A Stitch Before Dying

StitchBeforeDying

A Stitch Before Dying (Black Sheep Knitting Mystery #3) by Anne Canadeo

This is the third book in the series, taking place months after to Knit. Purl. Die, and the death of their friend Gloria Sterling. In this series we have the Black Sheep knitting group made up of: Maggie Messina, the leader, once a high school art teacher, but now is the owner of the knitting shop, Black Sheep (Plum Harbor, Massachusetts);Lucy Binger, newly divorced, graphic designer; Dana Haegar, yoga loving, health foodie, psychologist; Suzanne Cavanaugh, multitasker, incredible cook, mother of five, real estate queen; and Phoebe Meyer, punk rocker, fun-loving, and unconventional assistant at the Black Sheep. The group gab, knit, and solve murders.

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The girls are meeting one night and talking about how overworked and overwrought they all are.

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Maggie agrees with them all and tell them she has a surprise for all. Maggie’s old friend, Nadine, is a manger of the inn hosting a retreat and called to ask her to fill in as a knitting teacher. Maggie of course has agreed. And as payment she negotiated a cottage big enough for the group to stay in, for free.

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The girls are all super excited for the free weekend and agree to head up.

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Suzanne is a bit worried about leaving her husband in charge, but is all for a break. Lucy is happy about the weekend too as she and Matt have hit a rough patch in their relationship. It seems as if he can hardly spend any time with her and he keeps making up all these weird excuses, like “classes” he has to attend to get “certifications” in. The whole thing is highly suspicious and has Lucy worried that maybe he is seeing another woman.

Are you lying to me?

Are you lying to me?

She puts that aside for a moment and joins the group in looking at the place’s website and seeing all the wonderful accruements, becoming very excited for the whole event. Suzanne notices that the place is owned by Dr. Max, something Maggie forgot to tell them. Dr. Max Flemming is a famous psychologist: booming book sales, has been on Oprah, etc. He was a very successful psychiatrist with a booming practice, when one of his patients committed suicide. He lost everything, hitting rock bottom and traveling the world. He returned with new insights and has been trying to share them with the world.

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Dana doesn’t like him, Lucy has never heard of him, and Suzanne is crazy about him. This should be an interesting weekend indeed.

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That Friday the ladies head down for the retreat. They are awed by the beautiful inn and Maggie shares that Dr. Max used all the money from his book to buy the inn. He is looking for investors this weekend in the hope to expand his empire.

When the reach the retreat, Nadine is there waiting to greet them. Everyone heads off to eat, except Lucy who needs to use the restroom. As she heads off to the restroom she overhears a conversation between a blonde woman in a business suit, and a younger man dresses in jeans and work boots. The women yells at him that he can’t leave, but has to stay. He becomes angry at her for breaking the deal. She tells him he has to stay or he won’t get paid. They argue a bit more and the man picks up a nearby vase and throws it at the wall breaking it into pieces.

Uh-oh

Uh-oh

They both notice Lucy at this point, who is extremely embarrassed. The woman points her to the bathroom, while the man begins to clean up the mess he made.

Whoa

Nadine discusses Maggie’s schedule, along with other things happening at the retreat. There is a moon meditation, something special that happens once a month, and a sock puppet “Finding Your Voice” class. Some of Nadine’s comments about how these are better than real therapy angers Dana so much,  Maggie changes the subject and herds them to their cottage.

thatwasclosewhew

That was close

Maggie heads back to do her Random Knitting class, knitting without a pattern or borders, with Lucy and Phoebe joining her. Maggie has a good sized group with a wide range in ages, occupations, and knitting skills: Helen Lynch, mid fifties, a wealthy public relations executive, and never knitted; Rita and Walter Schumacher, 60s-70s,  housewife and retired engineer, Rita’s an expert while Walter is just along for the ride; Curtis Hill, mid forties, travel writer, never knitted; and Shannon Piper, 30s, ex-model, and an accomplished knitter.

They get to work with Phoebe and Lucy helping Maggie out. While they work, Dr. Max comes over to speak to the group.

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Lucy notices Curtis taking pics of Dr. Max on the sly with his iPhone. If he is working for a travel magazine wouldn’t they have worked it so that he could get good shots? And with a real camera?

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Dr. Max joins them in knitting and shares some words of wisdom and anecdotes. Lucy and Phoebe find a lot of what he says silly, but the rest of the crowd eats it up. There is no denying that Dr. Max has a LOT of charisma.

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Nadine comes by with her sister Alice. Alice turns out to be the the same woman Lucy spotted earlier fighting with the younger man.

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When tea is served, the class ends and everyone goes their seperate ways. Lucy notices Curtis taking more photos and videos with his iPhone.

Something's fishy

Something’s fishy

Dana and Lucy decide to head out to the moon meditation, just to see what it really is like and whether or not it is worth the hype. While waiting to begin their hike up the mountains, Lucy notices Curtis in the group for the meditation. Before she can talk to him, Dr. Max comes out banging a drum and the group heads up the mountains. There they burn sage, bang more drums, dance, and chant around a bonfire. They start meditating, but Lucy can’t focus on a blank mind instead racing from thought to thought. She opens her eyes a crack and sees Curtis once again recording everything secretly from his iPhone. Obviously something is up and Curtis is not who he says he is.

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After Suzanne, Pheobe, and Maggie have dinner, Suzanne and Phoebe head to the cottage while Maggie goes to the lobby for another knitting class. No one seems to show up, so she just starts knitting and waits. A yoga instructor, Joy Kimmel, stops by. She is supposed to work with her on a class the next day and thought she try a little knitting beforehand. Joy ends up sharing her life with Maggie and reveals that not only does she work full-time at the retreat but is Dr. Max’s ex-wife.

What?

She shares how her depiction in the book was correct and that she was only concentrated on material things. She divorced him when everything went south. Since the, she has apparently changed her life, became a yoga instructor and was offered a job to work at the retreat by Dr. Max. She now is much happier than before.

really?

I don’t know if I buy that…anyways, Joy also mentions what a great help Dr. Max has been to Alice and her son Brian. After the suicide of the patient and loss of practice, Dr. Max’s partner and Alice’s husband Dr. Edward Archer died. Dr. Max has really been there for the two of them, with Alice helping run the inn and the two dating. Brian is the head handyman at the inn as well.

urkelgif interesting hmm

Joyce continues sharing her opinion and philosophy which seems to cover everything from the I Ching to Hakuna Matata. The conversation ends shortly after that and Maggie returns to her cabin, noticing a bob of a flashlight heading up the mountain. But why would someone be going there so late?

Something's fishy

Something’s fishy

After the bonfire, those on the mountains are told to sleep in a single bungalow and continue meditating until they fell asleep. Lucy feels strange up there by herself, and sneaks over to Dana’s cabin. The two talk late into the night.

The next morning at 7:00 am Lucy awakens to a siren. As the ambulance heads into a bungalow, Lucy and Dana do a quick look at all the others trying to see what’s going on and figure out that the only one missing is Curtis.

It turns out that Curtis Hill is dead. And he didn’t die of natural causes, but

Murder

Yes. Murdered.

The detectives detain everyone and begin asking questions.

Maggie, Suzanne, and Phoebe are also woken early by a detective rounding up all the guests and sending them to the lobby for questioning. While waiting their turn they spot Nadine and weasel out the story. Curtis died from carbon monoxide, as his heater in the bungalow wasn’t connected correctly.

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Both Alice and Nadine are worried about what this might do for business and let everyone know that not only will business be going on as usual, but that everyone can get a free massage or spa treatment.

Lucy and Dana return and all spill about what happened the previous night. Lucy shares Curtis’ strange behavior and they all speculate why someone would wish to kill him. Maggie shares how she saw someone going up the mountain.

When Maggie is questioned and reveals what happened the night before, including Joy and the I Ching, the detectives show her a clue from the scene of the crime. The murderer left behind an I Ching symbol, #18.

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After the interview, it is time for Maggie’s workshop. They are in a conference room and have to go down a maze of hallways, not all with properly functioning lights. Needless to say, having flickering lights doesn’t feel good with a murder on the loose.

WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!

WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!

Joy cancels, but Dana fills in with the same group from the day before (minus Curtis [of course], and Lucy). While they are working, Helen reveals that she overheard that Curtis didn’t work for a travel magazine, but Expose, a tabloid. That changes everything as Curtis could have some real enemies.

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When the class ends they discuss who could hav killed Curtis and why? Could it possibly have been Dr. Max?

While everyone else goes to the spa to redeem their coupons, Lucy takes a nap at the cottage. After she is rested she begins reading Dr. Max’s book, Confessions of a Lost Soul: One Man’s Journey to Reunite Mind, Body, and Spirit.

In his book he relates thriving practice and affluent lifestyle. The patient who committed suicide wasn’t actually his patient, but he still took part in her treatment. When she died, Archer drank himself to death, and as said before, Dr. Max lost everything. He then went on his journey of self-discovery.

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Lucy is interrupted by Brian, head handyman, Alice’s son, and the man she saw fighting with Alice the day before. He reveals that they had guests in those bungalows the previous morning and night, so someone had to mess with the heaters during the meditation. If that’s the case, then the person would have had to wait to see which bungalow Curtis chose, and had to be someone on the trip. Or someone who snuck up in the middle of the night.

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The detective comes back to the cottage to ask Maggie about a knitted piece he found in Curtis’ room. Maggie says that it is Dr. Max’s, but then Dana reveals new information. She saw yesterday that Dr. Max was in that room the Curtis’ dead body was found, and that Curtis originally started in a different one. So sometime during the night he moved over. But why?

HMMM

Hmm….

Here is where I thought, obviously Curtis wasn’t the intended target but Dr. Max!

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After the detective leaves, they talk more about the murder and look up the I Ching symbol. It stands for decay, or

Something has been spoiled, and it is time to repair the damage. In the world of human affairs, indulgence and corruption grow like weeds in an untended garden; they must be faced squarely, and rooted out through bold action. Eliminating corruption — and the sloppiness that often leads to corruption — is one of the most ennobling of all human enterprises, and can clear the way for fresh, new beginnings. Such repair leads to supreme success.

The time has come to be lean and efficient. The weeds must be rooted out now, before the whole garden is lost. Fighting decay, indifference and corruption is not a simple matter; all steps must be evaluated carefully, and planning must precede action. Resist the temptation to strike out prematurely. Gather strength behind you, and marshal your inner resources, because arresting decay is no simple matter. When you do act, pay close attention to the process. Make your strike as precise and clear as the path of the surgeon’s knife.

That night at dinner they run into Nadine who shares more information. Apparently Hill was complaining about his cot, so Dr. Max switched from his massively better one for Hill’s room to make him happy. Unfortunately the cops aren’t really buying that story. Why wouldn’t he tell the police that right away?

urkelgif interesting hmm

The next morning Lucy goes for a jog around the lake and runs into Brian. Her surprise causes her to fall, and Brian walks her back to the cottage. On the way they discuss the book and Brian reveals that Max gave the events quite a spin. His dad, Dr. Archer had gone out of town and left his patients in the care of Dr. Max. Dr. Max was responsible for helping the girl. She called him repeatedly but he just told her to go to the emergency room and call her from there. Or wait until next week when her doctor returned. Instead she killed herself. Brain knows this to be true as he overheard Dr. Max arguing with his father over it.

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What a horrible person!

Lucy mulls this over, meeting up with the girls at breakfast and sharing everything she learned. After breakfast, Maggie has another knitting session. It’s the usual crowd, although Lucy notices that Walter seems to be having a rough day. His suit looks rumpled, wrinkled, and is stained with something greenish.

weird

After class another ambulance comes. There’s been another murder.

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Dr. Max.

Sabrina the teenage witch salem dum di dum dum dum

Who could have done it? Jealous Alice as Dr. Max was cheating on her with many women. Brain? Was he angry about what Dr. Max did to his dad and his legacy? Or is it another person lurking at the spa?

WhoDoneIt?

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Thoughts after reading:

I think that out of the  whole series this one is the weakest link.

One of the biggest problems is that this book does not take place in Plum Harbor, like the others, but in an entirely different setting. Therefore we have all these characters that our Black Sheep Knitting Group has just met, and instead of discovering or figuring out information, it is all regulated through nadine and others.

Not enough is gleaned from the actual characters, who are supposed to be investigating!

I doesn't work

I doesn’t work

Now I don’t know if the author is a New Age fan or not but this book just goes on and on about it.

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I thought it was super boring.

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And eventually just started skipping those sections altogether as they did not pertain to the mystery I’m trying to solve.

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It also kept making me think of Murder in Paradise from the Sweet Valley High series. And let me say that if a plot makes you think of something in the latter half of the Sweet Valley High series when it was seriously declining? Then it is time to take a long hard look at yourself. You can do better Anne Canadeo, I BELIEVE in you.

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For more Black Sheep Knitting Mysteries, go to Knit, Purl, Die

For more book reviews, go to Strawberry Shortcake Murder

For more Nostalgia Critic, go to Candy for Christmas

 

Strawberry Shortcake

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Thoughts before cooking:

In Strawberry Shortcake Murder, they give a recipe for Hannah’s shortcake. But like in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, I didn’t like the recipe they gave for their titular treat. It just wasn’t how I like my shortcake. So here is recipe my family likes to use.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Boxes of Fresh Strawberries
  • 1-2 Cans of spray Whipped Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of White Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/3 Cup of Shortening
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 2/3 Cup of Milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour one 8-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour; baking powder, and salt.
  4. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk.
  6. Stir until combined.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until brown.
  9. Let it cool.
  10. Wash and slice your strawberries
  11. Slice cake in half, horizontally, making two layers.
  12. One one layer, place strawberries, covering them with whipped cream, and another layer of strawberries.
  13. Place the second layer of  cake on top of the strawberry/whipped cream. Cover in whipped cream, and top with strawberries.

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Thoughts after cooking:

It was my first time making this cake and I loved it. I made for my niece’s birthday, and our only problem was that her birthday party occurred on cake one of the hottest days of the year. The cake melted, but it was so good we ate the whole thing.

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For more recipes inspired by the Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Butter Berry Cookies

For more dessert recipes, go to Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

For more recipes, go to Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Pesto

Strawberry Shortcake Murder

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Strawberry Shortcake Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #2) by Joanne Fluke

So as I have mentioned before, I didn’t read this series from book one, but came in the middle and am backtracking my way to the beginning. I’m glad I didn’t start at the beginning as these early books are bad.

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Like really bad. If I started at the very beginning I would have passed this series on by.

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So the first clue that this book would stink was the dedication.

For my kids.

You asked for your favorite recipes.

Here they are in novel form.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

You never, ever, ever, write a book based around recipes. That’s extremely stupid.

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So Lake Eden has been chosen for the first ever Hartland Flour Bake-Off. Hannah isn’t competing, but in between deliberations creating concoctions for the judges and how to do it for the viewers.

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One of the judges is Coach Boyd Watson, the wife beater from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, is especially cruel and harsh in his criticisms, upsetting many promising cooks.

seriously

One night Hannah comes upon Coach Boyd Watson’s dead body, and facedown in her Strawberry Shortcake!

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The police think his wife is the killer, but Hannah believes in her innocence. She then sets out to discover the real murderer.

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Thoughts After reading:

I did not like this. I know I said before, but it bears repeating.

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So let’s start off with the first problem of the novel. It begins with Hannah hearing a crash  in her condo and “going after that person.”

really?

She decides that she isn’t a “Miss Priss” and would rather go after them with a bat instead of being a “sissy girl” calling the sheriff.

really?

Of course it turns out to her cat, (saw that one a mile away), but what if it wasn’t her cat? What if that was really a burgler or murderer. They could have a gun! It’s nice to think you can handle things, but much better to actually call the cops to have them do their job.

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And then we have the same old same old complaining about mom.

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I guess as the second book it is for the “new readers”, but it still bothers me. It’s like when The Baby-sitters Club would always review the same thing in the second chapter. It gets old, fast.

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And then there is Hannah’s niece Tracey. Once again Joanne Fluke has never been around small children, or at least doesn’t remember what it’s like. I know precocious children, but none of them speak as well as Tracey. Fluke just made her waaaay too advanced for a four-year old.

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So Boyd’s a jerk, but honest in his review of the bake off. So what? We are already hate him for being a wife beater, isn’t that a little overkill?

really?

Then we get the Hannah’s commentary. Ugh I hate this as it is always BORING!

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She wishes that they still made Big Chief notebooks. But they can’t because they aren’t P.C. to have Indian notebooks. Well Hannah now you will get my commentary.

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They aren’t Indians Hannah. I know you want to be ignorant and call them that, but they aren’t from India. And while you are right, most don’t wish to be called Native American, it’s not because their “family walked over the land bridge from somewhere else,” which by the way:

stupidestthingever

But because they prefer to be called by their tribe name.

Okay, so this book was published in 2001 and is supposed to be set in modern times, but a lot of times she acts like she is from the past. A girl kicked out of college for being too “wild” [sexually]. They don’t kick you out for being “wild”, they kick you out for not doing your work, paying rent, or causes issues because of alcohol, drugs, etc.

seriously

Plus Hannah is really rude and judgmental. She realizes that having a good relationship with her sister Andrea is fun and that she shouldn’t have said all those horrible things when she was younger, “even though she deserved it.” She called Andrea an idiot for flunking her math test, when she should have helped her study. Uh, no! No one deserves that. Just because she isn’t that good in math you shouldn’t call her stupid. Rude Hannah, rude.

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Then there is when Hannah is all high and mighty about her crime solving skills. She’s all ” yeah Mike and Bill are good cops and would have eventually figured everything out, but what I did actually helped.” Well, let’s see why your way helped? Hmm? YOU BROKE INTO AN APARTMENT. The police can’t just do that stuff. They have to follow certain rules because of the rights our forefathers wanted to protect. What you are doing is EXTREMELY WRONG!

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The book was horrible, and Hannah was horrible.

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Candy for Christmas

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

For more book reviews, go to The Black Echo

Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Pesto

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So I collect old magazines. I cut the pictures out and make collage cards. So as I was thumbing through one of these magazines I found a recipe for Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Pesto, it sounded good so I thought I would try it out.

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Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • 2 cups of basil leaves, packed
  • 3 to 4 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 4 Tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pasta:

  • 16-oz Package of Cheese Tortellini
  • Frozen Broccoli Florets
  • 1 Tomato

Directions:

  1. Put on a large pot of water to boil.
  2. While water is heating, prepare the pesto.
  3. Remove basil leaves from stems.
  4. Wash leaves and dry them on paper towels. (Make sure the leaves are dry or the recipe will not work.)
  5. In a blender or food processor, mix leaves with chopped garlic, 1/3 cup of olive oil and blend.
  6. Add nuts and cheese, mix again, adding another 1/3 cup of oil. Sauce should be smooth.
  7. Refrigerate until needed.
  8. Cook tortellini in water according to package instructions.
  9. Cook broccoli according to package instructions.
  10. Transfer broccoli and tortellini to a large bowl.
  11. Toss with pesto.
  12. Serve.
  13. Slice one tomato and serve on the side.

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Thoughts after cooking:

I thought this meal was good, but not great. I didn’t care for the broccoli in the salad and thought it needed an extra umph. I’ll have to work on it and post if I come up with a good recipe.

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For more pasta dishes, go to Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

For more on cooking with pesto, go to Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Artichokes, and Pesto

For more mysterious recipes, go to Butter Berry Cookies

The Black Echo

BlackEcho

The Black Echo (Harry Bosch #1) by Michael Connelly

I actually wasn’t too interested in this book but read it because I wanted to read one later in the series, but though it best to start at the beginning.

Harry is a LAPD Detective and is called in when a body is found in a dam.

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Things become personal for him when he discovers that the dead body is Billy Meadows, a fellow tunnel rat, those who performed underground search and destroy missions, during the Vietnam War.

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Now it’s personal for Harry and he is going to find the killer no matter what.

iwillfindyouandiwillkillyou

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Thoughts after reading:

As you can tell from my short description, I didn’t like this book.

Idon'tthinkso Idontseeit

I thought it was boring and found myself unable to connect to the characters or the author’s style. Zero stars from me.

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For the previous book review, go to Candy for Christmas

Butter Berry Cookies

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Thoughts before baking:

This is called Merry Berry Cookies in the mystery Candy for Christmas, but I changed the name. I’ll explain later.

So when I first read the recipe for the jelly cookie it intrigued me. Could jelly be good in a cookie? I hate it in donuts, but a cookie? Could this actually work? Could a jelly cookie be tasty?

don'tthinkphysicallypossible

I just had to find out.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cups of Butter
  • 2 Cups of White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of melted raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or any berry jam
  • 2 Beaten Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 4 Cups of Flour
  • 1/3 Cup of White Sugar (for later)
  • Berry jam (for later)

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the sugar and mix it in thoroughly. Let the bowl sit on the counter while you do the next step.
  2. Melt the jam in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat. Once it is the consistency of syrup, mix it in with the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the eggs, baking soda, and salt; stirring after each addition.
  4. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into small walnut size balls. Put the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small bowl and roll the dough balls in it. Place them on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten the dough with a greased spatula. Make a small indentation with your thumb in the center of each cookie, fill indention with jam.
  7. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8-10 dozen.

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Thoughts after baking:

First of all, I used strawberry jelly as that was what I had the most of. And the strawberry jelly was pretty good, I wonder how it would taste with a different one.

I’m not sure I copied the recipe out right, I think the salt and baking soda proportions are off. I’m pretty sure of the baking soda as the cookies came out really flat.

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After I took the dough out of the fridge, it was rock solid. I had to use an ice-cream scoop to get them out, that being the reason why they are so big.

Whoa

So after all that how did they taste? They are really good, but not very fruity. In fact, they have more of a buttery taste, which is why I changed the name from Merry Berry to Butter Berry.

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For more recipes inspired by the Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Special Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

For more desserts, go to Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

For more recipes, go to Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

Candy for Christmas

CandyforChristmas

Candy for Christmas (Hannah Swenson Mystery #1.5) by Joanne Fluke

This is a short story mystery that takes place sometime after the first novel. I didn’t enjoy it, but like show biz, the review must go on.

It’s wintertime and almost Christmas in Lake Eden. One day Hannah heads out to her bakery when she discovers the lights on in the building.

That'sOdd

Her business partner, Lisa, wasn’t scheduled to come in today, but maybe she decided to anyway. It is far too cold to hang outside so Hannah heads in.

When she gets inside she finds that her bakery has been cleaned, and whoever did it left behind candy.

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Hannah is pleased with this modern Elves and the Shoemakers, but at the same time is not happy with it. Who could have done this? Why would they?

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That night Hannah and Norman head to the bakery to check out who could be in there. When they arrive at the bakery they spot a young girl. Apparently “Candy” has run away from home. She’s been hiding out in different places, such as Hannah’s bakery.

They don’t get much out of the girl, but Hannah decides to give her a room in her condo and a job in her bakery. Unknowning to Candy; Hannah, Norman, and Andrea all band toogether to figure out who she really is.

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I didn’t enjoy this story at all.

Idon'tthinkso Idontseeit

I can see why the author wanted to right something different, and something that didn’t have murder but this was too scmaltzy and boring.

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It really seemed just a conduit to include more Christmas recipes than create an interesting story.

movingOnsherlocknotinterested

I also thought their involvement in finding her parents was wrong. They shouldn’t have told them about Candy and bring them without letting Candy know. What if she had a valid reason for running away? What is she was being abused, molested, or worse?

seriously

This story is a dud. A complete waste.

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For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

For more midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

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So the book I reviewed this week was The Missing Mah Jong Player.

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While this book contains no recipes, one of the characters owns a cupcake store, so I felt it was the perfect time to include a recipe I created.

Thoughts Before Cooking:

I love anything minty chocolate and we had a plethora of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark, so I thought I would test something out.

Now I love making everything myself and don’t care for using boxed things, but I was baking a ton of cupcakes for a party, in a limited amount of time and used a cake mix from a box. If you make a favorite chocolate cake recipe and just follow my little extras it should be just as good, if not extra.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of Chocolate Cake Mix (If not from scratch, I usually use Duncan Hines)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Peppermint Extract
  • Cupcake Liners
  • Ice-Cream Scoop
  • About 10 Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares
  • Chocolate Frosting (If not from scratch, I usually use Duncan Hines)

Directions:

  1. Either follow a recipe for a cake from scratch or the directions on the box of cake mix.
  2. When adding your wet ingredients, add a teaspoon of peppermint extract to the cupcake batter.
  3. Using an ice-cream scoop, place the batter into the cupcake liners.
  4. Bake according to box directions.
  5. While cupcakes are baking, chop up the peppermint bark into tiny pieces. Make them as small as possible, sprinkle size.
  6. When cupcakes are finished let them cool, otherwise the frosting will melt.
  7. When cupcakes have completely cooled down, frost them.
  8. After you have frosted the cupcakes, sprinkle the chopped peppermint bark along the tops of the cupcakes.

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Thoughts After Cooking:

I LOVED THEM! and everyone else did too. They were absolutely amazing. I’m just sorry that they were snapped up so quick that I wasn’t able to take a picture.

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For more desserts, go to Special Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

For more recipes, go to Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

The Missing Mah Jongg Player

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The Missing Mah Jong Player (Steven Wade Mystery #1) by Iris Wynne

In The Missing Mah Jong Player, by Iris Wynne, divorced Marilou is looking for love in online chat rooms. She has been very busy with her dates and other commitments, that she hasn’t really had a lot of time for her mah jong group. So when she misses a day after confirming she would be there, Harriet (friend and fellow mah jong player) begins to grow worried.

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She goes to her house and discovers that Marilou is missing. When the police make no headway into solving the crime and are giving up, Harriet decides to hire a private investigator.

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Their investigator, Steve Wade is an ex-policeman who at first doesn’t want to take the case. After much arm twisting and free cupcakes from Harriet’s bakery, he complies. But Marilou’s disapperance raises a lot of hard questions. Was she killed? Did she willingly leave? Was one of the guys she was dating responsible for her disappereance? Or was the criminal someone much closer to her? Not only is Wade investigating a hard case, he also has the five remaining mah jong players intent on helping him discover the truth. From staging a speed dating dinner, to questioning family and friends; these ladies and Wade are hot on the trail.

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Thoughts After Reading:

When you read the synopsis of the book it is very centered on Steve Wade and sounds like a modern Philip Marlow or Sam Spade type of detective fiction.

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I am not sure if the author changed her direction while writing, or is hoping for a Steve Wade series, but that is not the case. Instead of being solely focused on the private investigator the story is shown through the eyes of Wade, Harriet, Sarah (mah jong player and Wade’s new secretary), and Candy Kane (stripper turned private investigator). I believe this actually improves the story as it transforms it into being more than just a mystery, but also how a loss affects people and what they do to deal with their grief.

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Everyone’s reactions to Marilou’s disappearance range across the board. You have some of her friends in denial, believing she just ran away; some who don’t want to think on the issue and are intent on forgetting it as it is a matter for the police; Sarah who won’t stop crying as Marilou was a mother figure to her, and Harriet who needs closure and answers so she hires a detective. Not only does this more personal approach make a stronger story, but it really helps you connect to the characters. This also causes you to really care for Marilou, as all these personal reactions make her into an actual person instead of a “body” or “victim #1”.

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Steve Wade was a great character as well. He was intelligent, imaginative, analytical, and able to solve the mystery after a series of time. I liked that it wasn’t instantaneous but methodical, and that at times Steve would sometimes miss what was right in front of his face as he was too heavily concentrated on another aspect. He is also a perfect compliment to his surrounding characters. I hope that this will be turned into a series and that we may see more Steve Wade in the future.

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As for the mystery it was pretty compelling. We at first have the question of whether or not there is an actual crime or if Marilou just left of her own accord. Then when it is established as a murder we have a long list of motives and suspects; everyone from Marilou’s cousins, friends, men she was dating, to even her children. It progresses realistically and the only complaint I have was that the end seemed a bit rushed as they present the resolution.

I thought this book is fantastic and the perfect addition to any mystery lover’s bookcase or kindle. I give the story a five out five.

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There is one thing that bothers me. It isn’t really about mah jong, in fact mah jong is mentioned maybe one or twice. It makes a great title, but that and the cover don’t really match the story.

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For more Private Investigators, go to Lane Changes

For the previous mystery, go to Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder