Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review of "Resolve" [21]

Resolve by J.J. Hensley 
ISBN 978-1579623135, Permanent Press
March 15, 2013, 248 pages

"In the Pittsburgh Marathon, 18,000 people from all over the world will participate...and one man is going to be murdered.

When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows who is going to die for one simple reason. He's going to kill them.

As a professor of Criminology at Three Rivers University, and a former police officer, Dr. Cyprus Keller is an expert in criminal behavior and victimology. However, when one of his female students is murdered and his graduate assistant attempts to kill him, Keller finds himself frantically swinging back and forth between being a suspect and a victim. When the police assign a motive to the crimes that Keller knows cannot be true, he begins to ask questions that somebody out there does not want answered.

In the course of 26.2 miles, Keller recounts how he found himself encircled by a series of killings that have shocked the city, while literally pursuing his prey - the man who was behind it all."

I must say, when I read that summery, I was a little concerned.
Can you like a book where the narrator, the good guy, the 'hero' is also a murderer?
Well, I am here to tell you that you can.

Now, I will admit that this book got off to a slow start for me. I am not sure why. Maybe because I have zero interest in marathon running, and the marathon that Cyprus Keller is running is at the heart of this book, each of the 26.2 miles providing the structure for the 26.2 chapters of the book.
But then you start to get to know Cyprus, as he tells us how it came to this point and he becomes a very likable, very sympathetic character. And you get very caught up in figuring out the mystery.

Of course, the mystery is not who will commit this murder..we know that.
We know the where and the when. We even know, at least in part, the why, the murdered student, the attacking graduate student. But the real why, why Cyprus feels he must take this action, and most of all the who, is what we must figure out.

I liked the structure of the book, the 26.2 chapters, giving a very clear path, a real sense of heading toward this final act of Cyprus and seeing what the outcome will be. Publishers Weekly called it 'artfully constructed', and I must agree.
Cyprus is a great character, funny, interesting, smart, not what you might first think of when you think of a college professor. And his wife, Kaitlyn, a psychologist, is a worthy companion on this journey. Not the run. No, her role is a bit more behind the scene but vitally important. And I love the setting in Pittsburgh, which we will get to find out quite a bit about as Cyprus narrators his run.

It is not a huge book, which is a good thing. It gets to the point and moves along at a snappy pace, with little excess wandering. No, a marathon must stay on the planned route and this book indeed does.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...One More Day in Paradise

Are you tired of Cancun yet? 
Well, I'm not, so get used to

Another great looking day...
So let's grab some breakfast...
..and head to the pool.

Have dinner in the Club Grill
and watch the sun go down...again. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Musing Monday..Buyer Beware

Yes, it is Monday once again, so let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

Maybe I am just naive.
Maybe I expect better of people, who like myself, love books.
But it seems the bookish world is as full of cheating and finagling as any industry.

In the past, we have discussed how various sources, including the authors themselves, post fake reviews.  It is most visible when a "small" book, with a small number of reviews, does it but that certainly does not mean that any author or publisher might not do it for any book. How much would it get some people to write 100 five star reviews. Say $20 each and suddenly your book looks like a winner on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or wherever.

And you certainly can't believe the blurbs from famous, respected authors that you might read on the back of that book. I am no sure why they do it...friendship, bribes, publisher influence, but having bought more than a few books based on those recommendations, real stinkers, I really have to question them. It is hard to ignore them, but I must realize they might not be giving be their honest opinion.

But now I find out that it is possible to pay to make your book a bestseller.
I am talking New York Times, Wall Street Journal best seller list!

In an article called The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike , the Wall Street Journal discusses a strange phenomenon.
A book that was previously selling a very small number of units per week suddenly has a huge spike in sales in one week, enough to get them on a best seller list. The figure needed is smaller than I might have thought, perhaps 5000 for the WSJ and maybe 3 times that for the NYT. But they sell the needed number and there they are, on the best seller list. And then, just as quickly, the next week it disappears again, back to maybe a few hundred being sold. That seems a little suspicious, doesn't it?

Well, it seems that in many cases it might be due to the author or even the publisher hiring the services of a company like the marketing firm of San Diego-based ResultSource. For a fee, said to be about $20,000, they say they can make your book a best seller. For a little while...
"Precisely how it goes about that is unclear, though, and there is discomfort among some in the publishing industry who worry that preorders are being corralled and bulk purchases are being made to appear like single sales to qualify for inclusion in best-seller lists, which normally wouldn't count such sales."
Sometimes, they go out and buy copies of your book, which will cost you an additional $70,000-$100,000. But it seems according to the article, some authors, in this case of business non-fiction books, have already pre-sold many of these books to companies who are hiring them to give talks to their companies in lieu of their normal speaking fee. In that way, the author gets the money back for the books bought from the companies and all is good.

In another article I read a story about a once well known music producer who wrote a book and bought a huge number of the copies himself. He did it somehow in such a way that was it not caught by the methods and restrictions places like the NY Times have set up to try and prevent 'scams' like this. Small number of books from a large number of retail outlets...he then just gave the books away.
Why go to these lengths? Is one week of best selling sales worth it?

Well, if you make your living giving speeches for pay, yes, it may be. Because now you can be advertised as a "best selling author", and demand more for your presentations. I saw one man who about getting $30,000 for a speech. If now you could ask $40,000 or $50,000, yes, you could soon make that money back. And maybe even sell some more books at the talks. If your book was a best seller, you must know what you are talking about, right?
Hmmm...maybe not.
And if you have enough of you own money to waste, like that producer, yes, it might be just for the attention it brings.
Because then, forever, you can claim to be a best selling author!

Is everything a scam?
Can you believe anything?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Homemade Soft Pretzels

Hey, it is still Lent, and there is nothing more Lenten than...PRETZELS!

Yes, pretzels.

In keeping with the strictest Lenten restriction, they contain no dairy or eggs and look, their little arms are crossed in prayer. (OK, ignore the touch of butter and the egg wash in mine...)

As our friends from Wikipedia say..."...pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter.
As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.

 In particular, {the pretzel} became iconic with Philadelphia and was established as a cuisine of Philadelphia for snacking at school, work, or home, and considered by most to be a quick meal. The average Philadelphian today consumes about twelve times as many pretzels as the national average.

Pennsylvania today is the center of American pretzel production for both the hard crispy and the soft bread types of pretzels. Southeastern Pennsylvania, with its large population of German background, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry, and many pretzel bakers are still located in the area. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation's pretzels."

12 times the national average. 80% of the country's production. A Lent connection and a Philadelphia connection!

But I must say that one thing scared me off trying to make pretzels.
Traditionally, you need to us a lye bath before you bake pretzels.
I did not really want to cook with something that requires wearing protective gloves and goggles. But fear not, because while there are recipes out there that boil the pretzels pre-baking in a lye/water bath, most now use a baking soda/water bath which is a lot safer.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
courtesy of Alton Brown


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

So, how did thing go?
Did I break my curse of working with yeast?
Why, yes I did it seems!

True, my house is so chilly (by choice) that I had to throw that 50 minutes rising time out. Moving the bowl closer to a radiator helped.
OK, on the radiator with a book as insulation.

And I should have worked at stretching the rope out to the 24-inch suggested. The dough was very stretchy and I only realized at the end that swinging it like a jump rope would do the trick. Oh, and let me just mention something I read in another recipe. Be sure to put the baking soda in the water before you boil it. Do not, repeat do not, add it to the boiling water. It will bubble up and make a mess on your stove that will not make you happy.

Unlike these warm, chewy, tasty pretzels, perfect with some mustard and a beer.
Except I gave up beer for Lent....

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, February 21, 2013

Review of A Cold and Lonely Place [20]

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry
ISBN 9780307718419, Crown
304 pages, February 5, 2013

Oh, what a great beginning this book has, so visual, so memorable.

Local newspaper writer and magazine freelancer Troy Chance is doing what she does best, making the people and activities of her Adirondack town, the Lake Placid/Saranac area, come alive for area readers. This time she is doing a feature on the upcoming Winter Festival and an institution at the heart of it, the building of the ice palace. That is until the men cutting the blocks of ice from Flower Lake find a horrible thing encased in the ice, the frozen body of a local resident.
"He was a funny one. He looked like everyone else. He dressed like everyone else. He partied like everyone else. But he was different."

His name was Tobin Winslow and he was the boyfriend of one of the people Troy rents a room to in her house. It is a mystery how he died, but the greatest mystery may be Tobin himself and how this son of a very wealthy Connecticut family, a young man with a Princeton education, came to live in the Lake Placid area, living in a small rental cabin, eking out a living and spending many a night in the local taverns with his buddies.

At the urging of her editor, Troy sets out to answer some of those questions and provide some closure for herself, the town and the victims own sister Win who arrives to settle her brothers affair and answer her own questions about why her brothers cut off connections with their family some 6 years ago. But it is soon apparent that not everyone is so eager to have these mysteries solved or the past dredged up.

Some time ago I reviewed Henry's first book, Learning to Swim, a critical success, winner of the 2012 Anthony Award and 2012 Agatha Award for best first novel and the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and a book I really enjoyed.
So how will the second stack up? Will it be an example of the Second Book Syndrome?
Well, it is different, but still quite good. 

The first book was a thriller, with a kidnapped child and danger and mayhem. This book, on the other hand, is not really what I would call a mystery. Perhaps I will go with how author Julia Spencer-Fleming described it in a blurb..."Set in the Adirondack winter, it is both a deeply atmospheric, seductive read and a captivating literary mystery."  A literary mystery, perhaps more literary than mystery. The real mystery of this book is who Tobin was, and almost as an aside, how he died. But for me, that was interesting enough to have me race through this book. Yes, the author throws in some suspense, a break in, a possible attack, some suspicions about Tobin's death, but they are almost secondary to the unpeeling of the layers of the various characters.

And yes, I admit it, I love the setting, in Lake Placid and surrounding area in the deep cold winter. 
I love the tension between the locals and the out of towners.
I love Troy as a character, and I love her dog and I love the reappearance from the first book of the charming young Paul. The ending did not make me totally happy, especially in regards to a personal matter for Troy that come to a head in a way that seemed oddly out of place in this story. But it was a small matter overall. 
Oh, I also loved the cover. I am shallow...what can I say?

If you read Learning to Swim and enjoyed it, you will, no doubt, be curious about this book. This is a slower book..and I do not mean that in a bad way..a more thoughtful book. Different but good.
But A Cold and Lonely Place can work as a standalone as well. If you have not yet read Learning to Swim, I would recommend you start with that one, if only to enjoy the reappearance of many of our favorite characters in this second in the series, but if you start with this one, I imagine you will want to go back and read Henry's first book as well.

My thanks to Amazon Vine and the publisher for providing a review copy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Cancun

Another warm and sunny day for those of you in the snow and cold...

stained glass dome at a local mall

a lighthouse at another local mall!

..and maybe finish the day with dinner at a casita on the beach. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Musing Monday...Second Book Syndrome

It is Monday, time to muse, so lets look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

Well, first of all, let me thank MizB for expanding the questions to include my occasional rant and rambling as of this week. In my mind, rambling is often a good thing.

So, as to my answer this week. I just finished a book this afternoon, A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry. I hope to have my review up tomorrow (assuming I write it) but for now it raises in my mind another issue, the Second Book Syndrome.

If you are a reader, you must have experienced it.
A book appears and before you know, it is gathering praise. Here is a new author whose first book, or at least the first one anyone has heard of, is all the talk. It is on the best sellers lists, it is getting great reviews, everyone seems to be reading it and so, you pick it up.
You read it, you love it..and you look forward to the author's next book. Maybe it will be the second book in a new series or maybe a freestanding book, but either way, you are anticipating that it will be as great as the first one.
Because loving a book is a great thing.

Then it comes out.
You read it.
And it disappoints.

Now, do not get me wrong. In fact, this was NOT the case with Ms. Henry's second book. No, I liked the second book a great deal, yes, maybe as much as I liked her first, Learning to Swim. As I wrote in that review, I was looking forward to her next and while it is different, I still enjoyed it.
Starting the book, and finishing it and comparing it in my mind to the first, just made me think of the issue.

But loving that second book is often not the case.
I could name a few.
Yes, it comes out. You read it. And it disappoints.
And it makes me wonder. Is it possible that some writers only have one really good book in them?

Hey, I'm not sure that is a bad thing.
I have never written one really good book..or one really bad book for that who am I to talk? Imagine writing a book, even just one book, that thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people in the world loved.
Wow. Just do it again! Easy, right?

Or is something else at work here?
They have this success, they get a contract and suddenly there is this great pressure to turn out another winner. Maybe one too similar to the first. Maybe one that has to be done in a year, unlike the 12 years they spent producing the first.
Big money is at stake. Publishers, editors, readers are on the sideline, tapping their toes, waiting.

And they only had that one great idea.....

Do you have your own example?
A first book you loved..a second that made you shake your head?

a Cancun rainbow to start your week!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend Cooking...An Ode to Mac and Cheese

I love macaroni and cheese.
I have always said, if I am ever on death row, I want my last meal to be mac and cheese and Bob Evans sausages.
Not that I am planning on being on death row.
But you never know.

However, I am not a Mac and cheese snob. I like it in many varieties. I like the frozen Stouffer's variety. I like the version available at my local Wawa convenience store. Which I understand is actually Stouffer's, which explain that.

But I also like the boxed variety. Not the more expensive brands, but the cheapest store variety with the yellow powder, 66 cents at the supermarket this week. I do make a wee change. I use 1/2 cup of milk, more than they say, and add no butter. Instead I add a bit of real cheese, whatever I have on hand. It does not take much and makes a huge difference.
My ultimate comfort food.

Best served in a plastic kid's bowl from IKEA.

Of course, my favorite is the real baked Mac and cheese like my mom used to make.
Now that we are in the season of Lent, and Fridays are again meatless, my memory goes back to those Fridays of my youth...which contained a lot of Mac and cheese. And canned tuna, or fish sticks.

My mother used the recipe on the back of the Mueller's elbow macaroni box, and I pretty much use the same one today. Ok, I went a little wild! I change the pasta. And I change the variety of cheese. My mom always used Crackerbarrel Cheddar but I used some cheddar, some pepper jack and some Gouda. Make a bechamal sauce, add the cheese and seasonings, mix with the pasta, top with buttered breadcrumbs for the crunch and bake. Lovely!

Now oddly, my grandmother had her own take on that same Mueller's recipe. She used all the ingredients listed on the box but skipped the directions. she just mixed them into the baking dish with the cooked elbow macaroni. No sauce...just mixed it all together. Baked it in the same battered aluminum round pan, year after year. Oh, and she always had a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth..that ash getting longer and longer...

And my sister in law has yet another version, which she swears my mother taught her. True no doubt, but odd since my mother never made it this way. Put the boiled pasta in baking dish. Add cubed cheese. Pour on enough milk to come just to the surface and bake. Which give you a sort of curdled texture which is...different. But to each their own! Macaroni and cheese is all about what makes you happy!

...used these cute little 'pipes'
Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. uncooked  macaroni
1/4 cup margarine or butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups milk
16 oz. shredded cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, toasted in 1 tbs. melted butter

1. Cook macaroni for 8 minutes.
2. Drain, cover and set aside
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. In medium saucepan, melt butter; blend in flour, mustard, salt and pepper.
5. Cook until mixture is smooth and bubbly; gradually add milk.
6. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; 
simmer 1 minute,stirring constantly.
7. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
8. Add pasta; mix together. Pour into baking dish.
9. Top with panko bread crumbs
10. Bake 25 minutes.

I believe that is my mom's original pyrex dish. Still going strong!

Grab your spoon!

Look at that crispy top...look at the bubbly cheese!

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, February 15, 2013

Some Thoughts on The Amazing Inspector Banks...[7-19]

The Inspector Alan Banks books By Peter Robinson

I have not reviewed a book in weeks. Yes, I was reading...and reading...not pausing to review.
See, I was reading book after book all in one series.

I can only remember it happening twice before in my life.
I get taken with an author and read book after book of theirs.

The first time was many years ago and the author was Dean Koontz.
Mr. Koontz, even more than a few years ago, had written many, many books and I read many of them, one after the other, dozens, for months.
At some point I started getting confused by editions of the same book reissued with different titles and stopped. While I have gone back and read his Odd Thomas series (excellent) and parts of his Frankenstein series, I have not read all his books. There are so, so many.

Then, a few years ago there was my time with Karin Slaughter. Gosh, you have to love that name, her real name, for a writer of mystery and mayhem. Hers I read, every one, over a course of a few weeks. I believe there are 12, plus an anthology called Like a Charm an a novella called Martin Misunderstood
I am a FAN.

And now there is Peter Robinson and his Inspector Banks series.
I had read a couple of Robinson's before, the latest ones that I got as review copies and wrote about,  Before The Poison, not part of the Banks series,  Bad Boy and Watching the Dark, which it seems I never reviewed. I enjoyed them very much, but for whatever reason did not so back and read the earlier ones. So many books, so little time perhaps. But I read a review of another of his books online recently, saw I could get an e-copy so easily and I was off.
Sadly, not in order.
I would read one, buy the next one back..and back...and back, until I got to Wednesday's Child, number 6 in the series and not available, as neither are the other early ones, as e-books.
So here I pause.

That is 12 of the series, I believe, that I have read in the last few weeks, not counting the last three that I read before. And they are all very good. Some better than others, but all quite nice, quite entertaining.

One thing about read book after book like this is that if the author has an annoying flaw, it will soon jump out. And it did not.
Yes, Banks goes on a bit too much about smoking in the early ones (perhaps a reflection of the author's own issue at the time?) and there is, it seems a lot of drinking of beer and Scotch, but that is Banks. I remember reading a review of the books that referred to Bank's personal life as a soap opera, but I do not agree. In the early books, he was married with two teenage children. His wife left him, he took it badly for a few books, he has had a few romantic involvements in later books, some not too well thought out. The ex-wife appears from time to time and his two kids, now grown up make several appearances, in small and large roles. Not terribly unreasonable for the years the books cover in my opinion.

What I do like about his books is that much of the framework remains the same and comfortable, Banks, a cast of secondary characters, the Yorkshire setting, yetbeach book is different in it's own way. And yes, almost all of them can stand alone. A sameness, yet with a freshness. Ideal.

Bank's is a very good character, smart and funny with an eclectic taste in music and books, and strong opinions about what makes a good pub. There are some excellent secondary characters over the years, from the nice to the not so nice, the smart to the not so smart and they come and go in a number of ways, from the ordinary to the horrific.

Perhaps one of my favorites is In a Dry Season, a good book to start with if you do not want to read them all. First, we will meet DS Annie Cabbot, a person of professional and personal interest in most of the books from there on. But I also like how the book was structured, going back to WWII to tell the beginning of the tale with narrator Gwen Shackleton, while Banks pursues the mystery of the skeleton they have found in a dried out reservoir. It turns out to be a girl named Gloria who it seems was Gwen's sister-in law.
With an excellent little twist at the end that I just loved.

Aftermath is another favorite, if a bit more gruesome than Robinson's other books.  Quite an excellent beginning, when a serial killer is found and killed, leading you to think the book is almost over as it begins. But fear not, it is just the start of a series of several different stories that the author weaves together very nicely indeed, with another excellent ending. And then you must read Friend of the Devil, which ties into the same story a number of years afterward.

In Cold is the Grave, we get to see another side of Banks' boss, the much despised Deputy Chief Constable 'Jimmy' Riddle, when his teenage daughter goes missing and he need Banks' help. Then in Strange Affair, we get to delve a little more into Bank's personal life when a call from his younger, very successful brother Roy sends his up to London on a wild chase that may tie into the dead body of a woman found near Bank's cottage with his name on a slip of paper in her pocket.

True, a couple are weaker in my opinion than others. Innocent Graves has a long sub-plot where a suspect is arrested, spends months in jail and goes to trial...honestly I found that all rather boring. But the weak points and the weaker books are far outweighed by the very good.
Here is a list in order, from where I ended, with number 7, up to the present, with another promising to be published this August.
I can not wait!

  • 7. Final Account (Dry Bones)1994)
  • 8. Innocent Graves (1996)
  • 9. Blood At The Root (Dead Right)(1997)
  • 10. In A Dry Season (1999)
  • 11. Cold is the Grave (2000)
  • 12. Aftermath (2001)
  • 13. Close To Home (The Summer That Never Was) (2004)
  • 14. Playing with Fire (2004)
  • 15. Strange Affair (2005)
  • 16. Piece of My Heart (2006)
  • 17. Friend of the Devil (2007)
  • 18. All The Colours Of Darkness (2008)
  • 19. Bad Boy (2010
  • 20. Watching The Dark (2012)
  •  Before The Poison (not part of the series)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Some Folks I Met in Cancun

They were a bit of an odd lot...




 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Musing Monday...You Know What Bothers Me?...

It is Monday, time to muse, but rather than take one to the three questions every week from Should Be Reading I decided take a trip somewhere else in my brain.
Still, yes still, I am reading Robinson's Inspector Bank series. I think I am up to about 15 of the 20 books so far. So not much to talk about there. So....
Yes, it is time for a Fake Musing Monday!
Always a good time for me to discuss...which sounds better than rant about...any issues in BookLand that bother me.

One struck me as I was reading a book recently.

Why do writers name several characters with similar names?
Of all the name in the world that are available, they name one Jo and another Joe, or one Justin and another Justine. That second one is an actual example...and I just do not get it. I am confused enough in my brain and I do not need this as I am trying to keep all these folks straight. Yes, one was a man and the other a woman but still..heck, it is not like they were twins dressing alike. How about Betty..or Richard...or Maeve.
See, it is easy.

An unrelated, pretty picture from Cancun to start your day.

Totally unrelated, but what is it with mass market paperbacks? I hate them.
I bought a used book online recently and I was not careful about checking out the edition. Normally I would never buy one of these. I was not happy. Yes, they are small, even if often very fat, easier to tuck away in a bag. But it seems it is very common anymore to print the text so close to the inside edge that you almost have to crack the binding..and I use that term read it.

Which lead to the second issue, pages falling out of the glue that holds it to the cover. It all lends itself to a poor reading experience. And they are not cheap!!

You might have noticed that I have stopped ranting about the whole e-book issue.
Pretty much.
Probably after I got a Nook..and then an iPad with a Nook app and a Kindle app and an iBook app. Between all the apps, I can probably read about any format from anywhere. And I have noticed publishers stating to offer more and more ARC copies as e-books, not to even mention NetGalley which is almost totally e-books. So I have given in. it just me, or do you tend to forget books on your readers? I have said it before. I am a visual person and if I do not see the actually book in an actual pile, it may be a case of out of sight, out of mind.
OK, sorry.
I guess that is sort of an e-book rant.
But I can not blame the e-reader.
No, blame the Reader, Caite

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Cooking...the Brazilian Caipirinha

While I was down in Cancun I drank a number of that oh-so-easy-to drink cocktail, the margarita. Which is why, if you noticed, I did not post a Weekend Cooking last Saturday.
A slight case of over indulgence Friday evening at the Club Lounge left me feeling a bit ill .
I was sucked in by the fact that those margaritas, and all the other booze, was free.

There are photos, but trust me, you don't want to see them.

But as tasty as a margarita is, and it is, especially when sitting by a pool or the gentle ocean waves by a turquoise sea, I also discovered another very tasty drink. This one is also from south of the border, in this case, much further south, in Brazil....The Caipirinha.
It is made with cachaca, which is sometimes referred to as Brazilian rum, although some object to calling it rum. Regardless, it makes one simple, and very nice beverage, the perfect balance of tart, from the lime, sweet from the sugar and with a deceptive punch from the cachaca, all icy cold.

In it's natural elements...

From our friends at Wikipedia.... The "Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça  (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil's most common distilled alcoholic beverage. Both rum and cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products. Specifically with cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled."  

First, we will look at the basic drink and then two fruity variations.
And if you look online, you will see a lot of different takes on this drink, with every sort of fruit out there and some with other things, such as coffee.
We will stick to something more basic. Feel free to go from there.
In my opinion, no use playing with perfection.

  • 2.5 oz cachaça 
  • 2 tsp sugar or simple syrup 
  • 1/2 lime (cut into chunks) 

In a rocks glass place the cut up lime and the sugar (or simple syrup). 
Muddle vigorously to extract the oils from the lime peel. 
Pack the glass full of coarsely cracked ice and add the cachaça. 
Stir and garnish with a piece of sugar cane or a lime wedge. 

 Soho Pineapple Caipirinha 
  • 2 1/2 oz cachaça 
  • juice of 2/3 fresh lime 
  • 1/3 oz simple syrup
  • chopped limes
  • pineapple chunks
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 oz pineapple juice 
  • Garnish: pineapple wedge 

Muddle pineapple and limes with brown sugar. 
Add cachaça, lime juice, simple syrup and pineapple juice. 
Shake with ice and pour into rocks glass. 
Garnish with pineapple wedge if desired. 

 Batida de Carneval
  • 1 oz Orange Juice 
  • 2 1/4 oz Mango Juice 
  • 1 oz Cachaca 

Pour over crushed ice in a large highball glass. 
Stir, and serve.

Now, such drinks should not be consumed on an empty stomach.
I will tell you, that can be dangerous! :-)
So I will present a traditional Brazilian snack you can eat as you drink these, Pão de Queijo. It is a sort of cheesy, chewy, slightly salty puff, best eaten warm from the oven. This snack is made with tapioca flour, milk, eggs, olive oil, and cheese and can be made and baked off in just a few minutes, especially with this recipe, from Simple Recipes.
You can make a large batch of the batter ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for up to a week and just bake a small batch as you need them.

Easy Brazilian Cheese Bread 

The recipe as presented is fairly basic. 
Feel free to dress it up a bit with herbs or spices of your choice. 
Prep time: 5 minutes 
Cook time: 15 minutes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • Scant 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour 
  • 1/2 cup (packed, about 66 grams) grated Mexican farmer's cheese, queso fresco
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)
You need one or two mini muffin tins. 
Mini muffin tins are about half the size of a regular muffin pan.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin. 
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. 
You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender 
so that everything gets blended well. 
At this point you can store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. 
Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes. 
Eat while warm or save to reheat later.

Note that Brazilian cheese bread is very chewy, a lot like Japanese mochi. 
Yield: Enough batter for 16 mini muffin sized cheese breads. 

I was a little concerned about getting the tapioca flour but it was not a problem.
My local supermarket had it, made by the folks at Bob's Red Mill and available in my baking aisle.
Bake too many and you will eat them all!
I will warn you that those cheesy puffs, especially fresh from the oven are addictive.

As are those Caipirinhas.

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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Morning, Noon and Night

In Cancun..
at sunrise, high noon, sunset on the bay and finally, with the moon high over the ocean.

Sunrise over the Caribbean Sea.

Lunch at JC Capitan.

About to make some tequila shrimp for us as the sun sets over the bay at La Destileria Restaurant.. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.