Recipe for a great book

Happy Thorsday, little friday, thankful thursday and everything else!  Gretchen wants to know what you thought of all of the dog commercials during the Super Bowl,  but I want to talk about dogs, magic, baking and books!

Two different authors stumbled upon a great recipe for a cozy series.  You take a bakery, add some magic, a sassy, smart terrier, a couple of hunky (human!) men, well-meaning family, and voila!  Each series also has a firefighter or two in it, so seriously… what’s not to love?!

piespredNaturally, after just finishing Pride and Prejudice, I jumped into Pies and Prejudice, the first book in the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, another series by Ellery Adams.  Just look at the cute cuss, Charleston Chew, aka: Chewy!  What else do you need to know?!

Ella Mae LaFaye heads home after catching her husband red-head-handed, and opens a pie shop with her mom and aunts as not so silent partners.  Of course, heading home means lots of conflict with her childhood nemesis and finding an old flame or two.  You can see the magic in the pies on the cover art, but you’ll have to read the book to figure it out!

#2 in the series is Peach Pies and Alibis, and #3 is already out… but my librarian hasn’t sent it to me yet.  Think Steel Magnolias meets Charmed… in a pie shop, with a firefighter who also owns the local doggy daycare.  (Oh Gretchen…  I think Chewy wants you to attend school with him…)

brownies_broomsticksIn the same but different vein comes The Lightfoot Chronicles by Bailey Cates, starting with Brownies and Broomsticks.  Don’t be fooled by Honeybee the cat on the cover; the reader quickly meets Mungo, a black Cairn terrier who adopts Katie Lightfoot when she ditches her former fiance and moves to Savannah to open a bakery with her aunt and uncle.  Her uncle’s a retired fire chief, but her aunt is a hedgewitch… not that Katie knows that before we all find out as the story unfolds.  Of course, her uncle has a favorite firefighter about Katie’s age… but Katie also is drawn to a local reporter…

I devoured book #2 in this series too.  Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti is heavy on the magic, but most of the witches have pet familiars, so Mungo and Honeybee have play dates with a parrot and a Great Dane too.  If you aren’t comfortable with magic as a rather real part of life (and the plot!) this series definitely isn’t for you, but it’s really no darker than MacBeth and the three witches.

Both series also feature some tempting recipes at the end of each book.  Have you ever used a recipe from a work of fiction?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give thanks for the Knight and his knack for finding things I can’t put my hands on… and they’re usually somewhere I’d already looked (and looked right over them, somehow).  I’m also grateful for the very devoted DIVA who paces with me when I’m a little manic, and for the sweet little snuggler always waiting for me to be still long enough for her to help soothe me.

And I can’t thank you enough.  Friends both near and far have been so very supportive, and it means more than I can say.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so tardy with thank you notes, but what’s truly special about my friends and family is you know that and I don’t even need to apologize for falling off the Emily Post wagon.   I am blessed, and I know it.

Here I am … turn the page

(Thank you, Bob Seger. )

There’s not much I care to reflect upon from 2013, but I do want to tell you about a few books.  See, that’s the one thing that seems to be working for me, other than running.  (Yes, running is bad for my back, but it’s good for my soul so…  we’re running some.)

Heck, I don’t even know where I left off telling you about books, so I’ll hit the high points.

thecheesecakequeen-v1-final-199x300I bridged from 2013 into 2014 with our very own, darling Duck’s Cheesecake Queen.  (Lookie there!  She’s an Amazon author!  Wooo!)  It was just the thing I needed during a post-Christmas, difficult time in a not-friendly town.

Here’s her publisher’s link for more information, but what you really need to know is that it’s a sweet little read with characters who will make you laugh, make you grunt (okay, maybe  you’re too ladylike to grunt when a character is annoying, but …), and definitely, it will make you crave creamy, rich cheesecake in flavors you haven’t imagined before.

It’s really exciting to have a friend who is PUBLISHED.  It’s even more fun when she asks you to review her book AND give away a free copy.  So, in the spirit of the Sugar sisters and Miranda by any of the other names you might know her by, all you have to do to be eligible for the drawing is make up your own cheesecake – or pie, if you are sure you don’t love cheesecake – fusion blend.   The combination of flavors that tickles me the most (good, bad or for reasons I can’t imagine right now) will get a digital copy of this delicious book.

CONTEST COMMENTS MUST BE POSTED BEFORE 9 PM EASTERN TIME, FEBRUARY 2, 2014.   Winner will be contacted by email, so make sure I have an email address for you.

After such a sweet treat, I wanted something meatier, so I opened All Roads Lead to Austen via my Kindle app on my trusty iPad.  I quickly realized I’d never read Pride and Prejudice, so when I discovered it was already on my Nook (app) waiting to be read, I flipped right over and read that, then finished ARLtA.  If you haven’t read anything by Austen, you should.  I’m definitely no Janite (rabid fan), so don’t look for me to wax poetic telling you how much like Lizzy I am.  The Knight’s no Mr. Darcy either, in case  you were wondering, although one of my co-workers did joke today and ask what kind of bet I lost to end up married to a man so different from me.  Still, I enjoyed Ms. Smith’s account of an Austen South American sabbatical, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never re-read it.

After that, I gave in and started on another classic I’ve never read – Stephanie Plum.   I read the first three and have already ordered 4-6, and predict the rest of the series will float on in too.  Given that my father worked for a company with a service center in Trenton (New Jersey), I was willing to give the series a chance.  Add in a rather non-traditional, female, untrained bounty hunter and two manly men watching her back, and I have yet another series to devour.

If you’re a Plum fan…  Morelli or Ranger?

Cozy Reading Weather

Here’s a brief rundown on what I’ve read in the past week or so.  One nice thing about a rather chilly, windy time at the beach and lots of cold rain is all the pages I can turn!  (The books aren’t listed in the order I read them, but rather, from ho-hum to page-turner.)

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree – (Kindle) Barely a novella at 29 pages, but if you’re looking for a seasonal short story, it’s pleasant enough.

Good Night Sleep Tight Don’t Let the Stalkers Bite – (Kindle) The first in the second series by Teresa Watson, I really had a hard time getting into it.  Luckily, Ms. Watson inserts a devoted dog character into her books, so for the Malamute named Duke’s sake, I kept plodding along until I discovered I wasn’t trying so much after all.  It’s full of cliches, but if you like cozies, dogs and have ever known someone that trouble just seems to find, it’s worth the read.


Courtesy of Amazon

Courtesy of Amazon

A Murder Hatched – (Kindle) is actually the first TWO books in Donna Andrew’s Meg Langslow series.  Meg’s parents still live in Yorktown, which isn’t too far from my Woods, and the first book is set in the little town.  The cast of characters is pretty typical of small towns around these parts; that’s one reason I’ve come to appreciate cozy mysteries.  They tend to be set in small towns and the main character has crazy friends/family and everyone minds everyone else’s business, just like here in podunk.

I’m looking forward to “seeing” more of Meg at work as a blacksmith.  Of course, Meg’s mama is about as traditional of a southern lady as they come, so Meg manages to smith and still be maid of honor three times in one summer in the first book.  If you enjoyed the characters in Steel Magnolias (or had thoughts about the people you know who might have inspired said characters), you’ll like this series.  I might have already downloaded the next book in the series.

Divergent – (Kindle) gets my highest marks for the books I’ve read.  It’s also definitely NOT cozy.  It falls into the dystopian category, and I know a few of you don’t care for that genre at all.  I’m torn between starting the second book in the series and between book #3 in the above-mentioned series, because I am quite interested in finding out what happens next to Tris/Beatrice.  It’s another rights of passage with a female main character series, but I can’t bring myself to call it young adult fiction.  Yes, like many of the popular series of late – Twilight, Hunger Games and more – the main characters are in their late teens, but the settings and themes are rather dark, and in my mind…  young adult fiction is really a polite phrase for teen lit, and this isn’t sappy, high school drama lama stuff.

Of course, I should explain that my favorite book I read in college was Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, so it’s time for me to swallow hard and admit I enjoy reading dystopian literature, especially when the protagonist is a female making tough choices and trying to find her way.

All in all, I’ve read over 1300 pages in the past 10 days or so, not including board reports and the first of the holiday letters arriving in our mailbox.  There’s almost no way I’ll make my goal of 100 books this year, even if I add a few more very short ones to the list, so I’m not even going to try to fake it.

Have you had time for any reading lately?

Gift of Fear

414Zq7nPGKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-52,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Some of you are still praying and sending good vibes for Alexis, and I thank you.  Her family thanks you, and Save the Next Girl thanks you.   But the JLC (Junior League of Charlottesville) wanted to do something to honor our member-friend (Alexis’s aunt), so one of our awesome leaders scheduled The Gift of Fear as our October book club selection, with the blessing of Alexis’s aunt.

I’d say I’m the only fairly well-read woman in America who is late to the “party” with this best-seller, but at least one other book club regular hadn’t even heard of it either, and I know of at least one other friend who keeps up with reading trends who hasn’t read it yet… but is aware of the book.

I confess…  If a League friend hadn’t promoted the book as a show of support for our friend, as something tangible we could do to make ourselves and our community safer…  I wouldn’t have read it.   I mean…  I was a fire fighter.  I was a power lifter.  I went to college in Washington, DC and am not an unaware country mouse.

… and I got so much out of this book, especially from sharing it with other strong women who found so much value in its pages.   The very short version is… trust your instincts.  Listen to your intuition, and don’t worry about being polite if  you feel threatened, even if you can’t put your finger on “it” so to speak.

Have you read the book?

Do you listen to your intuition?

Has your intuition saved you?



The Returns

41tX-NwWwZL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-70,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I needed really light reading this week, and basically blogless Susan was kind enough to let me know last weekend when The Returns was free again.


Look at that cover.  Talk about an angel!!  Swoon…  I’m a sucker for damp baby basset ears and those big ol’ freckled feet, and if you are a basset fan too, click over and click through to the author’s page.   Her basset, also named Bentley – just like the basset in this book – is one handsome dude, with a wild … well, click over and see if you see it!!

Oh, it’s a silly story.   Think All Dogs Go to Heaven with a slightly adult twist, and instead of an animated movie, it’s a book.   And it’s set in New Orleans, so what’s not to love?  Sigh.  I’m a sucker for shrimp and grits and beignets too.  Anyway, if you don’t take yourself or your reading too seriously and like dogs, you might enjoy it.   It does talk a lot about angels, God and heaven as the cover art suggests, so if you prefer to avoid such, consider yourself warned.

Now, I’m doing some rather heavy reading for book club, The Gift of Fear.    It’s yet another book I wouldn’t have sought out on my own, but the woman coordinating this month’s selection is a dear, sweet, AWESOME friend, and she is passionate about this book.  It’s also our way to honor our fellow League member whose niece is still missing.  Life is going on, but Alexis is not forgotten.  I got rather misty at work today when I saw a Facebook post… She was named captain of the volleyball team before her disappearance, and the team they played this week honored her with the sweetest pink roses…

What are you reading?

Dud or Doosie

Long, long ago, I began blogging so I could participate in swaps.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in a swap, but the awesome Kathyb hosts a great swap and this was fun.   

UntitledThe envelope arrived from Katherine.   It was filled with goodies.  The rules were simple; replace what you take with something of equal value, but if you open the closed package inside, you have to take what’s within.

I’m not good with not knowing, so…  I opened the little envelope.  As the writing on the outside suggested, there might be something neat or not inside.   I don’t know who put the item in there, but thank you!

UntitledI like the little project bag, and I also took the rusty orange – er, squash – Skinny Dyed Cotton.  Pardon the quick, sloppy photo, but doesn’t it scream fall? 

What does it want to be? 

In Wen news, I cleansed again yesterday afternoon.  I used 6 pumps initially, rinsed, and then put 2 pumps on the “ponyail” section as more of a conditioner, let it marinade for a while, then rinsed.

Today, it’s drizzly.  My hair is a little frizzy, but my scalp didn’t tingle and it’s not greasy so far today.   I honestly don’t know whether I’ll Wen again tomorrow or not.  Maybe the bottom half of my hair looks a little healthier, but I’m not sure.   I really expected to either love Wen or hate it, and … thus far, I’m ambivalent.   I don’t know whether I’d classify Wen as a dud or a doosie!

Now…  A New Leash on Death was definitely a doosie.  Susan Conant’s Dog Lovers Mysteries are new to me, and no surprise, this dog lover loved the first book in the series.  It’s not a new series, and I found myself laughing at the pay phone reference early in the book, but the author knows a thing or two about the world of dog shows, and about dogs.  I’ve already started the second book in the series.

Any duds or doosies in your world?



Pen Names

So, I finished The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend.   Sadly, book club was canceled due to my own family comes first change of plans and one of the three remaining attendees begged off too.  It was better than I was expecting, so don’t hold JKR’s first adult novel against Cuckoo and give it a read if you like a mystery set in London.

But can someone explain the art of pen names to me?  I kinda’ get why Rowling decided to publish this book as Robert Galbraith, but Basically Bloggless Susan and I spent part of the weekend trying to figure out why cozy writers who clearly have a good formula insist upon having a different pen name for every series they write.

See, here’s where the logic goes out the window.  These people aren’t best selling ever children’s lit writers whose first attempt at adult lit wasn’t so awesome.  They’re solid little, soft mystery with a theme of some sort writers who would likely have readers follow them from series to series if they’d make it easy for us and not change names every time the setting and main characters change.  Their publishers – or their own blogs – usually out them in a short order anyway, so …  I don’t get it.  It would be so much simpler to search on Amazon for more books by the same author if they’d just use the same name!

Sorry for the lack of a photo.  I don’t get the cover art for Cuckoo and my work computer really struggles with photos in WordPress anyway…

What are you reading?


Between the Lines

I did a lot of reading over the weekend.  I read a few more Annie’s Attic books, and then picked up Between the Lines Saturday night.   I like Jodi Picoult, but the endings of her books always put me off, so I was hoping that having a co-author would temper that.

It did.  The book is solidly teen lit, and the co-author happens to be her daughter.   For the first several chapters, I kept reading only because one of the characters is a beautiful basset hound named Frump.  Eventually, I found myself turning pages because I wanted to see how it ended.

It was a pleasant book, but aside from some tender kisses, I’d classify it more as an older youth read than teen lit.  Yeah, the main characters are teens, but the themes in the book are ones most well-rounded children could grasp.

It was an interesting premise, but I don’t want to say too much in case some of you care to read it.   The general gist is a teenage girl – Delilah – is rather obsessed with a fairy tale, because she’s drawn to the main character, a teenage prince named Oliver.  Delilah and Oliver are both being raised by single mothers.  Somehow, Delilah can hear Oliver, so the book jumps back and forth from Delilah’s point of view, Oliver’s, and the actual little story itself.  Oliver and Delilah spend the book trying to get Oliver out of the book and into … reality. 

Now, I’m plowing through The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling under the pen name of Robert Galbraith.  It’s the September JLC book club #1 offering.  (We’re up to 3 book clubs at the moment, and yes, I’m in all of them.)  I didn’t want to like it, but one of my book club friends had warned me that it would suck me right in, and it has.  I’ll review it later; we meet on Thursday, so I only have two nights to finish, and I have meetings and this inconvenient thing called work too.  Hrmph.

Sorry for the lack of photos, but such is life with a grumpy old computer.  I could blog from home… but see above.  I’m busy reading!

Two New (to me) Series

Courtesy of Amazon

Courtesy of Amazon

After talking about weaving last week, imagine my surprise when the first book in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, Last Wool and Testament, turned out to feature weaving. 

It was an easy read and the characters are entertaining, but unfortunately, I had correctly guessed whodunnit very early into things.  However, there were still plenty of twists and turns, so I was still a little surprised at the end.

I will note that if snakes make you squirm… well, it’s not exactly a spoiler, but consider yourself warned.   There’s one scene/chapter that caused me to put my feet up, and pet Gretchen lots.  I was relieved that I did NOT end up having bad dreams about snakes that night, but the Knight says it’s because Gretchen kept them away.  (Remember?  I’ve suggested the girl needs to take up knitting and quit snake hunting.)

Next up was the start of the Creative Women series, also done by Annie’s Attic, following the same, multi-author format as the Annie’s Attic series.   The parallels between the two series would be highly annoying if the characters weren’t so well-done and likeable.  Both main characters are young widows.  There are fraternal, male-female, twin “children” in both series, in Annie’s, they are her grands, and in CW, they are Shannon’s children.  Both Annie and Shannon inherit big ol’ houses from their grandmothers, and obviously, both series are all but set in a craft shop.

I’m just into book #3 in the CW series, but so far, I like it better than AA.  Basically Bloggless Susan says it’s because the CW mysteries are a little more developed, but I’m not sure…  I think maybe I just like Shannon better than Annie.  Both women are roughly the same age, but Shannon is more relatable for me.

My reading goal for 2013 was 100 books, and unless I cheat and add some low-page-count children’s books (The Jack Russell Detective books maybe?), I think I’m going to fall short.  Right now, it appears I’ll finish up around the 75 (give or take) that I read last year.   This is why I don’t do resolutions and goals!  I don’t want to read just for the sake of reading.

Have you discovered any new series or authors lately?

Missing Pieces Mysteries

PDF template.inddAh, more cozy mysteries, courtesy of the basically bloggless Susan.  I’d read the first book in the series, A Timely Vision, some time ago.  (Sadly, I don’t know when because I only started keeping an annual reading spreadsheet in 2012…)  So, I skimmed it yesterday to refresh my memory and then devoured the next three books.

The series is set in Duck, Outer Banks, North Carolina.   The first book makes a couple of serious landmark/geographical errors, but they still didn’t stop me – or Susan, who has almost life-long vacation roots in OBX – from being fond of the series.  In fact, I’m left wondering if it is coincidence or not that the fire chief in the series is a female.  Duck’s chief is, and there’s an officer in the Southern Shores FD who was a school teacher.  Hmmm…  maybe the authors did learn from their mistakes in the first book and get to know the area?

Heck, even the roofline on the cover of book #1 isn’t unfamiliar to me.  I’d argue it’s a blue, embellished version of a little yellow victorian in Kitty Hawk, but what do I know?

The main character is the very awesome Dae O’Donnell, mayor of Duck, and proprietor of the Missing Pieces shop on the boardwalk.  Her grandfather is the retired sheriff, and of course, there’s a rugged, good-looking former FBI agent running the old inn in town, and everyone knows Dae.  As a family friend and former boss of mine once put it, “They’ll mind all of your business but they won’t pay your bills.”  Yup.  That’s life in a small town, even when that tiny town of roughly 500 year ’round citizens booms into the tens of thousands of residents in the peak summer season.

ASpiritedGiftSmallOf course, Dae gets herself into trouble, but you’ll have to read the series to find out how, and how she gets herself deeper into trouble en route to finding her way out of it at the end.  So far, book #3 A Spirited Gift, is my favorite of the series.  While the authors call it lore, I call it OBX local history, because far be it for me to draw the line between history and a good ghost story, especially in a place as other-worldly as the Outer Banks, where an early British settlement disappeared without a trace, and where Blackbeard himself hid out – and those are undisputed facts.

If you roll your eyes during a ghost story, then this probably isn’t the series for you, although the County Sheriff – not Dae’s grandfather, but his replacement – isn’t much of a believer either, and yet he still finds himself working with Dae and the more open-minded law men in her life – including the Duck Police Chief.

While Duck isn’t “my” part of the Outer Banks, I’ve spent some time there and I do love that women play key roles in the local government in this series, and in “real life.”  I don’t know that natives call themselves “Bankers” but I can assure you that the unflappable folks who make those barrier islands their home are far more interested in capabilities than traditional gender roles, and most of them love to tell ghost stories.  It’s never occurred to me to inquire whether they believe the tales or not.

Maybe part of the reason I loved #3 so much is because it opens with an unassuming little hurricane that does far more damage than anyone expected.  That’s par for the course in the Outer Banks.  The very islands themselves ebb and flow with the tides, as do most of our coastlines.

Speaking of mysteries, there has been an arrest made in the missing teen case, but Alexis has not been found.  Thank you for the good vibes and prayers; I appreciate that you care that I have friends hurting, and Alexis’s family certainly appreciates all the support, near and far.

Have you read anything good recently?