Friday, October 10, 2014

Citadels of Fire by L.K. Hill - book review


The first chapter in Liesel K. Hill’s CITADELS OF FIRE, the first book in her Kremlins trilogy, sets the tone for much of the book. From the beginning, it brought tears to my eyes over the treatment of a 6-year-old girl (I have a 6-year-old of my own, so that’s what made reading it so hard) who would become the heroine of the story.

The tale follows the humble life of the servant Inga at the Russian palace, the Kremlin, and her atypical relationship with a court aristocrat (a boyar), Taras. Being of mixed English and Russian blood, Taras isn't the archetypal Russian aristocrat, but every bit a hero in the way he treats woman and servants with respect as human beings, something largely unheeded during that time. This allows a relationship between Inga and Taras to bud and thrive within the royal walls.

Having studied Russian history in college, Ms. Hill intertwines historical facts as pertaining to the historical figures in the book. She describes the events that took place during that time in Russia under the reign of the young tsar, Ivan the Terrible. Her imageries are ideally portrayed, taking the reader into the very heart of the Kremlin and the city beyond its walls. It’s a riveting story of the cruelties, triumphs, failures, hopes, and despairs of all classes of people, but most of all, it’s a tale of the miracle of love that emerges between two contrary sources: A lowly servant and an aristocrat.

READERS NOTE: There is no bad language, but brutal images of court life, war, natural disasters, and the injustices that occurred between people of differing social status, are vivid and may be too much for a sensitive reader. There’s a lot of blood and beatings, some animal and human torture and a few instances of rape.

Citadels of Fire can be found here:

Liesel K. Hill can be found here:




Other Books by Liesel K. Hill:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE SCENT OF A SOUL book review



THE SCENT OF A SOUL, a paranormal romance by Jennifer Thompson, was in intriguing read. The story follows the budding relationship between a modern human girl and a 300-year-old Scottish vampire. Thompson’s descriptions paint the scenes in the readers mind as she moves the story at a methodical pace. Being that the book is over 700 pages (well, it was on my Mobi version, but I've been told it's only 484 in paperback), Thompson allows her main characters’ relationship to progress at leisure, making it a day to day telling of their journey together. She creates mystery behind the characters, unraveling their backstories a little at a time, thus keeping the reader wanting to find out more. There’s no shortage of scenes describing how breathtaking and attractive the characters are to one another, so if you (like me) love images of muscular, handsome who act with honor and come to the rescue of the one they love, then this is your story. Thompson also wrote some good tense fight scenes and vampire action that any vampire fan will appreciate.

Thompson had several funny lines, as well as good bantering between characters, that made me smile. One part made me laugh out loud:
“How’ve you been?” Patrick asked. “I hear it’s been rough at times.”
“Who told you that? It’s been like girl’s camp—pillow fights and late night talks, with the occasional evil vampire sneaking in.”
I realize anyone not having read the story may not find this funny, having missed the context, but it made me chuckle.

Although I enjoyed the story and Thompson’s take on vampires, I was confused at times about whose eyes I was seeing the story through as Thompson continually changed the point of view in the same scene (a mistake easily corrected in future writing). I enjoyed reading about how the different vampires had been “turned” into vampires, but at the end when Thompson took up many pages writing about the budding relationships of several minor characters (though I loved her minor characters), I felt it took away from the Lilliah/Marek tale (the main characters) and that it slowed the story down. The Final 100 pages dragged a bit for me as there was a lot of unnecessary content, especially since the main battle and climax had already taken place. But, I know that the author wrote in these extras to introduce the situations for future books). For a clean romance, I felt some scenes in the second half of the story were border-lined on racy. In the first half, the romance was playful, cute and flirty, but Thompson became bolder in the second half. Though there is no explicit sex in the story, there is plenty of sexual tension, sensual kissing and talk, necking, caressing and partial undressing. I realize, however, that this content may not bother others.

All in all, I enjoyed Jennifer Thompson’s take on vampires, especially the good versus bad vampires and the constant battle between them. I liked the idea that there were good vampires living among mortals, trying to be as normal as possible, controlling their emotions, and adding to society. I also liked the idea of mixed human/vampire married couples who made it work. This might sound like a strange comparison, but reading THE SCENT OF A SOUL, with its slower pace concentrating mainly on emotions and relationships, reminded me of a Jane Austen-type story, but involving contemporary humans and vampires *smile*. Thompson brought out the pros and cons to being human and being a vampire as we see the female character torn between whether to stay human or become immortal. The most interesting aspect was that of the “vampire kiss” and how it affects humans and their freedom of choice.

Note: the words “hell”, “bloody”, and “ass” appear a few times in the text.

The Scent of a Soul can be found here:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Jennifer can be found here:
Her Blog
Goodreads


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Savory Potato Pancake Recipe

Potato pancakes topped with cheese and served with garden fresh chopped tomatoes - Photo Credit: Elsie Park
Elsie’s Potato Pancakes - from mashed or baked potatoes
makes about 6 (4-inch diameter) pancakes

2-3 cups cold mashed or shredded baked potatoes (I like to keep the skins on)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh green onions or ¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup chopped fresh bell pepper
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other cheese of choice – I also like pepper jack)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry potato mixture in skillet, pressing with spatula or fork to ¾-inch thickness. Cover and cook until bottom is crispy, about 5 minutes. Flip and fry other side about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat, cover pancakes with more shredded cheese and replace cover on pan to allow cheese to melt over the pancakes before serving.

Top with sour cream, salsa, chopped fresh tomato, cream cheese spread, apple sauce or ketchup.

For a sweeter twist, add ¼ - ½ cup chopped apple to the mixture before frying.

Potato pancakes topped with shredded cheddar cheese - Photo Credit: Elsie Park

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Decorative Pumpkin Pie Crusts

http://theheritagecook.com/thanksgiving-recipes-the-star-attraction-desserts/
Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up fast, and many have already started planning what to bring, who will bring it and where to eat this year. Always game for a spin-off on classic favorites, I searched and discovered some really cool ideas for decorating my pumpkin pie this year. Check out what I found! (Libby's pumpkin pie recipe at the end of this post, too)

http://www.recipe.com/lattice-topped-pumpkin-pie/
http://nookandcrannies.tumblr.com/post/35844967186/break-and-thank-part-iv
http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/pumpkin_pie_leafy_rim.aspx
http://happierthanapiginmud.blogspot.com/2012/09/jack-o-lantern-pumpkin-pie.html
http://carolyneroehm.com/2013/11/26/happy-thanksgiving-my-decorations-my-favorite-pumpkin-pie/
http://www.hungryhappenings.com/2011/11/add-little-sparkle-to-your-pumpkin-pie.html
http://jennysgatherings.com/2013/10/30/pie-tutorial-2-decorative-pie-cut-outs/
http://www.nsmbl.com/the-most-decorative-pie-crusts/
http://www.nsmbl.com/the-most-decorative-pie-crusts/
And for an easy pumpkin pie (well, the next easiest thing to just buying the pie at the store), here's Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe (click on the picture to make it larger):


Monday, September 22, 2014

3 Dutch oven cobblers for the conventional oven!

If you're like me, you do not own a Dutch oven, nor would you know how many briquettes to use if you HAD one. Anything that can be cooked in the Dutch oven, can be baked in a conventional oven. Here are three variations of the popular Dutch oven cobbler that you can bake in your oven:

- Black Forest Cobbler
- Apple-Root Beer Cobbler
- Basic Fruit Cobbler

Dutch Oven Black Forest Cobbler (for conventional oven)

1 (18 oz) box brownie mix (or chocolate cake mix)
2 cans (16 - 21 oz ea) cherries (drained) or cherry pie filling
1 (12 oz) can Sprite/7-up/equivalent
2 Tbsp butter, cut up

Line Dutch oven (or other large baking dish) with foil for easy clean up. Place butter chunks on bottom of dish. Pour fruit evenly into dish. *Pour dry cake mix evenly over fruit. Pour soda over everything. Cover. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

*Can mix dry cake mix and soda together in a separate bowl before pouring over fruit.

Dutch Oven Apple-Root Beer Cobbler (for conventional oven)

1 box spice cake mix
2 cans (21 oz each) apple pie filling
1 can root beer
2 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks

Line Dutch oven (or other large baking dish) with foil for easy clean up. Place butter chunks on bottom of dish. Pour fruit evenly into dish. *Pour dry cake mix evenly over fruit. Pour soda over everything. Cover. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F. This is a zingy, fun-tasting cobbler!

*Can mix dry cake mix and soda together in a separate bowl before pouring over fruit.

Dutch Oven Basic Fruit Cobbler (for conventional oven)

1 box white or yellow cake mix
1 (12 oz) can Sprite/7-up/equivalent
2 cans (21 oz each) fruit pie filling of choice (peach, cherry, apple, blueberry, raspberry, etc.)
2 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks

Line Dutch oven (or other large baking dish) with foil for easy clean up. Place butter chunks on bottom of dish. Pour fruit evenly into dish. *Pour dry cake mix evenly over fruit. Pour soda over everything. Cover. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

*Can mix dry cake mix and soda together in a separate bowl before pouring over fruit.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Safari Birthday Parties!


My girls had birthday parties a few weeks apart. My 6-year-old wanted a Safari Party and my 9-year-old wanted a Horse Roundup Party. My husband, always one to go crazy on anything that spells "party" made a safari vehicle out of his old Chevy S-10 pickup.


For both parties we hid tons of stuffed animals and stuffed horses all over our 1-acre yard for the party-goers to spot from the truck.


Some of the animals had bags of "loot" beside them (little prizes like pencils, stickers, animal related trinkets, etc.) which I handed out to the kids.



The safaris were a success with the added fun of other games and activities.


My husband also rigged up a homemade "horsey ride" from some strong cardboard, 2x4s and stick horses, pulling it behind his ATV. Another popular activity for the kids!


After the horse party ended and all the kids returned home, we surprised both girls with a REAL horsey ride. They'd never been on a horse in their lives, so it was a real treat.


Our sweet neighbors saddled up their horse, Slick, and led the girls around their yard to the girl's ultimate delight.

My husband and our youngest even got to ride. My youngest's shirt, which was too big for her, was giving a little "off the shoulder" look *smile*. The girls said they'd remember these parties forever. That's good, because I don't think I'll be able to do them every year, or even every two years. Too much work for just a 2 hour party! Maybe every 3 years. We'll just have a small family celebration for the years in between *laugh*. GOOD TIMES!




Monday, September 15, 2014

KSL (NBC) Studio 5 Relaxing Reads features SHADOWS OF VALOR!


I was delighted and flattered that Teri Harman (author of the Moonlight contemporary witch trilogy) featured my medieval romance, SHADOWS OF VALOR on her Studio 5 segment as part of her "relaxing reads" lists. Mine was one of 6 titles mentioned. I couldn't be happier with the feature and the tagline for my book that my male character is like a "medieval batman!" Awesome! Here's the link to the short segment. Mine is the second book in the list:
http://studio5.ksl.com/index.php?nid=71&sid=31435892.
Thanks, Teri!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: BLOOD MOON by Teri Harman


BLOOD MOON

Forget all your preconceptions of old witches with warts, pointed hats and flying broomsticks. Teri Harman brings her readers to a modern-day world of witches where the natural elements of the earth hold the key to their power. And not only are there good witches (light witches) who respect the earth and use magic for the good of humanity, but there are opposing bad witches (dark witches) who are only out for world domination and power. These two forces come head to head in this story of a young woman and young man who have just come to grips with the fact that they are witches. They find opposition and rejection from those they love, but love and acceptance from others of their kind as they learn to develop and control their powers. Set in modern-day United States, we learn that witches lead quite normal lives: They marry, have families and carry jobs. But dark witches are ever seeking to destroy the light witches, so they must remain vigilant at all times. When together, the light witches have more power to fight the dark witches, but dark witches are known for their underhanded and shady tactics, at times catching the light witches off guard. Will the light witch covens survive the onslaught of evil unleashed by the dark covens? Find out in BLOOD MOON, Harman’s first installment in her Moonlight Trilogy.

Harman’s beautiful story-telling envelopes readers, bringing them into the story, and allowing them to feel the characters’ pains, difficulties and triumphs. The story ends with a sum up, but also purposeful loose ends that lead right into her second book, BLACK MOON, due out September 16, 2014.


Come join her launch party for BLACK MOON on September 20, 2014 at THE KING’S ENGLISH bookshop, 7-9pm (located at 1511 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84105, United States)

BLOOD MOON and BLACK MOON can be found in paperback and on e-book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ordered from any other bookstore.













Teri’s website: http://teriharman.com/




Publisher: jollyfishpress.com

Watch the BLOOD MOON book trailer on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3axG-GlAegs

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Creamy Fudge with Variations

With several holidays coming up and occurring one after the other (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas), there will be no shortage of family gatherings and delicious food to celebrate with. One of my favorite treats to bring to parties is fudge, and since my middle name is "make it as easy as possible", this recipe is perfect for me.
Photo Credit: https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/30353/Foolproof-Chocolate-Fudge/detail.aspx
EASY CREAMY FUDGE

3 cups chocolate chips (I use a 50/50 mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil, allowing it to reach up the sides. Set aside. In a saucepan, melt chocolate chips with condensed milk and vanilla until chips are completely melted. Remove from heat and add nuts if desired. Stir to coat. Immediately pour into prepared foil-lined pan and then chill in fridge 1-2 hours until firm. Turn over onto cutting board and remove foil. Cut into squares with pizza cutter (or knife). ENJOY!

VARIATIONS:

ANY FLAVOR of baking morsel can be used in this recipe.
- Using all semi-sweet morsels makes a yummy dark chocolate fudge (this is my favorite)
- All milk chocolate makes a softer, creamier fudge (this is my husband's favorite)
- You can use flavored morsels such as white chocolate, vanilla, cherry, mint, peanut butter, cinnamon and butterscotch.

I like to make LAYERED FUDGE and it's easy to do. Make a half-batch of one flavor, chill it in the fridge, then make a half batch of another flavor and spread it on top of the first layer. Chill until firm. Some of my favorite layered combinations are:
Chocolate-Peanut Butter
Chocolate-Mint
Chocolate-White Chocolate
Chocolate-Cherry
Be creative and have fun!
CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER photo credit: https://peppercandy.net/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=19&zenid=a4c9a573856bf71abb5063e8f28c3d34
CHOCOLATE-MINT photo credit: http://blog.dollhousebakeshoppe.com/2014/03/layered-mint-chocolate-fudge.html
CHOCOLATE-WHITE CHOCOLATE photo credit: http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/678072-White-Chocolate-Layered-Fudge
CHOCOLATE-CHERRY photo credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/212091463673526736/

Monday, August 11, 2014

ICE CREAM IN A BAG!

Photo Credit: http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/thermo/ice_cream/ice_cream.html
ICE CREAM IN A BAG (serves 2, but make as many bags as needed)
(from American Profile – page 10 - year of issue unknown)

3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup half-and-half
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 heavy quart-sized ziptop plastic bag
1 heavy gallon-sized ziptop plastic bag
Ice
Rock salt

Place sugar, half-and-half and vanilla in quart-sized bag and seal. Place that bag inside of the gallon-sized bag. Layer ice and rock salt in the gallon-sized bag so it surrounds the quart-sized bag. Seal shut. Toss bag back and forth about 10 minutes.


Can mix in favorite items such as mini chocolate chips, fresh chopped fruits and berries, crumbled cookies, or chopped candy bars.

Photo credit:
http://food.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977282465