Friday, March 30, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge March 2012

 Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun!

Did you read any In Death series books this month? 

Link up any In Death posts you made this month in this post. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

Eternity In Death 
Book #24.5

In this short story from the Dead of Night anthology, our fearless Lieutenant Eve Dallas is hunting a vampire allegedly responsible for the murder of a beautiful young woman.

Wait, what??!

Vampires in an In Death story?! Rest assured this series has not taken a turn down paranormal lane, although you'd be hard pressed to convince this murderer otherwise.

Infamous for her wild living, the very rich, beautiful and famous Tiara Kent is found dead by exsanguination in her apartment, the only injury on her body a pair of puncture wounds on her neck. The open minded and perhaps superstitious Detective Peabody suggests the wound is indicative of a vampire bite, but the logical and pragmatic Lt. Dallas sees right through that charade and is determined to snare the mortal man responsible for this murder, no matter how convincing his vampiric behaviors are.

Eve and her team venture into the darkest, most dangerous depths of the city to solve this crime and bring the killer to justice. The best part of this story is how everyone on Eve's team, including Roarke, couldn't help but speculate if the killer really is a vampire, even if just for humor's sake and to jerk Eve's chain. Aside from that, the case is solved almost as quickly as it presents itself, and it's just a matter of logistics on how to acquire evidence on the killer.


How do you feel about the In Death short stories?
I think some are better than others in this series. The crime aspect of this one was okay--not terribly suspenseful, but still pretty entertaining in the subject matter and how the team played up the vampirism.

Do you seek them out and read them? Yes, I do.

Do you insist on reading them in their proper chronological placement within the series?
I've become a stickler about the whole reading in order thing. I'm just glad I can find a lot of these later anthologies at local libraries so I don't have to buy an $8 book for a 100 page short story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Library Loot XLIX

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Claire's

I have a wish list of library books about a mile long these days, but only borrow half a dozen or so at a time so I'm not too pressured by due dates. I still have two books out from the library since my last loot from over a month ago--If I Die by Rachel Vincent and Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, the latter of which I'm almost finished reading. This week, though, I picked up two more books when I returned the others. I'm also on the holds list for three popular new releases and as anxious as I am to read all three of them, I sure hope they don't become available at the same time! The loan period for new releases is 14 days with no renewals if there's someone one the list behind you and of course there are people on the list behind me for all three books! Talk about pressure!!! This is what I borrowed this week:

Sliver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

I first learned of this book in January when I read Brie's review on her blog Musings of a Bibliophile. I immediately added the book to my library reads list. As what happens often, I didn't run out and borrow the book right away. But then the book popped up as a potential selection for the March book in one of my book clubs and I knew it was a sign that I should read it. And also a sign that I would finally participate in book club after being a member for months! Woops. I came home with this one on Monday night and I'm already more than half way through reading this very riveting, sad coming-of-age novel.

Amulet: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi 
Amulet series, Book #4

I was so excited to see that my library finally got the fourth book in this fun fantasy graphic novel series that my youngest daughter and I both enjoy. I went to grab it and decided to grab the first three books again, too... in case we wanted a refresher. They're quick reads but jam packed with mystery, danger and some considerable depth of emotion for a comic.

What are you reading right now? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time VI

Artist: Melissa Nucera
Once Upon A Time is an annual reading challenge event hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings that is held starting on the vernal equinox [March 20] through the end of June every year. This year marks the 6th anniversary of this challenge and the 3rd year that I'll be participating. There are various levels of participation from which readers can chose, but the overall goal of the challenge is the same and that is to encourage readers to read more fantasy, folklore, mythology and fairy tales, share their journey with each other and have fun!

The first year in which I participated in this challenge, I did the first level quest, which was to read at least five books from any the four categories and I succeeded. The second year [just last year], I chose to do the third level quest which was to read a book from each category as well as a June reading or viewing of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. I failed. I blame my failure partly because I signed up for the challenge late [in May] and therefore didn't have enough time to finish two of the books, but also partly because I procrastinated reading Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. So I'll repeat this the challenge at this level again in hopes of meeting the challenge this time.

Below is a list of the books I'm considering for this year:

Fantasy:       The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip [fantasy]
Fairy Tale:   Cat's Tale: A Fairy Tale Retold by Bettie Sharpe [Puss in Boots retelling]
Folklore:      If I Die by Rachel Vincent [banshees and reapers]
Mythology:  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller  [Greek mythology]
Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream

Artist: Melissa Nucera

Artist: Melissa Nucera
Be sure to visit the once upon a time review site for links to reviews from participants. It's also a great place to visit for some reading inspiration!

The stunning artwork for this year's event is by artist Melissa Nucera, whose artwork was also used for the Once Upon A Time IV in 2010, which I absolutely adored. Be sure to check out Melissa's beautiful artwork at her Etsy store, This Years Girl.

Are you in? 

What are some of your favorite fantasy novels? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Week's Box of Organic Goodness

I received such great feedback from all of you the last time I posted what came in my co-op box that I thought I'd do it again. I loved all the suggestions on how to prepare some of the produce in new-to-me ways and even tried some of them. For example, I followed Marg's recipe and used the bok choi to make a really delicious asian-inspired soup. I also followed Beth and Diane's suggestion to put orange sections in my salad and whoa was that the most exciting thing or what? So awesome. The oranges added such flavor and juiciness that I barely needed any dressing on my salad! Definitely a keeper salad idea! Thanks, everyone!

Take a look at what I brought home in this week's share:

Beets with greens, two bunches of kale
potatoes, cabbage
bananas, Spartan apples, navel oranges, Bosc pears, Romaine hearts
tomatoes, avocados, turnips
Daikon radishes, carrots 

If you came home with this box of produce, what would you do with it? 

***Especially looking for inspiration with the turnips!!! Thank you!!

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

REVIEW: Sin Undone by Larissa Ione

Demonica Series, Book 5
Published 2010

TBR Challenge 2012

Note: There are slight spoilers in this review based on events and character introductions that occurred in previous books.

Sin Undone takes place only a couple of weeks after the events of the previous book, Ecstasy Unveiled and SO much is going down in this one starting in just the first couple of chapters.

As introduced in the previous book, Ecstasy Unveiled, Sin and Lore are twin Seminus-human half breed demons and half siblings to Eidolon, Shade and Wraith who all work at the demon hospital they founded, Underground General Hospital [UGH]. Female Seminus demons simply do not exist, making Sin's existence a complete anomaly of nature, which has deeply affected Sin's sense of worth and acceptance.

Unlike pure Seminus demons who are born with demon gifts of healing, Sin and her twin were born with gifts of death and illness. Lore has the ability to kill a victim upon contact with the glyph on his right arm and Sin has the ability to infect a victim with any disease or illness, deadly or otherwise, simply by touch. They have been freed from their servitude upon the death of Lore's master Detharu, but now Sin has inherited the den of assassins as her own. She's doing a lousy job of it, though, turning away jobs, and now her assassins are out to kill her in order to inherit her den, as killing a master is the only way a den can be passed on to a new master.

In Ecstasy Unveiled, Sin infected a turned werewolf or warg with a deadly virus as part of an assassination mission that got interrupted. The warg didn't die immediately and unfortunately survived long enough to spread the virus to other wargs. The virus is extremely contagious with an extremely short incubation period and now there's a deadly epidemic wiping out wargs faster than Eidolon and his medical team can develop a vaccine.

The wargs are desperate for a cure for this new 'Sin Fever' and want Sin brought justice for starting this deadly epidemic--justice being permanent imprisonment or death. The Warg Council calls on the UGH paramedic Conall Dearghul, a half vampire-half werewolf dhampire, to retrieve Sin for punishment, which would be lifetime imprisonment or death. After being abused and enslaved all her life, Sin will not be imprisoned ever again.

In the panic over the Sin Fever epidemic, tension escalates between the born wargs and the turned wargs to the point where they are on the cusp of war. This is because the born wargs view Sin Fever as a means of eradicating turned wargs from the population, whom they consider inferior, and now they have the perfect excuse to initiate the genocide of turns wargs before the virus jumps species.

In the meantime, Eidolon and his medical staff are racing to develop a vaccine for Sin Fever before all hell breaks loose. During his research to develop a vaccine, Eidolon has a breakthrough when he discovers a virus-antibody connection when he combines blood samples of Con--who is infected by exhibits no symptoms-- and Sin's blood. Eidolon suggests Con feed from Sin so that Sin can monitor the antibody production and hopefully use her gift to reverse the effects of the virus. If she can do this, the wargs will be saved and they will have prevented war. This request basically invites sexually charged encounters in the name of science for Con and Sin, which sounds just fine and dandy for a dhampire and Seminus demon. The problem though, is that Con never drinks repeatedly from the same female because he is too susceptible to becoming addicted to her blood, eventually resulting in her death. And after one intense and urgent tryst with Sin a few weeks ago at UGH, Con already feels the signs of developing an addiction to her.

Sounds like I gave away the whole book, but believe it or not, all of the above has been set up before page 55 of Sin Undone, so you can imagine how crazy intense this book is! Sin is basically watching her back for the Warg Council or her own assassins, racing to help Eidolon find a vaccine for Sin Fever, struggling through her guilt over starting the epidemic all the while resisting feeling any emotion for her brothers and definitely fighting her attraction and affection for Con. Con is determined to crack the cold surface of Sin and get her to feel something, but ends up getting more than he bargained for--the love of an intense female, which in the end is the last thing he should be doing when he finally gets called to lead his dhampire clan as alpha at the cusp of the dhampire breeding season.

Sin Undone is such an intense book--a whirlwind of tense politics and power struggles between species and at the center, two characters who have emotionally isolated themselves from family, friends and lovers for so long. In the midst of this dangerous time for demons and wargs, these two characters are able to break down the walls they've maintained for so long and find love for the first time. Of all the characters in this book, Sin totally steals the show. She's a fascinating and complex character with a lot of issues--justifiably cold, tough and independent, but under the specific circumstances of this book and in the company of a male who sees her for who she is inside, Sin learns how to feel, how to trust her feelings and to take a chance on expressing the love and compassion that she keeps buried deep inside. Sin's emotional journey alone makes this book a worthy read, but throw in seemingly hopeless conflicts, fierce action, awesome secondary characters and of course a sexy romance and you have a paranormal romance that simply cannot be missed.


Sin Undone is a fantastic ending to the Demonica series, but some of the characters make regular appearances in the spin off Eternal Riders series by Larissa Ione. The Eternal Riders series is already two books strong with a third book on its way.

Visit author Larissa Ione at

REVIEW: Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione

Demonica Series, Book 4
Published 2010

TBR Challenge March 2012

I did it again! For the third month in a row, I met the deadline for the TBR Challenge and chose a book for this month's theme, which is 'series catch up.' I even took it one step further and read two books from my TBR pile in order to catch up in a series in which I've fallen behind. The series is the paranormal romance Demonica series by Larissa Ione of which I was a huge fan a couple of years ago with the release of the first three books in the series. So much so that I posted about the series numerous times on my blog including reviews of the first three books Pleasure Unbound [2008], Desire Unchained [2009] and Passion Unleashed [2009]. After having finally read the fourth and fifth books of the series this month, I'm happy to know I am still a huge fan of this series. It's dark, edgy, intense, action packed, at times very amusing and of course, sexy and romantic. Ecstasy Unveiled and Sin Undone are indeed very thrilling reads and should not be missed by fans of the series or readers who love fast paced, complex paranormal worlds.

Ecstasy Unveiled is the story of Lore and Idess. Lore is a Seminus-human half-breed demon who has spent many long decades in a slave-bond as an assassin for a dark master named Detharu in order to protect his twin sister, Sin from becoming enslaved yet again. Finally, Lore is given his 100th assassination that would free him and Sin. Deth is furious with Lore for not having carried out his last assassination and in order to force Lore into carrying out this very crucial kill, he makes sure there's no way out for Lore. Lore cannot refuse this assignment and has only 96 hours to complete it. If he refuses to carry out the kill or fails to do so within the time frame, Sin will be killed. Lore will not let that happen. He will do anything to protect Sin and give her the freedom she deserves after having lived a long, lonely and torturous life. Except things get really complicated when Lore finds out who his target is. Unfortunately things get even more complicated when an angel is charged with protecting Lore's target.

Enter Idess, an earthbound angel who has been waiting her whole long and lonely life for the chance to earn her wings and be reunited with her family in Heaven, including her brother with whom she was close while they were both earthbound angels before he got his wings . Idess is on what she hopes is her last assignment, to protect a human on Earth at all costs--a human whose life has been deemed by the powers above as someone who must be kept alive since his fate on Earth is entwined with the fate of the world. This human is the very target of Lore's 100th assassination, so inevitably Lore and Idess clash as one battles to kill and the other to protect. Neither one of them can find it in them to eliminate the other and as the upper hand gets flipped back and forth between them, they soon find themselves intrigued by and attracted to each other. The more time they spend together in this complicated situation, the more they find out what makes the other one tick and the more they fall in love. 

This story is one complication piled on top of another, with several crucial subplots involving the Seminus demon brothers, their cantankerous sister Sin and new violent tendencies erupting at Underground General Hospital that are inevitably tightly intertwined with the major conflict of Lore and Idess' story. The tension builds to remarkable levels with lots of heart stopping action and personal struggles among the characters until a way out for all of them seems utterly impossible. Eventually it does, though, and Lore and Idess get the happy ending they deserve. You're just going to have to read it for yourself to find out how it all unravels.

Readers who love stories that are action packed with fight scenes, dramatic situations and intense characters will love this thrilling, sexy paranormal romance. Must not be missed by fans of the Demonica series.


Look for my review of the next book in this series, Sin Undone coming up next! And I thought I loved Ecstasy Unveiled...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Baby is a TEENAGER!

My youngest is 13 years old today, which means I'm now officially the mom of two teenage girls. Whoa. I just referred back to a post I wrote almost four years ago when my eldest turned 13-- [HELP!!! My girl's a teenager!] to remember how I was feeling about that. Turns out nothing has changed! I still have those same feelings.

I still can't believe I'm the mother of teenagers.
I'm too young [not really] to be the mother of teenagers.
Way too young. [not really]

I will not to panic.
I will remain calm.
I will continue to act like I know exactly what I'm doing.

Although, perhaps I have grown a bit alongside my girls in the last few years because I'd like to replace that last sentence with this one:

Happy 13th Birthday :) xo
I [we] will continue to do my [our] best to nurture and guide my daughters as they travel the rocky road to adulthood and help them find the determination and confidence to be the person they wish to be, doing the things they love, and making a positive difference in the lives of others.

It's a wonderful thing to see your baby grow into a happy, healthy young woman .. but it's also a little bit sad for mom and dad to have it happen way too fast!

Happy birthday to my baby... my new teenager. xo

One Direction Birthday Cake!
Justin Bieber Birthday Cake!

ps. two teenage girls! wish me luck. ;o)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Drinking Your Greens

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day and all things green, I decided to talk about drinking your greens today.

Do you drink green smoothies or juices?
I had my very first green juices and smoothies just this year when I did the Whole Living Cleanse in January. Before then, I always made my smoothies with fruit and yogurt... but the cleanse taught me how delicious and nutritious green smoothies and juice can be and now I'm hooked!

Why drink your greens?
There are lots of reasons, but the main reasons I've recently started drinking my greens are:
1. Drinking your greens is a super easy way to get several servings of raw fruits and vegetables under your belt. Literally!
2. Green juices and smoothies are nutritious, low calorie and delicious!
3. All the wonderful vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber you get from leafy greens are more easily digested and absorbed into your body when in liquid form!

Wheatgrass juice served in a shot glass
Wheatgrass* Juice
Before January of this year, I had never heard of wheatgrass juice. Then just days before I planned on starting the Whole Living detox and cleanse, my friend Marie mentioned going to a local juice bar for a shot of wheatgrass with a friend of hers who is battling cancer, and then proceeded to tell me all about the purported health benefits of wheatgrass. I was impressed, and even if the healing, restorative properties are not as comprehensive as proponents claim, there's no denying wheatgrass has incredible nutritional value, so why not try it?

My friend Marie decided straightaway to do the cleanse diet with me and on our first day, we went to the juice bar to celebrate the start of our cleanse with a wheatgrass shot. The wheatgrass juice was served in a shot glass with wedge of orange to chase and actually tasted much more pleasant than I expected.

Wheat grass is a whole food and complete protein rich in enzymes and minerals. One ounce of wheatgrass juice contains the nutritional value of 2.2 lbs. of leafy greens. Wow!

*fyi wheatgrass contains no wheat gluten.

Green Juice
Green Juices 
During my cleanse, I took a bag of vegetables to a friend's house and used her juicer to make this awesome green juice. We used collard greens, romaine lettuce, carrots, celery, apple, ginger and lemon. The juice had a very fresh, bright taste to it--I honestly really liked it! We had enough for both of us to have a generous glass full and I took home a mason jar with the remainder to have the next day. Juice is best the day it is made--better for you and better tasting, with which I agree, but I also say leftover green juice is better than NO green juice.

Green Smoothies
This is the easiest way for me [and probably most people] to drink my greens because I can make it at home anytime I want using fresh greens, fresh or frozen fruit and my blender. Easy peasy.

Green Tropical Smoothie
Green Tropical Smoothie 
1 cup very packed fresh baby spinach
1 cup coconut water or unsweetened soymilk*
1/2 cup cubed mango, frozen if possible
1/2 cup cubed pineapple, frozen if possible
1/2 cup chopped ice, if your fruit is not frozen

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

*I like to buy organic, unsweetened soymilk for which the only ingredients are filtered water and organic soybeans.

Morning Green Smoothie
Morning Green Smoothie
1 cup very packed fresh baby spinach
1 cup pineapple chunks, frozen if possible
1 fresh orange, juiced
1/2 banana, cut into chunks, frozen if possible
1/2 cup carrot juice

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

What about you? Do you drink your greens? 

Have I inspired you to make a green smoothie?

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Added on March 18, 2012:

Want to learn more about drinking your greens? 

Visit my favorite website for smoothies, juices and healthy, clean eating and living: Green Lemonade. I encourage you to visit this site even if you're a little bit interested in making your own healthy smoothies.. green or any other color of the rainbow! I think you'll find some great inspiration there. Here are some links to get you started:

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dear Blogger Friends,

If you blog with Blogger, please consider changing your comment settings to Embedded comments [if you don't already do so].

In case you haven't noticed, blogger changed the format of blogger comments about three weeks ago and now you can ONLY subscribe to replies by email IF AND ONLY IF the blog on which you are leaving a comment uses embedded comments. If comments are formatted on your blog any other way.. you [the blog owner] will get still receive replies by email, but your commenters won't. This means that people will not be seeing your reply comment or any other comments made on that post in their email inbox. The only way they will see any comments on that post is IF they come back and look at the comment section of that post again. I don't know about you, but I barely have time to visit a fraction of the blogs I follow every day, let alone have the time to click back to every post I've commented on in a day! I need to receive replies in my inbox so I can read what you or other commenters have said.. and to know if and when to come back and comment again on that post. I think this is likely the case for most people leaving comments on blogs.

This blogger change is very frustrating, making it really difficult to follow a comment thread on so many of the wonderful blogs I visit--like YOURS! We all love the sense of community we establish through the exchange of blog comments with our readers. Let's face it.. community interaction is a HUGE reason why we are all blogging in the first place. Let's not lose that meaningful connection to each other. Please consider setting the format of comments on your blog to embedded comments. Thank you!

Warm regards!

How to do it:
In the NEW Blogger Interface:
From your blogger home, go to your blog's Overview page by clicking on your blog name.
Select >>Settings on left column [wrench icon]
Select >>Posts and comments Under Comments,
Set comment location to Embedded.
Select >>Save settings [in upper right hand corner]

In the OLD Blogger Interface:
Go to Dashboard to Manage Blogs
Under your blog's name, select >>Settings
At top menu bar, select >>Comments
Next to Comment Form Placement, select Embedded below post.
At bottom of page, click on >>Save Settings

Winner of A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! Without further ado, the winner the signed copy of A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran is ....


I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

List Randomizer 

There were 11 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

 1.   brandy
 2.   joy weese moll
 3.   samantha.1020
 4.   orannia
 5.   alex
 6.   kim
 7.   rebe
 8.   shelley munro
 9.   little_alys
10.  brie
11.  azteclady

Timestamp: 2012-03-16 21:27:02 UTC

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Madness for Romance & A Giveaway!

Basketball isn't the only place where you can find some March madness! DABWAHA is a bracket tournament for romance novels created and hosted by Jane from Dear Author and Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books. It's a tournament of books in which 64 books published in 2011 among 8 different categories are put up against each other bracket-style and voted on by readers over approximately 2 weeks until a single champion is crowned.

Visit the DABWAHA site to learn how the tournament works, which books are competing, the rules and prizes. Of course, while you're there, fill out your own bracket and join the fun. You have until Wednesday 11:59 am EST to submit your picks.

I submitted my bracket today and was faced with some tough decisions! I struggled with quite a few of my choices--even for the books with which I'm familiar. In fact, the hardest part was when some of my favorite books ended up facing off against each other and I had to choose! Like Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison up against Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh?! Gah! Can both win? In the end, I simply tried to take my preferences out of the thought process and just speculated which book voters would more likely choose.

But speaking of my favorites. .. Meredith Duran is an historical romance author who wrote one of my all time favorite romances, The Duke of Shadows, published in 2008. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all of her books to date, including A Lady's Lesson in Scandal which I was pleased to discover is the readers nomination for the historical romance category in this year's DABWAHA tournament!

Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Meredith Duran in New York City after the literacy signing at the RWA National convention in June. She wasn't participating in the signing event, but she so graciously offered to meet up with me anyway and signed two copies of A Lady's Lesson in Scandal for me! Did I mention she's super cool as well as immensely talented? I kept one copy and the other was meant for a giveaway on my blog, but I never got around to it, so I'm doing it now. :)

To celebrate the nomination of A Lady's Lesson in Scandal in DABWAHA and the upcoming release of Meredith's next novel, At Your Pleasure on March 27, 2012... I'm giving away a new copy of A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran, autographed by the author! 

Giveaway Rules: 
To enter for a chance to win, you must have left at least one comment on my blog in the past, leave a comment in this post about anything related to DABWAHA or Meredith Duran's books.

Giveaway ends on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm EST. Open in US only. Winners have one week to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. Please leave an email address in your comment if it is not easily found on your blog or profile page.
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At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran will be released on March 27, 2012.

Glittering court socialites and underworld cutpurses alike know that Adrian Ferrers, Earl of Rivenham, is the most dangerous man in London. Rivenham will let nothing—not the deepening shadow of war, nor the growing darkness within him—interfere with his ambition to restore his family to its former glory. But when tasked by the king to uncover a traitor, he discovers instead a conspiracy—and a woman whose courage awakens terrible temptations. To save her is to risk everything. To love her might cost his life. 
Lady Leonora knows that Rivenham is the devil in beautiful disguise—and that the irresistible tension between them is as unpredictable as the dilemma in which Nora finds herself: held hostage on her own estate by Rivenham and the king’s men. But when war breaks out, Nora has no choice but to place her trust in her dearest enemy—and pray that love does not become the weapon that destroys them both...

Visit Meredith Duran on her website at for information about her books including excerpts, stories behind the story, research, reviews and where to purchase her books.

Meredith Duran also blogs with fellow historical romance author Sherry Thomas at Plotters & Manipulators Unite.

 p.s. In case you were wondering... DABWAHA = Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Library Loot XLVIII [Used Book Sale]

Not the a typical 'books I borrowed from the library' type of library loot post, but I managed to raid the used book sale at my local library today which definitely feels like looting! I had today's used book sale on my calendar and hoped to get there on the first night when the book selection is at its best, but I just couldn't get there on time. Instead, I went today--the last day of the sale when the deal of the day is all the books you can fit in a bag for $8. What a steal!               [**books I've already read]

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
**Sunshine by Robin McKinley
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
Falling Boy by Alison McGhee

**The Wedding by Julie Garwood
The Promise in a Kiss by Stephanie Laurens
The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory
The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell
Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb
Promises in Death by J.D. Robb
At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh
**The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson
Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner
The Secret Lives of the Sushi Club by Christy Yorke
The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin 
The Christmas Cooke Club by Ann Pearlman
The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks

**The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 
The Orchard by Theresa Weir
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
Peony in Love by Lisa See
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I got all of 28 these books for $8... can you believe it?! Not only do I now have my own copies of some favorite books, but several other books have been on my list to read for a while, so I'm excited to have scored my own copies at such a bargain. All the others caught my attention for one reason or another.. Honestly I can't wait to read all of them!

Have you read any of these books? Anything catch your eye? 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Organic Goodness in this week's box

It's been a long time since I made a post about the organic co-op [I describe how my co-op works in this post.] to which I belong. In fact, I didn't post about it at all in 2011. Since I've been participating now and then in the Weekend Cooking meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads, I've chatting about food and recipes more and more with other bloggers, which got me thinking it was a good time and place to share what came in this week's co-op box and look to my readers for some new recipe inspiration. That would be you! So take a look at what I have carefully stuffed in my refrigerator right now, pick an item or two and tell me you're favorite way to eat it.

Romaine lettuce, broccoli, bok choi
bananas, tomatoes, kiwi, Jonagold apples
onions, garlic, parsnips, carrots, sweet potato and navel oranges

As you can see, we didn't get anything very interesting or exotic in this week's share. Not that I don't appreciate and savor this colorful and healthful bounty. I do! I think I'm just in a creative rut. I make the same things over and over again and I'm getting bored! Salad with apples and nuts, roasted broccoli, greens sauteed in garlic and olive oil, parsnip fries, carrots and celery in soup or stew... all on auto repeat. Help! I need some inspiration! 

If you came home with this box of vegetables, what would you do with it? 
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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Best Homemade Pizza Dough

Why make your own pizza dough? 
Store bought pizza dough--whether you buy pre-made packaged pizza dough or so called 'fresh' pizza dough in the refrigerator case is loaded with preservatives and other wacky ingredients like 'dough conditioners' and other stuff you can't recognize. Read the ingredients on one of those packages and ask yourself if you really want to put things of which you don't know the origins inside your body or inside the bodies of your beautiful children. Plus it tastes SOooo good!

Why not buy fresh pizza dough from the pizzeria down the street? 
... You can control the quality and variety of the ingredients used, such as organic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and so on.
... It costs less making it at home.
... Making something from scratch is rewarding.
... It impresses your family and friends. When they take that first bite and look up at you with awe in their eyes and say "Wow, mom.." around a mouthful of wholesome pizza... you'll never buy pizza dough again. ;)

About the recipe.
This recipe is not my own creation, but one I use from the March 2010 issue of EveryDay Food Magazine and I just can't keep it to myself. It's incredibly easy to make--mix up the dough ingredients, let it rise for one hour, knead it a few times and then make your pizza! The dough can also be used for focaccia, sticky buns, sweet soft pretzels and individual cinnamon-apple tarts. For the original basic pizza dough recipe and other recipes using the dough, click on Everyday Food Basic Pizza Dough.

The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I always substitute some of the regular flour with stone ground whole wheat flavor for added nutrients and flavor. You can use all white flour if you like.

Best Homemade Pizza Dough
Makes 2 lbs. of dough, enough to make 8 or more individual pizzas.

pesto pizza with mushrooms
2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

1. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F) into a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir until a stick dough forms. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and brush top with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a thin kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough as doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

My tip: I use my oven as the warm, draft-free place. I turn on my oven to warm (200 F) for just a few minutes during step 1 so that my oven will be warm enough for rising the dough. Just make sure you turn off the oven after a few minutes. You don't want it too hot. Then I put the dough in the oven for the rising period.

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 1 or 2 times before using.

Cook's Note: To freeze, you can wrap the dough in plastic and freeze in a resealable freezer bag for up to 3 months. If you plan to use it in a recipe that calls for half a batch, divide it before freezing.

I did this and it worked well, but the dough is really best used immediately after preparing.
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To make pizzas: 
We like to make individual pizzas at our house. This way everyone gets to make theirs just the way they like.

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
2. Use a sharp kitchen knife to score and cut the dough into eight equal portions.
3. If you have a pizza stone, by all means use it to make these pizzas and go to step 3. If you do not have a pizza stone, lightly brush a cookie sheet or pizza pan with olive oil and set aside.
4. To shape the pizzas, take a portion of dough into your hands and gently shape into a pancake. Then hold the edge of the dough between your fingers of both hands. Turn the dough around and around in your fingers, gently stretching the edges. The center of the dough will naturally get thinner as you turn the dough. When you get to the point where the dough is stretched thin enough to your liking, place it on the oiled cookie sheet. Using the tips of your fingers, press the dough some more around the edges to thin it some more, if you like.
5. Top your pizza with desired sauce, cheese, vegetables and meats.

Tip: Be careful not use too much tomato sauce on your pizza. A little bit goes a long way and too much makes your pizza way too soggy!

6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and edges of crust are lightly browned.

Serve hot!
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Some of our favorite pizzas:

Pizza Margherita
Topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. Add diced peppers, red onions, thinly sliced mushrooms, if desired.

Pesto Pizza
Topped with pesto and fresh mozzarella. Add thinly sliced mushrooms, if desired.

White Pizza
Topped with dollops of ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella, and steamed or roasted broccoli florets.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Top with barbecue sauce, grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella or Monterrey jack cheese, diced red onion, thinly sliced zucchini and cilantro.

Enjoy! :)

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

REVIEW: Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Capturing the Silken Thief is an historical romance novella set in the infamous North Hamlet of Changan during the Tang Dynasty in China 823 A.D. It is in this infamous entertainment district where scholars studied during the day and indulged in wine, courtesans and brothels in the night.

Yang Jia-jing is a poor song girl trained to play the pipa in The North Hamlet. She is essentially in eternal debt to her troupe master unless she finds the means to buy her freedom. Jia believes the means to her freedom lies in a valuable book of poems that has been stolen by young scholar in the district. If she can only get her hands on the treasured book, she can finally buy her freedom.

Luo Cheng is a farm boy from an outlying province who is diligently studying for the imperial exams. He has already failed them once, so this is his last chance to prove himself and earn the title of a ranking official.

When Jia mistakes Cheng for the scholar who is in possession of the treasured book, the two end up searching for the book together. Their escapade sparks a passion between them that could either lead to defeat or a path to a new life for one or both of them.

Capturing the Silken Thief is adventurous albeit brief romp through an ancient city where lies and theft bring together two similar souls who cannot help but be drawn to one another. Jia is a determined young woman who creatively uses her wiles to do what's necessary to achieve her goals, but is taken off guard by this honest, young scholar whose aspirations for freedom are really not much different from her own. Cheng is an equally determined individual, whose mischievous side is brought out by this intriguing thief who has easily slipped into his heart. Jia and Cheng compliment each other in an easy, natural way, but with a bit of delicious tension-- perfect for bringing these two together in this short tale of love and adventure.

The story is well written and perfectly paced, but unfortunately too short! While Jia and Cheng's story never felt rushed, I would have loved more page time and consequently more character development with these two lively, well-matched characters. Capturing the Silken Thief is a charming tale for fans of historical romance, one that should not be missed for its unique setting and time period.


Visit author Jeannie Lin on her website at for more information about her books.

Ms. Lin's next book will be My Fair Concubine, also set during the Tang Dynasty China and is scheduled for release on May 22, 2012 in print and on June 1, 2012 in ebook format.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012

I forgot to post this one in January! I joined this challenge last year and barely met the challenge, having read After the Quake in the last days of December. After the Quake is a collection of four short stories by Haruki Murakami which I did enjoy. This year, I'd like to read one of Murakami's full length novels. I'm leaning towards Sputnik Sweetheart, although the year is young and I may change my mind a few times before I finally decide.

The Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 is hosted yet again by tanabata.

To learn more about this challenge and the works of Haruki Murakami, visit the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge blog.

You can also browse Murakami's books and reader reviews for said books on goodreads

Have you read a Haruki Murakami novel before? If yes, which one(s)? 

Do you think you might be interested in reading one of his novels?