Ghost Walk by Marianne MacDonald & Haunting Jordan by P.J. Alderman

Started and finished this book this morning; it almost made me late for work:)  It is the second in the Dido Hoare series which I only recently discovered.  I love the characters of Dido, her father Barnabas and now her new sidekick, Ernie.   The characters are rich and well developed and I really enjoy the relationships among them and the others on the periphery of the story.

The mystery surrounds a former spy/secret agent and bookstore customer who died under what Dido deems suspicious circumstances.  Scotland Yard is involved along with other police/governmental agencies and even Egyptian authorities.  Dido follows the clues, attempting to do justice for  the dead man.  Barnabas and Ernie each helping in their own ways, everything from watching her baby, Ben, to minding the store, acting as a bodyguard, or researching antiquities.

This is a wonderful series, with a strong and intelligent cast,  and I plan to read all of it.  There are 8 in the series so far.  I have looked on line but am unable to find any current information on the author so I don’t know if she is still writing or not. The antiquarian book shop sets the theme, but it is not as cutesy as many modern theme based cozies.

 

Finished this one last night, the first in the Port Chatham series.  This is a paranormal cozy and the paranormal definitely takes front and center stage so you need to be prepared for that to be the focus.

The characters are interesting including Jordan Marsh, the protagonist therapist turned home renovator turned sleuth.  A good looking contractor type is thrown in for fun and then of course, the ghosts.

Jordan is actually dealing with more than one mystery.  The death of her ex-husband, an open case in she is the main suspect and the murder of Hattie, one of the ghosts inhabiting her home.  The chapters flip back and forth between the present day and the past events and journal entries.

The writing is well done and the transitions between chapters, past and present flow smoothly, which can be difficult to do well. Curious to see how this series continues since the original ghost’s mystery is solved.  Paranormal is not my favorite read, but this was well enough done that I would give another book in the series a try.

 

Weekend Cooking: Spicy Apple Cake & Beef with Endive and Sun-dried Tomatoes

wkendcooking

 

This is a meme hosted by BethFishReads found here.

This weekend had an inauspicious start as far as cooking goes.  Friday night we had a dinner of nibbles – well all the nibbles we could pull together from the pantry and fridge, cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, carrots and hummus for dip, and fruit with creme fraiche and honey.

 

Saturday was a better planned day with a breakfast of Spiced Apple Cake made with a recipe from Mari’s World and dinner from a Williams-Sonoma recipe: Beef with Endive and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

For the beef:

3 lb. beef rump roast

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

6 cloves of garlic – minced

1 1/3 cups beef stock

¼ cup white wine

Thyme sprigs

3 bay leaves

 

For the salad:

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I didn’t have this; I used white wine vinegar instead)

2 Tbsp. walnut oil (I didn’t have walnut oil; I used grapeseed oil)

2 large heads of Belgian endive

½ cup pitted and chopped green olives

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

Zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  • Season the beef generously with salt and pepper
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Once it is hot, sear the beef turning as needed until browned on all sides.  Transfer to your slow cooker.
  • Pour off most of the oil.  Return to medium high heat and add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Pour in the stock and wine and dislodge any bits stuck to the pan.  Add the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and transfer all to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Once the beef is done; remove from the slow cooker and shred with two forks.
  • To make the salad, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, oil, & lemon zest.
  • Chop the olives and sundried tomatoes
  • Core and chop the endive and parsley.
  • Combine all salad ingredients and toss to coat.

 

To serve, spread all the shredded beef on a serving platter.  Pile the salad on top of the beef.  Use tongs or two spoons to serve, giving a generous portion of both meat and salad.

 

The apple cake was awesome both for breakfast and later in the afternoon with a pot of Williamson tea.

The dinner was very tasty with a wonderful blend of flavors and textures.  (It’s optional but we drank a nice bottle of red wine with ours)

Both of these are recipes I will keep and make again.

Hope everyone else is having “foodie” fun this weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair and The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

Last night I read these two books that I’ve had stacked in my bedroom for quite a while, A Veiled Deception and The Best Man.

The Best Man was an engaging light American romance.  There are some hardships that the main character overcomes, death of her mother and being jilted at the altar in front of her whole town.  A “boy” from the wrong side of the tracks and a family full of characters who love each other and show it in their own way.  I liked the characters and the story line.  This was a light, fun read.

 

A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair is a magical themed cozy mystery, involving fashion, weddings, family, lost love, secrets, and of course, murder.  The main character is Madeira…and she has sisters Sherry and Brandy, let’s just leave that alone.

The fashion information that was incorporated was interesting to me.  I like vintage fashion and Madeira,”Maddie” is interested in fleeing from her NY designer job to open a vintage fashion shop in her home town.

Some of the dialogue was a little off, unnatural, but the mystery was interesting and involved secrets and long lost love.   The magic end was not overplayed, more psychic than witch, but I don’t know how that will develop over the series.  Overall, a fun light cozy read and I will read more in the series.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey & Evan Help Us by Rhys Bowen

This is the second book in the wonderful Constable Evans Mystery series by Rhys Bowen.  I picked this book up from the library having read and enjoyed the first one.  Constable Evans is a happy village policeman surrounded by an interesting array of characters, among them Evans the Meat, Evans the Post, tourists, competing love interests, and of course a murderer.  The mystery begins when an amateur archaeologist stumbles upon what might be the tomb of King Arthur and then has his head bashed in on his way home from the pub.  The mystery leads the reader all through the little Welsh village and then some leads go all the way to London.

The book invokes a well established sense of place.  I love the Welsh mountain village setting.  The characters are well developed and engaging.  I will definitely read more in this series.

I have never read any Josephine Tey books, but having recently heard of her I decided to read The Daughter of Time, which is supposed to be one of her best or most well known books.  The Daughter of Time opens with Inspector Alan Grant being injured and laid up in the hospital.  He is not a happy patient and Marta, who knows of the Inspector’s fascination with faces, provides him with stacks of images to entertain himself.  One of them was the image of RIchard III.  The changeable nature of the portrait captures Grant’s imagination.

Inspector Grant takes up an investigation to discover whether or not Richard III was really guilty of murdering the young princes.  From his hospital bed, Grant conducts his entire investigation.  A fascinating look at history and how it is recorded, particularly when the victor is doing the recording.

This book is number 5 in the series and I have not read any of the others, but it is very able to be a stand alone book. I liked Inspector Grant as a character, even though I suppose in this book he was not entirely himself, since he spent the whole time in his hospital bed and I loved the historical mystery.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

19389-wkendcooking  This is a meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads found here.  This weekend I’ve actually done quite a bit of cooking and cooking activities so….here we go.

Saturday I finally used the beignet mix I brought back from Cafe Du Monde along with a can of their chicory seasoned coffee.  I LOVED both and had them everyday when I was in New Orleans.  The mix worked perfectly and in very little time we had a heaping platter of beignets coated in powdered sugar and lovely cups of cafe au lait..breakfast of champions or perhaps not.

Today I made (with some of my own additions) Delia Smith’s shepherd’s pie.  Recipe to be found here: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/lamb/shepherds-pie-with-cheese-crusted-leeks.html    Where Delia used lamb, I used ground beef and pork.  Where Delia used lamb stock, I used a combination of beef stock, red wine and the liquid from soaking a few dried shiitake mushrooms that I added.  I also added a splash of Worcestershire sauce and some baby peas before I spread the potato topping.  Very delish and one of my daughter’s favorites.  I tend to use recipes as a jumping off point quite often.

My daughter had a potluck work function and volunteered to bring pie…then someone said they had to be gluten free.  We tried our hand at gluten free baking and it seemed pretty successful.  She bought gluten free pie crusts from Whole Foods for the Pecan Pie and the Brown Sugar Pumpkin Pie (Martha Stewart’s recipe) and then I helped her make her own for  Sky-high apple and cranberry pie found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/857649/sky-high-apple-cranberry-pie

The final food related part of my weekend was attending a cooking demonstration at Williams Sonoma.  They offer them Sunday’s at 11:00 and they are usually fun and full of interesting information & hints.  Today’s was “Hands Free Cooking”, basically using Slow Cookers and Pressure Cookers.  Came away with a really tasty recipe:  Beef with fennel and sun dried tomatoes. Thinking about trying it next weekend. When I scan in the recipe, I’ll post it here.

Anyway that was the extent of my food – related weekend activities (unless you count drinking countless pots of Williamson Traditional Afternoon tea with Walker’s shortbread)

What good things did you eat this weekend?

The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere

Picked this up from the library and read it last night.  I recently read another Irish based mystery, Buried in a Bog, and really liked that book, so this appealed to me.  First the good, the book has a, strong female protagonist and interesting writing style, such as using chapters of varying lengths and different points of view (some are only a page long).  The bad is ..well, bad.  The protagonist is 27 or is that 30? Depends upon which section of the book you are reading (not really a bad error over all), the combination of languages the translator speaks is almost completely impossible to believe, especially coming from a relatively small American town where she would not have had the opportunity to be be immersed in them, we are talking about Scandinavian languages, Greek, Hungarian, some Russian, French, Portuguese, Gaelic and so on.    I could understand a large group of Romance languages, but not this combination.  And if by chance she is some unique human language savant, why would she be working hit or miss contract work and struggling for money?

Next, up some of the geography in Ireland, as in the distances is off.  The pay for Maureen Devlin is off for the time period  and some other little anachronisms as well.  The biggest problem with the plot is the back story for the protagonist, Torrey Tunet.  I don’t want to tell the whole thing, but it drives much of the plot in the current story, so the fact that it is far fetched is an issue.

As many problems as there are, the main character is strong and charming, very individualistic, it does leave me wondering if things improve in later books.

Reading This Week

I have looked at this series several times and finally decided to try it on my Kindle.  I read lots of mysteries and love cats and wine, so  expected to love this.  The main character is a young widow who is a relative stranger in the small town she lives in, people know of her but don’t know her. Her life revolves around her three cats and her quilting business and the mystery begins with one of her cats, an Abyssinian, named Syrah, being catnapped.  The other two, Merlot and Chablis, were apparently the “brains” of the crew and hid from the cat napper.  There is a murder later with a human victim, but make no mistake the cats are the stars of this show.

I found the book to be okay, maybe 2.5 out of 5 stars, but there was not enough there to keep me going back for more in the series. Not when I am interested in so many other series and have so many started.  I didn’t connect with the character, Jill, that well and found a couple of the other characters a little odd, not odd in the cozy mystery, quirky character kind of way, just odd.  I will say I was surprised at the reveal and the mystery was solved satisfactorily.

Also on my Kindle, I had this book:

This is not the cover of my edition, but it was all I  could find. Truth be told I probably wouldn’t have bought the book with this cover :).  Light, fun read with some heartbreak, some romance, and some basic growing up.  The main character, Mary was married young and then her husband has an affair and she has to start over, in the Cotswolds.  I liked it well enough that I would probably try the second in the series given the opportunity.  I found some parts of the plot forced you to suspend your disbelief  quite a bit, but overall an enjoyable chick lit type read.

I received this book by Mariah Stewart as part of a series from a friend.  I hate to say but it went in my DNF pile…I finished it, but with major league skimming to the end, so I don’t think I can say much more other than it was not for me.

 

Finally, the best of the bunch!  I always enjoy Trisha Ashley books and this was no exception to that.  Really lovely, touching, romantic comedy type read.  I loved the main character, Holly Brown (perfect name for a Christmas themed book).  The cooking and food scenes were mouthwatering and the setting was perfect.  The characters were well developed and interesting.  You could clearly understand their motivations and behaviors.  This book definitely put me in the mood for the holidays.  Fans of British women’s fiction, Christmas themed books, and cooking (traditional foods) should all find something to enjoy here.