Dec 172014
 

If you follow me on Goodreads, you know that I read a lot. Each year you can sign up for a “challenge” to read a certain number of books. In 2012 my goal was to read 77 books and I surpassed that with 109 books total. In 2013 the goal was 100 and I read 119. I decided to challenge myself this year and made my goal for 2014 125 books. As of this week I’ve reached that goal and went over it with a few books! I haven’t decided yet what my 2015 book goal will be. Definitely more than this year, I know that….

I found that having a Kindle made it SO much easier to read more books. Not only did I not have to drive to the library or wait for books to be available, I also got free books on Amazon. Amazon offers a ton of free kindle books, plus if you are an Amazon Prime member you get 1 free book a month. My library also offers eBooks. Sometimes you do have to wait a few weeks or more for the book to be available (which I find weird considering it’s all digital).

This might be the last book post for 2014! Are you looking for a good book to get you through the yucky winter? Never fear! I have recommendations. :) Here are a few good ones I’ve read lately:

1. Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

What a fantastic series, glad I found it. The writing is crisp and clean, the stories move quickly and I love all the characters. This is the second book in the series and it’s even better than the first. This particular story was extremely dark and there were some pretty terrifying moments.

2. Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson

This is Book 3 in the series. A departure from the other books in the series. The cowboy is taken out of the wilderness in Wyoming and is solving a murder mystery in Philly. Despite being different from the other books, the beloved characters were still involved and the story was great. Walt is a fish out of water in Philly but it works. The story was great, loved the change of scenery and I was sad the book was over.

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3. A Dark and Twisted Tide by SJ Bolton

Another great Lacey Flint book. This one was super fascinating. It took a topic I didn’t know much about and spun an interesting and twisted tale. The twist in the finale was so fascinating! I don’t want to give too much away. I recommend this book!

4. Personal by Lee Child

The newest Jack Reacher book! And it is a great one! If you don’t know about the Jack Reacher books, I really recommend them. It’s a series I try to turn everyone on to because I love the books so much. I started the series like 10 years ago and zipped through as many as I could. A few years ago they finally made it into a movie and while I was disappointed they cast Tom Cruise in the role (I had always pictured Vincent D’onofrio as Reacher) the movie was actually pretty good. So if you’re looking for a new series to start, pick this one (another favorite is the Elvis Cole series).

This book was really good and I read it quickly, maybe 2 days total to finish it. The chapters are short and it reads fast. The books COULD be stand alone books but it would probably be better to read them in order. The ending of this book was shocking!

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5. The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson

Book #5 in the Longmire series. Another good book from the series. I accidentally read it out of order, but never noticed. The main story was done in the TV series, so if you’ve seen the show you know the ending. Despite that, it was still a good story and it WAS a little different than the tv episode.

6. American Goulash by Stephanie Yuhas

I was given an advance copy of this book from a friend who helped get it published. It’s a short story, only about 160 pages, but it’s a pretty tight, concise book for being so short. It’s a memoir about a Hungarian-American girl growing up in the 80’s with a mentally ill mother and grandmother in New Jersey. Despite the topic being somewhat dark, it was a really light book. It was charming and hilarious in a lot of places. There were a few chapters that I felt could have been cut out, but overall I enjoyed the book. She writes her mother well and I could really picture all of it. The chapter where she got her first period and had no idea what was going on and her mother gave her “The Talk” was hilarious–“You get pregnant I fuck you up”. There were bittersweet moments in the book that I think everyone can find they relate to. Recommend it!

7.  The Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

The last of the series…Sad! I discovered the first book about 10 years ago. I remember I took it with me on a camping trip and spent most of the time devouring it. The series was pretty good, there were some books and some plot twists here and there that fell flat for me but for the most part the series kept it’s integrity and kept me reading. I loved the main characters and thankfully this series never got horrible like the Anita Blake series did (man I wish the author hadn’t ruined THAT series!).

So how was the final book? Not great. I included it in this post because I really did love most of the series and if you are looking for a new series to read, check it out. Despite that, the last book of the series was kind of a mess. The story was hard to follow, the writing was all over the place and many of the characters didn’t seem true to their character throughout the books. That was disappointing.

8. Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson

Book #4 in the Longmire series. (See above, I read this book out of order.) Another good book in the series. This one had two stories going at the same time–one took place during Walt’s time in Vietnam. Both stories converge at the end and wrap up nicely. That’s what I love about this author–the stories always work well and aren’t convoluted.

9. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane

Book 4 in the series. It sucked you in immediately. The writing was fast paced and actually quite hilarious despite the somber topic. The writing always impresses me. Several of his books have been made into movies. I could have sworn that I remembered this one so I checked my Netflix and yep, I’d seen the movie many years ago and apparently I only rated it 2 stars…The book is so good, though. Maybe I need to watch the movie again now that I’ve read the book? It’s apparently been long enough since I saw the movie that I didn’t remember the major plot points OR the whodunit. So that was good.

The book is great and I was happy that there were new awesome characters and they also brought back some of the old favorites (like Bubba). The story was dark and twisted and there were so many layers to it. The whole book had me hooked start to finish.

10. Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane

Book 5 in the series. How did I not discover this author sooner?? His books are amazing. So incredibly powerful and well written. It’s a different story than the other 4 in the PI series. Patrick wasn’t technically “hired” as a detective to solve the whodunit but thank goodness he insinuated himself. The layers of this story are just amazing as they unfold. The story and characters involved in this compelling book are twisted and shocking and kept me on the edge of my seat. I think I read the book in two days.

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Hope you enjoy some of these recommendations! Happy reading!

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Dec 162014
 

I’ve tried some new recipes lately. I wanted to share a few of them with you guys because they were good ones! If you are looking for a quick and easy dinner recipe, this post is for you.

5 Ingredient Salsa Verde Beef Tacos

I am a sucker for “5 ingredients or less” recipes but often times they are disappointing. This one was not disappointing in any way. It was actually one of my favorite new recipes. It was simple, it was easy, it was fast AND it was delicious. The salsa verde made the beef flavorful in a subtle, different way. The best part? I go 4 servings out of this recipe and that made it around 260 calories.  Add 100 calories for a tortilla, throw in some raw spinach and avocado and you’ve got a fantastic dinner for less than 500 calories and it’s filling, too. This recipe will become a staple in our house I think.

 

Creamy Mushroom Pork Chops

I like that pork chops are low in calories. Sadly, they are also often very bland. If we make pork chops I prefer to try recipes that have some gravy or sauce to kind of freshen it up and make it a little more savory.

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This recipe was super easy and fairly quick. I had all the ingredients on hand and I am happy with how it turned out. While the pork chops were cooking I baked some sweet potatoes as a side and made a salad. The recipe was simple but I thought it tasted good. It made boring pork chops a little more interesting. I would definitely make this recipe again but I think I would add some fresh tarragon or rosemary to the cream of mushroom mixture. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything!

Cranberry Chicken

I recently bought a cookbook of all crockpot recipes (recently meaning this summer). I’ve been dying to try some of them but just haven’t gotten around to it until now.  I had all the ingredients on hand for this one except for the quick-cooking tapioca. It’s something I’d never heard of before or used but looking into it I guess it’s used for thickening stews and sauces. When I didn’t have this I went to the handy-dandy Google and found that flour or cornstarch worked just as well. So I used flour instead. I WILL be buying some of the tapioca soon, though, because a lot of the recipes in this book call for it and I want to give it a try.

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: 330

From: Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Slowcooker book

Ingredients

  • 2.5 - 3 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks, skinned
  • 1 16 ounce can whole cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 3 cups hot cooked rice

Instructions

  1. Place chicken in slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the cranberry sauce, dry soup mix and tapioca.
  3. Pour over the chicken.
  4. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 5-6 hours, or on high heat 2.5-3 hours.
  5. Serve over hot cooked rice.
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When the chicken was close to being done, I cooked some rice in my rice cooker that I got at Trader Joe’s. It was a basmati and wild rice mixture with herbs in it. I was excited to try it!

The chicken I used was boneless, skinless chicken breasts and it worked well, perhaps not as the recipe intended, but it still worked. The chicken breasts fell apart and I shredded the chicken a bit, then mixed it around in the sauce. I liked the chicken shredded like this. It soaked up all the saucy goodness. I had a few nibbles as it was finishing up and it was delicious!

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Dinner was finally ready and it was by far, one of my favorite crockpot recipes I’ve done in a long time. The chicken was perfect, not dried out at all, and the cranberry sauce was sweet but not too sweet. It was just perfect. I also loved the Trader Joe’s rice. this dinner was fantastic! Give this recipe a try.

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