Reading Round-Up: November Edition

This will be a short post for two reasons: first, I didn’t get much reading done this month because I’ve been so busy working on Be My Valencrime, and second, because it’s Thanksgiving week in the United States and people are too harried to read long posts over the next few days. 🙂

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The first book I finished in November was The Death of Mrs. Westaway (Ruth Ware) which I’d wanted to read since it was released in May, 2018. It has a Gothic-y cover and a creepy housekeeper and a forbidding mansion on a neglected estate, so I figured it was right up my alley. I didn’t think it lived up to its hype, but I enjoyed it. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this story, with its creepy old house, its Mrs.-Danvers-like housekeeper, and its twists and turns. I didn’t give it five stars because I felt the mystery was a little forced and contrived in some places.”

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You know I love cookbooks. And I LOVE eggs. So when I saw Sunny-Side Up by Waylynn Lucas on the New Releases shelf at the library, I knew I had to read it. It has some great recipes, and there are tutorials on how to make a perfect egg, which I actually found enlightening. I tried the author’s trick of making creamy scrambled eggs by adding a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese to them, and the results were delicious! Here’s my review:

“This book has some unique recipes using eggs, but I was hoping for a little more oomph in the savory department and a little less oomph in the pancakes/waffles department. I’m looking forward to trying many of the recipes. Gorgeous photos.”

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Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World by Admiral William McRaven (Ret.) is another book I’ve wanted to read since it came out in 2017 and I heard about it on a news program. The book was smaller and shorter than I expected, making it a quick read that it completely satisfying. Here’s my review:

“I loved this little book. I don’t normally read inspirational stuff, but this one was full of stories about perseverance, heart, and courage. I highly recommend it.”

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And last, but certainly not least, was Still Life by Louise Penny. This author has won award after award for her writing, and I’m embarrassed to say I had never read anything written by her. A friend gave me a copy of Penny’s first Inspector Gamache book and I’m so glad she did. Though I didn’t enjoy the first 50 pages or so, I found the rest of the book riveting and I’m glad I pushed through the beginning to reach the middle. Here’s my review:

“I enjoyed this book, the first in a series. I had a tough time with about the first 50 pages, but I’m glad I stuck with it because Inspector Gamache is a delight. I hope to see Agent Nichol in upcoming books, and I hope she learns some lessons about knowing when to keep her mouth shut. She was a great character–complex and compelling, yet aggravating in a good, literary way. I would love to visit Three Pines!”

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What have you been reading? Share your recent reads in the comments!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Amy

 

Author Spotlight: Cassidy Salem

Today I welcome Cassidy Salem to Reade and Write. Cassidy is the author of the Adina Donati Accidental Sleuth Mystery Series. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, Fit for Murder, the fourth book in the series. Welcome, Cassidy!

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, Fit for Murder.

In the latest addition to the Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth Mystery Series, Adina is unable to restrain herself when it looks like someone has done in her Pilates instructor. So what if it was ruled an accidental death? She’s not convinced and sets out to discover the truth – with or without help from her favorite detective.

Tell readers about the first three books in the Adina Donati series.

The Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth mystery series features a young college graduate and her experiences living alone in Washington, D.C. Adina works at a think tank that focuses on public policy, where current issues (environmental protection, immigration, cybercrime, healthcare, and more) are a natural part of the agenda.

The first book in the series, Think Murder, introduces the reader to Adina and her world as she addresses the challenges of making it on her own in the city. Then, when a friend and colleague is murdered and she finds the body, Adina is drawn into the middle of a murder investigation.

At the start of Dying for Data, her romantic evening with a hot guy goes downhill fast when their dinner is interrupted by the scream of sirens and the arrival of Adina’s favorite detective. Although this is still a cozy mystery, the plot in this one touches on issues related to illegal immigration and crime in the city and the plot is a tad edgier than in other books in the series.

Killer Reputation takes the reader back to the cozier side of Adina’s life. When a colleague meets a violent death, Adina’s not convinced any of the obvious suspects disliked him enough to want him dead.

Tell us more about the main character of the series, Adina Donati: What is her job like at the think tank? What does she do in her spare time? Anything else we should know about her?

Adina is college graduate in her mid-20s who is determined to make it on her own. She works at the Drake Institute for Public Policy Research as an admin assistant. Not her dream job, but it does pay the bills.  And she has a great boss.

Adina is smart and talented, and kind. She has an independent spirit, but she is willing to accept help from others.  In her spare time, she volunteers at an animal shelter, and a different dog from the shelter is featured in each story.

What was the hardest thing about writing Fit for Murder?

Figuring out who the killer was.  I confess, I don’t outline – I just sit down and write with only a vague idea of where a story will go. I knew who I was killing but I only decided who the actual culprit was after I had written more than half of the book.

Did you stick to real places in Washington, DC, to set the story, or did you make things up? What did you keep? What did you make up? Do you prefer one setting to another?

Of course, the well-known locations in city are based on real places and landmarks.  Nonetheless, the smaller parks, pubs, restaurants and such are entirely fictional.  That said, Adina’s basement apartment is loosely based on the apartment I lived in when I moved to D.C. after graduating from college. Like Adina, it was all I could afford when I was unable to land my dream job.

What’s next for Adina Donati?

I have yet to decide exactly what will happen, however  I think it’s time to take Adina and Jonathan out of the city for a weekend in the next book. Who shall I kill off this time? Suggestions anyone?

Are you working on any other writing projects right now?

Yes. Together with Christa Nardi, I am currently working on The Midway Mystery, the fifth book in the Hannah and Tamar YA Mystery series.  The series features two teenaged sisters with a knack for solving mysteries.

What’s your favorite way to promote your books?

I enjoy connecting with readers and other authors on Facebook and other social media.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

I enjoy letting the characters tell me where they want to go and that “ah-ha” feeling when I have solved my own plot puzzle.

Where can readers find your books?

On Amazon, in paperback and digital editions. They are also available with Kindle Unlimited.

Where can readers connect with you?

Now for some fun rapid-fire questions.

Coffee, tea, or some other beverage?  Diet Coke.

Early bird, night owl, or something in between?  Night owl.

Snacks: sweet or salty? Sweet. Chocolate if possible.

Favorite season? Fall

Favorite color?  Blue

 

Author Bio – Cassidy Salem

Cassidy Salem has always been an avid reader. She is especially fond of mysteries (both cozy and traditional) and police procedurals. Over the years, her favorite mystery authors have included Agatha Christie, Kathy Reichs, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Grisham. When she’s not reading, she enjoys music and spending time with family and friends, and travels with her husband and son whenever possible. Her travels have taken her to destinations throughout the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.

A member of Sisters-in-Crime, Cassidy is the author of the Adina Donati Mystery Series, which includes Think Murder, Dying for Data, and Killer Reputation. Cassidy co-authors, together with Christa Nardi, a YA mystery series, which includes The Mysterious Package, Mrs. Tedesco’s Missing Cookbook, The Misplaced Dog, and Malicious Mischief.

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for November

It’s that time of year again…the time when the calendar is in fast-forward from Halloween through the New Year. It’s a busy season, but try to slow down every now and remember to be thankful!

This week I’ve got a breakfast recipe that’s simple and delicious, a side dish, and an easy weeknight soup using convenience ingredients.

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Favorite Oatmeal

One serving of plain oatmeal, prepared according to package directions

1/4 c. half & half

1 banana

1 T. (or to your taste) brown sugar

Prepare oatmeal as directed. Place in a bowl. Pour half & half over oatmeal, but do not stir. Slice banana onto top. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar until golden and fragrant. Stir and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kitchen torch, place the oatmeal in a broiler-safe bowl, layer ingredients as above, and broil until sugar is golden and bubbly. Keep a close watch on it!

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Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Sour Cherries

This recipe comes courtesy of Chef Ed Daggers of the Atlantic City Country Club, with his permission.

3 med. acorn squash

2/3 c. dried cherries

1 c. frozen tart red cherries

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1 t. grated lemon peel

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. salt

1/4 c. lemon juice

3 T. butter

Cut each squash in half and discard seeds. Place squash, cut side up, in two 13 x 9″ greased baking dishes.

Combine the dried and tart cherries, brown sugar, lemon peel, nutmeg, and salt. Spoon into squash halves. Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until squash is tender.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 pkg. Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice original recipe (discard spice packet)

1 c. water

2 cans (14 oz. each) chicken broth

1-2 carrots, shredded

10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed

onion flakes

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese

In medium saucepan, bring rice, water, and chicken broth to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Add carrots, broccoli, and onion flakes; simmer for 5 minutes.

Add canned soup and cream cheese; simmer until thickened.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy