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Great Books for Mom

by Gini Rainey

“The Secret Wife” by Gill Paul

If you are a fan of Russian history and unrequited love, this book has your name all over it. “The Secret Wife,” is a captivating romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. It also tells the story of Dmitri’s great-granddaughter, Kitty, who inherits his secluded lake cabin in up-state New York and travels there from England to escape her cheating husband.

Moving back and forth between Dmitri and Tatiana’s romance in revolutionary Russia, and Kitty’s life as she attempts to restore the cabin and perhaps her marriage, this wonderfully researched novel gives an insight into the life and times of Russia in the early 20th century.

Using her incredible and imaginative writing skills, Paul weaves a history for truly believable characters because Tatiana and Demetri actually did exist, and perhaps Tatiana was not murdered along with the rest of the Romanov family. The historical facts were so masterfully written right up to the murders that you are left with a sense of what might have been, if…

“The Secret Wife” was beautifully and skillfully written and is one of the best historical novels around. The characters are complex and the research was diligent and gives insight to the disappearance of the Romanov family. It is definitely worthy of a read.

Rating: 5 of 5 – Copyright 2016, Avon

“If I’m Found” by Terri Blackstock

Continuing the story of Casey Cox, that began with Blackstock’s first book “If I Run,” on the run because of a murder she didn’t commit and told from three points of view, this was a real page turner for me. Escaping her hideout in Shady Grove, Alabama, and heading west, Casey takes on a new identity and stays under the radar of smarmy and on the take cops who murdered her father. Finally finding someone she can trust, Casey begins to work with Dylan Roberts (a private investigator who was hired to find her) to uncover the graft in the Shreveport, LA police force.

This book covers everything from PTSD, child abuse, bad cops, false accusations, living on the lam all the way to a hint of romance and discovering God is in your corner. With great character development, a fast pace, and a whole lot of intrigue, this was one book I could not put down.

This book came to me for review from the publisher, and when I received it I found it was the second in the Casey Cox series. I was a bit concerned that it might be difficult to pick up where the first book left off, but that was not the case. With the three main characters telling the backstory from each of their points of view, it didn’t take long for me to figure out the players and where they had come from.

And, wouldn’t you know it? There was a major non-ending to this book! Am I going to read the next one in the series? Pretty darn sure I am. I think I’m also going to connect with the first one. I recommend that if you like a fast-paced, hard-to-put-down book, this is definitely one you really need to read.

Rating: 5 of 5 – Copyright 2017, Zondervan

“A Lifetime of Coincidents” by Jack Tep

I can’t deny it.  I love being contacted by publishers/agents to review books because it provides me with an opportunity to read something outside my normal genre and helps give their writers’ efforts a boost. This book might be an exception. Written by retired Jack Tep, this book is, in theory, about how his life experiences connect to greater events in history.

Most of this book content is made up of very short, random observations by Tep that are thinly and remotely tied to events or people that he feels share a connection to him or events in his personal life. Unfortunately, his rambling efforts tend to support the theory that you can obtain connectivity to just about anything working backwards from the facts.

The irrelevancy of so many of the historical observations in relation to Mr. Teps’ experiences is evident in this short bit, “On my way home from work, I would often stop at the corner 7-Eleven and buy some candy for the kids. A short time later, Sammy Davis Jr. had a big hit, quite possibly the biggest of his long career, with ‘Candy Man.’” It left me asking “..and?” For me, it would have made a whole lot more sense if Mr. Tep would have at least have indicated that perhaps his children had called him the Candy Man or started to following the release of that song.

I’m not saying that his writings aren’t worthwhile. I’m just saying that perhaps the contents of this book would be better shared with Mr. Tep’s family and close friends. I will say, though, that I have to admire the courage of his convictions in that he took the time to write all of this down and have this little book published. It’s more than a lot of people do when they say they would like to write a book. My hat’s off to Mr. Tep.

Rating: 2 of 5 – Copyright 2016 – Xlibris


Duck! Here It Comes!

eguide ben wheeler tx

By Gini Rainey

For those of you who have been paying attention to the general theme of my cookbook collection, you may have noticed a trend towards those written by or about celebrities and or famous people.  That was one of my initial criteria when I started picking them up and mostly still is, unless I come across one that’s weird, unusual, or cheap!  Every so often I’ll go to my favorite eBay store, thriftbooks, just to see if they have anything new that fits the bill.  The cookbook I have in front of me today is one of those.  It’s “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” by Kay Robertson with Chrys Howard and was published in 2013 by Howard Books and was written by a celebrity and was cheap!  Score!

So, then I got to thinking “whatever happened to Duck Dynasty.”  I was never a viewer of the series – but I have the T-Shirt that my husband picked up for me in West Monroe, Louisiana on one of his many treks to Florida. I did watch a portion of one episode at one of my daughter’s following a family gathering.  About all I can remember about it was her family never missed an episode and were really into it.  I think that particular episode had some bird-hunting/killing/plucking/slicing/ dicing/cooking involved in it.  My other daughter and her family (who just happen to be vegans) had a hard time sitting there watching all of the carnage and eventually turned to other things to do and talk about.

The Robertson’s have pretty some strong family values and have actually built quite a financial empire over the past 30 plus years with their clothing line – Duck Commander.  Even though she spent a great deal of her time working along side her husband, Miss Kay raised a family and filled them, not only with good food, but also a stern hand nicely blended with warmth and love.

Her cookbook is filled, not only with great, rib-sticking recipes, but also with quite a few biblical references, anecdotes, and family photos.  Sharing that she uses a cast iron skillet or dutch oven to cook most of her recipes, she explains it’s because they can either be used on the stove top or in the oven and they heat up quickly. It’s also not terribly surprising that several of her recipes call for Duck Commander seasoning!

Well, if you’re lucky enough to own a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, here’s a fairly easy recipe to try out on your family.  First, heat your oven to 275° and season about 1 pound of tenderized round steak (tenderized round steak usually comes 4 to a package and I generally cut those in half to make 8 pieces) with salt and pepper and lightly sprinkle both sides with flour.  Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in your cast-iron Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet, or ovenproof casserole dish) and brown the steaks on both sides and drain off the excess oil.  Add 2 celery stalks chopped in large chunks, 1 onion chopped in large chunks, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 bell pepper chopped in large chunks, 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes and 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce to Dutch oven along with the browned steaks.  Cover and bake for 1 ½ hours and serve with steamed potatoes or egg noodles.  You may not be a Duck Commander, but this meal will have you eating like one!

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Programs Blooming at the Library

New April Programs for All Ages at the Library:

Introduction to Finch Robots & Book Signing for “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending”

The Tyler Public Library is located at 201 S. College Ave., Tyler. Most events are free. For more info call (903)593-7323 or go to


All storytimes will be in Taylor Auditorium.

  • Leeme un Cuento/Read to Me Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Mondays at 10:30am
  • Lap & Play Time (babies up to 18 months) features stories, songs, and playtime with developmental toys at 9:30am every Wednesday
  • Toddler Explore Storytime (children under age 3) is on Wednesdays at 10:30am
  • Read Aloud Crowd Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Thursdays at 10:30am

April 7th (2-4pm) – LEGO® Block Party – Children ages 3 and up, bring your imagination for an afternoon of building and playing! LEGO® and Duplo Blocks are provided.

April 14th and 28th (2-4pm) – Makerspace – This continuing STEM education for children and teens will feature April 14th: Introduction to Finch Robots and April 28th: We’re at the Maker Faire. This will be held in the Library Treehouse.

April 21st (10:30am) – Movie Matinees – Families are invited to watch a fun feature length films in the library’s auditorium. A different movie will be shown each day. Pillows, blankets, and carpet friendly snacks welcome.


Every Tuesday (4:30-5:30pm) – Teen Tuesdays – If you are in Middle School or High School you’re in! The Library will have games, activities, and fun just for teens. Earn volunteer hours completing special projects. Descriptions for weekly activities can be found at Events are:

  • April 3rd: DIY Calming Glitter Jars
  • April 10th: Intro to Coding with Finch Robots
  • April 17th: Robots cont. – Navigate a Maze
  • April 24th: Robots cont. – Draw with a Robot


April 7th (10am-12 noon) – EastSide Fiber Artists – An open gathering of all things fiber. Whether you quilt, knit, crochet, weave, spin, needle felt, etc. Bring your current or completed project and make some new friends.

April 13th (11:30am) – “Pass Along Plants” with Andie Rathbone will be presented as part of the Smith County Master Gardener Series.

April 14th (11am-12:30pm) – “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending” Book Launch & Signing – Along with selling and signing copies of her new book during her stop at Tyler, Ethington will be discussing various parenting topics and opening up for a Q&A.

ben wheeler

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Historically Speaking

by Gini Rainey

I was thinking this morning about all the incredible advances in technology that I have seen in my lifetime, and how much my dad would have loved all the gadgets we seem to have surrounded ourselves with the past 50 years. For example, just in my lifetime, I’ve seen telephones go from shared party lines with rotary dials to the incredible iPhone (virtually a computer in your hand) that not only can be used for staying connected, but takes a whole lot better photograph than my once treasured Canon SLR.

So, then I got to thinking about all the advances in the kitchen that have helped make the home maker’s life infinitely easier and how many of the old gadgets that I grew up with are now items of speculation in antique shops and vintage stores.  Sometimes just standing back and listening to people trying to determine their use is half the fun of spotting one “just like we used to have!”

Just for fun – can you name these gadgets?

So speaking of vintage, today I’m looking at The Martha Washington Cook Book and is the product of historian Marie Kimball who received special permission from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania to study the original manuscript that was used by Martha Washington for 50 years and then was passed down mother to daughter for nearly 100 years.  The original cookbook was published in 1940 by Coward-McCann, Inc., and the copy that I have was published in 2005.

With nearly 50 pages of historical background regarding the state dinners at the White House and the meals hosted at Mt. Vernon, Kimball has succeeded to paint a rather lovely picture of Martha Washington, who was the over-seer of all of meals prepared for family and dignitaries.  While we might not find many of the recipes included in the book to be something we might consider preparing, such as Marrow Pie, Lettuce Tart, Roasted Hare, or Stewed Calves’ Feet, Mrs. Kimball has fully adapted Martha’s cookbook for practical, modern use.  All the recipes have been proportioned to the current practice of a formula for serving six people, and she says that all of the recipes have been tested and taste great!

One of Martha’s recipes that jumped out at me was for apple fritters sounds absolutely yummy: Heat 1 cup ale and add ¼ cup white wine and the yolks of 4 eggs, the white of 1 egg, well beaten.  Mix together 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and ¼ teaspoon mace and combine the two mixtures.  According to Martha Washington “Your batter must be no thicker than will just hang on the apples.”  A little more or less flour may be needed.  Cut the apples into rounds – or what ever shape you please – and deep in the batter.  Drop in deep fat and fry a golden brown.  Drain on a piece of clean linen, (I bet you can use paper towels!) sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and serve.  Oh, my, nom-nom!

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