Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review--Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5)

Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5)Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely delightful addition to the Spindle Cove/Castles Ever After series. I feared the book would lose me after the hero did something exceedingly stupid, but the author kept the story going in just the right way. That's the difference between a journeyman and a master when it comes to romance writing.

Scandal is certain to delight Ms. Dare's legion of fans, and can be read as a stand-alone by anyone wanting to check out this always satisfying author.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Review--The Year of the Crocodile (Cyclone, #2.5)

The Year of the Crocodile (Cyclone, #2.5)The Year of the Crocodile by Courtney Milan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were some great laugh-out-loud lines in this short piece set in the Cyclone storyline. The cross-cultural, take-no-prisoners attitude of the future in-laws is every couple's nightmare, but it was handled with style, humor and panache. Ms. Milan's move into contemporary romance continues to satisfy.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Review--Unquiet Land (Elemental Blessings, #4)

Unquiet Land (Elemental Blessings, #4)Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sharon Shinn offers outstanding fantasy worldbuilding, and her stories are a pleasure to read because the characters seem so grounded and human, even when they have enhanced abilities.

In Welce there are primes who are connected to the "elements": Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Wood, Soul. We've had stories dealing with Air, Fire and Water, and now we get torz or Earth, people who are connected to the soil and rock.

Leah Frothen has returned home after many years abroad, some of them spent as a spy for Welce. Now she's anxious to spend time with the daughter she gave up, a child who doesn't know her birthmother exists.

Shinn's characters, especially the women, deal with issues that resonate in the real world. It's not always about finding a magic ring or pulling a sword from a stone. Sometimes, the story is about people who make difficult life decisions that have consequences. I highly recommend her novels, both the YA and adult ones, and this latest Elemental Blessings offering is an excellent addition to her body of work.

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Review--A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining twist on the Sherlock Holmes legend. What if Holmes wasn't who we thought he is, but instead was a woman, constrained by Victorian society and mores, but possessing the same keen mind and abilities?

Thomas presents us with a tantalizing new series, where Holmes is teamed with Mrs. John Watson and together they work to unravel a series of mysterious deaths.

We're introduced to a number of characters in this first novel, some familiar, some new, and I found the entire experience quite satisfying. There's a hint of a romance, and I wondered if there would be a Mr. Adler in Miss Holmes' future adventures to keep things interesting.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Before we celebrated US-style Thanksgiving in Florida (the Spaniards celebrated Thanksgiving with the Timucua Indians at St. Augustine long before those latecomer Pilgrims set foot aboard ship) we had cane grinding in the autumn to share the work and feast with friends:

As the shadows lengthened, the men began gathering around the tables like wasps drawn to sweet fruit, cozying up to their women and trying to talk them out of some of the food before the feast officially began. Ma Ivey ruled her dirt yard like an empress and wasn’t above slapping a reaching hand with a wooden spoon when they drew too close. Finally though, the last of the cane was put through the mill and the syrup cooked down, and as the night sky filled with stars the feast began to a chorus of tree frogs and crickets serenading the workers. They lined up before the platters of roast pig and venison, quails, turkey, and doves. Even a possum or two joined the potatoes in the smoldering coals.
There was fish stew and slow-cooked turtle, gator tail and fresh bass, and plenty of home-brewed ale and scuppernong wine to wash it down.
The ever present corn was there, too, as meal, mush, bread, pone, grits, and “roasenears,” cooked in the hot coals. Julia grinned to herself. There would be plenty of cobs for the privies after tonight’s feast.
The children and old folks were served first, then the men, then the women took for themselves, the fires from the pits and fat pine torches lighting up the yard. By the time Julia had her plate filled—and Rand had his second serving—the men were rosining their fiddle bows and bringing out the banjos and whistles.
Rand made room for Julia to sit beside him, and held up an object in his hand.
“Look, the wishbone!”
“And that means…what?”
“It means you and me got to make a wish.”
He showed her how to grasp the bone, and warned her it would take some strength to make it snap since it hadn’t dried out yet.
“So give it a good tug and make a wish.”
“What should I wish for, Rand?”
He looked at her, his face half lit from the fire, and for a moment she thought he was someone else, someone she didn’t know. Then he smiled and said, “Wish for your heart’s desire, darlin’. That’s what I’m goin’ to wish for.”
They tugged the bone, and it broke with a crack that sounded too loud in the night air.
Julia held the larger piece. “I wished we could always be as happy as we are right now.”


Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may your blessings be bountiful, and your turkey tender and moist.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Review--Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Twain famously said that a writer's job is to take characters and "chase 'em up a tree and throw rocks at 'em."

James S.A. Corey's figured out how to do this, and dazzle us with science too. In the penultimate Expanse novel he takes his four protagonists, separates them, and throws them all into danger that just gets more and more intense.

It was nice seeing the crew of the Roci away from James Holden, and the set-up for the final book was excellent. There's not much more to say at this point, because if you're not reading the series from the beginning it's hard to explain. On the other hand, if you are reading from the beginning it's a special pleasure to get some of the backstory and character development on the rest of the crew. Amos is now my favorite character.

I'm very much looking forward to the final novel.

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Review--Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain

Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can ExplainMockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to thank all the internet trolls who get hysterical over girls in comics. Had they not gotten their knickers in a twist I might not have discovered this wonderful, feminist, funny collection by Chelsea Cain. I'm looking forward to re-reading this slowly and leisurely when the final volume pulls it all together.

The salty tears of the sad, sad trolls just make it all that much better.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Review--Someone To Love (Westcott, #1)

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1)Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Ms. Balogh. I like to return to early scenes in her books to study how she sets up her characters, revealing little bits and pieces of them. This is another example of excellent writing craft, but more importantly, it's a darn good story.

Anna Snow is an orphan, but she has a decent life. The orphanage where she was deposited as a young child isn't luxurious, but it's not Dickensian either. Her fees were paid by an unknown benefactor, and now that she's grown she's a teacher at the institution.

But one day she receives a life changing letter from a solicitor and nothing is ever the same. Can money buy happiness? Does status and privilege make one's life better?

Avery Archer might know. The Duke of Netherby is intrigued by the dignified young woman whose life intersects with his when Anna's true identity is revealed, and nothing for him will ever be the same.

I especially enjoyed that the protagonists aren't standard cover model beauties. Anna is described as plain by most people who know her, Avery is barely average height and somewhat effeminate looking, an appearance he emphasizes with bright, colorful clothing compared to the sober colors of his peers.

Balogh sets up interesting family dynamics and a succession of stories based on Anna's relatives and how their lives are upended by her arrival. I look forward to reading more in the future, and plan to re-read this one at a future date when I want to pick up a "comfort" read about romance growing quietly in unlikely places.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Thank you for your service

Cover of sheet music for Image via WikipediaThank You.

I wanted to take a moment today to say "thank you" to the veterans. It is because of their service in the armed forces that I get to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Have a meaningful Veterans Day.
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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Persimmon time!

“Possum hangin’ in the tree,
Raccoon on the ground;Raccoon say, you stingy rat,Shake them ’simmons down!”
Julia paused in her singing and frowned down at the spoon stirring through the cake batter.
“Possum hanging in the tree?” Where had that come from? “Goodness, I’m becoming countrified!”
She chuckled, looking out the kitchen window at the activity in the yard. Rand was doing the morning chores in preparation for their trip to the Iveys’ farm. For a moment she watched him as she stirred, indulging herself in a fantasy that theirs was a normal marriage, two people on the Florida frontier, making a new life together.
But it was as much a fantasy as singing raccoons.

--Smuggler's Bride

It's that  time of year! The farmers market is full of bright orange fruit, mouth-puckering sour if you eat them too soon, but perfect for eating and baking when they're nice and ripe. Here's my annual posting of the recipe for Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake:


Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine, butter, or coconut oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans

To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients

          2. Cream sugar and margarine, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

          3. Pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake one hour and 15 minutes.  Let cool on rack ten minutes, remove from pan. Freezes well.