Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer Blog Break

Hi all!

Abby and I are taking a blog break for the rest of August and will return after Labor Day.  Hope you have a great rest of the Summer!


Book Review - The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Book Synopsis
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story. 

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told. 

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Cottingley Secret is a historical novel with a dual storyline.  In the present, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather's bookstore and discovers a mysterious manuscript related to the Cottingley fairies.  Olivia wants to learn the link between this manuscript and her family.  The book flashes back to two young cousins who made the fairy photographs in 1917, Frances and Elsie.

This was a fascinating read.  I have heard of the Cottingley fairies before, and seen the most famous photo of Frances with the fairies.  That is what initially intrigued me about this novel.

But there was so much more to this story.  I loved Olivia's story, with the antiquarian bookstore and her past that she discovers there.   I found the story of how she works to move past loss and discover what truly brings her joy.  Although I wanted to read this book initially because of the Cottingley fairies, I found Olivia's story even more compelling.  She is such a warm, kind character, deserving of true happiness.  I love the words her grandfather wrote, words she learns to live by:  "You don't need anybody's permission to live the life you desire, Olivia.  You need only the permission of your heart" (p. 11).

This was a book that kept me up long after my usual bedtime. I just could not put it down.  There are so many things in The Cottingley Secret that I am particularly fond of:  a dual storyline, historical fiction, well drawn and sympathetic characters, family history, and a bookstore setting.  (I sell vintage books, so particularly liked the book and bookbinding details in this novel.)

The writing by Hazel Gaynor is just lovely.  The characters are well drawn, the dual storyline is handled beautifully, and the descriptions add so much to the story.

I cannot recommend The Cottingley Secret highly enough for fans of historical fiction.  It is truly an enchanting read.  

Author Bio
HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dear Abby - Summer Linky - Dachshunds and Animal Fun

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a great day!  I am about to take some blogging time off with my Momma.  I will not be blogging in August, but will return after Labor Day.   I have some fun ideas for Fall posts, and will be thinking more when I am enjoying some time off this upcoming month.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few fun links with you.  These are all posts from the past few months:

I hope you enjoy this linky, and I especially hope you have a great rest of the summer!  


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallory

Book Synopsis
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Daughters of the Bride comes the charming tale about the problem with secrets, the power of love and the unbreakable bond between sisters

Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Told with Mallery’s trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
Secrets of the Tulip Sisters takes place in a little town called Tulpen Crossing, Washington.  In this book you will meet tulip farmer Kelly Murphy and her prodigal sister Olivia.  As the sisters sort out their differences and secrets kept and shared, they also are looking for love, connection, and happiness. 

Let me admit this first -- this book has both tulips and tiny houses, which predisposed me to love it. 

Tulips are my favorite flowers and I thought that reading about a tulip farm would be fascinating.  It was!  I loved the details about tulips and the day-to-day farming life recounted in this novel.

It was a fun surprise to learn that Kelly's crush Griffin worked as a tiny house designer.  Tiny houses are one of my obsessions!  I really loved reading about the tiny houses Griffin designed and the way they were constructed and displayed at his business.

This is just a perfect summer read.  I really liked all the characters, loved the unique setting, and enjoyed the fresh, lively writing.   The book begins:

"Kelly Murphy was willing to accept certain injustices in the world.  That brownies had more calories than celery.  That wearing white pants meant getting her period - regardless of where she was in her cycle.  That her car would be low on gas only on days when she was running late.   What she did not appreciate or accept was the total unfairness of Griffith Burnett not only returning to Tulpen Crossing, Washington nearly a year ago, but apparently waking up last month and deciding that stalking her was how he was going to spend his day" (p. 7). 

How could you resist an opening like that?   The book only gets better as you meet the characters and learn about their lives. 

This is my first Susan Mallery read, but it will not be my last.  I recommend Secrets of the Tulip Sisters as a perfect book to pack for your vacation or enjoy at home on a lazy weekend.

Author Bio
Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books about the relationships that define women’s lives—romance, friendship, family. With compassion and humor, Susan keenly observes how people think and feel, in stories that take readers on an emotional journey. Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, Susan’s books have spent more than 200 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list, thanks to her ever growing legions of fans.

Critics, too, have heaped praise on “the new queen of romantic fiction.” (Walmart) Booklist says, “Romance novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor, and superb storytelling,” and RT Book Reviews puts her “in a class by herself!”

Although Susan majored in Accounting, she never worked as an accountant because she was published straight out of college with two books the same month, January of 1992. Sixteen prolific years and seventy-four books later, she hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time with Accidentally Yours in 2008. She made many appearances in the Top 10 before (finally) hitting #1 in 2015 with Thrill Me, the twentieth book in her most popular series, the Fool’s Gold romances, and the fourth of five books released that year.
Susan lives in Seattle with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a tattletale toy poodle. Her heart for animals has led Susan to become an active supporter of the Seattle Humane Society. Animals play a big role in her books, as well, as she believes they’re an integral component to a happy life.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review - Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal

Book Synopsis
From the acclaimed chef and owner of Brooklyn Delhi, a debut cookbook focused on the celebrated vegetarian fare of South India.

Lifelong vegetarian and chef Chitra Agrawal takes you on an epicurean journey to her mother’s hometown of Bangalore and back to Brooklyn, where she adapts her family’s South Indian recipes for home cooks. This particular style of Indian home cooking, often called the “yoga diet,” is light and fresh, yet satisfying and rich in bold and complex flavors. Grains, legumes, fresh produce, coconut, and yogurt—along with herbs, citrus, chiles, and spices—form the cornerstone of this delectable cuisine, rooted in vegetarian customs and honed over centuries for optimum taste and nutrition. 

From the classic savory crepe dosa, filled with lemony turmeric potatoes and cilantro coconut chutney, to new creations like coconut polenta topped with spring vegetables ‘upma” and homemade yogurt, the recipes in Vibrant India are simple to prepare and a true celebration of color and flavor on a plate. Chitra weaves together the historical context behind the region’s cuisine and how she brought some of these age-old traditions to life thousands of miles away in Brooklyn during the city’s exciting food renaissance.

Relying on her experience as a culinary instructor, Chitra introduces the essential Indian cooking techniques, tips, and ingredients you’ll need to prepare a full range of recipes from quick vegetable stir frys (corn, basil, and leeks flavored with butter, cumin, and black pepper), salads (citrus red cabbage and fennel slaw with black mustard seeds, curry leaves, and chile), yogurt raitas (shredded beets and coconut in yogurt), and chutneys and pickles (preserved Meyer lemon in chile brine) to hearty stews (aromatic black eyed peas, lentils, and greens), coconut curries (summer squash in an herby coconut yogurt sauce), and fragrant rice dishes (lime dill rice with pistachios). Rounding out the book is an array of addictive snacks (popcorn topped with curry leaf butter), creative desserts (banana, coconut, and cardamom ice cream), and refreshing drinks (chile watermelon juice with mint). Chitra provides numerous substitutions to accommodate produce seasonality, ingredient availability, and personal tastes. The majority of recipes are gluten-free and vegan or can be easily modified to adhere to those dietary restrictions.

Whether you are a vegetarian or just looking for ways to incorporate more vegetarian recipes into your repertoire, Vibrant India is a practical guide for bringing delicious Indian home cooking to your table on a regular basis.

My Review
I am a longtime vegetarian and love South Indian food, so was drawn to Vibrant India immediately.

This is a beautifully designed book.  The colorful cover with embossed title gives an indication of the unique recipes and attention to detail that you will find in the book.

The author, Chitra Agrawal, grew up in New Jersey in an Indian (Bangalore) family.  The first section of the book is an engaging look at her life and background, including her first experiences cooking with her family.  She became an accomplished cook who sold prepared food and taught cooking classes.  

There is a very helpful section called "How to Use This Book."  It details Indian Cooking Techniques and Tips, The South Indian Pantry (especially useful), and Kitchen Tools.

Then the recipes begin!  The book has 9 sections:

  1. Breakfast and Light Meals
  2. Salads and Yogurts
  3. Stir-Fries and Curries
  4. Rice and Bread
  5. Soups, Stews, and Lentils
  6. Festive Bites and Snacks
  7. Sweets and Drinks
  8. Chutneys and Pickles
  9. From Scratch
The recipes are Chitra Agrawal's creations, lovely, usually light dishes incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables.  There is a description of each dish followed by ingredients and detailed cooking instructions.  I found the directions clear and easy to follow.   Most of the recipes also include beautiful full page photos.

There is a lot of variety in both the dishes and the food categories included, and it is presented beautifully.

I am most familiar with traditional South Indian food, and was a bit disappointed that there were not recipes included for some of my favorites, like Chana Masala, Vegetable Biryani, Spinach Pakora.

Some of the recipes are more time intensive than others, requiring one or more items to be cooked/prepared for inclusion in the dish.  For instance, Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Stew calls for cooked lentils or basic toor dal, huli powder (from recipe) or sambar powder, ghee (from recipe) or butter or canola oil.

Many of the recipes also include spices or ingredients that are not readily accessible at a supermarket.  As a budget conscious cook with limited time, this is something I always look at in cookbooks.

I think Vibrant India will be of interest to anyone who has already mastered traditional South Indian cooking and who wants to expand their cooking repertoire with some new and creative recipes.  It is a truly beautifully designed book, and a pleasure to review and read.

Author Bio
Chitra Agrawal is the author of Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn and the founder of Brooklyn Delhi, an award-winning Indian condiments line. Since 2009, she has been serving, writing about, and teaching her family’s vegetarian recipes from India with a slant on seasonality and local ingredients. Chitra writes the popular recipe blog The ABCDs of Cooking, teaches vegetarian Indian cooking classes at Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn Brainery, and Whole Foods, and hosts pop-up dinners throughout New York City with creative Indian-inspired menus. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, and Zagat, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books.