Friday, March 27, 2015

Bookish and Non-Bookish Thoughts...

I have music on the brain lately.  Must have been that final episode of Empire that was filled with awesome performances that has me jamming out lately.  I've actually been listening to the show's soundtrack on repeat lately when I drive around town.  On my laptop I have Stevie Knicks, Tracy Chapman, and Johnny Cash playing in the background.  Although I did find myself getting lost in Sufjan Steven's latest CD thanks to NPR.  So, yeah music has been taking over lately, while reading has sort of fallen to the background.  Not to say that I'm not reading.  I'm just reading magazines instead of books -  O magazine, Real Simple, Glamour, and Redbook. The weird thing is that I keep adding titles to my TBR list and requesting ARCs off NetGalley.  I think my problem is that I can't seem to figure out what it is I want to read exactly.  Part of me wants to buy this:
I hear that this book is AMAZING!! So, I'm pretty keen to read it.  However, another part of me wants a familiar author to read. 
 But, I think I might just read something on my kindle from NetGalley.
Or I'll just wait for this book to come out next week.
So many choices...perhaps, too many choices.  Maybe I just need to grab a book and start reading and see what happens.  What do you think?  Do you have any book suggestions for me?  If not book, what about TV shows?  I was hooked on Empire - who doesn't love Cookie and hate Lucious?!?  That show is BEYOND!  I was disappointed with The Mindy Project and can only hope that if it comes back in the Fall that it will be much improved.  I'm still obsessed with The Walking Dead.  The season finale is on Sunday and I can't wait!  Will Rick and his gang take over Alexandria or will they go back out into the wild?  Talking Dead is gonna have Darryl and Scarol, which means its going to be AWESOME!!  I'm excited about the upcoming season of Real Housewives of NYC. Bethenny is back and I'm sure that will make for some interesting drama.  From what I've read, she doesn't get along with Heather (holla!), so that will make for some good gossip amongst the ladies.  I have just started watching Southern Charm and already want to make a trip to Charleston - the people are crazy on the show, but the city looks amazing.  And, of course I'm watching Shahs of Sunset.  Gotta love Reza and his crazy 'stache!  Cripes! I am a reality show junkie, eh?  Well, I am also hooked on Better Call Saul - I love watching Saul before he was Saul.  Plus, its cool to see some of the characters from Breaking Bad on the show - Tuco is still super CRAZY and Mike is still pretty quiet (I loved getting to know his back story).  I'm hoping we get to see Jessie and Walter at some point down the line.  How cool would that be?

And now I'm off to check on my baked ziti.  Its in the oven and smells delicious - let's hope it tastes delicious as well.  I'm trying to test out new recipes from the cookbooks cluttering the kitchen.  I found a new recipe for scones, so I'm thinking of baking them over the weekend.  All I need is some clotted cream and good strawberry jam and I will be set. How yum does that sound?  Tea and scones is the perfect pairing!  Hope you have a great weekend!  Happy reading!!

I'll leave you with a taste from the new Sufjan Stevens CD, Carrie and Lowell:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White

I finished re-reading The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear the other day and came across a word I didn't know - syllabub.  I gathered that it referred to a dessert of some sort, but kept trying to imagine what it would look like and taste like.  So, I searched and found this: (from BBC website)
Looks pretty yummy, eh?  Well it must be if Winspear included it in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, which was just published this month by Quirk Books.  Talk about fate! A cookbook filled with recipes from the BEST mystery writers around - one of which is Winspear!  Looks like syllabub is a dessert I'm meant to make in the near future - hmm, perhaps for Easter. 
How delicious is this book!?!  Seriously! I love the skull and crossbones mixed with the knives and forks on the side.  And that meat cleaver on the front cover is perfect!  As for the authors included in this delectable treat of a cookbook, well, let's just say that Kate White hit the jackpot!  As a HUGE fan of mystery novels and cookbooks, I was stoked to hear about this new book that would merge my two favorite things together.  Not only do we get some truly yummy recipes, but we also get to read the back story surrounding these recipes which are taken from the author's books and characters.  Pretty cool, eh?

The recipes run the gamut from appetizers to drinks to dessert.  There aren't as many photos of the food as I would like, but the ones that are included do make your mouth water.  Plus, how do you not get a kick out of reading a tidbit from your favorite author writing about food!?!  Here are some of the recipes found in the book: Lee Child's recipe for coffee, Harlan Coben's Crab Meat Dip, Scott Turrow's Innocent Frittata, and Sue Grafton's Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich.  Talk about an interesting assortment of dishes.  I just know that fans of these authors and fans of cookbooks will get a kick out of this book!

I would definitely recommend The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook to fans of mystery writers and fans of cookbooks - you all will just devour this book.  I absolutely LOVED this unique mix of authors and their recipes all rolled into one.  Make sure to get your hands on a copy of this KILLER new book - you will be so thrilled you did!

Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this AWESOME book!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fiercombe Manor: A Novel by Kate Riordan

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

A house as old as Fiercombe Manor holds many secrets within its walls. But which dark chapter of its history is haunting Alice, a young woman staying there during the course of a fateful summer?

In 1933, naive twenty-two-year-old Alice is pregnant, unmarried, and disgraced. She can no longer share her parents’ London home, so her desperate mother concocts a cover story and begs her old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, for help. The housekeeper at rural Fiercombe Manor, Mrs. Jelphs is moved by Alice’s “plight” as a new widow and agrees to watch over her in the secluded English countryside until the baby is born and given up for adoption. Because the manor house’s owners, Lord and Lady Stanton, no longer live there, Alice’s only company will be Mrs. Jelphs and her skeleton staff.

Thirty years before Alice’s arrival, Lady Elizabeth Stanton awaits the birth of her second child, fervently hoping he will be the boy her husband desires. But as her time nears, she is increasingly tormented by memories of what happened with her first baby and terrified that history will repeat itself . . . with devastating consequences.

At first, Fiercombe Manor offers Alice a welcome relief from her mother’s disapproving gaze. But she begins to sense that all is not well in the picturesque Gloucestershire valley. After a chance encounter with Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice discovers that Fiercombe’s beauty is haunted by the clan’s tragic past. She is determined to exorcise the ghosts of the idyllic, isolated house.

Nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley?

my thoughts:

Fiercombe Manor is the perfect book to settle down with on a rainy day (the rain adds to the atmosphere of the book).  It has mystery, secrets, creepiness, and a huge manor to get lost in.  Talk about Gothic!  I absolutely loved this book!  I found myself riveted by both Elizabeth and Alice's stories and couldn't wait to find out what would happen to them.  Reading about each woman from their perspectives was a great touch as it afforded us a more personal look into their lives and also with information about the different time periods they lived in.  I couldn't help but feel more involved with the story and Fiercombe Manor. 

This book was filled with intrigue and so many secrets - it was unputdownable!  The history and fiction were married perfectly in this story and provided a great backdrop for such a terrific set of narratives.  I also found Riordan's exploration of the issue of women and mental illness to be important and insightful - she shared with us the ways in which society treated women with mental illness and they measures that were taken to deal with them.  It was truly eye-opening and very fascinating.  I found my heart aching. 

Fiercombe Manor is a book that I would most definitely recommend to fans of historical fiction, women's fiction, and fan's of Gothic fiction - you will LOVE this book!  To find out what other bloggers have to say about this fantastic novel, here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Fiercombe Manor
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Maisie Dobbs returns in a powerful story of political intrigue and personal tragedy: a brutal murder in the British garrison town of Gibraltar leads the investigator into a web of lies, deceit, and danger.

Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England: her aging father, Frankie Dobbs, is not getting any younger.

On a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

And the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way.

my thoughts:

They day my postman delivered my copy of A Dangerous Place I literally whooped for joy.  I was so happy to have in my hands the latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series - the eleventh novel in fact.  So, I settled into my favorite reading spot and dove straight in.  For the next few hours all I did was sob and sigh.  Yes, I was an emotional mess as I learned about everything our beloved Maisie had endured since leaving to India.  For poor Maisie had experienced some MAJOR losses during her time away from us. Instead of the "happily ever after" that I was hoping to read about, I found myself learning how Maisie became so sad and depressed.  At long last they married -  James Compton and Maisie Dobbs.  Hurrah!  They moved to Canada together and were living a wonderfully, happy smug married life.  There was even a baby on the way.  Talk about exciting!  I was thrilled to learn about Maisie's new life.  And then I read about the end of it all.  You see, James was still involved with the creation of new war planes and even though he had promised Maisie he would now be a man on the ground, he agreed to fly once more.  Maisie saw the flight that day and she saw her husband come crashing down to the ground.  She lost James and the baby in one fell swoop.  I was devastated. Oh, how I cried for Maisie and her family.  I couldn't believe that Winspear would do this to Maisie after all she has been through - her mother, the war, Simon, Maurice.  But she did.  And now we have Maisie the widow, the bereaved.  Oh, how my heart broke for her.

In A Dangerous Place, we find Maisie literally and figuratively in dangerous places.  Mired in grief, Maisie has spent some time alone, lost in her thoughts and sadness.  But, after receiving a letter from her stepmother, she has decided to head back home to Old Blighty.  Except, that she's not ready to face the familiar, so she settles in Gibraltar - a place close to home, but not too close.  Also, a place bordering a civil war next door in Spain, which means that danger is near.  Of course, Maisie takes it all in stride, thanks to her morphine pills.  Yes, Maisie has taken to popping pills now and again to dull the pain that overwhelms her.  She's even taken up smoking - if only Pris could see her now!  However, one night when she is out walking she stumbles upon the body of a dead man and soon finds herself investigating his death.  Maisie packs away the morphia and draws a case map in the hopes of getting lost in her work once again.  Unfortunately, she soon finds herself being tailed by a local man named Arturo Kenyon and eventually by Macfarlane.  Yeah, Maisie just can't seem to lose herself completely from family and friends - they all want to know where she is and how she's faring.  In the end, she does eventually figure out what she needs to do in order to slay this new dragon that won't let her go and investigative work, England, and morphia are certainly not the answers.  To find out what happens to Maisie, you must pick up a copy and read.  Fans of this series will be so happy they did.  I absolutely LOVED A Dangerous Place.  It is now one of my favorite books in the series.  Of course, I was gobsmacked to find out what had transpired since we last heard from Maisie, but in the end Winspear brought our beloved Maisie back to life (and I just loved reading all about it).  I most definitely can't wait for the next book in the series and can only hope that it comes out much sooner than later.

To find out what other bloggers are saying about Jacqueline Winspear's latest Maisie Dobbs book, check out the 
link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: A Dangerous Place
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel by C. W. Gortner

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

She revolutionized fashion and built an international empire . . . all on her own terms

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. The nuns of the order nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that would propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Burning with ambition, the petite brunette transforms herself into Coco, by day a hard-working seamstress and by night a singer in a nightclub, where her incandescence draws in a wealthy gentleman who becomes the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, Coco’s sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As her reputation spreads, her couture business explodes, taking her into rarefied circles of society and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her always.

An enthralling novel about an entirely self-made woman, Mademoiselle Chanel tells the true story of Coco Chanel’s extraordinary ambition, passion, and artistic vision
my thoughts:

"There are people who have money and people who are rich."

"I don't care what you think about me.  I don't think about you at all."

"Fashion changes, but style endures."

Coco Chanel was fashion and her quotes live on to provide advice, insight, and a smile.  Her namesake brand is iconic and coveted by everyone.  I know that I would LOVE to own one of her quilted handbags - preferably in black or red.  Her clothes reek of class and elegance and STYLE.  I love watching reality shows (Rachel Zoe) when they attend fashion shows and we get to see what's new on the runway - especially Chanel and Marc Jacobs.   Plus, the episode when Rachel got to tour Chanel's apartment and try on her sunglasses - that was MAJOR!!  My point is that I love fashion and reading all about, especially the people in the design trenches who create such beautiful and unforgettable pieces - like Coco Chanel.  So, when I offered the chance to read Gortner's creative take on Chanel's life story, I jumped at the chance.  After all, I love historical fiction and Coco Chanel - so, what better way to combine the two, right?

Well, let's just say that Gortner knows how to weave a fantastic story filled with fascinating details, rich and developed characters and oodles of drama.  I absolutely loved his novel Mademoiselle Chanel.  It was unputdownable!  I found myself captivated from the first page and didn't want to stop reading (even though it was nearing three in the morning!).  I loved the way he portrayed this amazing woman as being more than fashion - she was a force to be reckoned with.   Her past and the people she met along the way truly helped shape her to become the formidable woman the world knew her to be.  She was a talented, hard-working and independent woman.  I loved getting to know her through Gortner's words.  He brought her to life.  And when he describes her fashion - OMG!!- you can't help but swoon as you imagine it.  This is one story I was happy to read.

To find out what other bloggers have to say about Gortner's novel, check out the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Mademoiselle Chanel
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!