Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

(And to everyone who does Black Friday shopping, 
I hope you find all the deals you're looking for.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Sorry, no review this week. I've been preparing for guests on Thursday and have been making homemade jams, cookies after work to give as take home gifts for the dinner guests.  Today, I'm making the pies and rolls for tomorrow's dinner/dessert.

In honor of the holiday, here's a favorite recipe that never fails to please.

Raspberry Chiffon Pie

Pastry for a single-crust pie (recipe below or you can buy a pre-made pastry crust.)
1 10 oz package of frozen red raspberries, thawed
1  3 oz package raspberry flavored Jello
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Prepare and roll out the pastry (if necessary) and line a 9 inch pie plate with it. Trim the pastry to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Flute the edges, then prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

Drain the thawed raspberries, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to the reserved raspberry syrup to measure 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

In a small saucepan, combine the raspberry Jello and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of raspberry liquid and lemon juice. Heat mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar and Jello have completely dissolved.  Cool.

Stir the cooled Jello mixture into the drained raspberries. Chill the mixture to the consistency of corn syrup, stirring occasionally.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1/4 cup of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. When the Jello is partially set, fold in the stiff-beaten egg whites. Whip the cream until soft peaks form, then fold into the Jello mixture. Chill in the refrigerator until the mixture mounds up when spooned.

Turn the Jello-whipped cream mixture into the baked pie crust. Chill for several hours or overnight till set. Serves 8. Cover and keep refrigerated to store.

Pie Crust Recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening (I use Butter Crisco)
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over part of the mixture and toss with a fork. Push to the side of the bowl and repeat the process until all of the mixture is moistened. Form the dough into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough with your hands. Using a rolling pin, form a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and then unroll it into the 9 inch pie plate. Continue as directed above.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

As the Thanksgiving holiday grows closer, I've found myself noticing things that I'm thankful/grateful for that I normally take for granted. I was surfing the internet the other day doing research and checking sites that caught my attention for one reason or the other when I came upon the following link.  I watched the video and read the accompanying text.

Two-Legged-Dog-Inspires-Military-Amputees

It reminded me that when change happens and it's not something I wanted to change, how I react to that change, good or bad, affects my attitude whether I realize it or not. Watching the video reminded me that having a positive attitude makes all the difference when dealing with change whether it be something minor or an event that will affect the rest of my life and how I live it.

As I gather with my family this Thursday, I'll take a few extra moments to say thanks for all those changes that have made me a better and stronger person whether I knew it at the time or not.

Friday, November 22, 2013

This I know for sure...

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd write a few things I'm thankful for. 

I have an amazing critique partner who always points out those things I can't seem to see for myself (until after she points them out of course). :o)

I have a wonderful friend who, while not really a reader, talks up my books to everyone she knows. I know she's personally responsible for quite a few of my sales.

I've worked with the same awesome editor for both of my books and my novella. I'm certain she made my already great books (*grin*) even better.

I have a sister who keeps a stack of bookmarks for my books on her desk at work. She works with the public so someone is always asking her what they're for and if they can have one.

I could go on and on so in closing I'll just say I'm very thankful for everyone who has helped me or continues to help me in my writing career.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Please Welcome My Guest

Please welcome my guest, award winning historical romance author Barbara Bettis.

Once in a while the kernel of a story slips into our minds and stays there. We might push it to the corner while we work on something else, but that idea persists. Although we try to ignore it, it rubs occasionally, reminding us it’s there.

That’s what happened with Giles and Emelin’s tale. It came while I was working on something else that I had to finish, so I tucked it away for later. But at the strangest moments, it pushed into my consciousness—the image of a knight astride a black horse, standing in the center of a village green, avoided by everyone. The people whispered and pointed and went out of their way to keep from passing too closely. He really captured my imagination.

The idea of a famous mercenary who was alone and lonely. He was searching for something. He needed someone—a heroine—who could accept him for what he was and care enough to give up what she thought was the most important thing in her life.

I don’t even recall planning a ‘heroine’, either. Emelin was just there, as if she knew she was the one Giles needed. All I had to do was get them together. Through other stories that I love, other heroes I adore, this one has been so special. I feel as if I know these people as well as I know some of my best friends. And when the story ended, I missed them! I wanted to go visit them.

I’m really touched when readers say they think about them for days after finishing the book. And they ask about the other characters—when are their stories coming?  Soon, I hope :)

Do you feel the same about books you’ve read? What characters remain in your mind after a book is put away? How do your stories come to you? 

Blurb:
He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.
Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.
Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape
Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Excerpt:
His gaze sought his little warrior-nun. Her wide eyes focused on him,
and again the invisible connection thrummed. The space between them seemed to compress along their odd connection. Was it possible she experienced it, as well? Then she shook her head.

Yes, he must be a grim sight. His gaze lingered. He fought an urge to feel her lips again. He recalled that kiss, and his left hand brushed the cheek where her slap had landed. He winced. Damn, it hurt to smile.

A shame about her. She was too good for Langley. At least the marriage wouldn’t last long, just until he delivered the blasted missive. Then that wrinkle of uncertainty would ease from her smooth brow. She would be free to tilt her chin and defy whomever she chose.

But it wouldn’t be Sir Giles of Cambrai. He was a mercenary, a soldier for hire. Ladies were not his responsibility.

Not even maidens with eyes as bright as spring and lips as sweet as rose honey.

The buy link for Amazon:  http://amzn.to/1bQX3td

Friday, November 15, 2013

This I know for sure...

As the holiday season draws closer with Thanksgiving only two weeks away, we all get busier trying to do all of our normal every day things plus all the additional things the holidays bring.

Lately, I've been so busy my To Do lists have To Do lists. The thought of all the cooking, baking, shopping both for food and gifts coming up leaves me exhausted. Yet at the same time, I'm looking forward to it. Every year my mom and I make different kinds of cookies to give away. It's time with her I cherish each year as we both grow older.

One thing I hope to do this weekend is sit down and look at all those To Do lists and decide what actually is a "to do" and what is an "I'd like to do" item.  My goal is to pare down the lists to what really needs to be done within the next 6 weeks so I have time to enjoy the special moments the holidays bring.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week's review is A Song For Sophie by Mackenzie Crowne.

Blurb:  Jobless, practically homeless, and tired of being manless, Sophie Taylor jumps at the chance to be Beaumont Walker's personal assistant. Six weeks on the road with country music's bad boy--and, more importantly, his all-male crew--is the perfect opportunity to change her life.

Beau Walker doesn't need any more distractions. Sophie, with her butt-ugly suits and balls-to-the-wall attitude, shouldn't be one, but she proves to be distracting and more--even, surprisingly, a friend. So when he discovers her plan to snag a man from his worldly wise crew, he's determined to protect her from herself.

When Sophie realizes Beau is behind her failure to attract even one member of his crew, the last place she expects to find herself is in his bed. But will one night of passion convince her she's woman enough for him? Or will it destroy their friendship and his budding belief in true love?

Review:  First I'd like to point out this is a novella. It's approximately 119 pages long. I want to bring that to everyone's attention because there's nothing more heartbreaking to an author than to receive a terrible review on Amazon or elsewhere where the only reason the reader didn't like the book is because it was only X number of pages and they didn't realize/know it before they purchased it.

I enjoyed going on Sophie's journey with her. Not just her physical journey from one city to another as the tour moved across the US, but her emotional journey as she realized she was more than just an afterthought. Throughout the book, she gained confidence, bravery, and more patience when dealing with Beau during his mania periods than I ever would have had. I liked how she outmaneuvered him by using his own words and/or foibles against him.

At first, I thought Beau was your stereotypical music star. I'm happy to say I was wrong about him. He genuinely cares about the road crew and is appreciative of everyone involved in making the things he needs done happen including Sophie, no matter how much she makes him grit his teeth in frustration at times. The song he wrote and sings at the end just made me like him even more.

I do have to point out one thing that bothered me. Beau often refers to Sophie as a little sergeant because he thinks she's so bossy. It was cute and gave them a sense of camaraderie. What bothered me is when he would call her "Serge." The first time, I thought it was a typo, but it's like that throughout the story.  The informal address of Sergeant is "Sarge." Coming from a family where for generations nearly all of the male members have served in the military, it just was very jarring for me and pulled me out of the story each time. Also, I work with two men from the Ukraine who are named Sergey and Sergei, same name, different spelling. Guess what we call them -- Serge (pronounced surge).  Given both of these reasons, the use of "Serge" in the book may have stood out to me more than it would someone else.

Rating:  4 Stars

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Please take a moment today to remember, honor, and thank those who have served or are serving in our military and the sacrifices they've made so we can live the lives we do.


Friday, November 8, 2013

This I know for sure...

There's nothing like a good book to take your mind off the stresses of your day or the worries you may have. I read a quote somewhere when I was a kid that said, "Most of the time, I'd rather be with a book than people." I'm paraphrasing of course, but something about that quote stuck with me all these years.

Maybe that quote resonated with me because I'm an introvert and prefer small gatherings of two to three people over large crowds of hundreds. Or maybe because reading has always been a pleasure and being able to sit down and spend time getting lost in another time/place/or world has always been something to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

My apologies for not posting the last couple of weeks. One good thing about that unexpected development, I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms so I have a book review to post this week.

This week's review is:

Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

Blurb:  Felicia Swift never dreamed she'd hear a deep, sexy voice from her past in tiny Fool's Gold, California. The last time Gideon Boylan whispered in her ear was half a world away…on the morning after the hottest night of her life. Her freaky smarts have limited her close friendships, and romance, but she came to Fool's Gold looking for ordinary. Gorgeous, brooding Gideon is anything but that.

Black Ops taught Gideon that love could be deadly. Now he pretends to fit in while keeping everyone at arm's length. Felicia wants more than he can give—a home, family, love—but she has a lot to learn about men…and Gideon needs to be the man to teach her.

As these two misfits discover that passion isn't the only thing they have in common, they just might figure out that two of a kind should never be split apart.

Review: While this book is part of the Fool's Gold series, it can easily be enjoyed without having read any of the other books in the series. Odds are though that after reading this one, you'll want to go back and read all of the others.

I loved the character of Felicia. She is scary smart and was sent to live at a university at a very young age to both be studied, but also to learn. Because of her unconventional upbringing, she longs for a normal life and a normal family. Also because of her upbringing, she's socially awkward and wants to fit in. While I'm not scary smart, and I don't think socially awkward, I am very introverted and tend to be very reticent around people I'm unfamiliar with so I found myself identifying with her in certain situations. I also loved that she spoke exactly what she thought even if it sometimes created embarrassing situations for her.

Gideon Boylan is a great character and more than worthy of Felicia. A former Black Ops team member who suffered months of torture, Gideon feels the only reason he survived is because he didn't care for anyone back home. He feels broken not only because of what he endured but because he doesn't feel capable of forming loving relationships. The unexpected appearance of someone in his life and his relationship with Felicia proves otherwise.

This is a wonderful story about two people who believe they are too damaged to be "normal" but due to circumstances end up living together to provide a "normal" life and finding their HEA with each other. I just can't say enough about this heart-warming story.

Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, November 4, 2013

Back on Schedule

My apologies for not posting the last couple of weeks. An unexpected event occurred that took up every available moment outside of my day job. Things are under control now and I'm back on track.

It's strange how something that seems so innocuous at the time suddenly becomes much more than that, eating into your time and energy. I've missed posting here and reading the blogs of others, not to mention being able to keep up with email from the loops I belong to. And of course, spending time on Facebook. It's amazing how much occurs in just a few days and how quickly I started to feel out of touch.