She Crossed the Line Too Many Times. Too Close by Natalie Daniels

5 stars Fiction/Suspense

If only she had listened to her gut feelings, perhaps her life would have turned out differently.  I had to wonder as I turned countless pages, was this woman really off her rocker or was it something else that pushed her over the edge? This was one of those stories that carried me along, page after page, chapter after chapter (and those chapter are long!) until the very end. 

I met Emma, a forensic psychiatrist, who was assigned Connie, a patient at a mental hospital. Emma has a great professional front but personally, Emma is hiding something. What Connie did to land in the hospital, I have no idea at this point, but Emma’s job was to decide if Connie would be able to stand trial. I immediately liked Connie when I met her but as story progressed, my feelings towards her were all over the place.  Connie was clever, crafty and also manipulative yet at times, I was wondering what had possessed her, her actions were driving me up the wall! 

The story flashes back and forth, from the past to the present. We get the story how Connie ended up hospitalized and also about Connie and her relationships now.  The author threw in a few dramatic punches in the stories which I really enjoyed and I couldn’t get this book out of my head. 

With the doctor constantly visiting, Connie gets tired of her endless questions and battering.  She just doesn’t know the answers and doesn’t want to remember. Then, Connie sees an opportunity and decides to turn the tables. It becomes rather fun now when the doctor arrives, as Connie tries on her own invisible white coat and plays her own version of doctor.  In the doctor’s volatile state, Connie manipulates her way into the doctor’s head rather quickly.  I began to wonder with the door closed, who was the patient and who was the doctor, as the line began to get rather blurry.

It all still comes back to, what did Connie do to land herself into the hospital?  The plot deepens as her children are introduced and their feelings towards her are revealed.  I liked that the author slowly reveals parts of this mystery to the readers throughout the chapters, creating suspense and drama.  I could feel the tension building.  This was a great suspenseful story, one that I really enjoyed and one that I highly recommend.

Thanks to HarperCollins Publishing and BookPage for supplying me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I won a copy of this book in a Sweepstakes at BookPage. I’m sorry that I missed the ARC’s debut deadline.   

Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook by Oxmoor House

5 stars Cookbook

Another great Slow Cooker favorite which I found at a school book sale.  I don’t know what possessed me to pick this up many years ago except that I was starting to use my crock-pot and now, I am obsessed with using it.  This book has more recipes in it than I have explored but the ones that I have tried, are fantastic.

Not every recipe in this book has a picture but each recipe has serving size, diabetic exchange information and nutritional information along with step-by-step instructions and a list of ingredients   There are five different food categories inside this book: beef, poultry, pork, meatless main dishes, and other meats (shrimp, swiss steak, veal, venison, lamb, cloppino, bouillabaisse, fish,.  There is also an index and extras sections which includes desserts, butter, sides, equivalent weights/yields and a Q & A section. The pictures that are included are bright and look delish (even for dishes that I don’t think I would eat).

The ingredients inside this cookbook are not hard to find.  Some of these dishes are not ones that I would make but again, I am picky but they are dishes that are simple, use everyday ingredients and the meal you are preparing are for dishes that you could have at home any night/day, it’s not a meal that you’d only prepare for a special occasion.  The dishes that I have prepared out of this book were prepared for friends, family, get-togethers, and/or just my husband and I.   

 I have made the Basic Pasta Sauce (like the fresh tomato flavor in this one), Beef Stroganoff, Hungarian Goulash, Pork Chops and Gravy, and Spicy Apples and Pears.  What else looks good: Rio Grande Meat Loaf, Homestyle Potato Soup, Mexican Black Bean Chili, Apple Grunt, Cuban Rice and Red Beans, and Chili Cheese Spuds.  In some of the recipes the author tells you how to prep the day before so it’s easy in the morning to put the ingredients together in your slow-cooker.  I enjoy this cookbook and the recipes that I have tried, always came out great.  

Slow Cooker Revolution by American’s Test Kitchen

5 stars Cookbook

I can’t believe I have never reviewed this cookbook as it is one of my favorites.  I have been an American’s Test Kitchen followers for years and I can’t tell you how many of their recipes I have made over the years.  I also subscribe to both the Cooks Country Magazine and Cooks Illustrated Magazine; they both offer recipes yet they each are different in their own unique way (check out their website site).  You can see how much I use this cookbook by the post-its at the top, and I do write in this book. This is one of my go-to crock-pot cookbooks.

First, why I like American Test Kitchen. The variety of cookbooks they have is amazing!  From vegan, cooking for two, diabetes, meat, brunch, pies, etc. (I’m sure you’ll find something in their stack for you).  I like their cookbooks as they use normal ingredients that I have in my pantry or that I would find at my grocery store. I also feel that I am cooking something that’s normal, it’s not a dish that can only be served on special occasions. I like their recipes because they try these recipes over and over again until they are perfect.  With each recipe, they include a description as to WHY the recipe works.  It can include things they tried in the recipe, what they changed, what worked and what didn’t. I think that’s interesting. 

With this cookbook, you will not get a picture with every recipe but you will get serving size and cooking time. Nutritional information is not available. There are 12 main food categories in this cookbook: soups, stews, braises, chilis, BBQ favorites and more, pasta sauces, meatballs meatloaves and more, enchiladas tacos and more, casseroles, on the side, eggs and brunch, and desserts. There’s also a basic section (broths, sauces, gravy, etc.), an index, and a slow cooker 101 section.

I have bought this cookbook as a wedding present many times, have bought it for friends and each of my kids have a copy as I think it’s fantastic.  I have made the Farm Stand Tomato Sauce, the Chili Mac, Tomato Macaroni and Cheese, Meatballs and Marinara, Chicken, Tomato, and Olive Sauce, White Chicken Chili, Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon, Old Fashioned Beef and Noodle Soup, Tex-Mex Chicken Stew, Bachelor Beef Stew…….(I think I will stop).

I will comment that with their recipes, there is prep time.  You might need to brown your pork chops before putting them in the crockpot or you might need to simmer/mix some ingredients before pouring it into your crockpot but this is worth it.  If you short on time in the morning, I have done these steps the night before and stored the product in the retrig. overnight and just continued with the recipe in the morning and the recipe turned out fine for me. I highly recommend this cookbook!

Keeping Lucy

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

This was a terrific novel. At first, it seemed that Ginny living the perfect life. She stayed at home and cared for her son, Peyton while her husband provided for the family. As an attorney, working with his father, it seemed to me that they had a lot of things going for them. It wasn’t until the birth of Lucy that we really the truth.

The year was 1969 and things were winding down after her baby shower. It wasn’t punch that had soaked the couch where Ginny had sat and now, here she was, in the hospital, with a doctor staring down at her. Ginny couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of the doctor and the nurse. A girl? They’re sorry? She has a condition? Mongoloid? Lucy wanted her daughter and she wanted her now! Where was her husband? Ginny struggles to stay awake, the anesthesia takes over and she falls asleep,

When she finally awakens, Ginny wants to see her baby and her husband but it’s not time yet and I begin to get nervous as they tell Ginny to get more sleep and off to dreamland she goes. Hours later, when they feel it’s time, her husband and her father-in-law inform Ginny that the baby has been moved to a school where they will love and care for her. The doctor feels that the baby could have problems in the future so this is what they have done. Ginny wants to get the baby BUT it’s too late.

Fast forward to 1971, the family dynamics have changed, they’re going through the motions. Ginny hasn’t forgotten her baby and I can feel this void in her life. Her husband doesn’t talk about and their son doesn’t even know about his younger sister. Ab is working longer and is spending more time away from home, and now Peyton doesn’t bother asking when his father will be home. Ginny lives for Peyton and being a good wife. When she receives a phone call from her best friend Marsha, she becomes the person, I felt she was meant to be.

Marsha calls and informs Ginny about a reporter who went undercover at Willowridge. The same school that Ginny’s father-in-law put her infant daughter in years ago. When Ginny reads the papers, she’s hopeful that she’ll be united with her daughter with her husband’s help but that’s short-lived, after she talks to her husband.

Just like Ginny, I felt that her husband would read the papers and they would go rescue their daughter but the story is complicated. After reading the papers, Ginny just wants her daughter safe. I didn’t think she had it in her but with the help of Marsha, these two women lean against one another to do what they feel is best for Ginny’s children.

I enjoyed how the author showed us more of Ginny’s life, how she met her husband, and how this flowed into the present day. It showed a complete picture and a great flow. Ginny and Marsha’s relationship was fantastic and I liked how they figured things out along their journey. Peyton wasn’t a secondary character in this novel but an important one which I thought was needed.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was sad at times and it made my skin crawl and other times, it made me smile as I felt hope. The only problem I had with the novel was the last couple scenes in the novel. These scenes were a bit too much for me considering everything that had happened in the novel. 4.5 stars

I won a copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press and Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you. This review was my own opinion.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5 stars Fiction

I loved this novel! Give me an author that can write and some individuals living off the grid and I am happier than a fox in a henhouse. I’m glad that I didn’t read many detailed reviews on this novel and although I hesitated to buy the novel, I’m glad that I forked over the money because I am definitely going to reread it in the future.  As soon as I finished reading this novel, I was dancing all over the house, as this novel was one of those novels that got down deep inside me.  I had to give my hubby a quick play-by-play of what happened, the words just came tumbling out.

The more that I read, the more I admired Kya.  I loved how she managed to live in the marsh all those years, basically by herself. I wondered as she commented about the amount of time that she spent in school, if those comments were her own crafty way to address the individual that she had become.  Over the years, Kya had indeed inquired quite the skills and strength living in the marsh, and I think to a point, she was hardened. 

I enjoyed how the two stories slowly came together in the novel. There were moments that I became worried about Kya’s maturity level as relationships developed and times that Kya surprised me when her actions went beyond what I had expected. 

This was a fantastic novel that I highly recommend if you haven’t read it yet.