Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Ax To Grind

Ax To Grind Ax To Grind by Tonya Kappes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I was reading this book it occurred to me that I get excited by Tonya Kappes coming out with a new book because the characters really feel like old friends or family. The Kenni Lowry Mysteries are no different. Ax to Grind is the third book in the series.

Kenni Lowry is sheriff of Cottonwood. Her grandfather, "Poppa," is her helper from the other side and Finn Vincent is the hunky deputy from Chicago, (who is also the love interest). The budding romance works so well because Momma trying to marry Kenni off and have her be a proper Southern wife is funny, (and truly kind of real -I'm constantly hearing about that. There is a lot I relate to in Tonya's books.). In book three we have a murder mystery that revolves around an author and her final tell all manuscript. There are enough potential suspects and curves to keep you guessing until the end.

The book does close with a final ending making it easy to read as a stand alone or out of order, (though for the flow of the romance, I would suggest reading them in order). The book is clean making it fine for listening on audio. I received an arc from Net Galley for review purposes but have also purchased the book. I highly recommend this book, (and series). Tonya Kappes books are addictive and best enjoyed with coffee and a brownie.



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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cooking Made Easy With Hamilton Beach

Today I would like to talk about cooking. I love being in the kitchen. Living in Alaska, we get fall temperatures faster than the Lower 48 and nothing says fall is here like good smells coming from the kitchen. Soups, stews, roasts, casseroles, breads, cake. They all smell so enticing as they heat up the house. Prepping though can really tie you down. Let's face it, as much as I love being in the kitchen and cooking, I do have other things to do. Like reading. Ha ha. Okay, other things that need my attention, too. Our days can seem endless when we have so many things that need to be done. I'm getting older, too. With that comes more joy than you can imagine as it brings aches and pains out of the blue. I always thought my grandparents could tell the weather by the sky or the way tree leaves look. Now I know. It was their bodies. We are more accurate than the nightly weather person. Honestly, need to know this week's forecast, ask an older adult how they feel.

Products that help me manage time are great. Ones that help me with time and my aches are phenomenal. That is why I turn to Hamilton Beach. They have a variety of products that help me in the kitchen, both with time and my needs. Recently they sent me a food processor to try. I am not paid for my review though I do keep the item. My review is honest and based on the following things that I look for in products I buy. 

Is it easy to put together?
Is it easy to use?
Can it be easily stored?
If it has to sit on my counter, does it take up a lot of space? 
If it is on my counter, does it look good?
Does it perform well?
Is it easy to clean?
Is it durable?
How does it improve my life?
If I need parts replaced, is it possible?
What is the company reputation for customer service?

I received the Hamilton Beach® Professional 14 Cup Dicing Food Processor. It is amazing although a bit intimidating to look at. It came with a storage container for all the blades. It is a beauty! As intimidating as it looks, I was happily surprised at how easy it was to put together! Everything just fits easily in place and then you raise the arm to lock it in place. Easy peasy. (Yes that is Hamilton Beach's Breakfast Burrito Maker in the background. If you need a delicious yet nutritious breakfast, fast, the breakfast sandwich maker is the appliance to have. I use it every weekday.) 




 I have used it in a variety of ways. I have made egg salad, sliced potatoes for a casserole, diced carrots and onion for soup, mixed a cake, kneaded rolls and made the Salted Peanut Cookie recipe from the product guide book. It is amazingly easy to use. I absolutely love it!


 Check out the potato slices! Perfect for my casserole, fried potatoes or potato chips. So much healthier than buying a bag of chips. Less expensive too! I found this to be an amazing help for drying potato slices. I sliced a whole bowl in seconds and had them in the dehydrator in no time.



 The blades lock on. If you can't easy lock it in place, it is the wrong side.



I diced carrots and onions. This was an amazing help in making my vegetables for soups and for dehydrating purposes. If you dehydrate food, or cook for holiday parties or large families,  this is a food processor you want.






 I love this tool! What is it, you ask? It is the dicing cleaning tool. It will push through any food left in the blade after chopping and then you can use it when you wash the dicing grid. It is super awesome. No more cut fingers.



This is my egg salad. I usually roughly chop  the eggs, onion and celery. I was making the sandwiches, though, for some older friends. Some of them have trouble eating. I decided to put everything in the bowl and mix it in there. It came out perfect for making smooth, easy to eat sandwiches.


This is one of my soups. It is super tasty. I had a little pork, a can of green enchilada sauce, hominy and some fresh veggies. I decided to toss it in my Instant Pot and see what happens. I used my food processor to chop all my vegetables. It was in my pot and 20 minutes later it was ready to serve. Recipe below, though I honestly do not measure things. I am one of those people who learned to cook by eye, smell and taste.



So to answer my buying questions:

Yes to both easy to put together and use. I found it very easy to clean. The biggest problem was the dicing grid with onions. Other than that clean up was almost as fast as using it.

I have mixed feelings regarding easy storage. The food processor is big, so no room in my cabinets. If you have a large kitchen or pantry, this may not be a problem for you. The storage container is a YES. All the blades are safely stored inside it and I could put it in my cabinet out of the way of small, curious hands.

The food processor is impressive and I like it on my counter. It makes it easy for me to use. However, you do need open space or it may hit the bottom of upper cabinets. It does take up a bit of space on the counter. I'm okay with that. It definitely looks good on my counter and I hear compliments on it.

Performance is exceptional. Easy to use. It is way safer than my old food processor. I have used it almost daily and it has not overheated or broken down. Everything looks well made. If you need to replace something, on their web site you can find a section titled parts and accessories. It comes with a 5 year warranty so you can call the company with any problems. I have used Hamilton Beach products for years. My mom used Hamilton Beach. I did not need to call customer service so I did not try speaking with them. Their reputation with me is solid from 40 years experience.

The instruction guidebook has detailed instructions, troubleshooting advice, tips, charts, care and cleaning instructions, processing times with which blade is best, and a few recipes. The booklet comes in English, French and Spanish. This booklet also contains your warranty information.

My verdict on this is if space is an issue you may want something smaller. Otherwise, I would recommend the Hamilton Beach® Professional 14 Cup Dicing Food Processor. I can't wait for holiday cooking! I am already planning my menu and delighting in how easy it is going to be!

Hearty Pork Soup

1 pound boneless pork, cubed
2 cups diced potatoes, 
1 cup diced carrots
1 diced onion
1 can, drained, hominy 
1 packet dry soup mix (I used onion)
1 can green enchilada sauce
water

I put all this together in my instant pot, adding enough water to cover it all. then hit soup. While it was cooking I took my left over fresh vegetables and chopped them. I had cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower,carrots and a little spinach. I threw it all in the processor and chopped it. When the soup was finished I topped each bowl with the fresh vegetable mix. It was filling and tasty, tasty. 
No, I did not use any additional salt. I did sprinkle some pepper on the soup of those who like pepper. 

Thank you for stopping by today. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I will answer them to the best of my ability. 






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books

Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books Cozy Mysteries Cookbook: Recipes from Hope Callaghan's Cozy Mystery Books by Hope Callaghan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adore this recipe book! I admit that while I have several books by the author in my tbr and my Kindle, I haven't gotten around to reading them. That has changed. I am making it a point to include at least one this month.

I received an email from the author telling me about the cookbook. Being a cookbook hoarder and lover of all things in the kitchen, I immediately purchased the book. I figured it would have a few recipes, and then try to sell me books. It does. However, I was surprised by the number of recipes there were. Not only that but these were all recipes I would have very little issue with making! Holy cow! The recipes all look good, sound easy peasy to make, have ingredients that are relatively easy to find and they are reasonably priced ingredients. Winner, winner! Chicken Dinner! (Appropriate because there are several delicious chicken recipes in the book). Don't think that is all because it gets even better. Hard to believe but it's true. Along with the chicken recipes there are recipes to cover just about anything you can think of, including homemade dog biscuits you can feel good giving your pet. Zoey, (my shih tzu reading companion), is as exited as I am.
As if that isn't enough we come to the sales pitch. Normally I roll my eyes at the amount of advertising in books of this type. Yes, I know. The author is trying to interest you in their books. I understand that. I am just one of those readers who doesn't want to hear what publisher's or professional reviewers have to say. They are all paid or have some type of investment in the book/author. I do like to hear what everyday people, like my friends, have to say. Their investment is having a good story or feeling like the author gave them a good deal for their money. I am digressing. Sorry. Pet peeve.

The author gives an introduction to her mystery solving main characters at the beginning of the book. That was ideal for me. I liked her covers, which show these characters. They looked like fun people, so I bought the books. But I haven't read them. The introduction provided me with the information that I would like these characters. Then, instead of half a book of professional praise, the author provided snippets from her books. I have seen that in a few author cookbooks. Usually it is the first couple of pages. This author, though, provided snippets where the characters were talking about the recipes! How fun is that! I absolutely loved this idea. Not only did it get me excited about the recipe, it got me excited about the books.

I am always wary of new authors and first chapter peeks. The first chapter is the lure. Everyone dresses up their first chapter and makes certain it is the best it can be. Occasionally, though, they get lost in the middle or, even worse, the end, and lose steam. Then you have to make the dreaded decision, do I muddle through hoping the author gets back on track or do I shelf it as DNF? Or you are just angry that all was good and the ending fizzled out with no hope of redemption. Another pet peeve.

Hope Callaghan provides snippets that are likely found all over her books. They were chosen because they mention a recipe in the cookbook. This gives me a much better look at Ms. Callaghan's writing. It allows me to determine if her characters are who I thought they are. It gives me an opportunity to see if the story is truly interesting. Then, because both of those were positives for me, it got me excited about the books sitting in my tbr. So I will be making a shopping list and dedicating at least one day this month to cooking from this book while reading the books that contain the references to the recipes.

I would recommend this cookbook to everyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and likes to eat. Most of the recipes are easy enough for a beginning cook. The snippets have nothing in them to worry about a young teen reading them. It is a cookbook that is fun as well as functional. If you are thinking of getting it, I would tell you to give it a try. If you have specific dietary needs, please use the sample to see if you would find the recipes useful or easily adaptable. Otherwise, go get it.

Oh! the author does provide links, at the end, to her books on sale, to her books divided up by series and the order of them and to her newsletter where you can get free books along with information she shares with her readers.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: Do Not Become Alarmed

Do Not Become Alarmed Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book to review. I gave it 4 stars as it kept me up, listening, until 5 am. Then I had to take a break to sleep but immediately picked it back up to finish. I had to know about the children. This sounds like an easy peasy 5 star, right? No. Wrong.
The story does ensnare you in its trap. I didn't find myself really liking nearly everyone, including most of the children. Some parts were difficult to read/hear. Some parts didn't make a lot of sense, (behaviors of some adults and even the children). At one point I rooted for the kidnappers! (I can handle whiny kids but at this particular point, I felt it would have been justified. If you choose to read this book, you will immediately recognize that point). It left a bad taste in my mouth after the ending settled and I sat down to write this.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but to carefully selected individuals. It is a gripping story. It is interesting. It is one where you could find plenty to discuss. But it is not for everyone. I suspect this book might end up being placed on a lot of DNF shelves.
There is a rape scene, involving one of the older children. It was very difficult to get through. If you want to read the book but not this part, when two of the kidnappers are drinking and playing cards, jump a few pages or fast forward a couple minutes. This book is definitely intended for a mature audience.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Deck the Hearts

Deck the Hearts Deck the Hearts by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deck the Hearts takes us to Christmas Creek where we find Holly decorating a mansion for the Christmas gala. The woman who owned the mansion has passed away and willed it to her nephew, Gordon. When it comes to Christmas, Gordon could be described as the grinch. What will be the outcome when Gordon shows up in Christmas Creek?

I enjoyed this short story. I totally identify with Holly. As a matter of fact, though it is September, I had on my Christmas jammies, Christmas lights up and on, I made sugar cookies with hot chocolate and settled in my Christmas blanket to listen to it on Audible. My other half, however, identifies with grinch, (especially if it is not December). Grumpy, grumpy. A plate of cookies kept him from complaining too much. I settled in and was enjoying myself while he was playing Sheltered on Steam. All of a sudden he tells me to stop the story. I start to get slightly huffy, after all it is around 2 hours to read. He stops me again, (must be playing the game that has him so brave - haha), and then tells me he needs to use the bathroom so don't resume until he gets back. Well, that certainly shut my mouth. He not only was listening, he was invested in the story! That is big news as when he is gaming I could dance naked with the seven dwarfs and he would just ask for the plate of cookies. That was the moment I knew it just wasn't my love of all things Christmas but the story was really good. So take it from the gamer guy and read this story. He actually said to listen to it but I'll leave that up to you.

We listened to this on Audible. The narrator, Kate Marcin, was awesome. She is a favorite narrator of mine. I especially love hearing her sing snatches of the Christmas Carols mentioned in the story.

Another winner from author, Rachelle Ayala. Ms Ayala can really write a story! She researches enough to have them realistic yet still take you away. Her words draws you into the story and by the end, you feel like the characters are friends or family. If you haven't read anything by her, take a chance.

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Review: A Pet For Christmas

A Pet For Christmas A Pet For Christmas by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series! This is the second book of three. In the first we met Kelly and her daughter Bree. Bree asks Santa for a father and we are introduced to Tyler, a veteran with deep issues. In this book Tyler has gone to Afghanistan. Kelly is pregnant and Bree has decided to ask Santa for a dog. That is the easy and brief description. There is way more going on in this heart wrenching story but I would rather let you discover it on your own. I love Bree. She is adorable and has an unshakable belief that everything will be fine. As with real life, the deepest believers are small children. We could learn something there. I like Tyler but Kelly I haven't ever been a fan of. I know too many people like her. The characters are realistic. You may or may not like them but will probably recognize them. In my opinion, they make a good couple. They can balance each other and each has something to learn from the other.

I would recommend this book to romance readers who want a deeply intelligent story to go with the romance. This book,in my opinion, is a clean read. It does deal with mature issues. In my opinion Rachelle Ayala is not an author who shies away from contemporary issues. Instead she researches them and then puts them on display in a very real way.



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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Poet's Diary 1 Book Blast







Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Xlibris
Formats: Ebook
Pages: 58
Genre: Poetry
Tour Dates: September 4 - 15

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A Poet's Diary 1 is a collection of thought-provoking poems such as, "It Doesn't Stop Me from Being Happy," "When I Think of Love," "Police State," and "God's Recipe for Love. " As his poetic words flow, thought-provoking observations and experiences will have the reader mentally and emotionally stimulated.

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Review: This Dying World: The End Begins

This Dying World: The End Begins This Dying World: The End Begins by James D. Dean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an intense read. I moved to Alaska from Chicago so I was really interested in the fact that the story starts in Chicago and continues through areas I know. My problem was that while I was pulled into the story I kept going, "oh my gosh, my family is still there". Haha.

This story is mainly about Dan and his family getting to his brothers farm. We are along for a pretty scary ride. I liked most of the characters. I really loved how Dan and Abby loved each other: the fights, the defenses of each other, the sarcastic banter, the care, concern and the way they relied on each other. It was beautiful and realistic. We meet some scary people along the way and they weren't dead. I think that is pretty realistic whenever an area of the world is in a crisis. One of the things I was really impressed with was the author being willing to explore the psychological/moral changes of main characters. I have seen it in other books but not as fully developed, in many of them, as I saw here.

I read a lot of zbooks and I think it is difficult to come up with fresh ideas while remaining true to the genre. There has been an explosion of zbooks in the past few years. The author, however, did come up with a few things that I hadn't read already. I'm really happy that the next book in this series is available. I have it on the list for upcoming book purchases.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review: A Stranger in the House

A Stranger in the House A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my gosh! I loved this book! Even when I thought I knew where the twists were going, I did not want to put it down. The end dropped my jaw.

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Review: Christmas Stray

Christmas Stray Christmas Stray by Rachelle Ayala
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness! Be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy...maybe two boxes. This story started me out crying and had me crying, happy tears, at the end. What a beautiful story!

Juliet and Gabe are married but things have not been well for them since they lost their son.They go away for a Christmas that Juliet can't bear to celebrate. At the cabin they find a child and a dog that change their lives.

I don't want to give away the entire story so I am being vague. This is a beautiful Christmas story of heartbreak, grief, healing and hope that makes it heartwarming.

I listened to this on Audible. I really loved Kate Marcin as the narrator. I loved her as Patrick and was so pleasantly surprised by her singing voice. I wish she could have sang an entire Christmas Carol.

It is a Christmas story you definitely want to have for winding down on a cold December day.If you are like me and enjoy Christmas anytime of the year, this is a book that will bring you the magic of Christmas, regardless of the time of the year.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood

Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood Pumpkintown Perils Volume 3: Journey into Jagged Wood by Aubrey Law
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this series! It is a guaranteed laugh out loud read. Witch Wanda, her cat Jinxy and her sisters, Alice and Amber are back. They have teamed up with Leprechaun Sam and the gnomes to find a giant and a werewolf, one of whom is their father, (is this a good or bad thing? Is everyone on the same side?). As always when this crazy cast of characters get together there are outlandishly zany things happening, along with some dangerous, possibly deadly, things. Readers of this book, (series), should expect anything to pop up. The stories remind me of Lewis Carroll. You open the book and are instantly transported to a fantasy land where you are kept off balanced and are rarely certain who is really on your side. You may not survive but you will definitely enjoy the ride.
If you are looking for manic craziness and a fast read this book is probably a good fit for you. It does contain sexual references and adult language, for those who want that information. Things do wrap up nicely but with the opening for further adventures, (thank you!), to look forward to.

*I normally would have finished this book in a day, or at most over a weekend. However, I had some medical issues going on then Harvey hit. With family in Houston my concern and attention was focused there. Happily my family is fine, including Baby Jax who was born during the worst of the flooding. I ended up stopping and starting several times then just re-reading it. I would like to thank the author who provided an ecopy of this book for review purposes.*

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment

Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment by David Palma
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a must have if you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed, (or there is a possibility of it), with cancer. The language used was easy to understand with the author taking pains to explain new terms and medical terms. The author walks you through everything from the first visit where you find out the diagnosis to the end of treatment and beyond. He writes about clinical trials and myths. Honestly, I was amazed by how much I learned. I am not a person who usually writes in books but this one is highlighted, written in and even has sticky notes on some pages! It may become one of the most useful books you own. Being told you have cancer is one the most devastating things you may hear. It can leave you reeling with a variety of emotions. Taking Charge of Cancer gives you the feeling of power and hope. You will know what questions to ask, what steps to take and be able to make decisions based on knowledge instead of panic. As cancer is so prevalent in today's world, I would recommend this book be in every home. The more you know, the earlier in treatment, the better your chances are.
A huge thank to Goodreads for offering this book in one of their giveaways! I'm so grateful I won it. It has been hugely helpful for me.

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Review: Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance

Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance Noelle: A Sweet American Historical Romance by Josephine Blake
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Noelle is my first book by author Josephine Blake. This book is part of the series, The Brittler Sisters. It is the fifth book but I was able to enjoy it as a stand alone. There are references to the prior books, especially Dianna, book one. The references only made me curious about that book.

Noelle is the youngest sister in a well off family. She is a very likable character. She dreams of finding a man she loves, one who her parents approve of. I'm not certain I like her mother yet. I think she has dealt with a lot during the series. I will hold my judgement on her until I have read the other books. Most of the other characters are likable. There is a twist that I didn't see coming that was very interesting.

This is a clean story. I would have no problem sharing it with pre-teens and up.

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Review: In Time For Christmas

In Time For Christmas by Mona Risk My rating: 5 of 5 stars In Time For Christmas is a delightful story. ...