The Madwoman Upstairs

MadwomanUpstairs_comps_9.18.15 b alt-r-w1000-h660-q75-m1450478667

The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel by Catherine Lowell

Samantha Whipple hates the Brontë sisters.

As the last remaining relative, she has found herself hounded by journalists, bombarded at every turn, and told time and time again about their genius and to further study their writings.

The only item that makes Brontë bearable is that the novels give her a connection to her deceased father.

Samantha has just started at Oxford University and hopes that this will be a way to move out of the past and into a new future. However, things do not go according to plan. Her tutorial involves a very attractive, yet unattainable, professor who is intent on having her study every bit of literature she hates and criticizing everything from her thoughts, to her writing style, and even down to her use of commas.

Really?

She is also being harassed by a writer for the school newspaper, finding her name in print every day; along with her father’s arch nemesis, Sir John Booker.

And to top it off, Brontë books that were believed to be burnt in the fire of her childhood home are mysterious reappearing in her room; along with a dead friend being revived. As Samantha finds herself not only on an extensive treasure hunt to discover her inheritance, but studying and reading Brontë more than ever before; will she find all the answers she is looking for? Will she be able to understand her father’s cryptic messages? Will this cause her to grow to love the Brontë work instead of abhorring it?

Thoughts After Reading:

This has been one of the hardest reviews I have had to write as I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I enjoy the irony of the main character hating Brontë, yet at the same time reenacting the same features she complains about. For instance falling in love with her professor, James Orville; who is not only tall, broody, and arrogant; having the temperament of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre; but also as unattainable as Mr. Rochester.

Although in this case the issue keeping them apart is not a mad wife, but the college’s code of conduct between student-teacher relationships. Or when Samantha is stranded in her room from a big storm and starts breaking down similar to the ill governess in Villette.

Hmm…

At one point in the novel, Samantha finds her journey barred by a huge storm and having to reside in the house of her father’s most hated person, Sir John; which is reminiscent of how the narrator in Wuthering Heights finds himself forced to remain with the inhospitable Heathcliff.

The character of Samantha is also very unusual. On one hand we have a very intelligent, sarcastic, logical, and thoughtful person. However, the pendulum swings back with her also being neurotic, anxious, awkward, impulsive, and fanciful.

Not that it isn’t realistic to have a character express so many traits, but for the reader it feels inconsistent, contradictory, and a bit scattered.

Samantha’s love interest Professor Orville is lacking depth within his own character, along with his relationship to Samantha being weak and having no chemistry. Professor Orville is shrouded in mystery as to his history and background; with the reader never really seeing as to who he is, but just him as the Professor or Brontë-like hero. Part of this has to do with the fact that he is a Professor and distances himself Samantha, not revealing much of his personal life, so the quick wrap up the author provides in the end when the two have married seems strange and too quickly sewn up.

After all, most of what we see in the novel between them is Samantha’s fantasies and crush on her professor, hardly anything in the novel showed that he seriously reciprocated.

On the question of the Brontë sisters the book gives quite a lot of information into their individual backgrounds and each of their novels; along with some very thought provoking analysis. Out of all the Brontës, the author spends the most time on the youngest, Anne; with a new viewpoint and direction.

However, as the book so truthfully points out, the novels we read become a part of us. The characters and stories become an active part of our reality, memories, and sometimes even family. So when a character or story is taken in a different direction than the one that you as a reader have perpetuated it can be hard to accept. There are a few ideas surrounding the Brontë‘s leading men, that depending on your own view and relationship with the books, you will find either inspired or idiotic.

The writer has a good voice and the ability to capture one’s attention and maintain it strongly through out the pages; but because I found it lacking in other areas I would have to give this book two and a half out of fives stars.

For more mysteries involving a treasure hunt, go to The Sign of the Four

For more mysteries that take place at Oxford University, go to Decked

For more mysteries that take place at a college, go to Murder at Oklahoma

For more mysteries involving a relationship with a Professor, go to Good, Clean, Murder

For more stand alone mysteries, go to Whistling in the Dark

A Scandal in Bohemia

 Print

“A Scandal in Bohemia” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

Thoughts Before Reviewing:

Now that we have done the first two novels of Sherlock Holmes, we have moved into his short stories. As with all short stories, I’ll be posting them on Sunday instead of during the week (except for a few special cases).

I grew up reading the short stories or cases of Sherlock Holmes, and I think my favorite collection growing up was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It just has so many good and memorable tales.

So “A Scandal in Bohemia” is probably a story you are familiar with.  I’m sure many of you have probably read this story or seen the Sherlock version (which I hated)

They didn’t do it right!

It is one of my favorites and I am glad to share it with you all.

Plot Synopsis:

The Bohemian King comes to Sherlock for help, first in disguise but of course Sherlock sees through that, to ask for his help. He is to be married, but before the engagement he had had a relationship with the beautiful Irene Adler. He has tried to get it back a very incriminating photograph through begging, payment, bribery, theft, etc; but nothing has netted it.

Nothing is working!

Sherlock does some reconnaissance on her and ends up being the witness at her wedding!

Seriously?

Sherlock continues on his plan to get the photograph by dressing up as a minister and having Watson create a fuss about fire in order to determine the secret hiding place of the photograph. When Irene goes to retrieve it and protect it, Sherlock spies on her and leaves planning on returning the next day for it before she leaves on her honeymoon.

On the way home he is greeted by a young boy, one he does not know but that isn’t very odd, after all he is a known figure. The next day the three men set out to retrieve the photograph but find Irene gone.

What?!

Irene has left a note explaining that she thought there was something suspicious about the “fire”, dressed up as a boy to research it, and figured out the plan of Sherlock Holmes; besting him by leaving that night.

She leaves the picture behind, as she is married she no longer needs it; forever going down in history as the one who bested the greatest detective, and becoming the woman.

Thoughts After Reading:

One of my favorites as Irene just kicks butt.

She’s everything we want to be: intelligent, cunning, beautiful, witty, etc. And she is the only one to outsmart the Sherlock Holmes.

For more by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, go to The Sign of the Four

For more Sherlock Holmes, go to A Study in Scarlet

For more short stories, go to The Murders in Rue Morgue

For more mysteries with private detectives, go to The Missing Housewife

For more mysteries that involve a wedding, go to Murder Well Done

Blackberry Mint Infused Water

So for my birthday, a friend of mine bought me a infuser type water bottle. I wasn’t sure what to do so I searched the internet.

Hmm…

This recipe comes from The Casual Craflete

Ingredients:

  • A Handful of Blackberries
  • A Handful of Mint
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Mash the blackberries, releasing their juices into the pitcher or bottle.
  2. Rub the mint in your hands-releasing the oils-and place in the pitcher or bottle.
  3. Just add water and infuse for two hours or overnight.

Thoughts After Making:

So I didn’t like it.

All it tasted like was dirty mint leaves, even though I washed them.

I found another recipe which adds lime. Maybe this will be better? I’ll post if I make it.

For more drink recipes, go to Yoda Soda

For more recipes, go to Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing

The Missing Housewife

missinghousewife

The Missing Housewife (Steven Wade Mystery #2) by Iris Wynne

When a women long believed dead is spotted in China by an old friend on holiday, it opens a real can of worms. If she is indeed the woman believed murdered, than her drug dealer has been falsely imprisoned and there is a dead body who’s identity still needs to be discovered.

With the sister of the accused pushing for involvement to free her brother, and the family of the “deceased” wanting the dead to remain dead, it turns out to be a real muddle.

With such uncertainty there is only one thing to do, hire someone who can look into the matter: a private investigator Steve Wade.

On the case!

Since Wade solved the case of “the missing mah jongg player”, he has become a hot commodity and is asked to check out the case. But is the deceased, Patricia, really alive, or is it just a look-a-like in China? And if she isn’t dead, who died in her place? Did the drug dealer murder this Jane Doe, or was it someone else?

Thoughts After Reading:

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, The Missing Mah Jongg Player, which gave me high expectations for the sequel. Wynne didn’t disappoint with a cleverly crafted mystery that takes murder into mistaken identity and even further into assassins and a cover up.

We also have a return of the characters we enjoyed from the first novel; such as the intelligent, imaginative, analytical, and methodical Steve Wade; Candy the stripper turned private investigator, who is still coming to terms with her insecurities and the shadow of the past; and sweet Sarah, Steve’s secretary, who finally gains confidence and the ability to assert herself.

The only problem I had with this novel was that the secondary characters were not as well done as in the first book. In The Missing Mah Jongg Player, the other mah jongg players created a more personal connection to our missing person causing the viewer to see her as a person rather than a “victim”. Their different personalities also balanced well with Wade’s logical approach.

All of you

In this book our new cast of characters were interesting and developed, but not as fun or colorful as in the first.

On a whole I enjoyed this novel and give it a four out of five stars.

For more Steven Wade Mysteries, go to The Missing Mah Jongg Player

For more novels centering around a disappearance, go to The Sign of the Four

For more mysteries with private investigators, go to C is for Corpse

For more mystery reviews, go to Triple Six

Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing

Who likes salad?

Me!

One thing I like is caesar salad, but the dressing can be so unhealthy.There is one recipe I use, but the day I was going to make it I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I had to start searching the internet.

This recipe comes from the blog Humorous Homemaking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Jar with a tight fitting lid
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar.
  2. Screw the lid on tight and shake the jar until all ingredients are combined.
  3. When finished serve immediately or save in fridge up to a week.

Thoughts After Cooking:

I thought it was fantastic.

It was fun shaking the jar and absolutely delicious on the salad.

For more salad recipes, go to Caesar Salad

For more salad dressings, go to Garden Pasta Salad with Bocconcini

The Secret of the Three Teardrops

The Secret of the Three Teardrops by Jacqueline A. Ball

This book was a part of the Barbie and Friends Book Club but wasn’t one of the usual in the series. Instead this was a special edition book that came with a Barbie dressed in the gown shown on the cover.

My mother gave the doll to my sister, as she was born in September and is a sapphire like the sapphire teardrops in the story. I got the book.

At first I was really mad about it, but then I realized as that isn’t a doll you can play with, it was better having the book.

Barbie is the director of the American Museum in Chicago. She has been working with other museums in America and Europe to form a traveling show of recreated Venetian ball gowns.

She is excited not only in putting the pieces together, but to be in Venice and able to partake in things she has always wanted to, like riding in a gondola, etc.

Yay!

Barbie is being shown around by Angelo Modesto, assistant director of the Venice City Museum.

Barbie meets Gina Morelli, the director, who shows her the dress she will be wearing at the Masquerade Ball to kick of the show’s opening. The dress is almost perfect, except for the replica’s of the famous Duchess Venezia’s teardrops. This is extremely bad for them as the photographer for World Art is coming to do a cover, but with no sapphires no story.

Gina then gets the idea to use the real teardrops. They can stitch them on, and then remove and replace them. Angelo doesn’t want to do it, but Gina is the boss.

As the dress is being stitched, Gina tells her the story behind the jewels.

Many year’s ago, a duke’s son fell in love with a beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde; Venezia. The family would allow no marriage to take place as Venezia is only a maid. The duke’s son tried to get Venezia to run away with him, but she refused to come between his family. The son was heartbroken and did nothing but sit on the garden bench where he used to spennd his time with Venezia. The parents became so sad to see their child that way and went and brought Venezia back. The parents and Venezia cry with joy, which awakens the duke’s son. After they are married, the Duke and Duchess give the couple three teardrop sapphires. Three for three generations (the parents, children, and the future kids); and for tears of healing, joy, and family love. The building that is the museum, used to be their house.

After the photo shoot, Toni, the dressmaker, removes the jewels and gives them to Angelo to put back in the museum.

Later Barbie goes sightseeing and shopping. She finds a book about the Duchess Venezia and sees her wedding gown, the one that Barbie will wear a replica of. But something is odd about this design, the sapphires were a much deeper blue than the ones that are currently on Barbie’s dress.

Hmm…

After Barbie gets to her hotel she looks at the dress that was just delivered, As she is looking at the accessories, she gets  call from Gina. Something terrible has happened and Barbie is needed right away.

Gina has been looking over the exhibit and noticed that the jewels needed to be rearranged. When she opens the case, she discovers that the jewels are not the real ones.

So who took the teardrops? The only people in the museum were the staff, so it is an inside job. But which staff member?

Angelo, who is clearly upset that Gina was chosen over him and has a key to the case? Toni, the dressmaker, who could have switched them when fitting Barbie? Or maybe this is all a smokescreen to cover that Gina is the thief?

Thoughts After Reading:

I loved this mystery!

It being in Venice, Barbie’s gown, and a treasure hunt.

Just fantastic!

For more children’s books, go to Binky Brothers, Detectives

 

Triple Six

31624580

Triple Six (The Lightkeepers #2) by Erica Spindler

Thoughts Prior to Posting:

I read this book before the first one, and have my review as it was originally written. 

Plot Synopsis:

Detectives Mikki Dare and Zach Harris are back in their second adventure to battle evil. Detective Dare has worked her way up the New Orleans Police Department ladder and had recently been paired with Detective Harris, to protect him as he utilizes his unique abilities. Detective Zach “Hollywood” Harris is not your average person. He is a Half Light, child of a lightkeeper and a human; this ancestry giving Harris the ability to read emotions and memories, pick up on how many people have been in the area, and track down the “Dark Bearers”, evil ones who are dedicated to destroying the world.

Harris hasn’t told Dare about what he really is, pretending to be a psychic, but unfortunately Dare had became involved in the middle of a fight between the Lightkeepers and Dark Bearers. She was shot, but healed by another Lightkeeper and while can only remember little of what occurred, she is insistent to search out what happened.

She also has become more ingrained in the Lightkeepers, when she unknowingly offered her home to one of the Lightkeepers, Angel.

In this book, New Orleans has been hit with home invasions, and Dare and Harris are put on the case. What they discover is strange: a band of young teens who are destroying homes and attacking adults, yet playing with the children and gaining their trust.

Meanwhile, Angel has been approached by a handsome, older, man.

They begin a relationship that moves incredibly fast and starts changing her personality worrying the Lightkeepers and Dare.

But the two instances become connected and reveal a much darker plot than any had thought of.

Oh no.

Thoughts After Reading:

I thought this book was amazingly well done. It constantly kept your interests from beginning to end making it near impossible to set down, as you had to know what was to happen next and whether or not the characters would survive.

I found myself glued to my kindle as I followed the novels twists and turns to its conclusion.

Besides being a captivating and thrilling story, the characters were interesting and relatable. Each one comes from a different walk of life and the obstacles, challenges, and history the author created in these characters really captured your attention and creating a desire in wanting to know more about them and who they are.

All of you

As this is the second installment in the series and I had not had the opportunity to read the previous piece, I was initially confused as to who the characters were and what creatures the Lightkeepers and Dark Bearers are. However, even though I did not have the opportunity to read the prior book in the series Spindler is able to craft a well-done story that quickly brings the reader up to speed with the world the characters live in.

This book was phenomenal and I’m looking forward to reading any to be published in the future.

I give it five out of five stars.

For more on The Lightkeepers, go to The Final Seven

Eggplant Tomato Bites

Thoughts Before Cooking:

I’ve never been a big eggplant fan-but when I saw the picture in the Real Simple magazine. I decided to try it, and hoped it would turn out right.

Ingredients:

  • Safflower Oil, for the Grill
  • 4 Large Slices of Country Bread, 1 inch thick
  • 1 Large Eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, Halved
  • 12 Ounces Smoked Mozzarella (They didn’t have it so I used Low-Skim)
  • 2 Large Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 1 Cup of Fresh Basil

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium. Once it’s hot, clean the grill grate with a wire brush.
  2. Oil the grill grate with the Safflower Oil.
  3. Brush the bread and eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill bread until brown and crisp, one to two minutes, and rub with garlic.
  5. Slice in half crosswise, and put aside.
  6. Grill eggplants, turning occasionally, until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
  7. Place the mozzarella on the bread and grill, covered, just until it is warm and beginning to melt.
  8. Top with the eggplant, the tomato, and then basil.
  9. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with a salad. (I recommend the caesar.)

Thoughts After Cooking:

I LOVED IT!

I thought it was so good and couldn’t stop eating it.

You should try it out!

For more Real Simple recipes, go to Orecchiette with Red Onions, Almonds, and Green Bell Pepper

For more grill recipes, go to Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups

For more eggplant dishes, go to Ratatouille

For more Vegetarian recipes, go to Crazy Cantina Chili

Sunset Reads: William & Cristina

29539224

Sunset Reads: William & Cristina (Sunset Reads #1) by D.C. Triana

Since the death of her mentor and surrogate mother and having been publicly dumped by her boyfriend; romance novelist Cristina Cruz has had a hard time writing a new book.

Romance is hard to imagine when your life feels bleaker than bleak.

To add to her pain and frustration, the new owner of Sunset Reads, her publishing company, and son of her mentor, William Jameson, is back in New York City and trying to completely make over the company from top to bottom. This includes demanding a new novel from Cristina, and insulting the few pages she has written. Cristina cannot believe that his mother ever thought these two were meant to be and plotted to put them together. With all this drama and pain it appears the only thing she has to look forward to is an attractive blind date, set up by one of her best friends.

William Jameson has not had the easiest life. It started with watching his mother throw her life into turmoil when she married an abusive man, Christopher. After spending years of him also being emotionally and physically abused by the man, he left home. He at first joined the military, later achieving his business degree in England, and even having a short stint as a novelist under a pseudonym. Now he is back in New York for good and eager to take over his mother’s company, revolutionize it, and carry on her legacy. He clashes with many of the employees and writers; none as bad as with Cristina Cruz; as he prepares to march the company into the modern world. He hasn’t really been in a relationship since the death of his fiancé, but is interested in this blind date his neighbor is setting him up with.

Both are shocked to find themselves paired with each other; Cristina deciding that she will do all she can to avoid the man as much as possible; while William is just as determined to pursue her. But whatever each other’s feelings are, they soon find out that they are going to be tied in ways they never would have expected. William’s mother set up a very tricky will in order to cut out her abusive ex-husband Christopher, who provided the original start up capitol and owns a percentage of the company. With her death her shares are divided between William and Cristina, making them both major owners in the company; and forcing the two to spend a lot of time together in reinventing Sunset Reads.

But the most interesting clause of the will, is that if William was to have a child all of the stock that William’s ex-stepfather was given would revert to that child.

Christopher is enraged when he discovers all the particulars and sets out to destroy William, the company, and whoever stands in his way for power. William finds himself making some hard choices. Should he peruse Cristina, the love of his life, subsequently endangering her? And if he does pursue her will Cristina only think it is because he wants to have a child and cut out his ex-stepfather? Or should he give up in his pursuit and allow the woman he loves to live a safe life with another man?

I wonder…

Thoughts After Reading:

I have to admit this book really surprised me. At first I thought it was just going to be another clichéd romance novel that would be dull in it’s predictability. Instead I found myself enjoying the way the author D.C. Triana wrote these characters; their traits coming off as more as comfortable rather than feeling overdone.

I also really enjoyed reading about the publishing world and the other side of writing. As one who knows very little about the path a novel travels from written idea to being out in stores; I thought it was fascinating the information presented in this novel, taking it in a completely different direction then most.

I also enjoyed the suspenseful aspects of this novel. From reading the description I never thought that it would take such a mysterious and thrilling turn as William and Cristina find themselves threatened and having to outwit a cunning adversary. It made it rather hard to stop reading as the reader becomes entangled in trying to find out if they will overcome such a ruthless person and his plots.

I’d have to give this book a four out of five stars to reward its interesting characters, different perspectives, and the ability to surprise the reader.

For more mysteries revolving around romance novelists, go to Murder at Oklahoma

For more mystery reviews, go to Miss Polly Had a Dolly

Flæskeæggekage

Thoughts Before Cooking:

Willow Rose is Danish as am I. So I thought what better than to try out a recipe from The Cooking of Scandinavia from the Time-Life books food around the world series.

In Danish, Flæskeæggekage (FLES-keh-egeh-KAH-geh) means bacon and egg cake. I never heard of it or tasted it before, but thought why not try it out? It sounded good, after all who doesn’t like bacon and eggs?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of Bacon, preferably Danish
  • 6 Eggs, Lightly Beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon of Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of Chives, finely cut

Directions:

  1. Cut the long strips of bacon in half crosswise and fry them over moderate heat in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet.
  2. Do not let them get too crispy.
  3. Drain the strips on paper towels and set them on an ovenproof platter or baking dish and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven.
  4. Remove all but a tablespoon of the clear bacon fat from the skillet.
  5. In a mixing bowl, beat the flour and salt into the eggs only long enough to combine them.
  6. Slowly beat in the milk.
  7. Warm the fat in the skillet over moderate heat and then pour in the egg mixture.
  8. Turn the heat down to low and without stirring let the eggs set into a firm custard. (This will take about ~20 minutes.)
  9. When finished, turn off the flame and arrange bacon slices and chives over the top of the finished cake.
  10. Serve directly from the pan; as a first course, brunch, or late-supper dish.

So this is what it looked like when the eggs were finished cooking:

And here is what they look like when finished:

Thoughts After Cooking:

So I thought it was fantastic.

I thought it was a tad salty, and the next time probably wouldn’t add any salt to it. Otherwise it was delicious and goes great when paired with a salad.

For more egg main dishes, go to Herbed Eggs with Sour Cream

For more Time Life recipes, go to Bulghur Salad

For more breakfast food recipes, go to Twin Sun Toast

For more recipes, go to REESE’S PIECES Peanut Butter Cookies

Miss Polly Had a Dolly

18666349

Miss Polly Had a Dolly (Emma Frost #2) by Willow Rose

Thoughts Before Reading:

This was the first of the Emma Frost mysteries I ever read. While I enjoyed it, it is not for the faint of heart. Rose can write a strong story, but she can go way out there and deep down dark.

The format of these mysteries has to do with two to three story lines, that all connect at the end and provide the solution to the mystery. One has to do with the people involved or victims of the mystery; and the other Emma Frost and her family.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

So this title comes from the nursery rhyme, Miss Polly Had a Dolly.

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick.
So she called for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick.
The doctor came with his bag and his hat
And he knocked on the door with a rat-a-tat-tat.
He looked at the dolly and he shook his head
And he said “Miss Polly, put her straight to bed!”
He wrote on a paper for some pills, pills, pills
“I’ll be back in the morning with my bill, bill, bill.”

The story begins in 1997 with Miss Polly and her little girl Nina. Six-year-old Nina is a beautiful blonde child, perfect. Her mother loves to dress her up like a doll and implements all kinds of rules to make sure she stays “perfect”.

This day Nina is not happy going to the park in her frou frou dress. She doesn’t like wearing them and wants to dress in pants like the other normal children but her mom won’t let her.

They are at the park and Nina is having a horrible time when she sees an ice cream truck. She goes up to it and is convinced to get inside. And when she is inside, there is no ice-cream.

In modern times of 2013, Emma Frost is at the signing of her newest book Itsy Bitsy Spider, all about the cannibal serial killer who turned out to be related to Emma. (I don’t want to spoil everything so check out my review, or read it yourself).

Life for Emma is going well as all is normal (although a few people are angry about the story coming out). Her father though has a surprise for her, a new girlfriend, Helle.

Meanwhile, the island of Fanø has been picked as the next place for the TV program, Shooting Star, the Danish version of American Idol or the X Factor. The host is Patrick an eccentric, out there type of guy. While he is a prima donna-interesting and stylish; he is also a serial killer, sewing doll bows into his kills. And he has just found his newest victim.

Emma is having a hard time coming to term with her father’s new girlfriend, Helle, who owns a doll shop. Even though her mother left a long time ago and she knows that they won’t get back together, it feels weird to her having him date. What makes it even more awkward, is when Emma asks Helle about her family, it turns out that her daughter went missing years ago. She was a beautiful blonde six-year old, playing at the park and said to have wandered off into the ocean.

Hmm…

Back in 1997, Miss Polly was distracted by a another parent talking to her. She finally is able to cut the conversation short, but her daughter is gone! She searches everywhere, but all she can find is her daughter’s dolly, Miss Jasmine.

In 2o13, Emma and Sophie are excited for Shooting Star. Two of Sophie’s kids are going to try out for the show, while Emma’s daughter Maya has been given permission to hang out around the set.

Meanwhile, Josephine Glydenstjerne, blonde, beautiful, and six years old; daughter of the Count and Countess of Denmark has finally managed to sneak away from her governess to go past the park to the beach. There she meets a lady with a dog. Besides the dog, the lady has a doll named Miss Jasmine. She invites Josephine to come to her place to see her other dolls that she makes, and Josephine decides to go.

Uh-oh

Back in 1997, Nina is thrown into a brothel. She has been caught up in a prostitution ring that takes blonde, beautiful children from Denmark and sends them to Eastern Europe to where they are in high demand. She lives her life there, depressed and confused thinking she was given up by her mother.  But when a friend is murdered in a sex act; Nina kills the man and decides to get out; making anyone who stands in her way pay for it. She grows to enjoy killing as it gives her power and control.

In 2013, Emma discovers that numerous blonde, six-year old children have disappeared from the ’90s- late 2000s. Most people thought they just wandered off to the ocean and drowned., but Emma can’t help wondering if there might be something else to it?

Meanwhile in her hacking, she discovers that the police are searching for the “Bowtie Serial Killer”. They believe the killer to be connected with the show, Shooting Stars, as the killings occur in areas where the show is taking auditions. Whether crew or a crazy fan, they are searching into who it could be.

I wonder…

Josephine has found herself in a Buffalo Bill-esque situation. Although instead of wanting her skin to make a suit, the lady who kidnapped her wants to use her to make a doll and add it to her collection.

Emma sets out to try and figure out who the killer is and whether it might be connected to the missing children. However, she unwittingly allows her daughter to attend the Shooting Star tryouts on her own. Maya just barely manages to miss being a bow tie victim the fist time, but then is invited backstage the next night for a close encounter with Patrick.

Nooo!

Patrick goes to Helle’s doll shop and attacks her, but is interrupted just in time. When they take Helle to the hospital, Emma knows she is connected to the mystery, but which one? Could she be the missing link that ties the disappearing girls and the bow tie killer? But then Helle lost her own child?

I wonder…

How does it connect? How will it end? Read to find out.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

This book is probably the best written of her books in this series. There were a lot of twists and turns, and every time you think you had it figured out there was a new surprise.

Some parts were a little more graphic then I would like but that seems to be how Scandinavians like to write.

And not only was it a talented psychological thriller, but it also had a political agenda. I had never heard of the slave trade in Europe other than those who try to emigrate to America. But in here, Rose brings your attention to the sex slave trade throughout Europe, a very sad thing that more people need to pay attention to and try to change.

For more Emma Frost mysteries, go to The Itsy Bitsy Spider

For more mysteries with a serial killer, go to The Final Seven

For more characters fighting to save people from sex slavery, go to A Most Peculiar Circumstance

For more mysteries, go to Whistling in the Dark

REESE’S PIECES Peanut Butter Cookies

Thoughts Before Baking:

So I wanted to make a certain cookie, but it turns out that the baker’s chocolate I had was over a year past the due date.

I had a bunch of candy that was given to me and wanted to make cookies with them. After some searching I finally found REESE’S PIECES Peanut Butter Cookies from the website Hershey’s Kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) of Butter
  • 1/2 Cup of Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Peanut Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup of Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Cup of REESE’S PIECES Candies

Directions:

  1. Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, egg, vanilla extract in a large bowl until fluffy.
  3. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; adding to the butter mixture and beating until blended.
  4. Stir in candies.
  5. Drop by a tablespoonful unto a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until brown.
  7. Cool slightly, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Thoughts After Baking:

It was pretty sticky trying to move from the tablespoon to the sheet, so just fair warning.

Now I’m not really a REESE’S PIECES person, but I really liked how they tasted. It was a good mix, and not too overpowering in peanut butter.

For more peanut butter cookies, go to 1-2-3-4 Peanut Butter Cookies

For more cookies, go to Aunt Neal’s Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes

For more desserts, go to Vanilla Crackle

For more peanut butter recipes, go to Rice Krispies Peanut Butter Banana

Whistling in the Dark

whistleinginthedark

Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen

Sally O’Malley promised on her father’s deathbed to tell her sister Margaret “Troo” O’Malley that he forgives her and to keep her safe. But that will be harder than she thinks.

During the summer of 1959, the girl’s mother is hospitalized with a staph infection, their stepdad abandons them, their big sister Nell is too preoccupied with her boyfriend, and their is a murderer and molester on the loose.

Sally may have a big imagination, but she is sure she knows who the killer is.

She is just as sure that she is on the list.

And know it is up to her to keep her sister and her safe.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t care for this book at all.

I didn’t like the style it was written in and I didn’t like how it markets itself as more of a suspense when in reality it is actually tale of two girls growing up in 1959 Milwaukee.

Ugh, really?

I thought it was boring and a waste of my time.

For more historical fiction, go to Murder and the First Lady

For more mysteries not in a series, go to Murder at Oklahoma

For more mystery reviews, go to Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

dusttoDust

Dust to Dust (Kovac and Liska Mysteries #2) by Tami Hoag

Thoughts Before Reading:

While I enjoyed the character of Kate in Ashes to Ashes, I thought the dynamic of Officer Kovac and Liska was just dynamite. I think Hoag realized this too, and that’s why she switched to making the rest of the series about them.

And while I did enjoy this book, let me warn you it is not for the faint of heart. It can be graphic at times in descriptions and language. Of course I won’t be in my review, but if you decided to read it afterwards, you were warned.

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Internal Affairs Minneapolis Officer Andy Fallon was found dead in his home from hanging himself. One word was left on the mirror, Sorry.

Where is the treasure?!

Was it auto-erotic asphyxia  gone wrong?

Or a suicide, sorry, being the note?

As his father is considered a hero, shot and injured in the line of duty; and most knew that Andy was gay; the department heads decide it is better to qualm any gossip by ending the investigation quickly and moving toward a funeral.

However, this doesn’t sit right with Officer Kovac. Even though it isn’t in his jurisdiction, he decides to start looking into the death for Andy’s father, Mike Fallon. Mike was Kovac’s mentor and he feels he owes it to him to discover the truth.

Liska agrees to their “uninvestigating” and as they begin digging, cracks start to form. They uncover multiple suspects, coming from both the police department and internal affairs.

But the department is not pleased with this investigation as they want this whole case to “go away”. With Captain Ace Wyatt leaving Minneapolis for Hollywood, and Mike having been through so much already; everything would be better if it was just left alone.

But that’s not Kovac and Liska’s style, and as they decide to root out the truth, they discover that Andy was looking into the case of when his father was shot.

WHAT!

Could this two month old death have anything to do with what happened over twenty years ago?

I wonder…

bannerbooks-border-black-and-white

Thoughts After Reading:

Once again Hoag hits it out of the park. She created an interesting and suspenseful story that keeps you on the edge of your seat to discover whodunit.

So we as a reader know from the beginning that Andy was murdered. While some books it can be annoying or feel too drawn out waiting for the other characters to reach this realization, the way Hoag wrote it just intensified the rest of the book as we all eagerly read to discover which of our potential suspects was the killer.

While I figured out most of the resolution, Hoag still had a few twists I didn’t see coming.

For more Kovac and Liska Mysteries, go to Ashes to Ashes

For more retrograde mysteries, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more suicides as a cover for murder, go to Catering to Nobody

For more mystery reviews, go to Murder and the First Lady

 

Crazy Cantina Chili

So today is:

As I am part Mexican, this is a holiday I celebrate every year. I haven’t posted anything for this day yet as haven’t made anything that would be perfect for any Cinco de Mayo celebration. But today I have something:

Chili

Thoughts Before Cooking:

So a friend of mine entered me in a chili competition and I was at a loss of what to do. I’ve never really cooked chili, but then I decided to do a recipe from The Star Wars Cookbook:Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis.

Ingredients:

  • 1 16-0z Can of Kidney Beans
  • 1 16-oz Can of Black Beans
  • 1 16-oz Can of Garbanzo Beans
  • 1/2  a Large Onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of Chili Powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 28-oz Can of Crushed Tomatoes with Juice (I used the Diced Tomatoes with Chiles as I like my food HOT!)
  • 1 Cup of Tomato Juice
  • 1 lb of Ground Beef or Turkey (Optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt

Directions for Vegetarian Chili:

  1. Open the cans of beans. Drain off the liquid from the cans in the sink. Rinse and set aside.
  2. Chop the onion and set aside.
  3. Put the oil in a large saucepan and set the pan on medium heat.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and stir with a wooden spoon until tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chili powder and cayenne pepper and stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato juice; and stir well.
  7. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve Chili with cheese and/or sour cream

Directions for Meat Chili:

  1. Cook meat in a pan on the stove.
  2. Follow the directions above, adding the meat during step 7.

Thoughts After Cooking:

I thought the original recipe was good, but wasn’t as hot as I liked it so I added the chiles. I also included meat as I thought it would be more appealing.

I didn’t win the contest, but I had fun trying.

For more recipes to help with your Cinco de Mayo, go to Best Guacamole Ever! (Plus Make Your Own Tortilla Chips!)

For more from The Star Wars Cookbook, go to Twin Sun Toast

For more holiday posts, go to Yoda Soda

For more soups, go to White Bean and Barley Soup with Tomatoes and Greens

For more vegetarian recipes, go to Two-Cheese Roasted-Veggie Pasta