Happy Wednesday! I have a delicious breakfast recipe for you all today and a few new books to share. I woke up this morning and had a taste for blueberry pancakes!
So the original recipe is titled “Fluffy Pancakes” and it’s from Allrecipes.com. I’m making this recipe exactly how it’s listed below, except I’m tripling the recipe ingredients to cook for the eight people in my house. The original recipe you see below serves four.
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.
I’m using this all natural sausage I picked up from Costco. It’s made by Jones Dairy Farm. We’ve been buying this sausage for years and it’s the only link I like to buy because it’s nitrate and msg free. I’m not big on eating meat, but my family is, and I like to pay attention to the ingredients I’m feeding them as well. The ingredients are pork, water, salt, and spices. There are no antibiotics or hormones and it’s pork raised on a vegetarian diet. This company makes chicken and turkey sausage too, which is equally delicious. You can click the link above to visit their website.
This sausage is brown and serve. I just add it to my preheated cast iron pan.
Cook them on medium heat until they’re browned and cooked through.
For the pancakes…
I like to make my pancake batter right in my Vitamix because there’s less mess, it’s easy to mix, and it’s simple to pour out the batter.
First, I add the milk and vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to sour up.
After 2 or 3 minutes, it’s ready. I added in the eggs and melted butter.
Turn it on low and start adding all your dry ingredients.
Turn it up to medium or so to get a nice thick batter. You don’t need to mix it much.
Grease and heat your pan over medium heat. Pour the batter evenly, roughly 1/4 cup at a time into the pan. Immediately add the blueberries.
You can even use chocolate chips, nuts, or other fruits.
Blurb: When each family at the diverse Juniper Court apartment complex needs something to light up the dark of winter, the stumpy, lumpy candle provides a glow brighter than the fanciest taper, revealing the true spirit of each holiday it illuminates.
Age Range: 4 – 11 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 6
Hardcover: 28 pages
Publisher: Creston Books (November 11, 2014)
Multiple residents at the Juniper Court Apartment complex are celebrating their family traditions during the holidays. As each family begins their celebration, they realize they are missing an important component- a candle. As the candle is passed from family to family, children will learn about Havdalah, Saint Lucia Day, and Kwanzaa.
We enjoyed the vivid and detailed illustrations. The authors note at the end explains these traditions and what each holiday means as well as why they are celebrated. It’s an interesting and educational book for elementary readers. 4****
Blurb: Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.
Before there was this house,
there were stones,
and a colossal oak tree—
three hugs around
and as high as the blue.
What was your home, once?
This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (February 28, 2017)
This beautifully illustrated book is a powerful and poetic story about a house that was, at one point, only stones and bricks. Children will discover that every piece of the house came from the earth. It’s a thought-provoking and beautiful story.
We especially enjoyed the illustrations including all the little animals pictured all around in nature. This is a very simple read and I appreciated the note to readers at the end which provokes discussion. 4****
Watch Emily Arrow sing the song “This House, once” in this video:
Blurb: In an Eskimo village at the top of the world lived a little boy whose name was Amaroq. Named for the great wolf leader who saved the life of his big sister, Julie, Amaroq loved wolves as much as his big sister did.
One day Julie brings home a sickly wolf pup named Nutik for Amaroq to feed and tend. “Don’t fall in love with Nutik,” Julie warns, “or your heart will break when the wolves come to take their pup home.” Amaroq feeds and cares for Nutik, and soon the fuzzy little pup is romping and playing and following Amaroq everywhere. Amaroq and Nutik become best friends, but soon it’s time for Nutik to rejoin his wolf family. Will Amaroq be strong like the great wolf leader he was named after and be able to let Nutik go?
In this adventure-first told in Julie’s Wolf Pack, the sequel to the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George brings the Arctic world of Julie and her family to a picturebook audience.
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Library Binding: 40 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 9, 2001)
A boy named Amaroq is introduced to a wolf pup named Nutik after his sister finds the sick pup and brings him home for care. Amaroq is responsible for caring for Nutik and his sister tells him from the start not to get attached because he’ll be leaving to return to his old pack once he’s stronger. Amaroq can’t help himself and Nutik becomes his best friend. Follow along in the story to see if Amaroq can remain brave when the time comes for Nutik to move on.
This book is part of our curriculum this week as we’re learning about wolves in the wild. The illustrations felt so authentic to us and it’s no wonder after reading that the illustrator, Ted Rand, traveled to Alaska to observe the arctic tundra first hand. It’s visually stunning and the story is powerful and emotional at the same time. 5*****
Blurb: The importance of imaginary friends is very real in this picture book adventure from the author of Say Hello to Zorro! and lead character designer for Despicable Me, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc.
Phillip and Brock are best friends. Everyone can see Phillip, but only Phillip can see Brock.
A night at the Big Fair is all fun and games until Phillip gets sleepy, heads home, and forgets Brock!
Brock misses Phillip. And Phillip misses Brock. Will they reunite? With the help of another pair of pals, they just might. Because even imaginary friends get lost sometimes. Finding them is part of the adventure.
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2015)
A little boy named Phillip enjoys spending time with his imaginary friend named Brock. They play together, eat together, and pretty much do everything together. The strange thing is that nobody else can see Brock, so when they visit the fair, Brock accidentally gets left behind. Follow along in the story to see if Phillip will find Broch and if his parents might make an amazing discovery themselves.
The imaginary friends are drawn which gives them a different look from the other realistic characters. This is a really fun book but also scary and emotional. It’s the worst nightmare for Phillip, but we enjoyed the story and conclusion. 4****
I’m working on getting caught up with my NetGalley books and this one has been sitting on my shelf for months. I finally started reading it a few weeks ago. You can read my book review below.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
“Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away.” —Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water
Blurb: In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.
I was so excited to start this book because I love retellings and honestly didn’t know the whole story behind the accusations of Lizzie Bordon murdering her parents with an ax in 1892. I decided to get online and read about the true story so that I would have an idea about what really went down that August morning in 1892.
The book starts with an introduction to that morning the ax murdering took place in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie’s father Andrew and her stepmother Abby were both found axed to death and the only person in sight when someone finally arrives to help is Lizzie. Everyone wants to know who the perpetrator is. Who could commit such horrible acts of crime and why would they want to hurt these people?
For me, the first half of the book was not intriguing at all. I felt like the characters were flat and boring and the narrative was confusing at times, mainly because of Lizzie’s thoughts with the jumping back and forth between reality and what was going on in her head. I wasn’t enjoying the writing style at all. Then, when I got to the last half of the book, I became very interested in who the real killer was here. It could be Lizzie, but she’s not reliable and her thoughts are all over the place. Is she being honest? What about Uncle John and Benjamin? There are clues and accusations along the way, but the reader is left to wonder until the very end what actually happened.
Overall, The author has spun her own version of the tale and it’s spellbinding at times. I’m happy that I stuck with it and didn’t give up. Some people say that the book is gruesome, but I didn’t think it was too gory on the details. I really appreciated the timeline the author provided in the back of the book. If you’d like more true information on the events that took place, you might want to watch “Histories Mysteries: The Strange Case of Lizzie Bordon.” This is truly a compelling mystery.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book for review.
Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme created by Renee @ It’s Book Talk. This meme is an awesome way to share favorites that were published over a year ago or even books that you’re finally reading after much time has passed. I have plenty of those to share! If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, and you’re welcome to use Renee’s pic as well. Please link back to her@It’s Book Talk.
-This week’s Pick-
Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb
I had to read this book for a college sociology class and I had zero expectations in enjoying the book given the content of it. It’s true that it’s difficult to read at times, but the writing pulled me in and I had to know what was going to happen to the group of people responsible.
What’s no surprise to me, even after reading this years ago, is that this behavior is still relevant today. There are people willing to overlook their child’s behavior and they’ll do whatever it takes to protect them. In this case, it was an entire community.
They did make this into a lifetime movie which can be seen on YouTube, but the book is way better. The book also contains real pictures of the people involved.
I would recommend not even reading the blurb on this one. Just jump in and read it…My rating on this one is 5*****
When I was a teenager, I worked at Orange Julius and always loved their Mocha smoothie. It was always so creamy and delicious. Coffee and chocolate are two of my favorite things and this is what inspired me to make this smoothie. If you enjoy ice coffee, you’ll love this!
-Toasted Coconut Mocha Smoothie-
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coffee
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1 TB honey or sweetener of your choice
1 TB cocoa powder
Dash of vanilla extract
1 cup of ice (Frozen banana is an option!)
The first thing you need to do is have some coffee, cold and ready. I usually make the coffee and either freeze it in ice cube trays or chill it in the fridge. Today I’m using chilled coffee.
You can use canned coconut milk, but I like to just make my own with shredded coconut. You can see how I do this on a previous post by clicking here.
Toast your coconut in a pan on the stove. Be careful, because it burns easily. Use low to medium heat until it’s just browned.
Add in the ingredients to the blender in the order listed above, saving a little of the coconut for garnish. Blend until smooth.
This smoothie is actually on the thinner side, but so delicious! I’ve seen variations that add ice cream which make it more like a shake which is even more delicious. You can mess with the ingredients to suit your taste. You could even add in some protein powder or other supplements.
I read The Bear and the Nightingale earlier this year and fell in love with the story within the first few paragraphs, so when I heard that there were two more books coming out, I watched and waited patiently for the release of the second book. Sure enough, I found The Girl In The Tower on Netgalley and was approved for it. You can see my review of the book below.
The Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden
Blurb: The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.
Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop. – Goodreads
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (December 5, 2017)
Brave Vasya, older and wild as ever, is faced with a choice to either marry or live in a convent as a nun. Neither choice seems applicable to her and she would rather die riding in the frozen wintry forest than be stuck living a life that doesn’t fit her. She’s been deemed a witch and questions still loom regarding her father’s death. Vasya needs to discover who she is and as she embarks on a journey alone with her horse Solovey against Morozko’s wishes, she takes risks, experiences danger with violent bandits, witnesses burned and destroyed villages, meets the Grand Prince, and even reunites with family. Only time will tell if she’s made the right decisions and the commitment may be more than she can bear.
This second installment has more action and adventure, the addition of new characters, and clues that offer insight to some of the events in the first book. It’s just as enchanting and a little darker than the first. I enjoyed the characters and relationships, especially Vasya’s relationship with Morozko and her horse Solovey. When I first began reading, I felt as though I was right back in the first book again and had to remember a few of the characters. It doesn’t take long to pick up and as Vasya’s traveling begins, there’s no telling what will happen next and the book is far from predictable.
The Girl In The Tower is written in the same enchanting prose as The Bear and the Nightingale and I did enjoy it, but it didn’t captivate me as much as the first. As this book closed with an unexpected ending, I’m even more excited for the third. 4 ****
I’d like to thank Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book to read and review.
I was tagged this week by sister book blogger Alex@coffeelovingbookoholic for the Summer Book Tag. I’d like to thank her for nominating me! As I’ve said before, please check out her blog as she has tons of content including awards, challenges, book reviews and more! I’ve never done this tag and it looks like fun so let’s get started!
-Click the covers to add to Goodreads-
What book cover makes you think of summer?
It Starts With L by Cassandra Fear
Much of the plot was in summer and just look at the cover!
What book has brightened your day?
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan makes me laugh, laugh, and laugh some more. I love his books and stand up shows. Much of what he talks about resonates with me.
Find a book cover with yellow on it.
Barkley Five Oh
This is a short story by Logan Keys about a robot’s journey. You just have to read it…
What is your favorite summer beach read?
The Wing Man by Natasha Anders
Yup. A fairly steamy romance that I enjoyed.
What action book had you running for the ice cream man?
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
Another favorite by Jodi Picoult. This one I devoured and couldn’t put down…
(Sunburn) What book has left you with a bad and/or painful ending?
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I loved this book, but painful end. Period.
(Sunset) what book gave you the happiest feelings when it ended?
Hearts Are Like Balloons by Candace Robinson
I enjoyed the ending with this one. I loved reading about May’s journey throughout the book and I was elated with the ending…
What book cover reminds you of a sunset?
Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
This book is so twisty and even hard to read at times. It’s one of my cherished books by Jodi Picoult despite the content. She’s definitely a favorite author.
What is one book or series you hope to read this summer?
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
We read the children’s book this summer and I just purchased this a few weeks ago. I’m hoping to buddy read it with my oldest daughter…
Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme created by Renee @ It’s Book Talk. This meme is an awesome way to share favorites that were published over a year ago or even books that you’re finally reading after much time has passed. I have plenty of those to share! If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, and you’re welcome to use Renee’s pic as well. If you’d just link back to her@It’s Book Talk she’d so appreciate it!
I’ve been seeing this one around for a while now and became inspired by my friend Noriko@DiaryofaBookfiend this morning after she picked a book that really brought back some memories. I thought it would be fun to bring back a book from last year that I enjoyed. This is my first Throwback Thursday and I chose a book that will always be a favorite. I hope that you might find an interest in it as well.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Blurb: The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
Series: Beautiful Disaster Series
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Original ed. edition (August 14, 2012)
I discovered David R. Dowdy’s book The Pull and Kick Murder on Goodreads a few months ago and couldn’t wait to read it. I was able to get a Q&A with the author and have included it below for those who’d like to learn more about this book and the author. I’ve also included my book review for The Pull and Kick Murder below.
The Pull and Kick Murder by David R. Dowdy
Blurb: Woodward High’s annual contest to determine the captain of the swimming team has come again. When a star swimmer is found murdered in the pool, an unlikely pair are thrown together to find the killer. Follow the story as a shady Detective Lieutenant and a highbrow philosophy teacher tries to solve the case. How far will the detective go? What drives the teacher to work with the detective? – Goodreads
I’ve had my eyes on The Pull and Kick Murder for some time and was lucky enough to receive a copy from the author. I was hooked by this book just after reading the first few pages as the story unfolded.
The book begins with Mr. Haynes, a well-respected philosophy teacher who teaches at Woodward Highschool. Aside from reading Socrates and discussing morals in class, some of the students are involved in the high school swim team and it’s time for the new team captain competition. Jack Harrier and Harry Dawes, two of the swim competitors, aren’t interested in a fair tournament and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop a fellow student from winning the competition. Jack wants to be the new team captain and he’s not taking no for an answer. Not long after the race, a student is found murdered and two unlikely partners will be put to the challenge of solving the case. The book becomes a whodunit mystery with clues, twists, and turns that grip you until the surprising end.
The character development was spot on. The writing is profoundly descriptive and with such a strong plot and characters, it felt like I was immersed in a captivating episode of “Law and Order.” I had people envisioned in my mind for each character as I read along. The story is very convincing and felt remarkably true to me. I enjoyed the banter between Mr. Haynes and Detective Sparrow who must work together against Sparrow’s wishes to find the perpetrator. As more clues emerge, Haynes might have a lesson or two of his own to share. This was one of my favorite components in the book.
I haven’t read a whole lot of crime fiction, but if I can find similar books in crime fiction, I’d make it a favorite genre for sure. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime and mystery books. 5*****
My Q&A with author David R. Dowdy
Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
One of my earliest jobs was caddying for old rich guys at Forest Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Township Michigan. I went to the stand where the golfers drove up and dropped off their clubs. My guy had one of the worst no-name sets I’d ever seen. The woods were worn and dull and the irons dinged. So, I was thinking, there’s no big tip coming.
I carried the bag to the first tee and there was just one other caddy and “his” set of clubs were beautiful. We talked a bit and the golfers came up. Would you believe it? The one who came up and introduced himself to me was Ernie Harwell, the legendary, preeminent radio announcer for the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The one I listened to every ball game day. The one who announced the World Series the Tigers won in 1968.
No set of clubs would ever be that light. I practically flew around the course. The best thing was hearing his folksy, smooth, Southern voice. It was just like he sounded on radio only not transistorized! His playing matched his worn out, amateur clubs, but it didn’t matter. This man, to me, was a giant. It turned out, the tip was typical. I took it, shook his hand, and thanked him. Inside I was giddy and still am.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
For some reason, I was academic in high school. Not always the best grades, but I had a yearning to learn. Unfortunately, I was torn between arts and sciences. I loved Chemistry, Economics, and Physics, and somehow hated Math. On the other side, English, Mythology, Philosophy, Investigative Paper beckoned me.
Journalists were gods at the time. They’d turned the political world upside down. I read everything in the news and I felt writing had something going for it. So, that’s when I knew I wanted to write. But, the volcanic forces of basic needs erupted and I turned to engineering as a career path. Hanging on barely was the desire to write. Even though I went on to become an engineer, I still found time to write short stories and poetry. Nothing monumental because I hadn’t put enough time into them.
How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?
Writing makes me feel in control. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and power when I’ve created something unique and solved a problem. It has become easier in the sense that knowing story structure and the mechanics of writing means I take less time planning and editing. But, I wouldn’t say easy because creating something in fiction that sounds plausible takes time and a lot of thought.
What are your writing plans for the future and is there anything you’re working on now?
*This answer contains spoilers*
I plan to keep writing mysteries featuring Haynes and Sparrow who solved the case of The Pull and Kick Murder. If I’m lucky, I’ll keep writing until my mind gives out, so that could be a long time. Currently, I’m planning and doing some early sketches of a mystery with my investigative duo and a high school female teen protagonist.
What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?
As I went directly to self-publishing The Pull and Kick Murder, I have no idea what it’s like to work with a publisher. Maybe I’ll have the chance someday. For now, writing a novel and making it available on Amazon and all the other online outlets is enough for me. If a publisher wanted to pick me up, I wouldn’t be against it. As for marketing, I have Goodreads and Amazon author and book pages. I have done giveaways on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m fishing for reviews!
Who are some of your favorite authors and were there any that heavily influenced your writing?
James Joyce showed in Dubliners how important characterization is and how personality affects everything. I learned from Patricia Highsmith the brilliance of how evil can infect a person without them realizing it. Graham Greene writes about the nasty people who inhabit our world. To Hammett, there’s always a quick bon mot. And Salinger understands how inner dialog is often the story if not the theme.
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Cat in the Hat. Wrecking the house on a rainy day was something I enjoyed as a kid and TCITH showed me that it was OK if one tidied afterward. I also enjoyed the Bible Stories and the oversized illustrated dictionary we kept.
What do you consider literary success?
Having my work read by thoughtful readers who generously provide feedback through reviews. Whatever comments, I will churn them back into my writing.
What would you say are the hardest tasks when it comes to writing?
Creating a lush plot (sounds like a garden!). The Pull and Kick Murder is linear in my opinion and I would like to use it as a springboard to a more complex novel.
Finding the correct voice for characters.
Showing characters coming to terms with what they thought they believed, throwing away the disbelief, and embracing the truth.
When it comes to writing, what tools do you use? (Pen, type writer, or computer) Do you outline?
First, I outline with a pen in my notebook, usually by creating a premise and drawing a sketch or two of how the story should proceed. Then I graduate to Microsoft Word and begin to write intensively. I cross things out of my notebook as I use them. Although I may write the first chapter first, my writing does not go from start to finish. There are times when I have five pots cooking on four burners.
What inspired you to write The Pull and Kick Murder?
Someone close to me in my childhood suffered a suspicious death and the truth never came out. I asked myself ‘why?’ for many years. Then, when I realized the power of mysteries, my appetite grew. I realized that writing was something I needed to do and the genre was familiar. The Pull and Kick Murder offered a chance to right a most evil wrong in a purely fictional book.
How long did it take you to write this book?
From writing initial ideas in a notebook to reading and correcting the proof, a little over two years. I’ve had some of the story in my head for years. Often, ideas linger in a writer’s mind over their lifetime and I know that was my experience.
What was the most difficult part for you when writing this book?
Creating the suspense when writing the twists and climax. They were also the most rewarding and memorable times. It was difficult writing about the devastation that occurs following a murder.
How much research did you do for the book?
Quite a bit as I’m always concerned about being precise and getting all the details right. For example, I had to learn how to swim the breaststroke and put myself inside the swimmer in such a way that a true swimmer would believe it to be true. I hope I’ve succeeded, but we’ll see!
Also, I had to learn how an investigator goes about his or her job, especially how they read suspects and use follow up questioning.
Did you make any major edits to it?
I’m not afraid to write something and rewrite or even delete it. It’s just necessary to become clear. Often, I would read something later and find that it wasn’t good. As for major edits, yes that happened several times. An unfinished story is in flux so there’s always an opportunity to improve it.
Are any of the people, places, or events in the book based on any truth?
Definitely! My high school philosophy teacher is there front and center and nearly everything about him is true. The high school, Natatorium, and the city are from my youth. Of course, The Pull and Kick Murder is entirely fictional.
How did you come up with the character names in the book?
*This answer contains spoilers*
Lew Haynes: Lou Hayner was my philosophy teacher in high school. Altering his name was easy. Ian Sparrow: Sparrow’s don’t fear much and they’re always looking into their surroundings. Ian is my son’s first name. Billy Touraine: He’s renamed after a great friend, Bill Tourville, from high school who was on the swimming team. Bill, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry you had to fictionally die and I hope you’re in good health!
To go into the other main character’s names might reveal too much. Secondary characters come from people I know. Alex is the nick of my son’s middle name Alexander and the male protagonist from a novel that I couldn’t complete. Kunta is a great name from someone I worked with. Yolanda is a wonderful lady from Peru who cleaned at my previous job.
The ending was such a surprise for me! Did you have any other alternative endings for the book?
Yes, because my characters weren’t cooperating and they were keeping things from me. At times, I had envisioned two other characters each as the culprit. But, the more I wrote (I had a plan and it morphed on me), the more I loved their flaws and everything. I had so much invested in them, they were innocent. To have used either one would have been asinine.
After reading your brother’s review for the book, readers will learn that your book was kept secret from your family until after it was published. What made you decide to keep the book a secret and what was your family’s reaction when they found out about it?
It wasn’t as much secret as it was risk avoidance. I felt if I had let on too early, my book would have become a weight of questioning when I would ever finish. Towards the end I told a few people at work who I had become close to, but only when I knew the book was inevitable. You may have read the first review on Amazon where my brother Jeff was surprised that I had kept the book secret. The second review is from my brother Mike. I was so happy to get those reviews!
Who designed the cover and did you have a part in it?
I get full blame or credit for the cover. Create Space provides the dimensional specifications. I chose one of the stock layouts. Later I realized that I could have done better. I searched for a stock photo and when I discovered the one at the top of my final cover, I was enthralled. The guy is coming up and taking a deep breath and his hands are outstretched. I imagined in that half-second he’s offering something spiritual in himself. Immediately, I purchased the photo and stuck it over a blood red swatch where I put the title. That’s the current and last edition.
If The Pull and Kick Murder were adapted into a movie, which actors would you choose for the main characters?
Haynes: Ben Affleck
Sparrow: Samuel L. Jackson
Damon: Dane Dehaan
Evelyn: Sigourney Weaver
Beth: Angelina Jolie
Alex: Christian Bale
Jack: Zack Effron
Billy: Robert Pattinson
Mykayla: Selena Gomez
How do you feel about e-books vs. print books?
To each his own. However, e-books have never appealed to me.
When reading The Pull and Kick Murder, I couldn’t help but think about some of my favorite crime shows like Law and Order and CSI. Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies? Anything that inspired the book?
I have only Netflix for TV and even so I avoid crime documentaries. I would rather read about human chemistry, motivation, and criminal tendencies from fiction and biographies. Among others, I watch Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse for entertainment. For movies, I like film noir. Radio mystery such as Suspense is very inspiring.
Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. I have two new books to share and an interesting recipe for dairy free biscuits and gravy that’s quite delicious!
This is a recipe that I can eat any time of the day or night. I’ve even made biscuits & Gravy for dinner recently and it’s always so delicious!
Let’s get started…
I learned how to make biscuits & Gravy from my Stepmother Laurie. Just a few weeks before she passed away, she told me she wanted to show me how to make her biscuits and gravy recipe so that I would always know how. I’ve made this recipe ever since and my family loves it. I’m going to give you both recipe versions so that you can choose which one you’d like to try.
So, my version of the recipe is made the same way as Laurie’s biscuits & gravy, but using almond milk. I used to make this with traditional cow’s milk, and in my opinion, it does taste best with real whole milk and even a splash of cream. I’m always searching for dairy free versions when it comes to cooking because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not supposed to be eating dairy and do much better without it.
My dairy free version…
My favorite biscuit recipe which you will find HERE. (Omit the butter and use Crisco for dairy free! Also use almond milk which works great)
1 TB oil or lard – whichever you like
2 tubes of ground sausage of your choice (I like Farmland MSG Free)
1 cup of almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1/2 cup of flour
Salt, pepper, and a dash of ground cayenne pepper to taste (Farmland doesn’t make hot sausage that I can find so I use a little dash of cayenne pepper)
Additional milk to use with thickening
Heat your pan to medium and begin breaking up the sausage while frying until cooked through. I love using cast iron for this…
As the sausage is frying, prepare your milk by adding it to a jar or bowl. I like to shake my milk and flour in a jar because it makes it easy. You can also whisk it.
1 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup of Flour
Shake it up real good!
Once the sausage is cooked through – Drain the fat
Now you’re ready to add your milk mixture to your drained sausage over medium heat. Pour it in and start stirring it up until it gets thick which is almost instantly.
Add in more milk. I don’t measure on this. I just add a little slowly over time until I get to the desired thickness.
Just keep stirring and adding in small amounts of milk over high heat. Once it starts to boil turn it down to a simmer. Don’t forget to add in your spices!
This is why I love cast iron – It’s naturally non-stick as you can see in the picture below.
After simmering for roughly 10-15 minutes, it’s done.
In June we made a trip to the book store searching for some fun summer reads. My kids picked out this book titled Stump The Grown-Up and I was instantly intrigued. It’s chock-full of questions regarding math, science, food, history, reading, pop culture and more. The book is so much fun to read with kids because they ask you the questions to see just how smart you are! They are learning and they don’t even know it. This isn’t just fun for the kids, it’s fun for the whole family.
Some questions are multiple choice, whereas some are matching. There are regular questions that offer no hints at all. A few examples are:
What was the first food grown in space?
George Washington Carver discovered more than 300 uses for what food?
In Tuck Everlasting, what secret power does the Tuck family possess?
Other matching questions ask fun facts regarding fast food catchphrases and even cover the 50 states and capitals of the United States! Answers are on the bottom of the page and appear upside down so they’re not easy to read.
This is a great read for anytime of the year. It’s been fun keeping our brains stimulated over summer vacation and I can still see us reading this book throughout the school year. Hands down it’s one of the most fun and best educational books we found. 5*****
I found this tag over at coffeelovingbookoholic.com and thought I’d give it a try! If you haven’t checked out this blog yet, please do. There’s a lot to read including book reviews, awards, tags, top books, wrap-ups and more!
This tag was originally created by the bookish underdog. Please also check out this blog if you haven’t already…
Click the covers to add on Goodreads
1. Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you pick up the book in the first place?
I really loved this book and the cover has to be one of my favorites. The cover baited me from the moment I saw it, but the fact that it was a Labyrinth retelling is what sold me.
2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?
I had to read this for a college sociology class and given the content, I didn’t think I would like it. It was actually really good and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to discover what was going to happen. It’s hard to believe, but it’s a true story.
3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?
Half Broke Horses
I picked this up from a book sale for .50 cents along with The Glass Castle. It sounded interesting and I plan to read it this year. I still have to read The Glass Castle too which is now a movie!
4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?
A Monster Calls
Wow, when I first read this, I was so emotional. It wasn’t what I expected, but I still rated it 4 stars because it was good. I went back and read it all over again a few months later and ended up giving it a higher rating because I felt that the book deserved 5 stars. I personally just had a hard time with some of the events in the book.
I’ve been seeing this tag a lot lately, but recently read about it at Nel’s wonderful blog@ ReactionaryTales.com. Please visit Nel’s blog if you haven’t already. She’s a great friend to have with a blog full of interesting content!
How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I don’t. I consistently add to my TBR and don’t worry about it.
Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
It’s mixed, but mostly print. I don’t really pay attention to editions and formats. If I see a book I want to read, I just click it.
How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?
I don’t. I have so many books lined up that I rarely visit my TBR. I just read what I know is next in line with some occasional change ups.
A book that’s been on your TBR the longest.
I believe it’s Jamie McGuire’s Red Hill #1. I joined GR in 2008, but didn’t add books to my TBR until roughly 2013.
I’m not a business woman or involved in business in general. I’m not sure why I added this one, but it’s not one that I would rush to read and probably won’t read at all. No offense to the author! I’m sure it’s a great book.
An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for.
I picked up three new wordless picture books to share with you this week. We enjoyed all three. I hope that you find a few of these interesting!
Birdsong by James Sturm
Blurb: Bring the thrilling story of one red bird to life. When an innocent bird meets two cruel kids, their world is forever changed. But exactly how that change unfolds is up to you, in the tradition of Kamishibai—Japanese paper theater. The wordless story by master cartoonist James Sturm is like a haiku—the elegant images leave space for children to inhabit this timeless tale—and make it their own, leading them to learn an ultimate lesson they’ll never forget.
James Sturm is the author of several books for kids including the Adventures in Cartooning series (with Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost) and the forthcoming Ape and Armadillo. James also helped start a college for cartoonists, The Center for Cartoon Studies, in the small railroad village of White River Junction, Vermont.
Age Range: 5 and up
Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
Series: Toon Books
Hardcover: 60 pages
Publisher: TOON Books (April 5, 2016)
When we first started reading this book we were shocked. It begins with two children abusing some wildlife and it’s uncertain where the story is going to go. As they chase a bird far away, they are met by an angry man who wants to teach them a lesson they will never forget. The message is powerful and children will understand that there are consequences to their actions. This is a wordless picture book that can have many endings and children will have to think about what the actual conclusion means.
What I loved most about the book was the history in the back. Readers learn about e-toki which means “picture-explaining” and kamishibai which means “paper theater.” Children learn about the importance of these picture stories from Japan and why they were started in the first place. This is a powerful picture book with detailed, yet simple illustrations that kids will certainly enjoy.
Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman & Kevin Hawkes
Blurb:“This delightful book will fascinate children and help them to see their world with new eyes.” — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Step right up and witness an astounding assemblage of tightrope walkers, strong men, sword swallowers, and clowns. The Garibaldi Circus is coming soon, but for those with clear eyes, the performers may already be in the ring. So get ready to sharpen your vision and look very closely — a show like you’ve never seen is about to begin! The creators of WESLANDIA are back in the spotlight with a spectacular, wordless picture book that shows the transformative power of imagination.
This picture story begins in the city streets with regular everyday people going about their day while observing others around them. The Garibaldi Circus will soon be coming to the city, but what’s really happening in the shadows might be more interesting than you think. Children will notice that our ordinary lives are more interesting than we think and all we need to do is pay attention to what’s happening around us.
We enjoyed the book and ended up starting it over twice. You really have to pay attention to the shadows to see what’s going on. It’s a really unique book and we loved the illustrations.
I have to apologize for posting so late this morning, but I had my entire post typed up and ready to go, posted it, and there was nothing on the post. I’ve never had that happen before, but let’s try again!
I’m super excited to share a new smoothie recipe and a new book this week! I had a bunch of Japanese sweet potatoes and garnet yams that needed to be used and decided to go with an orange sweet potato smoothie for breakfast. This recipe is great anytime of year, but reminds me of fall which is approaching at an alarming rate. No complaints here!
Why sweet potatoes?
They’re super cheap
High in vitamins A, B6, and C
They contain potassium and magnesium
They boost your immune system
Great for the skin
They taste great!
Here’s what I did below…
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Japanese Sweet Potato (super sweet and white inside!)
2 Garnet Yams
1 banana (optional, but you can barely taste it)
1/4+ tsp of cinnamon
1/4+ tsp of ground ginger
1 TB of Honey or syrup of your choice
1 cup of ice – If you’re using frozen ingredients, omit the ice
Put the sweet potatoes in a pan with some water. The water doesn’t need to cover the potatoes. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
When they’re done, take them out and peel them. The peeling comes right off.
I like to cut them up into chunks and cool them. In the winter, I’ll put them in hot. There’s nothing better than a warm smoothie like this in the winter…If you’d like to freeze a bunch of these, just lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 4-5 hours. Take them out and store them in a freezer bag for later use. This is super convenient!
Prepare your orange – Leave on as much pith as you can as it’s FULL of vitamin C and adds more fiber. This works best with a sharp knife and mine is a tad dull.
After the sweet potatoes have cooled, put everything in the blender in the order listed. It’s important to load it in the order listed by starting with liquid, adding the foods, and then topping off with ice. It makes the blending go very smooth without the use of a tamper stick.
Blend starting on low, and increasing to high. Here’s a video of me making this smoothie this morning. I love my Vitamix because it tears through anything and makes the smoothest smoothies ever.
It’s worth every penny! It’s so easy to stay healthy when you have the right tools…
I’m really late to the party on this one guys! I finally picked this up at Barnes a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to read it. You can see my book review below and also the movie trailer! It’s scheduled for 2018
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Blurb: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
This was my first buddy read with the one and only *Craig* and what a pleasure this was. I’d like to thank Craig for reading this one with me. Craig always makes me smile and this was fun!
I’m not even sure where to start with my review. I was highly anticipating this book for some time after seeing so many 5 star reviews and awesome comments, but the book was just a “like” and I wasn’t overly impressed like I thought I’d be.
The story takes place in 2044 and the world is in a Grimm state. A man by the name of James Halliday has created a virtual video game world known as the OASIS which becomes an escape for people. He’s hidden something in the labyrinth that everybody wants to find, and a teen by the name of Wade wants to be the one to find it first. The person who finds the prize is promised riches and as more people come in to play, it becomes a fight to the end as the gunters hunt for the prize while making their way through game after game.
The story fell a tad short despite some action and fast paced reading. I felt like there was a lot going on, maybe too much detail even, but the best parts in the book that really held my interest were all the ’80s pop culture references. Some of my favorite movies, music, and games from the ’80s were referenced and I found myself looking up old music videos like “The Safety Dance,” a fave. Oh, the memories. ♡
The music references really took me back and as a child of the ’80s I can still remember sitting on my mom’s harvest green carpet in front of the Zenith watching them on MTV, which is nothing like what it used to be. And the games! It took me back to the days of my Atari and my Amiga Commodore: jousting for hours, and Burgertime! There were literally hundreds of references, even old Tv shows, and I almost want to rate it highly for that one reason. Sure, there were interesting parts in the book with Wade’s adventures in the OASIS and with all the competition, I continued to think it might pick up for me, but the book just kept me hanging on until the end with all the nostalgia. I was yearning for a pick me up.
I did think the story was unique and enjoyed the characters. I also thought it was very descriptive and I was extremely pleased with the ending. For me, I simply felt like the story maybe had too much added information which made me a little uncomfortable.
I’m still glad I read it and can’t wait to see the movie because the trailer looks awesome and I ♡ Tye Sheridan! 3.5***
In May I discovered a children’s book titled Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalván. After learning about service dogs and the relationship that Luis and Tuesday developed, I wanted to learn more. I went on to read every book I could find regarding Luis and Tuesday and learned all about how important service dogs are to our wounded veterans, veterans living with PTSD, people with physical disabilities, and even children with autism. If you’d like to see my original posts regarding these books which include videos and many pictures of Luis and Tuesday, you can find them by clicking the links below.
In the book Until Tuesday, Luis discusses where Tuesday came from and explains a little bit about Lu Picard, the co-founder of ECAD, where Tuesday was trained. Lu Picard was kind enough to answer some of my questions regarding ECAD, and a few regarding Luis and Tuesday. I’ve included some information about ECAD below as well as my Q&A with Lu Picard and hope that everyone will enjoy reading and learning more about it.
What is ECAD?
ECAD stands for Educated Canines Assisting Disabilities and is a non-profit organization founded by Lu and Dale Picard. ECAD provides highly skilled Service Dogs to assist people living with disabilities.
How did ECAD get started?
After Lu Picard’s father suffered from a stroke, she discovered how she could train their family dog to help her father become independent again and more like himself. She decided that this was what she wanted to do: train service dogs for those that needed them. She started ECAD in 1995 and a year later her husband became involved full-time as well. They now have training facilities in Connecticut and New York.
Here are two amazing videos from Marlo Thomas on her “The Hero Next Door” series which highlights Lu Picard’s story and gives viewers an idea of some of the training that goes on at ECAD and also how Lu Picard has helped children with disabilities get involved with training dogs.
I’ve had Marcel Malone on my TBR list since the beginning of the year and finally read it this past week. In addition to reviewing below, you can read my Q&A with author Lew Watts and learn a little more about him.
Marcel Malone by Lew Watts
Blurb: Dr Vera Lewis has a difficult but intriguing patient, Marcel, whose symptoms result from multiple levels of rejection—from family, colleagues, relationships, and those journals that receive his poetry submissions. Desperate to achieve a breakthrough, Vera prescribes a very unusual treatment that begins to desensitize Marcel to rejection, albeit with unexpected side-effects. It is only when Vera brings poetry into their therapy sessions that Marcel begins to reveal his deeper problems, and is able to confront the demons of his past. As for Vera, she has her own problems…
Set mostly in Washington, DC, Marcel Malone is a story of how the love of poetry can lead to personal transformation.
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book. Marcel Malone is a first novel for Lew Watts and one that is definitely unique.
Vera and Raymond are a married couple living in DC. Vera is a psychiatrist who lacks attention from her husband as he places more importance on his job as a lobbyist. Raymond worries about his reputation more than anything and lacks the ability to pick up on Vera’s needs.
The focus in the story is mainly Vera and her life with her patients. A particular patient that she becomes almost dependent on is Marcel. Marcel enjoys reading and writing poetry which is something he and Vera have in common. They share their thoughts with each other and Vera looks forward to these conversations. The result of this relationship and Vera’s own curiosity results in a story with interlaced poetry which I thought was unique, and the poetry just might be what they both need to unleash the past.
“Near this rose, in this grove of sun-parched, wind-warped madronas, Among the half-dead trees, I came upon the true ease of myself, As if another man appeared out of the depths of my being, And I stood outside myself,” –lines from The Rose by Theodore Roethke
As Vera learns more about Marcel, she learns that he’s had a hard time with rejection in the past and Vera prescribes a new experiment of paradoxical intervention and journal writing to see if it might help him as a sort of “rejection therapy.” This becomes comical at times, but the outcome she receives from this is unexpected and Vera finds that her own demons and life choices need to be addressed.
The story kept me interested enough to finish it and the ending was quite emotional for me. There were a few times where I became bored with the story as there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but then something would happen or a mystery would be introduced which would yank me right back in again. I’ve always enjoyed poetry, especially Haiku, and I think that anyone who has an appreciation for it will enjoy this book. Even those that don’t particularly care for poetry will more than likely enjoy it. I have a goodly amount of authors and books to add to my list now after reading it and I’d like to thank the author for sharing a complimentary copy of this book with me.
Good morning everyone! I’m excited to share a new breakfast recipe and two new books that I’m reading this week. Last week my health took a little turn on me and I’m sort of catching up this week with posts, tags, and awards. I hope you’ll be pleased with this week’s post!
I decided to make something fairly easy this morning. I ended up with a ton of eggs and thought this recipe would help use them up. Let’s get started!
Egg Muffin Cups
Ingredients to make 24 muffin cups – Easy to cut the recipe down to half if this is too many.
1 Pound of bulk sausage of your choice (I like farmland sausage because it’s MSG free)
Roughly 2 1/2 cups of finely chopped onion and bell pepper (I used green & red)
1/2 tsp of salt – less if your sausage is heavily salted
3/4 tsp pepper
1 heaping cup of shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I used convection because I’m cooking two trays and want them to be evenly cooked. Grease your pans or add liners.
Cook your sausage in a skillet. Break up the sausage into small little chunks. While the sausage is cooking you can chop up your onion and pepper and prepare the cheese and spices. Drain the sausage.
Beat all the eggs in a bowl and then add everything else in.
Measure out into the muffin cups. I used a ladle and left about a half inch space from the top of the pan.
Bake for 22-25 minutes in the oven, or until solid and can be removed whole.
Take them out and let them cool just for a few minutes. Remove and serve.
I would recommend using liners with a square pan as a few of mine were difficult to remove, even after spraying.
What I love about these is that you can add what you want to. I was thinking next time I might add in some tomato. You can omit the sausage and add something else. Experiment with the ingredients you like.
Garnish if preferred. I used some chopped green onion and fresh cracked pepper.
A few weeks ago I came across a book on Goodreads titled A World Without Color: A True Story Of the Last Three Days With My Cat and knew right away I needed to read it. It’s a memoir written by Bernard Jan pertaining to the loss of his beloved cat Marcel. Bernard was very kind to offer some of his time to discuss his writing and some other questions I had about the book. You can see my Q&A with Bernard Jan below.
If you’d like to see my previous post including my review for the book, you can click HERE.
Click the cover to add on Goodreads, or pick it up on Amazon by clicking HERE.
I was nominated by Noriko@DiaryofaBookFiend for the lovely Sunshine Blogger Award last month. This is now my second for this award. I’d like to thank her for nominating me. Also, please check out Noriko’s blog. She has tons of book reviews, wrap-ups, Goodreads Monday and scads of awards and tags. I personally have enjoyed reading her “#tidbits on Japan” posts which have highlighted a few different recipes from Japan where she lives. I’m looking forward to learning more about her culture and I’m happy to have her as a friend.
What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?
The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.
How Does It Work:
Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog
What is your ideal vacation?
I love just chillaxing wherever I am. I love being at home, hanging out at the beach, and being out in nature. Ideal is doing what I like and being where I want to be.
What do you love about yourself?
I’m told that I’m creative and I love that. When I make something and someone says, “Wow, you made that?”, It makes me feel awesome.
What do wish you could change about yourself?
There are actually a few things, but I would choose becoming more self-confident as my first choice.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Marcel Malone by Lew Watts and Beauty and the Beast by Vivienne Savage (audible).
What keeps you blogging?
What keeps me blogging? That’s a hard one. I’m going to say interacting with people. I love learning about others. I’m going to mention a few specific people here that inspire me to continue blogging and that’s my mom (Starjustin), James, Nel, Stephanie, Vanessa, Claire, Noriko, Mohamad, Kim, Lana, Dani, Jo-Ann, Robin, Jennifer C, Dave, Donna, Misty, Kim, Christina, Anthony, MoJo and the list goes on. I also appreciate the authors that take the time out of their busy schedules to do Q&A’s with me, I love that. I’ve learned so much and met some awesome people. That’s why I keep blogging.
You are having a relaxing evening. What are you doing?
Either hanging with my family, having some tea while wrapped up in a good book, or simply listening to some great music.
Do you have pets?
Yes, I have two border collies and a ton of outdoor cats. I love animals, and I wish I could give every single animal in the world a good life. Here are a few pics…
Winston and Cynder
Rambo The Wise
We had 13 kittens in April. I’ll do a post on them soon…
Favourite pizza toppings?
I try not to eat meat or pizza in general, but I’ll say Sausage, Pepperoni, Onion, and Banana Pepper.
Coffee, tea or wine or other?
Organic decaf coffee and I love tea as well. Pukka and Yogi are my favorite tea brands.
What is your favourite season?
Definitely fall and winter. I don’t deal well with the summer heat and look forward to harvest time and Christmas.
What is your favourite book genre?
I absolutely love memoirs and non-fiction in general. I love learning about people and their pasts, and what they’re doing with their lives.
A little over a week ago, I started reading Above the Flames by Cassandra Fear. I really enjoyed the writing, so after finishing it, I dove right in to It Starts With L which was just released.
Cassandra was willing to share some of her time with me to discuss her books and writing. In addition to the Q&A below, you can read my book reviews for Above the Flames and her new book It Starts with L. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway toward the bottom of the page to win eBook copies of both books!
Above The Flames
Blurb: Jasmine’s sixteenth birthday was the worst ever…
All in one day, her dad died, she met a demon, and her mother rejected her existence forever. After all, the demon who killed her dad was there to take her, and all because of her stupid powers—the ability to conjure blue flames.
Two years later, she’s happy. But happy never lasts…
After moving to Idaho to live with her grandparents, Jasmine has a new life. Almost nobody knows about her powers, and she’s just a normal teenager with normal problems. Then comes her eighteenth birthday—and the earthquake that changes her world forever.
An army of demons rise from Hell. And Jasmine is right in the middle of the battle…
When demons claw their way to Earth, Jasmine is surrounded by hundreds of fire-eyed beasts. Worse, she is captured by a big-shot demon named Bael. He’s a tricky foe with a chip on his shoulder—and the desire to make Jasmine use her powers for evil.
Amon is a fallen angel with an attitude—and everything to lose.
Successfully escaping the underworld undetected, Amon is on a quest to regain God’s grace when he rescues Jasmine from the clutches of a particularly nasty demon he knows all too well. The attraction between him and the not-entirely-human captive is instantaneous. Heavenly sparks fly, but ideas of romance will have to wait. First they have to stop the demon race from wiping out the mortal realm. Humanity’s fate rests in their hands.
Can two troubled angels rise above the flames to ensure a future for mankind? Or will Jasmine and Amon’s souls be bound together—in hell?
I wasn’t sure what to expect because I haven’t read many paranormal books and certainly haven’t read a story including angels and demons with this plot, so it was a fun read and different from what I’m used to.
I was pulled into the story right away. Jasmine is a 16-year-old teenager dealing with a mother who simply doesn’t care about her. An unforeseen wicked event causes an accident with her father and because her mother doesn’t want her, she’s relocated with her grandparents. Ma and Pa love her so much and all seems to be going well with Jasmine as she lives a fairly normal life with her boyfriend Beau, until demons appear and hunt her down. They’ve been released and plan to take over all mankind. Jasmine doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to have to figure out how to control her powers while she trains to defend against the evil demons.
I really liked the characters in the book. Jasmine, Beau, and Amon were my favorites. Jasmine is very strong and confident and the majority if the time she wasn’t afraid despite all the evil events unfolding around her. At times I didn’t like the way Jasmine treated Beau as their relationship started to change due to Amon’s introduction, but everything came together eventually. It wasn’t a predictable read! It was difficult to tell what decisions the characters would make and there were times I couldn’t differentiate between friends and foes as more characters are introduced. I don’t want to include a bunch of spoilers, so for the most part, I enjoyed the book. I felt like there were some slow parts with mainly the beginning and the ending remaining my favorites. The ending was a complete total shocker.
I love the way Cassandra Fear Writes. I found it very easy to read from cover to cover. I would’ve liked a tad more romance and maybe faster pacing, but understand this is YA. I’m looking forward to the next book!
It Starts With L
Blurb: High school is tough, and Arielle knows this all too well.
She’s slightly chubbier than most of the other girls and gets reminded of this every day. And the fact that she’s never had a boyfriend makes her prime meat for the bullying crowd.
But then in walks Blake, the cute new boy who sweeps her off her feet and stands up to her bullies. Instant swoon.
Now with a guy at her side, and the promise of a blooming love, Arielle realizes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important. Her best friend, Jess, is on a downward spiral toward disaster, and Arielle needs to find a way to help her.
Unfortunately, Arielle discovers not everything in life is simple. Sometimes things happen, tragedy strikes, and it leaves you with wounds that might never heal.
Arielle is a teenager dealing with typical high school drama and bullying, but won’t let it change her. She’s a simple girl from a good family, but deals with a few insecurities about her weight and appearance, until she meets Blake.
Blake stands up for her and makes her feel more confident. As their relationship blooms, everything seems to be perfect, until Blake starts thinking about the future and becomes unsure of their relationship. She’s not prepared to deal with the uncertainty, but doesn’t want to give up. On top of all her relationship problems, her best friend is making poor decisions and her home life takes a turn for the worse. Arielle is on a slippery slope, but will she be able to regain happiness again?
*Mild Spoilers* I liked all of the main characters in the book, but I wasn’t pleased with Blake. He’s one of those characters that at times you sort of “grrr” over, but you still admire him at the same time. Arielle was confident enough to stay true to herself and I loved that. I didn’t feel like the story was too predictable and really looked forward to finding out how these characters would end up. It was a pleasant surprise and not like the one I expected.*
I’m giving this book 5 stars because I was never bored and I really enjoy this author’s writing as it’s smooth and easy to read. This book reminds me of something I would’ve enjoyed reading in high school and I think this is a perfect book for teens. There really isn’t anything inappropriate and overall it’s a great YA book. I can’t wait to read the next one!
I have three new wordless picture books to share this week! I hope that everyone who has children in their lives will get to read a few wordless picture books with them this year. It’s such a joyous experience! You might find a few of these interesting.
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Blurb: A Caldecott classic celebrating twenty years in print.
David Wiesner received the 1991 Caldecott Medal for Tuesday. In the years that followed, he went on to receive two more Caldecotts, and Tuesday went on to sell half a million copies in the United States and to be published in a dozen foreign countries. Now, with remarkable advances in the technology of color reproduction, the original artwork for Tuesday is being reproduced anew, for an edition even more faithful to the palette and texture of David Wiesner’s watercolor paintings. The whimsical account of a Tuesday when frogs were airborne on their lily pads will continue to enchant readers of all ages.
David Wiesner is a favorite as you know from some of my previous reviews. He never ceases to amaze me and this book is such a beautiful and magical addition to our collection.
The story begins in the early evening on a Tuesday and all is quiet at the pond. All of a sudden, the frogs begin to levitate on their lily pads and travel into a nearby town. They visit a woman watching TV, a man having a snack, and a dog running through a yard.
The only text in the book is the indication that it’s Tuesday with the time. Children love the watercolor illustrations and their imaginations can run wild with this story because it’s surreal.
The idea of frogs traveling on lily pads is so magical and mysterious. How did they do it, and will they be back again next Tuesday?
I can’t believe it’s Wednesday again! The week is flying by. I have two new books to share today and one of my favorite smoothies of all time. This smoothie is what I call the “converter.” If you’re looking to get someone into drinking smoothies, maybe even yourself, this is the go to recipe- as long as you like strawberries!
Before we get to the smoothie recipe, I want to let you guys know how easy it is to freeze your fresh organic bananas and strawberries for smoothies. It really makes the BEST smoothie to freeze these two fruits ahead of time. Here’s what you can do…
Get a cookie sheet out and layer it with a piece of parchment paper.
Peel the bananas and lay them out so they aren’t touching each other.
Put them in the freezer quickly and freeze for 4-6 hours or more. I like to do this overnight.
Take them out and you’ll notice they’re completely frozen and won’t stick to each other.
Pile them in a freezer bag and freeze immediately. As you can see, they are already starting to thaw out a tad. Do everything quickly and it will result in no browning or sticking, just perfect frozen bananas ready for use. Just take them out as needed!
You can do strawberries the same way. Hull them and rinse. Pat dry and lay them out on the sheet, not touching. Freeze for 4-6 hours or more and take them out. Pile them into a freezer and your good to go! Frozen for whenever you need them. They won’t stick together. Here’s a picture of some strawberries that came out of my garden and went straight into the freezer.
Earlier this year I read a few books about an elephant named Tarra. The first one I read was titled Tarra & Bellawritten by Carol Buckley. It’s a book about an elephant (Tarra) and the unlikely relationship she had with a dog named Bella at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. After reading it and learning about Tarra, Carol Buckley, and The Elephant Sanctuary, I had to learn more. I picked up Travels with Tarra, a book about Carol Buckley and Tarra before her life at the sanctuary, and Just For Elephants, another book about an elephant named Shirley who is retiring from a zoo and being moved to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. If you’d like to see my original reviews/posts on these, you can click on the titles below.
Tarra, an Asian elephant, was brought to America in 1974. Tarra was purchased to live at a tire store and the owner specifically purchased her in hope of increased sales. Not long after, Carol Buckley met Tarra for the first time. She instantly had an interest in Tarra and became a permanent fixture in Tarra’s cage.
Carol began studying her and wanted to know everything about her. As time moved on, Carol began training Tarra and believe it or not, Tarra became a performer in the circus. At one point, she learned how to roller skate! Because of her talent, she made multiple appearances in movies like Annie and even popular TV shows. If you’d like to see a video of Carol and Tarra from 1984, Click HERE.
In 1995, Tarra was moved to The Elephant Sanctuary, founded by Carol Buckley. It’s an Elephant retirement sanctuary where elephants can live as they are meant to, with other elephants, and in the wild. In the beginning it started as 200 acres and progressed to over 2,700 acres of land where elephants can roam and be free. Since then, other elephants have been moved there.
Carol has been working with elephants for over 40 years and has developed new standards of care for elephants in captivity. She is no longer with The Elephant Sanctuary and founded Elephant Aid International in 2010. She remains a protector of elephants in captivity and works to ensure that they are being treated humanly. Currently she is working in Asia with Mahouts (elephant handlers) and is helping them train elephants properly while keeping them out of chains. Carol has created multiple projects including:
Programs to support and train Mahouts (Elephant Handlers) – Programs that help support Mahouts and their elephants by giving them tools, equipment, supplies and education for the care of their elephants. The training program uses Positive Reinforcement Target Training (PFTT) and teaches compassionate elephant training.
“Lack of space is the reason for most of the ailments that captive elephants are suffering from.” – Carol Buckley
Last week while on Goodreads I happened to see a blog post by Nicholas Kotar regarding his new book release The Song of the Sirin. I read the blurb and decided to dive right in. After reading I was able to ask Nicholas Kotar some questions about his new book, being an author, and what he’s doing now. You can see my book review for The Song of the Sirin, and the Q&A with Nicholas Kotar below.
You can enter the giveaway for a free SIGNED copy of The Song of the Sirin at the bottom of the page.
Blurb: An evil omen clouds the sky. A song of lore returns. Can one man’s quest save the world?
Voran can’t help but believe the rumors. As blight ravages the countryside and darkness covers the sun, the young warrior of Vasyllia hears of an ancient spirit that devours souls. He feels powerless to fight the oncoming devastation until a mythical creature entrusts him with a long-forgotten song. Legend has it that such a song can heal the masses, overthrow kingdoms, and raise humans to divine beings…
Armed with the memory of the song, Voran must hunt down a dark spirit before it achieves its goal of immortality. His quest takes him through doorways to other worlds and puts him on a collision course with seductive nymphs and riddling giants. With each step of the journey, the strength of the villainous spirit grows, as does Voran’s fear that the only way to save his world… is to let it be destroyed.
The Song of the Sirin is an epic fantasy retelling of the Russian fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf.
Series: Raven Son (Book 1)
Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Waystone Press (June 26, 2017)
*This review may contain a few very mild spoilers*
Fantasy isn’t one of my favorite genres and when it comes to epic fantasy’s like The Song of the Sirin, it takes me extra time to read it along with some concentration. After reading the blurb for this one and finding out that it was inspired by a Russian fairy tale, I couldn’t resist. I rushed to Amazon and picked it up at sale price. I believe it was an exceptional reading choice for me.
The story begins with Voran and Lebía, a brother and sister living in Vasyllia. Their father Otchigen and mother Aglaia have vanished and no one knows where they are. Some say Otchigen vanished after killing many people and stories abound claim him to have beaten his wife Aglaia. Voran doesn’t know what to believe, but he trusts in his heart that his father didn’t commit these crimes. He meets a pilgrim in the wilderness and discovers that everything may not be how it seems.
“You surprise me, young Voran,” said the Pilgrim. “How quickly you pierce to the heart of things. Whatever happens, my falcon, do not forget this. Vasyllia is everything. You must never let Vasyllia fall. She is everything.”
Voran begins to realize that Vasyllia is on the brink of destruction and he’s told that he must locate Living Water to save Vasyllia. At this point, everyone in Vasyllia and the outer lands is in danger. The Covenant Tree is fading, the Sirin sings for Voran, and the adventure unfolds…
There’s so much going on in the story and I was thoroughly surprised throughout the entire book. Even with each chapter having an excerpt from other tales, there was no way I could predict what was ahead. Every chapter had something new happening with separate plots taking place. New characters and events come into the story and they literally leave you aghast. The plot and the characters were so complex with a few of my favorites being Voran, Tarin, and Leshaya. Nicholas Kotar writes beautifully and his writing is very detailed and descriptive. With that said, I have to admit that there were times when I found the reading to be a tad difficult. I ended up with 235 notes and highlights by the time I was done. This may not be a book that you sail through quickly, but it’s very enjoyable to take the time and relish in the beautiful prose.
Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. This epic fantasy has a lot of what fantasy readers expect including shapeshifters, giants, wolf-like monsters, weird creatures, good and evil, magic, and mystery. The ending was heartwarming for me which was not expected with the events that were taking place throughout the book. I’m definitely going to recommend this one and I’m looking forward the other installments.
Anyone who enjoys fantasy will love this book. 4.5*****
This week I’m playing catch up with my reading due to the 4th of July holiday and the fact that I started reading an epic fantasy last week that demanded my full attention. So, I only have one ‘new’ book to share with you that I just started a few days ago. Let’s get to the breakfast first.
I’m excited to share with you an amazingly easy breakfast cereal that can be partially prepared the night before. It’s a simple rice cereal recipe and reminds me of my childhood. As a child, my grandfather would occasionally take us to this amazing Greek restaurant that was a hop, skip, and a jump from our home. I loved that restaurant because after my meal I knew that I was going to get a delicious cup of rice pudding afterward. It was always served with real cream and an extra dollop of whipped cream on top. I literally think this restaurant is where my addiction to rice pudding started. I’ve made rice pudding at home since, and this breakfast cereal is similar in taste, but fairly healthy.
Warm Rice Cereal –
This is actually a quite common recipe. What makes it a little different for me now is that I use almond milk with it and I prepare it in my Vitaclay cooker the night before. Here’s my recipe…
1 cup of rice (I used Jasmine)
1 1/2 to 2 cups of almond milk (or cow’s milk)
1 – 2 TB Butter (Make it dairy free by using oil)
1/8 Cup Honey (Use 1/4 cup sugar if you don’t have honey)
A few dashes of cinnamon
You can make this in a pan very easily just like rice. I used my Vitaclay. I’m also doubling the recipe to feed more people. I added all the ingredients in and stirred.
I used the regular RICE cooking mode, covered it, and set the clock to start at 5am. This way I could wake up and breakfast would already be waiting for everyone. That’s always nice!
Here’s what it looked like this morning after cooking.
I seemed to be a little on the dry side, so I added a little more almond milk and stirred it up.
After adding to my bowl, I added some fresh organic cherries with a little extra almond milk added and an extra dash of cinnamon. It came out perfect and it’s a very filling breakfast!
It’s normally this time of year in July that we have way too many cucumbers and zucchini. I love sharing with the people who live in my area, but most of them have their own gardens and they are sharing some of the same harvests with me. Every year I tell myself to cut down on the number of plants, but I’ve found multiple ways to use these two veggies up quickly. Most of the ways I use are raw, but there are a few of my favorite canning recipes I do yearly included here as well.
First, I took a trip out to the garden this morning to pick some cucumbers and a few zucchini. I had to pause to take a video because all the birds sounded so beautiful this morning. The bees were flying around and pollinating all the flowers.
It’s wonderful to be in nature and to reconnect with our natural environment. It’s too easy to become distanced from nature with our busy lives. All it takes is a trip outside to be grounded again. Even if you’re in the city, you can stop and look up at the sky and just take a deep breath and remind yourself how lucky we are to have this beautiful home we call Earth.
This is a simple salad that uses up a good number of cucumbers quickly. It’s not a super healthy recipe as it does contain mayonnaise, but what you’ll notice is that much of the dressing is left in the bottom of the bowl after all the cucumbers are gone and you’ll need to add more. Here’s the recipe:
5 good size cucumbers
1 cup of mayonnaise
4 tsp. Vinegar
1/4 cup sugar or 1/8 cup honey
1/2 tsp. Dried Dill weed
1/2 tsp. Seasoned salt
Make the dressing first in a large bowl. Mix up all ingredients minus the cucumbers until a nice dressing is made.
Slice the cucumbers and stir them in. It’s that simple!
There’s always dressing left in the bottom, so cut a few more cucumbers afterwards and add them in if you need to. You can also store the dressing in the fridge for later. This is best eaten fresh when the cucumbers are crunchy. Yum!
Now if you want, you can use a processor to slice the cucumbers. It’s not necessary, but nice if you’re making a huge batch.
Set the blade to the thickest slicing.
Pile in the cucumbers by standing them straight up, and push them down through the blade as it’s turning.
Perfectly sliced cucumbers!
If you’re interested in buying a processor, I would recommend the Cuisinart 14 Cup Processor. It’s a real workhorse and has worked well for me for years. I’ve even made nut butters in it. You get a shredding tool, slicing tool, and more.
Sometimes if the cucumbers are really large, you can slice them again. It really doesn’t matter.
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