Friday, August 1, 2014

That Old Black Magic

I finished reading That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark yesterday. This is the first book by Clark that I've read. That Old Black Magic is part of a murder mystery series with Piper Donovan, a cake decorator and aspiring actress, as the heroine.

Opening lines: Piper was sipping a cocktail, but she couldn't taste it. Her sights were set on the tattered cloth doll. It was dancing frantically, tangled in yellow police tape. The more the doll jerked, the more snarled up it became until finally, the strangled doll collapsed motionless on the floor.

Piper Donovan is twenty-seven and works at her parents' bakery in New Jersey. Piper travels down to New Orleans right before St Patrick's Day as she's won a contest to "apprentice," for a couple of weeks at Boulangerie Bertrand, a famous bakery located on Royal Street, in the French Quarter. After Piper's arrival, a local merchant is found murdered, strangled and whipped, with signs pointing to voodoo. A local radio host dubs the killer as the Hoodoo Killer. In the midst of all this, Piper gets a two day acting job, which leads to flashbacks of an incident the month before (from the previous book). The Hoodoo Killer doesn't stop at one death, but continues on with more deaths related to voodoo.

I enjoyed reading That Old Black Magic. Though this book is part of a series, it stands alone as a read. It's well written, the plot makes sense, but most of the characters reach only two-dimensional status, which is of course, better than one-dimensional.

The one thing I liked the most about the book is how there are no swear words. It's actually refreshing to read something where the author doesn't constantly take GOD's name in vain, which is the one thing I find the most offensive when reading books.

My only nits is that there were a few pages that the book didn't need. One example: Piper's boyfriend thinks she had PTSD. So he calls a friend and then there's a discussion on PTSD. This is completely unneccesary to the story.

Be prepared! Food is discussed throughout the book, especially bakery items. I craved sweets like there was no tomorrow while reading That Old Black Magic.

I'm linking up to:
Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Necromancer's House

This week I read The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman. I picked this book up because of the title. I love books about the supernatural and after reading the description inside the jacket, I was hooked.

From the jacket: Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film.

Opening lines from the Prologue: The old man walks from the cabin to the porch behind, palming his whiskey glass from the bottom and swirling the ice in it.

Our protagonist is Andrew Blankenship, a male witch who prefers the term magus to witch. He lives in Dog Neck Harbor in a house hidden by magic from most people. The house is also protected with charms, booby traps, against people who would seek to harm him. We don't find out Andrew's full story and history at once. It's fed to us throughout the novel like special treats. Eventually, we find out why his house is hidden and filled with traps.

Andrew is a recovering alcoholic and regularly attends AA meetings. Andrew's friend Anneke also attends AA meetings. She is luminous, a term used to describe those who have magic within them. Andrew is trying to teach her how to tap into her luminosity. Things start to go bad for Andrew when his rusalka (a mermaid) drowns one of his neighbors, an old Russian man, with connections to the past Andrew doesn't want to remember, (hint: Baba Yaga is involved).

The Necromancer's House is a well-written novel with fully fleshed-out characters. Buehlman has even brought to life minor characters that another author would have left one-dimensional. His writing style leans toward the flowery, which isn't a real criticism, though I did have to re-read a few sentences a second time to pick up the meaning. All-in-all, an excellent read.

I'm linking up to:
Literary Friday at Art @ Home
Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader

Thanks so much for your visit!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Homicide in Hardcover

I just finished reading Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle with the tagline of A Bibliophile Mystery.

Opening lines: My teacher always told me that in order to save a patient you'd have to kill him first. Not the most child-friendly way of explaining his theory of book restoration to his eight year old apprentice, but it worked. I grew up determined to save them all.

One of the reasons I was attracted to this book was the fact that the heroine is a rare book expert, who restores and conserves old books; two other reasons are: I love murder mysteries and it's set in San Francisco.

Brooklyn Wainwright is the main character who finds Abraham, "her mentor lying in a pool of his own blood." With his last breath, he whispers "Remember the devil" and gives her Goethe's Faust. Abraham had been working on The Winslow Collection of books for an upcoming exhibit. One of the books in the collection is Goethe's Faust, which, legend has it, is cursed. All who've owned the book have died. Brooklyn is asked to take over the restoration project and finish Abraham's work with the Faust.

We are introduced to several characters who may or may not have a motive for killing Abraham including: Minka, Brooklyn's nemesis from college; the Winslows; Abraham's rival Enrico; and Brooklyn's own mother. Then there's the British Derek Stone, a former military operative, who now runs his own security company and is in charge of The Winslow Collection. Derek also gets to have a romantic moment or two with Brooklyn.

My only nit with this book is that there's not a lot of actual mystery-solving or investigating happening with the main characters. It's focus is more on Brooklyn's life (who grew up on a commune), her family, (who still live on the commune) and people trying to harm or kill Brooklyn.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Homicide in Hardcover. The book is a fun read and the first in a series of books. It's well-written with definitive characters and plot. I'll definitely be reading others in the series.

I'm linking up to the following blogs:
 Literary Friday at Art @ Home
 Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader
Saturday Review at Semicolon

Thanks so much for stopping by :)

Friday, February 28, 2014


In fall of 2012, I watched the series premiere of "Elementary," an updated version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, Sherlock Holmes.

I didn't like it. Nope. Not at all. Not one bit. Then last summer, I watched one of the season's repeats, then another and another, until I found myself completely addicted.

In this updated version, Sherlock Holmes (a recovering addict) lives in New York and consults for the NY police department. Holmes is brilliantly played by Jonny Lee Miller (ex-husband of Angelina Jolie). Doctor John Watson has morphed into a woman in the form of Lucy Liu and is now known as Dr. Joan Watson.

In the above picture, Holmes and Watson discuss a case in their brownstone's kitchen. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu have great on-screen chemistry and are very believable as a crime fighting duo. The show is filmed in New York and has some great street scenes.

I think part of my original resistance to "Elementary," was due in part to how much I love the BBC version called "Sherlock". That show (airing on PBS) stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doyle's anti-hero and Watson has not had his sex-change operation yet.

I love Lucy Liu's clothing in this series. She looks effortlessly chic while radiating a casual vibe.

The show airs on Thursday nights, 10pm EST on CBS.

Thanks for dropping by :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spinach Bread Bowls

Recently, I made these delicious Spinach Bread Bowls. I'd sampled them at a party a few weeks before and knew I had to make them.

The original recipe is at The Picky Palate, while the recipe I'm going to share with you today is my modified version.

  • Dough to fit a 12 count muffin pan or 1 roll of refrigerated french bread loaf, Pillsbury's Simply Perfect
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, garden vegetable flavor
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 table salt
  • 1/8 black pepper
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Flour for the refrigerated bread loaf
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter/grease/spray muffin pan.
  3. Remove bread from packaging and slice into 12 equal parts (flour the cutting board and knife). Press each slice flat, then press into each muffin space.
  4. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic; cook about one more minute.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour cream, cooked spinach, salts and pepper until well blended.
  6. Scoop mixture into the center of each bread bowl.
  7. Top with the mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake 15-17 minutes until the cheese is melted and browning occurs at the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool about 3-5 minutes before removing from the muffin pan.
  10. Serve warm.
  • Prepare the spinach in advance. Wash and dry the spinach the day before. I used fresh spinach for this recipe and it took me about an hour to chop up 2 cups. In my defense, I was watching TV while chopping! The second time I made this, I finely chopped the spinach, as my niece complained it was a little too stringy the first time.

  • On using the Pillsbury bread loaf: The Picky Palate says to cut into 10 slices, but I had no problem cutting the loaf into 12 slices. First, I cut the loaf in half, then each half was halved again. I was then left with 4 parts, which I easily sliced into 3 equal parts to arrive at 12 slices.
  • If you're not a fan of the garden vegetable cream cheese, then switch to regular cream cheese.
I think next time I make these, I'll make my own dough from scratch instead of buying a premade loaf. Homemade bread always tastes better to me.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vivien Leigh turns 100

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vivien Leigh. To celebrate her birthday, I decided to share some of my favorite photos of her.

Vivien preferred performing before an audience, on stage, as opposed to making movies. Therefore, she only made nineteen films, in her 32 year career as an actress.

Here she is as Titania, from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in a 1937 theater production.

In the movie, Dark Journey, she plays the very fashionable spy, Madeleine Goddard.

Vivien also posed for many fashion magazines and famous photographers. Angus McBean, Cecil Beaton, Lazslo Willinger, Vivienne and Bassano are just a few of the photographers who attempted to capture her beauty.

I first saw Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind when the movie debuted on television. My mom was so excited about this movie, that my sisters and I caught her enthusiasm for GWTW before we ever saw it. It aired over two nights and we were allowed to stay up past our bedtime, which was a really big deal, to finish watching it each night.

No matter how many times I watch this movie, I still love it. The barbecue scene is one of my favorites. Below, Scarlett and Rhett embrace. This image is from a lobby card.

While filming Gone With The Wind, Vivien was involved (& had been for a couple of years) in a real-life, love affair with Laurence Olivier. Since both were still married to other people, the studio kept it hush-hush. This photo is one of my absolute favorites of the two of them.

This candid of  Vivien was snapped in a parking lot, near Lux Radio Theater, circa 1940, in Los Angeles.

Here, Vivien tries her hand as the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra. This movie was based on George Bernard Shaw's play, Caesar and Cleopatra. A few years later, Olivier and her would bring the play to the stage.

Simply a lovely portrait.

Laurence Olivier in make-up for his stage role in Titus Andronicus, along with a bewigged Vivien Leigh. This pic was taken in Paris, opening night, 1957. In the 1950s, it was fashionable for "older" women to wear their hair short. This was a trend that Vivien followed. When I see her in wigs, such as this one, I can't help but think that longer hair made her look years younger.

As the beautiful Karen Stone in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, costarring Warren Beatty. Vivien played an aging actress preyed upon by a young gigolo.

In the garden of her home, Tickerage Mills, with her friend Godfrey Winn.

I hope you've enjoyed this photographic journey in the life of Vivien Leigh.

Thanks for your visit today!

Aynsley Tea Cup and Saucer

This week I'm sharing an Aynsley tea cup and saucer set.

I love the birds on the cup and saucer, unfortunately I don't know the name of this design.

All the colors are really vibrant in person.

There's a lot of gold trim going on!

Thanks for your visit today!

I'm linking up to:
Terri at Artful Affirmations
Martha at Martha's Favorites
Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage