Monday, June 26, 2017

Cooking With Fire

I absolutely love cooking and am always on the look out for unique cookbooks to add to my collection and ones that give me things to experiment with.  While at a flea market in Ohio, I came across this gem.  Biker Billy Cooks With Fire.  So many different things about this cookbook appealed to me.  1. It's a biker, one that makes me think of someone I love dearly, 2. It's cooking with fire whether it is grilling, or hot and spicy things, either way it's good in my mind, 3. It is just so outrageous that I had to pick it up.  While doing a quick skim through I seen many different recipes that I wanted to try and wouldn't have thought of trying.

Each recipe has something to do with a pepper or hot sauce.  Perfect for me because I as my friend say, like to burn my face off, meaning I like my food spicy enough that it clears my sinuses.  It starts off giving tips and techniques of cooking with peppers and other ingredients, then it goes into the recipes.  Each one starts off with a small note describing the recipe and how it will come out and./or why Billy choose to add it into his cookbook.  There is everything in this cookbook from sauces and marinades to desserts and everything in between.  There are times when looking through a cookbook that I am not sure if I would try a recipe or not, but there are a lot of different recipes in this book that I would love to try and look forward to trying in the future.

Just from reading this book so far I get high hopes for the food inside.  I would recommend this for foodies who are looking for something different in their cooking repertoire. Bike Billy has some interesting ideas, and I will update this when I have cooked some of the recipes contained in this book.  So far the rating if 4 out 5 stars, this may change to a 5 once I have prepared some of the recipes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Heartless

All Catherine wants for her life is to open a bakery with her best friend Mary Ann. But her parents have a different plan. For her to marry the King of Hearts. Cath believed her life to be boring and without excitement. That is until the new court jester, Jest, arrives on the scene. In the middle of a grand ball before the king makes a announcement the ball is attacked by a monstrous creature known as the Jabberwock. Since that night, Cath's life is forever changed as she tries to figure out how to open her bakery, avoid the king's advances, falls in love with Jest and evades the attacks of the Jabberwock.  All she wants to do is live the life she wants, but there are obstacles in her way at every turn.  Soon fate reveals itself and Cath learns sometimes you cannot outrun fate.

As many of you know I am an avid reader of Alice in Wonderland retellings, and absolutely love anything Alice in Wonderland related, so when I seen Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles) wrote an Alice in Wonderland adaptation, of course I had to read it.  I have to say this was not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed reading it immensely.  There wasn't an "Alice" character per-say, but Catherine is a representation of the Queen of Hearts.  This novel is almost a backstory of how she became who she is and the way she is. We see some of the same beloved characters like Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire, but we also see different characters that seem to always take a backseat to some of the other characters like the Mock Turtle or the Walrus. It was interesting to see these characters in a different light than what we see in the classic tale.

I am a huge fan of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles and I came into this novel with high hopes, and this book met every one of my expectations.  I wanted to see more of Jest and Raven, and hope to see them more in the future maybe if there happens to be more novels, maybe one about the kingdom of Chess or the white kingdom.  Meyer has a certain style to her writing that paints the picture vividly, it is easy to envision everything happening from the turtle turning into the Mock Turtle or the Jabberwock attacks, even smell the delicious tarts that Cath makes.  I enjoyed the use of the Fate sisters and treacle, as well as many element from Carol's tale.  It was still very much a Meyer story, but held some of the traditional elements we would find in Alice in Wonderland.

I would highly recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales, Lunar Chronicles, and young adult novels.  Even if those may not be genres/topics that are your typical go to novel, break out from the norm and check out this book.  You will not regret it.  I give this book a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Patchwork

The night of prom, Renata and her friends pull the greatest of practical jokes, but the moment is lost on Renata as she reflects on rejecting her boyfriend's proposal.  After watching him throw the ring into the river, she jumps in after it.  Moments before the rive boat the student body is aboard explodes.  Renata wakes up in a patchwork world of memories taken back a few months prior, where REnata thinks she can stop this murder, only to have it happen again at a different time.  She quickly realizes someone is after her and her friends, but she cannot figure out why.  This patchwork world holds clues to help her figure out how to make the madness end,  but will she figure it out quick enough to save the people she loves?



** I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review**




I was excited about this book when I read the summary, it sounded very interesting because not many authors play with the idea of a phoenix.  But I have to say I struggled to get into this novel and I am not 100% sure of why.  The writing was good, the idea was good.  I think it was more so the character of Renata.  In the beginning she comes off as not a horrible person but one that was hard to like and hard to feel compassion for even though her friends kept dying over and over again.  I would have liked to have her learn something more in the patchwork world in the beginning rather than that she was reliving memories and going back to stop someone from killing her friends and possibly her.


It takes a long time to build up and formulate into a story until it gets further into the plot, then it does pick up, so readers need to be able to get through. 


It was a decent enough read to be able to read it on a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the park or alongside the pool, but I am not sure if it would be one that has me coming back to reading it again and again.  Although other readers might.  This would be a good book for young adult readers and some adult readers as well.  There is a lot that happens in the novel with murder, betrayal, heartbreak, love and romance to magical forces.  I did like the idea of going back in time and being able to change things, or try to change things, but for Renata she remembers everything from the point at prom and no one else does which does make it interesting to see her interact with people differently and see people differently second or third times around.


Overall as stated it's an alright book, it was entertaining and interesting, it just didn't tickle my fancy in the end.  I would recommend it to other readers and hope others do find it enjoying.  As for a rating I would give it a 3 out of 5.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Interview with Little Sparrow herself: RA Winter

Every now and again a reviewer is able to form a strong bond with the authors they have been working with. I am happy to say that RA Winter has become a dear friend of mine, and I do hope we can meet for coffee one day. I began reading her books a few years ago when I did a review of her novel Little Sparrow, and just fell in love with her writing and stories.  It was only natural to want to do an interview with her so here you are!




                                              




Falcor, Harley and Orion wanted me to get the most important question out of the way first…Do you have any “Literary Cats” or Literary Pup?


I have a calico cat, Carmen.  She reminds me of my older sister who passed away.  Always watching and maybe she disapproves but she doesn’t interfere.  She just has that look on her face like she’s tolerating me and letting me find my own way.  Carmen is the best cat ever.  Neat, quiet, and cuddly.


Dingle, who is a cat character in my books, was actually my cat.  He died a few years ago.  That’s when I started writing.  He lives on now, with his wink and his naughty attitude.  A comic, that cat knew how to get a laugh out of everyone.


What inspired you to write the Kiowa in Love series?  This is a long answer... I didn’t start out to write romance.  I wanted to write about how life’s experiences change us.  Why do people act the way they do?  Why do they think that way? For years I’ve wanted to write Grandfather’s story.  Benjamin NoName is a hodge-podge of my family members and their experiences all wrapped into one person.  Raised in an orphange, he didn’t know who his family was.  He spent his whole life wondering if they were searching for him.  Perhaps, they were dead and he just couldn’t remember?  His story would take a depth that I didn’t know how to show.  Then, he told me, why write the beginning?  Write me near the end.  I want grandbabies. 


What was the hardest thing about writing it? Keeping the plot lines as untangled as possible but writing about three women who grew up together.  Have you ever seen a detective show where the policeman asks three people setting near each other what happened and they all have different answers?  That’s how I envisioned my stories.  Wrapped around a central core, each girl experiences something different.


What was the easiest? Insomnia brings out the really bad jokes in me. RedDress Two Wives was written during a very sleep deprived time.  For that one, I was in Gatlinburg, and decided to visit a... naughty shop.  I couldn’t help thinking, if I bought one, what if I died?  Who would find that?  What worse case scenario would happen? So... the rest is history.


What has been your reaction to the reviews you have gotten so far for the series? I’m always happy to receive a review.  I learn from them.  I had a problem with my first manuscript... insomnia and the wrong file converged to make a nightmare for me.  But, without the reviews, I would have never known there was a problem.  The reviews since then have been positive and that always makes me happy.  The more feedback, the more confidence I get in my writing.  You never know if someone enjoys your writing unless they say so.


Do you currently have anything in the works? Lots! I have ‘The Spirit Key’, it is a rewrite of Painted Girl but with RedHorse as the main character.  We go into the war and cover his injury. I think it will be one of my best and it will be published soon.  It’s in the final beta read stages.  Grandfather’s time in the orphanage is almost finished. Somehow, it turned into a scary story of skinwalkers.  I also have “A stiff one for Nona”, and the stiff one is Nona’s dead husband. Grandfather can see the ghost but doesn’t tell her.  The spirit causes trouble in their romance. I thought Grandfather deserved love after so many years alone. He’s not so sure. Then there is the newest Bowman’s Inn piece for the Fall Anthology.  We’ll go back to Han and Ann as they fall in love in this time.


Did you publish anything prior to Little Sparrow?  Yep!  Genealogy reference books under my married name. I took technical and research writing in college.  I wish now that I had started with creative writing. I’m a history lover at heart.


Do the characters write the story?  Ha!  Yes.  Generally it is Grandfather.  I hear his voice all the time!  He wakes me up often, too.  Dingle sometimes sticks his nose in there.


Where do you see the story progressing in the future? It’s going more paranormal with the Spirit Key. Outside forces that prod us along and scary ghosts that want something from Grandfather.


What do you think makes your series different from the other series in the romance genre?  There isn’t much written about contemporary Native Americans.  Most is historical.  I want to tell the story of fitting in but accepting that you are different and  what makes a person unique.  Especially in RedDress, I wanted to tell the story of just how far a girl will go when in the depths of self-doubt.


When did your love of books/writing develop? I’ve been a reader since I can remember.  I’ll read anything.  I was lucky enough that my best friend owned a bookstore.  I think I tore through most of it! I didn’t start writing until a few years ago though.  My husband was like, why don’t you just write your own?  I never want a good story to end once I love the characters so that’s why I keep writing about the same family.  Until readers say... no! I’ll keep writing.


What are some of the ways that you manage writer’s block? Imagine the scene as the character.  If it isn’t working, then you’re forcing the character to do something she doesn’t want to.  In my latest story, everyone kept asking for a character to do something.  He refused.  I couldn’t write the scene, so he suggested something better and my critters were happy.


How have you been able to handle rejection as a writer?  The rejection I’ve gotten so far has been constructive.  As long as you can tell me what isn’t hitting the mark, I can work on that.


What are some of your ambitions and goals as a writer? Ambitions?  I’d like to be a USA Today Best Selling Author.  Goals. To write a lot more books! It’s not as easy as it sounds.


What is your go to feel good book?  Your guilty pleasure book? Honestly, I don’t have one.  I really love Scribophile.com, it is a community of aspiring writers.  When I need a pick me up, I read other stories.  There are so many wonderful writers out there.


What is a book you always recommend to other people? It depends on the person, actually.  There are books I wouldn’t recommend to my dad, or my sister-in-law, but would to my best friend.  Good mysteries are always safe and the classics never disappoint readers. I just reread ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. 


If you could meet any author, who would it be?  If I point to Edgar Allen Poe, would that mean I’d have to die first?  Scratch that and Plato, too! Can you imagine sitting down with the authors of ‘The Republic’, ‘Dante’s Inferno’, ‘Frankenstein’ or my favorite ‘The Iliad’?  The insight into history from some of the best classics ever written? 


Who has been some of your biggest inspirations?  My dad.  He wrote three books but never published them.  He has published a book of poems though.  I have his manuscripts and at some point I’ll publish those for him.  He’s a wonderful father.


I also have to say Dingle.  His death put me in a bad place.  I wrote to relieve the pain.  Now, he’s being the antagonist I know he’d love.


What advice would you give young writers looking to begin somewhere?  I would join a writing group, either Scribophile.com or something else.  I didn’t know these existed when I published Little Sparrow.  The feedback is great and you meet some wonderful writers.  Crits help you focus and you can gauge engagement, flow, style, and plot.  These can be hard when you do it alone.


I would begin with an idea and write.  The hardest part of writing to me is finishing.  Know your ending. The best part is the journey getting there.  If you have the ending and the beginning, you’ll get there.
How can your readers discover more about you and your work? I have a blog, https://wordpress.com/post/rawinterwriter.wordpress.com  I’ve posted deleted chapters of a few of my books.  They were ones that I just couldn’t get rid of, but critters thought the book was too long.  My characters weren’t happy about it!  So, I posted them for anyone who’d like more

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hearts Under Siege




 Alexandra awaits the brief return of her twin brother Jeffy, when a steamboat he is supposed to be on explodes and she fears he is dead.  Refusing to believe her brother to be dead she goes in search of him, bringing herself into the middle of the Civil War.  Her grandfather soon gets kidnapped and she is needed to deliver an important message to Confederate officers.  WHile she travels the lands she is stalked by an unknown man, and protected by a handsome man she believes to be a Yankee soldier.  Through their travels the mysterious stalker turns his sights onto Thomas.  Now they need to struggle to survive and make it through the war torn lands.  Will their affections for one another be strong enough to make it through?







Within the first few moments of this book I found myself gasping, you already find yourself feeling for Alexandra as she awaits her brother only to have the steamboat explode! Holy crap, I may have also audibly whispered "NO."  There were a few things that had me a little weary such as the events leading to Alexandra and Thomas's first meeting.  Thankful nothing too graphic was described and I like that about Kelly's writing, there isn't anything graphic or explicit in this novel.  I would be willing to allow a teenaged reader to read this novel.  It is a clean romance, by that I mean little to no sex scenes.  GASP what do I mean?  How can there be romance without sex right?  Kelly focuses on the build-up of their relationship almost in a courting like sense.




There were points when Alexandra would have memories or dreams about something and it flowed with the same text as when she was awake, it would have been easier to distinguish if the text was in italics to differentiate the state of consciousness.  There is a lot that happens throughout the story from Grand-pere being arrested, to Jackson being shot, Alexandra trying to deliver this message through war zones and the romance building between her and Thomas.  The time period is the 1800's so a few things don't fit, but at the same time would it be as interesting if the dialogue fit exactly to how a Southern Belle and gentleman solider would?  I actually liked the more modern way of speaking as it made it easier to understand their emotions and get a feel for the characters. 

There are some surprises and twists to the story and the characters are relatable.  They develop slowly and pretty much stay true to their original characteristics they had in the beginning.  I have read other reviews about the story jumping around a lot, but I honestly do not see that within this book.  It all remains pretty consistent and true to the original plot.  When George comes into the picture, I am unsure of how Thomas figures out who he is, I caught onto something that wasn't addressed during this point and doesn't makes much sense, but I may have missed something in my reading leading up to it.


That being said, I enjoyed reading this book, I pretty much finished it within a day. Hearts Under Siege was the perfect novel to read on a rainy spring day.  I do recommend this book for those who like clean romances, historical romances, and romance in general, even chick lit in general.  If an I am not mistaken this is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading other books in the series and other books from Kathryn Kelly.  As for a rating, I would give this a 3.5 because there did seem to be moments where things didn't add up for me, but it was still a great book to read to pass the day away.








Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Magic Queen

Baba Yaga has a reputation as a baby eating, ruthless badass witch.  Finding love has never been on her list of things to do with her life.  She was content with the way things were.  Until Calypso and Aphtodite decided to play a little matchmaking game.  Now Baba is psir with Freyr a god of sex and lust as they battle five other "couples".  The goal?  To fall in love and proclaim their love for one another before the deadline or they will be punished.  Will Freyr break through her tough exterior or will Baba be too stubborn to admit that to love doesn't mean weakness.

I got interested in this book based on the fact that it involved Baba Yaga.  For those unfamiliar, Bsba Yaga is a figure in Russian/Slovak folklore as a witch with iron teeth.  Many stories have her as having two sisters also named Baba Yaga, others have her having three forms.  It is said that she hold power over the elements and is the goddess of wisdom and death even though she isn't a goddess.  I find her to be a fascinating character and was happy to see her used in a story.  This story uses her in the form of having three forms to which Aphrodite and Calypso requests she be in maiden form for the "games."  We do see the crone form at another point in the story, but not the mother, which part of me wishes we had.  It would have added a different dimension to the story.

I enjoyed the romantic build up of their relationship even if it was far from romantic, but their banter back and forth was adorable.   There was a scene where Freyr was a frog in her bodice that made me laugh of loud.  The beginning of the stort takes a while to build up and really take off.  I almost wanted a little more of the battles, especially with the Pied Piper, but I understand why there wasn't more.  The dialog was well done, as I said the banter between them was funny and when theygot serious it was believable.

I  enjoyed the general concept of the story and the idea that love isn't a weakness, or allowing oneself to be vulnerable in order to allow love to enter into our lives.  I loved seeing her becoming soft and growing love in the beginning with Phlegm, and agreeing to the challenge that Freyr poses to her after their first battle.  There seems to be a lot happening in the story, but it all works well together and doing feel forced or unnatural.  When you read this book you not only get a story, but you get transplanted into different worlds as each battle takes place and have a front row seat to the love forming between Baba Yaga and Freyr.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, I think anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, and folklore would enjoy this book.  It was something different and unique to some of the other books I have read recently.  I give this a 4 out of 5 and hope others enjoy it as well.
 
 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bowman's Inn

Bowman's Inn is a collection of short stories from several amazing authors. Anything can happen at Bowman's Inn you might even find your soul mate.  This anthology includes stories with magic, romance, even a little action and adventure.  There is definitely something for every reading tastes within this collection.
I normally am not one for collections or short stories, i always feel like I'm left wanting more, needing more from characters.  Not with this collection, sure i want a grander story with each of these characters, but i wasn't left feeling like the stories were only half told.  I was able to get fully interested in the characters and fall in love with them equally.

I am already familiar with RA Winter's writing and she didn't disappoint.  I absolutely loved her story.  The exchange between the two about babies made me giggle, and then tugged at my heart!  I loved this story and want more from Han and Ann.  Maybe something of them finding one another in this lifetime.

It was a pleasure getting to know some other authors througg their writi6like Bel Cosi and E.D. Vaughn.  Its hard with an anthology to talk about every author who contributed but everyone had a unique story that fit in with the feel and tone of the other stories.  Everything matched well and didn't feel like a jumble of different stories. It really did feel like Val was moving between people helping them  find their loves.

I would definitely suggest checking this book out, i had the honor of being able to read it.  I will give it a 4 out of 5 for a rating.   I am hoping to be able to read the next edition in the Bowman's Inn series.