Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tune in Tuesday (5)

Tune in Tuesdays at GReads! is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads! that showcases music - her other passion in life besides books! Each week she posts a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help Ginger in spreading the love of music!

For this first week of a month-long Soundtrack Edition set of Tune in Tuesday, my choice is inspired by my husband. I didn't really know he liked this song until recently, when I tripped over it on iTunes and played it. I, myself, was not familiar with The Pixies even though I was a teenager in the 90's and that means I should have been, particularly since I liked The Breeders. (Remember the Deal sisters?) Anywho, give it a listen. IMHO and to paraphrase Doctor Who, this song is cool.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Jen!

We hope you have a FANTABULOUS day :D

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tune in Tuesday (4)

Tune in Tuesdays at GReads! is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads! that showcases music - her other passion in life besides books! Each week she posts a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help Ginger in spreading the love of music!

Since last Tuesday was all crazy-like and I couldn't find five minutes to post the videos I wanted, I'll do it today. I feel like such a ding-bat sometimes, digging through my brain trying to think of some music I'd like to share, and then it all becomes so obvious: Barenaked Ladies! The Big Bang Theory started up again last week and one of my favorite things about that show is the theme song. I remember cheering the first time I watched it, hearing one of my favorite bands at the opening.


I got to see them live in 2001 but I got so excited and lost in the music that I barely remember the concert at all :) Somebody get me a hypnotist! Anyway, here's some of my favorite songs from these fellas from Canada. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Blood Rights by Kristen Painter

Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of a comarré -- a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world...and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign.

Blood Rights by Kristen Painter is a fresh take on a genre that has been done...and done...and done. Vampires and their culture has been around for so long that so many readers (including me) is getting pretty sick of them. However, Painter's new series has me sticking with vampires a while longer.

In Blood Rights, vampires believe that they are the superior race. Their society structure is based on status determined by wealth and strength but the pinnacle of said status is truly gained by the quality of their comarré and the price in which they paid. These quality blood servants who are born in an academy of sorts and trained to be the best of the best go to live in their new master's households as a cherished member of the family. Comarré are raised without family ties, without even knowing who their parents were, so that their identity truly is supposed to be influenced by whoever purchases them. The comarré need to be fed upon - their bodies are unable to self-monitor and control the amount of blood in their veins like regular humans - and so their relationship with their masters, while usually impersonal, is a necessary one. Comarré are trained all their lives to fight vampires but they are not allowed to let anyone know so in essence, the comarre are like foxes in the vampires' henhouses. (And here the vampires think they're the biggest bad in all the land. I love the irony.) Chrysabelle is incomparable; she is considered to be the highest achievement in comarré lineage. Accomplished in everything, she is purchased by the master of the most prestigious House and has lived a satisfactory life until recently, when she decides to leave. This is where Chrysabelle's troubles begin when her master is found murdered in their home. She flees and becomes a fugitive.

Being a cursed vampire who is tormented by the guilt and voices of everyone he has killed in his long vampire life, Malkolm now spends his time searching for a way to break his curse. He refuses to drink blood straight from the source and when he sees Chrysabelle, a comarré in disguise walking around in a vampire night club, he realizes that he's in deep trouble: she's beautiful, her blood sings to him, and she's a damsel in distress. So he tries to help her and after a rather rocky introduction, they end up working together in an unsure alliance to find out who killed her master.

I really liked Blood Rights. It felt more like Malkolm's story to me than Chrysabelle's, much to my delight; in comparison, Malkolm's life has been much more interesting. So much of the plot is wrapped up in his history whereas Chrysabelle's life is really just beginning. Neither Mal nor Chrysabelle are in a position to be feeling romantic and I appreciated that the chemistry between these two is kept in check. The villain is a bit of the evil monologing-"I've got you in my clutches" type but it meshes rather well with the black humor and dark tone. All in all, I am most certainly going to be reading book two, Flesh and Blood, out on October 25th. 

Thanks to Hachette and Netgalley for letting me read this book.

Other reviews:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tune in Tuesday (3)

Tune in Tuesdays at GReads! is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads! that showcases music - her other passion in life besides books! Each week she posts a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help Ginger in spreading the love of music!

My nephew, we'll call him "J", loves Beethoven. For all you parents out there who have been told by someone or another that the Baby Einstein videos for children do more harm than good, I am here to say baloney. J is not only smart for his age (he is six) but those movies cultured a love for classical music in him which I think is just the coolest thing EVER. I know that if I'm going to have him in the car with me he's going to ask for Beethoven. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in particular. There are a few others, of course, but this one is his favorite. J's interest in Beethoven has also sparked some in me as well and I find myself appreciating more and more classical music these days. I picked this clip from Fantasia 2000 to have something to watch and while it's a bit faster-paced than I'm used to, it's still worth a listen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yes, I've Changed the Template (Again)

I like to fidget with things. My most recent favorite thing to play with is the template/background of my blog. It's been a constant source of dissatisfaction for me since I've somewhat changed the format. As it turns out, I prefer to have a book-based template. Go figure.

And so, I've gone back to my Lost in Austen background from Shabby Blogs. It's not exactly the same, though, since Blogger changed the template designer they offer. I like the look of this one so this is the way it shall stay. I promise. I may tweak it here and there but it will be minor changes so dear readers, if and when you come back, it'll be a familiar place.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Deadly Sins by Kylie Brant

An unknown assassin has appointed himself judge, jury, and executioner, brutally taking out high-level human targets citywide. It's just the kind of case that will test the resolve of a tough FBI agent like Jaid Marlowe. Especially when her new partner is Adam Raiker, Jaid's former colleague-and ex-lover.

As a life-long fan of CSI-type television shows and the like, finding a book series that satisfies that particular itch for me is a pleasure. Kylie Brant's Mindhunters fills all the requirements: brilliant minds solving heinous crimes along with enough romance to entertain but not so much that it takes the focus away from the plot.

Deadly Sins is a book that I have most certainly been looking forward to as it delves into the mystery that is Adam Raiker, former FBI agent and owner of Raiker Forensics, home of the Mindhunters. In each book, enigmatic Adam is dangled in front of the reader without divulging many (if any) of his secrets. How did he lose that eye and why does he walk with a cane? Why did he leave the FBI and start his own company? Who will be the lucky woman to catch his eye and steal his heart? And most importantly, does he wear boxers or briefs? Do tell.

In the interest of keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, though, there shall unfortunately be no real telling. However, I do have some opinions to share. For instance, I liked Deadly Sins and was quickly wrapped up in the story. Deadly Sins wraps up a multi-book arc involving the aftermath caused by the man who led Adam to leave the FBI and a killer who is enacting revenge against people who have wronged him using a theme from the movie "Seven." Is the killer sending them on a wild goose chase or is the mastermind behind everything seemingly beyond their reach? I was happy to see that the killer wasn't painfully obvious but if I had been using my "There are no extra characters" rule, I probably would have figured it out early on.

As for the romance part, considering the type of man that Adam Raiker is - clever, close-mouthed, and driven - I thought it wise of Brant to have a love interest reenter his life now, rather than having him meet someone new. Adam had been gravely injured and is still recovering; the only way I could see him letting someone close would be if he knew her (and was vulnerable to) when he was still whole. Jaid Marlowe is a good match for him as she has enough spine to stand up to his bullying nature and a big enough heart to not hold it against him (for long). I was relieved when the mystery of her son's father was revealed; I had hoped that Brant wouldn't go there and was pleased when it went in another direction than the obvious.

When's the next book? Hopefully, not too far away. (B)

Kylie Brant's website

Other reviews:
Errant Dreams Reviews
Smexy Books
Love to Read For Fun
Fiction Vixen Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays (2)

Tune in Tuesdays at GReads! is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads! that showcases music - her other passion in life besides books! Each week she posts a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Lets help Ginger in spreading the love of music!

Today, my selection is in honor of Freddy Mercury from Queen, one of the coolest things to come out of England. Yesterday would have been his sixty-fifth birthday. This is my favorite song by Queen and it's extra cool because David Bowie is in it too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tune in Tuesday

Tune in Tuesdays at GReads! is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger from GReads! that showcases music - her other passion in life besides books! Each week she posts a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Lets help Ginger in spreading the love of music!

I'm pretty slow on the uptake, people. I don't pay attention to what's going on unless somebody comes over and pokes me HARD. When I saw Jen at Not Now I'm Reading's picks for the last Tune In Tuesday '90s edition, I smacked myself on the forehead and then started mining through that crazy decade for music I liked. Here's what I've come up with today. You get four since it's the last one and all.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Devastated by the discovery that his wife, Helen, was murdered, Special Agent Pendergast must have retribution. But revenge is not simple. As he stalks his wife's betrayers-a chase that takes him from the wild moors of Scotland to the bustling streets of New York City and the darkest bayous of Louisiana-he is also forced to dig further into Helen's past. And he is stunned to learn that Helen may have been a collaborator in her own murder.

Peeling back the layers of deception, Pendergast realizes that the conspiracy is deeper, goes back generations, and is more monstrous than he could have ever imagined-and everything he's believed, everything he's trusted, everything he's understood . . . may be a horrific lie.

In this second of three books of Pendergast hunting down the truth of what happened to his "late" (is she or isn't she) wife, Preston and Child take a little detour from their usual Pendergast novel. Cold Vengeance is mostly Pendergast on his own, doing his thing without his usual cast of friends, not even all-purpose Proctor, though they do bring back Corrie Swanson from Still Life with Crows. (I was happy to see her again.) He goes a bit off the reservation; obsessed with finding his wife, Pendergast leaves no stone unturned and does things I, as a ravenous devourer of this series, would never expect. (He plays golf. How mundane.)

Cold Vengeance begins where Fever Dream left off and in similar fashion, leaves the reader with another cliffhanger and all sorts of dangling plot-lines to be concluded in the next book. In all honesty, it took me much longer to get through this book than other Preston and Child's novels; perhaps it's because I knew that there would be no real resolution? In any case, seeing Pendergast go off on his own, actively telling D'Agosta and Corrie to essentially butt out was weird if not understandable, even for him. Also, some of the details bothered me, like this one from page 307-308, where he is trying to flush out bad guys in a situation where stealth is key:

   Pendergast crept along the slanting wall until he was just below the level of the toe rail, where sliding glass doors opened from the sky lounge to the sky deck.
   He reached into his pocket, took out a coin, and tossed it so that it clanked against the glass doors.

My main thought when I read this passage was, You mean to tell me that Pendergast has been sneaking around a boat like Spider-man with loose change in his pockets? The man is good but not that good. Perhaps he only had the one coin? Maybe he stuck a single quarter into his pocket for just such an occasion? Not impossible for Pendergast but certainly improbable.

Overall though, I liked what happened in this book. It moved somewhat slowly in places, with disposable characters who didn't fit in the puzzle that is the main plot, but by the end, I was riveted. As is usually the case, I want the next book NOW, but at this time, I can't find any info concerning publication or even a title. Preston and Child's next book, Gideon's Corpse, will be out January 10, 2012.

Other reviews:
A Walrus Darkly
The Mystery Reader
The Speed of Write

Preston & Child website

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

AAD Recap

 (This is the only picture I took outside and it's across the street from the hotel.)

This time last week, Jen from Not Now, I'm Reading and I were on our way to Philadelphia for Authors After Dark. She flew and I drove and when we met up, we started four days of books and laughter that I won't ever forget. Jen was the picture-taker this year and so if you'd like to see what we saw on our trip, head on over to her blog for Part 1.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Picture a Day Keeps the Ennui Away

My partner-in-crime, Jane, is working on something that is taking my breath away: 365 Project. Posting a pic a day, every day this year, is giving her something to do while all the rain in Minnesota keeps her family out of the lake. Here's her pic from Sunday:

Check out her profile HERE and let her know how much your love her pictures! You know you want to.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Am Three Years Old

Folks, today is my blog's three year anniversary.


This here blog is currently a mess. I promise that I will be working on it just as soon as I figure out what I'm going to do here.

I'm not a big anniversary celebrator (or at least I don't feel like it with this one) but I suppose I should commemorate it somehow so how about I just tell you about what I made for dinner tonight? We had Panfried Steak (aka steak au poivre) and Baked Potatoes. No pictures because, well, it's steak. Who hasn't seen a picture of steak before?

Panfried Steak
from James McNair's Favorites

  • 4 tenderloin, sirloin, or other tender boneless lean beef steaks, about 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat and connective tissue
  • Freshly ground coarse black pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • About 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • About 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Quickly rinse the steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper toweling. Generously sprinkle both sides of the steaks with pepper and gently press it into the meat with your hands. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

In a saute pan or heavy skillet, sprinkle a fine layer of salt over the bottom and place over high heat. When the salt just begins to brown and the pan is almost but no quite smoking, add the steaks and cook until well browned on the bottoms, about 5 minutes for medium-rare. Turn the steaks with tongs to prevent piercing and releasing juices. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Top each steak with about 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste. Add the shallot, distributing it evenly around the steaks, and cook until the steaks are done to your preference, about 10 minutes total for medium-rare. Frequently stir the shallot in the pan drippings, adding a bit more butter and Worcestershire sauce if needed to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan.

Remove the steaks to warmed plates. (I nuke mine in the microwave for 1 minute. It really does make a difference.) Add the lemon juice to the pan, scraping the sides and bottom to loosen any browned bits and cook about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and pour over the steaks.

Tip: Who knew it's not such a good idea to sear two steaks in your brand-new not non-stick 12" skillet on Super-High heat without breaking it in first? *sigh*

For the Baked Potatoes: scrub russet potatoes well until clean, pierce with fork multiple times, and bake @ 350 degrees for 1-1.5 hours. They're done when they give when you squeeze them gently.

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

Every crime scene tells a story. Some keep you awake at night. Others haunt your dreams. The grisly display homicide cop Jane Rizzoli finds in Boston's Chinatown will do both.

In the murky shadows of an alley lies a female's severed hand. On the tenement rooftop above is the corpse belonging to that hand, a red-haired woman dressed all in black, her head nearly severed. Two strands of silver hair -- not human -- cling to her body. They are Rizzoli's only clues, but they're enough for her and medical examiner Maura Isles to make the startling discovery: that this violent death had a chilling prequel.

Nineteen years earlier, a horrifying murder-suicide in a Chinatown restaurant left five people dead. But one woman connected to that massacre is still alive: a mysterious martial arts master who knows a secret she dares not tell, a secret that lives and breathes in the shadows of Chinatown. A secret that may not even be human. Now she's the target of someone, or something, deeply and relentlessly evil.

Cracking a crime resonating with bone-chilling echoes of an ancient Chinese legend, Rizzoli and Isles must outwit an unseen enemy with centuries of cunning -- and a swift, avenging blade. (From the dust jacket.)
Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series is pretty new to me. I downloaded The Surgeon onto my nook during the hiatus and soon got the attention of my local librarian after checking out the rest. Why it took me so long to discover that is a mystery as I read Gravity several years ago after picking it up at a library book sale and liked it well enough to not deter me from ever reading her again. Starting with The Surgeon, this has been a consistently well-written series and I have enjoyed reading each one. The Silent Girl fits into the world of Jane Rizzoli just as well as the others and it delves into the connections between Boston's Chinatown, missing teenage girls and a tragedy that still haunts the city.

I liked how Gerritsen used the superstitious and mysterious nature of the Chinese people and their culture to frame the whodunit in The Silent Girl. She does that well, I think, Gerritsen: using a culture or even supernatural elements to keep Rizzoli & Isles on their toes. Here, Rizzoli begins truly wondering whether or not Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is actually running around Boston, exacting vengeance while simultaneously protecting her from harm. Gerritsen adds a new recurring character, a Chinese detective named Johnny Tam, to the mix and I hope he's here to stay. He's a good reminder to Jane of how hard she had to work to fit in to the police department.

Also, the subplot of Rizzoli's family continues to entertain me. Watching Jane cope with two parents who are trying to live their second childhoods gives a realistic touch to a fictional character. I am just waiting for Jane to knock Frankie on his butt once and for all. Maybe in the next book?

Other opinions:
Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
Night Owl Suspense

Tess Gerritsen's website

Friday, July 22, 2011


People, it is hot.

The bugs are gone.

My glasses fog up when I open the front door.

The humidity has been so consistently high that the water I set out on the front porch for the cats has not evaporated at all. (They do come inside at their leisure so it's not like I make them drink hot water all day. Please don't call the ASPCA on me.)

Most telling though is that I actually turned up the thermostat a few degrees today in a vain measure to lessen the stress placed upon our local electric company. See how responsible I am?

I've been spending the day looking through piles of recipes and gardening tips I've collected from magazines over the years and getting wrapped up in Lost in Austen on some cable channel I've never heard of before. My main refreshment today has been ice water with a packet of True Lemon (not to mention this Iced Coffee with breakfast) but one of my favorite summertime (or anytime) drinks is one I (by way of my mother) discovered at Starbucks:

Passion Iced Tea (unsweetened) with Lemonade
Makes about 3 quarts

  • Two bags of Tazo Passion Tea (the purple box, recently found at Whole Foods)
  • One can frozen Minute Maid Pink Lemonade concentrate (regular Lemonade is good too)
  • Water

Boil enough water to fill a teapot to steep the tea and steep the tea a good ten minutes. Pour into a pitcher large enough to hold 3 quarts. Add the lemonade concentrate, making sure to hold the can as close to the tea as possible if it's still mostly frozen - it'll plop and splash. Add the 4 1/3 cups of water as directed on the can. Stir. Add ice if desired (and if you have the room) but not too much as it'll dilute everything. Chill it if you can wait, pour immediately over ice if you can't, and be charmed by the sweet-tart taste and the pretty raspberry color.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cookbook Review Wrap-Up: America's Test Kitchen 2011

As you no doubt noticed, last week I petered out after three days of recipes from this cookbook. I didn't cook much dinner on Thursday (BLT sandwiches) and Friday we ate out (and had a surprisingly delicious and well-cooked meal at Outback) after seeing Harry Potter. However, I didn't want to let it go without further inspection. This is a very nice cookbook and one that has given us plenty of good things to eat.

Last week, I tried to choose recipes that covered different types of food. The Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings and Amish Potato Salad came from the "Starters & Salads" chapter; Almost Hands-Free Risotto came from the "Vegetables & Side Dishes" chapter; and Maryland Crab Cakes came from the "Seafood" chapter (shocking, I know). On Saturday, I attempted their Reduced-Fat German Chocolate Cake with rather awful results but I'll go into that later. I had plans to make Grilled Vegetable and Bread Salad (aka Panzanella) and Chicken Tacos (even though their recipe called for 3/4 cup chopped cilantro) but, as usual, overestimate my drive to cook on those days where I'm feeling less than the thing.

We have eaten Easy Cheesy Quiche for Two (using the Easy Ham and Swiss Quiche for Two variation) several delicious times; having failed to locally find a 6" pie plate, I've been doubling the recipe for a 9" pie instead AND using a different pie crust recipe since theirs is rather fussy for my liking. One of the first recipes we made was Grilled Asparagus with Garlic Butter - so yummy! The Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce, Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (the cheese did exactly what the writer claimed it wouldn't: all the cheese clumped together and stuck to my tongs) , and St. Louis Pizza (where are you supposed to find shredded American cheese?) were all just okay. Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts were good but it felt strange to bake the chicken first and then brown it.

Now, about the cake. Did you know that baking soda and baking powder are chock full of sodium? Baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate after all, with well over 1,000 mg sodium per teaspoon. That presents a problem for me since I'm now on a low-sodium diet but there are alternatives you can get and that's what I used when I made this cake:

And here's what I got:

To be more specific, size-wise:

For reference purposes, that donut is a regular glazed donut from Dunkin' Donuts. Not very impressive, eh? The cake turned out chewy and dense, even more so than a brownie, but did not have a bad flavor. The frosting was better but after it sat, I could peel it off the cake in sheets. I've been tempted to bake the cake again with regular baking soda to see if there would be a difference though there really wasn't too much cake batter to begin with.

Don't despair! I've saved my favorite recipe from this book for last and let me assure you that if I was not concerned about my salt intake, I would be making these at least once a week for sure: Crispy Roasted Potatoes. Just typing that makes my mouth water. I love french fries and roasted potatoes but any time I've tried to make oven fries I get frustrated. The fries don't become crispy and more often than not, they stick to the baking sheet, even on non-stick! This recipe solves those problems and is pretty dang easy. Just make sure you've got plenty of ketchup!

Crispy Roasted Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6 (or two very hungry people)

  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 medium), rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a Dutch oven and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and gently simmer until the exteriors of the potatoes have softened but the center offer resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, toss to combine. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons more oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to toss until the exteriors of the potato slices are coated with a starchy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Working quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the surface. Carefully transfer the potatoes to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer (skin side up if an end piece). Bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are goldne brown and crisp, 15 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes.

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula and tongs, loosen the potatoes from the pan and carefully flip each slice. Continue to roast until the second side is golden and crisp, 10 to 20 minutes longer, rotating the baking sheet as needed to ensure the potatoes brown evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

You can get it HERE from Amazon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week-Long Cookbook Review, Wednesday

I realize it's Friday and that I missed posting Wednesday's dinner review yesterday but, you see, when you take two small children to a swimming pool and chase them around for several hours, it wears you out. Even more so when you're sunburned and have stuff you have to do at home later that you can't put off any longer... Well, you get the picture.

Anyway, here's what we ate for dinner Wednesday - TWO recipes from this book:

Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings and Amish Potato Salad.

 (Sorry about the awful pictures. The lighting in my house is crap and my camera thinks I'm a dummy. It is not necessarily wrong.)

First, the wings. I (obviously) own a slow cooker but have never been a big fan. Any meat I have ever cooked in this contraption (adding liquid or no) has turned into a doorstop. Recently though, I do believe that Kelsey Nixon from Kelsey's Essentials on Cooking Channel set the foundation for some slow-cooker cookin' when I saw this show for a few weeks ago with her Roast Turkey Dip with Melted Gruyere sandwich recipe. I was still a bit skeptical though.

Well, worry no more. These wings were Awesome! (They deserve a capital A.) They are simple to make and the sauce/glaze is absolutely delicious. The Man decreed that when/if we have our annual Football Draft Day party next year, these will be the main course. (We usually eat ribs.) These wings are spicy and sweet with a bit of heat - much like the sauce in General Tso's Chicken. The directions call for the wings to be cooked for three to four hours on low. Mine cooked for 3.5 hours and were almost falling apart; I halved the amount of wings made here since there are only the two of us but kept the amounts for the sauce the same so I didn't make any mistakes.

Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 4 lbs. chicken wings (I bought wingettes), halved at joint and wing tips removed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

1. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar, 1 tbsp of the soy sauce, the ginger, garlic, and 1/4 tsp of the cayenne in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Add the wings and toss until combined.

2. Cover and cook on low until the fat renders and the chicken is tender, 3 to 4 hours. Using a slotted spoon, remove the wings from the slow cooker and transfer to a large bowl (discard the liquid in the slow cooker.) Let the wings cool for 20 minutes (or cool briefly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours).

3. Adjust an oven rack to be 10 to 12 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. (Note: my broiler is wimpy and I found that I kept having to move the wings closer and closer as I broiled them. You may want to start at the next to the top rack setting in your oven to get the proper results.) Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Whisk the water, tomato paste, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 3 tbsp soy sauce, and remaining 1/4 tsp cayenne in a bowl. Add half the sauce to the bowl with the cooked wings and toss gently to coat. Arrange the wings, skin side up, on the prepared rack. Broil until the wings are lightly charred and crisp around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the wings, brush with the remaining sauce, and continue to broil until well caramelized, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Now, about the Amish Potato Salad. I have another version of potato salad in my repertoire that I am partial to. It's pretty standard with hard boiled eggs, celery, and some onion action mixed in amongst the taters. Mayo, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar make the dressing. I was curious to see if the Amish could impress me. 

I wasn't. But I don't think it's the salad's fault.

Having to cut out quite a bit of salt out of my diet has had more impacts than just decreasing the salty aspect of food. Salt is crucial for balance; sweet and sour need salt to balance them out and keep them under control. I did add some salt to this dish but it wasn't enough to keep the sweetness of the 1/4 cup of sugar and the sour of the 1/3 cup of vinegar from being overpowering to me. The Man added some salt to his plate and said that it helped tremendously. I guess this means that you'll have to take my opinion here with a grain of salt. (So bad, I know, but I couldn't resist.)

Amish Potato Salad
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 to 8 medium), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine (I added more because I like the crunch)
  • Pepper

1. Bring the potatoes, 1 tbsp salt, and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch to boil in a large pot over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.

2. While the potatoes simmer, microwave the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Process the vinegar mixture, mustard, 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (reserve the white), the celery seed, and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Drain the potatoes, then spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tbsp of the dressing over the hot potatoes and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

4. Whisk the sour cream into the remaining dressing. Add the remaining eggs and egg white and, using a potato masher, mash until only small pieces remain. Add the celery and cooled potatoes and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (The salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week-Long Cookbook Review, Tuesday

This crab cake looks like a crabby patty. Can you tell I was watching Spongebob earlier today?

I live in Maryland. I have lived in Maryland all of my life except for those two years we won't speak of. We Marylanders take our crab cakes pretty seriously. In my family, if we want to go out for a good crab cake, we go HERE. These crab cakes are known as being among the best in the region. Shaped like a baseball, they contain only a minimal amount of anything BUT crab; they use only enough filler to hold it together. That was my comparison for America's Test Kitchen's "Maryland Crab Cakes." Will they measure up? Hmmm.

Or should I say Mmmmmmm. I really enjoyed Tuesday's dinner: Crab Cakes and Sauteed Corn. These crab cakes were pretty darn delicious and were also easy to make. The ingredient list was simplistic but logical; see the recipe for yourself below.

Maryland Crab Cakes

(adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • 1/2 cup saltine crumbs (14 saltines get blitzed in the food processor)
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T mayo
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 T Dijon
  • 2 t Frank's Hot Sauce
  • 1 t Old Bay seasoning

1. Blot the crabmeat with paper towels to get rid of excess moisture. Place in a bowl along with half the saltine crumbs and all other ingredients, combining gently, making sure everything is evenly distributed.

2. Portion mixture into four evenly-sized patties and gently dredge in remaining cracker crumbs. Put all four patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate (they say up to 8 hrs) for at least one hour or until ready to cook.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet (my newest toy) over med-low heat and add 2 T butter and enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan (but don't get crazy - we don't want things to be greasy later). Cook until golden brown on both sides and thoroughly cooked, 15 minutes. (Here, ATK wants you to cook them under the broiler 12-15 minutes, with only one side of the crab cakes coated in crumbs. That side should be on the bottom, placing the cakes in a buttered 8x8 section of a rimmed baking sheet. My broiler is wimpy and therefore I decided to forgo the risk of undercooked crab and the subsequent vomiting. Besides, I like fried stuff better anyway.) Serve with lemon wedges. (That would have been a nice touch.)

My only complaint could be that I would reduce the amount of hot sauce to 1 tsp. I like the heat of the two teaspoons but I think that if I was making these to serve to, say, my parents, they wouldn't appreciate the heat as much. Otherwise, all I can say is that I will definitely be making these again.

Up Next - Slow-Cooker Sticky Wings AND Amish Potato Salad

Week-Long Cookbook Review, Monday

To start off this new direction I'm heading here, I've begun a week of cooking from one particular cookbook:

I've had this book for a few months now. When I first learned about America's Test Kitchen's existence - while reading Kelly Eddington's blog - it was pretty much love at first sight. With the exception of that whole immersion blender debacle and their obnoxious need to make you pay for absolutely everything on their websites (which is why I've not added them to my links list), they're pretty much spot-on with everything they publish. I've since subscribed to Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated, a sure thing after I ordered this book from amazon. I knew I wanted to review it when I got going again and here we are.

The plan is to make one recipe from this book per day. Monday was risotto. "Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs" to be specific. What's not to love about risotto? It is creamy, cheesy, starchy elegance. It's also a pain in the butt to cook - who wants to stir something you're planning to eat as a side dish for thirty minutes straight? America's Test Kitchen has come up with a way to cook risotto that allows you to walk away from it for almost twenty of those thirty minutes and I wanted to see if it made authentic-tasting risotto.

(You get this pic because, as usual, I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. The risotto is simmering in the cast iron dutch oven.)

You know what? It pretty much does. This recipe contains all the classic ingredients for risotto: arborio rice, white wine, onions, garlic, chicken broth, butter, and parmesan cheese. It was much easier to cook, allowing me to spend time on the stuffed chicken we ate alongside.

Low sodium note: America's Test Kitchen called for 3/4 tsp salt plus more to taste. I added a decent-sized pinch of this grey salt, which has about half the regular amount of sodium present in regular table salt (or kosher salt), and I didn't miss the difference what with the chicken broth and parmesan:

I will say this about the risotto, it was pretty yummy (I left out the herbs even though they are amongst the counter mess) and the less work the better, but there was something missing. Maybe it was just my imagination, but this dish felt, or tasted, easier than it should have to be true risotto. Most of the cooking required the lid. 'Nuff said.

Up next - Maryland Crab Cakes

Friday, July 8, 2011

The 2.0 Version (Or, I'm Back! Now, With Food!)

Hello. I would like to reintroduce myself.

My name is Jen and I have been a book addict for most of my life. Being a bookworm totally suits me and my books have always been a major part of my existence ever since my dad taught me to read when I was three. I am married to a wonderful man who loves football, Batman, and me (but not necessarily in that order).

I am now thirty-three and have been writing book reviews on this blog for almost three years. However, as much as I love my books, I've recently become so very tired of the subject. I haven't even been reading that much.

Burnout stinks, baby.

There's a topic that's more interesting to me lately: FOOD. In the past year, I've become more and more infatuated with cooking; my kitchen feels stuffed to its gills with gadgets, my cupboards are bursting, and the little shelf that used to hold all my cookbooks is now inadequate. I'm growing tomatoes and bell peppers in five gallon buckets in my backyard, herbs on my deck. I'm also going organic which, let me tell you, is not easy in my neck o' the woods. The closest Whole Foods is. . .105 miles away! I had my first Whole Foods experience last week and Oh. My. God. I bought carrots with their "plants" (as my nephew would say) still attached and when my husband got home that day, I proudly showed them to him with a big, goofy grin on my face. I kinda wanted to fight a woman at my local organic produce stand the other day for the last quart of heirloom tomatoes.

Here's the hitch. I have been having recurring ear problems. The diagnosis? Meniere's Disease. My case isn't super-disruptive but it can be annoying as hell. Sometimes, it feels like the worst part is the low-sodium diet I've had to maintain. I'm a big fan of kosher salt and kept a salt pig on my counter. Sodium is in everything and salt makes anything taste better. Check out the food labels on some of your most basic convenience foods - mayo, soy sauce, ketchup, bread crumbs, etc. - and you'll see how difficult it can be to stay below 2000mg of sodium per day. So, I'm now making everything from scratch. Now, I know it's a good thing because most of the stuff I just mentioned is most likely full of chemicals so it'll last longer on the shelf but it's such an inconvenience! On the other hand, so is losing my hearing so I'll do what I have to and that's what I plan to talk about here. Other stuff too, definitely including books, but I'm shifting the focus. Also, please bear with me in this. With the Meniere's, I have days where I'm a complete airhead, can't remember anything, and I have no (or often the wrong) words. (Yes, I've had an MRI on my head.) Any pics I post are bound to be totally amateurish too. Just try not to laugh too too hard.

I'm trying out this background with the tomatoes what with all my tomato fever I've got right now and I hope it's not too hard to read. There was a background that looked like salt but I thought that might be too cute. As it is with moving, things on the blog will be shifting around until they find their proper homes. Comments and suggestions are always welcome so please don't be shy. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - "helping of others" is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she'd like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will's "friend" or "more" status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona's most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She's only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She's the first ghost-talker Will's ever met-aside from his father-and she may hold answers to Will's troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the "clearly not" column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea.

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.

Will Killian and Alona Dare have a complicated relationship. He's alive and she's dead; she helps him manage all the other dead folks who want his help; and they're heading down a tricky road with their are we or aren't we romance. Alona has been dead for two months but hasn't changed much since then - she's still selfish and self-centered - and now things are taking a turn for the worse: her family is moving on without her and Will is starting to have doubts about her and their "purpose". When Will meets Mina, a girl who can also see (and catch) ghosts like Alona, things get even more complicated. Which will Will choose, to work for the living or the dead and will Alona still be there to help him?

Queen of the Dead is just as good (and maybe better) than The Ghost and the Goth. Kade's style and tone is pitch perfect for this YA treat of a book. There are some heavy topics addressed in QofD like mortality and morality; Will tries to figure out who is doing the right thing: is it their (his and Alona's) mission to help other ghosts resolve their issues so they can move on to who knows what or is it Mina's Order, a group of fanatical ghost-talkers who work to protect humans using methods that "kill" ghosts in ways that make him shudder when he considers what they would do to Alona. Will also learns about his father's past and abilities, something he has been desperate to know. However, Alona gets into some serious (and rather heinous) trouble on her part, leaving Will to reconcile what she's done and how he feels about her. I appreciated that there was some emotional growth for Alona here; being the center of her universe and demanding that everyone conform to her opinions and ideas was a bit trying. Even if you take into account the fact that she's really only a teenager who is a product of her environment, her attitude and outlook was pretty obnoxious. With Will on the other end of that personality spectrum, he and Alona balance each other very well and I can't wait to see what happens next. And even though it was 2 am and I couldn't for fear of waking the whole house, Queen of the Dead finished with an ending that made me want to jump up and yell "All right!"

Queen of the Dead will be released on May 31, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Because Mondays Suck

This is not book-related so it totally doesn't count what with the hiatus and all but! I was talking to my mother the other day and have discovered that my parents have lost their marbles: they want to get some peacocks. Two peacocks to be precise, to be gorgeous and perpetually pissed-off so that they might wander around my folks' yard and show off their beautiful feathers. 'Kay. My husband, having lived next door to people who had peacocks when he was younger, also thinks that they are out of their ever-loving minds. (So it's not just me.)

So I bring to you this video that we found on youtube. There are plenty on there that have peacocks screaming their heads off (one is called "The Most Annoying Sound in the World") but this one I LOVED. This cat is priceless and a week later, I'm still watching him so I can see the expression on his furry face once more. And you can watch it at work! (There's very little audio.) Here you go...


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

My dad taught me to read when I was three. My kindergarten teacher was thrilled with me; one less rugrat to teach their ABC's to was probably a bit of a relief. Now, I am thirty-three and after blogging for three years, have lately become burned out on the subject of books. Sitting down at this computer, waiting for the words to come so I can write reviews, has become difficult to say the least.

It has taken me thirty years of loving books to get where I am today. But finding the desire to want to write reviews is hard for me these days. And when I get up in the morning and open the browser on my laptop, you want to know the first websites I've been checking out lately? Food bloggers.

That's right. FOOD bloggers, not BOOK bloggers. I feel guilty, like I'm cheating on the one I love (not my husband, of course). I've been getting more pleasure out of reading foodie websites, food bloggers, and cookbooks than I have book sites. *gasp*

Some people would ask me why I can't do both? Here's why: I'm not a food blogger. I make a mess when I cook and I can't imagine trying to take pictures of the process of trying to make a meal as I am too anal and a bit of a perfectionist and would obsess over the pictures. And since there are some awesome food blogs out there with bloggers who take gorgeous pictures that make their food look like something out of four-star restaurants, I won't even go there. So, I'm going on hiatus. I need a break, friends, before I end up burned-out completely. I'll be back when I'm ready.

I'm still reading, though. I didn't name this blog "My Book Addiction" for nothing, you know.

Today, though, on this gloriously rainy day (thank God, the pollen here has been making me crazy), I'll be making Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread from Joy the Baker. And finishing the laundry. Well, nothing's perfect.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spotlight: P. B. Ryan's Nell Sweeney series

Recently in one of our frequent emails, Jane asked me, "BTW, who is P. B. Ryan?" Indeed.

P. B. Ryan is Patricia Ryan, author of historical romances and a series of mysteries set in Boston in the late nineteenth century. It is this six-book series about an Irish governess named Nell Sweeney that I recently read and LOVED. Unfortunately, the books are out of print but have recently been released as inexpensive ebooks. Last week, I read the six of them back-to-back, downloading them as I went onto my nook.

It's really too bad that these are out of print because I think the covers are absolutely charming. As I mentioned, Nell Sweeney is an Irish governess living in Irish-hating Boston over a hundred years ago. However, Nell is much more than just a governess, she is a woman made of secrets, a keen intelligence and compassion. At the beginning of Still Life with Murder, she is working as an assistant/apprentice for a doctor in Cape Cod. One night while summoned to attend to a pregnant woman having a difficult birth, she is offered the job of governess to an affluent family. She readily accepts and is swept into life with the Hewitt family, much to her employer's husband's chagrin. Her first case as an amateur detective involves William Hewitt, eldest son of Viola Hewitt and thought dead after being held at a prisoner camp in the South. (These books take place not long after the Civil War.) Nell soon makes friends and allies who help her with her cases, the most interesting being Will, of course, even if Nell's secret past (?) and Will's opium addiction (!) gets in the way of any romantic relationship they may want to start.

This series is clever and so well done that I am heartbroken that there are no more to come. Smartly written and also a bit romantic, I will be rereading this series for years to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins…
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate at the hands of the panicked mob: the Warlock Gideon Masters, and his Book of Shadows. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had and making her immortal. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself, tending her garden and selling herbs and oils at the local farmers' market. But her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl called Tegan starts hanging around. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth begins teaching Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten.
Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of Witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality; to remain true to herself; and protect the protégé she comes to love.

If ever there was a time on this planet to be a witch, the seventeenth century wasn't it. The Salem Witch Trials went on in America in the latter half of that century as well. How awful it must have been for those people (and their loved ones) who were accused and executed for no other reasons than paranoia and mass hysteria. Everybody knows that there are no such things as witches, right?

In The Witch's Daughter, Bess learns the hard way that there are such things as witches. In the beginning, she lives in the village of Batchcombe, England with her two siblings and parents and fancies herself maybe being a lady someday. But all that changes after the plague rampages through and takes most of her family and many others, leaving distraught mothers wandering the town, mourning their children and hating Bess' mother for being left with a daughter. Soon after, Bess' mother is hanged for being a witch, leaving Bess to turn to a man who she is certain can't be trusted, Gideon Masters. With him, Bess learns that she is a real witch like her mother, and has plenty of power. Gideon wants that power for himself and wants Bess to be his mate/partner/so-called equal but after Bess catches him in the woods one night, doing all those naughty things with demons that evil warlocks like to do, she escapes and tries to put Batchcombe and Gideon behind her. Now immortal, Bess changes her identity and traveling around to Whitechapel, London during Jack the Ripper's terror and the frontlines of WWII, working to help others like a good witch should but knows that trouble is right behind her. Almost four hundred years after her family's tragedy, Bess is comfortable in a small town in England and against her nature, befriends a teenage girl who wants to learn about Bess' craft. Complacency makes Bess worry, however, and when Tegan meets a boy who monopolizes her time and attention and works to poison her relationship with Bess, Bess starts gathering her weapons for a final showdown with Gideon.

The Witch's Daughter seemed daunting to me at first; three hundred pages of (what appears to be) tightly-spaced ten point font is not something you can just rip through in one sitting but that's pretty much what I did: read it all in one evening, right after dinner. It started a bit slowly but once I got to the first flashback about Bess' village, I was hooked. Told mostly through flashbacks in between bits of the present, The Witch's Daughter is a compelling story about what inner strength really is.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. Nathaniel Cade returns.
For 140 years, Nathaniel Cade has been the President's Vampire, sworn to protect and serve his country. Cade's existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last line of defense against nightmare scenarios that ordinary citizens only dream of.
When a new outbreak of an ancient evil-one that he has seen before-comes to light, Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, must track down its source. To "protect and serve" often means settling old scores and confronting new betrayals . . . as only a centuries-old predator can.

What would our world be like if monsters of the supernatural persuasion were real? What if terrorists could use them to strike at their enemies instead of using bombs? Frankly, I think this world is a scary enough place already without dealing with bugaboos like the ones that Zach and Cade deal with on a regular basis. After finishing The President's Vampire, I was more than a bit thankful that this world hasn't reached this level of crazy just yet. At least, not that we know of.

In Blood Oath, Farnsworth showed us what might happen if some evil mastermind used super-zombies made from the bodies of dead American soldiers to try and invade the White House. In The President's Vampire, Zach and Cade come up against something just as deadly but potentially more dangerous: a highly infectious virus that turns humans into reptile killing machines called "snakeheads". Engineered by "The Company", a black government agency that is run and staffed by people who are chosen specifically for their mal-adjusted sociopathic personalities, this virus is spread by biting or scratching and works instantly to transform its host into a ravenous, slavering monster within minutes. Cade has been working since the 1920's to eradicate the snakeheads but they keep popping up periodically all over the globe. Now that The Company has decided to join the game, the snakeheads are even deadlier than before and with certain politicians working in the background to make sure that Zach and Cade fail, underground government installations hosting experiments made of nightmares, and a plot to set the snakehead creatures loose on a shopping mall full of unsuspecting humans, The President's Vampire is a governmental conspiracy run amuck, stuffed between two book covers.

While I liked Blood Oath (click HERE to see my review) just a tad more than The President's Vampire, the charming aspects of the former are still present in the latter, much to my delight. That Farnsworth frames Cade with people and events that exist in the real world make these books feel somewhat plausible; using different names for the current administration is the biggest concession I could see that makes this fiction other than the, you know, supernatural monsters. I had begun to wonder who would be up next with the cameo appearances though. (TPV stars Bin Laden and John Wilkes Booth, and explains how JFK's assassination was an inside job.) All-in-all, The President's Vampire is another great read and I am already wishing for the next one in this entertaining series.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: The Vampire Dimitri by Colleen Gleason

Regency London loves a society wedding— even if there are vampires on the guest list.

Dimitri, also known as the Earl of Corvindale, should be delighted that the headstrong Maia Woodmore is getting married. His mortal ward and houseguest has annoyed—and bewitched—the Dracule nobleman too long, and denying his animal cravings grows more excruciating by the day.

Miss Woodmore’s family has a rather…complicated history with the immortals and she herself possesses a keen sensibility far beyond mere women’s intuition. Marriage will give her safety, respectability and everything else a proper young lady could wish for. Everything, that is, except passion.

In the looming battle between Dracule factions, all pretenses will shatter as Maia and Dimitri come together in an unholy union of danger, desperation and fiercest desire.

First off, I LOVE the cover. Continuing with the style of the cover of The Vampire Voss, this cover improves upon the first. The rich blue perfectly frames the intense stare of Dimitri, a rather intense man who carries many burdens on those broad shoulders of his. Maia, on the other hand, is a study in contradictions. Her body is reaching for his and her face is facing the same direction as Dimitri's but her eyes are closed. Could she possibly be conflicted? That one word is a good description of The Vampire Dimitri, for everyone wants something they can't (or shouldn't) have.

Dimitri is a lousy vampire. He's been devoting his existence to searching for a way to break his pact with Lucifer because he wants to be free of it in the worst way. He doesn't drink human blood and hasn't for about a century. He's not a man-whore like Voss and rarely succumbs to his unseemly urges. He does have one weakness (other than his Asthenia, a physical object each vampire has as their own version of kryptonite): Maia Woodmore. She drives him crazy with her demands and questions yet makes him want things like love and companionship and to make love. With HER. However, Maia is engaged to be married and her fiance has decided to finally come home from gallivanting across the Continent to fulfill his promise to her. To Dimitri, this is both a relief and a disappointment of the greatest degree, for ever since a night several years before when he saved Maia from ruin, he hasn't been able to forget her.

For her part, Maia is drawn to Dimitri as well, even after she discovers he's a vampire. She's been waiting for too long for her fiance to come home and make her respectable but now with Dimitri in her life, she's finding that she doesn't miss him as much. Maia is the oldest sister of the three and because she's not psychic like her sisters she's made herself into the boss of everybody. With their parents dead and their brother AWOL, somebody had to look out for her younger sisters and make sure they marry well. Now that Angelica is set to marry Voss and her youngest sister is still young and stashed away in Scotland, Maia's future is staring her in the face. So, who will she pick, Dimitri or her fiance?

I think I liked Dimitri's story a bit more than Voss'. No particular reason why but there is just something about a tortured man who is searching for redemption, isn't there? The villain here comes at them from the same angle as in Voss' book but for slightly different reasons even though the effect is the same: forcing Dimitri to deal with his past and to work with Maia. The Vampire Dimitri is a historical paranormal romance that doesn't fail to deliver.

The Vampire Dimitri will be released on April 19, 2011.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Best Book(s) of 2011 (so far)

Wow. I just recently realized that I haven't posted my fave reads for the first three months of this year. Am I a slacker or what?


So. It may be a little lame being so late with some of this but...here's my favorite reads of January, February, and March. This is so exciting, right? *snort* These are going to be short and to the point.

I'm going to have to go with Shadowfever Karen Marie Moning for this month. Yes, I thought it was well done and all (and I'm not forgetting Pale Demon!) but I'm picking it for the emotional impact it made. It finally wrapped up the five-book Fever series and gave me the ending I could live with. I could finally put the subject of Mac and Barrons to bed (heh heh) and get some distance for a little while - I was quite hyped up for Shadowfever and looking back at January, I'm glad I read it. Now, I'm interested to see where Moning goes from there with all the loose ends she left behind. Hmm.

My favorite read in February was another reread of Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. I read it during my teeth troubles and it made me feel better. I had just listened to the ebook of Secrets of a Summer Night, the first Wallflowers book, and was in the mood to revisit Evie and Sebastian. Good stuff.

I also loved Unveiled by Courtney Milan and Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh. Fabulous, both of them, which is definitely no surprise.

Last month, I read two truly outstanding and memorable books: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. Revolution is powerful. Many times while I read it, I was overwhelmed by Andi's pain. It is one of the best researched novels I have ever read; Andi's study of musical DNA is fascinating and the Alice in Wonderland feel to Andi's trip to the catacombs under Paris and back to the Reign of Terror almost lends a little whimsy (the iPod was a nice touch) to a mostly sad but expertly written book.

Nine Coaches Waiting had been sitting on my shelf for a little while now, ever since Jane sent me a copy. It made the book blogger circuit not that long ago but I wasn't ready to pick it up until last week. Nine Coaches Waiting is a gem of a novel and Mary Stewart definitely knows how to write a mystery that keeps you guessing. There's also a bit of romance thrown in for fun as well. This is definitely a keeper.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Most Anticipated Books of April

Jane’s pick:

I’m always on the lookout for a new author to try. The one that caught my attention for this month is The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to conjure up a family ghost by making one of their recipes. Cooking, suspense and magic? This one will definitely be added to my TBR pile. The release date for this book is April 12th.
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.
A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

Jen's pick:

I have been waiting for this book since March of 2009, when City of Glass was published. I've preordered this one from B&N because of the extras that come with it. (That'll be a nice box - Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward will be in there too.) I've had the countdown widget at the bottom of this blog for months now. Simon!
City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.”
Also, this one because Holly Black is too good to miss:
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

City of Fallen Angels and Red Glove will both be out on April 5th. (Why do I always forget this part?)

Review: Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the president. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, Cade has spent more than 140 years in service to the president, battling nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream.
Immediately Zach and Cade receive their first joint assignment: one that uncovers a shadowy government conspiracy and a plot to attack the Unites States with a gruesome new biological weapon. Zach soon learns that the world is far stranger, and far more dangerous, than he ever imagined . . . and that his partner is the least of his problems.. (from chrisfarnsworth.com)

If you are a regular reader of My Book Addiction (thanks, btw), you may be surprised to know that I am a fan of Tom Clancy's books. Vince Flynn, too. (Sadly, I have learned more about the inner workings of our government from their books than I did in my high school civics class.) Sure, they can be a bit dry with the technical details but give me a capable man who has to save the world and I'll be happy. At any rate, when I saw the description of Blood Oath, I knew I had to read it. It sounded like a modern cross between Tom Clancy and Bram Stoker and I was so excited about the premise that I preordered the hardback version. This is not something I do regularly - buy new hardbacks of new authors - but I had such a good feeling about it. My gut told me that this would be a good book and fun read and it was right.

Zach considers himself to be hot stuff. Barely out of college, he works in the White House and has frequent face-to-face meetings with the President. After one little bitty drunken mishap with the President's daughter in the Lincoln bedroom, he finds himself face-to-face with a completely different kind of power, the kind that has nothing to do with politics: a vampire. Suddenly, Zach's world is upside down and he's given a difficult choice - work with Nathaniel Cade, aka the President's Vampire, or else. Working with Cade is a sink or swim mentality; there is no training, just on the job learning. Soon, Zach learns that Cade is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the supernatural and his first job involves chasing after Johann Konrad, aka Dr. Frankenstein (as in the original, the doctor from Shelley's book). A group of middle-easterners are taking terrorism to a new level with Konrad's help and it's Cade's and Zach's job to stop them.

I liked Blood Oath for several reasons. One, Farnsworth made Nathaniel Cade a product of his time; he is dated (to an extent) and uses old phrases like, "no soap" and "twenty-three skidoo". Using these old colloquialisms embarrasses Cade and humanizes him, makes him seem more real and not just a killing machine. Two, this book isn't just about a vampire that deals with "human" problems. Cade travels the globe fighting nasty supernatural threats in today's political climate, not the least of which is Dr. Konrad, who makes Dr. Mengele look like Strawberry Shortcake. There are all sorts of beings in Blood Oath, fantastic and monstrous alike. And three, this is just a well-written, well-plotted book that kept my attention from cover to cover. The sequel, The President's Vampire, will be out on April 28, 2011.

Other reviews:
Ms. Bookish
Jenn's Bookshelves
The Vampire Librarian

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox, Mar 20-Mar 26, 2011 (4)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and is a list of book blogs who want to share the books that came into their home in the past week.

Heart of Darkness by Gena Showalter
Unmasked by C. J. Barry
Unleashed by C. J. Barry
Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione
Chick with a Charm by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Lady of Skye by Patricia Cabot

Library books:
Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann
Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
Black Wings by Christina Henry
The Mediator: Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot
The Mediator: Haunted by Meg Cabot
The Mediator: Reunion by Meg Cabot

No ebooks this week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sarah Wendell is My Hero

Hello book people! I have a confession: I've been thinking about closing up shop here at My Book Addiction. I've been losing interest lately - on blogging, not reading - and I wasn't sure there was a point to this anymore. My brain doesn't seem to want to participate these days and my review output has dwindled to a point where I feel embarrassed. Who is going to want to keep coming to this blog if I don't do anything new every now and then? Am I contributing anything to book awareness on any level? In it's current state, would this be a blog that I would visit on a regular basis? The answers I come up with are depressing and discouraging.

But then, I saw three things today. Three things that make me think that this is not a waste of my time and I wanted to share them with you.

  1. Here is part of a screenshot of one of the traffic counters I use. (Click on it if you can't read the tiny print.) This tells me that several book blogs that I read on a regular basis has links to my blog. Admittedly, some of them are just links provided by a book title search on google, but still. It reminds me other people do like what I have to say.
  2. Kristi, aka The Story Siren, posted a discussion she recently had with an undisclosed author about the impact that book bloggers make on the book industry. I was disappointed to read the outlook many authors/publishers/agents have on book blogs (we are their fans, after all). Now, I am not interested in doing interviews and such but I do participate in a few memes/hops that are almost solely for bumping up follower counts. (Hey, every little bit helps.) And it may be my contrary nature but I didn't like the part about how book blogs don't affect book sales. So, I decided that I'll keep doing my part to make sure the word gets around that books are awesome and totally worth your time and money. I'll also be taking off the Followers widget from my blog. If you want to follow me, follow me, but stats don't lie - My Book Addiction gets more hits than total visitors - so I know people are coming back.
  3. Here's where I mention where I got the title for this post. Earlier today, I read Sarah Wendell's latest column on Kirkus reviews. I check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books regularly for her savvy insight into the goings on in publishing and her intelligent reviews of romance novels but she caught my eye today on Kirkus because there was a picture of the cover of Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me under her byline (a sure thing to catch my attention). Sarah recently gave the keynote address at SXSW's Kirkus Book Reviews PubCamp conference and it was about why readers are so important to publishing. She cited examples about how the book industry is doing it's hardest to keep us from reading: charging more for books; restricting ebooks using DRMs and not providing diversity in languages; the dwindling number of actual bookstores. The point? We readers love our books and will always love our books no matter what. When I finished reading this article I wanted to stand up and cheer! In my heart, I am a reader, not a writer, but I do want to share my thoughts on the books I read. So thank you, Sarah Wendell. Thank you for reminding me why I'm here. I needed it.