Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend Cooking... Brochettes of Melon, Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Hey, it is still hot out and I am still not interested in cooking.
So, time to search the memory bank for something cool and easy to showcase this week.
The Niece suggested the perfect idea, one she and my sister-in-law have been making for years. It is easy yet delicious, perfect for a summer party or a BBQ, or easy to put in a little Tupperware container and carry to your next picnic or family gathering.

Brochettes of Melon, Prosciutto and Mozzarella with Basil Oil
       makes eight
  • 1 small bunch of basil
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small cantaloupe
  • 16 slices paper thin slice prosciutto
  • 8 small balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 8 metal or wooden skewers

First make the dressing.
Place 16 basil leaves in a blender or small food processor.
Add garlic and oil, pulsing until basil is finely chopped. 
The basil oil can be made up to four hour ahead.

Open the cantaloupe, remove seeds and cut into cubes 
or use a melon baller to make 16 pieces.
If your mozzarella is in large pieces, cut into piece of a similar size to the melon.
On a skewer, place melon, a rolled piece of prosciutto, a piece of mozzarella, another piece of prosciutto and finish with another piece of melon.Before serving, drizzle with basil oil, and garnish 
plate with some sprigs of basil.

Key to this recipe is getting the best ingredients that you can.
Happily, pretty good prosciutto and mozzarella are readily available these days. I picked my cheese up at the "olive bar" at the local supermarket and got the prosciutto pre-packaged in the deli section. Yes, I could have gotten it sliced in the deli, but I thought it might be sliced a lot thinner if it was pre-cut rather than sliced by the over worker deli guy, who had 20 people waiting to order 15 items each for the weekend.

Key I think though is to get a nice ripe cantaloupe and happily they had some nice local ones to pick from at the store. I was told once that to pick a ripe one you should pick them up and smell the stem end. The one with the strongest cantaloupe odor wins.
I used a melon baller to make the cantaloupe, so the pieces turned out the same size as the mozzarella and create a nice appearance.

A little sweet, a little salty, a little savory..a lot very nice.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Review of "Never Knowing" [48]

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens
St.Martin's Press, ISBN  978-0312595685
July 5, 2011, 416 pages

Sometimes, you should be careful what you wish for because, at the old saying goes, it might just come true. So true, as Sara Gallagher finds out.

Having grown up the adopted child in a family with two biological children of her adopted parents, she has always felt different, the odd man out. It has always upset her, with cause it seems, that her father treated her different than he treated her two younger sisters. Even now, when she is grown, the issues continue and she remembers her dream of her imagined loving birth parents that were forced to give her up but would love to be reunited. And with a daughter of her own and about to be married, she wonder what her background, her medical history might be.

She does some research and then hires a private detective who finds her mother. But unlike her dream, her birth mother, a successful college professor wants nothing to do with her. In fact, she is extremely upset at her daughter turning up. And again, it seems with cause, because her birth mother is the only living victim of a serial killer who has haunted British Columbia for decades. And she is a result of her mother’s rape, by a killer, who is still loose, as her father.
Gosh, her adopted dad is not looking so bad now.

Let me start by saying that I loved, loved, loved
Ms. Stevens' first book, Still Missing. A great idea, told in a clever way, with a totally unexpected ending. So, with my fear of the “Second Book” syndrome and having read some mixed reviews, I approached this book gingerly. Bottom line, while it is a good book, I don’t think it is nearly as good a book as her first.

The premise is interesting.
What would it be like to search for your birth parents and have it turn out so horribly? How could you not help but wonder if you…and in turn your child…have inherited some of a killer’s traits? And what responsibility do you have in helping the police catch this man?
So the first part of the book, that starts to explore these issues, is pretty interesting. But then we get caught up in a long…long…middle with a great deal of exploration of Sara’s thoughts and not much action. Should she do this, should she do that. And honestly, the more we shared her thoughts, the less I liked her. The more we saw the behavior of her daughter, the more I think she needed a serious parenting intervention. And as the book went on, more and more I wondered why her almost too good to be true finance put up with it all.

In Still Missing the author used the device of the lead character telling her story, in flashbacks, to her psychiatrist. She was a strong, independent, successful woman who underwent a terrible experienced that almost destroyed her psychologically and is trying to get her life back. In Never Knowing, again Stevens uses the device of conversations with a psychiatrist to shape the book, but with less success. Here Sara comes across as a rather whiny young woman, who has been seeing this doctor for years to deal with her daddy issues and a lot of bad boyfriends. Ok, he liked your sisters better. Face it…move on! At least he was not a serial killer.

Also, what does it say that John, her killer father, is almost likable? Gosh, that does not seem right. They have so much in common, her sends her gifts..ok, very creepy gifts, but still..he is concerned about her. If he would just stop killing people. Add a totally unnecessary twist at the end of the story..that I did see coming..well, yes I had a few issues.

Honestly, it is a good book, but to my mind it just suffers in comparison to the first book. Did I mention I loved that one? Yes..I did.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Cruising The Greek Isles

We will start in the playground of the Rich and Famous...Mykonos




 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Review of "Betrayal of Trust" [47]

Betrayal of Trust: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J.A.Jance
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061731150
July 5, 2011, 352 pages

What would you do if you found something terrible on your child's cell phone. Something deadly.

If you are fortunate, you can call in Homicide Investigator J.P. Beaumont.

When the Governor of Washington, Marsha Longmire, finds her teenage step-grandson sneaking back into his room via a rope ladder early one morning, she takes his cell phone as a punishment. When she see a video on the cell phone that looks like a snuff film, the murder by strangulation of a unknown young girl, she calls in the help of someone she knows from her own past, Beaumont and his partner, in life (his third wife) and at work, Mel Soames.

As bad as a snuff film and the possibility that it is real and that a girl is dead might be, once the two start investigating, things take an even more deadly and shocking turn, with tentacles of evil and corruption that seem to reach out in all direction. Young people, from the lowest socio-economic level to the most privilege who life in multi-million dollar homes and attend the most privileged prep school, are in danger and Beau and Mel have to race to figure it out before more lives are lost.

The last J.A.Jance book I read, Fatal Error (no, not reviewed yet), a book in the Ali Reynolds series, was good.
But this one was very good.
The sort of book you don't want to put down and that makes you sad when it comes to an end. But since it is the 20th, yes, the 20th book in this series and the first that I have read, there are lot that I can go back and catch up on.

Why did I like this book? Yes, it is very well written, something you hope would be true from an author who has published some 45 books. Yes, 45 books.
And I love the setting in the Pacific Northwest. Just like our hero says at one point, give me a gray, overcast, cool day anytime.
But the key to the success of this book are the characters of Beau and Mel.
I am sure the other books in the series examined his troubled past, his battle with alcohol and his two previous marriages, that ended very badly indeed. And while I am all for a flawed hero, I am not unhappy that by this book, Beau seems to have his act together and the story can concentrate on the pursuit of a rather complicated plot and some very bad people. Beau and Mel have a great relationship, both professionally and personally, which again is refreshing. They are very smart, clever at figuring things out at least as quickly as I do...which is, I think, certainly the least we can expect. lol

Then there is a small secondary story, exploring Beau finding out some critical information about his own past, a storyline was quite nice and quite sweet. It ended the book on a positive note that, again, was a nice change from the rather sad incidences in the main story.
Hey, even I sometimes like a happy ending in with my murder and mayhem.

While I am sure that it might be best to start at the beginning of this series..29 books ago... and watch the development of Beau as a character, it is totally not necessary to do so for the enjoyment of this book.
Strongly recommended.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to review.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Musing Monday...Hoarders..The Book Edition

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading ...

This week’s musing asks…
Do you need to have your owned books out where you can see them, or are you okay with them being stored away?

Yes...and yes.

I have way too many books. I admit it.
Logically, there is no reason to have all these books.

I own 1400+, about 1200 books that I have read, plus about 200 that I have not read.
According to Library Thing anyhoo, assuming about 100 were library books and not in the house or books that I gave away.

In my pre-blogging days I was able, somehow, to keep my books in check.
I have book shelves in my family room that are about 8-9 feet wide and 8 feet tall, plus another bookcase upstairs that is about 4 feet wide and 7 feet tall. And some how, this was adequate. I was buying books, but I guess I got rid of other as fast as the new ones came in. Maybe I was borrowing a greater percentage from the library. I am not sure, but somehow book storage was not an issue. That bookcase in the family room was full, but not overly so.
And I will admit that I loved looking at them. All neat and tidy, loosely group by subject. I have one shelf of Easton Press books, with lovely, lovely covers. I have part of a set of the Harvard Classics and part of a set of Dickens that was my grandfather.

But them something happened.
I started blogging. A whole new world of books was opened to me
I read reviews of so many books, many of which I bought.
I started requesting review copies and ARC, many of which I received.
And those shelves got no bigger.

Now I live in a small house, a little Cape Cod.
Sometimes I study my rooms, wondering where I could fit in some more book shelves.
Do I really need a couch?
How often do I actually use the dining room?
How much weigh can these 70 year old floors support?

Because I would love to see all the books I own. But I can not.
First, came some double shelving.
Then, the towers of books. A few next to the bookcase. On that ledge at the top of the stairs. Wow, that holds more than I thought! And the one next to my recliner. And don't forget the ones on that cabinet in the dining room.
But before my house started to book like something out of Hoarders, with tiny paths through the towering piles of books, I adopted the Rubbermaid storage boxes. Actually, they are Sterilite 20 gallon boxes with nice locking handles, available at WalMart.
One...then four. Two filled with read books that I should get rid of and two with unread books. Then I moved the boxes to the basement. Out of sight, out of mind. I wonder how many of those storage boxes I can move down there....
Am I OK with them being stored away? Not totally, but it is better than the alternative. They are there, even if I can not see them at the moment.

Yes, I know I need to get rid of several hundred of my dear books. And I do think about it..but it so hard to part with them. I am not sure why. If you share this..dare I say compulsion...maybe you have an idea why. I doubt I will ever reread most of them. I just WANT them.
It is a constant battle between my desire for them to be all tidy and neat {can we all spell OCD?}, my desire for them to be displayed where I can see them and my lack of desire to part with any of them. I can not have it all.
Unless I move to a bigger house...hmmmm...yes....

I read about a guy recently that told a friend that when he moved to France, he shipped 5 tons of books to his new residence!
Imagine what that cost.
Maybe if I moved to France I could part with some of my books.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

So-So Cute Samurai Sammy Sunday

What do you think? 
Is this a good look for me?
I'm not sure I like my hair up...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Cooking... Boardwalk Food

It is way to hot to be cooking. It was 108 degrees at my office yesterday! That is unacceptable in my mind. So what to do. Well let's get in the car and take a drive down da shore.
Which in my case is a 10 or 15 minutes drive over the bridge to Ocean City, NJ. Crashing waves, kiddies playing in the sand, cool ocean breezes...and Boardwalk Food!!

To those of you who are not familiar with the Jersey Shore, and the Ocean City Boardwalk in particular, the issue of food is not as easy as it might appear at first. First, you must identify the basic food groups and them you must be able to choice the best in each category. Not just good, but the best!

So, we will start with what may be our healthiest choice...which will give you an idea how unhealthy this trip will be. If you want a salad or some grille tofu, you best stay home, because we are eating Boardwalk Food!!
Now,we are looking for pizza and there are many choices, probably a pizza place on every block. But if you are in Ocean City, the only choice is Mack and Manco's. And you can tell by the crowds. You often will have to wait for a table or a seat at the counter, while other pizza places are empty. There will often be a line at the take out counter at the front, those waiting to just get a slice. Because people know. Ocean City=Mack and Manco's
"In Trenton in 1956 pizza, as we know it, was known as "tomato pie", but when Anthony Mack and Vincent Manco came to Ocean City from Trenton that year they just called it pizza. Mack and Manco's opened their first pizza parlor at 918 Boardwalk in the summer of 1956. A few years later they opened another store at 7th Street and the Boardwalk."
For some reason I always seem to end up at the 7th Street store, but either is acceptable. They also have one on the mainland, near my house in fact, and I never, ever go there. Maybe it is the salt air, maybe it is the oven, but you have to eat it on the boardwalk. You can get all the traditional toppings, you can get white pizza and recently they added the thick crust Sicilian style pizza to their menu, but I am a purist at Mack and Manco's. Plain cheese pizza is the best. And the only thing you can drink with it is birch beer, red, cold, delicious birch beer!
Sure, they sell other beverage...but really, try the birch beer. 

Now, we need to get dessert and happily we will not have to go far to reach Khor Bros. for some frozen custard. Now Kohr Bros. first came from Pennsylvania, do so many people at the Jersey shore. And then the product,the actually first 'frozen custard' was perfected on another island a hundred miles or so to the north, Coney Island.
In 1917, a school teacher from York, PA named Archie Kohr purchased a locally made ice cream machine that was powered by a gasoline engine. He and his younger brothers, Elton and Lester, wanted to expand the dairy business they ran from the family's farm.

The fresh homemade ice cream was a popular addition to the milk delivered door to door by the Kohr brothers' horse-drawn wagon. They experimented with the recipe. It now had less fat and less sugar for a smoother, lighter product. 
Sylvester Kohr, their uncle, urged the brothers to take their new machine and frozen dessert to the shore. Following his advice, the Kohr brothers set up a small booth on the bustling boardwalk of Coney Island in 1919. On their very first weekend, they sold more than 18,000 cones at a nickel each. They knew they were on to something great!

You can have vanilla, or chocolate or several other flavors. They even have shakes and smoothies I think, and you can get your frozen delight in a cup. But folks, if you want to do things right, the Ocean City way, there is only one thing to order. That is an orange and vanilla twist in a cone .
And hurry up! Can't you see it is melting!!

Still hungry?
Looking for a little something to munch?
Well, just down the block is Johnson's Popcorn.
Since 1940, Johnson's Popcorn has been one of the most famous icons of the Ocean City, New Jersey's Boardwalk. The aroma of hot caramel tossed over giant kernels of popcorn has lured millions of visitors to Johnson's Popcorn's storefronts that lie beneath the red and white awnings on Ocean City's famous boardwalk!
All of Johnson's Caramel Popcorn is "Hand Mixed" in large copper kettles. This mixing process always draws a crowd of fascinated eyes and hungry snackers during the summer season. So don't forget to order your favorite hand mixed Caramel Popcorn today!
Let's stop and buy a tub. Maybe one to take home to the folks. Here again we are offered some choices. They have butter popcorn and they have caramel popcorn with nuts...but I think they are just offered as a test. No one buys them. No, just go up to the counter and order us a tub of their famous caramel popcorn. Tell them you want a open tub, so that you will get one scooped up, fresh to order, and overflowing. They will give you a lid for later, when you get the volume down, and they will put it in a plastic bag to catch the overflow.

I warn you! Watch out for the swooping seagulls that hand around in front of the store, waiting for pieces to fall!

Ok, surely we are done, right!
Well, I think there are a few more favorite we should check out. I personal favorite are the almond macaroon from George's Candies. Tripician's in Atlantic City make the World's best, but George has the best in Ocean City.

And if you are in Ocean City there is one place that you just have to visit, Shriver's! Salt Water Taffy is what they are famous for, but they also make a fine fudge, in a huge variety of flavors. It is a very attractive old store, with lovely wooden cabinets and if you go to the back of the store you can watch through the glass wall as they actually make the taffy, in dozens of flavors. And it is the oldest business on the Ocean City Boardwalk!!
Shriver's is the oldest business on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. In 1898 William Shriver founded Shriver's as a restaurant, ice cream, and candy store. In 1959, Shriver's was purchased by four brothers who owned Dairy Maid Confectionery Company; a retail candy and ice cream shop chain throughout Philadelphia. Today, it is owned and operated, three generations later, by the same family. The legacy of Shriver’s famous Salt Water Taffy, Fudge, and other fine confections still remains, over 100 years later. No one else on the Ocean City Boardwalk can boast the rare combination of a factory and retail store where you can come and see our delicious Salt Water Taffy and other confections being made.
vanilla walnut please!
Hi, Mr. Taffy

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Review of "Cold Wind" [46]

Cold Wind by C.J.Box
Putnam Adult, ISBN 978-0399157356
March 22, 2011, 400 pages

Joe was out on a routine patrol, watching that area fisherman and hunters were following the rules that it is his job to enforce. As he approaches the edge of his millionaire father-in-law Earl Alden property, he can't help but see...and hear..the massive turbines of the wind farm being built there. But something is wrong with one, that is not rotating in sync with the others. Something seems to be hanging from the blades. As he get s closer, he see it is a body, the body of Alden himself, horribly bloated from the centrifugal force. Even if he was not the nicest man, it seems a particularly horrible way to die. It seems someone really, really hated the man.

Yes, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett dislikes his mother-in-law Missy, but he loves his wife a great deal. So when Missy is accused of killing her latest husband..she has traded up several times...and police seem uninterested in looking into any other explanation of the crime, Joe steps up to look into things. And steps right into a hornets nest full of angry neighbors, millions of dollars and very personal, very angry, long term feuds.

Then, we have the ongoing story of Joe's Nate Romanowski, a man with a lot of his own enemies in his past, including the wife of a man he killed. Sure, he was justified, but not in her eyes, and she has come from Chicago to seek her revenge. Let's just say it might be smart to keep your distance from Nate until that works out, which it will, beginning with an explosive attempt to take him out. An attempt that will cost Nate dearly.

I have read a couple of books in this series before and I think this is a pretty solid entry in the group. It has some strengths..and it has a few weaknesses.
The mystery itself was quite good, with some interesting twist and turns, an accused that it is hard to like and an lawyer that is a bit over the top but always interesting when he appears. And happily, I did not figure it  out this time. You might think you did...until that last twist comes along!

Another plus is the setting in Wyoming, a place that clearly the author loves. Maybe not the place I would want to live, but  the author does a great job in making it come alive for the reader. One of the biggest strengths of the book, without question, are the characters of Joe and Nate. Nate's story is secondary in this book, but to me, perhaps it was the more interesting of the two this time around. And while Joe and his wife, and even the distasteful Missy are great characters, I am not sure they are quite great enough to keep me totally interested as the book lapsed into long and complicated discussions about the political and finances of wind energy. Yes, I am sure it is an important issues, here along the coast where I live as well as in the great open spaces of the West, but I think the reader can't help but think we are receiving a bit of a lecture along with our murder mystery. I don't mind the author trying to give a certain point of view about a timely issues, but here the sell was a bit too hard for my taste.

Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy this installment, but for someone who might be considering starting the
Joe Pickett series, you may not want to start with this on.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a ARC of this book.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Borders is Closing...and It's My Fault!

OK, it is not totally my fault.
It is your fault too probably.
And yes, Borders themselves has some culpability.
I know that many blame these Big Chain Bookstores for putting a lot of small, independent bookstore out of business over the last decade or so. And yes, no doubt it is true. But whoever is to blame, and no matter what you may have felt about the Big Chain Bookstores, is is a sad day for book lovers in the US.

I went to our local Borders Tuesday night after work.
It was a sad experience.

I had a couple of gift cards I had to use up before they put the padlock on the door...or at least the liquidators move in, which it seems could be as early as today or tomorrow. The place was very busy, full of people..90% or more were buying with gift cards they needed to use up, just like me.
And see, there is part of the problem, of which I was guilty. I often went to Borders, but not so much to buy books. I went to use their rest rooms when I was out shopping in the area. I would go to buy a cup of tea in their cafe, sitting at a table, browsing through a pile of books, deciding if I wanted to buy any of them. Actually holding a book, looking at the cover, reading a few pages is a totally different experience than trying to browse online.
But here was the problem. If I decided that yes, I want to buy one, I did not usually walk to the register. No, I took out my smart phone, went online, usually to the Evil Amazon, and bought it for a significantly lower price.
Bottom line, they simply could not compete on price.

But Borders had other problems too. From what I have read they had some serious issues at the highest levels of management. Things like their decision, some years ago, to buy Waldenbooks, their slowness to get into online sales, to get seriously into the e-books business as Barnes and Noble did with the Nook.
And then there were the stores. As much as I like their store as a place to kill some time and check out the CDs and a great selection of magazines, their book selection often left something to be desired. If you wanted the latest bestseller, yes, there was a nice pile on the tables right inside the front door. But if you want a copy of something a little less popular, a classic perhaps, it was pretty hit and miss that they would have it. Yes, they could order it and have it in a week later, at full list price.
Or I could order it from Amazon, have it in a day or two, with free shipping, and pay 30% less maybe.
Hmmm...let me think...
Yes, maybe they deserved to fail.

A few things that I noticed that night made me sad though.
In the cafe, there were several tables pulled together, full of what looked like students from the nearby community college, having a meeting. Where will they go now? They were sitting by the little stage where Borders had musical performances on occasion and some reading and book signings. Yes, Borders filled a role in the local community that I do not see anyone else filling in the  future.
Then I overheard a young woman who seemed to have been dragged to the store by a friend..who was, no doubt, spending a gift card. This woman was someone who, it seemed, had never been in a bookstore, as amazing as that seems to someone like you and me. She started looking around at all the tables full of piles of books and said to her friend, "Wow, maybe I should start reading books!" Well, not from Borders sister.
And lastly, I was looking for a specific book, Book Lust To Go, that I had just read a review of that very day at a favorite bloggers post. Their computer at Border said they had a copy, but where it was..well, I always had an issue with the way the store was organized. Another issue..
So I went up to the help desk, which tonight had 4 workers standing there, waiting to be of help, as opposed to the normal ZERO...another issue.
An older female employee looked it up on the computer, verified they had it, and said, "Oh, I know just where that is." She walked me over to the shelf, handed me the book and said, "Yes, that is a good book!"
11,000 Border workers, many of them book lovers like you and I, will be out of work.
And I sure can't feel good about that.
Book lovers should be selling books.

Can brick and mortar bookstores stay in business?
I am not sure. Between e-books and online bookstore I think it is a real question.
Some will be smart and find a niche. Maybe by expanding what sorts of things they sell, maybe by becoming a venue for other community events, maybe by some other really clever new ideas.

But one major source of books, one that was for many of us the only bookstore in the area, is gone and that is a sad thing.


last night I was entering the books I bought at Borders on Library Thing.
so I decided to check the prices vs. Amazon...

one..I paid $16 for...$10 on Amazon
another $26 at Borders...$16 on Amazon.

really..we are not talking a dollar here..
ok, maybe it was not as much my fault as I thought.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Still In Istanbul

The Church of Holy Savior in Chora

The Chora Ceiling

Off to the Grand Bazaar always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "Overbite" [45]

Overbite by Meg Cabot
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061735103
July 5, 2011, 288 pages

Menna Harper has a gift..but not one everyone appreciates. Because she can tell people when, and how, they are going to die. It is not set in stone. People can change their lives, their circumstances, and sometimes avoid what Menna has foreseen. But it is not something that many people enjoy.
Not among those however is Meena's new employers, the Palatine Guard, a super secret demon hunting branch of the Vatican, who have hired her to work for their new branch office in lower Manhattan.
Because there were many things Menna Harper knew that her ex-boyfriend didn’t. Not only how people were going to die, or that demons and demon hunters weren’t just the stuff of fiction, but that there was, in every creature on earth, demon or not, a capacity for good and evil.
And that all it took to send any one of them over the edge was the tiniest of pushes.
Now, Menna does carry a bit of baggage with her in the person of her ex boyfriend, Lucien Antonescu, who inherited his title, The Prince of Darkness, from his father, Dracula. Yes, Vad the Impaler Dracula. But after their last run in, described in Cabot's previous book, Insatiable, Menna has sworn off relationships with vampires and is dedicated to her work in eradicating his kind. Ok, she is not totally in favor of eradicating them all. Maybe most, except for those, like Lucian, who she is convinced have enough goodness still in their souls to be able to be redeemed.

If Lucian has a good side, he might not be totally in touch with it, because Lucien has other ideas for Menna. His plan is to 'turn' her, make her like himself, and make her his princess. And Undead of course.

Now, I do not read vampire books. Demons, the undead and such, leave me cold.
The Jersey Devil,
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, January 1909.
But I must admit I really found this book quite entertaining. Cabot is a good writer, the story is pretty tight and fast moving. And quite amusing, which I did not expect, but always appreciate. And then there was the fact that south Jersey, my home, played an important role in the story.
"The Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey,” he explained, looking at Meena in the rear view mirror, “has long been considered a hellmouth, due to the fact that they are where the New  jersey Devil fled soon after its birth."
A Hellmouth? I have heard NJ called many thing, but not a Hellmouth! But there is a history. The Pinelands of south Jersey, a very large and most undeveloped area of bogs and countless pine trees, is said to be the home of the Jersey Devil. The story is that in 1735, a Mrs. Leeds, upset at giving birth to her 13th child, cursed the child as she was giving birth and it was born a devil. With a tail, cloven hoves and wings, it flew off into the woodsof the Pinelands, where many claim to still see him to this day. My grandfather said he saw him once, but he was on his way home from a what I think was a poker gathering with some buddies at his boat house on the Mullica River and I always thought that a wee dram of  alcohol might have been involved in that particular sighting. But you never know....
Enough for personal

If you read the first book in the series, Insatiable, I am sure you will love this one. But even if you did not, as I did not, I think you will still find this a fun, fast paced, demon laden thriller.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to review.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Musing Monday...Hope Springs Eternal

What could be the question this week, as always from the desk of MizB atShould Be Reading ...

This week’s musing asks…

What is the last book you struggled to read through to the end, even though you weren’t really enjoying it? What made you keep reading?

Well, right now I have started The Complaints by Ian Rankin and the two of us are having some issues. I have read a couple of Mr. Rankin’s books before and enjoyed them, but they were in the Inspector Rebus series and this one has a new lead character that I am not really bonding with. So, for now, I have put it aside and read a couple of other books in the meantime. I doubt that I will go back to it. No, I do not think so.

But see, the difference between this and some others that I have struggled with is that this is a library book. Zero commitment. Nothing ventured, nothing lost. In fact, I could just return it and take it out again in the future and it’s not like it would make a difference. The same would be true of a book that I bought. Yes, I would be out the money if I did not like it but it is not like I sort of promised that I would read it.

Review copies, which make up a good percentage of what I read, are different. True, there are still some difference, some varying levels of commitment, among review copies as well. But bottom line, with a review copy, I do feel a commitment to read and review it. Sometimes a big one, sometimes a smaller one.
The highest level of obligation would be books that I actually requested. To take that up even one more peg, the highest would be books I asked for and about which I have had some sort of interpersonal communication. It could be with a publicist or someone organizing a tour or…at the top of the pile, the author. If I have had some e-mail communication about the book, pretty much, whatever I think of the book, no matter how much I have to struggle, I will finish it and review it. Granted, that it is not a huge struggle ..really hating it...because it is not something that happens very often. Usually I have read about the book before I ask for it or accepted it and am pretty sure it is something I will like.
Any review copy that I have requested gets a pretty good try.

Still, I have a few that I was not really loving. But I don’t totally right them off…the first time. I will put them aside and hope when I come back to them when I may be more in the mood. Sometimes you want a heavy, more complicated or serious book…sometimes you want something lighter and fluffier. I don’t think it is good to push a book when you are in the wrong mood. It may be you and not the book! But unlike a library book or a book I bought, it is not totally discarded. Yet. I have a small pile of books that I hope to get back to someday. Hope springs eternal in the human breast...

But then sometimes I receive some unrequested books. I don’t know…they just arrive in the mail. Which is nice...I love to get a nice new book in the mail…but let’s just say they are sometimes not something I would ask for. But I will still give them a try. I just finished Overbite by Meg Cabot. Vampires, Forces of Evil, wooden, not my usual fare. But in fact, I rather enjoyed it! The difference is, if I did not ask for the book, it may sit there in the TBR pile for quite awhile, guilt free. I will get to it someday, but my feeling of obligation is much, much less.

And then, there is the rare book, one I asked for, one I thought that I would like, and do not finish.
That is the worst case scenario. I requested it…I got it…I thought I would like it.
And I do not.
I really dislike it.
I do not finish it and if I do not finish it I will not review it.
The most recent example of that is Deadfolk by Charles Williams. I tried, more than once, to read it and I simply could not do it. I did not like any of the characters, I could not get the story and it was written in a dialect that I found increasing annoying to struggle through. I checked, and it seems to have gotten some pretty good reviews…but I hated it. So, about 50 pages in and I am done with it.

So many books…so little time…

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Cooking... Grilled Nutella

I love Nutella. I love it so much that I can not really have a jar of it in my house, because I will take a spoon and within a few days, spoon by spoon, it will be gone. It is the nectar of the gods!!

Now I also love Venice. It is a beautiful city abd since I always think any trip is made better bu adding a boat...well Venice is a perfect city because just about ever trip, even crossing the street if the 'happens' to be the Grand Canal, involves a boat.
But you know what is even better?
There is Nutella everywhere!

It is on the breakfast table in these cute little container. Are they not the cutest little things? And they are all ready to spread on your warm croissant. Oh my...oh my..

Then, they sell it on the street. There were stands selling "Nutella To Go", a container of Nutella with little cookie/cracker things to dip it out with. I guess fingers are not acceptable?
Finally, near our hotel was a stand selling crepes made to order. Yes, you could have them filled with fruit, or ice cream I think...but why would you when one of the choices was Nutella?

So, I found myself home and was experiencing a little Nutella withdrawal.
Yes, I could have just bought a jar...a little jar...and got my favorite little spoon out, but I was aiming just a little higher. Not quite as high as America's Test Kitchen's recipe for Nutella Bread Pudding, which I will make one day but not today.

No, I was looking for something a little more simple.
And I found it!

Grilled Nutella!

Just three ingredients.
  • Bread. I used Cinnamon Bread. Perfect
  • Nutella
  • Mascarpone Cheese.

I put a tiny bit of butter on the outside of the bread, although since I made it on my Griddler, it was probably not necessary. But a bit of butter can't hurt, right?
On the inside of one piece of bread, spread some Nutella. I will warn you, do not get too greedy or it will ooze.
On the other piece, spread some Mascarpone.
Keep the ooze factor in mind again.

Place on the hot Griddler...or a hot frying pan if you are not blessed with what is, without doubt, the perfect grilled cheese making appliance.
Close, and leave on until brown.
We are talking a pretty brief amount of time.

Now here is the key.
Remove and let it sit for a minute and rest or you will have some very messy, very hot drips.

If you are a Nutella fan, I think this is something you will want to try.
And invite me over.
Because my Nutella jar will be empty.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.