Lazy Sunday and a New Favorite Recipe

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In between procrastinating on house cleaning and sitting down to finish my latest book I am reading, I thought I would post a new recipe that I just love.  The flavors are deep, subtle and mouthwatering.  And the chicken was even better the next day.

This calls for butterflying the chicken.  If you have never done this before, it is  easy.  I used kitchen shears although you can use a knife. Here is a good video on how to do it: www.ehow.com/how_2089420_butterflychicken.html

Now on to the recipe.  This will become a go to recipe. It has for me.

Glazed Butterfly Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons grated onion (use the smallest side on a box grater, or use a rasp)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated (on a rasp)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Allow to rest on the counter for up to 2 hours to come to room temperature.

Heat a large oven-safe pan (such as a cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Right as the oil begins to smoke, add the chicken, skin side down. Press gently while cooking and allow to sear until a peek beneath reveals golden brown skin, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, flip the bird over so that the skin is on top and place the pan in the oven. Be gentle with the tongs, they could rip the skin; try gripping the legs to flip. Place the pan in the oven and roast about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepot on medium heat, add the butter and melt. Add the onions, garlic and allspice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Sweat the onions for a few minutes, but do not brown. Add the brown sugar, mustard, hot sauce and vinegar. Cook a bit more to bring the flavors together, and then remove from the heat.

When the chicken is around the 140 degree F mark, about 30 minutes in, remove from the oven and brush on the glaze. Return to the oven and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F, about 15 minutes more. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before serving. Cut off the legs, and then slice the breast off and cut into portions.

A Review of A Chance Encounter by Gale Stanley

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A Chance Encounter is the first book I have read by Gale Stanley and the first in the new series from her, Hybrids #1. I have mixed feelings about this book so I give it a 3.25 rating.

This is Gale Stanley’s take on the Secret Government Project/Evil Scientist story and she does a nice job with it. Adam’s DNA was manipulated at birth in a project aimed at producing the perfect soldier. The scientist in charge of the project? None other than Adam’s father. During an explosion at the military lab that housed the experimental subjects, Adam escapes and ends up on the run. After a time, he ends up in Philadelphia where he meets a man called Chance Hollis, son of a local business tycoon.

And this is where the story derailed for me. The author’s descriptions of Adam’s life and containment within the lab was visual and real. I felt for Adam and the other young men that had been turned into creatures upon military order and hated how they were treated. Even the lust at first sight was believable and believably written for both men.

One of the things that kept me from giving this a higher rating is the “love at first sight” relationship that Adam and Chance jump into, both declaring their love for each other almost immediately. In some shifter novels where this happens, it is explained by the presence of pheromones or the mate drive or some other “deus ex machina” brought about by the author. Here there is no such explanation as Adam is essentially a lab experiment. Here they just “looove” one another. This is also not believable as Adam has spent almost his entire life as a lab rat, so he has no interpersonal skills and zero trust in people for obvious reasons. I also didn’t care very much for Chance who has his own father issues. He just seemed a little whiney to me. He wants to write, his father wants him to learn his business from the ground up. What a villain! Chance compares his office cubicle to a prison which is laughable after the great job Gale Stanley does in describing the horrors of the prison that Adam lived in. Chance did not seem very credible to me.

This is a short book, only 8 chapters. I think it would have been a far better book if the relationship of the characters had been given a chance to develop naturally through at least Book 2, from lust to like to love. As it is, the book ends abruptly as the characters jet off into the sequel and presumably the sunset.

I will get the sequel to this when it comes out to see if the characters improve as well as to see what happens next.

 

Adam is a wolf hybrid, the result of a military research project, splicing animal DNA with human DNA to create the perfect soldier. But the genetic manipulation went too far, and Adam can’t control his beast. Slated for termination, a freak gas explosion provides the opportunity for his escape from the medical facility he calls home. A hunted man, he expects to spend the rest of his life alone, but a Chance encounter brings him hope for a future.

Chance is unlucky in love and stuck in a job he hates. Then he meets Adam, his perfect man. But Adam is more than a man, and involving Chance in his life could get them both killed

 

A Review of All Bets Are Off by Marguerite Labbe

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My rating: “http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/261735926″4 of 5 stars
Rating: 4.5 stars
In All Best Are Off Marguerite Labbe has crafted a lovely, warmhearted romance. This book has everything I love in a story – great characters, a terrific plot, marvelous dialog and a HEA that had me smiling long after I had finished the book. And I should add hot and sexy!
Professor Eli Hollister hasn’t had the best luck in relationships when he spies a hot man helping roof his friend’s bar and local hangout. The hot man on the roof? Ash Gallagher, recently discharged from the Army after being wounded in Afghanistan and now in Amwich, CT trying to finish his degree. One meeting and the physical attraction between them is combustible. Really, you can feel the heat. After the night together ends unexpectedly, both are looking forward to another meeting but neither expects it to be in the classroom, with Eli as Ash’s professor.
Due to the nature of the student/teacher relationship, they decide to forego the physical side of the relationship until the semester is over. This allows both the men and the reader get a chance to explore their characters within the structure of a small town and college. The build up of sexual tension between Ash and Eli is wonderful and frustrating. Plus there are outside burdens placed on each man that adds additional stress to their new relationship. For Eli, there is a English Chair who despises him and wants him fired. For Ash, the fact that his closes friends were left behind overseas when he left the military is making him feel guilty.
Marguerite is such a gifted author that almost immediately you are swallowed up into their lives. Their joys are yours as well as their doubts and aggravations. When Eli gets stubborn and angry with Ash, you get why while at the same time commiserating with Ash over the walls Eli has erected. I just loved these two. And my only quibble would be that at the end, I wish I could have seen more of their future together but perhaps that is another story.
Either way I know I will be picking this book up again in the future so I can settle back into the lives of Eli and Ash.

It only takes one night with Ash Gallagher to make Eli Hollister think he’s finally met the right man at the right time. Good thing he doesn’t bet on it, because Ash turns out to be a student in Eli’s class at the local college. Eli can’t deny he’s attracted, but now it’s complicated. He’s already in enough trouble with the department head, a man who would like to see Eli denied his tenure and fired.

Ash is looking forward to taking his life in a new direction. After serving one active-duty stint in the Marine Corps and another in the Reserves, he’s ready to put his military life behind him. The last new experience he’d planned for this semester was to fall in lust with his English professor, but the more Eli resists, the more Ash is determined to have him. Then he discovers Eli’s playing for keeps, and Ash is only interested in a fling… or is he? Between these two, when it comes to life and love, all bets are off.

Available from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and All Romance.
http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2515670-melaniem54msn-com”>View all my reviews</a>

A Review of Infected Bloodlines by Andrea Speed

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I knew this book would be heartbreaking from the very beginning. After falling in love with Roan and Paris in the first Infected book, I had been debating how quickly I wanted to delve into this one. I decided on the cowardly choice and read a much lighter book instead. But the characters kept calling me and truthfully, I just had to know what happened next.

As expected, the sniffles started from the very first page. Andrea Speed has created such a mesmerizing universe here populated with beings both memorable and haunting. Roan McKitchen is hired to find a missing girl, a case that turns into a murder with a suspect at each new development. Paris Lehane (Roan’s partner/husband) is involved in a fight of his own as the infection and the Tiger virus take its toll. The warm and loving relationship of these two men (built in this and the first book) is countered by the realities of Paris’ condition and Roan’s attempts to deal with it. Paris and Roan aren’t perfect, and their relationship has taken work. But the pain coming off both men is genuine as are the motions they go through. Denial, anger, depression and bargaining, Roan is dealing with them all as the case of the murdered girl gets murkier. All the people around Roan and Paris are beautifully fleshed out characters, remarkable in the impressions they leave you with. By the time I finished the book, my box of tissues was as empty as I felt. So, can you love a book when you hate whats coming? In my case, yes. Andrea Speed made me care so much about these people that I was drained at the end but would not have missed the journey. With 2 more published books to this series yet.

So I think I will go read something frivolous or one of my comfort reads before I head into the 3rd book. But the pain and heartache of this story is worth it. And it will stay with me for some time to come.

4.75 Stars

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The newly married Roan is struggling to balance his work with his home life as he grows increasingly distracted by his husband Paris’s declining health. One case with strong emotions attached takes up most of his time: finding the murderer of a missing little rich girl who winds up dead. But while solving the crime, Roan loses something infinitely precious as well.

 

Trashy Secret Pleasures – Bama Glama

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Today’s quick post is all about those trashy things you secretly love and hide from others, whether it is Twinkies, National Inquirer like magazines or in my case, a new show on Foodnetwork called Bama Glama.

Like all guilty pleasures, I accidentally fell into this one.    Flicking through the channels, I saw this white southern goth guy talking ’bout ‘his brides” and how he takes care of his “brides”.  Now my mind immediately leapt to “sister wife” conclusions but I couldn’t have  been more wrong.  The guy turns out to be Scot Wedgeworth, a southern wedding planner based out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and “his brides” are his clients.

Here is the blurb from Foodnetwork: “Friday nights on Food Network are about to get a little more fabulous. From incredible food to lush floral arrangements, Alabama event designer Scot Wedgeworth creates one-of-a-kind events in“Bama Glama”, a six-episode original series premiering Friday, December 16 at 8p.m. Eastern/7p.m. Central. With his signature edgy flair, unfiltered sense of humor and volatile team, Scot makes every wedding, birthday party and reception an over-the-top affair.”

From Episode1 it is clear that no one, including Scott, his assistants, caterers, have watched the very network they are appearing on, as his “over the top” decorations and food are strictly southern Baptist circa 1970 (as familiar as I am with my cousins, aunts, uncles etc from Georgia and Alabama).

Whether they are coming up with a potato bar (mashed potatoes in martini glasses with little marshmallows as olive stand-ins) or lemonade stand at the reception, the OMG moments flow fast and furious.  The bride wants cupcakes instead of a cake at the wedding? OMG, the caterer doesn’t know what to do (see Cupcake Wars I would recommend).  But she comes up with white cupcakes in a floral paper cup! Nope never been done before.  And Scott’s floral arrangments?  Look the same in every show, except of course, with the roses and corn specialty he created.   It  had a row of corn standing up surrounded by a row of roses.  I can’t make these things up.  I giggled for minutes.

If I had a recommendation (and one I would have followed when I was in college) is that this be viewed along with shots of tequila.  One snort/giggle=a shot.  The party would be rolling pretty quick.  Last night the menu was mashed potatoes with a sprig of parsley in the middle, overcooked green beans with huge hunks of  ham in a peculiar lavender color floating on top, and squares of chicken with white gravy in a bowl.  And the caterer was horrified that the bride wanted a corn dish because that would be tacky. God, I love this show.

So tune in on Saturday on the Foodnetwork and watch.  A remarkable addition to the growing pantheon of reality TV.

A Review of Lessons in Love Cambridge Fellows #1 by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5  I liked it but wouldn’t read it again.

Lessons In Love is the first in the Cambridge Fellows series and my first introduction to Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart, fellows at St. Bridge’s College, Cambridge. Set in Edwardian England, civility and restraint are the rules of the day and even the hint of homosexuality can bring incarceration or the gallows.

Dr. Orlando Coppersmith is repressed and aloof, consumed by mathematics. Dr. Jonathan (Jonty) Stewart teaches English and Literature in a manner that welcomes interaction with both peer and student alike. Opposites clash when Jonty mistakenly claims Dr. Coppersmith’s chair at High Table and is set to right by that gentleman. But repression can conceal innocence and a friendly manner can hide a traumatic past as both gentlemen get to know each other better and begin the course of their relationship.

Meanwhile, a murderer stalks the halls and lawns of St. Bride’s, killing young men with a predilection for homosexuality. With that threat hanging over their new found feelings for each other, Jonty and Orlando set off to help the local Constabulary to solve the mystery and catch the murderer.

I often felt as I was reading this story that I was gazing at a story as a tintype. The language used, the sights evoked, all seemed to be filtered through a sepia colored light. Like gazing through the window at a antiques shop, I felt that there was always a barrier between me and the characters. I liked them, enjoyed them even but never quite felt their pain or insecurities.

Some of the real delights of this book are discovering Edwardian sweets with such wonderful names as Bulleyes, Liquorice Allsorts and Mint Lumps. Or going on in search of the meaning of Rugby terms so I would a better understanding of the positions each man played on the team. Charlie Cochrane’s descriptions of Cambridge 1902 were so very real that I felt like freshening up the fire to keep away the cold in the rooms myself as I read.

I did find the innocence of the young versus the arrogance of position and power strong images throughout the book (in the Edwardian age) and as it plays out in our society today. I am also hoping to find that as I continue through the series that my detachment from the characters begins to diminish the more I become acquainted with them. At any rate, onward I go to the 2nd in the series and the furthering of Jonty and Orlando’s relationship.

I also found the cover didn’t look as though it went with the story.  The men look too modern for 1905 Cambridge, England and doesn’t seem to belong to the story inside.

Blurb from Linden Bay Press: When Jonty Stewart takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, the handsome and outgoing young man acts as a catalyst for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith.

Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the college walls. He strikes up an alliance with the outgoing Jonty, and soon finds himself having feelings he’s never experienced before. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped and they enter into a clandestine relationship.

Their romance is complicated when a series of murders is discovered within St. Bride’s. All of the victims have one thing in common, a penchant for men. While acting as the eyes and ears for the police, a mixture of logic and luck leads them to a confrontation with the murderer—can they survive it?

A Review of Infected Prey by Andrea Speed

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This is the first book of Andrea Speed’s that I read and it is a case of love at first read.  Infected Prey includes the first two books in this series and what a fabulous introduction to this author.

The world created here is one in which a werecat virus has spread much like HIV through society and governments are struggling to deal with it much like they did with AIDS in the initial stages of discovery and scientific research.  At this time, there is no idea how this blood born pathogen came into being although it is suggested that the government might have something to do with it.  Again, much like HIV, some are born with it (virus children) and some are infected, whether by accident (transfusions) or intention (attacks or choice).

Roan McKichan was born an infected child.  Now grown, he is a ex-cop and P.I.  The years of growing up unwanted and in abusive foster homes, have left him wary, cynical, and  isolated.  His partner, Paris Lehane, is a Infected by malevolent intent and carries the rare Tiger strain.  Paris is the only one that Roan lets get close to him physically and more importantly, emotionally.  The heart of this book is  the relationship between these two men, both incredibly different and yet deeply in love with each other.  Two unique voices that leap off the page and demand your attention.

In Andrea Speed’s world, shifting from one species to another is not an easy matter.  In fact, it’s painful, debilitating, and in some cases lethal.   Those Infected are caged during their change for society’s protection, whether it is cages at home supplied by the State or at the Police Station in a special ward.  Still, there are some who wish to be Infected themselves and the Church of the Divine Transformation draws those individuals like flies to raw meat.  And someone is killing them.

Hired by the head of the Church to find the killer, Roan and his lover, Paris, struggle to find the killer while dealing with the dynamics of their relationship, their health problems, and the fact that Roan is changing in ways neither man can grasp.

Intense, sometimes funny, and always addictive.  Here is Roan in a mall store trying to get information from a clerk:

Roan: “I’m a cat, yeah. I’m a virus child.”

“Really?” Her eyes were shining now. He was another boring adult when he walked in, but now he was suddenly exotic and appealing. “Cool.” He thought of Paris’s breaking bones, and wanted to backhand her across the face.”

Short, succinct, and telling.

There are more in this series, four published and another on the way.

I give this a 4.5 and am on my way to starting the second book, Infected Bloodlines, that looks to be a heartbreaker.  I’ll let you all know what I find.

But in the meantime, pick this one up.  Let me know what you think.  I think you will love it.

Speed, Andrea. Infected Prey (Kindle Locations 1678-1682). Dreamspinner Press.

Blurb: “In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.”

A Review of the Josh of the Damned Books (Pretty Monsters and Peek-A-Boo)

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From Riptide Publishing: “Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot. Still, he likes to think he can roll with things. Sure, the zombies make a mess sometimes, but at least they never reach for anything more threatening than frozen burritos.

Besides, it’s not all lizard-monsters and the walking dead. There’s also the mysterious hottie with the sly red lips and a taste for sweets.

Josh has had the hots for Hot Guy since the moment he laid eyes on him, and it seems Hot Guy might be sweet on Josh too. Now if only Josh could figure out whether that’s a good thing, a bad thing, or something in between. After all, with a hell vortex just a stone’s throw away, Josh has learned to take nothing at face value—even if it’s a very, very pretty face.”

And the Sequel also from Riptide Publishing:

“As night-shift clerk at the go-to Quik-Mart for monsters with the munchies, Josh Caplan believes he’s seen it all. Battling lizard men, werewolves chasing cars in the parking lot . . . nothing fazes Josh anymore.

Or so he thinks, at least, until a yeti with poor communication skills drops a dead skunk on the checkout counter. Josh can’t figure what a living, breathing shag carpet wants with him, or why it won’t leave him alone no matter how hard he ignores it. But hey, at least it seems harmless . . . if perhaps a little slow on the draw.

But Sasquatch is plenty fast when two of Josh’s human customers try to out-monster the monsters. Times are strange when creatures from the hell portal save the day, but in the protective hands of a lovesick yeti and a sexy vampire boyfriend, Josh realizes that maybe his new normal isn’t so bad after all.”

I breezed through both books, one right after the other, reading in absolute joy.  They are both very short but don’t stint on the laughs and marvelous descriptions.  What  can you say about a young man, working as a clerk at a Quik Mart, who takes each event and monster with aplomb.  Josh keeps a broom with a silver handle to shoo the werewolves who keep chasing the cars in the parking lot and a open mind when discussing the weather with lizard people in search of snacks.  And keep the lookout for the reason Josh thinks the zombies are so fond of the frozen burritos….ugh.

The  trouble I find when breezing through a series?  At the end, if it has been very, very, good, you immediately want the next one.  And now I immediately want the next one.

A Review of Blue Notes by Shira Anthony

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From Dreamspinner Press: “Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.”

My Review:

I loved Blue Notes, from the characters involved, through the streets of Paris where they lived and loved, and finally in the music they listened to and created. It took me a bit longer to read this story as I kept stopping to search for a particular selection of music to listen to as I read (Bach Sonata 2 in A Minor was the first) which gave me a deeper appreciation for the scene I was reading. As I listened I was in tune with the emotions of the characters as the music engaged them. Shira Anthony matched music to the men and the story. What beautiful harmony she created.

Jason is a man in flux. His life is upset upon learning of his fiance’s cheating. Unhappy with both his romantic life as well as his dull but successful career, Jason returns to Paris in winter for a vacation and to reflect upon his life. I love Paris and here the author writes about Paris with knowledge and love evident in every sentence. Jason meets a young musician on his very first night in the city who seduces him with his music and flirty demeanor.

Jules upsets Jason in so many ways. He is young, vibrant, with the air of the “streets” and gay. Jason has always acted and behaved straight while inwardly acknowledging his attraction to men. Both share a love of jazz and classical music. From that shared love, they slowly build a relationship that pulls in the reader from the very beginning. All of the characters are wonderfully fleshed out, including the secondary and satellite people around them. Jason’s sister, Rosie, is especially charming and winning.

Shira Anthony does provide a Blue Notes soundtrack on her site shiraanthonydotcom but I was disappointed to find only 3 selections listed (I know, what whining to be sure). I would have loved to have had a list in hand for all the music she used to listen to instead of stopping to look for soundbites. Josh Lanyon is great at this and has spoiled me. But that is really such a minor complaint when she delivered such a wonderful book and music along with it.

So bravo. Loved it. Encore, encore!