Thursday, April 30, 2015

Follow Friday Four Fill-in Fun - 5/1/15

Feeling Beachie 

Love this meme....I hope you can join in the fun.  

Each week, Feeling Beachie lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs.  

The statements:
  1. Hearing ______makes me feel _______.
  2. I hate to wear _______, but love to wear ________.
  3. I have a _______on my ______
  4. I wish I could say ______ to __________
My Answers:
1.  Hearing good news makes me smile.

2.  I hate to wear shorts, but love to wear a skirt.

3.  I have a "reading" table and chairs on my back porch for the summer.

4.  I wish I could say whatever I want to someone who needs to be told.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tempt Your Taste Buds and Your Reading

 ENJOY recipes by Nicole Baart as well as her book:


My Family Recipe: Apple Pudding with Homemade Caramel Sauce
by Nicole Baart, author of The Beautiful Daughters 

Nicole Baart author photo

“Adri protested, her mouth watering at the thought of her father’s mashed potatoes, glistening with pats of butter and swimming in gravy that he made from the drippings of his roast chicken. When they were kids, she and Will had eaten like royalty. Fat steaks charred on the grill, meatloaf sandwiches with homemade vinegar and ketchup glaze, pork roast with caramelized onions and baked apples. Sam even had one go-to cake, a dense, chocolate confection made with sour cream and a can of cherry pie filling that was best hot from the oven. And even better with a handful of half-burnt birthday candles stuck in the gooey frosting.” (from The Beautiful Daughters)

Adri Vogt, a humanitarian-aid nurse in The Beautiful Daughters, grew up on a small dairy farm in Northwest Iowa, a setting loosely based on my grandparents’ farm. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of that little white house, the chicken coop and barn, and the grove where we played on antique tractors and hunted for litters of wild kittens. But mealtimes were the best. No one could cook like my grandma. And if a cup of sugar was good, surely two cups were better. It’s somewhat shocking to remember those meals today, the way that we consumed so many calories and burned them all off playing outside and doing farm chores. I’ve given up such a rich menu for my family, but a few things remain. The chocolate cake Adri remembers is one of them. My grandma used to let me take a spoon and dig the first, hot bite out of the corner of the pan. Years later I tasted black forest cake for the first time and realized that my grandma’s chocolate cherry cake was a sort of variation. To this day, I like grandma’s better: served warm with, of course, a cup of strong coffee.

I’m actually going to share two family recipes with you because the chocolate cake is so simple it can hardly be called a recipe. (Chocolate Cherry Cake: Prepare a boxed chocolate cake mix as directed, substituting the same amount of sour cream for the oil or butter. Stir in one 15 ounce can of cherry pie filling and 1/2 teaspoon of almond flavoring. Bake as directed. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting. So delicious!)

Though we love the chocolate cherry cake, our family favorite is actually Apple Pudding with Homemade Caramel Sauce. Don’t let the name fool you–it’s more of a cake than a pudding, an unbelievably delicious and surprisingly easy dessert with a hot topping that transforms it into a sort of sticky cake. It’s homey and decadent, something that Sam, Adri’s father in The Beautiful Daughters, would undoubtedly make for his kids.

 Nicole Baart cake

Photo Credit: Nicole Baart

Apple Pudding with Homemade Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I like Braeburn for baking)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Incorporate dry ingredients into the butter mixture, stirring well. Fold in diced apples. (The batter will be extremely chunky.) Spread into a greased and floured 9×13 pan. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350. The cake is done when the center bounces back when lightly touched. It will be a dark, brown sugar color—it is not burnt! In fact, we like to overbake it a bit because it turns the edges into a wonderfully chewy, toffee-like concoction. (This pudding is just as good the second and even third day!)

 DSC09929 (2)

Photo Credit: Nicole Baart


While the pudding is baking, melt 1/2 cup of butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar. Slowly drizzle 1 cup of half and half into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Heat through until the sugar granules are completely dissolved, but do not boil. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla. Serve warm, spooned generously over individual servings of apple pudding. Refrigerate any unused portion (reheat and stir to serve again).


Nicole Baart is the mother of four children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, Sleeping in Eden. Find out more at

Beautiful Daughters cover image

Atria Books | 428 pages | 978-1-4391-9738-7 | April 28, 2015 | $16.00

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Last Night At The Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

Naomi and Sophia live alone as mother and daughter.  Naomi is a singer and got her start i​n her ​Catholic school with Sister Idalia.  Sophia loves her mother, sits at the night club when her mother sings, and sees things an eleven-year-old shouldn't be seeing.

LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ANGEL is mostly dialogue with wonderful characters who truly care for each other.  Well...most characters care for each other.  Naomi seems to be all about herself even though she appears to love her daughter, Sophia.

​LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ANGEL flashes back to Naomi's childhood then to her current situation that includes Sophia.  ​Sophia is always worried and keeps lists of things she can improve and re-invent in case of a nuclear disaster.  I loved Sophia but wasn't too fond of her mother.

Jim, the photographer, was sweet and was always put aside by Naomi, but he was so loved by Sophia.​  Jim was obsessed with taking photos of buildings that were falling apart and ones he said he had to photograph before they would be gone forever. 

David along with Naomi was not a favorite even though he was involved with Naomi.

LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ANGEL is about family relationships, love, and living with and loving what you have.  ​For a debut novel, this book has a lot of depth and characters that will stay with you even after you have finished the book. 
Ms. Rotert writes beautifully and pulls you in so well that you become part of the story.

I enjoyed LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ANGEL, and enjoyed Naomi's early years a bit more than her present situation even though the early years were a bit wild.

Adorable Sophia made the present​ ​very interesting and at times comical.  She was so sweet and yet such a bundle of worries, but who wouldn't be worried with the life the confused but precocious child led.

There are adult situations scattered throughout the book but nothing graphic or explicit - simply insinuations.

Naomi's last night at The Blue Angel turned out for the best for her, but the last few pages are ones where you will need tissues. 

ENJOY!!!  4/5

At the end of the book, Ms. Rotert shares information about where her characters and storyline grew from.  These pages were quite informative and interesting.  

After reading these ending informational pages, I would say LAST NIGHT AT THE BLUE ANGEL can also be classified as historical fiction. 

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation in return for an honest review.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 4/27/15

I hope you had a great reading week.  
This is a weekly meme run by Book Journey!

Post the books completed last week, the books you are currently reading, and the books you hope to finish this week. 

Books Completed Last Week:

THE SOUND OF GLASS by Karen White for a May 21, 2015, post.

I absolutely LOVED this book.


An excerpt from my review is below:

THE SOUND OF GLASS is another remarkable, beautiful book by Karen White.  Her descriptions of the characters, the scenes, and the emotions of the characters are very real.

The book kept me wondering just what some of the female characters had to hide and why they were the way they were.

THE SOUND OF GLASS has suspense and mystery as well as touching on the issue of domestic violence.

The characters will grow on you and they grow on each other in a warm, inviting way.  You will need some tissues as this marvelous story wraps up.

I truly enjoyed THE SOUND OF GLASS, and if you have ever read one of Ms. White’s books, you know you will be in for an awesome read. ​

Book Currently Reading: 

THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT by Beatriz Williams  for a Penguin Random House tour in May.

Books Up Next: 

DEATH IN SALEM by Eleanor Kuhns for a June 16, 2015, post

THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler for a June 23, 2015, post.


THE GIRL WROTE IN SILK by Kelli Estes for a July 7, 2015, post.

IN THE DARK PLACES by Peter Robinson for an August 8, 2015, post.

THE LAST SUMMER AT CHELSEA BEACH by Pam Jenoff for an August 28, 2015 post.  Ms. Jenoff is a favorite author.

DEAD MONEY RUN by J. Frank James for an August 31, 2015, post along with a giveaway for the book.

TAHOE GHOST by Todd Borg

HIGH SEAS DARKNESS by Burr B. Anderson

THREE STORY HOUSE by Courtney Miller Santo

GARDEN OF LETTERS by Alyson Richman






WOMAN OF ILL FAME by Erika Mailman


PERFECT by Rachel Joyce



The books below are not necessarily in the order I have planned to read them.  

I normally read in order of publication or tour date.

And....these are not for reading in the upcoming week.  They are books into and including all of 2014.

The "list" is a means of keeping me organized.  A visual display helps a lot for organization along with my Excel lists. 


How was your reading week?