Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier

Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier by Joni B. Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have wanted to write since I was a child in school. It seems like there was always another world going on in my head. I wrote out some stories in school. As life went on I continued to write but not sharing. I never thought I was good enough or knew enough to truly write. This book was perfect for me! I used an entire pad of sticky notes. Page after page have little pink squares on them. There is a wealth of information in between the covers. The best part? It is written so you understand and are encouraged. You are encouraged to take the writing class. You are encouraged to write. You are encouraged to share what you write. You are told not everyone will like it. You are told you probably won't be great. You are told to write anyway. The author is herself a writing instructor as well as author. She truly gives a solid look at writing. More important she gives a solid look at being happy writing. It is the most motivational and helpful writing book, I have read. You come away encouraged and ready to start writing. You may have already started by doing the exercises in the book. I did which is why it took so long to finish the book. In honesty, I am not done with it. I don't think I will ever be done with it. I keep going back and over things and doing the exercises mentioned, this way then that way. If you write, want to write, are intimidated to write, buy this book. You will grow from it and will probably use it over and over.
I was offered this book for review purposes. Thank you to Joni B. Cole for providing a copy of it for an honest review. I am giving copies for Christmas to a my son and a few others who want to write but aren't confident. I know they will find it to be a writer's treasure.

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Review: Strange Weather

Strange Weather Strange Weather by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed Joe Hill books before. He does horror very well.
Strange Weather is a collection of four short stories. My favorite was Loaded. All of the stories were good creepy reads. Not the horror I was expecting but I enjoyed the book the same. The stories are the kind of scary that creeps up on you. You know something is wrong. Then, 'bam!' there it is. Different from what you expected so you are surprised at the turn of events. I truly enjoyed that.
The stories are not connected so you can read them in whatever order you choose. All of them will offer you an escape into another place, not necessarily away from reality though. I don't do spoilers and, with short stories, I'd rather you read them. Especially these. Grab the book and settle in. If your on a plane, you might choose 'Aloft'. I think that would be heart stopping.
Thank you to William Morrow Books for the giveaway. I am so excited to have won this amazing book!

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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

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: Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier

Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier by Joni B. Cole My rating: 5 of 5 stars ...