Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Winner of Olivia is . . .


Congratulations Maria! I shall send you Olivia as soon as I have returned from the Outer Banks.

Thanks to all who entered.

Happy Spring Break!

What are you reading over the break?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Newport Ladies Book Club: Olivia by Julie Wright Give Away

I'm going to give away this book by random drawing on March 28th. Usually, I make you work for a give away in some fashion by sending me recipes but it's spring break time and we could all use a good read while we lounge on the beach, cruise chair pool side, or watch the freak snowstorm swirling outside your window. So, here's the deal. Blog or Facebook or both about my give away and put your total in the comments below (max of 2 as you can see). Honor system. It's spring break. I'm not up for checking all the links!   

The Robbins household looks perfect from the outside: no dust, no stains, no wrinkles. Yet a glimpse into its heart reveals no laughter, no closeness, no joy. Olivia thinks that if she keeps everything tidy and serves delicious meals on time, family life is bound to get better. But when her husband, Nick, misses their anniversary, she realizes no amount of domestic success will compensate for failure in their marriage, or for her own failure to develop her identity, always busy as a mother, wife, and neighbor, she has forgotten how to be a unique and vibrant individual. Determined to make a change, Olivia joins a local book club, where she nurtures new friendships and explores new ideas. But her growing confidence falters when Nick declares his independence, and while her new friends lovingly encircle her with support, only Olivia can reach into the depths of her fledgling self to find the faith, hope, and love her troubled family needs.

This is the first book I've read of this collection. I say collection instead of series because the idea behind The Newport Ladies books is that we read the same story but from a different character's point of view. The other books available in this collection are:
Daisy by Josi Kilpack
Paige by Annette Lyon
Athena by Heather Moore which is not published yet but due out before the end of the year if my math according to their website is right. You can link to it here:

So, I can totally get behind Olivia. A mother of four who runs her house in order and has lost herself amidst the shuffle of cleaning, cooking, driving and being a wife to a distant husband (and when I say distant it doesn't mean miles). Often a person can be in the next room or even the same room and not be present or engaged in what is happening in the family around them. She is genuinely a helpful person who is struggling to keep her family together without understanding why it is falling apart in the first place. Plus, she has the additional challenge of being a step-mother and having a mother-in-law who thinks the first wife was the best thing that ever happened to her son and Olivia is simply not in the same league. Well, as you go through the book and Olivia's trials and discoveries I liked the fact that Olivia and The Ex are like Day and Night or rather Nightmare. Being from a blended family I can appreciate the intricate negotiating/balancing that goes on with being the second wife and family.

Lost in her own life Olivia makes a bold decision to join a book club of strangers who unwittingly help her become the main character in her life instead of the secondary one she has been the past few years. Doing something for herself gives Olivia power. I'm a big believer that if a woman or mother doesn't have something that's her own separate from the family, she will get lost and wonder what happened to her former independent capable self.

Only two things bothered me in this well written book. Neither of which are deal breakers.
First: the overuse of shine in the eyes to indicate tears. At first I thought it was a cute character description used by Olivia that came from her upbringing, but as the book progressed it kept appearing. It was just something I noticed.
Second: the description of the book indicates that the book club members support her through a difficult time, except that she never tells any of them what is going on. All their support is given unknowingly and I rather wished she had fessed up to at least one of them so there could be some overt support.

I'm curious how the other books read once you've read one. Anyone have a take on that? Anyone read more than one of this collection? Does it hold your attention or does it lose some of it's allure when you already knowing what's coming?

Anyone have a recommendation for a good women's empowerment collection/series?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Winner of Baked Alaska is . . .

Alison! For her Cheesy Chicken Bake.

Yes, I'm announcing early. I got all the recipes made and didn't want to make anyone wait. Thanks to all who participated. I really appreciate all the recipes I received and having the opportunity to try something new.

Below is the recipe and after that my review.

Cheesy Chicken Bake
4 cups egg noodles, cooked, drained
1 can chicken drained & flaked
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup milk
3/4lb. (12 oz.) VELVEETA®, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 pieces torn up sandwich bread

HEAT oven to 400┬║F. Combine all ingredients except bread in 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with foil.

BAKE 30 min. or until heated through; stir.

TOP with bread, bake uncovered 15 minutes more to toast.

Baked Alaksa by Josi Kilpack

Sadie Hoffmiller is all set to take a cruise with her two adopted children and her sweetheart, Pete, to have some quality bonding time. Naturally things don't go according to plan. Why did Sadie ever think they would?

This book has all the twists and turns you expect from the Sadie books, but without the nail biting life is on the line bits like the other ones. That's not a bad thing. For me it actually made a much smoother read. Yes, there are dead bodies and crazy people. When aren't there? And there are happily ever afters too. You won't know how things turn out and who winds up dead unless you read the book. I'll give you a hint though - none of the dead bodies belong to Sadie! How could the series continue without her?

Enjoy the book, recipes and the burning desire to go on an Alaskan cruise that will set in while you read.

For those of you who have already been on a cruise, Alaskan or otherwise, is this a pretty accurate description of a cruise vacation - minus the dead bodies of course?! What was your favorite cruise?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Brownies & Betrayal

Brownies & Betrayal: A Sweet Bites Mystery Book #1 by Heather Justesen

This book came out in October but I just recently got my hands on a copy. I'm becoming a fan of culinary murder mysteries. Must go back to my childhood days of loving Nancy Drew books.

Brownies & Betrayal is just that: a culinary murder series with some romance thrown in for good measure. You can get behind the heroine Tess Crawford. She flees Chicago and her cheating ex-fiancee to start over in little Silver Springs, AZ where her BFF, Honey (great name!), has convinced her to start up a sweet shop. She's smart, a little insecure at the moment and wicked talented in the kitchen. She's not looking for a committed relationship but is up for a little clean fun and I got the sense that possibly in future books in this series there may come a time and man for serious commitment. In the meantime she needs to clear her name, start up her shop, and send a world class jerk packing!

There are kisses exchanged, hand to hand combat and a little gun play. This is the first book I've had a chance to read by Ms. Justesen but by reputation she's a bedroom door shut writer. (You romance people know what I mean.) Read accordingly.

Great dialogue, flow, action and emotion. All in all, go get the book for a thrilling (but not nail biting) read. I'm looking forward to #2!

I can vouch for the recipes in the book. I tested them all. You can make them. It was my first time making cheesecake and eclairs. The best part about test kitchening for Ms. Justesen is all the recipes are desserts and I LOVE to make desserts!(as you all know by now)

Do you have a favorite culinary murder mystery series you like?

Here are the back cover blurb & link.

Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of ├ęclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike. But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?