"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, March 17, 2014

BookTrib Presents: Author Wiley Cash Live

Join in next Tuesday, March 18 at 1 PM ET for a Live Chat with New York Times Bestselling author Wiley Cash! Wiley is back with his latest release This Dark Road to Mercy, a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go. Wiley’s last book, A Land More Kind Than Home was hailed as “a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (Richmond Times Dispatch). Don’t miss this engaging live chat on BookTrib!  

See my  review of A Land More Kind Than Home.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook Review

 The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook
Author:  Christina Dymock
Published:  March 2014
Publisher:  Cedar Fort Publishing
Format:  e-book in PDF format
Pages:  168
Source:  Cedar Fort Publishing
ISBN: 978146113620 

It's every busy mother's dream-come-true: dinner that makes itself! With the help of your trusty slow cooker and these healthy, easy recipes like Peppery Cilantro Salmon, Sausage Stew, and Dark Chocolate Mini Cakes, you can put dinner on the table even on the craziest of days. Don t let the whirlwind of life stop you from feeding your family the food they deserve -- delicious, home-cooked meals straight from your slow cooker.  (Amazon)

My thoughts:

I love my slow cooker!  When our children were younger it was a real life saver because I could throw the ingredients in and let it take over.  Regardless of what I had up that day, whether it was volunteering on a field trip or home with a sick kid, I knew a delicious hot meal would be ready when everyone gathered together at the end of the day.  When I went back to work full-time my slow-cooker was a priceless necessity.  

Recently I've discovered new dishes in the slow cooker such as pulled pork sandwiches from a pork loin and barbecued beef on a bun (a lengthy process but so worth it!)  So when author Christina Dymock asked if I would review The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook I enthusiastically said yes.

From chapters on the benefits of slow cooking, caring for your slow cooker, food safety tips to the recipes section which includes beef; poultry; seafood, pork and other good stuff; chili (an entire section of chili recipes!); sides; soups and stews (my favourite section); and desserts; there's sure to be something for everyone!!  There's also a page of measurement equivalents, an index and a few pages for you to make your own notes or add your own tried and true recipes.

If you are in Draper, Utah be sure to check out her book launch party March 27/14!!  There's even a draw for a family-sized slow cooker!

I selected a few recipes to try out to add to this review but I've been down and out with bronchitis so that pretty much put a damper on things.  A trip to the grocery store isn't very appealing at this point.  However, I did have the ingredients for Pumpkin Pudding Cake.  I wanted to do the unusual (for me) in the slow cooker so a dessert it was.  It turned out fine.  The texture was cake like.  I like a bit more flavour so if I were to make it again I'd add more cinnamon and cloves.  There are plenty others I will make like the Dark Chocolate Mini Cake or Berries and Cream.  They look delicious!

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook would be a wonderful gift for the new couple starting out, a young busy family, and the new empty nester (that's me pretty soon).  

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook is available at:

Christina Dymock graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She has been published in Woman’s World magazine and in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is also the author of 101 Things to Do with Popcorn and Young Chefs: Cooking Skills & Recipes for Kids. She resides in Central Utah with her husband and four children.  You can follow their cooking adventures at


Monday, March 10, 2014

Murder With Ganache: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette

Murder With Ganache
Author: Lucy Burdette
Published:  February 2014
Publisher:  Penguin Group
Format:  Mass market paperback
Pages: 308, including recipes
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Hayley Snow, the food critic for Key Zest magazine, has her plate heaped high with restaurant reviews, doughnut and sticky bun tastings, and an article on the Hemingway cats.  But this week she's also in charge of her best friend's wedding.  And then someone adds a side of murder....

For better or worse, Hayley has agreed to bake more than two hundred cupcakes for her friend Connie's wedding while still meeting her writing deadlines.  The last thing she needs is family drama.  But her parents come barreling down the island like a category-three hurricane, and on their first night in town, her stepbrother, Rory, disappears into the spring break party scene in Key West.

When Hayley hears that two teenagers have stolen a Jet Ski, she sets aside her oven mitts and goes in search of Rory.  She finds him, barely conscious, but his female companion isn't so lucky.  Now Hayley has to let the cupcakes cool and assemble the sprinkles of clues to clear her stepbrother's name -- before someone else gets iced.

My thoughts:

Ruined delicious lime cupcakes turn out to be the least of Hayley's problems when family comes to Key West for the wedding of her best friend Connie.  On the night of their arrival, Rory, Hayley's step-brother, disappears and is found unconscious on the deck of a dilapidated sailboat.  Later, the girl he was photographed with the first evening in Key West is found strangled in the water.  Is Rory guilty of her murder or are they both victims?  Determined to find the truth behind the mystery, Hayley sets out to uncover the events of that fateful evening.

Murder With Ganache is an enjoyable cozy mystery that, had I the chance, could be read in a day. Family drama, broken hearts, greed, and evil all reside in the beautiful backdrop of Key West where Lucy Burdette's (aka Roberta Isleib) protagonist Hayley Snow's deadlines are not only those of the Key Zest magazine.  

The author integrates delectable foods (one reason why I love foodie mysteries - good recipe ideas!) with a mystery involving runaway teens and treasure hunters with palatable results.  Murder With Ganache is the fourth in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries series.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but once you've read it I'm sure you'll want to go back and read the others preceding.  I'm definitely trying the Chocolate Bars with Chocolate Ganache Frosting and the Strawberry Cream Pie with Chocolate Graham Crust looks divine for a summer dessert shared with a special someone.  Are you drooling yet?

Meet the author:

Lucy Burdette, aka Roberta Isleib, writes the Key West food critic mysteries including MURDER WITH GANACHE  www.lucyburdette.com
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. As Roberta Isleib, she has also written the golf lovers mysteries and the advice column mysteries. She is a clinical psychologist whose books and stories have been nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime.
Lucy Burdette's mysteries star food critic Hayley Snow, scrumptious food, and the tropical island paradise of Key West. The books are AN APPETITE FOR MURDER, DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, and TOPPED CHEF, with MURDER WITH GANACHE to follow in February 2014.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hope Street Jerusalem by Irris Makler. It is Not Just a Place.

Hope Street Jerusalem 
Author:  Irris Makler
Published:  February 25, 2014
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Pages:  320
Genre:  Memoir
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

I had no idea how demanding this consuming, cruel, dangerous and fascinating place would be. I would fall in love here, I would do some of my best reporting, I would be injured, ending my run of good luck – my life would change dramatically …‘
Moving to a strange city always takes courage, but never more so than in a place where the daily expression of love and hate can turn a simple choice of a romantic table by the window into a life or death decision.
Both a love story and bittersweet tribute to her beloved adopted city of Jerusalem, Irris Makler shines a hopeful light on a part of the world where the news reports often makes it seem impossibly dark. From juggling the danger and unpredictability of her work as a roving foreign correspondent , covering everything from Palestinian suicide attacks to Israeli incursions into the West Bank, to falling in love with a handsome and charming young Israeli, and gaining a mischievous four-legged companion along the way, she allows us an intimate glimpse into a passionate, vibrant and fascinating world.
Adventurous, compassionate and engagingly honest, the award-winning author of OUR WOMAN IN KABUL is a master at capturing the personal stories behind the news we really want to know – and her story is the most interesting of all.
My thoughts:
While the people are running away in terror with fear for their lives, Irris runs towards the scenes of suicide bombings and other tragedies.  She's an international correspondent and that's what she does.
Irris' life is unusual, gritty in its details, often dangerous and sometimes lonely.  As a journalist she has travelled to foreign countries, often staying for months to years at a time.  Leaving Russia for the turmoil of Jerusalem was an emotional departure but she soon fell in love with the city, a man and a lively dog Mia. "Romance is so lovely when it comes along and mugs you." (p. 41) 
Interspersed with tidbits of history and geography, Irris shares her obvious love for Jerusalem despite its inherent dangers.  We see the carnage and the beauty of this city as she interviews and observes and reports.  I'm not sure I am sold on making Jerusalem my next tourist destination, considering the unrest that to this day makes headlines, but I have an appreciation for the people and their country.  It is divided, the streets have seen much blood shed, suicide bombing warnings are a daily occurrence.  They become so commonplace that people don't always take them seriously.  Sitting near the window in a local cafeteria is inadvisable and yet people still do so.  Does one become immune or do you decide to live your life nonetheless?  
Hope Street Jerusalem is a memoir and an introduction to a warring and yet beautiful land. Accompanied by a wonderful man for part of the journey and a loveable dog, Irris Makler reported and lived through a very close call with death herself.  In the six weeks she was unable to use her voice, unable to work, and totally reliant upon someone else, Irris found love renewed and faith.  She gave up a legal career to follow her dreams and her talents.  It took her far in more ways than one.  Further than even she could have imagined.
"I've had an exciting and most unusual life.  I was true to my talents, rather than sticking with what was expected of me.  It had come at a price, and I was not able to have everything.  But that's how it goes.  I don't know many people who have everything, and especially not many women.  As for those few who seem to, perhaps it only appears that way because we are looking at them from the outside.  It's always different inside people's lives; in their hearts."  (p. 306)
I like this quote because it reminds me of several things:  be true to myself, honour my talents, and avoid envy because you never really know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.  
I really enjoyed Hope Street Jerusalem.  At one time a very long time ago, I dreamed of being a journalist.  But I wouldn't give up this life for that one.  Honestly I've had a few dreams and some of them came true and some are yet to be realized.  It's not too late to pursue them.  Irris reminds us of who we dreamed of becoming just by becoming what she dreamt for herself.  I admire that.

Meet the author:
For the past seven years, award-winning foreign correspondent Irris Makler has been based in Jerusalem, filing stories across the Middle East for radio, television and online news services around the world, including Australia. Previously based in Moscow and London, she reported extensively from Afghanistan as one of the first journalists on the scene after 9/11. She is the author of Our Woman in Kabul.

CBC has Announced the Winner of Canada Reads 2014

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize-Winning author of Through Black Spruce comes a literary masterpiece steeped in the natural beauty and blood-soaked brutality of our country’s formative years

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.
Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.
As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. (from the publisher Hamish Hamilton Canada)

****The Orenda now has the privilege of winning Canada Reads 2014 as the one book that everyone should read because it has the power to change a nation.****

Monday, March 3, 2014

Canada Reads Day One

In the above video the five finalists for the one book Canada should read are introduced along with their defenders.  One book will be eliminated.  Which will it be?

Cress Book Trailer (Marissa Meyer author)

Cress is book three of the Lunar Chronicles and is available now!!  The two preceding novels are Cinder and Scarlet with Winter to follow early next year (2015).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Contractors by Harry Hunsicker (book review)

The Contractors
Author:  Harry Hunsicker
Published:  February 4, 2014
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages: 514
Genre:  Mystery/thriller; crime drama
Edition: paperback ARC
Source:  A complimentary copy was provided by TLC Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

In THE CONTRACTORS (Thomas & Mercer; February 4, 2014), acclaimed thriller writer Hunsicker turns his attention to the shadowy world of private military contractors and the hypocrisies of the War on Drugs, delivering a heart-pounding, complex standalone thriller in the vein of James Ellroy’s Underworld U.S.A. series.
Disgraced ex-Dallas PD officer Jon Cantrell carries a DEA badge, but he’s not a federal agent. Rather, he works for a private contracting company, busting drug shipments along the U.S.-Mexico border for commission. When Cantrell and his partner-slash-lover Piper confiscate the wrong load, they find themselves in possession of a star witness in an upcoming cartel trial, a mysterious piece of hotly sought after scanning equipment, and the ire of the largest criminal cartel in the Americas.
To clear things up and collect their paycheck, all they need to do is deliver the witness, Eva Rodriguez, to the US attorney across the state in Marfa. Except Eva’s got ideas – and pursuers – of her own, and the trio soon find themselves in the crosshairs of an all-out war between the cartel, a group of competing contractors, and a corrupt Dallas police officer with everything to lose.
A fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride into the strange borderlands of the modern global drug trade, THE CONTRACTORS will have you hooked until the explosive final act.

My Thoughts:

The Contractors is a weighty novel and not just due to its lengthy 514 pages.  Dealing with government corruption, drug smuggling, prostitution and human trafficking; it's a heavy hitter.  

Eva Rodriguez has a price on her head.  A drug cartel wants her dead, private contractors including Jon and Piper hunt her for a price, and those you'd expect to protect her may be too corrupted to do so.  

The novel begins with Jon facing a gun aimed at him by his partner, a fellow contractor with whom he'd been working and having a day to day long-running affair.  Before the reader can question what went wrong, or if/why Piper changed alliances; we are transported to the beginning of their relationship to a time when both are private contractors vying for the same cut in delivering a young girl captive in a brothel.  They join alliances, after all two heads and guns are better than one in the war against drug and girl running, and they make a fabulous team.

The story is a quick-paced action packed novel with virtually no down time but that isn't to say there's no character nor plot development because there is.  The 514 pages whirl past in a stream of guns blazing, captures and bad guys with no place to rest.  It feels like an action packed crime drama has released within your very hands and the book quickly runs from A to B, leaving the reader breathless with the anticipation and velocity of it all.  When done, you close the book and catch your breath.  So that's what it's like fighting a drug cartel....in the heat of Texas.....thinking your back is covered but perhaps you're wrong....

For the crime drama fan, The Contractors definitely has a lot to offer.  Why watch it on tv when you can read it!

Harry Hunsicker is the former executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America and the author of three previous novels, crime thrillers set in Texas. His debut novel, Still River, was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. His short fiction has been nominated for the Thriller Award by the International Thriller Writers and selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories of 2011, edited by Otto Penzler and Harlan Coben. Hunsicker lives in Dallas, a fourth-generation native of the city. When not writing, he works as a commercial real estate appraiser and an occasional speaker on the creative process.

Author's website:  http://harryhunsicker.com

Canada Reads Begins March 3! Tune in to See Who Wins This Prestigious Literary Competition.


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