Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday {39}: The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

“Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


Okay, so it was the lovely cover that caught my attention. Then I discovered that this was by M.J. Rose and knew that it had to go immediately on my to be read list. And I really enjoy reading about jewelers, which seems to be popping up a bit lately.

Title: The Secret Language of Stones
Author: M. J. Rose
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: July 19, 2016
As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.
Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.
So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.
But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.
So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.

What are you lovelies waiting for?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Recipe Box: Cocoa Snickerdoodles

I’ve been playing around with transforming my favorite traditional snickerdoodle recipe into a cocoa snickerdoodle recipe. I’ve tried several recipes for chocolate snickerdoodles that I found online but the cookie just didn’t have that same fluffy texture of my original recipe. So, I decided to take the recipe that I loved and transform it.  

The first few tries were a bit of a nightmare because I decided to melt baking chocolate and make ganache like when making a chocolate cake. The dough ended up too wet and the cookies ended up spreading out onto the entire baking sheet. On my next try, I added more flour, which made the dough too tough. The cookies came out as hard as hockey pucks.  

So, I ended up running out of baking chocolate and, honestly, I was too lazy to run to the store, so I grabbed the cocoa powder—a much wiser choice. So, I ended up swapping out ¾ cup of flour for ¾ cup of cocoa and it worked on the first try.

I hope you enjoy.
1 ½ cups sugar                         ½ cup stick butter
½ cup shortening                      2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour            ¾ cup of cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar       1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Place in separate bowl and set aside
¼ cup sugar                             2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Preheat Oven to 400° F
If using a convection oven that doesn’t automatically convert the temperature, preheat to 375° F
1.     In a medium bowl, sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt. Add ¾ cup of cocoa powder and whisk until incorporated.
2.     In a large bowl, mix 1 ½ cups sugar, ½ cup shortening, 2 large eggs, ½ cup stick butter. Stir in dry ingredients.
3.     Shape dough into 1 ¼ inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
4.     Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.


Do you enjoy playing around with recipes?

What’s your favorite cookie recipe?

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from her past begin rematerializing in her life, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha plunges into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by repurposing the tools of literature and decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own novels.

Publisher: Touchstone | Release Date: March 2016 | Genre: Fiction | Source:  Publisher| Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: Pick Your Own Genre: Contemporary
Samantha Whipple is the last Brontë descendant. She’s also believed to be the heir to a hoard of long-lost Brontë treasures that the world would like to get their hands on. Before his death Samantha’s father and well-known author devoted his life to finding these treasures yet Samantha knows nothing about them. Although things begin to change when Samantha arrives at Oxford and her father’s collection of Brontë novels with his handwritten notes in the margins start arriving mysteriously. She now has the missing pieces to the treasure hunt, now all she needs is to figure out how to use them to unravel the mystery. With her professors help, Samantha starts unravelling the mysteries within the novels and begins to learn more about her father and herself.
Seeing as this was about the Brontës’ I knew I had to read it, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. And while parts were a bit slow and other’s a bit predictable, I rather enjoyed this literary scavenger hunt.
Samantha wasn’t the easiest character to like. She’s very naïve. At times, even though she was the narrator, she was distant.  Her reasoning and her thought process is often outlandish.  And at times, she came off as a petulant child pretending to be an adult. She also uses witty comebacks rather than dealing with her problems. I spent most of the novel wanting to shake her and tell her to start behaving like an actual human adult.
Yet, I found that I really liked Samantha. Once you realize that Samantha was raised by a very eccentric father who was obsessed with decoding the Brontë novels, her odd behavior is actually understandable. She has a lot of life lessons to learn and a bit of growing up to do and it was fun watching her realize what she needs to do.
James Orville, her professor, was an interesting character. Even though the novel is told from Samantha’s POV, I found that I got a very good sense of who James was and I really liked him. He sort of has this Mr. Rochester thing going on—no, he doesn’t have a wife in the attic—yet, he’s broody, sometimes slightly arrogant, and like Rochester does with Jane, he challenges Samantha and isn’t afraid of making her realize there’s more going on than what she believes.
He also has a deep love/hate relationship with the Brontë family and their work and it was this that allowed Samantha to form a bond with him. And I really enjoyed his take on the novels.
There’s a romance that develops between Samantha and her professor, James Orville III. It’s a very slow building romance due to their professor/student relationship and I found that I really enjoyed watching it develop. He pushes her to think differently and she challenges him to be more open minded.
This novel is centers around Samantha unravelling a mystery that her father left her. Throughout the novel, she is searching for her inheritance, which her father called ‘The Warnings of Experience’. This search causes her to do some questionable things that makes sense given the way she was raised. I found the clues really interesting although as a Brontë fan, I had to question how Samantha, who was raised on the work of the  Brontës since birth, missed what was glaringly obvious. I picked up each clue from the very start.
So, this was an interesting novel. Although, I believe, for a reader to fully enjoy this novel, they need to have knowledge of both the work and the lives of the Brontës. Even though this book is set in the modern world with modern characters, the Brontës (and the characters they created) are almost like characters in this novel.
There’s a few things that I would have changed, such as expanding the ending to see more of the mature Samantha she became and to know what happened after her search.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was very different from what I’ve read and I found myself unable to put it down.  The beginning did start slow, and Samantha’s narration takes a bit of getting used to, yet fans of the Brontë family and their work will find to be a delightful tale. Although if you do read this, be patient with Samantha, she has a bit growing to do.  

Do you have a favorite Brontë novel?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday {38}: Much Ado About Highlanders by May McGoldrick

“Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Ooh, look at this cover. It’s all purple and pretty and now. It’s a petable cover. But it was the hero that drew my attention. He’s a Highlander who lost his wife and now is remarrying to strength his clan.
I have a feeling Alexander is going to swoon worthy.
Title: Much Ado About Highlanders
Author: May McGoldrick
Publisher: Swerve, an imprint of St. Martin's Press
Release Date: May 3, 2016
In the heart of Scotland, this Highlander is about to meet his match in a brand new romance from bestseller May McGoldrick.
Highland warrior Alexander Macpherson has lost his wife. When he agreed to take Kenna Mackay as his bride to advance his clan’s power in the north, he expected a bit of an adjustment. He didn't expect the sharp-tongued beauty to run away on their wedding night. Still, Alexander wants his runaway bride…and he has the sneaking suspicion that she wants him, too.
Kenna Mackay thought she was safe in a priory full of nuns learning the craft of healing, but when she is kidnapped by her own husband, the battle of wits begins anew. But even as passions ignite, a deadly secret from Kenna's past rises to the surface and put their new love in jeopardy. As a heartless villain closes in, two headstrong lovers find themselves locked in a struggle between evil and the power of undying love. And this time, Alexander is determined he will not lose his wife again.

What are you lovelies waiting for?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Recipe Box: Crock Pot Chicken and Rice

So, I was without an oven for nearly a month thanks it my old one croaking and the new one being on backorder, so I had to get creative and break out the crock pot, which I’ve never actually used before.
My mother makes this amazing baked chicken and rice dish, so I thought I would experiment making this in the crock pot. I honestly had no idea that I could actually cook rice in a crock pot, so I searched around online until I found out that I could indeed make rice in a crock pot.
It was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. There’s a few things I’m going to change when I make it again, but it was actually rather good.
•3-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
•2 10 oz can cream of mushroom soup
•1 large onion, chopped
•1 cup of chopped mushrooms—fresh or canned
•3 c long grain rice, uncooked (not minute rice)
•3 c water
•salt and pepper to taste

1. Add rice, water, salt and pepper, cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms, and onions to your slow cooker and mix together. Place your chicken breasts on the top.
2. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours then turn to low for the remaining 2 hours until chicken and rice are done.
3. Cut up chicken and serve on a bed of rice or mixed together in a bowl.
A few things I’m going to try next time:
-I’m going to cut down on the amount of rice I use because that was a ton of rice.
-Instead of water, I’m going to use chicken broth to season the rice a bit.
-I’m also going to add in a package of frozen peas and carrots.
Have you ever made a dish in the crock pot?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Fling Giveaway Hop

Hello Lovelies!


Spring has sprung and love is in the air! We’re sharing our favorite romantic reads! There’s a giveaway at every blog so visit them all and see what reads have us all in a swoon this month.

I love Spring. It’s such a lovely season. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and you know what they say, Springtime is ring time so what better time is there to spring into a romance book?

I’m giving away 4 of my favorite books.

US Only

To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite thing about Spring. And please leave a valid email address.


Want to earn an extra entry.  Visit me on Facebook and comment on the pinned post what your favorite book is.

Giveaway Ends April 21st Winner will be announced on April

Make sure you follow along and visit each blog

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Audiobook Review: Time and Again by Deborah Heal Narrated by Michelle Babb

An old house + A new computer program = The travel opportunity of a another century.

Abby Thomas is spending the summer in a run-down old house with a bratty pre-teen named Merrideth she is supposed to tutor. Not a dream job. But it does come with perks.

There's John Roberts, a devastatingly attractive neighbor who is almost too wonderful to be real.

And there's the new computer program Beautiful Houses--also too amazing to be real. No one knows how it works, but with it she can rewind and fast-forward the lives of all the people who ever lived in the house, including Charlotte Miles.

In 1858, the house is a train stop on the Alton & Chicago Line. And Charlotte is stuck there serving meals to the passengers, wondering if she'll ever get to have any fun. And then she meets two travelers who change her life forever.

There's James McGuire with whom she falls in love. And there's his boss, a young Springfield lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. His debate with political opponent Stephen Douglas catapults him onto the national stage. And it inspires Charlotte to take up the cause of abolition.

The House

A stop on the Alton & Chicago Line. A stop on the Underground Railroad.

Watching the house's history unfold, Abby and Merrideth gain a new perspective on their own lives as time and again they see God's loving hand in the lives of its inhabitants.

Series: History Mystery #1 | Narrator: Michelle Babb  | Publisher: Write Brain Books| Genre: ? |Length: 5 hours 12 minutes  | Source: Narrator| Rating: Performance: 4.5 Cups Plot: 3.5 Overall: 4 

When Abby Thomas decided to become a tutor for her Summer service job, she never imagined that she would be staying in an old dilapidated house trying to teach an attitude-clad Merrideth who would rather grumble and eat junk food than actually learn. Although when Merrideth discovers that her computer program, Beautiful Houses, is more than just a game, she’s eager to use its time traveling ability and find out more about the residents of Miles Station, especially Charlotte Miles, the young lady that lived in the house during the 1850’s. Soon Meredith and Abby are learning first-hand about Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and the cause of abolition.
Thrown in throughout the story is Abby’s attraction to John Roberts and Merrideth’s journey of figuring out who is she and how to handle her parent’s divorce.
Okay, so I enjoyed Time and Again although it wasn’t really what I was expecting it to be and, honestly, I’m not entire sure what genre to classify it as. It’s sort of a mix of Christian YA, time-travel (sort of), historical, and romance, yet I can’t really lump it into just one of these genres.
What threw me with this one was that Audible has it labeled under ‘mysteries and thrillers’ then subcategorized as ‘suspense’. Plus, the name of this series is ‘History Mystery’. Honestly, it’s not either of these. Yes, there’s a lot of talk about the characters having a ‘Nancy Drew Summer’ and there’s a few discoveries but there was actually no mystery or suspense involved.
At the start, it was a bit hard to like both Abby, who seems a bit judgmental, and Merrideth, who has this angsty, I-hate-the-world thing going on. Yet as the novel progressed, I found that both characters become enjoyable as they finally decide to work together rather than fight against each other. And I really enjoyed how Abby and Merrideth bonded. With her mother working and her father out of the picture, Merrideth was kind of pushed to the side so it was nice to see Abby taking her under her wing. I also like watching Merrideth show kindness to her neighbor and eventually making friends with him. There’s also a slight romance developing between Abby and John.
It was also nice to go back in time and get the history of the house, watch Charlotte’s life unfold and see her fall in love, and discover what was happening in Miles Station. Although right when I was really getting in to the heart of Charlotte’s story, the book ended. I would have liked to have seen more of her story.
The time-travel aspect wasn’t exactly what I would consider time traveling. Rather than physically going back in time, Abby and Merredeth watched the past unfold on a computer via a computer program as though they were watching a movie.
I really enjoyed Michelle Babb as the narrator. She really held my attention and brought the characters to life. Part of the book came off as choppy, but it was more so the dialogue rather than the narration.
Overall, I thought that this was a cute young adult book. It’s Christian fiction yet it wasn’t preachy. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. The ending felt a bit abrupt, and, as this is the first part in a series, not all of the contemporary threads have been fully developed. Although I have to say, I look forward to reading more from this series.

History Mystery Series
3-Every Hill and Mountain  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday {37}: The Trouble with Temptation by Shiloh Walker

“Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine,, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


I’ve heard amazing things about Shiloh Walker’s books, but this one completely caught my attention. It seems like it’s going to have a bit of suspense thrown in, plus I’m kind of curious about the amnesia angle.  

Title: The Trouble with Temptation
Author:  Shiloh Walker
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Love is the greatest risk of all.
 After seven days in a coma, Hannah Parker remembers nothing about the accident that landed her in the hospital—or how she ended up pregnant with Brannon’s baby, the man she’s loved since high school. Her body and heart have burned for him for years, and when she wakes up, he’s sleeping by her bedside, anxious to keep her safe at all costs. But as Hannah struggles with her amnesia, a threat looms closer—one that could have deadly consequences if she recovers her memories. She will have to trust Brannon completely if she is to keep what haunts her at bay…and their baby safe….
Brannon McKay spent the last ten years fantasizing about Hannah. In his mind, he’s explored every passionate scenario he can think of while, in real life, Brannon took their budding relationship and threw it away with both hands. Hannah doesn’t remember what happened but now that she is awake, Brannon would rather die than watch her walk away again. When Hannah and his unborn child’s lives are threatened, Brannon must stake claim to the woman who has held his heart captive for years…or risk disaster tearing them apart…

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Darkness by Karen Robards

BOOM. That’s the sound that changes everything for Dr. Gina Sullivan, a renowned ornithologist on a group research grant trip on the remote island of Attu, Alaska. When an everyday outing turns sinister at the onset of one of Attu’s infamous storms, Gina expects thunder and lightning—but what she doesn’t see coming is the small jet plane that drops out of the sky and into the water mere feet from her boat. Even more unprecedented: there’s a sole survivor from the crash, and he needs Gina’s help. But it turns out that rescuing the stranger and getting them both out of the oncoming storm is just the beginning. Because the more Gina learns about James “Cal” Callahan, he of brooding eyes and muscled frame, the more she fears—for herself, and for him.

Cal has made a career of trading on government secrets and emerging unscathed—until a routine pickup goes horribly wrong and lands him in ice-cold water. Literally. He knows the plane crash was no accident and that there could very well be an enemy force currently combing the Alaskan island ensuring there were no survivors. Now if only the arrestingly beautiful bird-watcher with the clear-blue gaze would stop watching him, well, like a hawk. Cal convinces Gina to return to base camp and help him covertly get off the island. But when Gina makes it safely back to camp and finds her entire team murdered, all bets are off, and as darkness envelops the island, she must decide: trust a man she barely knows, or go it alone and risk running straight into the arms of a killer?

Publisher: Gallery | Release Date: March 29, 2016 | Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Thriller (a slight romance) | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5

Challenges Read For: Pick Your Own Genre: Contemporary

A plane crash survivor and an ornithologist must rely on each other if they want to survive.
There’s a lot that could go wrong for Dr. Gina Sullivan, an ornithologist, during her research trip on the remote island of Attu, Alaska. So she wasn’t surprised when a severe thunderstorm pops up while she’s out tracking a pair of white-tailed eagles. Although she wasn’t prepared for the plane crash that happened right in front of her or the survivor she fished out of the freezing water.
James ‘Cal’ Callahan, a private contractor for the military and former Special Ops, knows that the plane crash wasn’t an accident. Someone wants him dead and the high-grade military secret he’s carrying destroyed. When Gina rescues him, he’s not sure if he can trust her and he knows she doesn’t trust him but when the majority of her research team are murdered, they have no choice but to stick together. If they want to survive, they must brave Attu’s unpredictable climate and it’s treacherous terrain while fleeing the small army of mercenaries who wants Cal dead.
So, this was an interesting suspense novel.
Gina was likable. She’s been through a lot, she lost most of her family in a plane crash, including her fiancé, yet she’s brave enough to brave the conditions of Attu to follow her passion.  Yet in some ways, she’s a bit whiney, internally and externally and that started to be annoying. Yes, she’s been through a lot but the whining started to get a bit much.
Cal was standoffish at the start and that kind of made him a bit hard to like. Yes, he’s guarding military secrets, yes he was betrayed by those he thought he could trust, yes he doesn’t know who is after him but it made it really hard to get to know him.
I liked the suspense. It didn’t exactly keep me at the edge of my seat but it keep me reading. Parts were a bit predictable, yet it still held my attention. I was expecting a bit more since it labeled as a thriller, but it was still an interesting read. I think the thriller aspect came more into play due to the remote location, the fact that they were stranded and basically alone.
The romance just seemed a bit off to me. Especially the sex scene, it was kind of like ‘hey, we’re being chased by these killers who really want us dead, but instead of getting rest or thinking up a plan of action, we’re going to shag in this cave/bunker then I’m going to spill my entire life story to you’.  
While I liked the plot, I did have a few questions. Like, how probable is it for a small plane to crash in front of someone who was the lone survivor of a small plane crash.  I also found myself wondering how Cal, who sustained a gunshot wound before the plane crashed, was able to climb mountains and carry Gina with the bullet still lodged in his side without bleeding to death. I also found it a bit off that, while running for her life, Gina had time to make remarks about the birds she spotted. Yes, she’s an ornithologist it could be an automatic coping mechanism, but honestly, the mating habits of egrets would be the last thing on my mind if a small army of mercenaries were hunting me down.
Overall, while some aspects had me scratching my head, I found myself enjoying this one. The beginning starts off a little slow, but the pacing does manage to even out. And I really like the isolated setting. It almost becomes another character.

What do you like to see in suspense novel?