The Groovy Green Kitchen: Weeknight Veggie Slow Cooker

I received a Kindle copy from the author for a fair review.

I am a collector of cookbooks and recipes in various formats and really enjoy cooking.  I used to participate regularly in the Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme and may get back to that at some point.

This book includes not only slow cooker recipes, but in many cases accompaniments, such as scones, muffins, salsas, salads, etc. which makes it very user friendly for busy people allowing them to put together whole meals. I know that when my children were young I loved cookbooks that laid out the whole meal for me so I could use the few brain cells I had left for everything else that was going on.  There are a variety of  recipes to suit many tastes and to get away from the whole “everything tastes the same” complaint that many people have regarding slow cookers.

Some of the recipes are for traditional fare or the standbys of slow cooker chefs, “In the Navy” Bean Soup, Sweet and Spicy Chili, and Slow Simmered Cabbage Rolls to name a few.  Others are more innovative for a change of pace such as a Mediterranean Lasagne or Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Fragrant Orange Basmati Rice.  The recipes are vegetarian but easily adapted for  meat eating households when desired, for example replace Tofu based sausage with sausages of your choice.

The only issue I have is that I would like more pictures, however I am sure that is a cost driven issue. The book is very reasonably priced and a good value for the money.  Recommended for any slow cooker users!

Witch & Fables 2: Animal Farm

I read these two last night and early this morning (woke up and couldn’t sleep.  I had to be up anyway for an early morning bagel run).

Witch was an impulse buy at the library book sale, the cover drew me in. It was only when I got home and looked the book up that I found that Barbara Michaels is also writes and Egyptian themed mystery series that is much beloved as Elizabeth Peters.  I had no idea that she wrote books other than the Amelia Peabody series.  In real life the Author, Barbara Mertz, was actually an Egyptian scholar and brings that knowledge and background to the Amelia Peabody series making those books great reads.

This book was a really good paranormal suspense/romance.  The plot moved along at a quick pace.  The protagonist was a strong independent woman setting out on her own after spending many years taking care of famly.  The cult like church was like something ripped out of today’s headlines….Westboro??.  The story had a balanced mix of reality and magical elements, including ghosts but not in an overly dramatic way.  I did guess the “true” story prior to the end, but it did not impact my enjoyment of the book.  I’d recommend this to readers of paranormal suspense/romance especially those looking for books where the protagonist is not a teenager.

Fables 2: Animal Farm is the second book in a graphic novel series recommended to me by Ronnie Reads and Reviews.  I do enjoy the  fractured fairy tale genre.  After being a teacher, I find the saddest part is that the fractured fairy tale unit that I used to teach doesn’t work that well with today’s children because they don’t know the original stories.  I will get off that soapbox and review.

I thought that this was good take on fracturing fairy tales using Animal Farm, a book that many people seem to overlook now or feel is too simplistic.  The adversarial relationship between Snow White and Rose Red played out as sibling rivalry was well done and believable even in graphic novel format.  The relationship between Goldie and the three bears, indeed the Goldie character was fresh and funny and yet still in keeping with the original feel in many ways.  I enjoyed this and will continue with the series.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I have been seeing this title on several lists and finally picked it up.  A very short novel, under 200 pages, this was a short read, in which the setting is Africa during colonization by the British Empire. The plot surrounds the life of Okonkwo, a warrior, a self made hard working man, a brutal man, and a member of the elite in the village of Umuofia.  Okonkwo is in some ways admirable, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps in only the way that someone coming from abject poverty and the worst circumstances can, however this rise to the elite in his village has made him a brutal, cold man.  He beats his wives and his children and shows no affection outwardly, thinking that affection is a sign of weakness.

Okonkwo probably would have lived a successful, happy life in his village if he had been born 50 years earlier.  He valued the traditions of his culture and his village and wanted to maintain the status quo, unfortunately he lives in a time of change.  Change brought about by white missionaries, schools being built, and colonial goverment imposing their laws and justice on the land.  Inevitably, Okonkwo’s refusal to change leads to his downfall.

Although the book can be read as issue based literature, colonial rule in Africa, missionary work among native populations, or even the treatment of women and children in patriarical societies, I read this as a book about change.  Human beings in all kinds of circumstances need to be able to adapt to survive.  Okonkwo tries to stand against the tide of change and suffers the consequences.

The Private Patient & Murder in the Kitchen

I just read these two  yesterday and this morning.  I vaguely recollect reading a PD James book a long time ago but have not read any others and now I don’t know why.  I loved The Private Patient.  It ticks all the boxes for a great mystery read, an intelligent sleuth, a well developed sense of place, abundant red herrings, appropriate pacing for the plot, and a large cast of characters each with their own complex histories and motivations.  This was well written and such an enjoyable  read that I will definitely seek out more books by PD James.

Murder in the Kitchen was a freebie Kindle romantic/chick lit mystery.  The books involves the classic mystery trope of an isolated manor house leaving the reader with a small cast of suspects to investigate along with the sleuths, Harley and Cordelia. The sleuths at times seemed more interested in romance than mystery solving and some of the other characters were cartoonish in their simplicity, the wanna be celebrity, the publicity hungry investigative photo “journalist”, the crotchety cook/household staff, etc.  This was a light, very short mystery.  The ending and the reasoning behind it seemed slightly contrived.

Whodunnit? Wednesday

Whodunnit Wednesday  I’d like to start a new meme…Whodunnit? Wednesday.  Any interested mystery readers just grab the image and  comment with a link to your mystery themed post.

My mystery reads today are a mixture:  cozy, chick lit suspense, and police procedural

Killer Crullers is a cozy mystery that is book 6 in the Donut Shop Mysteries by Jessica Beck.  I have read all the previous books in this series and enjoyed them and this one was no exception.  Suzanne investigates the death of a man who had threatened her and Gabby’s stores.  Besides the murder, Suzanne is also dealing with a possible competitor for her boyfriend Jake’s attentions and a possible wedding in her mom’s future.  All the stories come together in a satisfying conclusion.  A good read for cozy mystery fans!

Dead Wrong was a freebie Kindle download that has been sitting on my Kindle for a while.  It seemed very short, not sure of the pages but it was a super fast read.  The story centers around a set of sisters who run a few “new agey” style businesses – a natural remedies shop, a yoga studio, and a crystal/jewelry shop.  The sisters live together in the family home and are barely scraping by when one of them is accused of murder.  They band together to prove Morgan’s innocence by finding the real killer.  There is a romantic lead in the form of a new police officer who helps the sisters solve their case, while romancing Fiona.  This read with more of a chick lit feel than a mystery, perhaps chick lit suspense?  

Dead Before Morning is the first in the Rafferty and Llewellyn British Mysteries by Geraldine Evans, a police procedural featuring a pair of very different detectives.  Rafferty is a little rough around the edges, a widower with no children but a large extended family, who apparently dabble on the wrong side of the law.  Llewellyn is an intellectual man, with an aversion to “messiness” in every form.  They work together to solve a case centering around a local psychiatric facility and its founder, drug addicts, and prostitutes.  There are some interesting characters/suspects to sort through and a little to neatly tied up conclusion. The partnership works but the writing needs to be tightend up some.  This was definitely on the lighter side of police procedural even though the subjects were dark.  I’ll try another in the series, as I have it waiting on my Kindle.

So, how were your whodunnits this week?


This weekend I am participating in a readathon with the Hooked on Books group at Goodreads.  I can’t stay awake 24 hours so I slept for some of it but so far I have read:

   Reviews to come later…but I did enjoy these two.

Edited to add two more books:

Edited to add two more…

And another…

  Finally,….  Just kidding, one more…

The readathon is over!  I am probably not going to write reviews for all of these, particularly since most of them are classics and there are hundreds of reviews available.  I will say my favorite was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, although I enjoyed all the the books I read today with the notable exception of The Crying of Lot 49.  I am guessing that post-modern is just not my thing, probably why I am struggling with Infinite Jest.

Anyway I will definitely read more Virginia Woolf and Julian Barnes.

Death in Venice & Bonjour Tristesse

Two short and very different novellas were last night’s reads.

Death in Venice is a well known work by Thomas Mann written in German and then translated into English.  The protagonist is a well known author.  He is homosexual and unfortunately the object of his lust and the focus of the story is a 14 year old boy.  It is certainly an uncomfortable story for modern readers.  It also is now at least a common trope, a man’s homosexuality is the doom of him.

As much as the subject matter and the protagonist’s behavior is creepy and off putting, the writing is well done with wonderful imagery and symbolism throughout.  I read some background on the author and the book and it appears that some parts of this novella are semi-autobiographical and the young boy in real life was 10 not 14, which is even more disturbing.  Thomas Mann does manage to pack a lot of literary worth into a small space, just over 100 pages.  It is not often that a writer can put so much into such a short piece of writing.

Bonjour Tristesse is a short novella originally written in 1955 and given the quality of the text it is amazing that the author was 18 at the time.  This is a psychological family drama that explores, father daughter relationships, first love, sexuality, family,jealously, grief and regret.  All this occurs in the span of one summer season,  The characters are also well developed with their own desires and self interests driving their interactions. Bonjour Tristesse has so much quality packed into so few pages. I really enjoyed this read and would highly recommend it.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Adult Tales

This book popped up on a List Challege List and caught my attention so I picked it up from the library.  First published in 1979, this is an adult remake of classic stories from Beauty and the Beast, Werewolf stories, Dracula, and Puss in Boots among others.  I found this very well written with lush prose and a rich style of writing.  The book is more sensual than erotic, although there are some points that it leans more towards the erotic.  The author manages to take classic tales and strip them down to their basic elements and then rebuild them while maintaining a juxtaposition of the modern setting and the classic feel of a fairy tale.  My absolute favorite story in the book was The Company of Wolves and I would say that the Twilight Series has nothing on this werewolf tale.

There is a definite feminist take in some of the stories, however I think that is more in reaction to the classic fairy tale stereotypes of the damsel in distress or the “evil manipulative” woman, than it is is to make any type of statement.  I enjoyed reading this, but unfortunately today we are inundated with adult takes on fairy tales and so this seems to be an  overdone trope, although Angela Carter may have done it first.    Fans of Ann Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series may enjoy this, although I would say that it is much less focused on the erotic.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up & Shepherd’s Cross

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was a Mother’s Day gift.  My daughter knows I am always trying new organization methods and thought this book sounded right up my alley.  The central tenet behind Ms. Kondo’s system is the idea that all the items you own should bring you joy….asking this question “Does this item spark joy?”  The book is really about culling your items and not relying on complicated and/or expensive storage options.  There are some helpful practical hints but the majority of the book focuses on being able to let go and questioning why we hold onto specific items and being grateful for the times we do use and keep.

This was a very quick read and I did find myself marking passages to return to later.  The book is written in a very personable manner, as though Marie Kondo is speaking directly to the reader.  i enjoyed reading it and will put some of the practices into use.  I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in self-help books of the organizational variety .

Shepherd’s Cross is a supernatural thriller set in a small, remote English Village.  In the opening scenes, a farmer stumbles across a horrifying altar erected on his land with in the sight lines of an old “abandoned” manse.  He involves the police and the investigation takes off at a hectic pace as bodies and crimes begin to accumulate with no seeming concern for the police who are investigating.

The plot was interesting and involved satanic rituals, virgin sacrifices, and the dark history of the village with a side plot of romance for one of the police officers.   I did feel that it was too rushed and this did not give the characters a chance to develop fully. But overall, it was a decent read.

The Secret History

The Secret History is a debut novel for author Donna Tartt.  I noticed it on several websites and lists and picked up my copy to read.  The premise of the book is that a very exclusive society has formed at a small private college in the north east.  The society of five is immersed in the teachings of one professor, known as Julian.  The students are isolated in the intensive study of ancient Greek culture, language, and arts.  The more immersed they become in Julian’s clique he and teachings, the more removed they become from the college and the world as a whole.  The protagonist Richard, a new student to the college, manages to break into the inner circle and he follows them “down the rabbit hole”.  A murder occurs and the group, who considers themselves elite and definitley above the rules, deals with the fall out.  The murder uncovers the flaws in their group, the individual members, and even their worshipped professor.  The novel follows the splintering of Julian’s society and the tragic consequences for the students.

This was a compelling read, with intriguing albeit unlikeable characters, and an elitist tone.  The book manages to both put intellectualism on a pedestal and hold it up to intense scrutiny.  One of the critques of the books is the incorporation of anachronistic language and cultural references.  In reading the book, it appeared to me that this was purposeful technique of the author intending to highlight the groups removal from mainstream society.  As such, I was not put off by it. An Interesting, well written mystery that boasts  an intricate plot with little onscreen violence.