Friday, August 31, 2018

Book Review: Murder at the Peking Opera

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Murder at the Peking Opera
After helping Prince Kung avert an international disaster and negotiating with Inspector Gong's mother for his betrothal to Concubine Swan, Lady Li takes a well-deserved evening to enjoy the first public performance by a female Peking opera performer. But her relaxing night out takes a dramatic turn when a murder is committed on stage during the performance.

Inspector Gong's attempt at finding a distraction from the troubles in his heart is thwarted when he and Lady Li attend the same opera performance. Thankfully, a murder in front of hundreds of people plunges him into a world usually hidden behind curtains and costumes.

The empress has decreed that women can now play female roles in Peking's beloved operas. But few women have been willing to undertake the challenge and risk the wrath of the more conservative opera patrons. When the first woman willing to step into the role of the "dan" becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her co-star, Lady Li begs Inspector Gong to delay in arresting the actress and find the real killer before the woman is executed for the crime. With the future of Chinese theater hanging in the balance, Inspector Gong must try to find the truth among people who mask their real faces for a living.

Will Lady Li and Inspector Gong discover the killer? Or will the empress's first attempt at social change lose its head before it finds its footing?

Take a peek behind the curtain at the fascinating world of Chinese opera in Murder at the Peking Opera, book 3 in the Qing Dynasty Mystery Series.

I've never read anything by Amanda Roberts before but I can't resist a good mystery. Let's jump in and see if I found one!

The Good:

It's clear that the author spent a lot of time researching this time period because everything just felt as if it fit. I loved the various characters, especially Lady Li's daughters and her interactions with them. The book moves along at a really good pace and the ending wasn't something that was obvious halfway through the book. A good mystery keeps you guessing. A good book gets you invested in the characters and keeps you reading. This book did both.

The Bad:

The only bad that I can come up with was that I didn't start this series sooner. While this is a book 3, it worked great as a standalone and tempted me to go looking for other books in the series. 

The Summary:

I want to know what happens next with these characters and that's one of the best compliments that I can give to any book. I'm going to be adding this series to my wish list and keeping an eye out for more books by this author.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Creamy Turkey Dinner

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Crockpot Monday - Creamy Turkey Dinner
Autumn is almost here and while I'm thinking of cider,donuts, and pumpkins, I'm also thinking about turkey. There's something about it that just screams fall to me. I'm also thinking about pasta...but that could just be because I love pasta.

Creamy Turkey Dinner:


2 pounds turkey breast, cut in chunks
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 cup frozen green beans

Favorite pasta, already prepared


Put the turkey into the bottom of your crockpot and pour in the beef broth and balsamic vinegar. Add onion, mushrooms, and dried parsley. Stir a bit to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for about 4.

Stir in the heavy cream and green beans. Cover and cook on high for another 30 minutes, or until beans are thawed and heated through. Serve over cooked pasta.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Book Review: Death By Crockpot

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Book Review - Death By Crockpot - Katrina Roets

Kat O'Hara returns home penniless, heartbroken and without a job. When the magical Landers sisters hire her to run their new Enchanted Cafe little do they suspect that a gruesome murder is about to take place in the small town of Kissing Bridge Mountain. Things bubble over at the big chili cook-off when a crockpot goes missing and a body is found.
I came across this book sitting on my Kindle and was in the mood for a cozy mystery, ala Murder She Wrote, so I dove right in...

The Good: 

I really enjoyed most of the characters in this book. The Landers sisters especially made me smile and I would love to see more books with them and their family as the focus. I loved the small town feel to the book. It felt like someplace that I might live. Heck, if you're around my site enough, you'll know that I love recipes and crock pots. 

The Bad:

The author has a serious love of adjectives and describing things, even when they don't need to be described. For example, there's a UPS driver that she describes and he's nothing more than a blip in the book as he drops off 5 boxes full of crock pots. The author also makes some odd formatting choices, such as putting a recipe smack dab in the middle of the book and then having an entire recipe section in the back. There are editing and formatting errors galore, as well, which really threw me away from the story. The main character talks about being in France and how she was drunk most of the time she was there...and then I'm not sure one chapter went by when she wasn't drinking and she seemed almost proud of the fact that she was somewhat of a lush. She also mentions twice that she's a writer. The first time, I honestly thought it was a typo and the author meant waiter. The second time wasn't until chapter 33 and at no point in the book does this information have any relevance.

The Summary:

I know I seem like I'm being pretty harsh here, but I guess I just have expectations when it comes to things that could be fixed, should have been caught, but haven't. There's no excuse for something like the font size changing randomly for a few pages and then changing back and then changing again. As for the story itself, it could use some work. When the author contradicts her own story, there's a problem and that's something that an editor should catch. If a casual reader caught it, a good editor should have as well. I really wanted to like this book. I loved most of the characters (the main character was a turn off for me), the setting, and even the premise of the story. I loved the references to things like Murder She Wrote and taking to ones bed. I may give this author another chance, but I'll go in with lower expectations.

If you'd like to jump into a light mystery that I did love, check out The Case of the Cat Show Princess.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Review: All For One

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Book Review - All For One - Katrina Roets
Brimming with heart, humor, and a bit of mystery, this third book in Melody Carlson’s lively new Boomer series packs a poignant punch! Life is heating up for the four Lindas—and it’s not just hot flashes! Abby’s losing sleep over her husband’s health and neglecting her bed-and-breakfast dreams. Caroline may have waited too long to put her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mom in a care facility. Marley’s hard-won independence is threatened by her grown son’s neediness. And Janie’s having a hard time being everyone’s rock as the relationship she counted on falters. Add to that a house fire, a missing set of dishes, a bully brother, plus a half-crazy blonde named Donna, and things get really complicated. But with each new twist their lives take, the Lindas are learning that good friends are the best family a girl can have.

One of my goals is to start reading through my physical book to be read pile alongside my official review books. After all, it makes it easier to downsize if I know if I actually like something or not! This book was sent to me ages ago by the author along with some of her other books after I won a contest that she was doing.

The Good:

This story had just enough "what's next" to keep me reading. The relationships between the characters seemed very real and thought out.

The Bad:

This was book three in a four book series and the author didn't send me any of the other books so I assumed it could stand alone. Turns out that I was mistaken. More than once I had the very strong impression that I should know more than I did about a character or about something that had happened. Also, the synopsis on this book isn't exactly the story that's inside the pages of the book and that always leaves me feeling misled by the author.

The Summary:

Sadly, this book was just kind of 'meh' for me. I really couldn't connect with any of the characters and having not read the other books in the series, I felt a bit lost more than once. This book just couldn't seem to grab a hold of me enough that I want to pick up the other three books in the series. If you'd like to check out one of Melody Carlson's other books, I would recommend The Christmas Cat.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Crockpot Monday : Lobster Bisque

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Lobster is one of those foods that I get to eat once in a blue moon. It just screams decadence to me and you know what? Every once in a while, you deserve a treat and this is the perfect easy dinner that will hopefully make you feel as if you're the queen or king of the ball!

Lobster Bisque:

3 cups chicken broth
8 ounces clam juice
14.5 ounces stewed tomatoes
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 large leek, diced (just the white part!)
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning mix
1 teaspoon dill
1 cup heavy cream (to add later)
2 lobster tails (to add later)
lemon slices as garnish, and to squeeze in at the end


Use a 5 quart or larger crockpot, and combine the broth, clam juice, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, leek, parsley, Old Bay, dill, and parsley.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, high for 4-5, or until onions are translucent and flavors have melded.

Use an immersion blender to blend into a chowdery broth or very carefully add it to a traditional blender and blend before adding it back into the crockpot. Add lobster tails. Cover and cook on high for 30-45 minutes, or until lobster tails have turned pink and the meat is fork tender. Remove lobster tails from crockpot. Stir in heavy cream.

Ladle into dishes, and serve with lemon slices and lobster meat. You can take the meat out of the tail, and mix it in the soup, or leave it intact and pick at it at the table. 

I cannot wait to put this on the menu! My birthday is coming up so that just might be the perfect time!

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: The Things We Don't Say

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A beguiling painting holds the secrets of a woman’s past and calls into question everything she thought she knew about the man she loved…

Nearly sixty years ago, renowned London artist Patrick Adams painted his most famous work: a portrait of his beloved Emma Temple, a fellow bohemian with whom he shared his life. Years after Patrick’s death, ninety-year-old Emma still has the painting hanging over her bed at their country home as a testament to their love.

To Emma’s granddaughter, Laura, the portrait is also a symbol of so much to come. The masterpiece is serving as collateral to pay Laura’s tuition at a prestigious music school. Then the impossible happens when an appraiser claims the painting is a fraud. For Laura, the accusation jeopardizes her future. For Emma, it casts doubt on everything she believed about her relationship with Patrick. Laura is determined to prove that Patrick did indeed paint the portrait. Both her grandmother’s and Patrick’s legacies are worth fighting for.

As the stories of two women entwine, it’s time for Emma to summon up the past—even at the risk of revealing its unspoken secrets.

Dude! Did you know that you get a free ebook each month if you have Amazon Prime? Somehow I just found this out and this was my first book choice. Let's dive in, shall we?

The Good:

I loved the stories of these two women and how one's past affected the other's future. I've seen some say that they couldn't connect with Laura and her panic, but that wasn't the case for me. I've been where everything I wanted was within reach, just to have it ripped away. Sometimes life can be a cruel mistress. I will admit that Emma's side of the story entranced me a bit more than Laura's, but both were sides worth reading. I knew the book had me firmly in its grasp when I cried at the end. Any book that can evoke emotion that way is worth reading.

The Bad:

If I had one complaint, it would be that this book is  bit of a slow starter. Still, it didn't take me long before I had been pulled in and had to make myself stop reading so that I could get some much needed sleep.

The Summary:

If you get a chance to pick up this book, I would suggest that you take a couple of days to just relax and to read. It's the kind of book that made me wish for a blanket under the trees near the water's edge. I wanted to immerse myself in my own paradise while I read of the ones that Emma made for others. 

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Lima Bean Soup

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Does anyone remember being a kid and saying, "ewww...lima beans!"? I don't. I loved lima beans as a kid. If I had an eww veggie, it would have been beets. I just could not get into them. Lima beans though? More please!

Lima Bean Soup:

1 pound of soaked lima beans, drained (for quick soak: boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and leave covered for 1 hour.)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 head (about 10 cloves) garlic, peeled
1 (28-ounce) can diced or plum tomatoes with basil
1 (28-ounce) can water
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups diced ham


Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Place the drained lima beans into your crockpot and add the onion and garlic. Dump in the tomatoes, then rinse the can into the pot. Add paprika and stir in the ham.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the beans are fully soft.

Use an immersion blender to naturally thicken the broth by blending some of the beans and tomatoes. This also helps distribute the flavor and squish up the garlic cloves. If you don't have a handheld blender, you can scoop out a cup or so of the beans and smash them with a large fork or blend in a traditional blender, then stir them back into the pot.

This is one soup that I always look forward to making!

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Review: Betrothed to the Dragon

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Book Review - Betrothed to the Dragon - Katrina Roets
Cover Art
I like to pretend I’m just another immigrant trying make her way in New York City…but I’m not.

You may know of my family from stories of an older age. Across all nations, all cultures, my family was once worshipped as gods, cursed as demons and shunned as otherworldly creatures.

Reality? I am shen, but the worst kind of shen there is.

One who would rather pretend to be human than to rule them.

One with no magic.

One hunted by the immortal monster that killed my parents.

And now, I just discovered how grandma found us refuge in America, how she thought she could save me.

She betrothed me – to a dragon.

When I first came across this book, I had no idea what a shen is. I'm still not 100% sure, but what I am sure of is that I read this book and I have opinions.

The Good:

This book is fast paced and easy to read. The characters are interesting, although it left me really wanting to know a lot more about all of them. There was just enough back story to keep it interesting, but not enough that I really felt as if I knew any of the characters by the end of the book. I did find the story premise to be incredibly interesting and I love the idea of magical creatures existing right in front of our eyes. 

The Bad:

I received an advanced reader copy which means that the book hasn't gone through it's final edits, but I do hope that the proofreader/editor fixes some of the mistakes that jumped out at me. Above I mentioned not really feeling as if I know the characters. It's not just the characters though. There are traditions and histories mentioned in passing that I would love to know a lot more about. I felt as if some things were simply skipped over and I'd like to see a bit more attention paid to important moments so that the reader realizes that they're important.

The Summary:

This book is a fun, fast read. I will warn you though that if reading about sex turns you off, this isn't the book for you. I found it to be a compelling blend of story and smut. The author made the two work well together and I'm looking forward to possibly checking out the second book in this series when it comes out in September.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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