The Better Liar, by Tanen Jones: Book Review📚

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4.5/5

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

Description

Leslie Flores is a woman like many others living in a nice suburban neighborhood, with her husband and one year-old little boy. She has spent the past year working, taking care of her family and caring for her dying father. Her sister, Robin, has long since exited the family. But, upon her father’s passing, she learns that her inheritance is dependent on finding and reuniting with her lost sister. Leslie has to find Robin to get the money she desperately needs to secure her future, but when she tracks down Robin, it’s too late. Robin is dead from a heroin overdose. No one has seen Robin for 10 years, so when Leslie has a random encounter with a young woman, with a strong resemblance to her lost sister, she strikes a bargain with this stranger. Pretend to be Robin for a week and receive half the money, it’s that easy.

It doesn’t take long for both women to realize that that other is not what they seem. Each has secrets that will alter the future, and the past.

 

The Better Liar is the debut novel from Tanen Jones, and I was shocked when I realized this fact. Jones is masterful in her ability to draw the reader into the character’s stories.  I actually felt like I was in the room with these women, could smell the smoke from the cigarettes, and could not put the book down. Jones writes as if this was her fiftieth novel, not her first! I was genuinely surprised by the ending, and I love it when an author can do that😊

I highly recommend The Better Liar, by Tanen Jones

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: September, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Cheese Bread

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Well, this is different! I usually do not post my baking challenge experience until the last day of the month 😂 But this September is a little special. We are leaving soon for Greece 🇬🇷 ! We won’t be back until the first week in October, so I had to be a little faster with my baking this month!

Fortunately, this was a bread challenge, and aligned well with our family, the cooler weather and the Seahawks home opener🏈

Sally’s version of this homemade cheese bread is extra soft, as it is an enriched dough, made with buttermilk, egg and butter (and lots of cheese🧀).

The first step was to mix warm buttermilk, warm water, sugar and instant yeast.

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This was left for 5 minutes to activate the instant yeast, then 1 cup of bread flour was added, along with the butter, egg and salt. Sally used garlic powder in her recipe but I did not since I was paring this with chicken chili for dinner 😋

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The rest of the bread flour went into the mixing bowl, which was fitted with a dough hook.

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I let the mixer do the work of kneading the dough. I do have to say that this was a wonderful bread dough to work with😊 It was soft and pliable and came together easily!

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I formed it into a ball and placed it in a greased bowl so it could prove. It needed to double in size, which took almost two hours in my cool, Fall kitchen.

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Before proving

 

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Tucked in for the 2 hour rest

The dough was punched down, and rolled into a 9 X 15 inch rectangle

And this is where the cheese come into play 🧀 2 cups total! I chose to use sharp, white cheddar and smoked cheddar (1 cup each).

 

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The cheese was pressed into the rectangle

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This was where the processes gets messy! Starting with the long side, the dough is rolled into a log

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If you have ever made a babka loaf, then you are familiar with this part. I have blogged about this before here. The log is cut, longitudinally and then wrapped around itself.

I needed both my hands for this, so I was not able to take my own pics. But, fortunately Sally had some great shots of this process!

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From Sally’s Baking Addiction Site

Here is how mine looked

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The loaf was placed into a greased 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and left to prove for a second time.

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The loaf was brushed with melted butter and chopped parsley.

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And into a 350F oven for 50 minutes

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Very easy! And, more importantly, delicious 😍

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And it went great with the chicken chili that night!

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Another excellent Sally recipe 👩🏻‍🍳

Sally’s Baking Addiction: August, 2019 Challenge: Lemon🍋 and Blueberry Vertical Cake👩🏻‍🍳

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This August Sally presented us with a rather unique challenge. A vertical cake, where the layers are standing on end, instead of horizontal.  I had never heard of such a thing, much less attempted such a creation.

This challenge was more about the process than the end product, which is great because my cake was not one of my best looking 😂

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See what I mean?

But let me tell you how to make it, and then you can fix my mistakes!!

Ultimately, this is a roll cake. I have blogged about these before here, and I am forturnate in that I am comfortable making this type of sponge cake (it did make this an easier challenge for me).

The first thing was to make sure this cake will come out of the pan! A full sheet pan needs to be greased, parchment paper added, greased again and finally, a layer of flour was sifted over everything.

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The next critical step was to make sure there was plenty of volume in the eggs (which is the only leveling in this cake).

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The eggs were whipped until light and voluminous.

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Sugar, oil and vanilla were mixed in

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Then the flour, salt and baking powder was sifted over the mixture and, gently folded in, to maintain the air in the batter.

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The batter was added to the pan, spread out and the air bubbles tapped out by gently banging the pan on the counter.

It is important to have the next step prepared before the cake is done baking. The cake bakes for ~ 12 minutes in a 350 F oven. It must be turned out onto a towel or parchment paper that has been generously dusted with confection sugar.

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The warm cake was turned out onto the dusted surface and immediately rolled up to cool

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The second element that had to be made in advance, so it had time to cool completely, was the blueberry sauce.

This is straight forward in that the blueberries, sugar, and lemon are cooked for a few minutes, then a cornstarch slurry was added to thicken the sauce

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This, along with the rolled cake, are left in the fridge to set up overnight

The next day, both were left out on the counter to come to room temp, while the whipped cream was made. 1 and 1/2 cup of heavy cream was whipped with some sugar and vanilla. Then the  blueberry sauce was gently folded in

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I didn’t want the filling to be completely mixed together, so I left it swirled

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The sheet cake had to be unrolled and cut into three equallish pieces!

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The blueberry whipped cream was spread over the slices

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And now it is time to get this cake vertical! The first strip is rolled and aligned with the bottom of the next strip, and the rolling continues. Of course Sally has a great video showing how to do this!

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After the last strip was lined up and all three strips were connected, the cake is set on end

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And placed on a stand, which has to be refrigerated to set before it can be frosted

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The view from the top

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You can see that this is not perfectly round, to say the least,😂

The final step is to make the cream cheese frosting 😋

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I struggled to get this to be smooth, when I frosted it. I colored some of the frosting yellow, since the frosting and cake had lemon in them, and piled some blueberries on top

Oh well! It tasted much better than it looked!

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And yes, the layers were vertical!!

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The best part of this was the cake! I really liked how easy it was to mix and bake. It rolled beautifully and had a delicious lemon flavor. The frosting was tasty too😍 I was less in love with the filling but that may be due to the fact that I am not a whipped cream lover😉

 

I am hoping to get the September challenge done in the first half of the month, as we will be traveling the second half and into October💕

 

Jay Has Done It Again!!Book Cover Reveal📚

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Jay has written the fifth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries Series!! I can’t wait to get mine😍

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival. Despite a former occupant’s fervent warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic known for her explosive predictions, to communicate with the apparition. Construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing. Could it be Prudence, Judge Hiram Grey’s first wife, who disappeared during a fiery Vietnam War protest that destroyed parts of the campus? While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident at the Fall Festival leaves Hiram in a coma and another dead body to investigate. Kellan’s research digs up a tale of horror and pain about the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family, forcing April to accelerate her plan to capture the elusive killer and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.

Excerpt From the Book:

Hunkering behind a weathered, illegible headstone in Wellington Cemetery’s oldest and scariest graveyard, I remained silent and stationary amidst a slew of exhumed corpses. Though surrounded by slender, tall white pines, a gnarly and knotty willow tree’s sweeping canopy of dying branches furtively brushed my neck. After an onslaught of howling winds furiously whipped my quivering skin, I peered over the loosened tomb marker and gawked at the mounds of freshly flung dirt. Why had a ruthless monster dug up so many coffins near the Grey mausoleum?

Skulking two rows away, the determined villain’s soulless eyes glowed like burning coal. The chilling tone of St. Mary’s somber church bells blasted—midnight’s fortuitous arrival. Its ominous beckoning prompted my unsteady feet to falter, crunching a pile of decaying leaves and foolishly revealing my secret location. Suddenly enshrouded in fog and hovering near the nameless gravestone, the rogue’s flowing black and gray robes resembled billowing smoke from an overworked chimney. “I hear you breathing, Ayrwick. Come out, come out wherever you are. I’m not finished with this game.”

“I don’t know who you are, but your obsession with me has spiraled out of control.” As an aloof moon cast an eerie luminosity, I cursed my new modern, sporty aviator eyeglasses for clouding over. Apparition or figment of an overwrought imagination, I couldn’t be certain; nor did I care at that moment. “You can’t be real. My mind is playing tricks on me.”

The ethereal bogeyman glided inches above the churchyard’s hallowed ground. The soles of its feet would vaporize upon stepping in the sacred dirt of the meandering pathways. “Are you ready to die?” the menacing, shrill voice taunted while hunting and cornering me in the darkness of my desolate hiding spot—the cold, melancholy resonance frightening all the bats, owls, and other nightlife creatures into hurried seclusion. The masked phantom narrowed a sinister gaze and brandished a mammoth-sized, razor-sharp scythe that cut swiftly through the crisp air and aimed with precision for my neck

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Pre Order your copy today!!!

Release Date: October 1st, 2019

5th in Braxton Campus Mysteries

Pre-Sale Link: http://bit.ly/HHGhost

Meet the Author

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Author Bio

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 900 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, there is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

More titles from Jay!! I have read ALL of Jay’s novels, and recommend them, whole heartedly💕

List of Books

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)

Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)

Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)

Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)

Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)

 

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Next Chapter: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney?rq=cudney

Social Media Links

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Finding My Vertical Limit on Forbidden Peak 🏔

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Last week I set off on another adventure with my son Ryan. He calls these “mom and Ryan adventures.” We have had several of these in the past, not all of them have been, what you might call routine😂 We have had some, let’s go with interesting, escapades.

This one was pretty straightforward. We would drive 3 and 1/2 hours north to a town called Marblemount, where we would obtain a backcountry camping permit. Then hike 4 miles (with 3,000 ft+ elevation gain) to the base of the glacier and make camp. The next day we would hike up the glacier, climb Forbidden Peak (which is a traverse across the top ridge at 8,816 ft) tag the summit, then reverse the climb, rappelling back onto the glacier, hike down back to camp, break down the camp and hike the 4 miles back out.

Simple, right 😳

It all started out as planned. We made it to the ranger station at Marblemount by 6am and obtained the last permit! We made our way to the parking lot and set out on the hike.

The thing about this type of hiking is that you need to carry EVERYTHING with you! That means it’s all on your back, and I had to borrow a pack that, of course, did not fit me quite right. But, that was ok, I can handle a 4 mile hike. On the way up we were treated to some pretty views

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We had several river crossings to complete to get to the campgrounds. Ryan took a few videos of me (slowly) making my way across.

 

Ryan took a moment to point out our climb! He pointed out this ridge as “Forbidden Peak”

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Our route would be to ascend up the gully on the left, then traverse over to the summit under the arrow on the right.

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Ok, so I am fine with that!! It looks fun😍 and we keep hiking. Until Ryan, who is quite far ahead of me, suddenly stops. I figure he is waiting for me, but when I catch up to him, he doesn’t advance. I say “what’s wrong” to which he replies “bear”

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Huh, this is new! We have never run into a bear on our adventures. In fact, I was really hoping to see some mountain goats, this was pretty cool! He wasn’t too interested in us (fortunately!)

Our path went up and around, away from the big critter, so we just kept on going!

We made our way to the campsite, which had gorgeous views! And this creek was our water source.

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We pitched the tent, next to another two climbers. It didnt take too much longer before our buddy, the black bear, wandered into our camp 😂

You can see him behind our green tent.

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The bear crossed between our fellow camper/climber and the other man, who was next to Ryan and myself.

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I took a video of him as he went on his way!

 

With the bear exiting and the excitement abated, Ryan immediately took a nap!

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And I had a cup of instant coffee!

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And went for a look around as Ryan brilliantly snoozed. Looking back I wish I had tried harder to get some sleep, not really knowing how taxing the next day would be! But, instead I went for a walk around.

Check out the composting toilet in the lower corner of this pic. Not much privacy or comfort, but what a view!!

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I got a closer look at the gully we would be approaching early the next morning.

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I had an unflavored snow cone from this snow pack 😋

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When I got back, we ate dinner, watched Meru on Ryan’s phone, and went to sleep. Well, Ryan slept!

The alarm went off at 4:30am, a proper alpine start for our long day. We got up, ate and geared up for the hike and climb. One thing that is significant to this story is that I have never used crampons or climbed a glacier before. This is not a huge glacier but it is very steep! This also meant that we would spend the entire day, hiking and climbing, in 3/4 shank snow boots (not climbing shoes and this was very new to me!!)

The sun began rising as we made our way to the glacier

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Getting up the glacier with crampons and the ice ax, went slowly but overall, not too bad

We were getting closer to the actual rock!!!

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Finally, it was time to start climbing! 🌟

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The next few hours saw Ryan and I simul climbing the route. He did stop a few times to belay me or place some pro, just in case. But overall we moved pretty efficiently!

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We stored our snow gear here for the return trip

 

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Summit selfie and video. It only took 6 hours to hit the summit

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Now, to get down 😲 This is where I struggled!

Check out Ryan working the boulder problem on the turn around

 

Yes, I did this too, but not as gracefully! We had a series of short rope sections as well as several rappels, which were fine with me. It was when we rapped onto the very steep glacier where my world began to disintegrate!!

We landed on the glacier at 3pm, just when the sun had been on it for most of the afternoon, so the snow was too soft for crampons and Ryan showed me how to do a self arrest. This is when you are sliding down the glacier and need to use your ice ax to stop your fall.

Sure enough, I slipped and went hurtling down the steepest section of the glacier. I twisted and dug in my ax but didn’t stop for about 35-40 feet 😳 Ryan was just setting up his save of me, when I finally stopped myself. It was terrifying for me, and of course it happened again, but Ryan grabbed my pack when I went flying by him!

I was going so slow! Trying to kick in my steps so that it wouldn’t happen again! So it took a long time to get back to camp. Once there, we still had to eat something, pack up the camp (back onto our backs) and start the 4 mile hike out!

We started that hike at 7PM, and we really wanted to get across those river crossings before dark. Of course I was getting slower as it grew darker so we didn’t make it to the car until 11PM, and I was shot! EVERYTHING hurt!

We were both exhausted, Ryan slept some while I started the 3 and 1/2 hour drive home. We stopped at a Denny’s around 1am, I needed coffee to stay awake and we both needed some food.

We got to bed around 3am, a full 22 hour day!!😩 talk about exhausted! My feet were thrashed, and it would take a week before I could even put some of my shoes on!

So, did I enjoy this climb? Yes! The climb, not the glacier😤 Even the hiking would have been fine, if we had done this as a three day trip, instead of two.

Tomorrow, I leave for a climbing trip, just climbing!!! No glaciers in site!🗻

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction: July, 2019 Challenge: No-Bake Cheesecake Jars👩🏻‍🍳

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Boy, did I get lucky this month! 😲 Sally set a really easy and fast challenge for July, which I appreciated! I had a lot going on for the month of July, so a quick, No-bake Cheesecake dessert was perfect timing😊

Three layers, all simple and tasty. First was the two ingredient graham cracker crust.

1 cup (about 8 graham crackers) were crushed in a food processor until crumbs formed, then 2 tablespoons of melted butter were drizzled in until a sandy mix formed.

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Sally used mason jars, but I chose to use some mini dessert cups. These were filled with the crust and set aside until the filling was ready.

 

The filling is just as simple. 1 cup of cold, heavy cream was whipped into stiff peaks and set aside.

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Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, 8 oz. of cream cheese, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt (Sally used sour cream), 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla were mixed until smooth.

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Then the whipped cream was gently folded into the cream cheese mixture.

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This was spooned over the crust filled cups.

I put these into the fridge to set while I made the toppings. I couldn’t decide between chocolate, strawberry or blueberry-so I made all three 😂

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All three of these sauce recipes are from Sally’s site and are super easy to make as well. And, bonus! They are all great over yogurt or ice cream 😋

All that was left was to add the toppings

Chocolate 🍫

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Strawberry 🍓

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Blueberry and lemon 🍋

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These were delicious!

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Next time I will add more of the crust!

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I have a very busy August as well, so I hope I can keep up with Sally❤️

Sally’s Baking Addiction: June, 2019 Challenge: Angel Food Cake😇

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Yum, Angel food cake 🍰! This is one of my favorites😋

I admit that I have made many angel food cakes in the past. In fact, this time last year, I was working on a gluten free version for a yoga retreat that I was catering. Still, I was excited to bake this one for the June challenge

If you haven’t tried this yet, I definitely encourage you to give Sally’s version a go!. She has a helpful video as well. There are only 6 ingredients needed for this creation.

All the leavening for this cake will come from the whipped egg whites, so you need to start by separating 12 eggs

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It’s very important that no yolk get into the whites, or they will not whip up properly

Set the egg whites aside to come to room temperature, as cold egg whites will not achieve the proper volume for this cake.

 

This cake is exceptionally light, so regular granulated sugar is too heavy for the batter. I used to just buy super fine sugar at the grocery store, but couldn’t find any😳 Sally has that covered however, as she recommends grinding granulated sugar in a food processor. So, I placed 1 and 3/4 cups of granulated sugar in my processor and let it run until the sugar was a fine consistency.

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Check out the sugar “smoke” coming out of the machine 😂

1 cup of the (now) fine sugar was removed and set aside, while 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of cake flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt was added to the remaining sugar, and pulsed to combine

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This is now the dry ingredients that will be added to the whipped egg whites

Now it’s time to beat the egg whites. But, before I added the whites to the mixing bowl, I used a trick that we were taught in culinary school. Egg whites are extremely sensitive to fat, meaning if ANY fat is present in the mixing bowl, they will not whip up.

This is why there can be no yolk in the whites to begin with, and why I always use an acid in my mixing bowl.

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take a cut lemon and rub it all over the interior of the mixing bowl. Do not juice the lemon and don’t worry about any pulp that is left in the bowl

 

The lemon does not flavor the whites, but the acid will help the whites to climb the bowl as the air is incorporated. Cream of Tartar is added to stabilize the whites as well.

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start the whites and cream of tartar on slow, until bubbles begin to form

Once the whites begin to take on some volume, add the reserved cup of sugar, slowly!

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Do not over whip! The whites need to be at soft peaks, not stiff! This is not a merengue.

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Continue until the whites form a gentle peak, in the above picture you can see how the whites hold shape but the tip curls over.

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Now that the whites are whipped, the vanilla is added and quickly mixed in. Next the dry ingredients need to be added, in three additions, and folded (carefully) after each addition.

Remember, you don’t want to knock all the air out of the whites!

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1/3 of the dry mix is sifted over the whites, and folded in

After all the dry ingredients are incorporated, it is time to add the batter to the UNGREASED tube pan. If you grease the sides, the batter will not rise up!!!😲

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Into a 325F oven for about 45 minutes and bake until a toothpick comes out clean

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Immediately invert the hot cake and allow it to cool for about 3 hours, this will prevent the light cake from collapsing on itself

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Run a knife around the outside of the pan and the inner tube to release the cake. I also run the knife across the bottom of the pan

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The cake is great as is! However, I like to add a lemon glaze and some fresh berries 😉

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Then we chow down!

 

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Another awesome Sally challenge😇

Next month will be Sally’s 30th Challenge!! I am excited to say that I have participated in all of them so far 🌟 Looking forward to the next one!