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Stygian wait

I was fortunate enough to get to read an excerpt from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s new novel “Stygian”. Like all of her Dark Hunter novels, it completely drew me in from the first page and I completely forgot that it was an excerpt. Now I read the entire thing in a single sitting and when it was abruptly over (end of excerpt) I was a little shocked. Completely my fault though. It was great.

I really enjoy how engrossing Sherrilyn’s novels are. I love the Dark Hunter universe and I have enjoyed that her stories are casting a wider net rather than just humans that become Dark Hunters. She has created an evocative and complex back story that is really fun to read. My favorite part about this book is that is gives us a perspective on character’s we’ve met but never really understood what is going on with them. I like that she doesn’t paint her characters as purely black and white. The shades of grey are where we related (I feel) and she does such an effortless job of getting you to empathize with her characters and you end up falling into her stories. What wonderful rich world(s) she has created, and this new release promises to be more of the same!

I can’t wait for the publish date and now the waiting may be the hardest part!!

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An Odd One

I just read the novel “The Oddling Prince” by Nancy Springer and overall I was a little disappointed. I read the synopsis and was pretty excited about the story to come. I didn’t really enjoy it. The language of the book felt inconsistent and a little archaic which pulled me out of the fantasy world frequently and made it hard to flow.

The story takes place in a land where a king falls ill on a hunting trip and comes home to die. A mysterious figure saves him in the night. This mysterious figure saves him by removing a ring from his finger. When all is revealed, the mysterious figure is actually the King’s son with the Elvish Queen. Since he has a son and wife already, the King is rather put out and since he doesn’t remember raising and training this second son (due to Elvish magic making him forget), he pretty much eschews this new boy. Luckily for the Elvish son, Albaric, the king’s human son, Aric, forges an instant bond with his brother and they proceed to have an adventure together for the rest of the novel.

I felt that the relationship between the brothers was just out of place. Not that they couldn’t have one, or that it had to be negative, but we have this teenage boy who immediately bonds with this stranger and for the rest of the novel has these insights and realizations about this other boy which essentially propel the story along. Not really believable for me. I think also there are some serious “hints” about myth and other stories that aren’t really explained which left me feeling the story was a little incomplete.

After I finished the book I went and read some reviews who just were completely 5 star reviews to see if I was missing something.  People were comparing her past work to some of Fantasy’s Greats and so I then had to search what else she had produced. Most of her work I’d not heard of, then I got to a short story she wrote in 1986, “The Boy Who Plaited Manes”. This was one of my favorite fantasy short stories because it was the perfect blend of eldritch elven behavior and the comparative stupidity of man (as a race).  Not sure if this means I’ll go search out her stuff or if I’m content thinking of her as a short story novelist. But it is something to consider.

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The Devil of a Duke

The Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter was a really fun and engrossing read. I read most of it in a single sitting. I have quite a few of her  books that I enjoy rereading from the early 2000’s.  I am excited to read another one of hers. I realize she’s been producing since then, but I kinda fell off. I guess I have a lot to catch up on!

As for this novel, the only drawback was I think the male lead kinda just realized his love and went on…usually I love it when they pretty much get hit on the head with it and then have to re-evaluate their views on lots of things about their lives. This character just was like “oh, ok, I love her, that’s neat”. But on the plus side, I feel like this character actually started their own personal journey before this book so his world view was already changing and introducing love wasn’t that far out there for them.

Fun writing and the main character is awfully fun and endearing. I also enjoyed that in the vein of regency romance novels, she wasn’t super traditional. She also has a clan of not quite traditional ladies which makes me enjoy it more. But the fact that her entire worth isn’t tied up with what’s in between her legs or her parentage is a refreshing change.

 

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Power of Plants

The first half of this book really lay out terminology and what all the various words on products mean.  It de-mystifies the list of ingredients on the back label.  They discuss the differences in processing plants (cold-pressed, enfleurage) and even goes in depth about the layers of your skin, what they do, and what you may wish to achieve by making your own beauty products. Their essential oil section is inspired. They go through what part of the plant is used for normal oil production, method of extraction, and therapeutic actions. They cover similar categories for wax, butters, clays, exfoliants, oils, etc. Pretty much a dictionary for anything you’d want to put into your products (that’s natural).

The second half of this book is the recipes. It covers cleansers, masks, scrubs, moisturizers, and treatments. It is a really fun and inspired book that really gives all the information about questions I’ve asked, and then even delves into questions I never thought to ask. The recipes are fun, but I will say this is an educational read and I may never even get into the making! But a fun read.

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Improperly Presented

There’s this fun modernization of many “traditional” crafts going on. Knitting/crocheting are getting fun, hip, modern, patterns and are being celebrated on the fashion runway.  Doilies are being used in pottery as accent pieces.  Cross stitch has become subversive.  Haley Pierson Cox has followed in the fun footsteps of “Subversive Cross Stitch” by creating her own book “Improper Cross Stitch”. I can’t really review the book because the publisher decided to only show one out of every 8 or 9 pages. So I can see I am missing most of the book, but have only a few images of finished cross stitch to see how this person designs.  No charts (which really separate out if I want to even buy a cross stitch book) and not even images of each item in the table of contents. So I have a recipe book of pictures. No super useful. As such I can only review the little bit of information I actually received.

The intro and finishing sections were pretty basic and exactly good for a beginner. Otherwise it is the same stuff you find by typing in “cross stitch” in a search engine, but compiled into a book. The images I could see look fun and pertinent, but probably could use a little more finishing to make them really shine and elevate them into a more professional stance. There is a “Cat Lady” image that makes it really hard to tell that they are cats exactly, this would be easily remedied with some back stitching and outlining. But it seems good for a beginner who hasn’t cross stitched before.

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A Pesto By Any Other Name…

This is a really fun and innovative cookbook, but as it is an entire recipe book for “pesto”, you gotta be an adventurous eater. If you have your own garden, even better! This book definitely makes me wish I had a better garden because the sheer amount of fresh herbs and fun that can be had with flavor combinations is inspiring!

The recipes are all pretty simple. I would argue that not all of them are “pesto’s”, considering most of them don’t even have basil. There’s a recipe very similar to muhammara, hummus, flavored oils and butters, some that are probably categorized as sauces or salsa’s over being a pesto. But for the sake of the title, sure why not. So you get a lot of variety, most use fresh herbs (which is great because I never know what to do with them all), and while they incorporate a variety of textures and consistencies, they mostly seem really delicious.

The book is well organized. There are a LOT of recipes, most with really great photos. I was getting worried that there would only be recipes of what to make without any good examples of how they are used, because while I like the idea of a Date, Walnut, and Mint Pesto, how am I going to use it? The last part of the book gives various ways to use the pestos made and even includes some desserts.

Overall a solid book that will be more useful in the summer and to incorporate flavor than one would think.

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Bluntly Just Awesome

I love series. I love how the authors put soo much of themselves and time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, etc. into creating their own universes and then share them with us. I hate series that are never finished or take over a decade or two to finish, especially when books are published years, and years, and years apart. (cough, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Terry Goodkind).  I even stay away from series now unless the author has proven they are a reliable publisher or finished the series. I slipped up once (Rothfuss) and now am firmly stuck waiting with the throngs for the next morsel of story.

With that being said, “Blunt Force Magic” by Lawrence Davis is really great. The main character is really fun, sarcastic, relate-able, and perfectly aware of his foibles. While he gets that he is the underdog and perhaps not soo likable, he’s willing to put himself on the line for his beliefs, which I think is really all you can ask of a book. Bucking the hero paradigm (you know, the attractive, muscle bound, romantic interest, super smart, fast, friend to all stereotype) and giving us a narrator/protagonist that is prone to mistakes and human errors really works for the kind of story and world that is presented. I was truly transfixed by the storyline.  The mixing of the world we know with a magic imbued underbelly (so to speak) is done expertly.  I couldn’t put it down! I want to know more about all the characters, I want to know the history, I want to be able to dive deep into this world and explore it!  Like I said, really great.  Given that this novel is the first of a trilogy, I am hoping the next one comes out soon and is just as great at this one. Really an enjoyable read.

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The Secret of Flirting

Sabrina Jeffries is one of my go-to romance authors. She does the flirting, romance, sex, and character development in an engrossing and beliveable manner.. This book is no exception!!  “The Secret of Flirting” is part of a series, but as there are really only brief mentions of the previous books in the series, this book (as all her work) really stands alone.

In brief, this book features a stunning actress Monique Servais, who gets the opportunity to play a princess (which isn’t too far off the actual truth) and in return can see her grandmother taken care of. All goes well until Baron Fulkham enters, and their mutual attraction can’t overcome their suspicions of each other’s motives.

This book is in a single word; Enthralling.  There is mystery, there is intrigue, there is romance, seduction, fun characters, and a nicely developed storyline. In particular, I enjoyed that the main character is a strong woman (aren’t they all) who despite getting caught up with the role of a lifetime, isn’t looking for a handout. I mean, we all obviously enjoy a happy ending, but sometimes the fact that a non-widow/virgin = ruined gets old. Not to say it isn’t accurate, but we know we have more worth than that. I like that the fiesty main character manages to be sassy and fiery even when the male counterpart is doing his best to seduce her. Also that she isn’t hiding behind her family, who will stand by her and protect her if she is ruined.

I am not a history buff, but I appreciate the care that Jeffries takes with the actual events of Guy Fawkes Day celebrations and the formation of Belgium. She even goes into detail at the end of the book as to her care on this subject.

 

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Eight Simple Rules…

This is a delightful romp through a wonderfully comprehensive fantasy world. “Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon” by Kerrelyn Sparks is definitely worth reading. Showcasing Kerrelyn’s spectacular ability to meld aspects of fantasy with a romantic story line that is both believable and fun, I read this book in a single night. I hadn’t read both stories before it in the Embraced series (which I will not rectify) but enough of the backstory covered in the other two books is introduced so I wasn’t lost as to the progress of the overall storyworld.

Gwennore is one of the Embraced. Born during the time when the twin moons overlap; or embrace; she has been isolated growing up with the rest of the Embraced on the Isle of Mist.  She feels even more isolated because her obvious elf heritage is rare (she’s the only one she’s ever seen/met).  Curious, loyal, and strong, she makes the best of the situation when she finds herself kidnapped and transported to a foreign country.  Despite being constantly distracted by a certain General Silas Dravenko, she uses her special talent of detecting the cause of illness and her hard earned skills of healing to help a country sorely in need.  Add to that the mysterious presence of dragons, and you have a riveting story with several mysteries to solve.

This story is a refreshing addition to the paranormal romance genre. I have noticed a lot of paranormal romance novels have a apocalypse imminent feel to them lately. The storylines (while complete mini arcs) of each book barely push back or stall the “end”. While there are hints of a overall evil, this story really seems to be lighthearted and besides the titillating romance parts, gives us a story of strong women who rally to each other and build each other up.

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Eating From the Ground Up

This delightful cookbook by Alana Chernila is filling an important void in my cookbook library. I have cookbooks with vegetable recipes, cookbooks that use vegetables in interesting ways (dessert, spagetti, breads, etc), but had given away my other cookbook that solely highlights the wonders of vegetables (The Broad Fork by Hugh Atchinson). It went to a good cause, I gave it to my sister and her boyfriend (who is a farmer) to give them some fun ideas about different things to cook.

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Alana introduces the book by telling a wonderful story about how to eat radishes. In the anecdote she realizes she doesn’t know how to best showcase/eat a radish and since she was working at a farmer’s market stand at the time (which had a LOT of radishes), perhaps that wasn’t conducive to selling. In a humorous drive that is present throughout the book, she goes home, plays with different preparations, and then has an answer for the next week when they inquire. Bonus: Her suggestion sounds good. Considering radishes are a little bit of a mystery vegetable for me as well, I was hooked.

Recipes in this book takes a look at recipes from “barely recipes”, to more involved preparations for your vegetables. A quick browse had me targeting a few for more in depth reading.  This is a welcome addition despite some recipes that are really simple and more like throwing together a bunch of uncooked vegetables, which seems rather pedestrian for a cookbook. I also enjoyed that she took some liberties with the recipes. It isn’t just recipes using vegetables and spices, it also incorporates bread and crust and meat sometimes. Keeps the variety fun since meals don’t need to follow the strict equation entree+2 sides+ bread.

The pictures are delightful and clear and make it seem achievable. Which is wonderful when branching out.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.