June 2014 Summary of Reviews and June’s Best Covers

Standard

✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍

June header

flowers June

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2014 Book Review Summary

*Key:
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

5 Star Rating:

Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane C,S
Cold Feet by Lee Brazil C, S*
Diego (Endangered Fae #2) by Angel Martinez F, S
Isle of Waves by Sue Brown C, S*
Swords, Sorcery and Sundry by Mina MacLeod, F, S*

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Apollo’s Curse by Brad Vance (4.25) F, SN
Cross & Crown by Abigail Roux (4.5) C, S
Duty to the Crown by Rebecca Cohen (4.25) H, S
Finn (Endangered Fae) by Angel Martinez (4.5) F, S
Let It Ride by L.C. Chase (4) C, S
Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan (4.25) F
Nothing But Smoke by Daisy Harris (4) C, S
Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon (4.25), C
The Actor and the Earl by Rebecca Cohen (4) H, S
The Dog Trainer by Owen Keehnen (4) C
Voodoo ‘n’ Vice by K.C. Burn (4.25) SF, S

 

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Dinner At Home by Rick R. Reed, (3.75) C, S
Out of the Gate by E. M. Lynley (3.75) C

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

None

*rounded up to 5 stars

Best Covers of April 2014

 

GranbyKnittingMenagerie[The]LGBlackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair coverCover_NothingButSmoke

Miles and the Magic Flute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isle of Waves coverDinner at Home coverOutoftheGateLGLet It Ride cover

 

 

 

 

 

✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍

Photographic Covers and Non Photographic Covers:

Dinner At Home, cover by Reese Dante
Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair, cover by Catt Ford
Granby Knitting Menagerie, cover by Catt Ford
Isle of Waves, cover by L.C. Chase
Let Ir Ride, cover by L.C. Chase
Miles and the Magic Flute, cover by Wilde City Press
Out of the Gate, cover by Reese Dante
Nothing But Smoke, cover by Kanaxa

 

 

Review: Bully for You (Dreamspinner 2013 Daily Dose) by Catt Ford

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Bully for You coverWhen Martin Du Bois decides he wants something, then the path is set in concrete.  What Martin wants is a cowboy and figures the rodeo is just the place to find one.  After convincing his friends that a night at the rodeo is just the thing, an evening watching hot guys in boots and chaps is not enough, Martin wants to meet one. A tip from another fan at the rodeo points Martin and friends in the direction of a local bar visited by the participants.   When guylinered, sparkly Martin enters, he is accosted by a drunken cowboy. While handling the drunk in his normal mouthy manner, the bullriders and in particular a well known rodeo star, Jesse Cumberland, come to his rescue, then offers to buy him a drink.

Soon Martin is in heaven as Jesse is gay and more than interested in flaming city boy Martin.  A one-night stand leads to another, and then a trip to watch Jesse on the road.  Before he is aware of the fact, his one-night stand has become a relationship, and that scares Martin to no end.  A former boyfriend and a bad relationship have made Martin wary of any deep emotional involvement and that is exactly what Jesse appears to want from him.  Can Martin overcome his past hurts to grab up the man in front of him or will he let love slip away due to their differences?

Catt Ford loves writing about the rodeo and the cowboys who live by it and I, for one, am so happy that she does.  I recently reviewed her book, Bullheaded, and enjoyed it.  But I was unprepared for how much I adored the characters of Marti and Jesse that I found inside Bully for You.  This is a short story, just 92 pages, that was a part of Dreamspinner’s 2013 Daily Dose, and it is just a sparkly little romance that is giddy with glitter and a touch of love.

Martin Du Boise, aka Marti, is a flaming, sparkly gay city boy.  He lisps, he twirls, he is exuberant, and outgoing in the extreme,  But under all that confidence, Marti is also someone who has been hurt and the pain of that betrayal has left him unwilling to take the chance of being hurt again.  Ford gives Marti all the personality traits and mannerisms that could have become a cliche and makes the total a warm, endearing flame of a man with more depth to him than is first apparent.  Jesse Cumberland is also a nice surprise.  He is not the average closeted rodeo star but someone comfortable in his own skin to acknowledge his homosexuality and pursue the man he wants, no matter the differences.  I thought Catt Ford did a good job with him as well.  Taken separately, each character has some flaws that would  have bothered me in a longer story.  Marti becomes a little too unhinged by their differences for such a confidant person, Jesse’s handling of his two ranch hands bothered me enough that I wish Catt Ford had addressed that issue instead of letting it slide by.  These issues bothered me but the charm of the characters smoothed those bumps in the storyline over enough that it did not reflect on my enjoyment of their romance.

But my biggest quibble would be the HFN ending.  It is far to abrupt for the emotional events that preceded it.  I have no problem with HFNs.  Often this type of ending is the only reasonable and realistic ending that could occur.  But I would like to see it rounded out, and emotionally satisfying as a resolution to the story and I am not sure that happened here.  It just ends.  The fact that the story is a short story does not automatically mean an abrupt ending but I am seeing more and more of that these days as authors do not seem to know how to bring a short story to a viable end.  Sigh.  But that is a blog for another day.

Do I recommend Bully for You?  Absolutely, I loved this little bit of glittery romance.  Both characters endeared themselves to me, enough so that I would love to see what happens next in their romance.  So, Catt Ford, if you are listening, can we have a sequel please?  I will be first in line to pick it up.  Now on to get the rest of Catt Ford’s rodeo stories.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  That cover is just as adorable as the characters inside.  Great job and one of my favorites, really there are a lot of Paul Richmond covers out there that are marvelous. He just keeps getting better and better.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published June 1st 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN
1623808197 (ISBN13: 9781623808198)
edition language
English

What An Amazing Week in LGBTQ History and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Rainbow Empire State BuildingLast week was such an amazing week for the LGBTQ community.  SCOTUS ruled on DOMA and Proposition 8, declaring DOMA unconstitutional and returning Prop 8 to the lower courts, essentially removing the opposition to gay marriages in California, marriages which resumed almost immediately following the decision.  Celebrations were countrywide, loud and joyous.  Even the President phoned to offer his congratulations on the ruling to the couple named in the suit.   True, the opposition has vowed to continue to fight equality, but that tide is turned and their efforts will ultimately be futile ones.   Some people will always continue to be clueless (see Paula Deen) about history lessons. No putting the genie back in the bottle or ushering people to the back of the bus once they have tasted equality.  To be adult about it, nuhuh, ain’t goin’ to happen, folks, so just deal! Woohooo, what a week.

In the FYI portion of the blog, I found Fynn’s F*&k You Scarf Pattern from Missouri Dalton’s The Night Shift.  You can find the pattern here, courtesy of Ravelry and Missouri Dalton.  Really, this pattern is too hysterical for words and looks great too.  Winston is doing great in his adjustment to the household and other dogs, almost seamless.  He is a joy for all of us.  New books are arriving in the Bellingham Mysteries series from Nicole Kimberling (Loose id) and the Recon Diaries series by Kendall McKenna, so look for book giveaways soon.

It’s been a soggy, humid week around here, with fireworks going off willy nilly it seems at local jurisdictions seemed to have planned Fourth of July celebrations anywhere but on the fourth.  Let me tell you, my dogs are  not happy about that! Sigh.

So here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 1:                      Scattered Thoughts June Book Review Summary

Tuesday, July 2:                     The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Wed., July 3:                           Birds of a Feather by Nicole Kimberling

Thursday, July 4:                   Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley

Friday, July 5:                         Bully for You by Catt Ford

Sat, July 6:                               Pickup Men by L.C. Chase

American Flag CocktailAnd here is a Fourth of July cocktail recipe for you to enjoy.  Happy Fourth of July in advance!

American Flag Cocktail:

American Flag drink recipe made with Blue Curacao,Creme de Cacao,Grenadine,. How to make a American Flag with all the instructions and ingredients.
Recipe Rating: 4.6 stars based on 13 votes
Ingredients to use:
0.33 oz Blue Curacao
0.33 oz Creme de Cacao
0.33 oz Grenadine
Directions:
Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

For more Fourth of July cocktail recipes, visit this site.

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

Standard

mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Bullheaded by Catt Ford

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Bullheaded coverBull rider Cody Grainger and bullfighter Johnny Arrow have been in love for two years and traveling together on the circuit for less.  The relationship is one that Cody’s parents approve of and the rodeo world has little knowledge of.  A time of change is coming for both men, something neither of them want to acknowledge. For Cody Grainger, the future means retirement.  Cody is at the top of the ratings and hopes to win the first back to back World Champion Bull Rider titles, but his body feels every inch his thirty years plus the wear and tear of riding bulls is making it harder for his body to take the abuse doled out by the bulls. Cody doesn’t just want to win, he needs to win and he refuses to see that his time as a bull rider is coming to an end.

Johnny Arrow is much younger than Cody and just starting out in his career as  a bullfighter.  His chosen profession means as much to him as bullriding does to Cody but Johnny just can’t seem to get that idea into Cody’s head.  Frustration and unhappiness grows between the men and when the lack of communication is combined with the stress of the chase  of the world title, their relationship breaks apart and Johnny leaves to pursue his profession on the summer circuit.  With Johnny gone and Cody in denial about the cause of their breakup, Cody’s career takes a downward spiral he is unable to break.  Both men soon realize they need to be together, but pride is a tough obstacle to get through.  So is Cody’s outlook on Johnny and his career.  Can both men compromise enough to let their love pull them through or will pride and denial cost them the love of their lives?

Catt Ford knows the world of bull riding from every exciting aspect, from the athleticism of the bulls themselves to the bullfighters who risk life and limb to protect the bull riders after their rides are done.  Ford’s familiarity and her vivid descriptions of the sport make this book for me.  I love the rodeo and Ford captures all the details from the danger of the chute to the politics and marketing strategy of the stock contractors and folds them effortlessly into her story.  The author even gives the reader an introductory Bullriding 101 that works in its brevity and simplicity and helps the reader unfamiliar with the subject to better understand the terms and specifics of the sport.  I normally am not a fan of this book dictionary idea but it works beautifully here and adds to the readers enjoyment instead of befuddlement.

Catt Ford’s descriptions really bring you into the world of bullriding.  Instead of feeling like you are watching the events happen from a distance, say on cable, she makes you feel the events are happening around you, as though you are sitting in the stands, the dust of the arena in the air and the sounds of clanging gates and the explosive grunts of the bulls ringing in your ears.  This is how the book opens, with Cody on the back of a bull and the chute gate getting ready to open:

IT ALWAYS started this way. He could feel his heart speed up, the insistent pounding in his chest, the steel rail cold under his hand, the restless beast throbbing between his legs, the tightness of the wrap around his hand. He gave the nod.

When the gate opened, the bull exploded out of the chute, bucking and twisting high in the air. Time slowed down for him as the rush of adrenaline shot through his body. It made him feel weightless yet powerful. Energized but floating on air. This was going to be a good ride. He was in the zone, shifting his body expertly, just enough to counter each move the bull threw at him, finding the perfect center of balance. The bull’s rage shivered up his spine, but it didn’t make a dent in his determination to win. He could almost hear the ticking as each hundredth of a second counted down.

His timing was perfect. He was so concentrated on his ride he couldn’t hear the roar of the crowd or the buzzer when it came. His internal clock told him once again he was the victor in the ageless contest between man and beast.

And it gets better from there.  You feel the pain from old and new injuries adding up, the young riders pushing to get ahead and the love of bull riding that doesn’t diminish even while the body is telling the rider it is time to quit.  Marvelous, realistic, glorious and sometimes quite sad.

It is Catt Ford’s characters and storyline that I had some issues with.  Johnny Arrow is clearly my favorite of the main characters.  He is young, ambitious and supporting a family on the reservation. Yet he is also inexperienced when it comes to men and insecure enough about his relationship with Cody not to speak up for his own needs.  Johnny’s growth as a professional bullfighter and more importantly as his own person is charted throughout the story.  It is well done and absolutely necessary to maintain his realism as a character.  He experiments with sexual encounters with a diverse sampling of gay men helps define who he is although some readers will have problems with this aspect of the book.  Both Johnny and Cody have sex with others but the reader needs to keep in mind that the couple is broken up and therefore not cheating on each other.  It is a realistic facet of their lives and helps with each characters growth.

And while Johnny is my favorite character, Cody is my least.  It probably doesn’t help that we see only a little of their relationship before the argument that breaks them up.  The Bullheaded of the title clearly speaks to Cody’s mental state as well as profession.  He rides roughshod over Johnny and pretty much everyone else throughout most of the book and doesn’t experience nearly the amount of growth Johnny does or that Cody needs to.  In fact, they are separated for almost too much of the story and for me, it doesn’t really begin to gel until they meet back up again and try to work things out.   For far too much of the story, Cody is just that much of an unlikeable person.  He  is understandable in his desperation to stay on top and we get the stress he is under from all sides to retire and while we can relate to him we don’t necessarily like him.  And that hurts the story from my perspective.

It took me a while to commit to the relationship between Cody and Johnny.  What pulled me through until I connected with them was Catt Ford’s immersion of the reader into her love of the bull riding universe.  I will let Cody speak for himself:

The physical and mental challenge to stay aboard and the ecstasy of conquest rushed through him, electrifying his body. It felt like more excitement than his body could contain, as if he might explode with the insane joy of it any moment.

Catt Ford gets bull riding and makes the reader understand why.  For that reason alone, you should pick up this book and let the bulls and their riders come alive before you.  It is an amazing journey and one you will enjoy.

Cover art by Catt Ford.  Unusual cover gets your attention immediately and works for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 340 pages
Published April 15th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN
1623806267 (ISBN13: 9781623806262)
edition language
English

Mother’s Day and The Week Ahead

Standard

Short and sweet today.  It’s Mother’s Day and the cookout here is only hours  away.   Plus it’s my birthday week, so I expect to have a hopefully fun filled, jam packed schedule.   So if life and my schedule permits, here is the week a head in reviews:

Monday, May 13:                  The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown

Tuesday, May 14:                  Never A Hero  (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton

Wed., May 15:                        Night of Ceremony by M. Raiya

Thursday, May 16:                Bad Attitude by KA Mitchell

Friday, May 17:                      Bullheaded by Catt Ford

Saturday, May 18:                Lenny For Your  Thoughts by Anyta Sunday

So there it is. Got to go.  Wish like mad it would warm up,  Poor plants, flooded and now cold.  Is that a sniffle I feel coming on?

Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

Standard

Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2

]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante

Acrobat2

Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2

 Sidecar2

Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design

roninandthefox_2

A Token of Time 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn

Burn2

Riotboy2

Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series:

Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover

Review of Five Star Review by Lara Brukz

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars

Eric Carillo edits textbooks for a living and writes book reviews for his blog mmreviewers on the side.  When m/m fiction author Cade Montgomery sends him a email after Eric had reviewed one of his books, it is the start of a long distance online friendship that both come to treasure.  As the friendship deepens into something that might be called romance, Cade and Eric start thinking about meeting in person.  When a conference brings Cade to Eric’s city, each hopes their meeting will rate a five star review and the beginning of a future together.

Five Star Review is a very sweet short story that has some lovely twists and turns to it.  The romance by email gives us a chance to watch the relationship grow between the two men as they go through their daily lives.  Eric Carillo is a terrific character, nuanced by a surprise waiting for the reader and Cade that neither of us expected.  Well done, Lara Brukz! I didn’t see it coming and it makes Eric stand out from the crowd of similar individuals I have read about.  Cade Montgomery by the same token doesn’t distinguish himself as much from other blond, good looking nice gay men in other stories.  He comes across as a little bland but sweet natured.  Both men are surrounded by loving families I wish we had seen more of during the story.

This is a short story, only 105 pages long and it ran into trouble during the last half of the book.  Instead of concentrating on the  two main characters and deepening their relationship, the author chose to concentrate on Eric’s ex who lives across the hallway.  Marshall Ellerbee is a confusing character, part pathetic rich boy half alcoholic stalker. The author makes him a viable threat and then has Eric treat him in an offhanded manner that belies their past.  The last chapters deal with Marshall and his actions in an unsatisfactory and hurried fashion which culminates in an ending that still has me asking questions, the primary one being why wasn’t the police called.

My review of Five Star Review ends stating that Lara Brukz has much to offer as an author.  Here she has shown that  she  can deliver a character we can connect with, complete with a angst filled backstory combined with a present reality that will surprise us.  And she gave him and us half a great story.  I look forward to seeing the potential she showed us here given full reign in the next story.

Cover: Cover art by Catt Ford.  Just a great cover, perfectly captures the main characters and the story elements.  Beautiful.

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

Standard

What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

Review of Murder at the Rocking R by Catt Ford

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

While pursuing investigations into cattle rustling in Oklahoma Territory, Ranger Tell Hadley came upon a hanged man, dead cattle, and two men left dying in the dust around them.  Now he is on the trail of the survivor to find out what happened back on the Rocking R ranch and blood marks show him that man is injured.

Noel Ivory is a man on the run.  His best friend Jack Rogers has been murdered, his cattle killed, and he aims to avenge his friend.  But he is injured and being trailed by a stranger.  When Tell Hadley catches up with Noel, he is surprised to find that the man he has been tracking is a young reporter from back East with a story of water rights, murder and the involvement of a prominent local family to tell him.

Noel is not sure who he can trust and Tell knows that Noel is hiding something from him.  Can the two men learn to trust each other in time to bring the murderers to justice or will Noel be the next victim?

Catt Ford had me at the name Tell.  That name alone brought back a rush of memories and affection for one of my all time favorite characters in western fiction, William “Tell” Sackett of Louis L’Amour’s novels. I have every one of his books, passed down to me by my dad, a die hard L’Amour fan. And with her opening sentence she dropped me back into the wide ranges populated with trail savvy fighters of the genre I love.

Ranger Tell Hadley follows in the boot steps of other solitary men of honor westerns are so fond of.  Able to track a man where others fail, borne by a half wild Mustang as savvy as himself, I loved Tell from the beginning.  Cautious and fair, I find that he is the heart of the story and not the character of Noel Ivory as Catt Ford may have intended.  Noel Ivory presents some challenges here as a character in a western.  While it is true the typical “Easterner” is found throughout western fiction, Noel ended up presenting me with more questions than answers about his character.  He is a reporter from Philadelphia who ventured out west with his best friend yet our canny Ranger has some trouble tracking him as Noel appears to know tricks that only the wiliest of trackers  would know. How Noel obtained that knowledge is never explained as his friend only passed the rudiments of riding and tracking to him. Plus Noel has an equally smart steed in Smokey who appears on his way to character status and then disappears.

Another irritation here is the “instant love” between Noel and Tell.  Noel is injured and grieving over the loss of his best friend while trying to bring to justice the men who murdered him.  Tell is trying to get Noel to trust him while carrying out his duties as a Ranger,  So how is it that their gaydar goes off, they have sex and declare their love for each other? I would have found it much easier to believe in a longer story. I just found it hard to believe in 58 pages.

I think Catt Ford could have solved most of these issues by extending the length of the story.  This is a very short story with the feel of a much larger one. She has done an excellent job here with her location,  demonstrating a nice touch for the territory and small cattle towns.  I loved her descriptions of the trail, the land around it and the men and horses who move through it. And her alternating POV between Noel and Tell worked well to bring each character closer to the reader.  Everything works here, we just need a little more time to get to know Noel and watch a relationship grow between the two men. These two characters deserve that degree of reader satisfaction and realism. And that would have turned a lovely short story into a great novella.

Cover:  Cover art by Catt Ford, cover design by Mara McKinnon.  I like the cover, especially the dark blue background.  The title would have been easier to see in a light color but overall nice job.