29 June 2011

Back to Back Review: Julie Hyzy

The Books:

In Buffalo West Wing, Head White House Chef Olivia Paras is doing her best to prepare for the new First Family. She knows things may change, but when some mysterious take-out meant for the children takes out several White House staff and a new chef is hired, Ollie realizes she may not have much time left to save her job or the lives of the First Family.

In Grace Under Pressure, Grace Wheaton is the assistant curator at the famed Marshfield Manor. When her supervisor Abe is murdered, Grace steps in to assume Abe's job. Between a reclusive millionaire boss, blackmail letters, and an uninvited stalker prowling around the grounds, Grace knows that Bennett Marshfield must be protected. Along the way some family secrets, a bad Ponzi scheme, and an act of revenge will bring Grace face to face with a killer.

The Yarn:

I really enjoy Julie Hyzy's storytelling. I have read the White House Chef Mysteries since the first book and found them to be a lot of fun without being trite. Olivia "Ollie" Paras has worked her way up to being the White House Chef and gotten involved in a few mysteries along the way. She also started and ended a relationship with a Secret Service agent, but hopefully she will not be alone for too long, judging by the way this book was setting things up. Buffalo West Wing gave the extra twist of bringing a new First Family into the storyline, which has shaken up the entire White House, especially with a not-so-auspicious start with mysterious fast food and a new chef brought in by the First Lady. I will definitely be interested in seeing where the story goes for Ollie and the new family.

I found out a couple months ago that Hyzy started another series after she wrote on her blog about it last month. A definite change from Ollie, Grace is a curator who has moved back to her hometown and is working at the famed manor she loved when she was growing up. When her supervisor, who was basically the backbone to running the manor, is murdered, Grace not only tries to step into his shoes, but manages to step on some toes in the process. With roommates who are trying to ply their wine to a national magazine and a family mystery of her own, Grace never comes off as snooping too much. She is definitely a "hometown girl" and loves the manor both for its history and from her heart. I am really excited to pick up the sequel and see what Grace does next.

The Ink:

Titles: Buffalo West Wing (White House Chef Mysteries, #4)
          Grace Under Pressure (Manor House Mystery, #1)
Author: Julie Hyzy
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Dates:  Buffalo West Wing: January 2011
           Grace Under Pressure: June 2010
Read: Buffalo West Wing: Library Mass Market
          Grace Under Pressure: Mass Market (Provided by author)

26 June 2011

In My Mailbox (15)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week (or two). Titles link to Goodreads.

Well, this was a slow week - for books anyways. No library visit, no running off to a used bookstore. However, my girlfriend did pick me up a couple more titles that I am collecting, and I came home last night to a squeal-inducing package.


First Test by Tamora Pierce
Page by Tamora Pierce
Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce
Sandry's Book by Tamora Pierce

Can we sense a trend? I love Pierce and am currently collecting the books as I find them, usually used.


Withering Tights by Louise Rennison. I was fortunate enough to win this from Steph Su Reads last week. I have been a big fan of her Georgia Nicholson books and think this will be a great follow up. A big thank you to Steph Su for this!

Happy Reading!

22 June 2011

Review: Gardenbed of State by Dorothy St. James

The Book:

Casey Calhoun  is the newest assistant to the White House gardening staff. Willing to not only walk the extra mile to tend to the famed President's Park, but try to get new theories implemented about organic gardening. Getting attacked and waking up in a flowerbed is not part of her normal routine. When Casey discovers a body nearby, she can't help but get involved. With a special cultivation program to vet to the First Lady and the Secret Service and her own colleagues interfering with her work, can Casey keep everything on track without getting her hands too dirty?

20 June 2011

TYV: Circular Knitting Giveaway Winner

I would like to thank everyone that stopped by the blog for Melissa Morgan-Oakes' blog tour. It was terrific to host both my first interview and giveaway here, and I hope to do it again real soon!

Now for the winner:

The winner of the autographed copy of Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting is Word Lily! Word Lily, expect a confirmation email in your inbox today!

Thank you again to Melissa Morgan-Oakes for her interview and supplying the giveaway prize.

19 June 2011

In My Mailbox (14)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week (or two). Titles link to Goodreads.

I am thrilled because I received a lot of my Armchair BEA prizes this past week, plus a win from School Library Journal. It was giveaway week for me.

Armchair BEA:

From HarperPerennial I received this nice tote bag. I love the Barbara Kingsolver quote on it. Also received were an ARC of Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews and a copy of Quarantine by Rahul Mehta.

Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey. This book was a prize directly from the author. An ex-nun turned private investigator sounds intriguing. Also, Loweecey hails from western Massachusetts and is a local author!

A whole slew of romance titles from Hott Books. These are not all up in my Goodreads yet, but are a mix of contemporary and historical romance titles. Many thanks, Regina!

I also won five codes for iPod Touch books from PicPocket Books. I ended up getting children's books for some wee ones I know, who are being entertained by their parent's handheld devices.

Last week I caught a tweet from School Library Journal about ARCs available by Maggie Stiefvater. I have not read any of her titles so far, but heard some good buzz from my friends who attended BEA about her October release, The Scorpio Races.

This ended up being delivered around lunchtime on Saturday. By 4 PM I was finished with it. I literally could not put it down - and when I did I picked it right back up. This is an amazing book, and while not quite contemporary YA, it definitely further in that direction. I loved the setting, the characters, the story. Everything! There was enough of my childhood love of horses to pull me into the book and I just kept riding.

Happy Reading!

15 June 2011

Review: Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting by Melissa Morgan-Oakes

Don't forget about my giveaway for an autographed copy of this book!

The Book:

For some knitters, straight needles and back-and-forth rows are the way to go. Many can be intimidated when faced with two needles on a cord, but you don't have to be! Circular knitting (knitting in the round) has many benefits, such as seamless projects and no turning. If you haven't given circular knitting a chance, or feel you need to actually see what it takes to do it, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting will walk you through the process.

14 June 2011

Blog Tour: Melissa Morgan-Oakes Interview! (And Giveaway)

It is my pleasure to host my first-ever interview with author Melissa Morgan-Oakes as she ventures into her first-ever blog tour for her latest book, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. Melissa is a knitting instructor (I took her sock knitting class at WEBS over a year ago. I still need to Kitchener the toe. On the first sock.) and pattern designer. You can find her at Melissa Knits. My review for the book will be up tomorrow.

The obvious first question: when did you first pick up those knitting needles?

I usually get "when did you learn to knit" which is actually a very different question. Knitting needles were a part of my life since my birth. Every adult female in my family knit. Aunts, great aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers all had their yarn and needles nearby. By my mother's generation the fervor had waned a bit, but still at holiday gatherings my mother and her sister pulled out their knitting right along side "The Aunts" Kay, Blanche, Irene and Agnes. When I expressed an interest in knitting a whole group of women jumped on board to teach me, all with such diverse styles in their knitting and their teaching that my interest quickly turned into anxiety. I didn't touch needles again until around 2000. The exact date is lost to memory. All of those elder relatives had died, and I could finally sit down with a book and not fear the inevitable adult over my shoulder telling me I was doing it "wrong". From there it was a rapid ascent to where I am today. Without anyone to say no or to tell me a thing was difficult, I just forged ahead. "Just figure it out as you go" was my motto. I moved quickly through a series of obsessive knitting projects that left me with a huge wealth of practical knowledge. I have added more formal study since, but really the information I culled from my self-taught experiences has been the biggest asset to me as a knitter, a teacher and a designer.

Do you do other fiber work?

Yes! Not as much in the last few years as I did before 2-at-a-Time Socks came out, though. It's been a very busy few years since then! I spin, crochet, needle felt and sew... in the past I have embroidered, cross-stitched, quilted and so on. I find piecework to be very relaxing and fulfilling. I hope to spend more time in the next year or so indulging in some of those other crafts.

Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting is your third book, after 2-At-a-Time Socks and Toe-Up 2-At-a-Time Socks. Is circular knitting your favorite way to knit?

Circular knitting is by far and away my favorite way to knit. I am big on efficiency and I consider circular knitting to be much more efficient than back and forth knitting. Working a sweater, for the sake of argument let's say a bottom-up raglan pullover, in the round saves so much time. Knit the body to the underarm, knit the sleeves to the underarm, then work everyone on to one needle and keep knitting to the neck. Poof, done! No turning the work at the end of each row - imagine how much time that saves alone. Then there is the finishing aspect - a garment body and sleeves worked in the round have no seams; more time saved! Working patterns, such as cables of color work, is made so much easier if the right side of the work is always facing you. You can track the progress of the pattern as you go. Errors, should they occur, are quickly spotted and remedied. I could go on for hours on this!

Is there anything that you have not knit before that you still aspire to do?

In my office right this minute is a Bohus kit that is begging for my attention; two, actually. There is a sweater kit and a mitten kit that I bought for myself to celebrate 2-at-a-Time Socks. Beyond that which never seems to find it's way on to my needles, I have stacks of plastic bins of yarn, and almost all of that yarn has a specific purpose. Someday I hope to knit it all. Right now though I think my biggest goal is to finish the sweater that I started for my husband in 2005. Somehow it just never seems to get done!

Who are some of the people that have inspired your knitting?

My GW, Grandma Winnie, would probably be my biggest inspiration. She was my father's mother and had the most profound impact on many areas of my life. She and my Auntie Gert would knit at the table after dinner and dishes were done and put away, watching whatever Uncle Joe had on the television from their kitchen haven. The memories of being in that house, watching them always at work at something, had a deep and lasting effect on me. The black coffee and Lorna Doone shortbreads helped, too.

While you are certainly well-known for your knitting prowess, I also know about your commitment to your farm. How has that grown over the years?

In 1999 we got 6 baby chicks from our local Farmer's CoOp. Today we have a very small and (still very new) farm of about 200 birds, selling meat and eggs to customers in the area. What started as a family experiment in simplicity and sustainability has turned into something a little bigger, and something that I hope continues to grow. Farming is, for us, not remotely lucrative. I am not sure it is for any small farmer. For me rearing birds and selling eggs has been more about education, both of myself and of others. We just about break even when all is said and done, and any profit I managed to eke out is turned right back into the farm for new equipment and more birds. It is much more about the ethical and moral side of things, but without, I hope, being preachy. And I can get pretty preachy! I am not a vegetarian nor do I intend to become one. What I strive to be, and often - being human - fail at miserably, is a conscious consumer of ALL things, and that includes meat. Knowing how my food lived, whether it's a carrot of a chicken, is very important to me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to share the how and why of that with interested people, and the farm helps me to do that.

It seems you are not the only family member that blogs? :) Can you tell us about Yoshi?

Yes, I am not the only member of my family who maintains a blog, although the only other member who does blog is a four-legged, fur-bearing bundle of adorable. Yoshi is my Shiba Inu puppy. His blog came about as a way for me to record and share his experiences with his breeder and my family and friends. Some weeks he gets more hits than I do! I hope - and so does Yoshi - that readers of his blog (called 100 Days of Yoshi, which is found at http://melissaknits-yoshi.blogspot.com/) come away entertained and maybe a little better educated about responsible dog ownership, and about the potential for the relationship between dogs and their human caretakers. I do nothing without putting in a lot of research before hand. I knew we wanted another dog - we have a 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog already. I had researched dog breeds and decided on a poodle or poodle cross. Then my friend Kathy (Elkins of Webs) sent me images of Shiba Inu puppies, and I thought back to my Akita, Kioshi, and everything changed. It turns out Kathy knew more than I did about what I really needed. After speaking at great length with Charleen Maxim of Cape Cod Shibas and making a visit to meet adults dogs and puppies, it became pretty obvious that what I really wanted was a Shiba! We went back to the cape a month later and brought home this boy. He is smarter than any dog I've ever had. He's about as tractable as a flagpole wedged in concrete, retaining the full use of his own mind at all times - and he's not afraid to use it against me! Yoshi has long-range plans to be a therapy dog working with the elderly and children, and he hopes to do some work in obedience and agility some day as well. He will continue to blog as he grows and experiences with world around him, I hope, although I guess that will be up to him!

Thank you so much, Melissa! You can catch Melissa's next blog tour stop at OMG! Heart tomorrow.

Now, onto the giveaway! Melissa has graciously provided one lucky reader an autographed copy of her latest, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. All you have to do is complete the form at the end of the post. Entries will close at 9 PM on Friday, June 17th and the winner announced on Monday, June 20th. Good luck!

  • Form must be filled out completely.
  • Comments will not be accepted as entries to the giveaway.
  • You must be 13+ to win.
  • Winning comment will be chosen through Random.org.
  • This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Winner will be announced on Monday!

12 June 2011

In My Mailbox (13)

Lucky number 13!

Welcome to my thirteenth post of In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week (or two). Titles link to Goodreads.

From BEA:

No, I didn't actually go, but my good friend Sara did! Not only did she pick up one just for me, but she had a stack at her party last week in which I was able to find a couple more titles.

Reclaiming Our Food: How the Grassroots Food Movement Is Changing the Way We Eat by Tanya Denckla Cobb (Storey, Oct). This one was actually a title I just received through NetGalley, so I am excited to have it in print. I pointed Sara in the direction of where Storey Publishing was setting up their booth. :)

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, Sept). Yes, this was a cover grab. I am intrigued about the blurb on the back, hand prints and art students and teeth? (Oh my!)

Pure by Julianna Baggott (Grand Central, Feb 2012). Is it the next Hunger Games? Maybe I am in the mood for another post-apocalyptic story...

From the Library:

Oh boy. It was another one of those visits.

Uncertain Allies by Mark Del Franco. Conner Grey once again investigates murder - and pulls up more secrets from the Fey Guild. (This is fifth in the series.)

Unseen by Rachel Caine. If you miss Caine's Weather Warden books, now that the series is ended, follow along with the former-Djinn Cassiel as she gets used to living life on Earth. (This is third in the series.)

Seaworthy: A Swordboat Captain Returns to Sea by Linda Greenlaw. I loved her first book, The Hungry Ocean, and am hoping this one rings the same.

The Profitable Hobby Farm: How To Build a Sustainable Local Foods Business by Sarah Beth Aubrey. I am not going into business, but am interested in seeing how those who want to approach the business side can.

The Medicine Garden by Rachel Corby. I have many books on herbal remedies on my bookshelves. I am thinking of adding some more medicinal plants to my garden and was happy to come across this on the new books shelves.

Garden Anywhere by Alys Fowler. My friend recommended this book. While I am not constrained by containers anymore, I still am looking to manage small-space gardens at my home.

And my next research project (More on this tomorrow!)

Choosing & Raising Chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis.

Happy Reading!

10 June 2011

Review: Turn For Home by Lara Zielinsky

Note: This review was first posted May 26 at The Lesbrary.

The Book:

Cassidy and Brenna have declared their love for each other, now if only the rest of the world would get on board. While Brenna struggles with her two teen sons and their disgruntlement, Cassidy deals with the aftermath of her family's holiday. Trying to figure out how they will fit their lives together is hard enough, but when tragedy strikes, can their bond be enough to withstand the spotlight on these two stars?

08 June 2011

Review: A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

The Book:

At the age of 18, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left her birthplace of Singapore to attend school. After a decade plus living in New York City, Tan realizes that she has lost touch with so much more than her past. Wanting to learn the dishes that she grew up with, Tan spends a year traveling back to Singapore to learn the recipes made throughout her youth. In the midst of learning these dishes, Tan discovers her connection with home.

05 June 2011

In My Mailbox (12)

Welcome to my eleventh post of In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week (or two). Titles link to Goodreads.

For Review:

Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community and in the World by Thomas J. Fox. I mentioned this title last week as one I wish I could have been at BEA for. The author was kind enough to contact me and offer a copy for review. Thank you!

Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening by Sepp Holzer. I have a lot of friends that practice permaculture, especially in western Massachusetts, so I am excited to take a better look at it. Thank you to Chelsea Green Publishing for sending me this copy.


Lost and Fondue (Cheese Shop Mystery, #2) by Avery Aames. I love cheese! I have already finished this fun cozy and will be picking up the first in the series to read. Thanks to Nicole at Gluten Free Girl and the Goat for this giveaway.

Happy reading!

01 June 2011

Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

The Book:

Lady Minerva Sharpe knew she did not want to follow her grandmother’s edict to marry or forfeit the family inheritance. What better way for Minerva to change her mind than by a pretend engagement to a rogue? Giles Masters may have fueled her imagination for the spy in her Gothic novels with a memorable kiss, but she certainly has no inclination to actually marry him. When more news on the mystery behind her parents’ deaths comes to light, Giles and Minerva begin to investigate, and find themselves discovering their desire for each other. But when Giles’ secret life as an actual spy comes to light, will Minerva be willing to believe in her love again?