Beef Barley Soup

  • Oil
  • 1.5 lbs stew meat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cans beef consomme**
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 4 cups of water (more if needed)
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup of celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • sprinkle of thyme
  • pepper
  • couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup quick cooking barley

Directions

Over high heat, heat a stew pot and add a bit of oil. Add in the onions and cook for a few minutes. Add the stew meat and brown until the brown juices are caramelizing on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and stir a few times.

Add the consomme, broth, water, and bouillon cubes. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the yummy brown bits up. Simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Add the thyme, Worcestershire, tomatoes, carrots and celery. Cook for a few minutes or so and then add the barley. Cook for another 10-12 minutes (Or what the package of barley says) and then serve.

** If you can’t find beef consomme just use beef broth.

**Sometimes the beef broth and/or onions don’t have a lot of flavor. Add an extra beef bouillon cube, a sprinkle of onion powder, or anything else you want that will add flavor.

**Sometimes I’ll add a cornstarch slurry to thicken the broth.

The Last Garden in England

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Julia Kelly

Historical Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published January 12, 2021 by Gallery Books

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

My Thoughts:

This was one of my favorite types of books. Historical fiction with some romance (clean) woven into the tale. Once I started reading this I could hardly put it down. 

Throughout the book we follow 4 different women in 3 time periods. At first it was a little confusing to keep track of the cast of characters, but I quickly sorted out who’s who and didn’t have trouble after that. I liked all the time periods and each of the women were strong individuals who had something about them that I admired. 

The garden is wonderfully described and loved that it is based on a real life garden. 

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #JuliaKelly for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Our Italian Summer

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jennifer Probst

Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published January 12, 2021 by Berkley Publishing Group

Workaholic, career-obsessed Francesca is fiercely independent and successful in all areas of life except one: family. She struggles to make time for her relationship with her teenage daughter, Allegra, and the two have become practically strangers to each other. When Allegra hangs out with a new crowd and is arrested for drug possession, Francesca gives in to her mother’s wish that they take one epic summer vacation to trace their family roots in Italy. What she never expected was to be faced with the choice of a lifetime. . . .

Allegra wants to make her grandmother happy, but she hates the idea of forced time with her mother and vows to fight every step of the ridiculous tour, until a young man on the verge of priesthood begins to show her the power of acceptance, healing, and the heartbreaking complications of love.

Sophia knows her girls are in trouble. A summer filled with the possibility for change is what they all desperately need. Among the ruins of ancient Rome, the small churches of Assisi, and the rolling hills of Tuscany, Sophia hopes to show her girls that the bonds of family are everything, and to remind them that they can always lean on one another, before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

I struggled with this book at first. I didn’t identify with any of the characters and really disliked Francesca at the beginning. But now that I’ve read the book, I think that was the point. I wouldn’t have appreciated her metamorphosis if I had liked her from the start.

I am a homebody and don’t really have a desire to travel, but this book made me want to go to Italy. The food, countryside and art were all beautifully described. The relationships felt authentic.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #JenniferProbst for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

The Forever Girl

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jill Shalvis

General Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Published January 12, 2021 by William Morrow and Custom House

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery. 

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

My Thoughts:

The forever girl is a novel of friendship, second chances and the transformative power of love in all its forms. This is the 6th novel in Ms Shalvis’ wildstone series, but it is not necessary to have read the previous 5 to enjoy this. It’s a stand alone book, and  I enjoyed it so much I’m going to find the rest of the series.

Maze has been hurt and rejected her entire life and has learned to shut everyone out to protect herself. And it is the same for Walker. They are forced to be together the week leading up to Caitlin’s wedding and they slowly learn that past events may not have been exactly  the way they had thought. Watching them overcome and learn to trust themselves and each other was heartwarming and enjoyable. Through the course of their story you come to care so much about these characters that you almost forget they aren’t real. Normally I speed through books but this time I dragged my feet a bit. I didn’t want it to end.

  • A few scenes are for mature audiences.

A huge thank you to #NetGalley and #JillShalvis for allowing me to read this! I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Favorite Friday – The Other Side of Lost

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jessi Kirby

YA Adventure

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

My Thoughts:

I loved this one! I recommend this to a lot of the students that come into the library and those that take me up on it, love it as much as I do. Jessi Kirby has a way of conveying the emotions of the characters and you really care about Mari, those she meets and her journey. We start out with Mari’s world imploding and the guilt and devastation of her cousins death. It was a joy to read as Mari hiked her way through it and finds herself to ultimately come out on top. I loved reading about the hiking aspects of the novel as well. Made me want to lace up some hiking boots (I’d have to go and buy them first) and hit some trails.

To purchase this book, please consider using this link. I earn a tiny commission, but most importantly, Bookshop.org supports local bookstores. They give 75% of their profits to support local bookstores and authors.

All the Colors of Night

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jayne Ann Krentz

Romance

Published January 5th, 2021 by Berkley Publishing Group

Two psychics plunge into a dark world of deadly secrets in this second installment of the Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
 
North Chastain possesses a paranormal talent that gives him the ability to track down the most dangerous psychic criminals. When his father suddenly falls into a coma-like state, North is convinced it was caused by a deadly artifact that traces back to the days of a secret government program known only as the Bluestone Project. North knows his only hope of saving his father is to find the artifact. He is good when it comes to tracking down killers, but to locate the relic he’s going to need help from a psychic who knows the shadowy world of obsessive collectors, deceptive dealers and ruthless raiders.…
 
With her reputation in ruins after a false accusation, antiques expert Sierra Raines is looking for a fresh start. She turns to the murky backwaters of the paranormal artifacts trade, finding and transporting valuable objects with a psychic provenance. When North Chastain approaches her for help, Sierra takes him on as a client, though not without reservations. North represents the mysterious Foundation, the secretive organization established to police the underworld populated by psychic criminals and those, like Sierra, who make a living in the shadows of that world.
 
North and Sierra soon find themselves at the scene of the Incident, which occurred decades ago in Fogg Lake. The town and its residents were forever changed by the disaster in the nearby Bluestone Project labs. The pair unearths shocking truths about what happened that fateful night, but they are playing with fire—someone in town knows what they’ve discovered and will do anything to make sure the secrets stay buried.

My Thoughts:

I read “All the Colors of Night” in less than 24 hours. I loved it! I’ve read just about everything Jayne Ann Krentz has published and this book did not let me down. Fans of JAK will be very happy and fans that loved the Arcane series will be even happier. Even though it was very minor, I love the Jones references. I squealed like the fan girl I am. Sierra and North are classic Krentz characters. Strong, determined and perfect for each other. They were a great couple and I liked the trust they had in each other.

To buy your copy of this book, please consider doing so from this link via BookShop. I receive a tiny commission, but more importantly, BookShop is an online bookstore that contributes 75% of each book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. You can even select the bookshop you want to support via Find a Bookstore.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #JayneAnnKrentz for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.