The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Michael Symon's 5 in 5 for Every Season By Michael Symon

Publisher:  Clarkson Potter
Release Date:  September 29, 2015
Pages:  256
Genre:  Cookbook

Book Description:  5 fresh ingredients + 5 minutes of heat = 165 recipes
Ridiculously easy from-scratch recipes to get you in and out of the kitchen in a flash every day of the week—now with sides and holiday dishes, too

The follow-up to the bestselling Michael Symon’s 5 in 5, this new book delivers 165 quick, easy, fresh recipes organized by season with an entire section devoted to making the holidays simpler than ever. Each chapter features inspired main courses as well as recipes for sides and 5 fun ways to celebrate the season, including no-bake summer fruit desserts and spiked drinks to warm up with in winter.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
I love the simplicity of the recipes, with the easy to follow directions, and they are certainly quick and affordable. Included are delicious dishes that take little effort, but have depths of flavor.

There are 165 recipes for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Holidays, and with beautiful illustrations. I've tried the Sweet Onion Smothered Pork Chops that I would give a 5 * rating, and a very simple Grape & Feta Salad that was delicious! I have many more recipes marked to try. Also included is a list of pantry items needed to make every recipe in the book.

I immediately liked this cookbook and know I will use it often. My rating is 5 stars.

Monday, November 16, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Cavendon Hall By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  April 2014
Pages:  416
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover

Book Description: 
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess's wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl's daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.
Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
1913- Cavendon was one of the greatest stately homes in England. The Swanns of Little Skell Village had been working at Cavendon Hall for over 160 years, ever since the days of the first earl in the 18th century. The Inghams, an aristocratic family, and the Swanns, the loyal servants, were closely intertwined and bound together by respect. The Swanns knew everything about Charles Ingham – the sixth Earl of Mowbray, and his family.

Early on in the story line a horrifying tragedy occurs to a family member of the Ingham family, creating much drama. This terrifying act could have destroyed the family, but the Swanns take control and do everything in their power to protect the Inghams. And the story unfolds ---

This book brings you into the world of British style drama with similarities to Downton Abbey. I loved the diverse characters - finding them to be appealing, and there were many, but I was able to connect to them as the relationships are explained easily.

As many of the reviews have indicated, the story line is a bit implausible, dialogue repetitive, and the major problems are too easily resolved. None of the above deterred me from reading this novel, and I plan on reading the next in the series, The Cavendon Women. I really enjoyed this book! Barbara Taylor Bradford has been a favorite of mine since the Woman of Substance series. She has a natural talent for writing about strong, sensitive, and vulnerable women. My rating - 4 stars.

About the Author:  Barbara Taylor Bradford is the author of 30 bestselling novels, including The Cavendon Women, Cavendon Hall, and The Ravenscar Dynasty. She was born in Leeds, England, and from an early age, she was a voracious reader: at age 12, she had already read all of Dickens and the Brontë sisters. By the age of twenty, she was an editor and columnist on Fleet Street. She published her first novel, A Woman of Substance, in 1979, and it has become an enduring bestseller.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s books are published in over 90 countries in 40 languages, with sales figures in excess of 88 million. Ten of her novels have been adapted into television mini-series starring actors including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Liam Nelson, Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Hurley. She has been inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America, and in June of 2007, Barbara was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to Literature.

She lives in New York City with her husband, television producer Robert Bradford, to whom all her novels are dedicated.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

⭐️⭐️⭐️CHARLOTTE'S STORY (Bliss House Novels) By Laura Benedict

Publisher:  Pegasus
Release Date:  October 15, 2015
Pages:  400
Genre:  Fiction/Paranormal
Format:  Hardcover

About the Book:  The fall of 1957 in southern Virginia was a seemingly idyllic, even prosperous time. A young housewife, Charlotte Bliss, lives with her husband, Hasbrouck Preston “Press” Bliss, and their two young children, Eva Grace and Michael, in the gorgeous Bliss family home. On the surface, theirs seems a calm, picturesque life, but soon tragedy befalls them: four tragic deaths, with apparently simple explanations.
But nothing is simple if Bliss House is involved. How far will Charlotte go to discover the truth? And how far will she get without knowing who her real enemy is? Though Bliss House may promise to give its inhabitants what they want, it never gives them exactly what they expect.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
This was a difficult book for me to review because of possibly revealing too much. I don’t want to spoil it for future readers.

Randolph Bliss had built Bliss house in 1870. It was unlike the other grand houses in the area, having both a ballroom and a full theater on the third floor. It was a house that seemed to show more preference for stateliness than comfort. The house was tall and ungainly, but had a touch of romance to it, with its formal and lush gardens. Bliss house had a reputation for unnatural death and the presence of lingering death – a house that seemed to be haunted. And the family had certainly seen more than its share of tragedy over the years. There were some who said that Randolph Bliss had committed some crime that caused the house to be cursed.

1957 – Charlotte, married to Preston (Press) Bliss was now mistress of Bliss house, and the couple had two young children, Eva and Michael. Charlotte actually believed in ghosts long before she married Press and became a part of Bliss House. Charlotte’s mother had died when she was four years old, and when she was six, Charlotte had a haunting experience involving her mother’s ghost when she appeared to Charlotte.

And the story unfolds as tragedy occurs at Bliss house along with strange and unnatural happenings. Nothing is as it seems, and dark secrets are slowly revealed. Charlotte becomes very restless and tortured with grief and guilt as she searches for answers.

The author certainly has a vivid imagination with all the strange occurrences. Charlotte’s Story has a very dark story-line with a varied cast of eccentric characters. I thought the ending was just outstanding, with a resolution I did not see coming. It was a compelling tale of suspense that was haunting and rich with description. All of the characters do intertwine and are important to the story-line.

Unfortunately I never became absorbed in the story-line until about 200 pages into the book – it seemed to drag on and on. Finally the author picked up the tempo and intensity and I became fully engaged. This is certainly a worthwhile read! I waffled between a 3 and 4 and decided on 3.5 stars.

About the Author:  Author of dark suspense novels, including CHARLOTTE'S STORY: A Bliss House Novel, the second Bliss House book. BLISS HOUSE (a Southern Gothic ghost story) is now available in paperback. Laura's earlier novels, DEVIL'S OVEN, ISABELLA MOON and CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS, are available in paper and as ebooks. She lives in the southernmost part of a Midwestern state, surrounded by coyotes, owls, snakes, and the occasional bobcat.