MIDNIGHT FIRES by Andrea Layton

PUBLISHER: Playboy Paperbacks, 1/1979
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: New York & Massachusetts, USA 1770’s
BODICE RIPPER: Yes
RAPE? Multiple
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: Ravished by a cruel, merciless stranger…loved by the passionate man she might never see again…Carolyn Salford flees the brutal wilderness for aristocratic Boston and the arms of her fiancé.

Stalked by danger, vulnerable to the turbulent desires tormenting her, she is haunted by the memory of a man she dare not love but cannot forget.


SPOILER SUMMARY: Carolyn is eighteen years old. She and her family are traveling from New York to Boston, but they’re travelling separately. Along the way she runs into George Nelson, a man two years older than her, who’s in love with her. He rapes her once then it turns consentual. She goes on her merry way and is kidnapped and raped several times by some random Frenchman named Jean Lemelle. He gets what he’s had coming to him and she’s once again on her way. Not much else happens until the last fifty pages, when she meets up with her fiancé, William. William only wants to marry her because of the fortune she’s to inherit soon from her British mothers family. He rapes her several times, including once anally, and holds her prisoner in his home and verbally abuses her constantly. He’s keeping her drugged with laudanum and they set sail on a ship bound for London. She thinks he plans to killer her once they’re married. She escapes, meets back up with George, who she’s now in love with, and they get married.

MY THOUGHTS: This is truly one of the most boring books I’ve ever read. Luckily it was barely over 300 pages. The first 150 pages or so was Carolyn traveling, mostly by herself via horseback, to Boston. The plot was mostly talk of war and I got so sick of it. The only interesting part was the last fifty-some pages or so, when William came on the scene. William’s a character I’d have liked to have known more about. Not even his age was given. Him coming into the story is what kept this from getting an F rating from me.

ALLHALLOW’S EVE by Richard Laymon


PUBLISHER: Headline, 1994
Originally published in 1985
GENRE: Fiction/Contemporary Horror
SETTING: Wisconsin, USA, 1980’s
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: D

FROM PUBLISHER: This sleepy town may never recover from this nightmare. Every town has as a past but the grizzly murder of the Sherwood family is one the small town of Ashburg barely recovered from. The Sherwood house has remained vacant for years so who is sending out invitations for a party there? The townspeople are intrigued and who can resist a party at the murder house on Allhallow’s Eve?

MY THOUGHTS: This was so bad that I’m embarrassed for the author, who died in 2001, and I’m sad for myself for being so excited to read this. Very juvenile dialogue. Not one bit of this story was plausible. The mysterious invitations being sent out was the only interesting part of the entire story, which only spanned two days, and I lost interest in that as soon as it was revealed who was behind it. I’d have rather found that out at the end.

We weren’t told how one of the teenage main characters, Eric, got in touch with his father, whom he couldn’t have really known in the first place. We don’t know how this invitation thing came about either. There were a few too many unnecessary characters to keep up with and not a one was interesting. The first Halloween party was completely pointless and so much time was spent on it, just like too much time was spent in the high school. Time spent writing the first party scene should have been spent on the final scene instead, which took place at the abandoned Sherwood family home. None of that was interesting since we already knew who was behind it. The gorilla costumes were very odd too. The ending was abrupt. This story seems like it was just thrown together and written hastily by someone who just wasn’t into it.

 

THE COUNTERFEIT BRIDE by Joan Wolf

PUBLISHER: Signet, 2/1980
GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1800’s
SERIES: Signet Regency Romance #16
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Enchantingly beautiful Catherine Renwick had good cause to despise darkly handsome, insufferably arrogant James Pembroke, Earl of Allandale.

It was this deplorable man who on a night of wild debauchery caused Catherine to be abducted and brought to him at a country inn. It was he who took her virtue by force, and left her threatened with disgrace.

True, he now was willing to make amends by giving her his name in marriage. And equally true, she had no choice but to accept. But Catherine was sure that nothing in the world could erase her hatred for him or her horror of his embrace.

Catherine was an innocent no longer–yet she had so much to learn about love and the maddening deceptions of the heart….

MY THOUGHTS: I had high hopes for this but the majority of the story was boring. The beginning and end were good but that’s all. Once the incident at the beginning was over with, James and Catherine got along great for the duration of the story. No conflict, no disagreements, no nothing.

James is twenty-six and Catherine is seventeen. The story spans just over a year but I don’t know what year it begins or ends. When James was sober we were told he was remorseful for what he’d done the night before but I didn’t feel it. He’s a rather bland character.

Catherine was put in a bad situation and dealt with it very well and seemed quite mature for just barely seventeen. We’re told they’re both in love with each other but I’m not feeling that either. I don’t think they were around each other much.

Her cousin Ian, I did like, especially towards the end when his craziness came out to play. He seems to be around her age. He became really angry when he found out why James and Catherine married and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t asked to marry her instead when that was their plan in the first place. He hatched a plan that didn’t work out in the end. That situation wasn’t handled in a believable way by James.

 

AGNETHA FÄLTSKOG- The Girl With the Golden Hair by Daniel Ward

PUBLISHER: Fonthill Media, 7/2016
GENRE: Nonfiction/Biography
PURCHASE: link
BIO: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: Her iconic blonde looks, stunning voice and songs of loneliness and melancholy have endeared her to millions, yet Agnetha Fältskog remains an enigmatic and distant figure. From her success as a teenage singer and songwriter in Sweden in the late 1960’s to her years of global superstardom with pop giants ABBA and beyond, Agnetha has fascinated generations of fans. Her beaming smile graced record sleeves, television screens and magazine covers around the world yet never quite managed to conceal her natural shyness and vulnerability.

Agnetha Fältskog- The Girl With The Golden Hair is the first full-length biography dedicated to the life and career of the one of the most beloved and successful performers in music history. Charting Agnetha’s journey from her early days fronting a local dance band in the small industrial city of Jönköping, through her decade as one of the most famous and popular singers in the world, and the years of self-imposed exile that followed until her surprising and successful comeback in 2013, Agnetha Fältskog- The Girl With The Golden Hair will delight her many legions of fans and any readers with an interest in the history of popular music.

MY THOUGHTS: This biography is well written and I especially like the old quotes from Agnetha herself throughout. Though there were a lot, I wanted more. Not quite enough information about her mother’s 1994 suicide was given and just the bare minimum was given about her relationship with her stalker-turned-boyfriend-turned-stalker which was a real shame since this is the only biography about her and that should have been expanded on. That part of her life (late 90’s) was certainly worth going into detail for. I’d have liked to have known more too about her relationship with her sister and more about her thoughts on her daughters past (?) battle with bulimia.

See my ABBA page here. Hear her pronounce her name here.

A special thank you to Jason for giving this to me.

 

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EDWARD, EDWARD by Lolah Burford with Author Image

PUBLISHER: 1972/73, MacMillan
FULL TITLE: Edward, Edward: A Part of His Story And Of History 1795-1816 Set Out In Three Parts In This Form Of A New-Old Picaresque Romance That Is Also A Stud
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: It is a hunting tale of a strange romance between a worldly and dissolute man, James Noel Holland, Earl of Tyne, and the golden-haired young Edward, his ward–or perhaps his son. Homosexuality, sadomasochism, and incest are elements in their relationship–and so are affection, love, and the saving quality of grace.

The time of the story is the beginning of the nineteenth century–the pre-Regency years of domestic unrest, of the Napoleonic Wars, and of lawlessness, cruelty, and the vast chasm between the rulers and the ruled. The place is alternately the cold Northumberland wild country where the Earl has his seat, the grim and beautiful city of London during the Season with all its pomp, the retreats of Devon and Brighton, and eventually Vienna at the acme of its musical splendour. The background figures include Mrs. Siddons, the famous courtesan Harriett Wilson, various noted rogues, Beethoven and Schubert, Castlereagh, Godwin, George III, and particularly, in retrospect, John Wesley, whose religious teachings, precipitates and early crisis in Edward’s life but is to prove an enduring force.

In the course of the narrative a great many warring elements shape Edward’s character. He is sent to Oxford, where he proves a brilliant student. Holland takes him to London to spend some months living in his resplendent townhouse while he is grooming him–assisted by Beau Brummell, among other famous figures–to take his rightful place in the world of society when he comes of age and receives his inheritance–for the Earl has by now privately acknowledged that he is Edwards father. He obtains the skilled services of two of his former mistresses to introduce Edward to the techniques and arts of heterosexual intercourse–an experience which repulses Edward at first, and then proves pleaseant indeed. Soon Edward finds himself growing fond of a young girl–but both families violently oppose a match, in true Montague-Capulet fashion.

Many times the two men, father and son, abjure their passionate lovemaking, only to resume it more violently than before. Finally Edward’s apparent duality, augmented by a serious psychological and physical breakdown, have all but destroyed him utterly. Deeply concerned, the Earl takes him to Vienna and dramatically demonstrates that now Edward must make one of two choices: life or death. And in the end of the story is the beginning…

SPOILER SUMMARY: INCEST ALERT! Noel, 38, Anne, mother, 33. Edward, their son. They first met when she was 17. They meet again years later, have sex under a tree and she becomes pregnant. I can’t remember but I think he raped her. She thinks Noel will marry her. He won’t marry her and tells her he’s going abroad the next day and invites her to come. She says she can’t and asks him to strangle her, which he does. She only passes out. He goes away to the Continent for two months and she marries within the first week of him leaving. When their son Edward is almost seven years old, Anne goes to see Noel. Her husband has died recently and she’s dying and needs Noel to take care of their son. Edward comes to meet his father. They decide to get married for Edward’s sake. After the wedding, Anne feels like she’s dying so asks Noel to have sex with her. Anne doesn’t know if Noel is Edwards father because one week after having sex with Noel for the first time, she married someone else and began a sexual relationship with her husband and got pregnant right away.

Edward was sent to live at one of his father’s homes and didn’t actually see Noel for 6-12 months. Noel went to see Edward because he’d hurt his foot then didn’t see him again for over a year. He didn’t see him at all the year he was eight. In the spring of Edward’s 9th year, his footman George took Edward to see Gypsies at the fair. One of the men asked him questions about how his father Noel was treating him. Later that night Edward was in bed when he heard his dog whine. He went to look for the dog outside and was abducted by the same man at the fair who’d asked about his father. Noel found him 1 1/2 days later. Starting on Edward’s 12th birthday, he began to run away a lot. Later that same year, one night Edward got into bed with a sleeping Edward, kissed him, took his nightgown off and caressed his back. Edward kissed him back then asked him the next day if what they did was a sin. The day after, they traveled by ship to France. “They spent a week in his mannor, the weather holding, their days and nights divide in a way they did not speak of or refer to again.” During their last swim at the beach, just before they were to leave for England, Edward tried to drown himself. Noel saw him, went in after him and dragged him to shore. By the time Edward was 16, it had been almost four years since he’d last seen his father. Noel showed up one day to tell him he was sending him to Oxford University. Edward told him he didn’t want to go, he wanted to travel with a preacher who knew his other father, and that he wanted to become a preacher himself. Noel told him he wasn’t going. That angered Edward so he pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot Noel. Noel shot the gun out of his hand and locked Edward in a room by himself for a week. At some point during that week, Noel kissed Edward.

During the second part of the book, after Edward goes to Oxford, he starts thinking about the sexual feelings he’s having for his father. Up until this part of the book, were weren’t given any reason to believe Edward had those type of feelings for Noel except a few times years before when he kissed him. When Edward went home for the Christmas holiday, Noel locked him in the same dark, small room because he was scared Edward might try to kill him like before. At this point in the story, Noel is still a very distant, unfriendly person. He tells Edward that he wishes he had never taken guardianship of him. Every time Edward comes home to visit, Noel locks him in the same dark room. Once Edward’s friend Marion came to visit him at Noel’s and saw him locked in the room. Noel was caressing Marion’s shoulder in front of Edward. They spent the night in bed together. Edward heard them in bed. He was hurt and jealous and became physically sick.

During a visit home when Edward was 19, he told Noel that he knows he may be his father. Once while at college, Edward started wondering why Noel was so distant toward him, why he didn’t ever want to be around him. Edward knew that Noel must have meant something to his mother for her to have left him with him when she died. While Edward was growing up, Noel would look for signs of himself in Edward but could never see any. As Edward got older, he developed a violent streak like Noel. Edward and Noel were discussing the possibility of being related. Noel said, “Why do you think you are my son?” Edward said, “I don’t think, I know.” They were looking at family portraits of Noel’s family. Edward was saying there was no resemblance between him and his other father. Sometime after that, their relationship turned sexual. When Edward was 20, he told Noel that he knows he raped his mother and that he forgives him. He picked up Noel’s hand and kisses it.

Once while at the home of his mistress, Edward cuts himself with a knife. Noel and a doctor come and strap him to the bed. Fast forward to when Edward is 21, he and Noel are in bed together. They argue about something, Noel hits him in the mouth, causing it to bleed. He told Edward to ‘turn over’ but he said no. They fought some more. Noel took his pillow and held it over Edwards face until he stopped struggling, then turned him over and raped him. Later, Edward took Noel’s hand and kissed it, then kissed him and they went to sleep beside each other. Noel ‘bought’ a prostitute named Amanda. He paid her well so that he could cut her hair short like a boys and use her (anally) like a boy. He “hurt” her and she got some type of infection and died.

Edward left home for good when he was 21. Three years later he ran into Noel. Noel asked him to come home but Edward said he couldn’t yet. In July of 1815, Noel got sick and had Edward move back in. Noel recovered. In the last part of the book, Edward gets sick. One night, he drinks all of Noel’s laudanum. He almost dies but recovers. One night while still recovering, Edward woke from a bad dream. Noel pulled his nightgown up but Edward told him he didn’t want to have sex because he felt faint. Noel said he couldn’t control himself, to try to resist him because he was going to use him ‘terribly.’ He grabbed Edward, struggled with him, kissed him, all the while Edward is crying. Edward passes out and Noel rapes him.

The ending: Noel told Edward he needed to get married. Edward told him he wanted to die, so Noel filled up a marble basin with water and tried to drown him. He started to struggle. They talked and Noel punched him in the chest to wind him so that he could try to drown him again. He didn’t drown him. Edward went to see a girl he knew and they decided to get married.

A DUKE TO REMEMBER by Kelly Bowen

PUBLISHER: Forever, 7/2016
GRNRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1819
SERIES: Season for Scandal, #2
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.


MY THOUGHTS/SPOILERS: This story was interesting enough and was more romantic suspense than romance. The plot was pretty simple and easy to follow along with. No complicated subplots to distract from the main one. I liked both lead characters alright.

The synopsis isn’t completely accurate and it’s the publishers fault. It states that ‘Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country’ but that’s false. At the age of ten he was forced into an insane asylum for absolutely no reason, then escaped a few years later. He had no choice but to go into hiding. He didn’t chose to leave ‘the glamour of the London aristocracy’. He was forced to live a secret life for fear of being caught and sent back against his will.

Some things I didn’t like. I find it very hard to believe that Elise found Noah right away without even looking for him. I find it hard to believe too that Noah’s friend Joshua, the one he escaped with when he was fifteen and hasn’t seen since, was also involved in finding him. I don’t find it plausible at all that Elise could be masquerading as a man sometimes without anyone suspecting she’s female. I’d have liked for Noah’s evil cousin Francis Ellery to have been in the story a lot more instead of just being at the beginning and end. His involvement in this story was far more interesting to me than that of Elise and Noah and far more interesting than the sex scenes.

I’m disappointed that Noah didn’t converse with his mother about being sent away all those years ago. I was hoping she hadn’t been involved in the plot, in fact I was assuming we’d find out she hadn’t been, but they never even spoke to one another.

I think Noah’s thirty-five years old but I’m not sure and I have no idea how old Elise is. We got no backstory at all on her. I don’t think I’d read this author again.

Lastly, there’s a line in the story (page 137 of the ARC) where Noah said, “I.Don’t.Want.The.Title”. Please keep that awful modern-day way of typing out of historicals.

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

 

KEEPING SECRETS by Suzanne Somers

PUBLISHER: Warner Books, 2/1988
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
PURCHASE: link
AUTHOR SITE: link
MY GRADE: A+

FROM PUBLISHER: This is the story of the Suzanne Somers the world never knew…the shy, frightened child trembling at her father’s drunken rages, the troubled teenager who became a pregnant bride, the young model struggling to support her son, the rising star still haunted and controlled by her past. It’s the story she wrote for America’s millions of adult children of alcoholics, people who don’t drink, yet suffer from and need help against the ravages of this insidious disease. And it’s a story of incredible courage, a candid, sometimes shocking autobiography of a woman who dared to face the dark side of her soul and triumph over it.


MY THOUGHTS: This memoir was much darker than I’d anticipated. Actually, I didn’t expect anything like it. Suzanne’s father (born to Irish immigrant parents) and all three of her siblings are recovering alcoholics, or were before the book was published in early 1988. Her father’s side has quite a few in the family.

Her father was an angry, verbally abusive foulmouthed man who was never not drinking. The house was constantly filled with chaos and there was some violence. The father was assaulted by three of the children at different times when they were teenagers. Suzanne once hit him in the head with a tennis racket when she was sixteen, resulting in a bloody head injury that required medical attention, her older sister kicked him in the ribs and broke them, and her younger brother broke his ribs too. Suzanne wet the bed until she was in her early teens, her younger brother did too, and Suzanne began having nightmares in first grade. She’d hide in her bedroom closet a lot too to get away from the yelling. Her mother stood by her man and allowed her four children to be raised up in a mess but Suzanne holds nothing against either parent.

Suzanne didn’t have it easy in her early life and career. She comes from a religious Catholic family and went to Catholic schools. She got expelled from one when she was 14 because a snooping nun found in her locker a somewhat explicit poem she wrote about a boy she was interested in. She got pregnant when she was not quite 17 1/2, got married to the father, had the baby, Bruce Jr., in November 1964, one month after her 18th birthday, then began having an affair with a much older man (47). Her marriage ended a few years later and she began dating her current husband, Alan Hamel, even though he was married with two children. They married about nine years later, in 1977. Acting and modeling jobs were few and far between so she had major trouble paying bills and was even arrested for bouncing checks. She got pregnant by Alan shortly after and had an abortion and almost hemorrhaged to death in the days following. She shot nude test photos for possible publication in Playboy magazine but changed her mind about it and never signed the release. Playboy released the photos anyway years later after she became famous by being on Three’s Company.

Sadly she didn’t discuss the controversy surrounding her firing from Three’s Company in 1980 but she may discuss it in her second memoir, 1998’s After The Fall.

I think the book is well written, I loved it and have nothing bad to say about it.

 

BLACK CHRISTMAS by Thomas Altman

PUBLISHER: Bantam, 12/1983
GENRE: Fiction/Contemporary Horror
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Christmas in Murdock. A time of cozy safety, snowy sidewalks, and carolling children. But this holiday season someone is bating Sheriff Dunsmore in a bizarre and deadly game. Someone is stalking the young women he knows and loves…seducing them with icy steel…leaving them for him to find – far too late. It’s the night before Christmas. The frightened town edges toward panic. And Dunsmore is about to receive the most terrifying gift of all.

MY THOUGHTS: I should state that this novel has nothing to do with the 1974 film Black Christmas (though that was novelized in 1976 by Lee Hays).

This was fairly boring. Three young women from the same town are murdered at different times within a short period of time in the days leading up to Christmas, and a fourth was almost killed. It wasn’t until shortly before the killer was revealed that I’d guessed who they were.

There were the usual suspects- ex-husband, odd boy in town, ect., neither of which turn out to be the killer. I don’t understand the significance of the number thirteen; each victim was stabbed thirteen times. The reason for killing two of the three doesn’t make any sense and it wasn’t explained why the killer had those two on their radar anyway. The ending is odd too, somewhat happy, and I’m not at all satisfied with it. The novel needed to be slightly longer so we could have gotten some answers as to what the killer was thinking.

This wasn’t suspenseful enough and it wasn’t good enough to recommend.

 

À LA MODE: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings: Pies, Tarts, Cakes, Crisps, and More Topped with Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Custard, and More by Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Griffin
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: Are you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With À la Mode, IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!

THINGS I’VE MADE

RASPBERRY OAT BARS

These turned out really good and they have great crunch. The dough is made from butter, white and brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, almonds, egg white, salt. I left out the cinnamon. I added a little vanilla extract to the mixture and added 1/8t almond extract to the raspberry jam.

I think this could have used just 3/4c. jam instead of 1c. Of course you could substitute any other jam for the raspberry. I cut my bars, which were made in a 9″ square baking pan, into six pieces. If you happen to have a 7″ square pan you could probably make just half of this recipe.

 

CHERRY-VANILLA FROZEN CUSTARD

This has egg yolks in it, vanilla extract, milk, cream, sugar, salt, and canned sweet cherries. I don’t like that you can taste the egg, but I knew this was custard so I expected an egg taste. It was very easy to prepare in a sauce pot and my cold mixture took about 30 minutes in the ice cream maker before it thickened enough to pour into my container to freeze. When I went to eat some twenty hours later it was of a perfect scooping consistency. I used less vanilla extract than called for but it was still way too much. I’d make this again using less vanilla. When I ate the last of it four days after freezing the mixture, I didn’t even notice an eggy taste.

CHOCOLATE SOUR CHERRY LAYER CAKE

I made half the recipe in an 8″x2″ square pan and didn’t layer sour cherry jam between layers. It baked in 26 minutes. I made my own buttercream frosting for this. This is very bitter. It’s made with both unsweetened cocoa powder and melted semisweet chocolate. It’s dense like a brownie.

I’d never make this again and words can’t describe my disappointment. I’ve made countless chocolate cakes and none have ever been bitter.

ORANGE SHERBET

This is made with milk, cream, sugar, clear corn syrup, unflavored gelatin, salt, orange juice, and orange zest. It has a very pale orange color. It tastes good, like a Creamsicle® but it’s got ice crystals all through it and it’s not creamy like you’d expect and falls apart. My mixture took 28 minutes in the ice cream maker  After freezing 24 hours it was pretty firm. I’m not sure what the gelatin did for this, or the corn syrup. I’d make this again but only if I couldn’t find a creamier recipe elsewhere.

LEMON POLENTA CAKE

This buttery cake has good flavor and smells good too. It’s made with fine ground polenta, flour, plain yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. It’s dense and slightly moist. The texture is not that of a standard cake since this has polenta in it. It’s more coarse. I made half in a 9″x1.5″ round pan. It sunk in the middle slightly. It baked in 19 minutes. I made my own thick vanilla glaze for it. I used the zest from one lemon for this and it’s the right amount.

SOUR CHERRY COBBLER

This recipe uses all sour cherries but I used just one drained can of them and a 16oz. bag of frozen dark sweet pitted cherries. I used a 1.5qt baking dish. The topping has ground almonds in it. My topping was wetter than it should have been though I used the exact amount of milk specified in the recipe. It didn’t taste good either and was a little too salty. The bottom of the topping was wet from the moisture from the cherries. I wouldn’t make this again.

PEACH ICE CREAM

This uses fresh peaches, milk, cream, salt, cornstarch, and peach nectar. It took just 23 minutes in the ice cream maker to thicken. The peach flavor is very subtle, as is the peach color. Because you can barely taste the peach I wouldn’t make this one again.

APPLE-CRANBERRY STREUSEL PIE

I left out the crust and cranberries, so this really isn’t a pie. In the topping I used light brown sugar instead of dark. I added salt to the apples, as well as cinnamon. The topping is pretty good but after processing it, it wasn’t like cracker crumbs but was thick and creamy. I dolloped it evenly over the apples and it spread out nicely. The top of it was crispy but the underside was moist from touching the apples. Not the best topping because it softens.

MY THOUGHTS: Though I’m happy with six of the eight things I made, I’m disappointed in this book. There are two more chocolate cake recipes and one brownie recipe in here but sadly I’m not comfortable making any of them because of how awful the one chocolate cake I made turned out. There are a few other ice cream/frozen custards I’d like to make and only a couple more baked goods.

There’s not a basic chocolate ice cream recipe in here. The one basic vanilla ice cream recipe has chopped chocolate added and was given a fancy unpronounceable name. I wish there were a few more fruit sorbet recipes, those using no dairy.

There’s not a photo of everything but there are quite a few and they’re beautiful.

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

 

SWEET MORNINGS: 125 Sweet and Savory Breakfast and Brunch Recipes by Patty Pinner

PUBLISHER: Agate Midway, 3/2016
GENRE: Cookbooks/Baking
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: C

FROM PUBLISHER: Sweet Mornings collects more than 100 sweet and savory options for breakfast and brunch. From donuts to crumb cakes to sweet rolls, these are the kind of treats that evoke feelings of warmth and comfort like only good, old-fashioned breakfast food can.

Author Patty Pinner has been collecting breakfast recipes for as long as she can remember. She comes from a long line of breakfast bakers, and many of the recipes in this book have been passed down from the “Greats”—great-grannies and -aunties—as well as cousins and other influential women in Pinner’s life. To pore through these recipes, and then to bake them at home, evokes in Pinner memories of the many women who created them. Pinner includes charming, often comical stories about her life and family throughout the cookbook.

With generations-old recipes that range from the familiar (Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes) to the fun (Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits), Sweet Mornings is a reliable, well-tested addition to any kitchen. These recipes are ideal for slow weekend mornings and afternoons when you want to lure family and friends to the table with the intoxicating aroma of a homemade sweet treat baking in the oven.

THINGS I’VE MADE

LEMON-CORNMEAL MUFFINS

These taste good and are very dense. No hand mixer required, just a mixing bowl and whisk. You can’t really taste the cornmeal and there’s only the slightest bit of grittiness from it. I omitted the blueberries. I used water in the glaze in place of lemon juice. I made half the recipe and got seven. Though these have good flavor, I don’t know if I’ll make them again because of their density.

MISS ROSE’S BACON QUICHE

This was very easy to make but it did have a few extra steps, including cooking the bacon. I left out the mushrooms and used a little less bacon than called for. I used a premade store-bought pie crust instead of making my own like the recipe called for. This was too much mixture for a standard 9″/1 qt. pie pan so I used one that was almost 10″. This was very good, made with eggs, milk, onion, bacon, and lots of cheese, but I think I’ll use precooked sausage next time instead of bacon and make just half.

CHOCOLATE SWIRL COFFEE CAKE

This is terrible, borderline unedible, and an epic fail. Dry, crumbly, and bitter bitter bitter from way too much unsweetened cocoa powder that wasn’t mixed with enough sugar  layered between the batter. I really wanted to use less but stuck to following the recipe.

The full recipe is to be made in a 9″ square baking dish and uses a staggering mixture of 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (that amount I suspect was a typo) and just three tablespoons of sugar in the swirl layer. I made half the batter and swirl mixture and baked it in an 8″ x 1 1/2″ round pan. The recipe didn’t state to stick a knife down into the batter and swirl it around to mix the chocolate layer in but I did it anyway. I’ve never heard of a ‘swirl’ cake that omitted that step. I made a chocolate glaze for it and that didn’t help at all.

MORNING APPLE CRISP

Very good. I left the cinnamon out of the topping and put it in the apple mixture instead. In the filling I used white sugar in place of brown sugar. I’m very familiar with baking apple crisps and I knew I wouldn’t want brown sugar in the mixture. This topping has too much brown sugar in it and the rolled (old fashioned) oats are very large and the mixture just sort of fell apart though it tasted good. In fact, the whole recipe uses way too much brown sugar.

The apples took a lot longer to bake than specified (35-45 minutes) in the recipe. I did use a slightly shorter baking dish so the apples weren’t spread out as much. Raw apples, like raw potatoes, take quite awhile to cook. After 40 minutes the topping browned as much as I wanted but the apples were still hard. I covered the top of the baking dish loosely with foil and let it bake for an additional 35 minutes. I used a 2.5qt/11″x7″ dish.

BLACKBERRY BUCKLE

This is very good. A buckle is cake batter that you top with fruit, fresh, frozen, or canned. The batter cooks up around the fruit, covering most of it. The recipe said to use a 9″ square dish (which is usually 2″ deep) but this was so much mixture. I smartly used a 10″x2.5″ 7c. capacity dish, and it was perfect.

I used slightly more than 2c. frozen berries, and it was a little too much. They weren’t as sweet as they should have been so I sprinkled close to 1/4c. white sugar on top, which gave the cooked cake a nice sweet top. Mine took 47 minutes to bake and the recipe stated to bake it 30-35 minutes. I didn’t make the crumb topping. I felt it was very unnecessary. This was very easy to make and I’d make it again. I also doubled the salt in the batter for a total of 1/4t. and it was perfect.

PUFFED CHERRY PANCAKE CASSEROLE

This is very good but it’s nothing like a pancake. It’s made with eggs, sugar, butter, flour, milk, and flavorings. It bakes up into a thick slab of firm custard and the cherries rise to the top.

I made half the recipe in a 1.5qt baking dish and baked it 25 minutes. It’s 1″ thick. I added a little almond extract to the mixture because of the cherries and used just a few dashes of cinnamon. It needed more salt so I added a little extra but that wasn’t enough. I think four tablespoons of butter was too much because it was squirting and running out of every crack so I’ll use half that amount next time.

I’m very happy with this and I’ll make it again. I already make a similar version. You could use fresh or frozen raspberries or blueberries in place of cherries, or chopped canned peaches.

LEMON-COCONUT BREAD

This was terrible. Dry, dense, flavor’s not good, and was a waste of ingredients. Most sweet quick breads are moist but this one is truly drier like yeast batter bread. I made half in a 1qt. loaf pan and baked it for 38 minutes. I was only able to eat two pieces of this before it went into the trash.

PEACH COBBLER

This recipe calls for fresh or canned peaches so I used three 15oz. cans of peach chunks and some of their juice. I used a 10″x2.5″, 7c. capacity round baking dish and it was barely deep enough. I added cinnamon to the peaches and left the nutmeg out of the topping. The topping is a very very sweet, thin eggless batter that gets poured evenly over the peaches. I added a little vanilla extract to it. It needed a little more salt but other than that, it’s very good. I’m happy with how this turned out.

MY THOUGHTS: Of the eight things I baked there are only four that I’d make again. None of the cakes turned out so I’d never bake another cake from this book. There’s also a mistake in the brownie muffin recipe. It calls for ‘semisweet cocoa powder’ when there’s no such thing. There aren’t many photos in this book either.

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

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