use the same beaters you used for the filling.  The mixture of flavors really won’t make that big a difference.)   Add the melted butter and both sugars.  Mix until well blended and sugars have dissolved.  Add the eggs, vanilla extract and yoghurt.  Beat until they are all blended. 
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a spoon (I prefer a wooden spoon, the point is not to use the mixer at this stage.) just until the dry ingredients are all mixed in.  Be careful not to overstir. 

Making the muffins:
Grease 2 large muffin tins well (Mine make 6 muffins each and this recipe makes 10 large muffins).  Pour ¼ cup of muffin batter into the bottom of each of 10 muffin cups.  Add approximately 3 Tablespoons of cheesecake filling to each muffin cup.  Gently spread the filling over the batter in each muffin cup so you can’t see any batter.  Now pour in enough muffin batter to fill each muffin cup so that they are all ¾ of the way full.  Remember they are going to rise, don’t fill them too full or they will run over and make a mess in your oven.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the streusel topping we kept in the refrigerator until just this moment.  Distribute the streusel topping evenly.  Be generous, it’s fabulous.

Bake the muffins for 22 minutes.  To test for doneness place a toothpick into the center of 1 muffin, if it comes out with batter still on it bake for a few more minutes.  If there are moist crumbs only on the toothpick your muffins are done. 
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.  Then transfer to a wire cooling rack to continue cooling.