Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Romance Novels: The Lost Secret Recipe For Happiness, The Secret of Everything, How To Bake A Perfect Life, Author: Barbara O'Neal

 Cooking and baking and eating a path towards truth

AS BARBARA O’NEAL - First she wrote:

The Lost Secret Recipe For Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

The prologue is a scant one page and is a hauntingly beautiful lead in to a hauntingly beautiful book.

These are truths I have been taught:
“Her whole body ached this morning, back and hips from the old injuries, shoulder and neck from trying to erect the armor she had to assemble afresh each and every day, finely honed plates of sharp arrogance and bad language beneath which she - the secret and guarded Elena - could hide.”

And in reverse:
“…-he felt as if he unzipped the outside layers of artifice and masks and walked out of them, unencumbered in his own skin.”

I once lived with a very wise woman who saw my struggles with private sector type jobs and told me that she herself had the same struggles. She used lessons from her heritage to create a ritual that she did every morning where she shielded that place at the core of her being that can get trampled at work.

Every young person could benefit from this gem:
“Just find friends who want to believe in life instead of making fun of it.”

She could have been describing me with this passage:
“Men, she thought with a sigh. She was such a weak and flawed woman. She knew that. She was fond of sugar and wine, and too much coffee, which made her heart rush. She liked sex and the malty smell of it lingering on her thighs. She liked men, nearly all of them, for all kinds of reasons.”

Every creative person faces this risk at some time in their life:
“And yet, if she sat on the fence, offering lukewarm retreads of other people’s ideas, she would fail without question.”

Wonderful imagery here:
“Dismaying how the sound rushed through the cupboards of memory and threw moments out onto the floor. Some good. Some bad.”

Musical mentions: As I write this I am sitting in the midst of a storm and listening to a moving song by Matt Skelenger entitled Storm. Go here on you tube to hear it and see him    Continuing the weather theme try Alice Gomez’s Rain Dance here
Then she wrote:The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal

Where characters eat at The 100 Breakfasts Café. I want to eat there!

I enjoy the way she words this:
“You couldn’t unsee a thing once it was seen, unknow it once it was known.”

And I have unconsciously, actively known this to be true:
“What I know about search and rescue,” he said finally, “is that survivors need to tell their stories over and over until they get them into narratives they can manage.”
Certain traumas in my past lost the power to hurt me once I had put words to them and spoke those words to others to witness.

Her latest is:How To Bake A Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal

This is one of the dangers of believing that you create your world solely by what you think:
“She read a book that said whatever you think about comes true, and that scares her. What if she can worry him into being dead?”
Maybe you give power to what you dwell on but if we had the power to think something into being or happening how many people would have spent their time and energy thinking a big lottery win?

A beautiful, shimmering sentence:
“Around her she can feel a soft, rustling awareness, as if the plants are talking in very quiet whispers. What do plants think about?”

I am famous in my family for naming my plants, talking to them, giving them a love life. I have a flowering cactus named Alfonso who has a habit of dropping babies into the surrounding plants. I call these his love children. Also, my aloe, Gladys, has given birth to many, many generations. She is a grandmother with lots of greats before her name.

This is so true:
“It’s one thing to live in moonlight and never know there is a sun. But once you know, how can you ever be happy with night again?”

These books are riddled with characters you’ll care about, food and recipes you’ll want to eat and cook or bake, and plots that will surprise you in rare, pleasurable ways. As a bonus for me, they take place in one of my favorite states, New Mexico.

If you like these books, and I did, O’Neal has a whole backlog of books to check out written under the names Barbara Samuels and Ruth Wind.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Romance Novels: Various genres, Author: Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle

“She was aware of the familiar thrilling frissons of certainty sparkling through all of her senses.” Wait Until Midnight by Amanda Quick

Wait a minute - didn’t we do this book already? Why yes, we did. I left out this sentence, though and I love how it reads. It serves the purpose of leading us to where we’re going today.

Jayne Ann Krentz land. She of many names - JAK aka Amanda Quick aka Jayne Castle aka Amanda Glass aka Stephanie James. I don’t know if I got them all. Currently she writes under three psuedonyms: Krentz for contemporary romance, Castle for paranormal romance and Quick for historical romance.

(Edison is meditating on a candle flame…)
     “He looked past the old truths and concentrated on searching out the flickering glow of the new one that he sensed was there.
     He watched closely for a long while. After a time he saw it flare up for an instant, just long enough for him to be certain of it. A second later it vanished back into the heart of the fire.” I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick

Don’t you love the ritual of that? It’s from Quick’s Vanza series. I love all four books; 1- With This Ring 2- I Thee Wed 3- Wicked Widow 4 - Lie By Moonlight

Just to prove to one and all how talented she is, Krentz has been writing a series that involves 3 of her psuedonyms: her Arcane Society Novels. They start out with a book called Harmony by Krentz writing as Castle:

In a world where:
“A lot of people wore amber simply because it was stylish. But some people wore it because amber was the medium that powerful para-resonators used to focus their psychic talents.”

Dust bunnies are pets:
“Fuzz’s daylight eyes were open, glowing a brilliant, innocent blue against his dull, nondescript fur. He was fully fluffed, making it impossible to see his ears or his paws. He looked like something that had just rolled out from under the bed.”

Anything can happen:
In the bright light of the flash the colors on the surface of the bottle leaped into full, pulsing life. A restless sea of light and darkness surged around the widest portion of the elegantly shaped jar. Each hue seemed to be animated by its own inner energy source. Vast depths of dazzling light and color appeared and disappeared.”

Even a romance between a disgraced Para-Archaeologist and an ex Guild boss Ghost Hunter:
“They were definitely on the same frequency, he decided. He wasn’t quite sure how the dissonance of their mutual hostility had metamorphosed so abruptly into near-violent sexual resonance, but he sure as hell was not going to analyze it right now.”

Then there are books in the series with Krentz writing as Krentz - not just contemporary romances, though - contemporary paranormal romances.

"Isabella lacked the generic perfection that made so many female movie stars and fashion models look as if they had popped out of the same mold." In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz

"Friends may come and go but enemies accumulate." In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz

Still other books in the series are written by Quick, and, you guessed it - not just historical romances - paranormal historical romances. The latest in the series, Quicksilver by Amanda Quick, came out April 19th, 2011.

Confused? Me too. Fortunately you don’t have to understand the methods behind Krentz/Castle/Quick’s madness to enjoy the books. Here is my attempt at a sequence for the Arcane Society novels:

Ghost Hunter series        Arcane novels                      Dreamlight Trilogy
(all by Castle)                    Second Sight by Quick            Fired Up by Krentz     
Harmony                           White Lies by Krentz               Burning Light by Quick
After Glow                        The Third Circle by Quick        Midnight Crystal by Castle
Ghost Hunter                     Running Hot by Krentz      
Silver Master                    The Perfect Poison by Quick    The Looking Glass 
Dark Light                                                                                         Trilogy
                                                                                         In Too Deep by Krentz
                                                                                         Quicksilver by Quick
                                             & coming in August of 2011 Canyons of Night
                                                                                          by Castle

I read most of these from the library. I caught up on the backlog and started to buy them at Midnight Crystal because I wanted them as soon as they came out.

I'll leave you to process the complicated awesomeness of the lady with too many names. I’m going to the mail box and see if my copy of Quicksilver has arrived yet.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Romance Novel: The Love Goddess' Cooking School, Author: Melissa Senate

 Something Genuine This Way Comes...

“…I consulted the stones and was overcome with peace, which meant offering the course was the right thing to do, but I had no idea in what way.” from character, Nonna’s, diary in The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

What I wouldn’t give for something tangible and reliable to help me make tough decisions.

“…she would do anything for a magic wand or her grandmother’s gift of knowing.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Yep, bring on that wand.

“Just ask for help, she reminded herself…Her grandmother had once told her that one of life’s best lessons was not being afraid to look foolish -- to just ask the question.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

I’m a person who likes to learn. I have learned that you can’t learn if you are convinced you already know something. I generally approach things with the notion that I don’t know nuttin about nuttin. That way I’m open to learn. I am amazed how many people have to know everything. How do they get through life that way?

“I just knew that I liked girls who spoke their minds, said how they felt, were full of ideas.”  The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Now that’s a real man…er…real novel character man…er…a sentence that resonates with truth about real men. Yeah, that’s it.

Simon (the real man, see above) speaking regarding a reading Camilla gave Tamara’s sister:
“Fate and fortunes are a funny thing. Tamara, do you think it was fate or did your sister engineer that meeting because she knew it was her fortune?” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

It’s an age old question - is it really possible to predict the future or does one make the prediction happen once they’ve heard it? What do you think?

Shimmery sentence alert:
“She headed back into the kitchen and stood in the center of the room and felt as though the air was filled with tiny invisible bubbles of possibility.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Goosebumps alert:
“When he crossed, he turned and stopped, eyeing her for a moment before holding up his hand and disappearing down the path with her heart.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Strongly resonating novel truth:
“Leaving would reinforce for Luciana that there was something wrong with her mother, that her mother had to run away. And that she, Luciana, had something to be ashamed of. Which is not true. And so I stayed, hoping by doing so, I’d teach my daughter something important.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

This, dearies, is the real essence, or to use a ten-dollar word, the quintessence, of a novel truth for me. Truth has layers like an onion. One layer of the J,J,J onion is, what I’m doing right now living in rural Kentucky where I’m too allergic to the agri - lawn chemicals to go outside, and I’m too at odds with the belief systems of the general population to make friends and I’m a city girl in a country world, what I’m really doing is standing my ground. Saying to my mother - who is the rock that I crash against to grow stronger- you are not going to drive me out of the lives of my children or grandchildren ever for one moment just because I have different beliefs than you and you think I’m wrong and you’re right. I’m not wrong. I’m strong and smart and my children and grandchildren will know that even though you’d like to crush that truth and me with it.

Again with the resonating truth:
“…mistakes can bring you where you need to be.” The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

I’ve made so many mistakes I shudder to think where I could be if they weren’t taking me where I need to be.

Been there, done that, learned the lesson, bought the t-shirt. And read the book. A great book. I loved it. It had everything. And foodie porn. And recipes. And loveable arcing characters.

Music mentions: opera, sorry, not my thing, non-specific blues - I can dig the blues. Saw BB King and was blown away - the Killers, no specific song mentioned.

A ten-dollar word that I love: disingenuous - not genuinely sincere or withholding information - when you say it correctly it feels good rolling off your tongue. Get out your mirror and say it several times while watching your mouth move.

While you do that, I’m going to do a bing search and see what else the wonderful Melissa Senate has written.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mystery Novel: Visions of Sugar Plums, Author: Janet Evanovich

And the winner is.....DELIA MORAN. Shelly really liked her funny comment:

"Well, I haven't read anything in this series and I need to get started, so sign me up. Hey, do I get a better chance if I bombard you with comments? Or suck up? Because I'm not above either of those things. Just so you know.
I'm going to go fantasize about that Nick character now."

A brand new copy of No Such Thing As A Secret is winging it's way to Delia right now via Thanks everyone for participating!

From Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich:
“My name is Stephanie Plum and I’ve got a strange man in my kitchen. He appeared out of nowhere. One minute I was sipping coffee, mentally planning out my day. And then the next minute…..poof, there he was."

(This is our first introduction to six-foot, hunky, bad-boy, Diesel.)

“I inched my way across the kitchen, stuck my hand into my brown bear cookie jar and pulled out my .38 five-shot Smith & Wesson.”

(Not the reaction that I might have had to such a hunk appearing in my kitchen, but then, I don’t have a gun in my cookie jar. Just cookies. If I’m lucky.)

“Honey, there aren’t any bullets in that gun.”

(Now that does sound like a predicament I could be in. And he does sound pretty arrogant, doesn’t he?)

Evanovich writes the popular Stephanie Plum series. One a year. She also wrote 4 books called ‘Between the Numbers’ novels. Visions of Sugar Plums; Plum Lovin’; Plum Lucky; and my favorite - Plum Spooky.

From Plum Spooky:
“Sometimes you get up in the morning and you know it’s going to be one of those days. No toothpaste left in the tube, no toilet paper on the cardboard roll, hot water cuts out halfway through your shower, and someone’s left a monkey on your doorstep.”

(All the way up to that last line, her life could have been my life.)

“I’m feeling hot today,” Lula said. “I bet I could find that Munch. I bet he’s sitting home in his Underoos playing with his whatchamacallit.”

(I have some people in my life who are funny, but none of them compare to Stephanie’s best friend, Lula.)

“You’re not an Unmentionable. You don’t get the newsletter.”
“There’s a newsletter.”
Diesel gave a snort of laughter and tried to grab me, but I jumped away.
“You’re scum,” I said to him.
“I know,” Diesel said. “I can’t help myself.”

(Stephanie is gullible, in a funny, lovable way.)

“You started the car with your finger?”
“Yep. And that’s nothing. You should see what this finger can do on a G-spot.”

And always there is sexual banter and innuendo and an underlying current of sexual attraction. Evanovich has started a new series that features hunky Diesel with a different cast of characters. She plans on writing one for each of the seven deadly sins. The first, Wicked Appetite, came out last fall and it didn’t disappoint.

From Wicked Appetite:
“I turned to go back to the kitchen and slammed into over six feet of hard muscle and bad attitude. He reached out to steady me, and I sucked in some air…
He looked around. “I’m in Dazzle’s, right?”
We all nodded, taking him in. His hair was thick and dark blond, somewhere between wind-blown, just woke up, and untameable. His skin was beach bum tan. His eyebrows were fierce and darker than his hair. His eyes were brown and assessing. His posture was confident. His body language was intimidating. His boots were dusty. His jeans were on their last legs but molded nicely to all the good parts.”

(That was the first meeting between Lizzie Tucker, cupcake baker from Salem, and Diesel.)

“An Unmentionable is a human with special abilities. There’s like a brotherhood or something and a governing body.”
“I work for that governing body,” Diesel said. “I’m commissioned to pull the plug on Unmentionables who abuse their power.”
I saw this as registering high on my bull-crap-o-meter, but I was curious all the same.”

(Oh, okay, well that explains everything.)

“Too bad we aren’t collecting the Saligia charms that control lust. You’d be thinner and I’d be happier.”
The thought sent a shudder through me. I already had a lot of lust for Diesel without help from an enchanted charm. I mean, I suppose I wanted Diesel with the same intensity I wanted a jelly-donut or a Rice Krispies treat! I might cripple him.
Diesel smiled.
“You didn’t hear that, did you?” I asked him.
“No, but you were looking at me like I was a turkey dinner.”

(Lizzie and Diesel have a strong sexual attraction to each other that lends itself to comical dialogue that I enjoy very much.)

"But I need strawberry ice cream, a Dust Buster, and lots of new socks,” I told him. “Isn’t there anything you need?”
“Yes,” he said. And he pulled me to him and kissed me.”

(And in this series, the hunky blond guy and the cupcake baker may actually end up committed to each other, sort-of, we hope, maybe.)

People criticize Evanovich because she doesn’t arc or age her characters. It’s deliberate on her part. And it’s okay with me. Because when I want to sit down and escape into a book full of light-hearted enjoyment and laughter, I know what books to read.

These books are all in the library. Of course, if you’re like me, you buy them as soon as they come out because you can’t wait. In fact, if the lines weren’t so long every where she goes, I might consider stalking Janet Evanovich.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fiction Comedy Novel: Another Roadside Attraction, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Author: Tom Robbins

What Kind of Cigar Evokes Shimmering Sentences?

“The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

Tom Robbins gets up on Monday morning, eats breakfast, and at nine o’clock he sits down in front of his typewriter, smokes a cigar and starts to write.

“The afternoon sky looked like a brain. Moist. Gray. Convoluted. A mad-scientist breeze probed at the brain, causing it to bob and quiver as if it were immersed in a tank of strange liquids.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

He writes a sentence but he doesn’t add a period. He reworks the sentence until it “reverberates with the subtle texture of the infinite.”* (Adam Szymkowicz) Then he adds a period. A sentence might take hours or a whole day.

“There are several ways of looking at an FBI agent. One of these ways is over a tsetse fly. Our tsetse fly was moored in a cube of amber, its thin wings frozen in single-minded elegance, its hairy legs straddling eternity.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

After reading over the first sentence, he writes a second; once again leaving off the period. He reworks the second sentence until it “shimmers”*; then he adds a period.

“The last time I was on a Mexican beach, some guy stole my transistor radio,” sighed Amanda.
“Why that’s a dirty shame,” I sympathized.
“Oh, it was all right,” she said. “He took the radio but he left the music.”
Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

Maybe Tom had the same creative writing mentor as Jennifer Crusie. “My old creative writing mentor had a good exercise for that: “Suppose people could only buy your stories one sentence at a time. If they read the first sentence, would they want to buy the next one?”)”**

“Moon medicine and jazz powders. Lucky root and come-together potent. Mojo cream and loa lotion. Hurricane drops, kill-me-not juice, coonass courting pomade, and a special oil-of-midnight that had nothing to do with overtime at the office.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

He is a pantser who doesn’t plan or plot.

“For the rest of our sleeping session, the unconscious mind is off duty. It gets bored. It craves recreation. So it plays with the material at hand. In a sense it plays with itself. It scrambles memories, juggles images, rearranges data, invents scary or titillating stories. This is what we call ‘dreaming’.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

And yet his plots are thorough, complicated, compelling and clever.

“I’ve never been kissed by a man in Donald Duck sunglasses before,” said Leigh-Cheri.
“I apologize,” said Bernard. “I’m sorry about the Donald Duck sunglasses. They ought to be Woody Woodpecker sunglasses, but nobody makes Woody Woodpecker sunglasses.”
Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

And funny. Did I mention funny? I mean at-the-edge-of-your-seat, what-can-possibly-happen-next, laugh-until-you-cry, funny.

“It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross country in a large, roast turkey.” Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

Y’all I tried writing like this and all I can say is, what the hell is in that cigar he smokes at the beginning of each day?

“Amoebae leave no fossils. They haven’t any bones. (No teeth, no belt buckles, no wedding rings.) It is impossible therefore, to, determine how long amoebae have been on Earth.” Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was made into a movie. The movie is good but it’s not as good as the book, of course.

Tom writes as if it is a normal day job; nine to five, Monday to Friday is writing time. He doesn’t write at noon on a Saturday or seven o’clock on a Tuesday. He writes until he reaches the last sentence in the book, makes it shimmer and puts a period.

I love Tom. I’ve read most everything he’s written. For those of you (us) on a budget, you’ll find most of his books in your library. My favorite will always be Another Roadside Attraction. Where else will you find a real flea circus, the body of Jesus stolen from the depths of the Vatican and an endless array of food made with some very potent mushrooms?

For a good bibliography go to:

Writing the way Tom does will keep you in the moment. Try it. I’ve already tried it so I’m just going to be here banging my head repeatedly on my desk.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Romance Suspense Novels: No Such Thing As A Secret, No Such Thing As A Good Blind Date, No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, No Such Thing As A Free Ride, Author: Shelly Fredman

Meet Brandy Alexander; loyal…
“Well maybe I went a little too far, but - it’s who I am, Bobby. I can’t stand by and watch the bullies win. And maybe I don’t always think things through, and maybe I don’t always get it right, but I’m never going to just sit by and do nothing while there are people in the world who can’t fight for themselves.” (1)

Tongue-in-cheek witty…
“Bobby felt terrible and asked if there was anything he could do to make it up to me. Gazing into his deep blue eyes, I could think of a few things, but nothing that wouldn’t require a trip to confession in the morning.” (1)

Endearing nut…
“Bobby smiled and pulled me to my feet. “You’re exhausted and you’re afraid to go to sleep. I’ll stay with you until you drift off.”
“I’m not afraid,” I countered, letting him lead me up the stairs. “But if it makes you feel better, you can stay.”
“Could you turn on the night light, please?” I yawned. “In case you need some light when you leave,” I added.
“That’s very considerate of you.” (1)

Laugh-out-loud funny…
“The second drink had worked its way around my brain, and I hoped I didn’t start saying things I’d regret later, like when I had nitrous oxide at the dentist’s and told Dr. Calahan that I loved him.” (1)

Meet Bobby DiCarlo; handsome cop…
“He looked wonderful. Dammit. Dark, wavy hair, slightly disheveled, five o’clock shadow on his near-perfect face and newly formed muscles traveling up and down his lean, six-foot-one-inch body.” (2)

Unhappily married:
“A year and a half after I moved to Los Angeles I heard that Bobby had gotten married. It’s not a happy union but a two-year-old daughter keeps them together. After the up-bringing he’d had, Bobby would never abandon his kid.” (2)

To a psycho named Marie:
“I know all about Marie. She jeopardized my daughter’s life and she left you here to die.”  (2)

Meet Nick Santiago: sexy bad ass…
“His hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, revealing the tiny silver cross he wore in his left ear. On his wrist was a silver band. …He hadn’t shaved in a day or so and a slight shadow edged his jaw line. He was undeniably beautiful and yet it wasn’t his most compelling quality. Damned if I knew what was. I only knew that it kept me coming back for more.” (3)

Brings out the best in Brandy…
“Nick it’s Brandy. I’m sorry I haven’t called you back, but I’ve had, eye…It can be very debilitating.” Oh God is there any way to erase this? “Anyway, I just wanted to say that it was very nice of you to humor my mother by telling her you’d come for dinner, but it’s totally unnecessary. I’m sure you have better things to do, so-” BEEP. Shit. “Hi, it’s me again. Anyway, we’re not even having dinner tomorrow night. My mother drinks a lot and she gets mixed up. So, uh, I’ll talk to you later. Bye.” (3)

And there’s his sidekick, Alphonso:
“Alphonso was just walking back into the living room…  “Take it easy there, Sweetcakes. Someone went to a lot of trouble to hide this. It might be booby trapped. Let me go first.”
“I appreciate the chivalry, but that’s not fair. Why would you put yourself in danger like that?”
“Because Santiago would kill me if I let anything happen to you. This way I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of survival.” (4)

And in this wonderful Philly world that Shelly Fredman has created, there are a whole host of colorful, lovable characters. The books are mysteries with romance thrown in. Sometimes Brandy’s friends are a help and sometimes a hindrance; in both the romance and the mystery department.

“Jeez Janine. Have a little faith. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of a toddler for a few hours. I’ve babysat before.” Okay so maybe she was remembering the time when we were fourteen and we’d started a babysitting service, and we accidentally left six-year-old Benny Shapiro at the mall. It could happen to anyone. And it’s not like we didn’t find him again.” (4)

Always Brandy and crew are entertaining and enlightening.

All this refers to the No Such Thing As series written by Shelly Fredman. So far she has written 4 books: 1 NSTA A Secret / 2 NSTA A Good Blind Date / 3 NSTA A Free Lunch / 4 NSTA A Free Ride.

For those of  us who’ve read 1-4 and want more, Shelly says: “I’m working on the 5th book in the Brandy Alexander series, but it’s too soon to estimate a release date.”

Be eligible to win the first book in the series, No Such Thing As A Secret, by posting a comment to this blogpost today the 15th, Sat 16th or Sun 17th.  Shelly herself will pick one winner from the comments and I'll announce who the lucky person is on this blog on Wednesday the 20th.

Course in my book, everyone who reads this blog is a winner!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mystery Novel: Moonlighting In Vermont, California Schemin', Author: Kate George

As a writer Kate George knows her way around a story and a cast of characters. She knows how to write her protagonist, Bella Bree MacGowan, as a woman with attitude:

“Oh, and you think a state trooper is going to be laid back? I don’t think so. I start dating a trooper and I’ll have every cop in the place keeping an eye on me. I do way too many stupid things to date a cop.” I could imagine being stopped for every illegal U-turn I ever made. “Shouldn’t you be investigating the scene or something instead of trying to find me a date?”

Kate writes Bree as the queen of the snappy comeback:

“…What are you doing tonight?”
“Having my brain transplanted into a different body. How ’bout you?”

Sweetly vulnerable enough to be lovable:

“I dragged myself into the house, swallowed a couple of pain pills, and took the dogs upstairs with me. I burrowed under the covers and the dogs jumped up to lie on the bed. Annie snuggled up next to me and licked the tears off my face.”


“What have I got to lose? I thought. I could go to prison tomorrow, and I would have passed up my last chance for sex.”


“I am not seeing anyone exclusively. I’m operating under the assumption that all single men are scum, and all married men are out of bounds.” I stuck my tongue out at Meg. “So that means Beau is scum, unless he was to marry me. Which he can’t, because I’m not marrying any scummy single man.”

In Moonlighting in Vermont, Kate writes a world with Bree at it’s center. She has a funny, quirky best friend and they take you with them through some fun and some harrowing adventures. She has a town full of characters for a support system. And, of course, some of them aren’t so supportive.

She uses one of my favorite ten-dollar words: discombobulated. It’s such a great word because you sound it out and you can’t help but know what it means: to throw somebody into a state of confusion. Discombobulated sounds confused.

She mentions one of my favorite movies: Enchanted April.

And she continues Bree’s world into another book that is equally good; California Schemin’. When I finished California Schemin’, I immediately e-mailed Kate to ask if there would be a third. I’m happy to say a third Bella Bree MacGowan book is in the works.

Anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading Kate’s books can get 25% of a digital copy of California Schemin’ by using the coupon code WW94W over on Smashwords at (Formatted for all reading devices.)

Have you read these books yet? Did you know Kate George is a cherry/betty? If you haven't read them, head on over to smashwords before Friday the 15th of April.

As for me, I've read them both so I'm going to be plotting ways to get Kate to write faster!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Romance Novel: Can't Stand The Heat, Author: Louisa Edwards

What am I blogging about, today? Books that aren’t covered in termites or chemicals meant to massacre them, of course. Namely, the book, Can’t Stand The Heat by Louisa Edwards. This book is number one in Edward's Recipe For Love trilogy. To date she has written, 1 Can’t Stand the Heat; 2 On the Steamy Side and 3 Just One Taste. I’ve loved them all, so far.

This is not your ordinary foodie porn romance. There are recipes in back, yes. There is much talk of food, yes. The difference is these books are set in the high pressure, fast paced kitchen of a very modern slightly upscale Manhattan restaurant. Amidst the excitement of living in a new world while reading the book, what leaps out from the page and speaks to me? How do the staff handle stress?

“He had to pull himself together and he knew just how to do it, too.

Adam was going to make pate.

…It was he best way he’d found to get calm and collected: make something with a lot of steps, in intricate layers that all had to harmonize together.

He was finally starting to breathe normally again…”

Here is a shimmering sentence that speaks of Chef Temple’s passion for cooking.

“Cook like your heartbeat is connected to the movement of your hands, like it’s life-or-death every second.”

Reading this philosophical statement from food critic Miranda Wake - do you agree or disagree?

“The key to happiness, or at least, the key to contentment, Don’t Want What You Can’t Have.”

There is a sweet subplot that runs through all 3 books so far that is the gay romance of Jess and Frankie.

“Frankie pushed off the wall and sauntered closer. Jess felt trapped by his own magnetic attraction; as if Frankie were a planet he was revolving helplessly around, and yet he didn’t exactly want to escape.”

As a rebel, this resonates with me and I like that she has put just a touch of cockney accent in Frankie’s speech; not enough to be irritating, just enough to be fun.

“Sometimes, though, you have to break your own rules.”

Frankie nodded. “How you know you’re alive, innit? I’ve broken damn near every rule society, the Church, or my own mum could come up with at one point or another - taken every drug, drunk myself into a stupor, danced with the devil himself, and come out grinning. But it’s not for everyone…”

Can the passionate chef help the pessimistic food critic to arc?

“She was beginning to understand and appreciate Adam’s hedonistic love of life, as well. That ability to live so fully and truly that every action, every sensation, was magnified a hundredfold. Miranda had taken many short, exhilarating dips in the incandescent river of energy that poured through Adam, and she thought she could learn to navigate it pretty well, if she had the time.”

I remember a time when I felt like this - I need to develop this passion again:

“Perfection isn’t your goal; ceaseless struggle is your goal. Never losing the drive to be perfect is your goal. And taking it all seriously - like you said that first night, it’s always life-or-death to you.”

Chef Adam Temple loves words as much as I do:

You know I love it when you use those ten-dollar words and make sense out of everything in my head.”

What ten-dollar words jumped out at me from this book?

pastiche:1 mixture: a piece of creative work, e.g. in literature, drama, or art, that is a mixture of things borrowed from other works

2 imitative work: a piece of creative work, e.g. in literature, drama, or art, that imitates and often satirizes another work or style

It’s so very precise. She could have said satire or imitation but this word says what she means even better.

Also: insouciance - carefree attitude; cheerful lack of anxiety or concern

I want to be insouciant.

Once upon a time I loved punk rock and this book brought that back. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I bet there is a punk song or 2 that you love and don’t even know it’s punk; for example, the goddess of punk, Patti Smith’s Because the Night; not as good as the song mentioned in the book, Kimberly, but good. Or how about the Buzzcocks song Ever Fallen In Love With Someone? Gratuitous lovely mentions also of Siouxie and the Banshees, the Ramones, the New York Dolls and the Velvet Underground and Nico.

She mentions some familiar and unfamiliar artists, also. She speaks of Mapplethorpe’s famous photo of Patti Smith. I love Mapplethorpe.

I didn’t recognize the name Richard Avedon but he took the famous picture of a naked Natasha Kinski with a snake covering strategic spots and famous pictures of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.

I was completely unfamiliar with “Uelsmann’s dreamscapes” which turn out to be photographic collages created in the darkroom of photographer, Jerry Uelsmann such as this one entitled the Committee:

Not sure if I like it or not.

But I do love Louisa Edwards. I went to her website to see if she had culinary experience because the world she creates behind the scenes of the restaurant in her books seem so genuine. She does.

I’m happy to say that Louisa has another trilogy, the Hot trilogy coming out next year. It has crossover characters from the RFL trilogy and I eagerly await the release of the first book, Too Hot to Touch in August of 2011 followed by book 2, Some Like it Hot, due out November 29th, 2011 and then Hot Under Pressure out in April of 2012.

And if I try one of the cocktail recipes in the back of the book, maybe I can forget about the termites!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Romance Novel Collaboration: Secrets of a Perfect Night, Author: Rachel Gibson, etal, Romance Novel Collaboration: Hot Ticket, Author: Deidre Martin, etal, Romance Novel Collaboration: Perfect For the Beach, Author: Lori Foster, Janelle Denison, Erin McCarthy, MaryJanice Davidson

"Carrie Fay always says that nothing is really horrible unless it eats away your face."
Funniest line I've read in a book all week! From Up In Smoke by Katie MacAlister.

Totally unrelated to today's blogpost but I had to share.

There’s a certain type of collaboration where authors who write novels get together and write a book containing a shorter story from each one. Some of those collaborations have led me to favorite authors.

For example: Secrets of a Perfect Night by Victoria Alexander, Rachel Gibson and Stephanie Laurens; led me to Rachel Gibson. From her book, Nothing But Trouble:

"Well, you just turned down a once in a life time offer. I never cook for my employer. It sets a bad precedent and to be totally honest, I suck in the kitchen," she said through a big grin which might have been cute if it wasn't so annoying.

God he hated cheerful people. Time to piss her off and get her to leave. "You don't sound Russian."

"I'm not."

He lowered the bottle as he lowered his gaze to her orange leather jacket. "So why are you dressed like you're just off the boat?"

She glanced down at her dress and pointed out. "It's my Pucci."

Mark was pretty sure she hadn’t said pussy, but it had sure sounded like it. "I'm going to go blind looking at you."

She glanced up and the corners of her blue eyes narrowed and he couldn't tell if she were about to laugh or yell. "That's not very nice."

"I'm not very nice."

Nothing But Trouble is the story of injured hockey player Mark Bressler and slasher-film actress Chelsea Ross. As you can read, they got off to a bad start but you can always trust Rachel Gibson to give them and you a HEA. Her storytelling abilities and her wonderful HEA’s are why I’ve read everything she’s written and why I’m looking forward to her next book, Any Man of Mine coming out April 26th, 2011.

Another collaboration, Hot Ticket by Deirdre Martin , Julia London, Annette Blair and Geri Buckley gave me Deirdre Martin. Deirdre also writes about hockey players. This is from her book, Body Check;

“I want to know why you looked so shocked when I spoke French?”

“You never mentioned it.”

“I never had to. You can’t be in the NHL for as long as I have and not speak some French.”


Ty leaned over, elbows on the bar, so they were eye level. “I can’t believe you went out with that guy,” he murmured. “No wonder you were so desperate to hook-up with me.”

Janna’s head whipped around, “I beg your pardon.”

“You heard me. My sainted old granny has more testosterone than that guy.”

Janna’s teeth clenched. “I hate you. You know that? Hate, hate, hate.”

Of course, she doesn’t hate him. Deirdre Martin is another romance author who can be counted on for characters that are lovable, story that pulls you in and a HEA. Her latest, which I loved, Icebreaker, is out now.

The collaboration, Perfect For the Beach by Lori Foster, Janelle Denison, Erin McCarthy and MaryJanice Davidson turned me on to Erin McCarthy, whose Fast Track series about race car drivers I talked about in an earlier blogpost entitled, Holy Hard Nipples, Batman. I also enjoyed the Fred the Mermaid trilogy by MaryJanice Davidson.

Personally speaking, I have decided to serialize a novel on this blog on Fridays. I feel the need to put my current work aside for awhile. Unfortunately I have no publisher breathing down my neck to finish them. Fortunately that leaves me free to embrace something new. AND FUN. I’m ready for some fun. First serial novel post will be Friday, April 22nd. After a month or 2, I will reassess to see are people reading? Is it working for me? I appreciate your feedback that helped me make a decision.


I hope you are excited. I am

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Romance Novel: Garden Spells, Author: Sarah Addison Allen

You are who you are whether you like it or not, so why not like it?”

Halfway through the book, that sentence stood out on the page like neon. It resonated as pure, simple truth for me. Thank you Sarah Addison Allen for the gift of your book, Garden Spells. I needed to be reminded. I always have the first part because I don’t know how to be anyone but me. When I’m under attack for being different, I sometimes become defensive and forget to like myself.

Not so Evanelle, a character in the book who has an unusual skill. The townspeople have grown to trust her skill but they don’t want to get too close to her for fear that her weirdness is contagious. She gives people things before they know they need them.

“Is that his name? He looked like he needed some lawn bags. Lucky I had some on me.”

She was only human, though…

“After thirty-eight years of marriage…she was seized with the need to buy her husband a new suit. It turned out he didn’t have a decent one to be buried in when he died the following week…Sometimes at night when her house felt particularly empty, she still wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t bought her husband that suit.”

All the Waverleys were unusual:
“Claire had added flowers to the garden to give her something to do at night when she was so wound up that frustration singed the edge of her nightgown and she set tiny fires with her fingertips.”

“…she tasted regret in her mouth. With a frown, she spit it out.”

Isn’t that idea simple? And so practical. The next time I feel regret, I’m trying it. Love for the Waverleys or their beloveds was not so simple, though. First meetings were dramatic:

“She felt like she had water against her back, pushing her towards the deep end as she walked toward him and extended the lighter. She stopped a few feet away, trying to keep as much distance as possible, digging her heels in as whatever force it was tried to take her closer.”

“You don’t talk much, do you? Or have I done something to offend the neighborhood already? Was I out in my yard in my underwear at any point?”

Time only made things more intense:

“She sometimes thought she was going crazy. Her first thought when she woke up was always how to get him out of her thoughts. And she would keep watch hoping to see him next door, while plotting ways to never have to see him again. It made no sense.”

“When you tell a secret to someone, embarrassing or not it forms a connection. That person means something to you simply by virtue of what he knows.”

The Waverley house communicated with them:
“Without another thought she took two steps over to him and kissed him. The force of her body sent him falling back against the refrigerator. She went with him, not losing contact, and colorful paper napkins Claire had stored on the top of the refrigerator fell over the edge and fluttered down around them like confetti, as if the house was saying Hooray!”

And their garden gave them warnings:
“The garden was saying that something was trying to get in, something that was pretty and looked harmless but would take over everything if given the chance.”

Allen has one of those voices that brings me to an altered state of awareness. It’s like something in me shivers. My ears perk up and my body tenses and all of me says - listen - something beautiful is about to be said. Something genuine is about to happen. Don’t miss it.

And how could I not love a book when in the end there’s a brooch?

“She pinched her lips together as she unhooked the brooch from her shirt…She lifted the starburst rhinestone pin above her head breathlessly…She moved the pin back and forth until suddenly like a Christmas cracker, the light broke through and multi-colored sparkles rained down on her face…”

Sarah Addison Allen has written Garden Spells, The Girl Who Chased The Moon and The Sugar Queen. Her newest book came out in March of this year and is titled: The Peace Keeper.

Judy, Judy, Judy

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cozy Mystery Novel: Eggs Benedict Arnold, Series: Cackleberry Club, Author: Laura Childs

 Danger, Deadpan Humor and Foodie Porn, What More Could You Want?

“So pretty out here,” she murmured.
“Better without lights,” said Toni. Without warning she flipped off her headlights. And, suddenly, they were hurtling through the darkness at sixty miles an hour!
“What are you doing?” Suzanne demanded, frightened out of her wits.
“It’s like flying isn’t it?” Toni said, focusing intently on the straightaway ahead. “Like we’re in some kind of rocket ship piercing a black membrane.”

As you can read, the ladies of the Cackleberry Club, a series by Laura Childs, are just a little crazy. And yet, one of them voiced an important part of my philosophy of life clearly and succinctly:

“Now I don’t wait for anything,” said Suzanne in a quiet voice. “No more waiting for planets to align, the economy to rebound, or someone to hand me a blank check. And I particularly try not to worry about what others think. To be perfectly honest, I don’t much care what they’re thinking. Now I just try to push ahead and do my best to be optimistic, hopeful and fearless.”

Of course it’s easy to be positive when you’re out on a date with a handsome, attentive man in a restaurant that serves yummy food, dressed up in your favorite clothes and feeling good. Also, for the first eighteen years of my life, my mom tried unsuccessfully to drill into my head the notion that I should care what other people think of me.

These quotes are from Eggs Benedict Arnold, #2 of the Cackleberry Club series written by Laura Childs. The main characters are 3 ladies, Suzanne and Petra, widowed, and Toni, divorced, all over 40 who own a business together. The business is a restaurant that has a book nook and a knitting-crocheting-quilting room. Doesn’t that sound like a great place to hang out?

It’s a cozy mystery series so naturally, these ladies stumble upon murders and end up solving them. Along the way, they are witty, fun and supportive of each other. They have charming rituals like this:

“Whenever the ladies of the Cackleberry Club came across a quote, a saying or a Bible verse they liked, they scribbled it on a piece of paper and tossed it into a Red Wing crock. Now they were in the habit of drawing a slip each day from their so-called affirmation jar and sharing it with each other.”

I’d have to leave out the verses and substitute something for the RW crock but it’s a good idea.

The crock must be full of witticisms like these cause there are many in the book:

“The more you chase money,” said Petra, “the harder it is to catch it.”

“The nice thing about living in a small town,” muttered Doogie, “is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, somebody else does.”

And there is DEADPAN HUMOR. I so love DEADPAN HUMOR.

“You see,” murmured Suzanne, “that’s one of the reasons your relationship doesn’t work.”
“Incompatibility?” asked Toni.
“Inequality,” said Suzanne.

For those of us who like foodie porn, all of Child’s series are ripe with it; menu boards filled out; menus for events discussed; recipes in the back and lots of great information on teas in the teashop series.

I plan on trying these recipes from Eggs Benedict Arnold: Lemonade Freezer Pie, Cackleberry Club Brown Sugar Meatloaf, Chicken Croquettes, Blueberry Breakfast Squares.

Laura Childs writes 3 series of cozy mysteries. There is the Cackleberry Club series; 1 Eggs In Purgatory / 2 Eggs Benedict Arnold / 3 Bedeviled Eggs.

There are the teashop mysteries. There are 12 of them and I’ve read them all except Scones and Bones, the latest, which just came out in March of this year. I’m expecting it this week.

She also writes a scrap booking series which doesn’t call to me. Maybe because I don’t like scrap booking. I know that’s blasphemous to some of you but if you read the above philosophy of life you’ll know - I don’t care what you think I’m not worried about that.

Do you like foodie porn? Recipes in books? Do you skip the passages describing food or do you devour them?

Childs has a user-friendly website where you can access booklists of her series in order: . All y'all check that out. I’m going to go and see if I have all the ingredients to make that pie.

Judy, Judy, Judy


Friday, April 1, 2011

Paranormal Historical Romance Novel: Wait Until Midnight, Author: Amanda Quick

“The face of the dead medium was a ghostly blur beneath the bloodstained wedding veil.”

Intriguing. Slightly sinister. What is the genre here? Gothic? Paranormal? Mystery?

“Such deliciously ominous-sounding words, she thought happily. The phrase ‘grave importance’ practically vibrated with the promise of a Startling Incident.”

What period is this? Contemporary? Historical? Futuristic?

This is a novel whose protagonist is a novel writer. But not any ordinary novel. Oh no. Carolyn Fordyce writes ‘serial novels.’ She is contracted to write a section / chapter of 3000 to 5000 words each week for 26 weeks; completing her novel.

“You’ll be pleased enough with this installment of The Mysterious Gentleman, sir,” the boy assured him. “It begins with a very startling incident and ends with a fine cliff-hanger.”

And throughout the book, Wait Until Midnight, by Amanda Quick, Carolyn has fun writing this novel. She derives great enjoyment doing it.

When we (Carolyn and the reader) first meet love interest, Adam Hardesty he is posing as Adam Grove.

“No doubt about it; he was the perfect model for the character of Edmund Drake.
She quickly wrote ‘Charges atmosphere with masculine vitality’ in what she hoped was an offhand manner, as though she were merely making a shopping list.”

Later Adam snatches the paper Carolyn’s been making notes on from her hand:

“I am curious about your list of errands, madam.” He scanned the page quickly, his expression turning colder by the second. “‘Dark gray jacket and trousers’? ‘Fierce features’? What the devil is going on here?”

And this sets us up for a running joke throughout the book:

“You took notes about my appearance and attire so that you could apply them to the hero of your story?”
“Heavens, no,” she assured him with an airy wave of her hand. “Whatever gave you that idea? Edmund Drake is not the hero of my tale. He is the villain of the piece.”

That joke being: (remember that love interest Adam is Edmund Drake in the serial novel she writes)

“Edmund Drake will meet a right dreadful fate. All of Mrs. Fordyce’s villains come to terrible ends in the final episodes.”

You may know that Amanda Quick is one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s many pseudonyms. Amanda Quick writes historical romances. If you’ve read them you know, the characters are quirky and the plots are funny. They are addictive which is okay because she’s written several. This one is also paranormal in a sense; although all the paranormal elements are eventually proven to be fraudulent.

I haven’t done justice to this book which I really enjoyed reading. I blog about it today for a PURPOSE.

I am on the brink of writing a serial novel. Maybe. I would like your input.

I have a novel written and partly revised. I have a sequel close to finished as a first draft. I have extensive notes about the third novel in the trilogy. I am dragging my feet about finishing anything.

I am further discouraged about the major upheaval in the publishing industry and reluctant to enter the chaos of it at 53yo. ( See Cherry Forums / Publishing And the many articles about not making a living as a writer. (See same forum and, in fact, several references by Jenny Crusie herself in her blogposts at Argh.Ink.)

So I thought, why not serialize my first novel on my blog?

If I commit to this, I will write a regular blogpost on Monday and Wednesday and post a section / chapter 3-5000 words long for however many Friday's it takes to finish my novel.

What do you think?

Oh and one last thing about Wait Until Midnight. A ‘mourning brooch' is a part of the murder scenes. As you can probably guess from my blog décor, I like brooches. (One of these days my daughter will return the brooch she designed and made for me in metal smithing class in college and I will put a pic of it up.)

So here are a couple of pics of ‘mourning brooches’ which, as the name suggests, were worn during periods of mourning during several eras of history.

                                                   Creepy with hair braided in it.


I eagerly await your opinons on my plans for putting out - putting my novel out on my blog for free, that is. Have a great weekend.

Judy, Judy, Judy