Book Recommendation: What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin

Back in May of 2017, I published an interview with Sally Cronin. You can read it here if you’d like to refresh your memory. In that interview she talked about her new book, What’s in a Name?

I read the book recently (I need to get on Amazon and post my review) and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. And since this post it entitled “Book Recommendation,” I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of my thoughts.

What’s in a Name? is a collection of short stories, all written by Sally. She had the genius idea of writing two stories for each letter of the alphabet: the name of the story would be the first name of the male or female main character. Hence, Sally has penned the stories “Anne” and “Alexander,” “Grace” and “George,” and “Jane” and “Jack.” I’m sure you get the picture.

Volume I of What’s in a Name? contains stories for letters A through J. Volume II, it follows, continues with the rest of the alphabet. I haven’t read Volume II yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

The stories are full of love, laughter, life, and tears. Most of them end in a twist the reader doesn’t see coming. You’ll  need tissues to read some of these stories, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a collection you’ll want to gift to someone you love. Sally has a knack for keeping the reader engaged and entertained, and I found myself staring at my Kindle, my mouth hanging open, at the ends of some pieces in this collection. There were other times I laughed out loud.

My favorite story in the book is “Elaine.” I simply cannot get it out of my head. I encourage you to pick up the collection and find a favorite of your own. As I write this post, it’s $3.73 on Amazon (US). The links are below.

Sally is a prolific author and blogger and you can find out more about her here.

You can find What’s in a Name?, Volumes I and II, as well as other books by Sally, by clicking here.

And speaking of books, remember that we’re reading Stolen Memories by Mary Miley for next week. I’m about halfway through it and I’m loving it so far! The book for May will be The Life She was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

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Laura Ingalls wilder’s Little House in Missouri

I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books–still do–and my kids loved them, too. This is a lovely post about the farm where she and Almanzo lived for many years.

All The Shoes I Wear

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Via the website: http://lauraingallswilderhome.com//?page_id=322

As visitors make their trek to the historic Rocky Ridge Farm, the first sight they’ll see is Laura’s and Almanzo’s beloved farmhouse. It remains as it was in 1957 and stands as an official project of the Save America’s Treasures National Trust for Historical Preservation.

As the story goes, Laura, Almanzo and Rose moved to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894. They had saved $100 to buy land just outside of town. The two worked side-by-side for nearly twenty years in seeing the rocky land transform into a sprawling 200 acres of farmland, which included an apple orchard and space for Almanzo’s Morgan horses. During this time, they lived in the town of Mansfield while Alamanzo commuted to and from the farm. Eventually the family moved into a one room log cabin on the farm until 1913, when the farmhouse was finally complete.

The home was always a central theme to…

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Spring Break 2018!

photo courtesy of tsreptilien/pixabay

When I was in college my roommate and I went to Florida for spring break. No, we didn’t party on Daytona Beach or go clubbing in Panama Beach.

We visited my grandparents.

We hit a Cincinnati Reds spring training game and bought strawberries in Winter Haven. We got sunburned lying around the pool in their fifty-five-and-over community in Lakeland. And we visited Disney World with my grandfather (my grandmother stayed home because, well, she just didn’t want to deal with Disney).

It was a fabulous spring break.

Fast forward (ahem) a certain number of years and I’m still not spending spring break partying or clubbing. This year we visited our daughter, Carolyn, in England, where she’s studying this semester. We didn’t spend more than a night with her because she still had classes, so the rest of the time we stayed in a house a little over an hour away.

For those of you who are friends with me on social media, I promised a recap of the vacation. So here goes.

We got to England early in the morning on Friday, March 30th. I hate to fly, so that’s why my first photo is of a very large, very strong Bloody Mary I had at the airport. It definitely helped.

Carolyn studies at Wroxton College, which is part of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Each semester a new crop of kids goes over to study, and this semester they were very lucky to have just 31 students. The abbey, part of which dates back over a thousand years, is where they live, play, and take their classes. We spent the first night there and it is an incredible place, from winding staircases and mile-high ceilings to suits of armor and stone floors where generations of people have walked.

       

Saturday we explored the grounds of Wroxton, then said good-bye to Carolyn for the day (she and the rest of the students went to a football game–aka soccer–nearby) and went to the place we had rented, a house in Croome, in the Midlands.

  

Croome used to be a private estate, owned by a pedigreed family and designed by famous architects and horticulturalists from centuries past. Now it’s a National Trust property (kind of like a National Park would be in the US) and there are several miles of walking trails on the property. It’s truly a beautiful place.

       

Sunday was Easter. John picked up Carolyn from Wroxton, brought her to Croome, and we spent the day exploring Croome, topping it off with a dinner at the Plough and Harrow, a carvery located not far from Croome.

On Monday John took Carolyn back to Wroxton in time for her first class, then he returned to Croome and we left for Hereford, a town less than an hour from Croome. Hereford Cathedral is a place I read about recently and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The photos don’t do the place justice, and the artist’s exhibition of poppies weeping from an upper window in the cathedral was breathtaking.

    

  

On Tuesday we went to Wales. My favorite part of the day was our drive through the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range in southern Wales that gave us spectacular views across the ranges, peaks, and valleys dotted with sheep and cows. We took an unexpected side trip to a distillery to try Welsh whisky and found a new taste we loved.

   

On Wednesday we went to Stonehenge. If you’ve never been to Stonehenge in the pouring rain with wind lashing it sideways, I would suggest waiting for a sunny day. But even with the abominable weather, it’s an incredible place surrounded by fields and farms. You can see the stones from a distance on the road, but when you get up close you realize how massive they are and what a feat of engineering it must have taken to get them standing. And I had no idea some of the stones had come from over a hundred kilometers away. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to get the stones to Stonehenge. The theories about Stonehenge (who lived there, why they’re there, what is the significance of the stones) are fascinating. We could have spent longer there, but we were soaked to the skin and we wanted to get to Bath.

 

Bath is a city where we wish we had been able to spend more time, but we enjoyed our short visit there. It’s so named after the Roman baths that were built there during the height of the Roman empire. There are hot springs under the city and the Romans used ingenious methods to use the springs to create an awe-inspiring series of baths, pools, saunas (called sweat rooms), and heated floors where Roman citizens of every stripe would come to bathe, exercise, and socialize. The hot springs are still there, still providing hot water to the pools and baths, but today there’s a large interactive visitors center on the site rather than a place for bathing.

 

On Thursday we visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, the town of William Shakespeare’s birth. We had only intended to stay for a few hours, but it’s so fascinating that we ended up spending the entire day wandering the crooked streets and visiting the homes and places that were instrumental during Shakespeare’s lifetime. We visited the house where he was born, the house where his daughter lived as an adult, the grounds of the home where he lived with his wife and children in the (almost) two decades leading up to his death, the home where his wife, Ann Hathaway, grew up, and the home where Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, lived as a child. It’s still a working farm. We also had a proper English tea, complete with scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam (though I preferred the lemon curd). It was, we agreed, our favorite day of sightseeing.

            

On Friday we went to see Carolyn again, this time to celebrate her twentieth birthday exactly one week early. We had a lovely time walking the grounds of Wroxton again, and we hated to say good-bye when the time came. But we needed to get back to Croome to start packing for the trip home.

 

Saturday we flew home, all of us exhausted and happy after a whirlwind week seeing all the things we had wanted to see and walking miles upon miles in the process. And on Sunday I picked up the dog from the kennel! That, to me, is the best part of coming home.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a vicarious trip to England through this post. Our next vacation won’t be for a long time, so I’m going to have to come up with new post ideas…

Remember that this month’s book club selection is Stolen Memories by Mary Miley. I still haven’t started it, but I will in the next couple days. I hear it’s really good!

Next week: a book recommendation. I haven’t done one of those in a while and I have a great book to share with you.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

 

The Life She Was Given for May, by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

First Tuesday Recipes for April

photo courtesy of stux/pixabay

I hope everyone had a joyous Easter, a blessed Passover, or a happy celebration of spring (or fall, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) this past weekend. We were shoveling snow just a week and a half before Easter, so it was nice to have weather that was just a bit warmer.

I’ve got some good recipes to share with you this month, and they come highly recommended from people who’ve tried them and loved them, including me.

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The first recipe comes from my friend Sharon, who emailed me to tell me that she served a delicious German red cabbage to her family. She found the recipe on the Taste of Home website. You can find it here. Sharon recommends using Gala apples because of their natural sweetness and also increasing the amount of apple in the recipe.

Incidentally, my aunt gave me a subscription to Taste of Home for Christmas and I find a lot of great recipes in it each month.

German Red Cabbage

1 medium onion, halved and sliced

1 medium apple, sliced (peeling the apple is optional)

1 medium head red cabbage, sliced/shredded (you should have appr. 8 cups)

1/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. white vinegar

3/4 t. salt (optional)

1/4 t. pepper

Coat a Dutch oven with cooking spray. Combine onion and apple in Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is tender (about 5 minutes).

Add remaining ingredients to Dutch oven. Cook, covered, until cabbage is tender, stirring frequently (about an hour). Serve warm or cold. Sharon says this recipe is excellent with pork or German sausages.

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This recipe comes from my grandmother, who got it from her mother. I have a copy of the recipe hand-written by my grandmother in an heirloom book of recipes that I received as a wedding shower gift. This recipe is great for Easter because it pairs so well with ham.

Pineapple Casserole

Melt 1 stick butter and pour into a 2-qt. casserole dish.

Cut each of 4 slices white bread (Wonder or similar type is fine) into 16 small cubes (I stack them and cut the stack). Add the cubes to the melted butter.

Lightly beat 2 eggs in a small bowl and add 3/4 c. sugar; mix well. Add mixture to bread and butter mixture.

Add a 20-oz. can of pineapple tidbits/chunks with juice to mixture in casserole dish. Mix everything together well.

Bake for one hour at 375 degrees.

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The next recipe this month comes from my friend Jenny. I hope she won’t mind me sharing here that she was my roommate while I was in law school. She was a graduate student at the time, working toward her Ph.D., and she’s now a professor in Florida. She emailed me to let me know this recipe is one of her family’s favorites from Penzeys Spices. You can find the recipe on Genius Kitchen–click this link to be redirected. I’m using Jenny’s recommended tweaks in the recipe below.

Gingered Tuna Salad

2 tsp. curry powder

1 T. olive oil

1/3 c. mayonnaise

1 T. rice vinegar

1 t. Dijon mustard

1/4 c. red onion, minced

3 T. crystallized ginger, chopped

1/4 c. pecans, chopped

dash cayenne pepper

2 cans tuna, drained

baby spinach

In a small saucepan, combine the curry powder and oil. Saute over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, rice vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Whisk well to combine.

Add curry powder/olive oil mixture, onion, ginger, pecans, and cayenne pepper to mayonnaise mixture. Whisk well to combine.

Add tuna to above mixture and combine with a fork to coat tuna with dressing. Serve on a bed of baby spinach.

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Another one from Sharon, this time a dessert. I saw a picture of this on Facebook and it looked wonderful! I can’t wait to try it myself. She found this recipe online, too. You can read the original version here.

Pineapple Bars with Coconut Drizzle

Crust and Topping:

1 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. sugar

12 T. chilled butter, cut into cubes

Filling:

2 eggs

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1/2 c. sour cream

pinch salt

1 can (16 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained well

Drizzle:

1 c. confectioners’ sugar

2 T. half-and-half

1 t. coconut extract

Make crust and topping:

Coat 13×9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl combine crust ingredients. Beat until mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1 c. crust mixture and set aside. Press remaining crust mixture into baking dish, using your fingers to press evenly. Bake 15 minutes.

Make filling:

While crust is cooking, whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add 1 c. sugar, 1/3 c. flour, sour cream, and salt; mix well. Gently fold in pineapple. While crust is still hot, spoon pineapple mixture over crust. Sprinkle top with reserved crust mixture.

Bake 1 hour or until top is lightly browned, then cool for 15 minutes.

Make drizzle:

In a small bowl, mix drizzle ingredients together. Drizzle mixture over bars.

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I hope you enjoy these! If you try any of them, let me know what you think. And if you have a recipe you’d like to share, email me at amymreadeauthor@gmail.com and I’ll put your recipe in the next First Tuesday recipes. Thanks to those who contributed this month!

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

 

Book Review: Murder in Thistlecross by Amy M. Reade

Lelia Taylor of Buried Under Books has a lovely review of Murder in Thistlecross today.

Buried Under Books

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MURDER IN THISTLECROSS
by Amy M. Reade
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Purchase Links:
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Murder in Thistlecross
A Malice Novel #3
Amy M. Reade
Lyrical Underground/Kensington, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-5161-0019-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The emerald hills and violet valleys of Wales seem the ideal place to start over after murder—and divorce—shattered Eilidh’s life in the Scottish Highlands. But within the stone walls of an ancient castle, a family’s dark, violent past threatens much more than her newfound tranquility . . .

For the past two years, Eilidh has called the quaint Welsh village of Thistlecross home, embracing her new life as estate manager of a restored fifteenth-century castle. But the long-anticipated arrival of her employer’s three estranged sons and their wives transforms Gylfinog Castell from a welcoming haven to a place seething with dangerous secrets. When the escalating tensions culminate…

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We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into April with a smile.

The story I have chosen for this month is all about good news for the air we breathe and for the environment.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

These are the cohosts for this month: Belinda Witzenhausen, Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, and Eric Lahti. 

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

 

The First Last Tuesday Book Club Meets Here Today

Welcome to the first Last Tuesday Book Club! For those of you who may not know, I’ve started a new book club on my blog. On the last Tuesday of each month, we will discuss the book we’ve read for that month.

The book for March was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro.

For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, here’s a quick synopsis:

You may recall reading in the papers back in 1990 that paintings worth over 500 million dollars were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in a stunning heist that still baffles investigators today. The paintings were by such masters as Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and Manet. The Art Forger is a fictional account of what happened following the heist.

Claire Roth, a struggling artist living in Boston, makes a meager living by reproducing famous paintings. She works for an online retailer of artistic reproductions and she is very good at her job.

Claire is somewhat of an outcast in the art community for reasons that are explained in the book. Because of her lesser stature in the art world, she is eager to score an opportunity for a one-woman art show in a famous Boston gallery. The trouble is, in exchange for being invited to do the show, she has to agree to copy one of the masterpieces allegedly stolen during the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist. When she becomes convinced the “original” which hung in the museum was actually a forgery, she becomes deeply entrenched in a web of deceit that could spell the end of her art career.

I enjoyed the book. It offers plenty of food for thought about the reasons certain artworks become “famous” or “classic.” Is it because of the inherent value of a piece of art or is it because a famous person painted it?

I’ve curated some discussion questions from several places online, and I’ve sprinkled in some of my own, too. Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below and ask any questions you  may have.

  • Do you think Claire shares any of the blame for Isaac Cullion’s suicide?
  • Do you find Claire to be a sympathetic character? How about Aiden?
  • Can you imagine yourself in a position where you want something so badly that you would do anything–even something unethical or illegal–to get it?
  • Do you think Aiden loves Claire? Why do you have that opinion?
  • What about the lies Aiden and Claire tell each other, or the corollary of that, what about the truths they keep from each other–do you think they can love with that level of deception toward each other?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Why are Claire’s works suddenly very valuable at the end of the book? They’re the same paintings that haven’t sold for years–is it their intrinsic beauty that makes them valuable, or the artist’s reputation, or something else?
  • Did you leave a review of the book online? 🙂

I must confess that as of the writing of this post, I haven’t reviewed the book online yet. I’ve got to put that on my to-do list. I hope you enjoyed reading and discussing The Art Forger. If you have any suggestions for a May book club selection, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, the selection for April is Stolen Memories, a Gothic mystery by Mary Miley. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s queued up on my Kindle and ready to read.

Until next time,

Amy