Mailbox Monday – October 31



Hosted in October at Savvy Verse & Wit

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The Rose Garden (audio) by Susanna Kearsley (my buy from Audible)

Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr (my buy)

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (NetGalley)

Sunrise on Cedar Key by Terri DuLong (thanks to Kaye!)

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

Title:  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

Author:  Kathleen Flinn

Genre:  Cooking; Memoir

Published:  September 2011 – Viking

About: (back of arc) After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultra processed foods. Flinn’s “chefternal” instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

Inspired, Flinn rounded up nine novices from varying backgrounds who were insecure about their cooking skills. After kitchen “makeovers” and a series of basic cooking lessons where they learned to wield knives, trust their taste, and improve their food choices, the women found a common missing ingredient – confidence.

My take:  I wish I’d had this book when my kids were young. I think I would have made more informed choices instead of opting for convenience. My food choices have been better over the years but there’s still room for improvement. This book is going on my kitchen bookshelf for quick reference. I’m also going to search out a knife skills class in my area. That seems to be the one aspect that all nine students valued most. It gave them confidence. Flinn explains what to look for in a chef’s knife: how it’s made, how it should feel in your hand, etc.

There are basic recipes scattered throughout the book and I plan to try most of them. After reading about specific lessons I feel like I can braise meats, make soups, sauces, vinaigrettes, and cut up or roast a whole chicken. Seriously, I have never roasted a whole chicken – but I will now! That’s a testament to The Kitchen Counter Cooking School – it made me feel like I could do this.

A few months after the classes ended Flinn visited the students to see how they were doing in terms of making changes in their cooking. It was interesting to see how they incorporated what they’d learned into their lives.

I recommend this book to fans of cooking, memoirs, and anyone who needs inspiration to make positive changes in the kitchen as well as the grocery store.

Source:  Viking via Goodreads First Reads

Disclosure Policy:  see sidebar

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Title:  Until There Was You

Author:  Kristan Higgins

Genre:  Chick Lit; Contemporary Romance

Published:  October 2011 – HQN Books

About:  (Pub. synopsis) Posey Osterhagen can’t complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she’s surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something’s missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking…something like Liam Murphy.

When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he’s back, sending Posey’s traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but it seems fate has other ideas….

My take:  Sounds like another fun Kristan Higgins novel, doesn’t it? Well, it is that and more.

Higgins’ trademark humor and sympathetic heroine-with-a-wacky-family are definitely there but, in my opinion, the true star of Until There Was You is Liam Declan Murphy.He is not your run-of-the-mill former bad boy. Liam Murphy is a complex man. He is also a widower with a teenage daughter. He’s just trying to be a good father and make a home for his daughter. I loved that Higgins revealed his layers throughout the entire novel and not in one pat description.

Posey is an ordinary young woman who wants to find what seems so easy for her brother and cousin – someone to love. She is such a relatable character that it was easy to cheer her on. What she finds is that her impression of people and events (present and past) may or may not have been accurate. That knowledge makes all the difference to Posey and her life going forward. Until There Was You  is charming and heartwarming. I really enjoyed it.

Recommended to fans of Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance, and Kristan Higgins.

Source:  HQN

Disclosure Policy: see sidebar

You Don’t Sweat Much For A Fat Girl by Celia Rivenbark

Title:  You Don’t Sweat Much For A Fat Girl

Author:  Celia Rivenbark

Genre:  Humor/Essays

Published:  August 2011 – St. Martin’s Griffin

My take:  If you like snarky and humorous essays with a southern perspective you’ll want to read this collection. It made me laugh – a lot.

From the one about Where will all those Chinese boys find wives when they’re ready to marry? to What if the Cash Cab joins the expected fleet of space taxis taking fares to some planet? – I enjoyed the giggle-fest.

Each essay starts with a kernel of wisdom and explodes into wacky hilarity. Having raised two daughters I loved the final essay: Teen Angel. It’s about raising teens in the texting/facebook era. Funny (and scary and true) stuff.

Source:  Publisher via Goodreads First Reads

Guest Post: Jodi Thomas – The Comforts Of Home

Today I’m pleased to welcome author Jodi Thomas. I’ve enjoyed her Harmony series so I’m anxious to read the latest installment: The Comforts of Home (on sale Nov. 1st).  So, without further ado, here’s Jodi!

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As fall settles in around the Panhandle of Texas, I’m getting excited about THE COMFORTS OF HOME coming out Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. My favorite time of year is fall with the cool nights and sometimes rainy days. The perfect weather to curl up with a book.

When the people of Harmony began to sit down and tell me their story (in my head) I found one quiet woman fascinating from the first. At a time in her life when she was young and should have been going out on dates and having a ball, she was silently  working at the post office without one person she called friend. The story whirls around with people falling in love, breaking up and living life, but in the corner of my mind, Ronelle Logan waited for her story.

People in general frightened her. One by one they were terrifying.  Chapter 2, The Comforts of Home

In the opening of THE COMFORTS OF HOME she is about to meet a man who will petrify her at first and awaken her to life as they talk.

I love writing and plan to do it as long as stories come. Writing is hard work and I often think the story will never be as bright as it is in my mind. Then I remember that someone asked Mark Twain about his wonderful stories and he said “You should have seen it in my head.”

So, order, or borrow, or download my story, cuddle up in your favorite chair and come along with me on a journey that will make you feel at home in Harmony.

Jodi Thomas

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Jodi ThomasJodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today best-selling author of 34 novels and 11 short story collections. In June 2011, WELCOME TO HARMONY won a RITA, the highest award for contemporary fiction. Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
Thanks for visiting, Jodi. My review of THE COMFORTS OF HOME will post November 2. I hope everyone will come back to see what I think.  
There will be a giveaway!

Short Story: The Cupcake Witch by Sharon Galligar Chance

Title:  The Cupcake Witch

Author:  Sharon Galligar Chance

Genre:  Short Story

Published:  October 2011

My take:  Summer Garner owns the Sweet Tops bakery. Her cupcakes are known for the effect they have on anyone who eats one – it’s magical! Summer senses that change is in the air so she’s not surprised when she discovers that customer Nick Wilson is a private investigator sent to check out her shop. What she doesn’t know is who sent him and why.

The Cupcake Witch is a cute short story. Sharon Galligar Chance’s descriptions created an exact picture in my mind of the shop, the characters, and the cupcakes. I seriously wanted to find a bakery and indulge my sweet tooth while reading!

The story itself is sweet and the premise is fun. As a reader I’d love to see it developed more – possibly as a cozy novel but for now it was a great way to spend time in a bakery without the calories 🙂

Source:  I bought it

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Title:  Her Royal Spyness (Audiobook)

Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #1

Author:  Rhys Bowen

Narrator:  Katherine Kellgren

Genre:  Mystery

Published:  June 2007, Berkley

About:  The setting is England, 1932. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie to her friends) is 34th in line to the throne and her family money is gone. She needs a job – something unheard of in her circle. She heads to London to look for a job. During this time she stays at her family’s house. One day a man arrives with a note that says her family’s ancestral home in Scotland is his – the result of a gambling loss by Georgie’s father. A few days later that man turns up dead – in the overflowing bathtub of Georgie’s London house. The prime suspect: Georgie’s brother, the duke. Knowing it can’t be Binky (her brother), Georgie makes it her responsibility to find the real murderer.

My take:  I was asked to read and review the latest in the Her Royal Spyness series so, not being familiar with it, I decided to read the first book. Even better, I decided to use my September credit to listen to the first book. I’m so glad I did because Katherine Kellgren’s performance is delightful.

Rhys Bowen’s mystery of who killed the man in Georgie’s brother’s house is filled with amusing characters such as Georgie’s mother and her old school pal Belinda. There’s a flirtation between Georgie and Darcy O’Mara (an Irishman with a knack for showing up when she needs him) that I just know will be present throughout the series.

I enjoyed Her Royal Spyness and look forward to reading more of this series. Recommended to fans of cozy mysteries. If you like audiobooks I suggest you try listening to this book.

Source:  I bought it.

Merciless by Diana Palmer

Title:  Merciless

Author:  Diana Palmer

Published:  July 2011 HQN Books

Genre:  Romance

About:  FBI agent Jon Blackhawk finds out that a criminal he helped put behind bars has been released and wants revenge. People in his life are getting threatening anonymous phone calls. When Jon is shot he realizes the situation is more dangerous than he thought – especially to the people he cares about most: his mother, his brother, and even his smart and efficient office assistant, Joceline. She’s been his loyal co-worker for years and harbors a secret that could change his life. Will Jon learn the secret? Will he be able to keep his loved ones safe?

My take:  Merciless is the first book I’ve read by Diana Palmer. There are references to the case that involved a family of criminals that made me think it was the focus of a previous novel but Ms. Palmer caught me up to speed along the way.

The Blackhawk family is quite loyal to one another. Jon’s mother is a force to be reckoned with and it is no secret that she doesn’t like Joceline. She’s constantly trying to match him with women she thinks are suitable – something that drives Jon a little crazy. During those scenes there’s a lot of witty banter between Joceline and Jon which I found amusing.

All in all, Merciless was an ok read for me. I would have liked a few of the characters to be a little more fleshed out – but perhaps they were in a previous book?  Although I enjoyed the banter between Jon and Joceline I found their romance a bit forced and rushed. I really liked the conclusion that surprised me with a bit of a twist.

Source:  Planned Television Arts

Recipes For Life: My Memories by Linda Evans with Sean Catherine Derek

Title:  Recipes For Life: My Memories

Author:  Linda Evans with Sean Catherine Derek

Genre:  Memoir with recipes

Published:  October 2011 – Vanguard Press

My take:  When I was young one of my favorite television shows was The Big Valley starring Barbara Stanwyck and a young actress named Linda Evans. I thought she was the most beautiful person on tv. So when I was offered a review copy of Recipes For Life I happily accepted. Linda Evans went on to star in one of the biggest shows on television: Dynasty. My children were born during those years so I was too busy/tired to watch the show but I knew it was very popular.

Recipes For Life is filled with Evans’ memories starting with her family’s move to California in the 1940s and moves through the decades to recent years. There are many stories about stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, John Forsythe, and John Wayne (to name a few) who were not only co-stars but also good friends. I enjoyed the numerous color photos scattered throughout the book. Evans also wrote about her love of cooking and included several favorite recipes – hers and those of famous chefs, actors, and other friends.

At times I was surprised by how much Evans disclosed about her marriages and relationships yet she didn’t do it in a negative way. She always seemed to take the good from each one and move on – usually on good terms. I admire her positive approach to life. Hers hasn’t necessarily been easy but she has been blessed with a few wonderful friends who have been as devoted to her as she is to them. And in my book that makes her a fortunate person.

I recommend Recipes For Life  to fans of Hollywood memoirs and cookbooks.

Source:   FSB Associates

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Linda’s Famed Artichoke Dip
By Linda Evans,
Author of Recipes For Life: My Memories

I’ve been making my artichoke dip for years. Practically everyone who has ever tasted it has asked me for the recipe. It’s perfect for large parties or for smaller, intimate gatherings. Or when your husband’s ex-wife comes to dinner! The secret here is to use the artichoke bottoms, not the hearts. Artichoke hearts may be easier to find, they don’t produce the same results. The recipe easily doubles or triples for large gatherings. You can also replace the artichokes with 7 ounces of lump crab meat for a delicious variation.


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Tabasco (or more, to taste)
1½ tablespoons thinly sliced scallions (white part only)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (I prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1 (13¾ ounce) can artichoke bottoms (not hearts), drained and finely diced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the mayonnaise. One by one, blend in the Tabasco sauce, scallions, and Parmesan.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the artichokes (don’t use the mixer for this).

Spoon the mixture into a 3-cup baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers.

The above is an excerpt from the book Recipes For Life: My Memories by Linda Evans. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Evans, author of Recipes For Life: My Memories

Weekend Cooking is a meme hosted at Beth Fish Reads

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews (audiobook)

Title:  Summer Rental

Author:  Mary Kay Andrews

Narrator:  Isabel Keating

Genre:  Chick Lit

Published:  June 2011 – Macmillan Audio

About:  (from the Goodreads synopsis) Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves in their mid-thirties and at the crossroads of life and love… A month in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what each of them needs.

My Take:  The first half of the book pretty much fills the reader in on each character’s background. When Dorie brings home a woman to rent one of the beach house bedrooms the story picks up. She’s on the run from her crook of a husband and needs a place to hide out. There are also sparks between Ellis and Ty, the owner of the rental house. Ty’s about to lose the house to the bank so he’s  moonlighting as a bartender and day-trading during regular hours. The rest of the time he’s trying to keep his renters happy by getting rid of bugs, you know – landlord stuff. Ellis is the one who lets him know when anything’s wrong but she has to do it via email. The email exchanges between the two were quite funny and endearing.

I really liked Isabel Keating as narrator. I’m not from the south but if the conversation between author and narrator at the end of the audiobook is any indication, she did a great job on the voices.  I learned that Keating is the only narrator of Mary Kay Andrews’ books and the author is thrilled with her performances.

So, despite my feeling that the first part of the book was a little slow, I enjoyed Summer Rental. Listening to it made me feel like I was on the beach and enjoying vacation with the characters in the novel. Recommended to fans of Mary Kay Andrews and enjoyable beach reads.

Source:  I bought it.