Monday, September 20, 2010

Killer Mousse - Melinda Wells (Cozy Mystery)

Released February 2008

I do look culinary mysteries. As an avid collector of cookbooks and a book addict, it's always seemed natural to me to blend fiction with recipes. Other genres haven't seem to catch on yet, though I have picked up a few romances with a culinary theme. It remains the culinary mystery that appeases my passion for both reading and cooking.

Killer Mousse is the first entry into Melinda Wells Della Cooks mystery series. In this novel, new TV chef Della Carmichael is finishing up her first live taping of her show. The person chosen to sample her recipes is none other than Mimi Bond, the woman who Della replaced. When Mimi keels over following a spoonful of Della's chocolate mousse, Della becomes an instant celebrity for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention, she prepared the food herself so she's also the prime suspect.

Wanting to clear her name, Della, widow of the late Detective Carmichael, begins her own investigation. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that someone wants to keep Della from unraveling the murder. Worse, the killer seems to be willing to go to any length to keep his/her identity hidden.

There is a lot I enjoyed in Killer Mousse. Starting with the recipes, which all sound great, the instructions are clear and most novice cooks will have no problem putting these entrees, sides and desserts together. The mystery is good, but not exceptional in my eyes. It had a lot going for it. Being an armchair sleuth type, I like to try to solve the mystery before the main character and I couldn't do it this time. I was stumped and while I had a guess, it was wrong. Part of my issue is that there were many characters to keep track of and each had his or her own reasons for being a likely suspect.

The story's good and the romance between Della and the reporter had potential. However, their time seemed so rushed together that I never felt they truly had time to build up any kind of passion before they were jumping into intimacy. I'm not a prude nor have I ever been a widow, but it seems to me that Della would have been far more conscientious about her romantic encounter with a man who first made her very uncomfortable. That aspect of the book could have been omitted and I think I would have liked Della's character more.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creativity for Christians - Sheilah Vance with Reverend Felicia Howard

Released September 2010

Creativity for Christians is a collection of insights about overcoming the worst possible situations. Stories within this book are endearing and definitely prove that in the darkest of times, there are others out there who've been handed a lot worse.

The book starts with writing instructions that help you write your own story. It covers the basics including writing exercises to get you started and a guide into creating your outline, beginning, middle and end.

All of the stories within Creativity for Christians come from members of the Bethel African Episcopal Methodist church in Pennsylvania. Each story is clearly related to the reader and one, the story of a young blind boy now adult, will certainly stick with me for years. Other stories include a woman and her estranged husband who find romance bloom after shocking news and a devastating fire that led to the church gaining a new address though it never moved location.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fiance at Her Fingertips - Kathleen Bacus (Paranormal Romance)

Released May 2008

Tired of her mother's meddling, Debra Daniels finds the perfect product on a novelty store's shelf. The self-proclaimed Boyfriend-in-a-Box kit comes complete with everything needed to convince those around you that you have met the man of your dreams and that you're headed for your very own happily ever after.

Debra's delighted when the items in the kit begin working. Then the unthinkable happens, Debra's father comes home with her very own Lawyer Logan. Logan's playing along a little too well and Debra can't figure out why. How can a fictional "boyfriend" become a living, breathing, very attentive man.

Fiance at Her Fingertips is steamy fun. The romance is quirky with plenty of humor tossed in at the right moments. I'm not sure I enjoyed every aspect. It is a romance and it's true of the genre that a conflict must be thrown in. When the conflict arrived, I wondered why it hadn't been handled another way and then everything came to a resolution a little too quickly for my liking.

All in all, this is definitely a book worth reading and given that this is an older release, it shouldn't be hard finding a copy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chosen - Chandra Hoffman (General Fiction)

Released September 2010

Drawing from her own experiences as the director of an adoption agency, author Chandra Hoffman delves into the lives affected by the adoption process, including both the joys and heartbreaks. Chosen isn't always an easy read, it had me itching to smack a few characters around, but the author does a great job at portraying all angles of adoptions.

Chloe Pinter is the director of Chosen Child, a Portland adoption agency. Chloe's life in Oregon revolves around her work, but she's also trying to figure out if she and her boyfriend really mesh or if her job, and his lack of one, are bound to draw them apart.

Chloe tried to help Paul and Eva Nova adopt a child, but that adoption fell through. It seems the pregnant 13-year-old and her mother were simply in for the free restaurant meals and groceries. Shortly before the birth, they announced plans to raise the child on their own. With hearts broken, Paul and Eva were lucky enough to finally conceive and are waiting the impending birth of their son.

Francie and John McAdoo are friends with Paul and Eva. Francie's frustrations with conception end with another failed in vitro attempt. They're delighted when a young couple, Penny and Jason, choose them to adopt their unborn child. Penny and Jason are ex-cons and have their own interests at heart, no matter how greedy those interests become.

On Thanksgiving, Chloe visits Penny and Jason with a pre-cooked meal and finds their run-down apartment is filled with baby supplies. She fears this adoption may be falling apart and warns the McAdoo's to be prepared for heartbreak.

Meanwhile, Chloe is arranging another adoption where a teen, Heather, is about to have her second child. With the father in jail, Heather knows it is best for her young son if she places her unborn child for adoption. All seems to be going well with Heather, and Chloe hopes it remains that way.

Soon a tragic event makes everyone stop and think about their choices along the way. Only a miracle can restore peace to the lives of many Chloe has been working incredibly hard to help.

There is one key issue I had with Chosen. It's apparent from the synopsis that you're supposed to sympathize with Penny and Jason, but I really couldn't. They're ex-cons and broke the laws putting them in their situation. They could have learned from past mistakes but don't. They continue to make bad choices and then whine consistently when those bad choices don't pay off. I had my fill of them far before the end of the book.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fine Cooking: Appetizers (Cookbook)

Released November 2010

Fine Cooking Appetizers is a compilation of appetizer recipes for all cooking levels. Best of all, many of the recipes adapt easily to dietary guidelines. If you have a low-carb guest, try the Curried Pecans or Greek Salad Skewers. Tackle a healthy seafood feast with Crabmeat-Avocado Quesadillas or Scallop and Mushroom Rosemary Kabobs.

Recipes are divided into six sections:
  • Quick and Simple
  • Passed and Plated
  • Spread and Scooped
  • Sliced and Served
  • Stuffed and Skewered
  • Sips and Sweets

I love cookbooks. With two shelves full of new and old cookbooks, I still find myself searching to fill gaps. I have hundreds of cookbooks, but few really tackle appetizers. Sure, there are recipes out there, but if you're hosting a cocktail party, finding new and exciting recipes can be challenging. Add in diet trends, such as the friend who is going low-carb or the relative watching sugar intake and it's simply frustrating.

Fine Cooking: Appetizers changes all that. You have a solid collection of appetizer recipes that suit any style of party. Try the Stuffed and Skewered selections for a patio party or Passed and Plated options for an elegant cocktail party. At the end of Fine Cooking's cookbook, you'll find a handy metric conversion chart. Along the way, you'll find tips for purchasing foods like corn on the cob or creating Chinese restaurant quality scallion pancakes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Relative Chaos - Kay Finch (Cozy Mystery)

Released October 2010

Relative Chaos is the first novel in the Klutter Killer Mystery series by Kay Finch. Released by Avalon Books, books are made available in hardcover format and can be quite pricey ($24.95) for the average reader. Given that, I loved the characters. The burgeoning relationship between Poppy Cartwright and the mysterious Wayne McCall has a lot of potential.

In this debut, both for the author and for the cozy mystery series, Poppy is trying to launch her new business. Her first job entails cleaning out decades of her aunt's clutter. What she doesn't know is that her snobbish cousin's impending return to town is the reason behind the mad clean-up.

When Poppy discovers a body in her aunt's garage, she soon learns that her job is not going to go easily. Not only is the house now a crime scene and off limits, she also learns her son has been seen hanging around the property and may be a suspect. Worse, he's disappeared...

My biggest complaint, which may not apply to everyone, is that I figured out the killer's identity and why the killer murdered the victim from virtually the moment of that character's introduction. Knowing the final outcome so early into the book was a little distracting. I felt it was glaringly obvious, but my husband has told me that I tend to be a little too intuitive during movies, so others may miss the clues.

There were lots of things I loved about Relative Chaos. As previously stated, the relationships really worked. I enjoyed the different townspeople and the various relationships. I also enjoyed cheering on Poppy as her business grew. With this, I am eager to see what happens next.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Instant Family - Elisabeth Rose (Contemporary Romance)

Released October 2010

Terrorists killed her parents and sister, but Chloe Gardiner was bound and determined to keep her younger siblings out of foster care. At 21, the last thing Chloe needed was to drop everything and become an instant single parent, but that's exactly what she did.

Five years pass and Chloe's facing a tough situation. One of her twin brothers is arrested for vandalism. Things turn out well when the homeowner decides not to press charges and takes Chloe up on the offer to have the boy work off the damages. Little does Chloe know, she's about to fall head-over-heels for the single dad, but she may need some convincing that relationships and parenting can go hand in hand.

Instant Family is a fun romance. It's not a taxing read, goes rather quickly actually, but filled with warmth and emotion. The author does a great job creating emotional battles between Chloe and the relationships around her, including with her siblings.

There were times I wanted to smack Chloe. She comes off as very naive at times, but I suppose having to grow up so quickly would affect how you handle relationships. All in all, I'm still torn because the asking price of $24 is extremely high when compared to similar romances, but at the same time, this is a good story but not a keeper. Ultimately, the reader will have to decide if they're comfortable spending that kind of money.

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