Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: One Pot Cajun Chicken and Rice

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love one pot meals. My least favorite part of the cooking process is cleaning up, so the fewer dirty dishes I have at the end of the evening, the better.

Today's one pot meal is also super simple (I used a couple of previous recipes I've shared as inspiration to create a new dish, so it's clearly not something you need to be a master chef to make!) and quick enough to make on a weeknight.

 photo OnePotCajunChickenandRice_zpsqlsbdaw0.jpg

When I make meals with Cajun flavors (like this Creamy Cajun Pasta or this One Pot Turkey Kielbasa Dirty Rice), I always make my own Cajun spice blend. You can obviously buy a Cajun spice blend at the store to use, but I always have all of the spices I need on hand and it doesn't take that much effort to mix them in a small bowl.

I also like the fact that I can adjust the spices a bit. For this particular recipe, I decided to make it a little spicier by adding a little extra cayenne pepper and added some smokiness by using smoked paprika instead of regular paprika. The recipe below reflects these changes, but feel free to adjust the spices to your personal tastes (assuming you decide to make your own Cajun spice, of course).

One Pot Cajun Chicken and Rice

A Divulge and Indulge original recipe.

Ingredient List:
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 3 large chicken breasts.)
  • 2 cups long grain white rice (I've tried making one pot meals with other types of rice, but I've found that long grain white rice is the only rice that consistently works well with these types of dishes.)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 2 tbsp butter (I used low fat margarine.)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (You can also use regular paprika if you don't have smoked on hand, or if you're not a fan of that type of smoky flavor.)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (This will give it quite a kick, so if you're not a fan of super spicy food, I'd recommend cutting back on the cayenne. I recommend using at least 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper in Cajun style dishes.)


1.  Whisk the smoked paprika, sea salt, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. (If you're using a store bought Cajun seasoning blend, you can skip this step.)

2.  Heat the 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Rub both sides of the chicken breasts with the Cajun seasoning (leave approximately 1 tsp for later!) and drop into the skillet with the butter. Cook on both sides until lightly browned and mostly cooked through, then remove to a plate and set aside. (Please note: The chicken doesn't have to be completely cooked at this point. It will continue to cook when it's added back to the skillet later.)

3.  Add the diced green pepper and diced white onion to the skillet, cooking until the vegetables are just softened. (This should only take a few minutes.) 

4.  Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant.

5.  Add the rice, chicken broth, diced tomatoes with their juices, dark red kidney beans, tomato paste, and remaining 1 tsp Cajun seasoning to the skillet. Mix thoroughly and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.

6.  Cut the chicken breasts into smaller chunks and add the chicken to the boiling mixture in the skillet. 

7.  Give everything a good stir, cover, and turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is thoroughly cooked. (You'll want to stir this occasionally to prevent sticking.)

And that's it! This recipe makes quite a bit, but I thought the leftovers were just as good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi Skillet

Before I sat down to write this post, I checked to see when I last posted a pasta recipe. Since I love pasta so much, I'm always worried I'll inadvertently post way too many pasta recipes in a row. (Or can there even be too many pasta recipes? I think not, but I'm sure others would disagree.)

Anyway, when I saw that I hadn't posted a pasta dish since mid-March, I figured it was time to change that. 

 photo RoastedVegetableGnocchiSkillet1_zps93m6hjzj.jpg

Like last week's Lazy Chili Baked Nachos, this Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi Skillet is incredibly easy to put together. It's kind of a "lazy" or "cheat" recipe since the sauce came from a jar and the gnocchi is most definitely not homemade, but that really doesn't matter. What matters is that it's delicious, simple, and a great way to sneak some extra veggies into a meal.


 photo RoastedVegetableGnocchiSkillet2_zpsjusobjpp.jpg

And, even though roasting vegetables obviously requires turning on the oven, there's still something about roasted veggies that screams spring/summer to me. (Though since the weather has been all over the place lately, it doesn't even matter that much if I heat up the kitchen with the oven!)

Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi Skillet

Adapted from recipes on Budget Bytes and How Sweet It Is.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 lb package potato gnocchi
  • 1 24 oz. jar marinara sauce (I used a tomato, garlic, and onion sauce, but any type of marinara sauce would work.)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh broccoli florets (I used frozen.)
  • 1 cup spinach (I used fresh spinach leaves.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, coat with cooking spray, and set aside.

3.  Cut the zucchini into slices of medium thickness, then cut each slice in half. Cut the red bell pepper into short, thin strips.

4.  Spread the zucchini, red bell pepper, and broccoli florets on the prepared baking sheet, making sure that they remain in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle on the black pepper and garlic powder. 

5.  Place the vegetables in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes, or until they begin to brown a bit. They should look something like this when they're done:

 photo RoastedVegetableGnocchiSkillet3_zpsryuhpprs.jpg

6.  While the veggies are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and boil until they begin to float (about 3 minutes). Once they're done, drain the gnocchi in a colander and set aside.

7.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil has heated up, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (or until fragrant).

8.  Add the drained gnocchi to the skillet with the garlic and oil and cook for about 5-7 minutes. You'll want the gnocchi to brown and crisp up just a bit, so avoid stirring it too much. I think I stirred mine just a couple of times to try to even out the browning.

9.  After the gnocchi has finished cooking, pour in the marinara sauce. Stir in the spinach until it begins to wilt, then add the roasted vegetables. Stir everything a few times to thoroughly combine and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

10.  Cover the gnocchi, sauce, and veggies with the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Cover, turn the heat to low, and let sit for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. (Or, if you're impatient like me, mostly melted.)  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Lazy Chili Baked Nachos

I've been trying to make and stick to weekly meal plans this year, but sometimes the evening doesn't go as planned and I have to be flexible. (Or, if I'm being totally honest, sometimes I get lazy and don't feel like making a meal that requires considerable time and effort.)

If I need to change things up and make something really fast and easy, 90% of the time I'll just stick a frozen pizza in the oven or make some pasta and jarred sauce. There are times, though, when I decide to get a little more creative and throw something together using random ingredients I find in the kitchen.

These nachos were the result of doing just that.

 photo LazyChiliBakedNachos_zpsfldjjfgx.jpg
One thing I love about nachos is that you can add pretty much anything and they'll be delicious. They can be a little more involved, like these Buffalo Chicken Potato Nachos with Avocado Ranch Sour Cream, or they can be super simple (like today's recipe).

Honestly, I debated whether I should even bother sharing these nachos on my blog. Sometimes when a recipe is this easy, I feel like I don't need to tell anyone how to make it. 

In the end, I decided to post it because I always appreciate when the bloggers I follow share some of their ridiculously easy go-to recipes for those nights when they don't really feel like cooking. Most of us don't have the time and energy necessary to make elaborate meals every evening, so it's nice to have a few recipes like this on hand for those "I'm too busy/lazy/tired to do anything in the kitchen" nights.

Lazy Chili Baked Nachos

A Divulge and Indulge original recipe.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 cups chili (I used a whole can of Campbell's Home Style Spicy Vegetable Chili, but any kind of chili will work. When I make homemade chili in the future, I'll probably end up using some of the leftovers to make a slightly different version of these nachos.)
  • Tortilla chips (I didn't measure them out. I just kept adding chips to the baking dish until the surface was pretty much covered. It would probably be best to just have a full bag of tortilla chips on hand so you can use as many or as few as you'd like.)
  • 1 15.5 oz. can refried beans
  • 1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar jack blend.)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • Toppings: guacamole, fresh diced tomatoes, salsa, fresh cilantro, sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, sour cream, etc. (I used guacamole, fresh quartered grape tomatoes, and sliced pickled jalapeño peppers.)


1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray and begin adding tortilla chips to cover the bottom.

3.  Heat the can of refried beans in a small pan over low heat. (This should make them easier to spoon over the tortilla chips.) Stir in the garlic powder and chipotle chili powder.

4.  Once the beans are warmed through, spoon them over the tortilla chips. 

5.  Add the chili in spoonfuls over the beans and chips.

6.  Cover the nachos with shredded cheese and sliced pickled jalapeño peppers (if you're using them).

7.  Bake the nachos for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

8.  Add any additional toppings and serve warm.

We had these nachos for dinner, but they would also be great for a snack or appetizer at a party. This makes a lot of food, but the recipe could easily be cut down if you don't think you can (or should) eat a huge platter of nachos.

Monday, May 16, 2016

April 2016 Goals and Results

I can't believe we're already halfway through the month of May and I'm just posting my goals/results and workouts from April. Clearly I've been slacking.

I tried to keep things a little simpler last month since I didn't do a great job with my February and March goals. I really wish the motivation I had in January would return. I didn't hit all of my personal goals that month, but I still felt like I got a lot of shit done.

And, while we're at it, it would be nice to figure out how I managed my time that month. I don't feel like I was completely sleep deprived (not any more than usual, anyway), and nothing was really different about my schedule ... Yet somehow I managed to find time to work out 5 days each week (including taking at least a couple of classes at the gym), post more frequently on my blog, stay current with other bloggers (reading and commenting, as well as responding to comments on my own blog in a timely manner), read a lot (I think I hit a personal best with 8 books!), and try a bunch of new recipes. Seriously, how did I do that?

But this post is about April ... So I'll move on to that.

 photo April2016GoalsandResults_zpsxxdemi9n.jpg

April 2016 Goals and Results

1. Read 5 books.

PASS. I finished 6 books in April! 

2. Finish Book Challenge by Erin 4.0.

PASS. I originally wanted to finish a month early so I could (maybe) finish the bonus round as well. Unfortunately, I didn't finish the challenge until April 10th, but I still somehow managed to knock out 4 books for the bonus round. I felt pretty good about that! 

3. Don't buy Doubleshots more than once each week.

PASS. Technically, anyway. I actually bought two Doubleshots in one week, but I didn't buy any the week before ... So I averaged one per week. (And that means it counts as a pass in my book!) I've tried giving them up completely for at least a month in the past, but sometimes I really need that extra boost. (I don't even want to talk about my Doubleshot consumption last week. I averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep each night that week, so when I say I needed these, I mean it!)

4. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before going to bed.

PASS/FAIL. I was 50/50 with this goal. I spent two weeks shutting things off well before I wanted to go to sleep, ending my night with a book instead of the glow of my computer, phone, or TV. Sadly, I spent the remaining two weeks staying up too late dicking around on my computer and phone or watching Netflix. I really need to be more consistent with this because I felt amazing the weeks that I shut things off and got to sleep earlier. I actually went to bed at a reasonable time like a responsible adult! (Trust me, that almost never happens.)

Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good month ... Though, like I said before, I kept things pretty simple. I usually try to make 7-8 personal goals each month, and cutting it down to 4 helped me stay a little more focused. I doubt I'll stick to only making 4-5 goals every month from now on, but I may try this little trick again if I start crapping out on my goals again.

 photo April2016Workouts_zpsxfkcafun.jpg
As always, I'm including the basic information about last month's workouts in this post as well. I get that most people don't care about this stuff, but, as I've said before, this part of the post is more for me. I like having this snapshot of my workouts, and sharing this information publicly makes me a little more motivated to work out several times each week. (Most of the time, anyway.)

April 2016 Workouts

Week 04/01 - 04/08:

04/03: Yoga video (35 minutes)
04/04: Two yoga videos (35 minutes and 30 minutes)
04/06: Yoga video (40 minutes)
04/07: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 170 minutes (2 hours, 50 minutes)

Week 04/09 - 04/16:

04/09: Yoga video (30 minutes)
04/10: Pilates video (30 minutes)
04/11: Yoga class (60 minutes)
04/13: Yoga video (30 minutes)
04/16: Light walking outside (40 minutes; 1.6 miles)

Total Time: 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes)

Week 04/17 - 04/24:

04/18: Yoga video (60 minutes)
04/19: Yoga video (30 minutes)
04/20: Yoga video (35 minutes)
04/22: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 155 minutes (2 hours, 35 minutes)

Week 04/25 - 04/30:

04/25: Walking/light jogging outside (90 minutes; 3.77 miles)
04/27: Yoga video (40 minutes)
04/28: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 160 minutes (2 hours, 40 minutes)

It wasn't a bad month overall, but, once again, I mostly stuck with yoga videos at home. I only managed to make it to one yoga class all month, and didn't go to any other types of classes. 

On the plus side, I added in a few days of cardio (a pilates video and two days of walking and/or light jogging outside). That was something I knew I needed to work on, so I tried to make it more of a priority (though clearly it wasn't my top priority).

I won't lie: my workouts in May so far have been lackluster at best. I've been battling a cold (again), and haven't really felt up to pushing myself as much as I should. Obviously there's still time to pick things up again, but I have a bad feeling that my goals/workouts post for May isn't going to be pretty.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Recently Read: In-Depth Reviews - May 2016 Edition

I originally wanted to post something else between Tuesday's Show Us Your Books! link-up post and my more in-depth book reviews today, but I just didn't get around to writing another post in time. I promise I'll write about more than just books next week. (Though, really, I'd probably be happy to just write about books all the time because I'm a huge booknerd!)

My more condensed reviews of these books can be found in the aforementioned link-up post (if you haven't read them already). These more in-depth reviews are mostly written for me since I really like to take some time to reflect on what I've just read.

That being said, I always hope that at least one person finds them useful. Sometimes I have to read a few reviews (or at least one or two more in-depth reviews) before deciding whether a book might be worth my time, especially if I was on the fence about it. Obviously people are going to have very different opinions about the same books (which is why reading reviews/discussing books is so awesome!), but I usually find reviews helpful, especially if the personal tastes of the reviewer align with my own.

So let's get to it!

 photo InDepthReviewsMay2016_zpsy3jb12cb.jpg

Do Not Disturb by A.R. Torre - 357 pages

Completed on 04/16/2016
 photo FourStarRating_zpslzxmun9b.jpg
This is the second book in the Deanna Madden trilogy, so if you haven't read the first book (The Girl in 6E), I wouldn't recommend picking this up. It would probably be okay as a stand-alone, but I think you'd miss a lot of the background information that explains why Deanna lives and thinks the way she does. Although Torre brings parts of Deanna's background up a few times in Do Not Disturb, I think I would have been mostly lost if I hadn't read the first book. (Not to mention the fact that there are references to characters and events from the first book that probably wouldn't make sense if I'd started with this book.)

In Do Not Disturb, Deanna is further testing her boundaries to determine just how much freedom she can handle without giving in to her murderous urges. She thinks she'll go completely insane if she keeps herself locked up in her apartment, so she decides to take small steps to reacquaint herself with the outside world.

Also testing his newfound freedom after nearly two years in prison, Marcus Renza (a.k.a. "freebird71"), finds Deanna (known online as "Jessica Reilly") on a sex cam site. Uncomfortable with his constant questions about where she lives, Deanna eventually blocks him from her site completely. What she doesn't know is that Marcus has become obsessed with finding her, and will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Do Not Disturb is the type of book that's read solely for entertainment. The writing isn't what I'd call amazing, and it didn't make me feel a lot of strong emotions or pose thought-provoking questions ... But I still really liked the book.

I felt like I understood Deanna a little more after reading this book. Readers are given a lot of background about her troubled past in The Girl in 6E, but I felt like her bloodlust sometimes came off as unbelievable. I don't think this aspect of her character was toned down at all in Do Not Disturb, but she began to seem more like a capable and intelligent woman and less like a frenzied, almost feral child. (Given her profession as a sex cam girl, it was odd to think of her as childlike, but in the first book she did sort of give off this weird juvenile vibe at times.)

I also really liked that Torre spent some time focusing on Mike in this book. He was a minor character in The Girl in 6E, and I enjoyed learning more about the man that Deanna considers one of the only people she can trust.

There were a few things that annoyed me about the book, though. Most of the things can't be shared without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say that I'm generally not a fan of things just easily falling into place. I realize that these books are meant to be fun (and are therefore not exactly strongly rooted in reality), but when things just conveniently work out for characters throughout a novel, it kind of grates on my nerves. I'm not saying that people don't ever have good luck or anything like that ... But when nearly everything goes smoothly for characters in order to propel a story forward, it annoys me. I guess I just wanted to see a slightly different outcome in at least one case. (Again, sorry to be vague. I just really hate spoilers!)

Overall, Do Not Disturb was an enjoyable read worthy of 4 stars. I probably would have read it in just a couple of days if I'd had a little more free time. The story kept me interested, and I'm looking forward to finding out how Torre will end the series.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven - 378 pages

Completed on 04/20/2016
 photo FiveStarRating_zpsdc7wm4pq.jpg
I seriously considered writing an entire post focusing only on this book, but I think I can (probably) say everything I want to say here.

After losing her older sister in a car accident, Violet is finding it difficult to cope. Nearly a year later, she's still struggling with her grief and counting down the days until she graduates from high school and can (hopefully) move on with her life, far away from the small town in Indiana that holds too many memories.

Finch is also struggling, but his demons are different. He's dealt with mental illness throughout much of his life, becoming a target for harassment and ridicule from his classmates. Obsessed with death, he often fantasizes about what it would be like to finally leave everything behind for good.

After a chance meeting on the ledge of the bell tower at their high school, it's unclear who saves whom. One thing is for sure: Violet and Finch are about to change each other's lives forever.

When I first picked up All the Bright Places, I thought it would probably stir up some emotions. I mean, what else could I expect? This is a book about people dealing with depression and significant loss (two things I can personally identify with). What I didn't expect was that I would hysterically sob through the last 45 pages or so, crying so hard that I could barely catch my breath. (And that's why I always try to finish books like this in the privacy of my own home!)

This book broke my heart, but in the best possible way. The two main characters were quirky, but in a way that felt real to me. I've seen some reviewers on Goodreads argue that they're too quirky, but I disagree (though maybe that's because I've done a number of the things they do in the book, especially as a teenager/young adult).

I really appreciated the effort to really look at mental illness for what it is. In my opinion, this isn't a book that romanticizes suicide (though I'm sure some would disagree). This is a book that attempts to explain why someone might feel as though that's the only option and why, even when you know there are people who really, truly love you, sometimes that's just not enough.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you or someone you love is dealing with or has dealt with mental illness. Regardless of the humor and quirkiness, All the Bright Places touches on some very important (and very real) things that shouldn't just be swept under the rug and never talked about. (As people often seem to want to do when it comes to depression, bipolar disorder, suicide, etc.)

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah - 419 pages

Completed on 04/27/2016
 photo ThreeStarRating_zpsgwievorz.jpg
I'll start this by saying that I felt a little guilty for not enjoying this book more than I did. My library offers the opportunity to recommend/request up to five books to purchase each month. I've requested a lot of books since I started going to the library regularly, and quite a few of them have been purchased. Obviously that's awesome, but when I request a book and then don't love it, I kind of feel bad about it. And, since I requested A Game for All the Family, I kind of felt bad for not giving it a higher rating (and, really, it was probably more like a 2.75, but I just rounded up).

The plot itself was intriguing: After quitting her high powered, high stress job in London, Justine moves to a large country estate in Devon with her husband and 13-year-old daughter. It should be a great time for them to reconnect as a family and enjoy a more relaxing lifestyle, but things begin to change soon after they move in.

Justine's daughter, Ellen, becomes withdrawn and depressed when her best friend, George, is expelled from school for a minor misunderstanding. When Justine attempts to discuss the matter with the head teacher, she can't believe what she's being told: no one has recently been expelled and there is, and has never been, a child by the name of George Donbavand enrolled in that school.

Then the strange, anonymous calls begin. At first Justine thinks the caller has her confused with someone else, but, as the calls become increasingly threatening, she begins to fear for her family's safety ... And she wonders if she may share a history with this anonymous caller after all.

I expected this book to be a little weird, but it was honestly one of the strangest things I've ever read. 

There are essentially two storylines going on throughout the entire novel: the story of Justine and her family and a story written by her daughter, Ellen, about an unusual family that used to live in the home they've just moved to. I actually really like books that are stories within stories, but only when the stories can be brought together in an interesting way. Unfortunately, in this case I found the way the stories were brought together to be completely unsatisfying. 

Since Sophie Hannah wrote such a strange book, I felt like she could have taken things in a million different directions and it would still feel at least somewhat believable in the context of the story. And, while it definitely wasn't what I'd consider overly predictable, A Game for All the Family could have been so much better if she'd taken a different approach to the big reveal and final conclusion.

As it was written, I was mostly just like:

 photo thats-it_zpshmoemjgx.gif

The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad - 371 pages

Completed on 04/30/2016
 photo FourStarRating_zpslzxmun9b.jpg
I was really looking forward to reading The Silent Girls after both Erin and Steph gave it glowing reviews, and I'm happy to say that it didn't disappoint!

Frank Rath, former detective turned private investigator, has been asked to assist in a case involving a missing young woman. As the investigation progresses, Rath, Grout, and Test (the members of the police force he's working with on this case) realize that several young women in the area have vanished in a relatively short amount of time. Could these women all be linked in some way? Determined to find the answer to that question, they uncover some surprising truths and discover that evil lurks even in the smallest towns.

The Silent Girls opens with a scene right out of a horror movie. I, of course, was instantly hooked.

Unfortunately, the pace of the story slowed down considerably after that, picking up again closer to the end of the novel. I generally don't mind books that require some time to get into, but it can be a little frustrating when the book is a thriller. Don't get me wrong: I really enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I just wish Rickstad hadn't taken so long to get to the good stuff.

On the plus side, I really liked Rath. He was a flawed hero with an interesting past, and I enjoyed learning more about his life and why he'd chosen to give up his career as a detective. I also really appreciated that Rickstad took the story in an interesting and (mostly) surprising direction. While I figured out what the missing girls might have in common well before it was revealed, Rickstad still kept me guessing throughout much of the rest of the story.

There were plenty of WTF moments (which I always appreciate!), and, although I thought some things were a little too neatly wrapped up, I loved the cliffhanger at the end! I know that's not the kind of ending everyone loves, but it made me really excited to see what Rickstad comes up with in his next novel featuring Frank Rath. (And there will be another book, according to a comment the author left on Goodreads in response to that question.)

Version Control by Dexter Palmer - 495 pages

Completed 05/09/2016
 photo ThreeStarRating_zpsgwievorz.jpg
After I finish the final page of a book, I usually know what sort of rating I'll give it. I also usually know at least a few points I'll want to touch on when I write my reviews. However, there are times when I have so many mixed feelings that I need some extra time to process it before trying to explain my thoughts in a review. Version Control was one of those books.

Although she feels like she has mostly moved past the grief and depression that surrounded her following a personal tragedy, Rebecca can't seem to shake the feeling that something is wrong with everything. What if things actually aren't as they should be?

Her husband, Philip, is consumed by his work on his invention, the causality violation device. Although the idea is great in theory (just don't call it a time machine!), his repeated failures have stalled his career and made him a laughingstock in the physics community. But what if these failures aren't really failures at all?

My biggest issue with Version Control is that it tries to be too many things all at once. It's a book filled with thoughts on science, technology, family dynamics, ethics, grief, alcoholism, guilt, race, time travel, and so much more. I don't think Palmer did a bad job tying all of these things together, but there were times when I felt like it was just too much. I think Version Control could have been split into at least two completely different books with a completely different cast of characters without losing the overall meaning of the story.

To be perfectly honest, I decided to read it because I thought it had a cool cover. I knew a little bit about it (based on the short summary on my library's website), but I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it overall. I mean, science fiction isn't really my thing. (Though I'm admittedly fascinated by the idea of time travel!)

Version Control can be a little science heavy at times, but I don't think you have to be a scientist in order to understand it. I will say, though, that some things rang very true for me, particularly the fact that science isn't magic: results are almost never immediate. You also don't give up when your original idea of how things should work is contradicted by the results of an experiment. 

That being said, my area of expertise is not physics. In fact, physics was my most hated, most difficult college course. I actually thought organic chemistry was much easier than physics, which is apparently very surprising to most people based on their, "Are you kidding me?" reactions to that statement. I share this only because I don't want anyone to think they need to be some kind of physics genius in order to read and understand the ideas presented in this book. 

Unfortunately, as I said before, I felt like the story lacked focus. Palmer had a lot of really interesting ideas, but it seemed to take forever to reach the final conclusion. I understand why he chose to include many of the things he did, but maybe he was a little too ambitious when he sat down to write this book. 

I was really torn when it came to rating this book. In the end, I gave it 3 stars because it was a thought-provoking, complex story filled with realistic, well-developed characters. I mostly enjoyed it, but at times it just dragged on and felt like it was trying to be too many things at once. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - May 2016 Edition

It's the second Tuesday of the month, which means it's time to talk books with Steph, Jana, and many of the other awesome bloggers who participate in the Show Us Your Books! link-up.

April was a pretty good reading month for me. I finished Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, and read a total of 6 books from start to finish. (The first two books I read in April were reviewed here, if you missed that post.)

As always, I'm posting more condensed reviews today. If you want to know more about my thoughts on a specific book from this post, I'll be posting my in-depth reviews on Sunday.

 photo FromtheBookshelfRecentlyReadMay2016_zpsniotxdcr.jpg

Do Not Disturb by A.R. Torre - 357 pages - 4 stars

In The Girl in 6E (which I reviewed here), readers were introduced to Deanna Madden, a troubled young woman who has opted to shut herself away from the outside world in an effort to prevent herself from acting on her dark, murderous urges. After breaking her own rules, Deanna begins exploring just how much freedom she can allow herself in Do Not Disturb.

But Deanna isn't the only one with newfound freedom. Marcus Renza has just been released from prison after serving time for brutally raping a woman. After chatting with Deanna online, he has his sights set on his next victim ... And will stop at nothing to find her.

I've really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, and plan to read the final installment at some point soon. While the writing hasn't blown me away, the overall stories have been interesting and I always find myself frantically turning the pages to see how things will play out.

Like The Girl in 6EDo Not Disturb is an erotic thriller with plenty of graphic sex and violence. (So obviously not a book for everyone.)

If you think this might be the kind of book for you, though, I'd suggest starting with The Girl in 6E. While Do Not Disturb could technically be okay as a standalone, you'd be missing out on some of Deanna's background (which is only mentioned briefly in this book) and some of the references to things that happened in the first book wouldn't make much sense.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven - 378 pages - 5 stars

All the Bright Places is the story of two teenagers: Violet and Finch. Violet is dealing with the painful loss of her older sister, withdrawing more and more each day. Finch has struggled with crippling depression and his status as "Freak" for years. After a chance encounter on the ledge of the bell tower at their high school, Violet and Finch discover that maybe they're not so alone after all.

That is quite literally the most basic summary I could think of to describe this book. While a part of me wants to share more about the story (and I'll talk a little more about it on Sunday when I post my more in-depth reviews), another part of me just wants you to pick up the book and discover it yourself.

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah - 419 pages - 3 stars

After leaving the stress of city life in London behind, Justine, her husband, and their 13-year-old daughter hope to start over and enjoy a quieter lifestyle in the country. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for them to realize that they won't be enjoying this new life the way they initially thought they would.

It starts with Justine's daughter, Ellen, growing withdrawn and depressed when her best friend, George, is expelled from school. This wouldn't be quite as concerning if Justine hadn't been told by the head teacher that George doesn't exist.

And then there are the anonymous calls. At first they're an annoyance, and Justine believes the caller simply has the wrong number. But as they grow increasingly threatening, she begins to wonder what this person knows about her and if she and her family could be in real danger.

I love really weird books, but A Game for All the Family was almost too weird. In fact, I'd say the only reason I gave it an "I liked it" rating is because I thought the book was full of interesting ideas and it did keep me guessing.

Unfortunately, I felt like Sophie Hannah tried too hard to create this elaborate plot full of unexpected twists, and, in the end, delivered a mostly unsatisfying conclusion. When I finished the book, I think my exact reaction was, "That was it? Really?" It could have been so much better.

The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad - 371 pages - 4 stars

Frank Rath thought he'd given up his career as a detective years ago, but he agrees to help when he's called about a new case involving a missing young woman. He soon discovers that several young women in the area have disappeared within the last year, and wonders if the latest case is somehow connected.

The Silent Girls is a crime thriller filled with plenty of twists and WTF moments. I'll admit that I figured out what might link the missing girls before the big reveal, but there were plenty of times when Rickstad took the novel in a completely different direction than I expected.

The book was unsettling (but not what I'd consider scary), and it was an excellent reminder that evil can lurk in even the smallest towns. It's definitely worth reading if you're a fan of mystery/crime thrillers.

And the ending? Whoa. It's the sort of ending that smacks you in the face, leaves you wanting more, and then makes you feel relieved when you realize the author has plans to write another novel featuring the main character.

Version Control by Dexter Palmer - 495 pages - 3 stars

What if you were living the wrong version of your life? If you could, would you attempt to change the past, even if that meant altering not only your own future but the future of the world? These are just a few of the very complex questions that Version Control attempts to answer.

I have very mixed feelings about this book.

There's no doubt in my mind that Dexter Palmer has created a very intricate novel filled with thought-provoking ideas and realistic, well-developed characters. I was also pleasantly surprised that he injected a lot of humor into certain parts of the book.

Unfortunately, I felt like it took way too long to get to the point. This book is nearly 500 pages long, and I think it probably could have been edited down to at least 400 pages (or maybe even less). I understand why the author added some of the details he did, but I think the book would have had the same impact if he'd omitted a few things. By the time I neared the end, I was ready for the book to be over.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Currently I'm ...

I was originally going to do a slightly more in-depth overview of the last couple of months for the link-up with Kristen and Gretchen today, but time kind of got away from me ... So this is what you get.

What's New With You

Currently I'm:

Reading: Version Control by Dexter Palmer. Truth? I placed a hold on it at my library simply because I thought the cover was cool.

 photo 9780307907592_custom-97734b62765dee1a1211c34e984960f724aa8a2d-s400-c85_zpsxrhwvnya.jpg

It's not really what I expected based on the library and Goodreads summaries, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Up next: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes. I probably should have read this one first since there are several holds on it at the library, but I'd just finished a crime thriller and wasn't in the mood to read a book with a sociopathic main character.

Listening To: A completely random mix of things. Right now I'd say I've mostly been listening to this:

And this:

I clearly wasn't kidding when I said I've been listening to a completely random mix of things.

Wishing: I could spend time with my mom this weekend for Mother's Day.

Spending: $0.00 for 5 books from Barnes & Noble. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it is. I had a couple of gift cards that covered the entire cost of the purchase, and I actually earned a little over $3.00 by ordering them through Swagbucks. So basically I got paid to shop for books. (Just don't remind me that I was going to try not to buy any books until I read at least a few that were already sitting on my shelves.)

Trying: A few new (to me) restaurants.

Eric and I went to Block 16 last month. I ordered the Dragon Wrap with chicken, he got the pulled pork roll, and we got an order of Duck Duck Goose Fries to share. (Those fries are topped with duck confit and are just as delicious as I imagined they'd be!)

 photo Block16_zpstloanjtm.jpg
We also met up with my friend Danielle last Saturday for drinks and food at Blatt Beer and Table. She happened to be in town for work, and we decided to use that as an excuse to pig out. The picture on the left is round one: Buffalo Chachos, pretzel bites, and chicharones with lots of hot sauce. The picture on the right is round two: falafel, chicken fingers, and pulled pork on top of a cornbread waffle.

 photo BlattBeerandTable_zpsyzv6lppe.jpg
I'm also going out with my friend Elaine for shopping and dinner this Saturday, and we're planning to try the new "fancy" food court at one of the malls. That may sound weird (I mean, who gets excited about eating at a food court?), but I think this place looks awesome. It definitely beats grabbing Taco Bell after a long day of shopping!

Thinking: That this post is actually becoming much longer than I thought it would be when I sat down to write it.

Craving: Donuts. More specifically, Dunkin' Donuts donuts. I managed to talk Eric into going with me a couple of weekends ago to pick up half a dozen donuts plus a couple of iced coffees, and now I want to eat them every day. (I didn't take pictures of any of this because I scarfed down two donuts in about 30 seconds and only then considered the fact that "good" bloggers remember to take pictures before most of their shit is gone. Whatever, it's fine.)

Loving: The fact that lately some days have been perfect for taking walks around the neighborhood.

 photo WalkingOmaha_zpsdi6kqnfn.jpg
Planning: To tackle some of the things on my "To Do" list next week while Eric is traveling for work. I don't know why, but it always seems easier to get shit done when he's not home. Hopefully it will be a productive week!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Thai Beef Kofta Bowls with Coconut Jasmine Rice

Unless you're new to my blog, you probably already know that I'm always searching for new and interesting ways to incorporate beef into our weekly meal plans. Each year Eric and I buy around 100 pounds of beef from his cousin's farm in western Nebraska. When you're just cooking for two people, that's a lot of meat. (Thankfully his parents let us store it in their extra freezer, and then we just pick some up once in a while to store at home. We have a pretty big freezer in our apartment, but there's no way we could fit that much meat in there at one time!)

Obviously since we have so much of it, we make a lot of beef meals. The only problem is that I get sick of things pretty quickly.

I'm not the kind of person who can have the same meal over and over. I definitely have favorite dishes, but I try to change things up at least a little each week. For example, I'm a huge fan of pasta. I could (no joke) eat it every day. But one of the reasons I love pasta so much is because it's very versatile. I could make pasta every night for a week and never make the same recipe twice. (I won't, though, because Eric doesn't love it quite as much as I do. Also, neither of us really wants to gain a bunch of weight by eating tons of pasta.)

Anyway, the point is that I like to mix things up when I cook and avoid making a lot of really similar meals all in a row.

So when I came across a recipe for Thai beef koftas, I was immediately intrigued. I'd never made koftas at home, but the dish looked really simple and we already had the majority of the ingredients on hand. Since Eric and I love all-in-one meals (particularly rice bowls!), I decided to turn the original recipe into a rice bowl complete with delicious coconut jasmine rice.

 photo ThaiBeefKoftaBowlswithCoconutJasmineRice_zps49p886ky.jpg
The result was awesome! I feel like I'm always saying how great the recipes I post taste (though, really, I wouldn't bother posting them here if I didn't think they were good), but this is one of the best things I've made in a while. As we were eating this I kept saying, "I think this is my new favorite beef dish."

If you're ever stuck wondering what to do with ground beef, you should definitely give this recipe a try. (Especially if you're a fan of coconut curries!)

Thai Beef Kofta Bowls with Coconut Jasmine Rice

Adapted from a recipe on Sweet Peas and Saffron.

Ingredient List (Koftas):
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp red curry paste (I usually use the Thai Kitchen brand.)
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Instructions (Koftas):

1.  Mix the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic salt, ground ginger, Thai red curry paste, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce together in a large bowl. Stir until everything is well combined.

2.  Add the beef to the large bowl, and, using your hands, mix the meat with the other ingredients.

3.  Shape the meat into elongated meatballs and then place on a grill over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes (or until the meat is completely cooked through). If you're using a traditional grill, you may find it easier to stick skewers through the koftas in order to turn them every couple of minutes. We just used our little George Foreman grill, and Eric lowered the lid so that both sides of the meat were cooking at once. It took a little less time and effort to cook it this way, though it obviously flattened them out a little more.

4.  When the meat has finished cooking, set the koftas aside on a plate until you're ready to assemble the bowls.

Ingredient List (Vegetables):

  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions (Vegetables):

1.  Add the sesame oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium heat.

2.  When the oil has heated, add the thinly sliced red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and red onion to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables have just softened, stirring regularly.

3.  Once the vegetables have finished cooking, set them aside until you're ready to assemble the bowls.

Ingredient List (Coconut Sauce):

  • 1/2 cup lite coconut milk (I used lite to make it a little healthier, but you could also use regular coconut milk.)
  • 2 tsp red curry paste 
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime (I didn't measure this out exactly.)

Instructions (Coconut Sauce):

1.  Whisk together the coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice in a medium bowl.

2.  Set the sauce aside until you're ready to assemble the bowls.

Ingredient List (Coconut Jasmine Rice):
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 1/2 cups lite coconut milk (This should use up the rest of a 14 oz. can of coconut milk.)
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions (Coconut Jasmine Rice):

1.  Bring the rice, coconut milk, and water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.

2.  Cover and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated.

3.  Remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes before fluffing with a fork.

4.  When the rice has finished cooking, assemble the bowls by adding the rice first, vegetables, koftas, and then topping with the coconut sauce.

I know that looks like a lot of steps, but it's actually a really simple meal to put together. I'll admit that it helps a lot if someone else can help with the cooking, but it's not impossible to do it all yourself. (I'm lucky because Eric usually helps me with most of our meals. In this case, he sliced the veggies while I prepared the meat, then he grilled the meat while I made the coconut sauce and cooked the veggies and rice. It just sped things along a bit.)

One final note: even though this uses red curry paste in both the koftas and the coconut sauce, this dish isn't what I would consider spicy. I think the flavor of the curry definitely comes out, but all of the other flavors stand out as well and there's not much (if any) heat.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Challenge By Erin 4.0 Results

I haven't really felt like blogging much lately. (Though that's probably obvious if you look at the tiny amount of posts I wrote last month.)

There's really no reason ... I've just felt like using my time for other things. Last month I spent more time reading, trying to get back into some sort of exercise groove, and binging on Netflix with Eric and less time on the computer. I wasn't always productive, but I was doing what I wanted to do in that moment.

Anyway, the point of that (if there really is a point) is that I've been reading more lately. That introduction was my not-so-graceful transition into my final update for Book Challenge by Erin 4.0.

 photo BookChallengeByErin4.0Results_zpsgbud0htf.jpg

I did much better with Erin's challenge than with the Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge. (I never actually posted a final update for that challenge, but I completed all but one of the categories for a total of 190 points out of a possible 200. Definitely not bad, but I was hoping to actually finish.) 

I not only completed Erin's challenge, but managed to finish 4 books for the bonus round as well! 

I stuck with my original list for the main part of the challenge:

1. A Book, Any Book, That Is At Least 200 Pages Long: The Martian by Andy Weir (369 pages)
Worth: 5 pts
Date Completed: 01/26/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
My Quick Review: It seems like almost everyone has read this book by now, and I'm happy to say that it mostly lived up to the hype. I thought the story was compelling, and I really liked the main character, Mark Watney. Although it probably won't go on my list of absolute favorite books this year, it definitely kept me entertained.
My Detailed Review: The Martian is the fifth book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

2. A Book That Begins With The Letter "D": Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (293 pages)
Worth: 10 pts
Date Completed: 02/16/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
My Quick Review: This book managed to both break my heart and fill me with hope. The writing is beautiful, and the story is filled with characters that felt very "real." This is definitely a contender for my list of absolute favorite books this year!
My Detailed Review: Did You Ever Have a Family is the second book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

3. A Book With A Four Word Title: What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman (312 pages)
Worth: 10 pts
Date Completed: 03/24/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
My Quick Review: Although the events in this book often felt overly dramatic, I was really intrigued by the portion of the story detailing a young woman's experiences in a mental institution in the 1920s and 30s. I continued to think about the horrible things she endured long after I finished the last page.
My Detailed Review: What She Left Behind is the third book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

4. A Book With "Mother," "Father," "Son," "Daughter," Or "Child" In The Title (Or The Plural Of These Words): The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty (512 pages)
Worth: 15 pts
Date Completed: 04/10/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 stars
My Quick Review: While the plot intrigued me, the actual story fell flat. The writing wasn't great, several things didn't really make much sense, and the ending left me thinking, "This is completely ridiculous! What a waste of time."
My Detailed Review: The Bloodletter's Daughter is the last book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

5. A Book From Amazon's "Most Popular Authors" List (And The Author Must Be New To Me): The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (438 pages)
Worth: 20 pts
Date Completed: 03/09/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
My Quick Review: Almost everyone seems to love this book, and now I understand why. It's a story filled with strong female characters, complex family relationships, and the atrocities experienced during World War II. It completely gutted me, and I loved every second of it.
My Detailed Review: The Nightingale is the first book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

6. A Book Set In Any Country In Asia: Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino (530 pages)
Worth: 20 pts
Date Completed: 03/19/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 stars
My Quick Review: I feel like this book could have been really amazing, but so much of it dragged on and felt like work to get through. I've previously read and enjoyed another book by this author, but this just really didn't live up to my expectations.
My Detailed Review: Grotesque is the second book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

7. A Book With A Season ("Winter," "Spring," "Summer," Or "Autumn"/"Fall") In The Title: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (278 pages) 
Worth: 25 pts
Date Completed: 02/13/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
My Quick Review: This is probably one of the most realistic books I've read when it comes to mental disorders. For that reason, it was a difficult read (particularly if you or a loved one has experienced any of the things described in the book).
My Detailed Review: Wintergirls is the first book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

8. A Book That Will Make Me Laugh From This Buzzfeed ListThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (339 pages)
Worth: 30 pts
Date Completed: 04/02/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
My Quick Review: This book was an emotional rollercoaster ride for me: one minute I'd be laughing hysterically and the next I'd feel like someone just sucker punched me in the gut. The characters were flawed in very real ways, and I felt like I was reading a story about a real family (which may be part of the reason I was so deeply affected by it).
My Detailed Review: This is Where I Leave You is the fifth book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

9. A Book That Is A Friend Or Family Member's Favorite (Or The Favorite Book Of Another Challenge Participant): The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (401 pages)
Worth: 30 pts
Date Completed: 02/08/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
My Quick Review: I really enjoy stories that detail how a single decision can affect the lives of multiple people, and this book does just that. The plot was really interesting, and I was surprised to learn that it was loosely based on a true story.
My Detailed Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter is the last book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

10. A Book Published The Year I Was Born: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney (208 pages)
Worth: 35 pts
Date Completed: 03/27/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars
My Quick Review: I absolutely loved the author's writing style! Unfortunately, the book overall felt a little underdeveloped, and I was left wanting much more than what was delivered. Still, it was a quick and entertaining read.
My Detailed Review: Bright Lights, Big City is the fourth book reviewed in this post.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

I didn't really push the bonus round too much. Since I finished the initial challenge on April 10th, I knew there was no way I'd be able to read 10 more books in 20 days. (I don't even think I could read 10 books in 30 days, to be honest.) I decided to just focus on books I already had checked out from the library that could satisfy a challenge category. Logical, right?

1. A Book, Any Book, That Is At Least 200 Pages Long: A Game For All the Family by Sophie Hannah (419 pages) 
Bonus Round Worth: 10 pts 
Date Completed: 04/27/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars
My Quick Review: This book was very strange. I thought the plot was really intriguing, but the ending unfortunately just wasn't what I'd hoped for.
My Detailed Review: This will be posted in a couple of weeks.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

2. A Book That Begins With The Letter "D": Do Not Disturb by A.R. Torre (357 pages)
Bonus Round Worth: 15 pts 
Date Completed: 04/16/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
My Quick Review: I'm honestly surprised that I've enjoyed this series so much. While the writing isn't amazing, the stories keep me intrigued and entertained. This is the second book in the trilogy, and, while it could potentially work as a standalone, I think it's probably best to start at the beginning with The Girl in 6E (my in-depth review for that book can be found here).
My Detailed Review: This will be posted in a couple of weeks.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

3. A Book With A Four Word Title: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (378 pages)
Bonus Round Worth: 15 pts + 5 pts (chosen by another challenge participant)
Date Completed: 04/20/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
My Quick Review: I completely fell in love with this book! I've dealt with depression for most of my life, so I identified with a lot of the things some of these characters did and said.
My Detailed Review: This will be posted in a couple of weeks.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

4. A Book From Amazon's "Most Popular Authors" List (And The Author Must Be New To Me): The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad (371 pages) 
Bonus Round Worth: 25 pts + 5 pts (chosen by another challenge participant)
Date Completed: 04/30/2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
My Quick Review: I really enjoy crime thrillers, and this was no exception. I loved that the story immediately grabbed me, and I really liked the main character, Frank Rath. I was happy to see that the author will be releasing a second book featuring Rath because the cliffhanger at the end killed me!
My Detailed Review: This will be posted in a couple of weeks.
For More Information: Check it out on Goodreads.

I'd say this book challenge was mostly successful. There were a few duds, but I really liked the majority of the books I chose.

As for point totals, I achieved the maximum 200 points for completing the first round and earned an additional 75 points for the bonus round. I'm happy with these results.

I'll be spending the month of May reading whatever I feel like and then returning to the wonderful world of book challenges in June. Megan announces her categories for the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Reading Challenge on May 15th (the actual challenge begins June 1st), Erin and Dani are co-hosting a Read My Books Challenge to encourage participants to read the books they currently own but haven't yet read during the month of June, and Erin just announced that she'll also be sharing her categories for the next installment of Book Challenge by Erin on June 1st (the actual challenge begins July 1st).

Yes, that's a lot of overlap, but I'm hoping some of the books I currently own can work for categories in the next Semi-Charmed challenge. And if that doesn't work out, no big deal. I'll just have to read a few more books!

I've discovered that I have a lot of fun with these book challenges. I'm reading more than I ever have in the past, I'm checking out books I may never have otherwise, and I'm getting some great recommendations along the way. Thanks to all the book loving bloggers who host these awesome challenges!