We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s already the last Friday in February (how did THAT happen so fast??), and time again for some good news to take you into March with a smile. This will be my first good-news post of 2020. Somehow I missed the January post, but I’m making up for it today.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is in keeping with my habit of reporting on innovations and ideas that are good for the environment and, therefore, good for all of us. It’s the story of a lab at Rice University that has discovered a way to turn carbon-based items (think food waste and plastic) into graphene, which traps greenhouse gases and is used to make more environmentally-friendly building materials.

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 worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Eric Lahti, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia McGrath, Peter Nena, and Belinda Witzenhausen. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

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

Reading Round-Up: February Edition

This is a short month, even with the extra day, and my reading list reflects that. I’ve only finished three books since my last update, so this will be a quick post.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

This is the one my book club is reading, thanks to everyone who voted in my recent poll. We meet on March 1st, so we haven’t discussed the book yet. But I loved it and I’m eager to talk about it with the group. Here’s my review:

“There is so much to love about this book, even with the heartbreak that runs through it like a river. Cussy Mary, the main character, is as strong a woman as I’ve seen in a novel, and her determination to bring books and learning to the hill folk of rural Kentucky is inspiring. The Book Woman is a beautiful tribute to the Pack Horse librarians of the WPA and to the ‘blue people’ who lived in Kentucky.

This book taught me a lot about the Depression-era sacrifice and the hardscrabble lives of the people in that unforgiving land, and I am happy to recommend it to anyone who loves books and libraries, anyone hoping to learn more about a group of people that I hadn’t heard of until I started reading the book, and anyone who loves a great story.”

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Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries Cookbook

Author Jenny Kales will be here in April to talk about this fabulous cookbook, and I couldn’t wait until then to read it. I’m going to make one of the recipes in it this week for my family, so I’ll be able to report back to you in April. Here’s my review:

“I am going to make every single recipe in this book. I can’t wait to get started! The Greek recipes sound fabulous and the Greek-inspired tweaks to Midwestern American foods are just that–inspired! This book is a great addition to any cook’s repertoire.”

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Under the Tuscan Sun

It took me almost a month to read this book and I will confess, I didn’t review it on Goodreads or Amazon because I just couldn’t give it a review of three stars or more. I finished it because by the time I got halfway through it, it had become a challenge and I’m no quitter.

The book is comprised of the musings of a professor from San Francisco who bought an old house in Tuscany and spends summers and winter breaks there. I found the writing pretentious. It tried way too hard to be poetic and it ended up sounding corny and off-putting. If the author implied one more time that she came from wealth by mentioning the cook her family had when she was young, I would have screamed. What could have been a fun story about the pitfalls of restoring an old house in a faraway land turned into a collection of so many lists of things to be done and excruciating details of some of the more expensive renovations.

The book did, on the other hand, encourage me to put Italy on my bucket list. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I would like to visit Tuscany someday.

If you have read the book, please let me know what you thought of it. I am definitely in the minority of people who didn’t like it.

What have you been reading this month?

Until next time,

Amy

Chatting with Author Nancy Herriman

It is with great pleasure that I welcome my friend Nancy Herriman to Reade and Write today. Nancy is the author of the “A Mystery of Old San Francisco” series, the Bess Ellyott Mysteries, two standalone books, AND she has been awarded the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mystery and suspense. She’s here to talk about her upcoming release, No Quiet Among the Shadows, Book 3 in the “A Mystery of Old San Francisco” series.  I should note that I’ve read the first two books in the series and I can highly recommend them. I’m eager to read the new one!

And before I forget, at the bottom of the post there’s information about an opportunity to win prizes when the book launches on March 3, 2020!

Welcome, Nancy!

Tell us about your new book, No Quiet among the Shadows.

Here’s a blurb to give everyone an idea of what happens:

With the city’s Fourth of July celebrations in full swing, Celia Davies has stolen a moment away from her nursing duties to take in the festivities, but is stunned when she spots the one person she thought she’d never see again—her supposedly dead husband, Patrick. Moments later, the investigator who had confirmed Patrick’s death suspiciously falls from a high window, killing him. Celia begins to fear that the roguish man she married has returned to haunt her life once again.

Joining forces with Detective Nick Greaves to get to the bottom of the mystery, Celia is soon drawn into a murky séance group, where the voices of the dead suggest that everyone involved in the case is engaged in some sort of fraud or deception. Determined to discover which of them might be a killer, Celia and Nick will find themselves following a trail of clues that leads them down dark alleys into a shadowy tangle of spiritualism, altered identities, traumatic pasts, and secrets worth killing for . . .

Can you give us a recap of the first two books in the “A Mystery of Old San Francisco” series?

In the first book, No Comfort for the Lost, we meet Celia Davies, a widowed nurse who runs a free clinic for the poor women of San Francisco. When one of her patients mysteriously drowns, she fears the crime will go unsolved. Detective Nick Greaves, however, demands justice. Together, their search for the killer will take them from Chinatown to the Barbary Coast to the city’s gilded parlors. And entangle them both in a potentially fatal conspiracy.

Book 2, No Pity for the Dead, opens with the Irish orphan Celia has befriended finding a corpse buried in the basement of the place where he is employed. The husband of Celia’s closest friend becomes a suspect, and she turns to Nick to help find the true killer. The husband, though, is the detective’s old enemy. Nick and Celia must put aside their personal feelings about the case—and each other—to prevent the wrong man from hanging for the crime.

What kind of research did you have to do for this particular book?

I hate to give too much away, but I will mention that one of the characters in No Quiet among the Shadows is a spiritualist, and in the course of things, Celia ends up attending a séance. I had to dig into what typically occurred during a séance at this time period in order to make the scene as realistic as possible. While researching, I also discovered that the Spiritualism movement supported women’s suffrage, which I hadn’t known before. It added an interesting dimension to this character’s personality.

What was the hardest thing about writing No Quiet among the Shadows?

When I began work on this novel, it had been 3 years since the second book in the series, No Pity for the Dead, had been published, and I’d been writing my Bess Ellyott series in the meantime. That time gap meant I needed to reacquaint myself with all my characters and where I’d left their various stories. I also had to switch from writing from the perspective of a Tudor-era herbalist back to that of an 1860s English woman in America, which was harder to do than I’d expected.

Can you tell us what’s next for Celia Davies?

I am currently at work on the 4th book in the series, which will find Celia caught up in the mysterious disappearance of a local politician, the curious goings-on at a ‘water cure’ medical institute, and suspicion of revenge. It will be released in early 2021.

I love reading historical mysteries, so I’d also love to know more about your other series, the Bess Ellyott Mysteries. 

This series is set in the waning years of Elizabethan England. We meet herbalist Bess Ellyott in the first book, Searcher of the Dead. She has fled London after her husband’s murder and takes refuge in the countryside. A peaceful life until her brother-in-law, a prosperous merchant, is himself found dead, dangling from a tree, a rope about his neck. A supposed suicide, although clues suggest otherwise to Bess. However, she’s uncertain she can trust the town constable to help. Kit Harwoode, though, will cross members of his own family to uncover the killer…whose next target may very well be Queen Elizabeth I herself.

In the second book, A Fall of Shadows, a traveling player is brutally murdered outside Bess’s village, his body left atop the rumored site of a Druid temple. The same night, a bleeding woman seeking help collapses at Bess’s doorstep. Bess and Kit will work together to understand if the two events are connected, while struggling to keep the villagers’ growing fear that a witch’s black magic is at work from spinning dangerously out of control.

Are you in a critique group or partnership?

I was part of a critique group when I started writing, but I’m not any longer. I do, however, occasionally seek advice from my former critique partner, Candace Calvert, when I get stuck or need her expert opinion. I frankly believe I wouldn’t be a published author without her steadfast support and guidance. We writers need to stick together. It’s a tough business.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I enjoy historical mysteries and novels. I primarily read a lot of magazines, though. I think my attention span has grown too short to read books! My taste in magazines also leans toward ones that focus on history or archaeology, although I do have several cooking magazines on my bedside table right now.

What are your favorite movies?

Pretty similar to my taste in reading. However, I do really enjoy rewatching Harry Potter movies. I’ve also developed an interest in documentaries lately.

Describe yourself in three words.

outgoing, analytical, inquisitive

Where can readers connect with you?

My Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/nancyherriman.mysteries/)is the easiest place to interact with me. I am also at my website, http://www.nancyherriman.com/.

Where can readers find your books? 

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble carry my books, along with some independent booksellers.

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Readers, be sure to leave a comment below! Anyone who comments will be entered to win prizes at Nancy’s Facebook launch party on March 3rd!

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Here’s Nancy’s impressive bio:

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. A multi-published author, her work has won the Daphne du Maurier award, and Library Journal has said her ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series is “atmospheric (and)…just the ticket for anyone who misses Dianne Day’s ‘Fremont Jones’ series as well as readers of Rhys Bowen’s ‘Molly Murphy’ historicals.” She is also the author of the Bess Ellyott Mystery series.
When not writing, Nancy enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. She currently lives in central Ohio.
Thanks for being here today, Nancy!
Until next time,
Amy

 

The Top 10 Facts You Need to Know About Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day so many of us love, hate, or love to hate. I used to refer to it as Black [insert day of week].

No matter how you may feel personally about the day, there’s no escaping its interesting history. Today I’m going to share some facts about Valentine’s Day that you may not have known. And since all my information comes from online sources, you can believe every word of it.

One. There is disagreement over the identity of the Saint Valentine, or Valentinus, for whom the day was named. There are as many as three possibilities, and they were all martyred for various infractions such as marrying people when Emperor Claudius had outlawed it (how romantic!) and helping Christians escape from Roman jails.

Two. Valentine is the patron Saint of a whole boatload of things, among them: engaged couples, happy marriages, traveling, beekeeping, and intervention of the plague, epilepsy, and fainting.

Three. There is no record of Valentine’s Day prior to the year 1375, when Chaucer first mentioned it in a poem entitled “Parliament of Foules,” in which birds come together on February 14th to find mates.

Four. Almost 6 million couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day every year.

Five. The oldest known valentine in existence dates from 1415 when Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Six. In 1847, Boston pharmacist Oliver Chase invented a machine that would make quick work of producing sore throat lozenges. It quickly became apparent that this machine would work well for candy, too, so Chase shifted gears and started making candy. The company he founded would eventually become the New England Candy Company (you may recognize this today as Necco!). and Necco wafers were the precursor to today’s candy conversation hearts. Interestingly, it was Oliver’s brother, Daniel, who came up with a way to press words onto the candies.

Seven. According to the National Retail Federation. Americans spend more money on jewelry for Valentine’s Day than any other gift.

Eight. More than five million American households give Valentine’s Day presents to their dogs, and less than half that number give gifts to their cats. Despite this glaring oversight, the amount of money spent on the average cat exceeds the amount spent on the average dog.

Nine. The highest number of Valentine’s Day cards go to…teachers! Not sweethearts, not kids, not Mom.

Ten. In the Middle Ages, young men and women would draw names to find out the identity of their Valentines. They would then wear the name of that person pinned to their sleeves for one week—hence the phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

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Be My Valencrime is a perfect read for Valentine’s Day this year if you’re in the mood for something cozy, yet murderous. Many thanks to everyone who has ordered a copy already! The link to purchase your copy is here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes and a New Release!

Contrary to what the thermometer is telling us today in South Jersey, it’s still winter out there. With that in mind, I’ve got three comforting winter dishes for you this month. And in keeping with my New Year’s resolution to have more plant-based meals in 2020, the recipes I’m sharing are vegetarian.

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Barley Vegetable Soup

2 T. olive oil

1 med. onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, sliced thinly

1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 c. pearled barley

1/2 t. each dried basil, oregano, and thyme

6 c. vegetable broth

1 potato (I use white, but you can use sweet), diced into bite-sized pieces

1/2 c. frozen green beans

1/2 c. canned corn

1/2 c. frozen peas

salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, barley, basil, oregano, thyme, and broth to the stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once barley is softened, add potato. Simmer for 10 more minutes, or until potato is tender. If using sweet potato, you will probably need to simmer for longer.

Add green beans, corn, and peas; stir to combine and heat for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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 Veggie Frittata

2 1/2 c. broccoli florets, trimmed to bite-sized pieces if necessary

1/4 c. roasted red peppers, cut into small strips and patted dry

1/4 c. artichoke hearts, chopped and patted dry

8 eggs

1/4 c. 2% milk

2 t. Dijon mustard

1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. pepper

1/2 c. grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Place broccoli florets in a steamer basket over the water and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover; steam 4-6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain broccoli and pat dry.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper, and cheese until blended. Add red pepper strips and artichoke hearts. Mix well.

Spray an ovenproof nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat until hot. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and heat over medium-low heat until edges are set, about 5 minutes.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are set and no visible liquid eggs remain, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.

This is really good with salsa.

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Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

(I have shared a Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta before—here—but this one is different and just as good)

1 1/2 t. unflavored gelatin

1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. water

1 c. milk

1/3 c. sugar

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. whole milk Greek yogurt

honey for drizzling

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the water and let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring milk and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin until it is dissolved. Occasionally I have to put the saucepan back on a low burner, stirring constantly, in order to dissolve the gelatin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and the yogurt. Whisk in the warm milk mixture until smooth. Pour mixture into 6 (4 oz.) ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Chill 3-4 hours. To serve, drizzle with honey.

Enjoy!

Remember, you’re invited to to submit recipes for my First Tuesday posts! Email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com.

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And don’t forget that today is Release Day for Be My Valencrime! Click here to order your copy today! Many thanks to everyone who has already ordered the paperback and preordered the ebook! ❤

Until next time,

Amy