Meaningful Monday

Welcome to another edition of Meaningful Monday where I share an inspirational quote. Today’s quote is from Napoleon Hill:

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

“Cherish your visions and your dreams, as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.”

ARC Review: Anchored Hearts

  • Publisher: Kensington Books
  • Publication Date: April 27, 2021
  • Author: Priscilla Oliveras
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Page Count: 328

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

A Key West vacation in a book! Sparkling with humor, romance, Latinx culture, and the unique island energy of Key West, Florida, the acclaimed Keys to Love Series by USA Today bestselling author Priscilla Oliveras are the perfect escape. In Anchored Hearts, sparks fly for a second time when award-winning photographer and prodigal son Alejandro ends up back home, forced to face the familia—and the girl he left behind—for the first time in years. Can these two Key West natives learn to put away old hurts and embrace a new future under the tropical sun?


Review

Ay Dios Mio! Anchored Hearts was such a delightful novel. Set in the Florida Keys, Anchored Hearts tell the tale of a second chance LatinX romance.

Alejandro Miranda left Key West to make a name for himself in the arts and photography world. A bold and contentious move since his family wanted him to continue the family legacy of Miranda’s. A Cuban restaurant made famous by Alejandro’s grandfather and subsequently his own father. Not to be swayed, Alejandro leaves the family business in a huff to pursue his dream of traveling the world, leaving his longtime girlfriend Annamaria Navarro back home — heartbroken.

After a horrible accident, Alejandro is forced to return home to recuperate. It’s been over a decade since he’s been home and not much has changed. Except his former girlfriend Annamaria is now a successful influencer, paramedic and fitness instructor. As Alejandro heals, old feelings for Annamarina are rekindled and fond memories of her return, leaving Alejandro to wonder if his feelings will be reciprocated.

Anchored Hearts is the perfect “beach read.” The characters are engaging and I just loved the Latin American phrases that are used throughout. Those phrases just added so much color to the story. The love and strength of family is on full display and the author adeptly incorporated all the elements that a wonderfully exquisite romance novel should have. Cinco (five) lovable, romantic stars.

I received a physical ARC from Kensington Books through Bookish First. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


ARC Review: Unspoken

  • Publisher: Mt. Nittany Press
  • Publication Date: April 25, 2021
  • Author: Rebecca Chianese
  • Genre: Women’s Fiction
  • Page Count: 298

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Description

Alecia, Ivy, Thia, and Fiona are in a book club with only two rules: discuss the book and drink as much wine as possible. When the women discover their daughters are harboring a terrible secret, they set out to uncover the truth, forcing them to examine their own lives, motivations, and loyalties.

An empowering story of breaking the silence of the assault on girls and women.

Alecia Caulding has built a perfect life for her husband Everett and their 13-year old daughter Hannah in the glossy suburbs of Westchester, New York. Her own abusive childhood is deeply hidden beneath the veneer of perfection.

Ivy Barnet left a high-powered career as an attorney to be a stay-at-home mom to her three sons. She will stop at nothing to help her friends protect their daughters, even if it means confronting truths she’d rather not face.

Thia Daniels, dental hygienist and practicing Wiccan, spends her days wrangling her unruly children, and wondering why she isn’t as happy as she should be.

Fiona Payne is co-parenting with her ex-husband and his new wife, who happens to have been Fiona’s divorce attorney. Fiona thought Chloe had adjusted well to their version of a modern family, and she wonders how she could have gotten it so wrong.


Review

Fiona, Thia, Alecia, and Ivy are members of an elite book club — their own…They regularly meet to discuss books over wine and food. But mostly wine. Their book discussions are lively and animated until one evening, Fiona shares some startling news about her daughter, Chloe. News that will shake each of the women down to their core. Later, as the women start to re-assess the situation, Alecia, her husband Everett, and their daughter Hannah have left town without a word and without a trace.

Unspoken is a somewhat suspenseful tale of abuse and sexual assault against women. Told in multiple points of view, the story unfolds from each character’s point of view. A bit choppy and a slow burn, the suspense doesn’t begin until the reader is at least 50% invested into the novel. At that point, the feasibility of some of the actions become a little questionable.

I liked the premise of the novel, but did not appreciate politics having a place in it. And, the politics really didn’t add much to the plot.

Overall, Unspoken was an okay read. Two satisfactory stars.

I received an ARC from the author. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Weekly Recipe Wednesday: Chorizo and Mushroom Tapas

Welcome to another edition of Weekly Recipe Wednesday. Today’s recipe is from a mention in the book, Cowboy Come Home, which I’ve read and reviewed here on my blog. The recipe is from Australia’s Best Recipes. Please be sure to visit their site for other fabulous dishes.


Ingredients

  • 2 chorizo sausage sliced
  • 8 mushrooms sliced
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat everything.
  2. Heat a heavy based frypan, add mushroom and chorizo mixture, stir continually until chorizo is crispy and mushroom has absorbed the pan juices.
  3. Serve on grilled soda bread, or with poached eggs on toast.

Book Tour: Babushka is Homesick

Welcome to the April 7th tour stop for Babushka is Homesick as part of the Easter Book Tour. Many thanks and a shout out to Blackberry Book Tours for organizing this event.

  • Publisher: Carolina Witchmichen Schmidt
  • Publication Date: January 27, 2020
  • Author: Carola Schmidt
  • Illustrator: Vinicius Melo
  • Genre: Children’s Multicultural Literature
  • Page Count: 28

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

Babushka hadn’t been in her homeland since she was a child. She went to the church with a suitcase, and the whole way, Babushka thought about how she would feel in Ukraine after so many years. She sang, and then she prayed. Amen. But Babushka was thinking of her trip instead of the Lord’s grace. After a long time pondering what to expect-if she would feel a sense of belonging-Babushka arrived in her homeland. Babushka had a lot of fun, but she felt like something was missing. She was homesick. “Babushka is Homesick” is a story about memories, family, and the true meaning of the word “home.”

“Babushka is Homesick” is the second children’s book in the Babushka Series. Everyone has their own stories, history, and the desire to belong. The first book, “Tell me a story, Babushka,” is a best-selling new release in Children’s Multicultural Literature on Amazon USA (Aug 2019), in which kids and adults will enjoy fun adventures and identify their own stories.

This folktale is ideal for ages 4-11, and perfect for teachers.


Review

“Home is where the heart is.”

No matter who you are and where you are in the world, your home will always be that place where you have the deepest feelings of love, affection, and happy memories.

Babushka is Homesick is a heartwarming picture book of love, family, and the memories that make up a home.

Karina’s babushka (grandmother) is getting ready to return to her home country of Ukraine. As the date of babushka’s departure draws near, she develops feelings of apprehension. After all, it has been many years since she’s lived in Ukraine.

Once back in Ukraine, babushka recollects how her country was while growing up — the food, the shops, and the countryside. So much has changed since her childhood, and the country she had called home is now just a faded memory. Her real home, she realizes is where her grandchildren play, laugh, love, and create memories for her to cherish now and forever. Five loving stars. A wonderful book to read to youngsters during family time.

I received a digital copy of the book from Blackberry Book Tours. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


About the Author:

Carola Schmidt is a pediatric oncology pharmacist, scientific writer and children’s book writer.

Author of several books in pediatric oncology published by Springer Nature. Her scientific books are present in lists such as BookAuthority’s Best Pharmacy Books of All Time, Best New Pharmacy Books and Best New Pharmacy eBooks, and Springer Highlights 2020. Author of several kids’ books about cancer, such as Bald is Beautiful: A letter for a fabulous girl, Cancer Daily Life, Chubby’s Tale: The true story of a teddy bear who beat cancer (listed by BookAuthority as one of the “81 Best Leukemia Books of All Time”.) Belonging is a subject that is present in her writing, and the two books in the Babushka Series are her first books that are not about cancer. 

Purchase links

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B0848BP2SH

ARC Review: The Good Sister

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2021
  • Author: Sally Hepworth
  • Genre: Mysteries & Thrillers | Women’s Fiction
  • Page Count: 320

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.


Review

Wow! Unputdownable!

Fern and Rose Castle are fraternal twins, each with their own unique personalities and health issues. Fern is the quirky and somewhat eccentric sister due in part by her sensory processing issues. Rose is the seemingly stable sister that has been taking care and protecting Fern since they were children. But is it really protection or is it exploitation?

The story unfolds from two points of view. Rose’s viewpoints are in the form of a diary. Something that her therapist suggested. Fern’s point of view is told in a first person’s observation and feelings. It is from these different viewpoints that we learn of Fern’s and Rose’s childhood and how their childhood environment has shaped their adult lives.

Full of shocking surprises, The Good Sister is an unnerving psychological thriller worthy of recognition by fans and followers of V. C. Andrews. Five staggering stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Tour: What the Devil Knows

Welcome to the April 6th stop of What the Devil Knows book tour. Many thanks to Dache’ J. Rogers at Berkley Publishing Group for organizing this tour and providing the media assets.

  • Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: April 6, 2021
  • Author: C. S. Lewis
  • Genre: Historical Fiction | Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 336

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Description

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before. 

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect–a young seaman named John Williams–was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more. 

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question–who was and why are they dead set on killing again?


Review

Sebastian St. Cyr is a nobleman turned investigator. He is called upon by his friend to investigate a brutal murder that has all the makings of earlier crimes that occurred three years before. What was thought to be a closed case turns out to be otherwise. That perhaps an innocent man went to prison for crimes that he didn’t commit. Was he framed? And to what extent did government corruption play a role?

Crafted in the same vein as Sherlock Holmes, What the Devil Knows is a classic whodunnit where the reader joins Sebastian in the investigation process — interviews with witnesses, crime scene investigations, and attending autopsy examinations. It is a solid read with a well developed plot that the reader can follow and gather clues.

What the Devil Knows was an enjoyable novel. However, I felt as though there was a slight language barrier. Old English terminology coupled with the vernacular of that period tested my enjoyment. And being that this novel is the 16th installment, a new reader like myself may find the character development lacking. But, that lack of development could be attributed to the fact that the main characters have already been established in the earlier novels.

Overall, What the Devil Knows was a satisfying novel and a good fit for fans of historical fiction mixed with mystery. I’ve rated it three likable stars.

I received a digital ARC from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


About the Author

C. S. Harris is the USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels, including the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series; as C. S. Graham, a thriller series coauthored by former intelligence officer Steven Harris; and seven award-winning historical romances written under the name Candice Proctor.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Brown

Book Tour: Tell Me a Story, Babushka

Welcome to the April 3rd stop for the Tell Me a Story, Babushka book tour. Many thanks to the Blackberry Book Tours Group for organizing this tour as part of their Easter Book Tour.

  • Publisher: Carolina Witchmichen Schmidt
  • Publication Date: July 16, 2019
  • Author: Carola Schmidt
  • Illustrator: Vinicius Melo
  • Genre: Children’s Multicultural Literature
  • Page Count: 27

Description

When Karina asks Babushka to tell her a story about a princess and monsters, Babushka surprises her granddaughter, and even herself, telling a story about her life in Ukraine and how she had to run away to another country during the Holodomor. This folktale about memories and family is a sweet story about immigration and how history brought us to where we live today. 

“Reading Tell me a story, Babushka is a reminder of how much strength, love and pride a Ukrainian grandmother has for preserving history through her grandchildren. While combining two elements: the Holodomor famine and a princess, it’s accomplished with the right blend of dedication from author Carola Schmidt who is of Ukrainian background. She brings facts and hope as seen through a child’s eyes and delivers a delightful tale of survival for a princess to become the heroine. Any child can see that monsters can be defeated when love abounds. A book to have and to reread, lest we forget.” – Sonia Owchariw, New Jersey Press Association, Award-Winning Journalist. 


Review

“Holodomor. Sometimes referred to as the Great Famine, was a famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933.”

In the picture-based book, Tell Me a Story, Babushka, Karina asks her babushka (grandmother) to tell a story of a princess and monsters. The grandmother obliges by telling little Karina of a princess whose home was invaded by monsters; and how that princess escaped to another country. Little does Karina know that, that princess is none other than her own grandmother telling a story of growing up in Ukraine.

Tell Me a Story, Babushka is a charming tale of immigration and Ukraine history. But it is also a somewhat sad and depressing account of the Soviet famine that devastated millions of Ukrainians.

Not quite the “happily ever after” story, but it is a good book to introduce youngsters to other ethnic traditions and history. Four endearing stars.

I received a digital copy of the book from Blackberry Book Tours. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


About the Author:

Carola Schmidt is a pediatric oncology pharmacist, scientific writer and children’s book writer.

Author of several books in pediatric oncology published by Springer Nature. Her scientific books are present in lists such as BookAuthority’s Best Pharmacy Books of All Time, Best New Pharmacy Books and Best New Pharmacy eBooks, and Springer Highlights 2020. Author of several kids’ books about cancer, such as Bald is Beautiful: A letter for a fabulous girl, Cancer Daily Life, Chubby’s Tale: The true story of a teddy bear who beat cancer (listed by BookAuthority as one of the “81 Best Leukemia Books of All Time”.) Belonging is a subject that is present in her writing, and the two books in the Babushka Series are her first books that are not about cancer. 

Get the Book Here:

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B083738W2C

Weekly Recipe Wednesday: Eggplant Parmigiana

Welcome to another edition of Weekly Recipe Wednesday. Today’s recipe is from a mention in a book, One Night with a Cowboy. It is a book that I’ve read and reviewed here on my blog. Many thanks to Saveur for having this recipe on their website. Please do visit their site for other fabulous recipes and articles.

Image from FoodNetwork

For the sauce:

  • 2 (28-oz.) cans plum tomatoes with their juices
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the eggplant:

  • 3 large eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups dried plain fine bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning, or equal parts dried basil, dried rosemary, and dried oregano
  • 3 medium eggplants (about 3 lb. total), mostly peeled except for a few strips of skin, sliced into thin rounds slightly thinner than ¼ in.
  • About 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups (about 10½ oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese (not fresh)
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Pecorino Romano

Instructions

  1. Make the sauce: In a blender, pulse the toma­toes and their juices until just slightly chunky. In a medium–large (4-quart or so) heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, add the oil and garlic, and cook, stirring occasion­ally, until the garlic is softened slightly and fragrant but not yet browned, about 4 min­utes. Pour in the puréed tomato mixture and season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened slightly, at least 1 to 1½ hours. The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  2. If you’re baking and serving right away, set a rack in the top third of the oven and pre­heat to 400°F. If not, skip the preheat for now.
  3. Bread the eggplant: In a medium baking dish or wide shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon water. Season with a generous pinch of salt. In a second baking dish or bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and ½ teaspoon salt. Working with one or two at a time, dredge the eggplant slices in the egg wash and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Transfer to the bread crumbs and coat very lightly on each side.
  4. Line a large baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels and set by the stove. In a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, heat ½ cup oil until shimmering. Turn the heat down to medium and add some eggplant slices in a single layer until the skillet is full. Cook, turning once, until well browned on each side, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to the pre­pared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, working in batches as needed and adding a little more oil every other batch, or as needed. As you work, continue to add layers of paper towels between the eggplant slices so they remain separate. The fried eggplant can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
  5. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, ladle ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sauce into the bottom. Cover the sauce with a single layer of eggplant (start with the thickest ones on the bottom and save the prettiest slices for the top). Ladle another ½ cup sauce on top, spread­ing it evenly. Sprinkle with about ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons mozzarella and 1 tablespoon Pecorino. Add another layer of eggplant and repeat this process until you’ve reached the final layer of eggplant. Top this layer only with ½ cup sauce, a final thin layer of mozzarella, and some Pecorino. (Reserve any remaining sauce for another use.) At this point, the eggplant parmigiana can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 day.
  6. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and bronzed in places and the sauce is bubbling around the edges, about 20 min­utes (add about 10 minutes if your dish was previously assembled and chilled). Remove and let cool slightly. Slice into squares and serve warm.

Book Review: Poison in the Pills

  • Publisher: Self published
  • Publication Date: July 31, 2020
  • Author: August Raine
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
  • Page Count: 268

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Description

A new street drug is ravaging the UK. Users are being struck down by an incurable illness. Those suffering from the dreaded Itch are in so much pain they’ve peeled the flesh from their bones, desperate to relieve their symptoms.

Set in and around Manchester, the story follows Jack Bright, a scientist determined to help those affected. Whilst investigating a clinical trial that ended in tragedy, he uncovers a disturbing secret. Little does he know, someone will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried. Before Jack can find out more, he is framed.

Desperate, not only to clear his name but also to find the truth, Jack is forced to resort to increasingly questionable methods. Breaking and entering. Blackmail. Kidnapping. With every decision, his morals are tested. But he perseveres, motivated by a tragedy in his past.

Jack’s luck is constantly dwindling, until he finds himself racing against more than just the people who are after him. What will it take to cure The Itch?


Review

The city of Manchester is being ravaged by a terrible disease. A disease so ghastly that its victims suffer excruciating pain that cause them to tear their skin and flesh off in desperation. The cause, it is determined, is a designer drug called Dose.

As scientists hastily scramble for a cure, early clinical trials reveal a promising drug. But pressure to implement the cure forces a reckless distribution that leads to several deaths.

Investigating the deaths from the trials, scientist Jack Bright discovers startling evidence that could potentially damage the company and the people he works for. His moral obligation is to uncover the conspiracy, but just as he is gathering evidence, Jack is framed for dealing drugs — the drug Dose.

Poison in the Pills is a gripping novel that will engage the reader till the end. A clever plot, but some aspects of the narrative didn’t quite add up or seemed a little too far fetched. Characters are developed enough, but I felt that they could have been a little more complex or have more in depth background on their existence within the story.

Overall, a more than satisfactory read. Four stars.

I received a digital copy of the novel from the author, August Raine. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Tour: Colony

Welcome to the March 29th stop of the Colony book tour. Many thanks to Blackthorne Book Tours for organizing this event and providing me with a digital copy of the book to read and review.

  • Publisher: The Book Guild Publishing
  • Publication Date: January 28, 2021
  • Author: Benjamin Cross
  • Genre: Adult Fiction
  • Page Count: 496

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

Harmsworth.

A remote, mist-shrouded island in the Russian Arctic.

Archaeology Professor Callum Ross makes the discovery of a lifetime: a prehistoric ice mummy preserved for thousands of years by the sub-zero temperatures. Only, they didn’t die of natural causes… 

As Callum races to unravel the mystery of the mutilated corpse, others race to sabotage the expedition, and he and his team are left stranded on the island. And they are not alone. Someone, or something, relentless is stalking them.

As the arctic mist descends and the death toll rises, the team is thrust into a nightmare fight for survival, involving submarines, cyber warfare and Spetsnaz. But none of this can prepare them for the real terror that survives deep within the island’s heart: a secret so ancient it’s been overlooked by time itself.


Review

Colony is a work of fiction that packs in all the elements of the mystery, thriller, and horror genres. Set in the world’s most remote Arctic archipelago, we follow Dr. Callum Ross as he journeys into Harmsworth Island to join an Environmental Impact Assessment team. On the island, the EIA team must conduct a series of studies in preparation for the most ambitious infrastructure project. But there’s a traitor on board ready to sabotage the whole project for his own gain.

Also little known to anyone is that the island holds deadly secrets. Secrets born from myths and legends. Those myths and legends just may hold the answers to the mysterious disappearances of the crew and the discovery of a mummified corpse deep in the freezing wilderness.

Colony was a nailbiter of a read. Colorful characters along with a mysterious backdrop in the remote Arctic brought the whole story into a vivid thriller of cinematic proportions. Five thriller stars.

I received a digital copy of the book from Blackthorne Book Tours. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


About the Author

Benjamin Cross has an M.Phil. in Landscape Archaeology from the University of Oxford. He’s been lucky enough to explore some of the world’s most spectacular ancient sites; from the temples of Cambodia to the Andean cloud forest cities of Peru; from the burial sites of the Tibetan plateau to the Maori strongholds of New Zealand.

He is now an Associate Director of Heritage and Archaeology at a national consultancy and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. Colony is Benjamin’s first novel and it was written whilst he worked full-time as a professional archaeologist.


Follow the Author

Website

Twitter


Purchase Links:


Weekly Recipe Wednesday: Potato Leek Soup

Welcome to another edition of Weekly Recipe Wednesday. Today’s recipe was a mention in the book, The Vines by Shelley Nolden. It’s a book that I’ve read and reviewed here on my blog. Many thanks to Once Upon a Chef for having this recipe available. Be sure to visit the site for other delectable items. You won’t be disappointed.

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 7 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Chives, finely chopped, for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so as not to brown.
  2. Add the potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft.
  3. Fish out the thyme sprig and bay leaves, then purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches; see note.) Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If soup is too thin, simmer until thickened. If it’s too thick, add water or stock to thin it out. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.

Book Blitz: Of Blood and Fire

Blurb 

Born in fire. Tempered in blood.

Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the south squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.

In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving—a test of courage and skill that not all survive.

But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.

There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.

He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.



Author Bio
Ryan Cahill was born in Dublin, Ireland. He was lucky enough to be born to parents that cherished books and adored stories. With every book they read, they brought it to life. A different voice for every character. A different setting for each world. A different facial expression for each sarcastic joke. It was because of this, Ryan fell in love with the craft of storytelling.

Growing up with authors such as J.K.Rowling, Terry Prachett and J.R.Tolkien—before discovering the worlds of Christopher Paolini, George R.R.Martin, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson—Ryan was always immersed in the art of worldbuilding. In the creation of a world that could transport you to a place in your mind where nothing else could ever reach you.

At the age of seven, Ryan even attempted to write his own book; to create his own world. It didn’t go to plan. Seven-year-olds don’t tend to have much follow through.

It’s a good thing he never gave up.


Book Review: Still Crazy

  • Publisher: Judy Prescott Marshall
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2021
  • Author: Judy Prescott Marshall
  • Genre: Women’s Fiction
  • Page Count: 334

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

A loving, strong and passionate wife discovers a handwritten note that has the power to either destroy her or make her stronger yet.

Still Crazy is the story of one woman’s journey through pain, betrayal, and forgiveness as she learns to hold onto her faith and, for the first time in her life trust in herself. Julie Holliday has always had a dream – to be the perfect wife. After she gives her heart to the love of her life, all she wants is for Dan to adore her the way she adores him. With only a high school equivalency in one hand and a fist full of ambition in the other, together they build a million-dollar empire. It seems Julie and Dan have a fairytale life – that is, until the day she realizes her love is not enough to stop Dan from having what she suspects is numerous affairs.

Uplifting for a topic that is not, Still Crazy is an awakening for all couples. A searing debut novel for women and the men who love them.

Women’s Commercial Fiction. Age 23 and up. Audience: Women, Men, Book Clubs and Reading Groups.


Review

“When you love someone, you love all of them. You gotta love everything about them, not just the good things, but the bad things, too. It’s how you find forgiveness.”

Julie Holliday and Dan Holliday have been married 30 years. They built their empires from scratch and are successful at their businesses — Julie with her bakery, and Dan with his construction business. Yet somehow, their success belies their relationship. It was a relationship built on lies. But it wasn’t like that in the beginning. Soon, Dan’s indiscretions started to emerge. That was ten years ago, and now the final straw — a seemingly innocuous note. A note that contained a name. A woman’s name.

After years of struggling with trust issues and separation anxiety, Julie Holliday ultimately leaves her husband to start fresh in Rhode Island. There, Julie begins to find herself by forming new friendships, and interests while allowing her faith to guide and strengthen her.

Still Crazy is a faith based story of one woman’s courage and determination to finally follow her own path to happiness. While some readers might not appreciate the religious references, I found it to be very refreshing. To read how one’s faith could play a major role in their own happiness gave me pause to reflect on how faith has an impact on people’s lives.

A heartwarming novel, Still Crazy is one book that I truly enjoyed. It’s a clean read with wonderful loving characters and a touching story. Five heartfelt stars.

I received a finished copy of the book from Judy Prescott Marshall through the Bookish First raffle. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: Thick as Thieves

  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication Date: March 16, 2021
  • Genre: Mysteries & Thrillers
  • Author: Sandra Brown
  • Page Count: 377

Description (Goodreads)

Twenty years ago in the dead of night, four seemingly random individuals pulled the ultimate heist and almost walked away with half a million dollars. But by daybreak, their plan had been shot to hell. One of them was in the hospital. One was in jail. One was dead. And one got away with it.

Arden Maxwell, the daughter of the man who disappeared all those years ago — presumably with the money, after murdering his accomplice — has never reconciled with her father’s abandonment of her and her sister. After countless personal setbacks she decides to return to her family home near mysterious Caddo Lake, and finally get answers to the many questions that torment her. Little does she know, two of her father’s co-conspirators — a war hero and a corrupt district attorney — are watching her every move.

Ledge Burnet, a rebellious teen at the time of the heist, evaded his jail sentence by enlisting in the army. Now he’s back in town to care for his ailing father — and to keep his eye on the county’s corrupt district attorney, whom he suspects was the real murderer. Although the two are bound to silence because of the crime they committed together, each has spent years waiting and hoping that the other will make a fatal misstep. But the arrival of their elusive accomplice’s daughter, Arden, who may know more about the missing money than she’s telling, sets them both on red alert. She ignites Ledge’s determination to expose the D.A.’s treachery… and sparks a desire he wishes to deny. 


Review

Twenty years ago, four people conspired to pull off a daring heist. With insider information, the heist snagged half a million dollars, left one person in jail, left another person dead, left a third person in the hospital, and left the last person missing in action.

Arden Maxwell who has been away twenty years, decidedly returns to her hometown to raise her expectant child. Arden expected the rumor mongering among the townsfolk upon her return. After all, her father, Joe Maxwell was the infamous suspect gone missing in that daring and fateful heist twenty years earlier.

As Arden attempts to settle into her old home, she becomes hyper aware that she is being watched. Spurred on by her own curiosity into the disappearance of her father, Arden vigorously starts her own investigation. If she only knew doing so would jeopardize her life and the lives of others.

Told in multiple points of view, Thick as Thieves is an absorbing read filled with interesting and complex characters. Combined with an outstanding plot that contains enough twists and turns, Thick as Thieves is a thrilling novel of epic proportions. Five monumental stars.

I received a complimentary review copy from Grand Central Publishing. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Weekly Recipe Wednesday: Champagne Punch

Hello again! The recipe this week is a cocktail. It was mentioned in the book, Paws for Love which I read and reviewed. Many thanks go out to FoodieCrush for having this recipe available. Please be sure to check out their site for other recipes/tidbits.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup triple sec or Grand Marnier
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup Chambord or other raspberry flavored liquor
  • 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1 quart chilled ginger ale
  • 2 chilled 750 ml bottles dry Champagne
  • 2 cups raspberries

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl or pitcher, combine the triple sec, brandy, Chambord and pineapple juice and chill covered for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. In a large punch bowl, combine the triple sec mixture, the ginger ale, Champagne and ice cubes if desired.
  3. Garnish punch with raspberries and serve.


Book Review: Marsupilami: The Beast (Part 1)

  • Publication Date: February 24, 2021
  • Publisher: Europe Comics
  • Authors: Zidron and Frank Pé
  • Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels | General Fiction | Mysteries & Thrillers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

Belgium, 1955. A mysterious animal is caught in the jungles of South America and transported to Europe on a cargo ship, where it ends up starving and half-dead on the outskirts of Brussels. François, a young boy with a fondness for taking in strays, finds it and brings it home to his mother and his menagerie—his best and only friends. As the son of a departed German soldier, François is the favorite target of every bully in school. Nobody can identify the strange creature with the voracious appetite and the stupendously long tail, and François figures his new pet is perfect for show-and-tell… But with a wild beast and a small classroom, things quickly get out of hand. Will this spell the end for François’s new animal friend? The real story of the legendary Marsupilami!


Review

Who said comics/graphic novels were just for children? Because Marsupilami: The Beast can be enjoyed by all ages.

Francois Van Den Kroot is a young boy with a big heart and a deep love for animals. It is Francois’ love of all creatures big and small that leaves him with a mini zoo at his home.

The son of a departed German soldier, Francois becomes the “punching bag” for bullies at his school. The victim of a constant barrage of ridicule, jokes and harassment, Francois tearily runs and hides under a bridge for safety, comfort, and solitude. There, under the bridge, he discovers an unusual creature. A creature that appears to be a cross between a leopard and a monkey with dog-like ears, and with an extremely long tail. Francois aptly names the creature “Longtail.”

Proud of his new discovery, Francois is eager to share his discovery with his classmates at school. What can go wrong in a small classroom with dozens of ooglely-eyed children?

Marsupilami: The Beast is the first part of a two part comic series. And it certainly got my attention. The cover is what intrigued me at first. Then after “googling” Marsupilami, I was hooked and just had to read the comic. I was not disappointed. The illustrations and storyline just grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I can’t wait for part two. Five illustrious stars.

I received a digital copy of the comic from Europe Comics through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Book Review: Cowboy Come Home

  • Publisher: Forever
  • Publication Date: March 31, 2020
  • Author: Carly Bloom
  • Genre: Western Romance
  • Page Count: 512

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

Some cowboys aren’t cut out to be Prince Charming–and Claire Kowalski knows that better than anyone. She gave her heart to Ford Jarvis two years ago, yet that didn’t keep him from disappearing into the sunset. Now that he’s back in Big Verde, Texas, she’s determined not to make the same mistake twice. But the ruggedly sexy cowboy still knows how to push all her buttons, and avoiding him is nearly impossible when she needs his help. 

Ford didn’t plan on returning home—ever—but when he hears that the Kowalski ranch is in trouble, he hightails it back to town. He’s not eager to be reminded of the life he can never have, but his time in Big Verde is only temporary. He’ll stay long enough to get the ranch up and running, then hit the road again. But when Ford finds out the new foreman he’s training is Claire, still as stubborn and beautiful as ever, this cowboy is going to have to decide what matters most—repeating the mistakes of the past or fighting for a future with the only woman he’s ever loved.


Review

Two years earlier, Ford Jarvis and Claire Kowalski were an item. They were the hot ticket of Big Verde. Ford captured Claire’s heart, and Claire thought Ford was her knight in shining armor. Her Prince Charming. But as sudden as their romance started, Ford suddenly leaves for “greener” pastures.

Devastated by the loss of her love, Claire seeks out distractions to occupy her time. Only to find disappointment at every corner. Then, one day, she spots him. Ford Jarvis is back on her ranch! How could her father, Gerome Kowalski, allow the man that crushed her heart back to Rancho Cañada Verde? Yet, Claire’s heart still tugs at the sight of him, and she still might have a little love left. If only Ford could love her back…

Cowboy Come Home is a steamy western romance novel set in the Texas High Country where you either go big or go home. And on a twelve thousand acre ranch, it sure went big. With a picturesque backdrop and engaging characters, Cowboy Come Home is a novel that will warm and touch your heart in more ways than one. Five heartwarming stars.

I received a digital copy of the novel from Forever through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.


Weekly Recipe Wednesday: Runza

This week’s recipe is from a mention in a book that I’ve read and reviewed. It’s a Nebraska thing from what I understand and I just had to look this one up. The dish is mentioned in the book, Every Last Fear. Many thanks to My Farmhouse Table for having this recipe available. Be sure to check out their site for more delicious items.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 pkgs (1/4 oz) Yeast
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 2 Eggs

Filling

  • 2 lbs Ground Beef
  • 1 Small Onion, diced
  • 4 cups Cabbage, chopped
  • 2 tsp Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper

Instructions

Dough

  1. Start by placing 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt into a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Either in a small saucepan over medium heat or a microwave safe bowl, heat the milk, water, and butter to 120-130 degrees F. 
  3. Pour heated wet ingredients into flour mixture. Stir slightly before adding beaten eggs. 
  4. Continue by adding the remaining flour, one cup at a time, until when kneaded the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic. 
  5. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. 

Filling

  1. While dough is rising, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain.
  2. Stir in the chopped cabbage, seasoned salt, and pepper. Stir gently until cabbage is cooked and filling combined.

Assembly

  1. Punch dough down, and divide into 12 equal portions. 
  2. Working with one piece of dough, roll into a rectangle (approx 6 inches x 8 inches in size). 
  3. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of filling into the center of each dough piece. 
  4. Fold dough over filling. Seal and tuck edges. 
  5. Place onto a greased baking sheet (edges can touch). 
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe Notes

Recipe Notes:

  • These freeze well. Make multiple batches (through the baking process) and freeze any cooked extras. When ready to use, thaw and either bake or microwave until heated.
  • Can use 2 (8oz) cans of sauerkraut in place of cabbage.
  • Add a half slice of cheddar cheese to each Runza before sealing pouch for a Cheese Runza version.
  • For a shortcut, use thawed frozen bread dough in place of making the dough from scratch.

Book Review: One Night with a Cowboy

  • Publisher: Forever
  • Publication Date: March 9, 2021
  • Author: Sara Richardson
  • Genre: Western Romance
  • Page Count: 365

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Description

Rodeo cowboy Wes Harding left his family ranch after one reckless mistake cost his loved ones everything. But when his sister needs help, Wes agrees to come home and take the reins of their ranch’s big charity event. However, he didn’t plan for his distracting, stubborn co-hostess. One kiss with Thea throws his world off balance . . . and has Wes craving the family he’s never dared dreamed of.

Single mom Thea Davis doesn’t have time for an inexplicable, toe-curling attraction to Wes Harding—no matter how well he listens or how sweetly he treats her children. Her focus needs to be on holding her fragile family together. But the more time she spends with Wes, the more attached she—and her kids—become. With the week drawing to a close, can Wes convince her to give love a chance before she leaves Silverado Lake—and him—behind for good?

Includes the bonus novella It’s All About that Cowboy by Carly Bloom!


Review

Wes Harding is a seasoned rodeo cowboy with a reckless past and a reputation for being unreliable. But when his sister Jane needed help with a veteran’s retreat, Wes is ready, willing, and able to redeem himself of his unreliable reputation. Little does Wes know that the co-leader of the retreat is a woman that he stood up on a date many years ago.

Thea Davis, a recent widow, is a struggling mother of two children. Even with her hectic schedule, Thea still manages to squeeze in organizing the veteran’s retreat event every year. Unbeknownst to Thea, this year will be different — different because the co-leader of the event isn’t Jane.

The story unfolds through Wes’ and Thea’s points of view. Both Wes and Thea each have their own share of excess baggage that must be overcome. Wes with his feeling of guilt at abandoning his family, and Thea bearing the guilt of requesting a divorce just before the sudden death of her husband in Afghanistan. Can both Wes and Thea overcome their guilt and acknowledge that their heart palpitations and butterfly stomachs are merely the manifestations of their attraction to each other?

One Night with a Cowboy is a heartwarming western romance that contains all the elements that a romance novel should have. Lovable characters abound, and with a backdrop of High Country Texas, how can you not love such a romantic setting. Five loving stars.

I received a finished paperback copy of the novel from Forever. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.