jezebelPUBLISHER: Casa Cielo Press, 9/2015
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SETTING: Bahamas, 1715-1719

FROM PUBLISHER: Loreley Jones, daughter of the governor of the British Colony of Antigua, is orphaned when a hurricane sinks the ship taking her and her family from London to the Caribbean. After washing up on the shores of the Pirate's Republic of Nassau, she is sold into slavery and her virginity is auctioned off. The highest bidder is the notoriously sadistic Gideon Graves, captain of the pirate ship Jezebel, who holds Loreley against her will and repeatedly assaults her, until she is rescued by the Jezebel's quartermaster, Sebastian MacIssac.

Sebastian promises Loreley freedom, but only if she disguises herself as a man and works off the cost of her passage aboard the Jezebel. She soon discovers, however, that the freedom she finds at sea is more attractive than the gilded cage of her former life, and even death can't keep her from fulfilling her destiny.

MY THOUGHTS: The beginning of this story was reminiscent of a 'bodice ripper' but it only lasted for about the first third of the book, unfortunately. Loreley was almost sixteen (born 10/1699) when the story began and nineteen when it ended. I didn't like or dislike her, which is a strange way to feel for a main character.

I like for there to be bad characters in fiction, even romance, so I liked Gideon and wish he could have lasted throughout the entire story. He'd have definitely made the story more interesting. We got zero background information on him. Once he was out of the picture the story changed drastically and became boring and slightly mundane. Loreley became a crew member and Sebastian's lover. That about sums it up.

Twenty-seven year old Sebastian was very boring. He was uninteresting to me and I didn't care a thing for him or about him. He was generally a nice guy but once he told Loreley that if she left, after saving up enough money, and went back to England no man would want her because she wasn't a virgin. He was being selfish, saying anything to make her stay with him on the ship. That comment was out of character for him. No background info on him either.

I think the two main characters were pretty emotionless and the story left me feeling that way too. The synopsis made this sound much better than it actually was.

I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review.

FLAVORFUL: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors by Tish Boyle

PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9/2015
GENRE: Nonfiction/Cookbooks/Baking

FROM PUBLISHER: Pastry chefs have a secret weapon—an insiders’ list of customers’ most popular flavors. Vanilla, berry and cherry, apple, citrus, cheese, nuts, caramel, coffee, and chocolate: These are the surefire hits that appear on menus across the country time and again. Author Tish Boyle has translated this list of go-to ingredients into a stunning collection of more than 150 recipes for baked goods and other desserts, with a chapter dedicated to each singular flavor. Recipes range from easy cookies and brownies to gorgeous layer cakes to spoonable parfaits to playful takes on donuts, cream puffs, candies, and ice cream. Boyle is a favorite among pastry chefs and bakers in the know for her reliable and pitch-perfect recipes, which are given here in both volume and weight measurements. Combined with luscious photography and a timeless, classic design, this is a must-have for bakers and dessert-lovers of all stripes.

CATEGORIES: Vanilla, Berries and Cherries, Apple, Citrus, Sweet Cheese, Nuts, Caramel, Coffee, Chocolate



This recipe produced a soft dough that needed to be refrigerated several hours before baking. The dough is nice and sweet but a bit too bitter. I used bittersweet chocolate (60%) when the recipe called for dark chocolate (64%). I used 50% more salt and I doubled the amount of vanilla extract, as chocolate requires more vanilla than usual and this certainly needed more. I added mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter instead of chopped dark chocolate, and I added 1c. lightly toasted finely chopped pecans. My chocolate was slightly sweeter than the recipe called for and though the dough is sweet, 6 oz. was too much melted chocolate. I would definitely make this again but I'd use 4 oz. of melted chocolate, not 6 oz. and I wouldn't add any chocolate chips at all to the dough, as that only helped make it more bitter, and I'd add an extra 1/2 c. of nuts. I used a 1 1/4" diameter/2 teaspoon cookie scoop and got 57 dough balls.

The cookie, depending on how long you bake it, is slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy and brownie-like on the inside. It spread out nicely but not as much as I thought it would. That's why I used a smaller cookies scoop but I'd use a slightly larger one (1 1/2"/3 teaspoon) next time. This is a good looking, nicely textured cookie.


Very good and very moist. These are actually called Extra-Crumbly Blueberry Muffins are have lemon zest and cinnamon added to the batter and just cinnamon added to the crumb topping. I used frozen raspberries instead, no zest or cinnamon, as I don't like blueberries and I'm particular about what I put cinnamon in. I used slightly more raspberries than called for and I cut them in half before adding to batter. I also added a little almond extract but couldn't taste it. I made just half and got six. I baked them in a square muffin pan using square liners (Wilton brand) for 25 minutes.

I think the crumb topping shouldn't have been equal parts sugar and flour but should have used half the amount of sugar. Glaze wasn't part of the recipe but I made some, adding almond extract and vanilla, and drizzled/spread it on top of the muffins when they were only a little warm. I think almond goes great with raspberries but not cinnamon. The muffins need a pinch more salt but other than that, they're perfect and I'd definitely make them again but without the crumb topping. I don't really care for crumb toppings on cakes and muffins. I think they should be for crisps only. I almost always make a powdered sugar glaze for muffins. You could make the full recipe in a 9" square pan.


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I wasn't sure how well cherries and peaches would go together since I'd never mixed the two before. I'd only used sweet cherries (canned) once before many years ago and the cake went into the trash. A sweet cherry by itself is not good so I didn't know what to expect from this recipe. I always use almond extract with cherries and sometimes with peaches so I did so with this recipe. This is one good tasting crisp.

I was supposed to use fresh peaches and cherries but I used two one-pound bags of sliced unsweetened peaches and one 12oz. bag of frozen cherries. I used an 11" x 7" 2 qt. baking dish and the filling filled it perfectly. The crumb topping is very good but a little too sweet. It has ground almonds in it. I didn't add more sliced almonds to the topping. I also used white sugar in the filling in place of brown sugar. This recipe is a definite keeper but I think I'd use one drained can of tart pitted cherries in place of the sweet ones.

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These are actually called Pistachio Linzer Hearts with Sour Cherry Filling. I used lightly toasted ground almonds in place of pistachios and used a round fluted 2" cookie cutter in place of a heart shaped one. They're good, you can use any preserves/jam/frosting in place of sour cherry fruit spread, but the cookies softened up very soon after assembling them, making them delicate, even when stored in an airtight container. Because of that I wouldn't use this recipe again.

I divided the dough into thirds, not just two pieces like the recipe stated, because I didn't want the dough, once rolled between two sheets of wax paper, to extend past the sides of the paper so I needed to use less dough to ensure that didn't happen. After cutting the cookies out I got another long strip of dough from all the scraps from the three parts, for a total of four. I got 79 cookies, which made 39 sandwich cookies, three less than recipe stated. I layered the cutout dough between the eight strips of wax paper that was used to roll out the dough and stored it in a large plastic container in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake some, then stored the remaining dough in a smaller container in the freezer.

This same recipe is in her previously published book that I just bought, The Good Cookie, under the title Linzer Hearts, page 276.

I used a Wilton® linzer cookie cutter set that I bought 11/2014 at Walmart for just under $5. I used Smucker's® fruit spread.


I love me some cooked apples with cinnamon. After I mixed up the topping it was too wet so I added more flour then it was very firm. I added a bit of water to it to soften it up because I didn't know what else to do and didn't want to add anymore butter to it since it hadn't turned out as it was. That worked OK. The topping doesn't look like it should but it tastes good. But I wouldn't make it again.

I didn't follow the instructions for the filling because I'm very familiar with baking with raw apples and they take quite awhile to cook. I covered my dish with foil and baked the apples without the topping for 40 minutes, removed it from the oven, stirred the apples, put the topping on and baked them at a lower temperature for an additional 25 minutes. I basically followed my own recipe for the filling but followed the recipe for the topping and it's not one I'd make again. This was the first time a crumb topping didn't turn out.


These are actually called Blueberry Cornmeal Scones. I used dried cherries instead of blueberries and made just half. Though I measured out the flour and cornmeal by weight my dough was too wet so I had to add extra flour, then they seemed perfect. I patted it out into about a 7" circle, then cut into four pieces. They browned beautifully without using egg wash on top. I made glaze for the tops. They taste pretty good with dried cherries and a bit of almond extract in the dough. There's no egg in these.

MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed baking from this book. I'm happy there were some recipes using cherries. There are a few things I wanted to make but didn't get around to it, like two different lemon cakes and orange cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, ect.

The book is beautiful, I love the deep burgundy spine, but like a lot of cookbooks, this one needs more photos of the baked goods. There aren't many. Many of the recipes seem a little too fancy for me and two of the categories I wasn't interested in at all, sweet cheese and the other, coffee. The majority of recipes I'm not interested in.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


durstPUBLISHER: Gallery Books, 9/2015
GENRE: True Crime

FROM PUBLISHER: Former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro—the “true hero” (New York Post) of the hit HBO documentary series The Jinx—offers the transfixing true story of her tireless fifteen-year investigation into accused murderer Robert Durst for the disappearance of his wife Kathleen Durst.Former district attorney Jeanine Pirro was cast as the bad guy fifteen years ago when she reopened the cold case of Kathleen Durst, a young and beautiful fourth-year medical student who disappeared without a trace in 1982, never to be seen again. Kathie Durst’s husband was millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst, son of one of the wealthiest families in New York City—but though her friends and family suspected him of the worst, he escaped police investigation.

Pirro, now the host of Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News, always believed in Durst’s guilt, and in this shocking book, she makes her case beyond a shadow of a doubt, revealing stunning, previously unknown secrets about the crimes he is accused of committing. For years, Pirro has crusaded for justice for the victims, and her impassioned perspective in the captivating HBO documentary series The Jinx made her one of its breakout stars. Featuring Pirro’s unique insider’s perspective on the crimes, as well as her exclusive interviews with many of the major players featured in the The Jinx, this comprehensive book is the definitive story of Robert Durst and his gruesome crimes—the one you didn’t see on television.

MY THOUGHTS: Unfortunately this book is mostly about Jeanine. I couldn't even estimate the amount of times she mentioned by name her designer clothes, shoes, and handbags. I didn't learn anything about Robert at all. Nothing about his family either. I was really wanting to know more about his father but the man was hardly mentioned. Same goes for his mother, Bernice. She didn't say much about Susan Berman's background or current wife-in-name-only, Debrah Charatan. Debrah seems interesting enough to me to write at least a few chapters on but Jeanine couldn't be bothered to. She didn't tell us anything that wasn't in The Jinx already. She goes on ad nauseam about how poorly she's been treated in the press since getting involved with this case in 2000 and is constantly defending herself.

If someone didn't know who Robert was and decided to read this they'd be confused, I'm positive. The flow is terrible. I like for true crime books to start at the beginning with the criminal's background and work their way up to modern day but this book is all over the place. I'm stunned and disappointed in this book, to be honest with you. It's a shame Jeanine had such great subject matter but didn't know what to do with it!

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

GRANDBABY CAKES: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories by Jocelyn Delk Adams

grandbabyPUBLISHER: Agate Surrey, 9/2015
GENRE: Cookbook/Baking

FROM PUBLISHER: Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories is the debut cookbook from sensational food writer, Jocelyn Delk Adams. Since founding her popular recipe blog Grandbaby Cakes in 2012, Adams has been putting fresh twists on old favorites. Adams has earned praise from critics and the adoration of bakers both young and old for her easygoing advice, rich photography, and the heartwarming memories she shares of her family’s generations-old love of baking.

Readers will love this cookbook for its eclectic and bold recipes steeped in equal parts warm Southern charm and fresh Midwestern flavors. Not only will home bakers be able to make staples like yellow cake and icebox cake exactly how their grandmothers did, but they’ll also be preparing impressive innovations, like the Pineapple Upside-Down Hummingbird Pound Cake and the Fig-Brown Sugar Cake. Grandbaby Cakes is a collection for both new-aged and traditional bakers, but mostly it’s for anyone who wants a fresh, modern take on classic recipes as well as cakes full of heart and soul.

CATEGORIES: Pound Cakes, Layer Cakes, Sheet Cakes, Baby Cakes, Celebration Cakes, Seasons and Holidays




This chocolate cake is made with a small amount of cocoa powder and has cola and melted marshmallows in both the batter and frosting. The cake needs a little more cocoa, as you can see in the photo, salt, and wasn't quite as moist as I'd hoped it would be but seemed to get moister as it sat, covered, over the next two days. The cake itself had an odd flavor. It was more work than typical cola cakes, which don't require melting some of the cake ingredients. I like the frosting better than the cake and that too needed a bit of salt. This was a typical fudge frosting where you heat all the ingredients in a pot or microwave-safe bowl then stir in the powdered sugar the pour it over the cake. I couldn't taste the marshmallows at all but will definitely experiment with it in the future by doubling the amount of them in the frosting. I wouldn't make this cake ever again.


This cake is very very moist and dense. It has sour cream, butter, and a bit of vegetable oil in it. I didn't make the frosting that went with it. I made half in a 9" X 5" loaf pan and added poppy seeds just for looks. I used less lemon zest than it called for but it was enough. My cake sunk in the middle but that may have been my fault. It wasn't raw or gummy because of it and cooked normally there. I don't like how brown it got on all sides. No, it's not overbaked. I'm impressed with this cake and will add the recipe to my permanent collection.


This cake is make with a lot of Greek yogurt, oil, and lots of lemon juice. It tastes good, is moist, and I can actually taste the lemon juice in it. It needs a bit more salt. It's a bit spongy and I'm not happy with that. I made half the recipe. It was a lot of batter, too much for a 9" x 1 1/2" round pan, so I used one that was 9 1/2" x  2" round. It filled it completely. If you make half, just know that about the batter.

I added poppy seeds because I like how they look. I also used a bit of clementine zest and juice to make up for not having quite enough lemon juice but I can't taste it, which is disappointing. I made my own glaze for it (melted butter, vanilla extract, water, powdered sugar) and didn't use the recipe in the book. I wouldn't make this cake again because of it's texture. I could only get though two slices and someone else didn't like it so the rest got thrown in the trash.


This was very good but not quite sweet enough. It uses puréed strawberries and sour cream. I didn't use strawberry extract like the recipe stated and this cake needed a bit of it. I could taste strawberry without it. Just not quite enough. I made half the recipe in a 9" square pan and baked it for 26 minutes. FYI- 1 c. of strawberries turned into 1/2 c. puréed. The cake was supposed to have cream cheese frosting with coconut sprinkled on it but I made my own vanilla frosting, as I don't like cream cheese. I added 3/4 c. ground toasted coconut to the batter. This is a cake I'd make again and I'd add 2 1/4 t. poppy seeds to the cake batter.

MY THOUGHTS: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in this book. There's a pretty good variety of cakes but there's not much more I'd make of out it but two or three more. Only two of the four I made were decent tasting and I'm not really comfortable making anything more from this. The layer cakes look like a whole lot of work, too elaborate, like the one on the cover.

It's physically a beautiful book but it's not for me, I guess.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

BAKING (Good Food Made Simple Series) by Love Food Editors at Parragon Books

bakingPUBLISHER: Parragon Books, 7/2013
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking

FROM PUBLISHER: Good Food Made Simple: Baking is part of an exciting and comprehensive new series of cookbooks. Each title is packed with over 140 easy-to-follow recipes, step-by-step photographs, hints and tips, and a clear and helpful introduction. Cook and preparation times are provided for all recipes, as well as detailed nutritional analysis to help with healthy eating. With over 500 full-color photographs, this range of beautiful, yet practical cookbooks is the perfect collection to have in your kitchen. Packed full of delicious soup recipes, plus delicious sides and garnishes, if you want to expand your soup repertoire then look no further than Good Food Made Simple: Baking.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: Cakes, Cupcakes & Muffins, Small Cakes and Bars, Cookies, Desserts, Sweet Pies and Breads





This type of cookie has a firm dough and is rolled into balls then rolled into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. These turned out as I expected- dry. I divided the dough in half and added lemon extract to half. The first batch was overcooked even though I baked them in less time than indicated. The second batch was baked the next day. I cooked them in less time than before and they were perfectly done. The only problem is that this recipe produced a firm, dry cookie, just like every snickerdoodle recipe I've ever tried.


I was very disappointed in this recipe. The muffins were dense, tough, and not quite sweet enough. You cut cold butter into the flour mixture and stir all ingredients together. Mine don't look anything like the photo in the book. I made half the recipe and got nine using a 1/4 c. dry measuring cup. I wouldn't make these again. I believe this book is European and I think something went wrong when the ingredients were converted.


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This was very good. I used frozen sliced peaches instead of fresh and added cinnamon to them. I used a slightly smaller baking dish than required, 1 1/2 qt. I used two 16 oz. bags but it wasn't enough. The topping is a sweet drop biscuit-type that you dollop over the peaches and was good. I added a bit more milk so that the topping would be wetter so I could spread it evenly over the top of the peaches. It was too thick after baking for my small amount of peaches. The cooked topping had a very nice flavor and was like moist cake inside with a firm, somewhat crunchy exterior. I added 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract to the mixture. Very easy to make and I'm happy with this. Next time I'll dollop the topping over the peaches like the recipe states.


Now this is a different type of cake and I liked it. There's no flour in it, just a high amount of ground nuts and a little cornmeal (I used fine white), and the usual things found in cake batter. I was supposed to use blueberries and lemon zest but I used chopped dried cherries and almond extract instead. I made a powdered sugar glaze for it instead of dusting it with powdered sugar. The cake tasted great but was a bit dry and not so from overbaking. Guess that's just the nature of this sort of cake. Unusual, unique, and good. For some reason I see this being made into mini muffins.


These were typical shortbread cookies except for the addition of one egg yolk. The cookies were to have lemon and pistachio nuts in the dough. I divided the dough in half evenly and added chopped dried cherries, ground almonds, and almond extract to half and the other half, lemon extract and chopped pistachios. We were to form the dough into a log, chill it, then slice and bake them. I like that the cookies were supposed to be flat on the bottom with rounded tops, which resemble classic biscotti. I chilled the plastic wrapped dough logs on a glass cutting board to keep the bottoms flat. I sliced mine into 1/2" slices and got 26 total. I baked them for 11 minutes and dusted the tops with powdered sugar after they cooled, like shown in the photo in the book. The dough wasn't quite sweet enough so these needed the added sugar on top. The great thing about shortbread is that you can add any flavoring you want to it.


These are actually called ginger and chocolate oat bars. Very simple to make. I don't like ginger so I left it out and substituted peanut butter for part of the butter and added vanilla extract. I used milk chocolate chips (1 1/2c.) for the topping instead of semisweet. These are pretty good. I think they're slightly dry, probably from too much oats. I'll use less next time. You just melt a few ingredients together, stir in oats, press mixture into a pan and bake a very short time. You melt chocolate, spread it on top, let cool, then cut into bars. This recipe is a keeper.

MY THOUGHTS: Almost all of these recipes called for salted butter. I only buy unsalted so that's what I used so I added salt to those recipes calling for salted butter. The cornmeal cake was a neat idea, having no flour in it but baking up like a normal cake. Two recipes were failures. There are several more cakes I wanted to make but my mind keeps going back to the failed muffin recipe and I'm scared to try any more cakes from this book. But I will in the future and I'll add to this review.

The book itself is beautiful. It's a large, heavy paperback. There are multiple photos for every single recipe and the pages are in color.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.