Oct 042015


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Every Wednesday for Books That Caught Our Eye, Serena, Leslie and I will each share 2 books that grabbed our attention from today’s Mailbox Monday post. We hope you’ll join us by posting a comment letting us know the books that caught your eye.

Last week was another very sad one for me. I lost my baby dog Patches who I was Blessed to have for 16 1/2 years. I wasn’t sure I was going to start posting again, but keeping busy is very important. Idle hands make for a busy mind. If you want to read Patches story, you can find it here. I know many of you have also lost beloved pets, and love the support we get from each other is a big part of helping us heal. Thanks to everyone for your comments and prayers.

I didn’t post last week since Patches was sick and I was taking her back and forth to the vet, so these are books from the last few weeks:

From Audible:

Yes, Please
Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Narrated by: Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Mike Schur, Eileen Poehler, William Poehler, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner
Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:10-28-14
Publisher: Harper Audio

Amy Poehler is hosting a dinner party and you’re invited! Welcome to the audiobook edition of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. The guest list is star-studded with vocal appearances from Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Michael Schur, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and even Amy’s parents – Yes Please is the ultimate audiobook extravaganza.

Also included? A one-night-only live performance at Poehler’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Hear Amy read a chapter live in front of a young and attractive Los Angeles audience.

While listening to Yes Please, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll become convinced that your phone is trying to kill you. Don’t miss this collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers. Offering Amy’s thoughts on everything from her “too safe” childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and “the biz”, the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a “face for wigs” – Yes Please is chock-full of words, and wisdom, to live by.


The Perfect Comeback Of Caroline Jacobs
The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Narrated by: Cynthia Hopkins
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:09-08-15
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less. Caroline’s outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback…some 25 years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It’s the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school anymore. The audio book includes an interview with the author.


The Admissions

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

Narrated by: Allyson Ryan
Length: 14 hrs and 34 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:08-18-15
Publisher: Random House Audio

The Admissions brilliantly captures the frazzled pressure cooker of modern life as a seemingly perfect family comes undone by a few desperate measures, long-buried secrets – and college applications!

The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of Northern California, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school….

Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and, like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross country, and she can’t help but daydream about the cute baseball player in English class. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her term paper – which, along with her college essay and community service hours, has a rapidly approaching deadline.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real estate career where she caters to the mega-rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area.

The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a heedless collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball.

From Amazon for my Kindle

In Search Of Jessica
In Search of Jessica by Declan Conner

File Size: 4041 KB
Print Length: 323 pages
Publication Date: September 18, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

Jesse and Jessica shared almost everything as children, except the same birthday. One other thing they couldn’t share was the love of their dad. He had his favorite for reasons best not mentioned.

The family is torn apart when their dad is found murdered with all the traits of a particular twisted MO. A robbery gone wrong, jealous partner in a love triangle, warring neighbors, or someone closer to home? For Logan, the lead detective at the time and now head of LAPD homicide, the answer was and is simple. Jessica was guilty. That’s
despite the case having never gone to trial, now gathering dust after fifteen years as his only cold case file of an otherwise illustrious career.

When a murder takes place with a similar MO, detective Jason Stone is allocated the case. He’s a young man on a one–man mission to make a name for himself, and one who will break the rules to get there. Stone believes a mysterious person he dubs the Night Girl holds the key to unraveling the case. But just as he is close to cracking the
case, his suspect list grows.

Taken off the case, he goes undercover to continue his investigation. Infatuated, he places his Jessica under surveillance to get close. Too close. Someone should tell him to stop chasing a dream, or could end up end up as the serial killer’s next target.


The Big Guy Upstairs

The Big Guy Upstairs by Mary Vine (Author), Brenna Tedesco (Illustrator)

File Size: 2645 KB
Print Length: 26 pages
Publisher: Melland Publishing (August 17, 2015)
Publication Date: August 17, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

A young boy named Johnny overhears his grandmother saying that she will pray to the Big Guy Upstairs and he wonders who that is. His grandma tells him that it is an expression meaning God. While Grandma cooks soup, Johnny tries to find God in the attic. Grandma asks Johnny to help make brownies for dessert, and then he is off
searching for God again. She finds him in the attic and explains who God is and that He lives in his heart. Johnny asks about helping others and they prepare to take some soup and brownies to their sick neighbor.

For Review: iRead Book Tours

Unlocking Worlds

Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen

Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Griffins Wharf (September 2, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0983644616
ISBN-13: 978-0983644613

Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own. In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next.

By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read
them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection.

Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.

Bought At An Estate Sale

unnamed (1)
The Pioneer Florida Museum Cook Book

The cookbook pictured on the Pioneer Museaum site is the 3rd printing. I have the original 1982 edition that is spiral bound.

The first Pioneer Florida Museum cookbook was printed in 1982 from a collection of family recipes provided by our members and community friends. Each recipe included in the cookbook was contributed by a pioneer or by a member of a pioneer family, many of which still reside in the Dade City area. This unique collection of home cooking ideas served as a fundraising effort to aid the Museum in its daily operations.

The demand for the cookbook was so high that a second printing was required in 1992. Since that time, the cookbook has contributed to many projects and functions at the museum.

In the years since the second printing, several changes have taken place at the Museum and another generation of pioneers are ready to experience tastes from their past.

This third printing of the Pioneer Florida Museum Cookbook has undergone a few changes. Though the recipes have remained the same, the cookbook boasts a new title and a new look.

The Museum is proud to present this third edition as a dedication to those who contributed to the success of the cookbook in years past and to those who continue to contribute to the success of the Museum.

Paula Deen & Friends by Paula H. Deen, Martha Nesbit

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 4, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743267222
ISBN-13: 978-0743267229

A comprehensive and delicious collection of crowd-pleasing recipes that will bring family and friends together for all kinds of occasions.

Sharing a delicious meal is everyone’s favorite way of bringing together friends and loved ones. In her new cookbook, Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style, Paula Deen—author, restaurateur, and Food Network star—turns to her friends to share their stories, ideas for entertaining Southern style, and, most important, more than 150 of the prized recipes they serve to their family and friends.

With the trademark Southern charm that has made her beloved by fans everywhere, Paula’s new book features delicious, down-home entertaining menus, with recipes that are guaranteed to be instant crowd-pleasers. Whether you’re planning an intimate family dinner, hosting an elegant cocktail party, or feeding a hungry crowd for lunch, these mouthwatering meals are the perfect way to share any occasion with good friends—and have fun doing it! From a tailgate picnic to a bridge supper, a christening to a camping trip, and a family dinner to an ice cream social, there are recipes to delight any gathering.

Throw a down-home Birthday Bash with Beer-in-the-Rear Chicken, Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Corn on the Cob, and Buttermilk Pound Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream. Or host a casual Cookie Swap with friends and watch those Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes and Rolled Oatmeal Cookies disappear! An outdoor lunch wouldn’t be complete without real Southern Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Corn Bread. And comfort foods like Quick Crab Stew, Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole, and Black Bottom Pie are soul-satisfying dishes that warm the heart and soothe the spirit. There are also recipes for refreshing cocktails and beverages, from the Southern traditional favorites, like Plantation Iced Tea and Mint Juleps, to Lemonade and Hot Cranberry Cider.

Entertaining Southern style is about much more than the food; it’s about spending time with the people you care about. Paula and her friends are the experts when it comes to creating delightful meals that are easy to prepare, so you, too, can relax and enjoy the fun with your guests. Each chapter is filled with helpful tips and time-saving techniques, as well as the memorable cooking stories that inspired Paula and her friends to create these recipes. You’ll be inspired to share memorable meals and occasions with family and friends, as Paula Deen & Friends invites you to live it up, Southern style.

Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook by Publications International Ltd.

Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Publications International; 1st Edition (Collector’s Edition) edition (January 1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0785361804
ISBN-13: 978-0785361800

Over 900 recipes from Dole, Nestle, Toll House, Libby’s, Philadelphia brand, etc.

Put imaginative, fresh ideas at your fingertips with this comprehensive collection of exceptional recipes from America’s favorite brand name companies!

Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook: Collector’s Edition makes serving magnificent meals a snap. Clipping recipes from food labels has become an American tradition and now you can collect all your favorites in this marvelous compilation¾without your scissors. Jam-packed with over 1600 kitchen-tested recipes, you’ll discover innovative ways to prepare tempting appetizers, refreshing salads, savory soups, elegant entrees, homemade breads, decadent desserts and much more.

Special chapters feature ever-popular pasta, glorious brunch dished and family-pleasing pizza. With over 500 full-color photographs, you’ll be inspired to create delectable dished for family and friends that are sure to win rave reviews!

Favorite book bought at the sale:
I also bought the personal recipe book of the woman who lived there, who was a teacher. It’s full of all kinds of different recipes and I’ll be making some of them and some from the other cookbooks soon. I love love love this recipe book. I’ve always wished I had my moms.

Oct 012015

Most of you know that my baby dog has been sick for the last week. My son and I took her to the vet last Tuesday and they put her on some medicine. We took her back Friday so they could see how she was doing and she seemed to be doing better. Then Saturday she stopped eating and drinking and vomiting. And I think she had a stroke Sunday night because Monday morning when I woke up she wouldn’t get up and walk and wasn’t acting normal. I picked her up and carried her to the car and my daughter and I took her to the vet. They wanted us to leave her so they could run some tests, give her some fluids, take blood and do some x-rays. They called me around 3:30 and wanted me to come in to talk. My daughter and I went home and got my son because I wanted them to go with me. My oldest son was at work in Tampa and wouldn’t have made it home in time to go. When we got there they told us she wasn’t responding to treatment and was getting worse. Her white blood cell count was 36 and normal is 15 I think they said. She also said she probably did have a stoke from the way she was acting. The vet said at her age they didn’t think that anything else they could do would help, but if I wanted them to try the few options they had left, they would. But I couldn’t bear watching her suffer anymore. She was shivering, panting on and off, and kept grunting, which are all due to being in pain. Plus she couldn’t stand up or walk and would focus on our faces but didn’t respond to us at all. The only thing I knew to do was to put her sleep. It was a very hard decision but it was one that had to be made. Thankfully I got to hold her for a while before they started the procedure. Then they put her up on the table, on a towel, and I sat down and pulled her to me. I kept rubbing her and telling her how much I loved her and what a good girl she was. I kept doing that while the vet gave her something to put her to sleep and then while they gave the medicine that would end her suffering. She took her last breath with me rubbing her and telling her how much I loved her. And then her pain ended. I was so thankful that I was with her, and that they let us stay with her as long as we wanted. Walking away from her was the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The first was walking away from my husband after he passed.

Patches was 17 or 18 years old. I had her for 16 1/2 years and she was 1 or 2 when I got her. She lived a very long life and was never sick until the last week.  She did have an ear ache once but we cleared it up in just a day or so.

Patches definitely knew she was loved. I told her how much I loved her every single day I had her. She would get in my lap every night and I would squeeze her and tell her she was the best doggy in the world and how much I loved her. I threw her ball every day, for hours, up until about 6 months ago when age started catching up with her and she could only chase it for an hour or so without stopping to rest. But then she was back at it. She loved that ball. And she loved her momma. She showed me that she loved me every day. She followed me from room to room. She was my shadow. When I’d leave the house I’d pull into the driveway and there she’d be, sitting on the back of the couch waiting for me to come home. And she’d meet me at the door with her tail wagging 90 miles and hour, letting me know how much she missed me and how happy she was that I was home. When she had to go potty she would jump in my lap and put her nose an inch or two from mine and just stare at me. She sat by me on the couch while I watched tv or read. She slept beside me every night for 16 1/2 years. There is now way to express how much I loved that dog. I was certainly Blessed to have been her momma.

I am still grieving over the loss of my husband Henry, who I lost in January. This year has definitely been a hard one. I no longer have my husband by my side which hurts so much every day. I have cried every single day since January 22nd,  and now I don’t have my baby dog.


Patches laying on the floor beside me

This is a bed Patches would lay on, on the floor beside me while I was on my laptop. I have so many pictures of her like this, and in every one of them she is laying on it different. She never once got on it with the pillow inside it. She was such a funny dog.

Patches looking out the window

Here she is looking out the window, waiting for me to come home.

Patches on the boat

She loved going out on the boat with us.


She loved going out in the yard with her daddy and chasing squirrels.

RIP Patches. Momma misses you and loves you very much!


Sep 272015


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Every Wednesday for Books That Caught Our Eye, Serena, Leslie and I will each share 2 books that grabbed our attention from today’s Mailbox Monday post. We hope you’ll join us by posting a comment letting us know the books that caught your eye.

Only one book this week, and not much reading. My poor baby dog has been sick and I’ve had to take her to the vet twice. Last night (Sat. since I’m posting this on Sunday) she was restless and then started throwing up so I’m keeping a close eye on her. One of the medicines she’s on says it can cause vomiting and diarrhea but if she doesn’t stop by tomorrow I may have to take her back to the vet before her next appt. which is the 6th. It’s terrible when your animals are sick. They can’t tell you what they feel like and they look at you so sad, like “why aren’t you making me better?”  It’s awful!!


Anyway, here’s the book I received, a win from Stacy @ Stacy’s Books


Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Liveright; First Edition edition (August 24, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1631490478
ISBN-13: 978-1631490477

For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes this landmark novel about autism, memory, and, ultimately, redemption.

Sent to a “therapeutic community” for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the “Old Fox” of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel “normal” again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return “home” to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy―with its unforgettable portraits of Todd’s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd “reflects the beauty of His creation”―is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.

Sep 262015


Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (June 26, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385342608
ISBN-13: 978-0385342605

This was the August/September book selection for Cook The Books, and the October selection for The Kitchen Reader. I was excited to read this because I’d heard so many good things about it. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book starts out when Marcus (Kassahun), his sister Fantate (Linda) and their mother all got sick during a tuberculosis epidemic that hit Ethiopia. The fact that his mom carried him 75 miles while his sister walked alongside them was very touching. It was Ethiopia. She was sick and it was a very very long way, especially on foot, and it was hot. But she had no choice, her babies were sick.

Reading how Marcus and his sister Linda ended up in Sweden with their new family was interesting too. I can’t imagine losing your mother at such a young age, and then being being adopted by strangers who live in a country you’ve never been to and not knowing the language. But both children adapted very well though I thought.

There are so many different stories in the book that I loved. One of my favorites was  of Marcus spending time with his Mormor (grandmother) in her kitchen. Little did either of them know that because of the time they spent together cooking, he would one day be a very accomplished chef. I also liked the story about when he spent time with his dad and uncle getting the boats ready, the friendship he had with Mats, the soccer stories… He really did have a good childhood. There were a few times in the book where he was disappointed, but in Marcus style, he moved on. I loved that about him. He didn’t let anything get him down for long.

I pretty much liked all the stories and the people who came and went throughout the book. One that didn’t make my favorite list, was Mr. Stocker. The incident with Gary, a friend of Marcus, made my jaw drop. Sorry, did not like him at all. But then there was Pig Food Mary. Loved her name and her story. I also liked his family, especially his Mormor.

I loved following Marcus as he traveled from Sweden to Austria, Switzerland, France and New York, as he honed his craft and learned so much. He also met some very important people in the food/restaurant business.

The personal side of his story was very touching and added another layer to his personality. Through it, we got to know him as more than a chef.

There is so much more to this memoir, I could go on and on. Instead, I recommend you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I can’t imagine it disappointing you.

There are some photos included in the book and I liked seeing Marcus as a child, and seeing his family. This is a book I probably would not have read on my own, so I’m thankful to Cook The Books and The Kitchen Reader for choosing it.

The recipe I decided to make to go along with the book is from page 267:
In the book Marcus mentions this as a soup, but when I googled it more recipes showed up as stew. We like stew more than soup, so that’s what I went with.

West African Chicken And Peanut Stew


6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1 lb)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (3/4 lb)
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 can (28 oz) organic diced tomatoes, undrained
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
2 tablespoons grated ginger root
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes (3 medium), peeled, cubed (about 4 cups)
1 lb small red potatoes (about 12), cut into eighths (about 2 1/2 cups)

Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray
In cooker, layer all ingredients, spooning peanut butter in dollops
Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours. Break up chicken before serving

unnamed (1)

You can’t get much easier than that. Cutting up the potatoes took the most time, but it was so worth it. As you can se in the photo, the chicken thighs weren’t thawed completely, but it didn’t matter. My son and I both liked it. Next time I think I’ll half the recipe unless I make it for when we have company over.

I choose this recipe at Betty Crocker because it’s made in the crock pot. I love my crock pot and wanted to use it for this recipe. Most of the other sites were made in a pot on the stove. I did substitute the chicken breasts for tenderloins, but everything else was as listed.

I loved the book and the stew!


wkendcooking     6869096026_76b1fea4e2_t     292735_232320110227886_909938742_n
Weekend Cooking                 Cook The Books         The Kitchen Reader

Sep 252015


Book Blogger Hop’s question fro this week:
Do you belong to Shelfari, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and other similar sites? If so, can you list all of the book sites you belong to so others can take a look at them?
Yes, I belong to all of those and more. Here are my links:
Library Thing 

I also belong to Barnes & Noble but their site has been messed up lately and you can’t link to reviewers pages.



 Miss Hildreth Wore Brown by Olivia deBelle Byrd

Book Beginning:
After many years away, one of my best friends recentl moved back home to her small Southern toen. One of ther first duties was to accompany her mother to a funeral. Now funerals in the South are serious business. They entail prodigious amounts of food, flowers, and family. My friend’s mother is one of the greatest Southern ladies I have ever encountered. To be around her is to be in a perpetual state of amusement. One of her best friends and bridge partnes, Miss Hildreth, had died.


Friday 56:
“Okay, so you’ve noticed a small pattern her. It’s true, I have this “thing” for Robert Redford.”

I thought it was so neat when I opened this book to page 56 and saw that sentence, because…Oh yes, I do have a thing for RR, and have for many many many years

Sep 232015


Laguna Nights by Kaira Rouda

File Size: 4177 KB
Print Length: 250 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Real You Publishing Group (July 14, 2015)
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00YT5S482
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

Madison Alcott was back in her hometown, caring for her sick mom and working long hours at the best resort in Laguna Beach. She never imagined she’d return to the place where she became famous on the hit reality TV show Laguna Nights, and the place where she was humiliated on national television. Fortunately, the past had stayed tucked away until her old high school boyfriend appeared in the lobby.

Josh Welsh was a superstar by age eighteen, the bad boy break-out star of Laguna Nights. Since then, his star had lost its shine and he barely was holding onto his Hollywood status. When he was asked to host a new reality travel show, he jumped at the chance. The only problem was the first episode was shooting in Laguna Beach. Of all the reasons Josh didn’t want to return home, he hadn’t even imagined the worst scenario: running into Madison “Holly” Alcott.

Josh’s connection to Madison was still as strong as her anger at his betrayal. When the new reality series forces them together, they must face Laguna Nights past and present, and navigate a journey where nothing is as it seems.


This book was interesting, especially since I’m a reality tv fan. And I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have gone through a similar thing with their high school boy/girl friend, without all the cameras etc. of course.

I liked Madison, Josh not so much. He did grow on me a bit but I still didn’t think he handled things right. I’m a believer of everyone deserves a second chance, except when it comes to love. The trust would be broken and without trust relationships get messy and very painful.

Anyway…there were a lot going on and characters coming and going and a few things happened that I didn’t see coming, so all in all this was a good read. On the downside, even though it was short, I felt some things went a little longer than I would have liked.

This is the first in the series and I’m glad I read it. It has lots of excitement, first love, betrayal, and a lot of other goings on.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of reality tv or not, this book is worth the read.
And look at that cover, it’s beautiful!

Book Excerpt:

It was an early Friday afternoon in February and Madison Alcott stood on the balcony of the Mondrian Laguna Beach, a luxurious Craftsman-style hotel perched on an oceanfront bluff. She needed a moment of zen before her latest group arrived from LA and her favorite place to breathe was this balcony. Typically, the winter breeze would be chilly, but not this year with global climate change. She was comfortable outside in her simple black dress, no jacket needed.Her long blonde hair blew softly in the ocean breeze as she looked out at the sparkling blue water stretching out to the horizon. Waves crashed on the shore, a sound she found soothing and had since she was a child. It was a constant, that swooshing water sound, more dependable than anything or anyone else she’d known. She closed her eyes and imagined herself lying on the warm sand, wearing her favorite red bikini, soaking up the sun, laughing with friends, maybe even holding hands with Dolby, lying side by side.

She opened her eyes and looked down. Directly below her, a young family – two fit, gorgeous parents with two towheaded toddlers – frolicked in the resort’s signature mosaic swimming pool. The young father tossed one of the children up in the air, eliciting squeals of joy from the child, before he swam to his wife and pulled her to him for a kiss. Madison sighed.

“That should be me, us,” she said, her words drifting on the warm air of the empty patio, and checked her watch. The group check-in would begin in just twenty minutes and she needed to be sure everything was ready. All the she knew about the group was that they were a bunch of picky entertainment execs. The booking agent had been light on details about the group’s members, but heavy with expectations of service, food, and confidentiality.

“My group will expect complete privacy, the finest in service and flexibility,” the man had said to Madison over the telephone.

“Of course. Um, flexibility?” she had asked. She’d stopped taking notes as flexibility was typically not one of the demands.

“Sometimes, they change their minds. So, although we’ve set the agenda for the week, well, it is all subject to change,” he had said.

Madison had leaned back in her chair, inhaled a deep breath and had counted to ten. She was up to her eyeballs with entitlement, especially with Hollywood types. “I’m sorry, but we’ve scheduled the best table at our oceanfront restaurant just for your party. They cannot simply decide not to show up on Saturday night.” She had been proud of herself, being firm and she hadn’t let her voice waver.

“We’ll pay whatever. Just know, it may happen. See you on Friday,” he had said and hung up.

Flexibility, Madison thought, walking toward the front desk, crossing the thick carpet of the lobby before stepping onto the dark wood floor of the reception area. All three staff members smiled at her and she returned their grins.

“Can’t wait to see who’s in this group,” Chrissy said, eyes twinkling behind her wire-frame glasses. Chrissy had been with the resort for as long as anyone could remember and she still became star struck every time a celebrity checked in. Even if she didn’t recognize the person until Kevin, also a guest reception employee, showed her online. They still joked about her lack of rock star knowledge, missing the chance to ogle both Eric Clapton and Sam Smith within months of each other. She’d still proudly added them to her celebrity sightings list, Madison knew.

“We’re so ready to be flexible,” Kevin said, tugging at the lapel of his sport coat, his red hair glowing in the spotlight aimed at the seascape oil painting behind him but instead shining on his hair because of his 6’4” height. “I did a walk-through of all of the suites. They’re ready. Champagne on ice. Strawberries dipped in chocolate. Everything chilled and waiting. We’ll make them love us.”

Madison doubted that but smiled anyway. She loved her team. They were family to her, the reason she’d stayed on even though she should have moved on when the company had offered a promotion to a property in Sun Valley. Instead of manager of group sales, she would be a vice president of guest services. She’d told them she couldn’t leave Southern California – that it was home. But the truth was, it was the people here who worked at the resort that she couldn’t leave. And her mom, of course.

Her earpiece crackled to life and Madison cupped her hand over her ear. “Five minutes to arrival,” said the van driver who’d picked the group up at the private airport in Irvine.

“Got it,” Madison said, into the small mouthpiece. “Any insights?”

“Dickheads,” the van driver said as Madison’s heart fell. She’d suspected it would be a long weekend, but the confirmation saddened her. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do, she reminded herself, pushing Dolby and his strong broad shoulders out of her mind. She knew he’d never be able to forget what he’d watched, no matter how many assurances she made, no matter how long ago it had happened. It was the same with her last attempt at a relationship, and the one before that. They would tell her it was fine, that they could handle it. But that was always a lie.

unnamed (2) Kaira Rouda is a bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER’S DAY. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines. 

Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.

Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.  

She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel.

Visit Kaira Rouda’s website

Connect with Kaira on Facebook and Twitter

Find out more about Kaira at Goodreads

More books by Kaira Rouda

Contact Kaira

Laguna Nights is available at Amazon

 Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads


unnamed (1)

Sep 222015


The Bali Mystery (Amelia Moore Detective Series Book 1) by Linda Weaver

Amelia Moore, the founder of the Moore Detective Agency, specializes in missing persons. Her cases have taken her to some very interesting places and put her in some dangerous situations, but she always solves the case. With the help of Rick Bonito, her sometime partner, her business is flourishing.

When Mrs. Brody hires Amelia and Rick to find her missing brother, they find themselves in Bali, Indonesia. They are mystified why her brother quit his job, put his home up for sale, and ran off to this mysterious and exotic island without telling a soul.

This is a clean cozy mystery that starts off interesting and stays interesting until the end. Mrs. Brody hires Amelia, with the help of Rick, to find out what happened to her brother William. The journey takes them to Bali, and I loved traveling with them via this book. The descriptions of the area made me want to go there myself.

The relationship between Amelia and Rick was cute. They had a bit of fun back and forth banter. For example, when Rick finds out their going to Bali, he tells her he’s taking his swimming trunks and can’t wait to see her in her bikini. She tells him they won’t have time for swimming. He tells her they have to act like tourists so they don’t stand out. So, they did touristy things and even crossed a few things off of Rick’s Bucket List in the process. He also talked Amelia into starting a list of her own.

I liked how Amelia and Rick’s investigation took them from one clue to another, and from one place in Bali to another. The other characters were interesting, especially the men in suits, Williams “friends” from Pakistan. They added some mystery and thrills to the story. They seem to be just following Amelia and Rick, but later they threaten them. Rick ends up teaching Amelia some self defense lessons in case she has to protect herself. I liked the twists and turns throughout the book and wasn’t disappointed at all in the ending.

I listened to the audio version of this book and really enjoyed it. I’m very picky about narrators. Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating one character from another, but that was no problem with narrator Diane Lehman. She really impressed me with the job she did on the voices.

This is the first book in the series, so you won’t have to worry about catching up. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good clean mystery.

Sep 222015


Reader’s Workout is a weekly event where book lovers share their workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges. It’s hosted by Joy @ Joy’s Book Blog


I haven’t been doing much of anything the last week. I went to IKEA with my daughter in law and fell down  the last few steps of a long staircase right on my bad knee. It would have been much worse if I had fallen from a higher step, so I’m very grateful for that. I stayed down for a few minutes to make sure I hadn’t broken anything. After I got up I walked  but it was very painful. I knew the next day would be way worse and I was right. I couldn’t use my leg much at all and had to have help even going to the potty. Luckily I had a “cart” that I used. My son made me get a cane and I’m able to get around better now. Not really good, but better. I still can’t go to town or anything without someone being with me.

My  son Jeremy and his family, my other son Anthony and I, are leaving for NYC in 2 months for a week. My granddaughter is in the Macy’s Great American Marching Band again this year. SO proud of her!!!

There will be lots and lots of walking, and according to Jeremy and Susie it will be fast walking. I’m worried now more than I was before that I’ll be able to keep up. All I can do is try my best to get my leg in good enough shape. I’m very grateful that the fall wasn’t worse. It could have been. I did ask Susie if I at least fell graceful and she said yes.  Isn’t she a good daughter in law?


I did ok with the  SparkPeople Fiber Wellness Challenge. I never realized how hard it is to get enough fiber in your diet.

I joined another challenge on SparkPeople. This one is a Stress Busting Challenge. I did it once before but totally failed to finish, so I’ll be working harder on it this time. I plan on doing at least two of these a day:
1. Progressive Relaxation~ I have a dvd that has this at the end of the workout

2. Meditation~ I have dvd’s with different meditations

3. Aromatherapy~ I love wax melts and have a few wax warmers (with lighthouses on them of course)

4. Listening To Music~ I listened to music every day with my husband before he passed but haven’t since, so I need to start again

5. Laughing ~ I watch comedy shows for this, and read FB :)

6. Visualization~ When I can’t go to the beach I picture it in my mind or look at one of the beach pictures hanging on the walls

7. Hanging With Your Pet~ I’m always cuddling with my baby dog, she’s constantly by my side

8. Being Artistic~ I’ve never been artistic or crafty, but my daughter and I are going to start getting together once a week to do something crafty. Also, my daughter in law invited me to a local B Creative Painting Studio where they paint pictures and pottery.



Daily Goals:                                                                     Weekly Goals:
Deep Breathing                                                              Strength train ~ Mon, Wed, Fri
Stretching/Flexibility                                                   Qigong/Tai-Chi Tues, Thurs, Sat
Walk 1-3 miles                                                                Eat meatless 2-3 times
Drink 80 oz. of water                                                   Cut back on carbs & sodium

Sep 202015


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Every Wednesday for Books That Caught Our Eye, Serena, Leslie and I will each share 2 books that grabbed our attention from today’s Mailbox Monday post. We hope you’ll join us by posting a comment letting us know the books that caught your eye.

Won from The Busy Mom’s Daily
23365799  Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn
In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin’ Joe.

Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn’s lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue’s restaurant row, amid a “land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders.”


For review for Pump Up Your Book
16046881 Animals Have Feelings, Too! by Karen Lee Stevens, Teri Rider (Illustrator)
Filled with humor and whimsical illustrations, this enchanting and educational A-Z guide takes young readers on a journey through the alphabet with Sandy, a lovable Labrador retriever, who shows them that animals and people share many of the same feelings.


Bought on Amazon
23492688 Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar
Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.

Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet. Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)

Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role of a lifetime.


Two books from the author for review
I’ve read book 1, but the author offered to send it too so I could refresh my memory
13512907 The Happy Housewife (Samantha Sherman Book 1)
Samantha ‘Sam’ Sherman is a thirty something stay-at-home Mom without any problems. She loves her smart husband, her sweet daughter, and her career choice. One day, in the process of helping a friend, she is drawn into the investigation of two murders. Suddenly, her steady world begins to sway. Insecurities from years ago return, her husband is annoyed at her involvement in the case, and then there is the acerbic detective with dark curly hair and green eyes who seems to be everywhere. Sam is miserable and stressed out and well, slightly exhilarated. Imperfection can be a deadly draw.

A a suburban murder mystery with an unexplained explosion, a bloody fire poker, and a touch of romance. One ordinary woman is snatched from her seemingly ideal life and forced to confront a mistake from her past in order to solve two murders.


518egrkqytL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ The Gereizt Housewife (Samantha Sherman Book 2)
People always used to tease Samantha Lee Sherman about how “the civil war must rage in your marriage” because of the juxtaposition of her maiden name Lee with her married name Sherman. However, since Sam solved a couple of murders (in “The Happy Housewife”) it was not just a joke anymore. Her new confident self was coming in increasing conflict with her old husband.
In an effort to work on her marriage, Sam travels with her husband Doug to Zurich, Switzerland on his work trip. But crossing the Atlantic only seems to multiply the Sherman’s problems. On their first day in Switzerland, Sam witnesses a murder.
Sam cannot resist the pull of a challenge and finds herself battling old money, UN hierarchy, and a cynical reporter as she wades into a new case. While she is running through a garden maze and figuring out what happened years ago in Congo, she is also enjoying and fighting fantasies of a handsome detective while trying to find a killer and fix her marriage.

“The Gereizt Housewife” is the second book in the Samantha Sherman mystery series. This time Sam is gereizt, “irritated” in German, and must use her self-education, curiosity and pluck to track a killer and moved forward with her life.

Sep 192015

wkendcooking      Autumn-2015-Pin-it-and-Do-it-Challenge

Weekend Cooking is hosted @ Beth Fish Reads

Pin It and Do It is hosted by Trish @ Love Laughter and Touch of Insanity

I’ve had this recipe pinned for a really long time and finally decided to make it. It’s really quick and easy, and doesn’t cost much at all.

I know this photo is pitiful, but I couldn’t get the lighting right. My son and I were very hungry so I said the heck with it. Trust me, it was so so so much better than the photo makes it look!

unnamed (3)

In A Hurry Chicken Curry
16 ounce package frozen stew vegetables
4 large chicken thighs, skin removed (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)
Salt and ground black pepper
1 10 3/4 ounce can condensed cream of potato soup
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro

Place frozen stew vegetables in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker.
Top with chicken
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
In a small bowl, stir together soup and curry powder
Pour soup mixture over all.
Cover; cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours
Remove chicken from bones and, if desired, break into large pieces.
Sprinkle with cilantro.

Nutrition Facts Per serving:
200 kcal cal., 5 g fat (2 g sat. fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 2 g monounsatured fat)
97 mg chol., 734 mg sodium, 13 g carb., 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 24 g pro.


I left out the cilantro, but may use it when I make it the next time since it’s only a tablespoon. Also, I used boneless, skinless thighs instead of bone-in. The recipe says it makes 6 servings, but we must have used bigger bowls because my son ate 2 bowl fulls and I ate one and it was gone. I plan on doubling the recipe next time because we both loved it. If there had been any left, we would have eaten more the next day.

Also, I don’t know which stores are in your area, but I looked at Publix and Wal-Mart for a bag of frozen stew vegetables but neither store sold it.  I finally found it at Winn-Dixie.

Sep 182015

 bone box
Bone Box by Jay Amberg

Book Blogger Hop:
This Weeks question:
Where do you keep your passwords for all of your different sites?
The ones I use all the time I just remember, some are a play one the site’s name, which I suppose would fall under the I just remember category, and a few that I rarely use are in a folder in my email.


Book Beginning:
Asia Minor
FIrst Century of the Common Era

At first light, the old man poured water from the amphora into the earthenware bowl. He slid his hnds into the water, leaned over, and splashed sleep from his face. He then combed his fingers through his sparse hair and white beard, shook his hands above the bowl, and stepped from his stone hut into the morning. Though he limped, his gait was quick and deliberate as he followed a path uphill to the edge of a bluff.

Friday 56:
“Ms. Altay…Sophia,” he says, “are you holding something out?”
She stares out toward the distant Aegean. “There is something. Something incredibly important.”

Book Blogger Hop
Book Beginnings
The Friday 56

book blogger hopBB.Button Friday 56

Sep 172015


The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Alison Anderson (Translation)
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: New Vessel Press (November 10, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939931266
ISBN-13: 978-1939931269


Cecile, a stylish 47-year-old, has spent the weekend visiting her parents in a provincial town southeast of Paris. By early Monday morning, she’s exhausted. These trips back home are always stressful and she settles into a train compartment with an empty seat beside her. But it’s soon occupied by a man she instantly recognizes: Philippe Leduc, with whom she had a passionate affair that ended in her brutal humiliation 30 years ago. In the fraught hour and a half that ensues, their express train hurtles towards the French capital. Cécile and Philippe undertake their own face to face journey—In silence? What could they possibly say to one another?—with the reader gaining entrée to the most private of thoughts. This is a brilliant psychological thriller, a high-wire act of emotions on rails, about past romance, with all its pain and promise.
I love books that take place in Paris so I knew as soon as I saw the title I wanted to read it. It’s a really short book at only 170 pages, but it’s impact on you will be huge.

Imagine being seated on a train with a ride of one and a half hours in front of you. Suddenly someone sits down in the empty seat beside you. Of course you look at the person. Now imagine that person is someone who you knew thirty years ago. A person you had an affair with. A person who hurt you badly and embarrassed you terribly. What would go through your mind? What would go through his? This is the situation that Cecile and Philippe find themselves in. In this book you’ll read the thoughts and conversations of Cecile and Philippe, told in alternate chapters.

I loved getting into the heads of Cecile and Philippe. I can’t imagine being in that situation. I would just not say anything and pretend to sleep :)

This is a book unlike any I’ve ever read, and it is well worth the time it takes to read it. I would definitely recommend this book.


portrait de Jean-philippe Blondel Jean-Philippe Blondel was born in 1964 in Troyes, France where he lives as an author and English teacher.
His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.


About The Translator
Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator of literature from French. Among the authors she has translated are JMG Le Clézio, Christian Bobin, Muriel Barbery and Amélie Nothomb. She has lived in Northern California and currently lives in a village in Switzerland.


Follow New Vessel Press on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive their latest news and deals.
Sep 142015


The Secret Letters by Abby Bardi

File Size: 617 KB
Print Length: 168 pages
Publisher: AUS Impulse (July 1, 2015)
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

When thirty-seven-year-old slacker-chef Julie Barlow’s mother dies, her older sister Pam finds a cache of old letters from someone who appears to be their mother’s former lover. The date stamped on the letters combined with a difficult relationship with her father leads Julie to conclude that the letters’ author was a Native American man named J. Fallingwater who must have been her real father.

Inspired by her new identity, Julie uses her small inheritance to make her dream come true: she opens a restaurant called Falling Water that is an immediate success, and life seems to be looking up. Her sister Norma is pressuring everyone to sell their mother’s house, and her brother Ricky is a lovable drunk who has yet to learn responsibility, but the family seems to be turning a corner.

Then tragedy strikes, and Julie and her siblings have to stick together more than ever before. With all the secrets and setbacks, will Julie lose everything she has worked so hard for?

Book Excerpt:


The casket was a double-wide, with painted flowers on the side like a circus wagon. Pam said it looked like hippies had scrawled on it with crayons while tripping. “She’s at peace now,” one of our idiot cousins said to someone I half-recognized from when my mother used to drag us to West Virginia, where she was born. “Just a bunch of goddamn hillbillies in the Mountain State,” she always said, like she was Martha Stewart.

“Shut up,” Pam muttered in the cousin’s general direction, smiling like she was saying something nice. I hoped she planned to provide snark during the funeral, since I didn’t know how I would make it through otherwise. My other sister Norma was in the front pew sobbing. We were keeping our distance from her, not because of anything in particular, but because we always stayed out of her way if we could. It didn’t pay to try to comfort her, since anything you said would be the wrong thing.

The casket was closed, thank God. Our mother had left strict instructions about this and everything else when she was still conscious. Even while dying, she was a control freak, and amazingly vain for someone who weighed just shy of 400 pounds, even with terminal cancer. “You’re beautiful,” we always said to her in a Hollywood voice, “don’t ever change.” She knew we were just messing with her, but she always smiled and patted her hair.

“That’s a hell of a casket,” I said.
“Sure is purty.” Pam’s eyes were red. I hadn’t looked in a mirror since early morning when I’d slathered on eye makeup, but I’d been crying all day, too, and probably looked like a slutty raccoon. “Is Timmy here yet?”
“Haven’t seen him. It’s so crowded.” I scanned the room.

“Did any of these weirdos actually know her?”
“I don’t know. I bet those fat guys were football players at her high school.” I wiped my eyes, though I knew it was a bad idea, smear-wise.

“Oh, there he is.” Pam pointed to the back of the room and I spotted our older brother. He was wearing a dark suit that made him look like a Mafia don, talking to some blond guy. She tried waving, but he didn’t notice. His eyes were on the casket. He hadn’t seen our mother in almost a year, and I was sure it was hard for him to believe she was gone. Tough shit for him, I thought. He could have come here when it would have made a difference. Now it didn’t matter to anyone what he did.

“Is The Asshole coming?” I asked, referring to our father. “No, he says he has a schedule conflict.” “Probably golf. You’d think he could at least manage to show up for this.” “At least he’s clean and sober.” “So he says. He’s probably still banging down Zombies at strip clubs.” “Try not to be bitter, Julie. It’s unattractive.” “Bitter? You think I’m bitter?”

As the minister cut in and began to read the eulogy my mother had probably written for him, my mind started wandering like I was in grade school waiting for the bell to ring. I tried to concentrate, but I couldn’t. Every so often I’d tune back in and hear things that weren’t true. Her devotion to other people. Her service to the community. Her wonderful family life—I could just about hear her voice coming out of the guy’s mouth. I didn’t know where she found him, since she never went to church. I figured he was an actor she hired to play a minister, and made a mental note to mention this to Pam.

As he droned on in his phony actor voice, I closed my eyes and imagined walking through the woods on the hill behind our house. Most of it was gone now, bulldozed to make room for the townhouse development just over the ridge. I made a path through the old trees, and the dogs ran in circles around me. Ahead of me was the pond, though in real life it wasn’t there any more either, except for the hints that sometimes bubbled up in people’s driveways. I was going to dangle my bare feet in the water. I could hide there all day, and no one would know where I was. Then I would run back through the trees to our house, with the dogs behind me, and my mother would be there, and Frank, and Donny.

When I opened my eyes the minister was gone, and some cousin who hadn’t seen my mother in years was reading from a wrinkled piece of paper. She was stumbling over the words, maybe because it was Mom’s loopy handwriting, or maybe she couldn’t read. It was Mom’s life story minus all the bad parts and made going to high school in East Baltimore, meeting The Asshole, and having five children with him sound like an E! True Hollywood Story. Norma was born six months after the wedding, and it didn’t take a mathematician to figure out the facts, but the cousin glossed over that, and the ugly divorce, and finished with the happy ending, my mother finding true love with Frank and then having little Ricky. Ricky, on my left, burst into loud sobs. I put my arm around him and he cried onto my shoulder. I could smell he’d been drinking again. I would have pulled him onto my lap like I used to, but he was a big boy now.

When I looked at him with his tattoos, dreadlocks, and piercings, I still saw that cute little blond guy and felt how much we had loved him. We still loved him that much, but it was complicated. Pam leaned across me and held his hand. “You’ll be fine, sweetie,” she whispered to him, though we were pretty sure he wouldn’t.


When I first started reading the book I was not a fan. The conversations at the funeral really turned me off and I was wishing I hadn’t agreed to a review. As the book went on, I did start to enjoy the story even though I still was not a fan of some of the characters and language. There was a twist later in the book that I liked a lot.

The book turned out to be a funny read and you get sucked into all the goings on of a very dysfunctional family. All in all I’m glad I read the book, but still think some of the dialogue was a bit too much.

unnamed (2) Abby Bardi is the author of The Book Of Fred and The Secret Letters. She grew up in Chicago, went to college in California, then spent a decade teaching English in Japan and England. She currently teaches at a college in Maryland and lives in historic Ellicott City with her husband and dog.


Visit Abby Bardi’s website
Connect with Abby on Facebook and Twitter
Find out more about Abby at Goodreads
Contact Abby

The Secret Letters is available at Amazon
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

unnamed (1)

Sep 132015


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Every Wednesday for Books That Caught Our Eye, Serena, Leslie and I will each share 2 books that grabbed our attention from today’s Mailbox Monday post. We hope you’ll join us by posting a comment letting us know the books that caught your eye.

Win from Book Club Cook Book
good cheap eats Good Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less by Jessica Fisher
In over 200 recipes, Jessica Fisher shows budget-conscious cooks how they can eat remarkably well without breaking the bank. Good Cheap Eats serves up 70 three-course dinners—main course, side, and dessert—all for less than ten dollars for a family of four. Chapters include “Something Meatier,” on traditional meat-centered dinners, “Stretching It,” which shows how to flavor and accent meat so that you are using less than usual but still getting lots of flavor, and “Company Dinners,” which proves that you can entertain well on the cheap. The hard-won wisdom, creative problem-solving techniques, and culinary imagination she brings to the task have been chronicled lovingly in her widely read blog Good Cheap Eats. Now, with the publication of the book Good Cheap Eats, she shows budget-challenged, or simply penny-pinching, home cooks how they can save loads of money on food and still eat smashingly well.

Review for Partners In Crime
bone box Bone Box by Jay Amberg
On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, an international team of archaeologists discovers a stone box that first-century Jews used to rebury their dead. The box’s Aramaic inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, the beautiful French-Turkish archaeological who heads the team, tries to keep the discovery secret until she can authenticate the ossuary. She knows that people will kill to obtain the relics—and to suppress the box’s other contents, documents that could alter Western history.

Joseph Travers, an American sent to Turkey to evaluate the archaeological dig, soon finds himself pulled into the web of betrayal, reprisal, and violence. In his journey through Istanbul’s mosques and palaces, the archaeological sites around ancient Ephesus, and, ultimately, the strange and mystical terrain of Cappadocia, he comes to understand the epochal meaning of the bone box.

Review for iRead Book Tours
Reef Libre Reef Libre by Robert Wintner
Decades of isolation from tourism and development have left Cuba’s coral reefs among the most pristine in the world, an “exceptionalism” that stands in stark contrast to the island nation’s poverty and political situation. Famed diver/photographer Robert “Snorkel Bob” Wintner showcases these magnificent reefs with his astounding underwater images, while also capturing terrestrial life in the cities and villages of the island nation.

Reef Libre is not a travelogue, but asks the big questions after a lifetime of isolation—can Cuba’s reefs still thrive? Nearly 400 stills, a compelling narrative, and a DVD capture this delicate time in reef history. Reef Libre: The Movie is a mini-documentary which encompasses this pivotal moment—from the streets to the reefs.

Here is the trailer for Reef Libre: The Movie

Sep 122015


Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties by Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano (Photographer: Dan Goldberg)

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0811866602
ISBN-13: 978-0811866606

Bold flavors, minimal ingredients, and a passion for flame! Discover a new spin on grilling, Latin-style, with more than 70 recipes by renowned chef Rafael Palomino, a pioneer of the fresh culinary territory known as Nuevo Latino. A little bit French, a little bit South American, this cuisine is huge on flavor! Bring a fiesta to the table with uncomplicated recipes for everything from grilled Caesar salad to Palomino’s famous burger and deliciously simple desserts. Cooling ceviches and juicy cocktails such as Blueberry-Pisco Sours and Grilled Pineapple Mojitos make every meal a spicy sensation.

I’ve never really eaten Latin food before so I thought this would be a good Latin cookbook to start with since I love cooking on the grill. To be honest, most of the recipes didn’t appeal to me a whole lot, but with some minor tweaking I think I could enjoy them. One example is the lamb recipes. I don’t like lamb so I’d have to use another kind of meat, probably chicken. If you ever find a recipe that sounds really good except that it has a meat you’re not really a fan of, you can use this chart to see what a good substitute is.

I do like the other ingredients frequently used in this cookbook, so I’ll probably be using it from time to time when my family gets together for a cookout. My son and his family are vegan, and there are also recipes that will work for them, or vegetarians.

The contents include Hola (Hello), The Big Decision: Which Grill?, Tools For Grilling EN Casa (At Home), and How To Use This Book

The Chapters Are:
Ceviches, Tortillas & Arepas
Salads & Sides
Meat & Poultry
Shellfish & Seafood
Bebidas (Beverages)
Basics (like chicken stock, suaces, simple syrup and sour mix etc.)
Table Of Equivalents

I love the photos that are in the book. They make everything look yummy, even the Shellfish & Seafood, which I’m not a fan of.

Here’s an example of one of the Acompañamiento (sides) recipes:
Yellow Tomatoes Stuffed With Grilled Wild Mushrooms And Parmesean Cheese

NOTE: You need the recipe Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette also, and since you need to chill for an hour, I’m listing it first so you can let it chill while you’re making the tomatoes.

Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette (page 153)
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
12 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the shallots and sugar, stirring constantly, until the shallots start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and combine the caramelized shallots, vinegar, and oil in a blender and mix until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for at leas 1 hour before using. Use immediately or keepfor up to two weeks.
Makes about 2 cups.
For the tomatoes:
1 cup oyster, shitake, or portobello mushrooms (domestic or imported)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 perfectly ripe yellow (or red) medium sized beefsteak tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan chesse
1 handful mixed baby greens
Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette

In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms with the olive oil, shallots, rosemary, and thyme; let sit for about 10 minuets.

Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. Using tongs, renive thw muashrooms from the marinade and grill until slightly softened and browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Set them aside and. (You can also complete this step ahead of time, refrigerate the mushrooms, and then bring them to room temperature when you’re ready to stuff the tomatoes)

Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes so that you can use them to serve your salad in. Preheat the oven to 325F. Using a sharp knife, slice the tops off the tomatoes either flat or in a zigzag pattern/ you need them later so don’t discard them. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out the insides. (you may want to save the insides for a sauce or another salad). Set aside. Place the tomatoes into a 1 inch baking pan (you may have to adjust the bottoms-cutting carefully and only slightly-if they can’t sit upright) with their tops. Bake until the skins start to wrinkle, about 15 minutes.

When the tomatoes are finished, remove the tops and stuff with alternate layers of the mushroom mixture and the cheese. Place the tomatoes back into the oven (without the tops) just until the cheese starts to melt, about 5 minutes.

Top each tomato with a bit of the mixed baby greens and a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Cover with the tomato tops and serve.


wkendcookingWeekend Cooking is hosted @ Beth Fish Reads

Sep 112015

unnamed (2)

Asia Cottom lived eleven short years on this earth. Her tragic death on Flight #77 on 9/11 is forever etched in the hearts of the countless people who loved her. But her wise and influential life, her positive attitude, and profound faith in God are her true legacy.

You may love God with all your heart and soul, yet not understand what He is doing. In Asia’s New Wings, Clifton and Dr. Michelle Cottom, along with family and friends, walk beside you, sharing their thoughts and offering compassion to help you come to a place of acceptance, when trying to make sense of suffering great loss. The people in this book have learned to come to terms with what God allows, and are now in a place where they can help heal others. If you have gone—or are going through—the “valley of despair,” you will find comfort and empathy from those who care. You will also find hope and the strength to move forward as you rediscover your life.

What Asia’s parents and all those who loved her went through, healed from, and learned will bring comfort and relief to those who travel down the road of loss. Reading and experiencing Asia’s story will truly bring healing and life to all who turn these pages.

Buy the book:   Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble

unnamed Clifton and Michelle Cottom live in Prince George’s County, Maryland and they have one son, Isiah. The Cottoms are the co-founders and executive board members of the Asia SiVon Cottom (ASC) Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Connect with the authors:
Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter


Sep 082015


Montmartre Mysteries
by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen
Sally Pane (Translator)

Series: Winemaker Detective (Book 8)
Paperback: 146 pages
Publisher: Le French Book (September 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939474477
ISBN-13: 978-1939474476

Wine expert Benjamin Cooker travels to the French capital, where his is called to help care for some vineyards in Montmartre, a neighborhood full of memories for him. He stops in on an old friend. Arthur Solacroup left the Foreign Legion to open a wine shop good enough to be in the Cooker Guide. But an attempted murder brings the past back into the present. But which past? The winemaker detective and his assistant Virgile want to know more, and their investigation leads them from the the sands of Djibouti to the vineyards of Côte du Rhône.


Benjamin closed the door to his office to speak to the vintner at the Dardanelle de Saint-Chinian estate. The man hadn’t managed to get nature on his side. Benjamin gave his instructions, suspecting that they’d be ignored, and hung up. He poured a whiskey and lit a Honduran cigar, which was a bit too narrow in its cedar sheath. Benjamin knew he had to attack the unanswered letters and e-mail, and yet he let himself be distracted by the city sounds outside the window. For some reason it reminded him of his childhood on the banks of the River Thames. Finally he picked up his letter opener and put it to an envelope marked “personal.” What could it be? The letter was handwritten and signed “a very faithful reader of the Cooker Guide.”Dear Sir,
As an expert in French wines, you’re familiar with our country’s vineyards, both large and small. That includes, of course, the well-known vineyard in Montmartre. But did you know that Paris has other grapevines?
I am not talking about a few climbing vines or espaliered stocks against the walls of a forgotten garden, but a true plot of them, which chance has made me, if not its owner, at least its representative by proxy.It so happens, Mr. Cooker, that a few months ago I was appointed to run the Bretonneau Hospital in the eighteenth arrondissement. This old and beautifully restored establishment was once a children’s hospital. In 2001, it became a hospital for the elderly with 205 beds. Our patients, despite their white hair and unsteady gait, have eyes that light up when they toddle like children down the rows of this vineyard, picking the chasselas grapes.
Unfortunately, this minuscule vineyard is now old, like the patients who love it, and each year the harvest grows more uncertain.Our table grapes suffer from lack of proper care, and many of them seem to be rotting on the vine. It is therefore in desperation that I call a vine doctor to our bedside. In all of France, is there a better choice than you?I do not know if your busy schedule allows you to take a look at what is certainly the smallest vineyard in France (barely one hundred plants) and hopefully prescribe a cure, but your knowledge would be very precious to us. Unfortunately, I do not have the funds in my modest budget to pay your fee. Could I simply call upon your benevolence and skill?On behalf of all of our patients, I thank you in advance and hope to count you among the healthy visitors to Bretonneau Hospital, whose entrance is on the Rue Joseph de Maistre.Yours sincerely,The name in the signature was perfectly legible, but the unusual letter was on plain paper, not stationery from the Paris Hospital system. Benjamin asked Jacqueline to call and verify that the author was, indeed, an employee of the institution.


This is the 8th book in the Winemaker Detective series but I think it can be read as a stand alone.

There are quite a few ways the story could have gone so you’re guessing and changing your mind throughout the book. It’s a short read and there are no lulls in the story, and all the characters are interesting.

I’ve only read a few in this series but wouldn’t mind going back and starting from the beginning. I love mysteries, and one of the biggest draws for me was that the book takes place in Paris.

A very good book if you like mysteries and/or Paris.

About The Authors
alaux-balen Jean-Pierre Alaux and NoÎl Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Ch‚teau Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.

The book was translated into English by Sally Pane who studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.

Follow Le French Book on Twitter  | on Facebook
Sign up to receive their latest news and deals.



Global giveaway open internationally:
5 participants will each win a copy of this book.
Print/digital format for US residents
Digital for all other residents





Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

Sep 062015


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Every Wednesday for Books That Caught Our Eye, Serena, Leslie and I will each share 2 books that grabbed our attention from today’s Mailbox Monday post. We hope you’ll join us by posting a comment letting us know the books that caught your eye.

Win from Luanne @ A Bookworm’s World
august The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons
Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.

Win from Kosher Eye 
stir Stir by Jessica Fechtor
An exquisite memoir about how food connects us to ourselves, our lives, and each other.

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.

Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished.”

Woven throughout the narrative are 27 recipes for dishes that comfort and delight. For readers of M.F.K.Fisher, Molly Wizenberg, and Tamar Adler, as well as Oliver Sacks, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Susannah Cahalan, Stir is sure to inspire, and send you straight to the kitchen.

For review from The Reading Room
Infinite Number BGcvr.indd An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay
As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve–or to avoid–their problems.

Told in the narrative style of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMAN, AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES is at turns geeky, funny, and lyrical as it tells a story about that time in life when friends need each other to become more than just people that hang out.

For review from the author
sea Luna Sea by Jessica Sherry (book #2 Delilah Duffy Mystery)
A seaside inn. An elegant party. A black dress. What could go wrong? For Delilah Duffy, expert mistake-maker and trauma magnet, just about anything. With her bookstore failing and the chaos of her recent crime-solving adventures still plaguing her, the last thing she needs is a party or another mystery to solve. But, her curious-to-a-fault nature propels her into both. With nightmares, anxiety, and panic intensifying, Delilah doesn’t know what’s real and what’s in her head. Convinced something sinister is at work, Delilah searches for answers, if only to prove that she isn’t crazy. With her bookstore and her relationship with Sam at risk, Delilah drifts into dark waters. Is she becoming a lunatic or facing one?

Sep 052015


Weight Watchers 5 Ingredient, 15 Minute Cookbook by Nancy Fitzpatrick Wyatt

I don’t even remember where I got this book or how long I’ve had it. I saw it yesterday and thought I’d go through it since I’m trying to eat healthier and eat less carbs and sodium. And if you’re like me, you like quick and easy, few ingredient healthy recipes. This book is loaded with them.

I love cookbooks that include photos. While I would have liked more, the book did have some bright colorful ones scattered here and there. I always like seeing how my food looks compared to the photo. Of course most of the time mine isn’t as pretty.

The book includes a No Stress Shopping List, Handy Substitutions, Microwave Cooking Chart For Vegetables, and Metric Equivalents. I very rarely use my microwave, but the chart would come in handy if I wanted to microwave some veggies and the substitutions and metric equivalents are ones I need all the time.

Each recipe has nutritional information, WW points and exchanges. My book is the fifth printing (2005) and is in like new condition.

I don’t know why I haven’t been using the heck out this book. It’s great for anyone who wants to eat healthier, not just for someone wanting to loose weight.  I’ll be posting a few recipes from it soon.

Here’s one of the first ones I want to try:
Grilled Caribbean Chicken
4- 4 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil (I’ll probably use canola)
2 teaspoons jerk seasoning
cooking spray

Prepare grill
Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy duty plastic wrap and flatten to 1/4 in. thickness
Combine the lime juice and oil, brush over both sides of the chicken and rub both sides with jerk seasoning
Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spry, cover and grill 5-6 min. on each side until done

Points: 3
Exchanges: 4 very lean meat
Calories: 153
Carbs: 1.4g
Fat: 4.2 (saturated 1.0g)
Fiber: 0.2g
Protein 25.9g
Cholesterol: 70mg
Sodium: 97mg


wkendcookingWeekend Cooking is hosted @ Beth Fish Reads