Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: Secrets and Pies

Secrets and Pies Secrets and Pies by Jenny Kales
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this story. I love cozy mysteries so I may be biased. It is set in the Midwest close to where I use to live. Every time Greek Fest was mentioned, I just wanted to be there! There was also a lot of Greek food talk which, honestly, kept me hungry. I made a few of the recipes from the back of the book though and that helped my hunger. The recipes I made were Avgolemono, Melopita and Rizogalo. Greek chicken and lemon soup, cheese honey pie and rice pudding. They were easy peasey and delicious. The Avgolemono has become a favorite.
But back to the story. This is the third book in the series but the first I read. I had no trouble at all following the story. Actually if it weren’t for references to previous murders, I might have thought it was a stand alone or first book. The mystery had some nice twists to it so it wasn’t too easy to guess at. Things flowed very nicely. I loved the characters. I felt like I was visiting with friends. I thought the author did an excellent job creating and maintaining the Greek ambience.
The only downside I had was how much I missed the Greek place, (and owner,Gina), that I use to eat lunch at in downtown Chicago. This book totally took me back there and made me ache with homesickness. I am definitely reading the first two books in this series and will be watching for the next book.

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Review: Krampus

Krampus Krampus by Brom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! Who is the villain...Krampus or Santa? I personally found the narration to be excellent and Kirby Heyborne truly brought the story to life for me. I have been fascinated by legends and folklore since I was a teen. Having Odin, Loki, Hel and others included in this story just made it so much more entertaining for me. I want the illustrated version now. I know I will be listening to this book again.
For those who want to know. Probably not a book you want to listen to with children. It is scary and the f-word is used.

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Review: The Christmas Town

The Christmas Town The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the message that family doesn’t have to be the one you are born into. I loved the characters. Yes the story was kind of sappy but I love that at Christmas. I enjoyed it. I didn’t know it was a part of a series so definitely worked as a stand-alone. I laughed out loud several times.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Lies She Told

Lies She Told Lies She Told by Cate Holahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this on Audible intending to only listen for an hour or so while I was doing things at home. I ended up listening to it completely. The narration was excellent. I was absolutely caught up in the crazy story.
I did get a bit confused with the characters of Liza and Beth. You really need to pay attention when listening to/reading the story. It will get a bit complicated and if you are only half listening you will most likely miss key pieces.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Review: The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The end. Omg. I’m so messed up.
This was an amazing story. All the twists and turns it took. Never assume. Very true words.
The story had the feel of The Body, (Stand By Me). Perhaps because of childhood friends being in both. The story phases from past to present back to past all through the book. It is all clearly marked so you are never lost but I mention it as some readers would rather know.
A huge thank you to Read It Forward and Crown Publishing for the advance copy I won. It is one of my favorite reads of 2017!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Mixing with Hamilton Beach

The holidays have been in full swing for weeks now. Starting the week of Thanksgiving cooking and baking we’re slowly cranking up. Now we are days from Christmas and baking is an everyday happening. My hand mixer died before Thanksgiving. I went through that holiday the old fashioned way. My arms were getting a good workout but I live with pain as a constant companion. I knew I needed a mixer. The search was on. I asked friends and family what mixer they preferred and why. I received various responses with the majority of younger family members telling they just get what is cheap and then replace, replace, replace. That is not for me. Hopefully that is going to change for them too.
A good mixer is definitely worth paying for. Here in my part of Alaska, a cheap mixer runs in the $30-40 range. Replace, replace, replace was going to get expensive, fast. I started looking at what Hamilton Beach had to offer. I really love this company. I can honestly say that over the years my Hamilton Beach products held up for a long time. I tend to look at what they have when I need or want to buy a small appliance. I still ask friends and family for their opinions. I like to compare products. I want to be certain to get the product that does what I need it to do. I definitely want a good price. As I was researching my options I received an email inviting me to review another Hamilton Beach product. (If you are looking for a food processor, please check out my review here.)
The Hamilton Beach ErgoMix Hand Mixer was one of the products offered.

 It caught my interest because of the design. Pain has made baking difficult. This mixer is designed to be easy on the hand and elbow. When I took it out of the box, it felt heavy. I was worried about that. I thought my arm would tire quickly. However when I used it, I adjusted to the weight of it. One thing that I wasn’t expecting was how quiet this mixer is! I frequently wake in the night and am unable to fall back asleep. I enjoy baking at this time but always hand mixed everything because the noise disturbed others sleep. I am now able to mix cakes, cookie dough and other things using the mixer without anyone waking. This was a bonus for me. I also like the way I can stand this mixer on the counter. It was super easy to let the batter drip of the beaters into the bowl. I was able to let the batter drip off the beaters cleanly into the bowl while I got my pans ready. My old hand mixer could not stand as this one does. Here are the photos: 

 out of the box 

the speeds and burst button

whisk and beaters that come with

mixing up the cake 

testing the stand position

 look how the beaters don't make a mess

I am in love with the mixer. Now I know you may be skeptical because I was sent the mixer to review. I would like you to know that 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?

The Hamilton Beach ErgoMix Hand Mixer was very easy to put together. It comes assembled except for the whisk or beaters you will choose to use. These attached easily, stayed put and then popped out at the push of the button. It is very easy to use with the guide very conveniently placed. You can see the guide as you are mixing and easily change it or give it burst. It is a heavy mixer but I adjusted easily. I do have arthritis in my shoulder and hands so I was concerned. I think the design helps with the adjustment. If you are getting this for someone with hand/arm strength issues, you may want to have them try out the feel at the store. It is easy to store as it fit on my shelf, in the standing position.
I love the performance. This is another area of concern for me. I have purchased hand mixers in the past that died an early death. This is the reason why my review was held a bit. I wanted to be able to tell you if it died. I have used this everyday. It's the season. I have made eggs, mashed potatoes, an amazing amount of cookies, cakes and cupcakes. I have mixed sauces and even made meringue, (I can't begin to tell you how terrified I have been to make that. Now, I wonder what was wrong with me). The ErgoMix has held up beautifully and my hand and shoulder did not ache like it did with the other hand mixers. It performs well, is durable and has certainly made my holiday season easier. It is very easy to clean. Wipe the main part, (do not immerse in water),  and wash the whisk/beaters normally. As for the company reputation, 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. Honestly, this is my favorite company. I check out others and am always interested in what people have to say, but I have never been disappointed with Hamilton Beach
If you are looking for a gift for someone who enjoys cooking and baking, the ErgoMix would be a good selection. It looks nice, works fabulously and is easy on the hand/arm. A huge plus is that while it looks pricey, it is not expensive. Go for it. You might get some tasty treats out of it. 

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. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Final Girls

Final Girls Final Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once I started reading Final Girls I couldn’t stop. I was glued all the to the surprising end.

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Review: Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I both read and listened to this book. It is enormous but engrossing. It is definitely a book you want to plan the reading of, (I ended up making a daily goal for it). I first attempted listening to it, (the narration was impressive. Seriously, get an Audible copy). Then I was able to get a hard copy from the library and started over, alternating between the two.
The story was extremely interesting for me. My family is from the area where it is set. I wish I could say that some of the setting wasn’t accurate but, with the current drug issues, sadly it was. With a setting I knew and characters I might, I was easily sucked into the story. I really enjoyed it when “ Our Place,” came in to the story. That was interesting and the ending was an incredible ride. The book seems more like drama than horror to me. Though I would be freaked if women were to fall asleep inside cocoons. I will choose to leave it there as I don’t want to spoil the story by mentioning other aspects that freaked me out. There were plenty of moments of horror but mostly I saw the story as drama. It didn’t keep me up, terrified to sleep, like earlier works did. But I was invested early and stayed invested to the end. It is interesting to read of this during a time when men and women are struggling to find balance in this “equality” for all society.
I enjoyed the story. It was fun to read a story written by father and son. I have read, and am a fan of, Joe Hill, (I loved seeing him get a nod). This is my first time reading Owen King. He didn’t disappoint me and I am interested in reading other work by him. It is amazing how much writing talent is in this family, (though somewhat expected given both parents are excellent storytellers). I would recommend the book though I would caution not to expect the horror of previous books like The Shining or It. I think if you go in knowing that, you will be able to enjoy the story more.

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Review: What Of Us Remains?

What Of Us Remains? What Of Us Remains? by Mila A. Ballentine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What Of Us Remains starts out a bit choppy but smooths out. I read other books by Ms Ballentine and she is a wonderful writer. The zombie genre, though, is a harsh one. Finding ways to stay true to it while incorporating fresh air is difficult. Ms Ballentine tries hard. The book is short so there really wasn’t the typical character building and scenery that you find in the author’s other books. I had a difficult time relating to the lead character. Some of that may be from the author trying to portray the typical New Yorker and giving her a toughness that makes it difficult to know her. It was interesting having a minority as the main character and having it start off in a big city. I haven’t found either to be in abundance in this genre, (could just be the books I choose as there has been an explosion in this genre). This gave the book a unique story. I would love to see the story fleshed out a bit. Perhaps made longer with the opportunity to get a feel for the characters, the neighborhood in the city and an addition of a few more zombie scenes.

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Review: Holiday Hearts A Sweet and Wholesome Romance Bundle

Holiday Hearts A Sweet and Wholesome Romance Bundle Holiday Hearts A Sweet and Wholesome Romance Bundle by Josie Riviera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet holiday stories. These are fairly quick reads. My favorite was Candleglow and Mistletoe followed closely by A Snowy White Christmas then A Portuguese Christmas. Though really they each are memorable in their own ways. Ms. Riviera does an excellent job creating a picture of where each story takes place. It is easy to become lost in them and ease the stress of the day. The stories are separate and don’t rely upon each other. This makes it an excellent choice for the busy holiday season. You can choose one in any order, escape in it for a bit and read the others at a different time. Or you can set aside time to read them all at once. With this type of set either way works well. If you are looking for easy stories to ease your stress and take you away, (A Portuguese Christmas is especially great at going away...the author did an amazing job with presenting an accurate Christmas in Portugal), I would definitely recommend this set of holiday books.

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Review: Inheriting Murder: A Bobwhite Mountain Cozy Mystery

Inheriting Murder: A Bobwhite Mountain Cozy Mystery by Jamie Rutland Gillespie My rating: 5 of 5 stars ...