Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review - FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT by Darynda Jones

Title:  First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, Book 1)
Author:  Darynda Jones
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Release Date:  February 1, 2011

About the Book:

First Grave on the Right is the smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper.
Charley sees dead people. That's right, she sees dead people. And it's her job to convince them to "go into the light." But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she's been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.
This is a thrilling debut novel from Darynda Jones, an exciting newcomer to the world of paranormal romantic suspense.
First Grave on the Right is the winner of the 2012 Rita Award for Best First Book.
Buy Links: Amazon 

My Review:
As I was preparing for my trip to a book convention where one of the featured authors was none other than Darynda Jones, I realized that I wasn't familiar with her books.  This astonished a few of my friends. Since I was driving to the convention in a couple of days, I ordered "First Grave on the Right" on Audible, thinking that I could listen to it as I drove. I downloaded the book onto my phone and then tested it to make sure it downloaded accurately. After listening for just a few minutes, I realized I was hooked. I could not put this down. I could not wait the two days for my driving trip. I needed to listen NOW. Much to my husband's dismay, I listened from start to finish and then started searching Audible to download the next book in this series.

Charley Davidson is snarky, sassy and tough! She also sees dead people. I absolutely love this character!

Darynda Jones has created a series that is totally entertaining! Great writing, great characters, great storyline! I can't wait to read more from this author.

My Rating: 

About the Author:
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier, and her books have been translated into 18 languages. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, and she is ever so grateful for the opportunity to carry on that legacy. She currently has two series with St. Martin's Press: The Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. 


Sunday, February 24, 2019

RAMBLINGS & RECIPES - Ever Been to a Book Convention?

I'll be spending today packing my bags and getting ready to attend my first book convention of 2019. There will be several more as the year progresses, but I really look forward to the Coastal Magic Convention in Daytona Beach each year.

How great is that!! Daytona Beach in February! Pay close attention if you live up north and are shivering in the cold and shoveling snow to your front door. 

Now you may ask... what does a person pack when attending one of these conventions? Other than beachwear, that is.

The answer is different for each convention, based on the theme. For Coastal Magic, I'm packing a bright, sparkly purple top, a feathered mask, and lots of beads in purple, green and gold. Yes! The theme for this one is MARDI GRAS! 

I will have lots of extra beads to share, so if you are attending, come find me! No need to flash! (Please!) Just ask.

Oh! And be sure to take along an extra suitcase for transporting all the wonderful books you will end up buying, along with swag and gift baskets and all kinds of stuff you will receive!

Attending these book conventions gives you a chance to really get to know the attending authors. You have time to chat with them, have lunch with them, play games with them, and even buy books from them! And they are more than happy to sign that book for you.

And even if you can't attend the entire convention, stop by the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort on Saturday, March 2nd between 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM where once again, Coastal Magic will be accepting donations for a local branch of HABITAT FOR HUMANITY. The signing is a free activity, and is open to the public.

I'll be heading north from the Keys to pick up one of my daughters in the Orlando area before heading back east to Daytona Beach, and we will be meeting my other daughter and my granddaughter there in Daytona. Once there, I will be taking lots of pictures and... yes... posting them here on my blog and Facebook page. So, watch for it!

Mojitos by the pitcher
Yield:  12 one-cup servings

      3 cups (packed) fresh mint leaves
      9 Tablespoons sugar
      1½ cups light rum
      ½ cup fresh lime juice
      6 cups club soda
      6 cups crushed ice
      12 lime wedges

1. Reserve 12 mint leaves for garnish.  Place remaining mint leaves in a medium bowl.
2. Add sugar and mash with wooden spoon until mint is aromatic and oils are released.
3. Add rum and lime juice and stir until sugar dissolves.
4. Strain mixture into a pitcher.  (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead; refrigerate.)
5. Add club soda to pitcher; gently stir.
6. Fill each of 12 glasses with ¾ cup crushed ice.  Pour mojito over ice and garnish each glass with 1 mint leaf and 1 lime wedge.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - COMING FOR YOU by Krisit Belcamino

Coming For You
Kristi Belcamino
Publication date: February 26th 2019
Genres: Adult, Suspense, Thriller
Sofia Kennedy has spent the last twenty-four years keeping her past a dark secret. To the rest of the world, she’s a gifted graphic designer, marvelous cook, and doting Minneapolis mother.
But then her daughter is murdered.
Sofia soon wonders whether her life of lies has caught up with her. The police are asking dangerous questions and going after the wrong man. It’s up to Sofia to hunt down her daughter’s killer before her elaborate deception is exposed and she loses whatever semblance of a life she has left.
Chapter 7
Five months earlier
March 2017
Dinkytown, Minneapolis
I wasn’t really paying attention until the boy was right in front of me.
Instead, I was concentrating on the big stack of books on the counter. I was rearranging them like the bookstore owner wanted—to showcase the week’s bestsellers. It was busy work—I was looking for anything to keep me from thinking about my mom. If I thought about her, I would start screaming or crying or hit something. I hated her so much. Okay. I didn’t really really hate her, but I’d never been so angry at her in my life. I thought she loved me, but really, she’s been lying to me my whole life and keeping me from my family. My grandmother. Who was apparently alive despite my mom saying she was dead.
My entire childhood I was insanely jealous of the other kids who had grandparents. On grandparents’ day at school, my mom didn’t even try to find someone else to go. Sadie’s grandparents were dead, too, but at least Sadie’s mom had arranged for this grandma-like neighbor to go. My mom just shrugged when I complained about it.
Now I know why. She’s a liar.
When I first saw the message on Facebook, I thought it was probably from some creepy old pervert pretending to be my long-lost grandma. Nobody I know ever gets on Facebook anymore. I don’t even know why I checked it that day. I didn’t want to believe her, but then she told me things about my mom that most people would never know.
Like how the burn scar on my mom’s arm is from when she was trying to cook her own pancakes for breakfast when she was four. Or how she has this one mole on the back of her neck that you can only see when she puts her hair in a bun to take a shower.
What I can’t understand, or forgive, is why my mother lied.
My grandma said that she’d explain soon enough. She told me not to trust my mom. She said that everything my mom says is a lie. She also told me not to say anything to my dad. Yet.
I’m so confused. Nothing seems real. Every day I come home and pretend I have a lot of homework, but instead, I go in my room and get in bed. I worry if I even look at my mom I’m going to scream. Sometimes when she’s not paying attention, I’ve caught myself staring at her, wondering who the hell this lying woman really is and where did my real mom go?
I was so upset about my mom that I barely noticed the boy at the counter in front of me. When I looked up and saw him there, I jumped and he laughed. He stared at me with these black eyes and I couldn’t look away. It was unnerving. For a second I didn’t know what to say. And then when I did talk it was like I was ten again talking snotty to a cute boy.
He laughed again. “Is that how you greet your customers?”
His accent was lilting and sounded sophisticated.
Before he opened his mouth, if you looked at him, with his short spiky dreads and baggy jeans, you’d think he was just some really cute thuggish boy from the north side. But when he spoke, he suddenly seemed like he should be on stage doing Shakespeare. It was unsettling. Who spoke that way?
I blushed. “Sorry. Can I help you?”
“Yes.” He crunched an already wrinkled piece of paper he was holding. “I’m looking for ‘The History of Herodotus.’”
“Oh.” There you go, Kate, wow him with your scintillating response. “Actually, I’m not sure we carry that book but I can point you in the right direction, show you where it might be if we have it. It’s nonfiction, right?”
I’d never heard of the book.
“Yes. There are actually a few books by him. They are called ‘The Histories.’ They are about the history, politics, cultures, and traditions of Greece and North Africa and Asia. There are nine books in the series.”
“Oh.” Again, brilliant answer, Kate. “I can see if we carry it.” My tone was officious, businesslike to hide that I felt like an idiot. I started to come out from behind the counter.
“You don’t have it on your computer?” He eyed the laptop on the counter.
I shook my head. It was the bane of my life. “The owner is a little old-fashioned. I’ve been trying to talk him into cataloging online, but it’s a slow process. We order online, but we don’t keep our inventory there yet. Kind of stupid, huh?”
He shrugged. He gave me this smile and I couldn’t help but smile back.
I came out from behind the counter, self-consciously smoothing my skirt down as I stepped in front of him. “Follow me. I’ll show you the nonfiction section and the area where it might be.”
The old bookstore was a maze with one tiny room winding into another. And then there was the basement, which was more open, but still had lots of nooks and crannies. And had two creepy cats. And was haunted. And was where we were heading.
The cats were doing their usual freak show. Caterwauling and running around like banshees, hopping from old sofas to worn-out armchairs scattered around the basement of the store.
I usually tried to avoid the basement. It gave me the creeps. Today, I blamed the haunted part for the hairs on the back of my neck sticking straight up as I made my way down the stairs. It was that—not him being so close behind me.
We wove through the stacks to a back corner where I swung around to face him. “If we have it, it would be somewhere around here.” I gestured to a small bookshelf.
He didn’t say anything just stared at me. I held my breath, staring back. His eyes moved down to my mouth and he swallowed. It seemed impossible, but he was acting like he was nervous.
He cleared his throat. “Okay. Thanks,” he finally said.
I turned to go and he said, “You’re leaving?”
“Yes, I’m the only one here. I have to stay upstairs at the counter.”
I waited.
“It’s just kind of freaking creepy down here. It’s like cold and shit and those cats are freaking me out.”
“Yup.” I said with a smile, tilting my head. “It’s haunted.”
His eyes grew wide. “Bloody hell?” His voice was incredulous and he quickly looked around. “Seriously, though.” His voice wavered and a panic flitted across his face. “Can you just wait a second while I look?”
I was taken aback. He was six-feet-tall and looked like he could thump anyone who messed with him and, yet, he was frightened out of his wits.
I shrugged. “Okay. I’ll probably hear the bell if someone comes in.” It was a lie, but I wanted to stay close to this boy. For no good reason.
“I’ll help you look.” Kneeling, I scanned the bottom shelf. He knelt beside me, reading the titles quietly out loud. It took a while, but then I found it on the second shelf from the top. “Voila!”
I plucked it off the shelf and handed it to him, plopping it in his arms. It was heavy. I was rewarded a smile.
“Great. Let’s get the hell out of here,” he said and took off without waiting for me.
I followed him up the stairs this time, trying not to smile, but it was tough.
He was still at the bookstore an hour later, stretched out on one of our old beat-up leather chairs, concentrating on whatever he was reading.
For the rest of my shift, I mostly forgot he was even there as I went about my work. Every once in a while, I’d look over and watch him beneath my eyelashes. Watch how his brow furrowed for a few seconds and then he’d nod as if he just understood something.
It was cute.
When it was a few minutes after closing time, I cleared my throat until he looked up. Behind him through the window, I could see that the world outside was white with snow pummeling down.
He looked up as I reached for my coat.
“Oh.” He sat up straighter. “Oh. What time do you close?” He seemed dazed, his finger holding his place in the book.
“Five minutes ago.”
He scrambled up. “Oh dear, I’m sorry.” He shrugged on his coat.
I laughed. Who said “oh, dear?” Nobody I knew. At least nobody under seventy.
I waited for him to bring the book up to the counter to buy, but he didn’t, just held it dangling from his arm and then, seemingly reluctantly, set it on the coffee table.
It was a heavy book. And expensive. At least for our used bookstore. It probably cost twenty-five dollars or more. Maybe if he was a college kid, like I suspected, he couldn’t afford it.
He opened the door and paused. A whoosh of cold air and small flakes of snow swooped inside. Then he turned. “See you next time?”
I didn’t know what to say so I just smiled. I’m sure it looked like a grimace. So that wasn’t awkward, was it? Totally. Cringy.
After I was sure he was gone, disappeared into the whiteness of the snowstorm, I picked up the book and put it behind the counter on a shelf where I kept my things.
I hoped the boy would come back for it. And I didn’t know why.
Sure, his smile was nice. And he seemed smart. In addition, his accent proved he wasn’t from around here.
All those things combined made him the most intriguing boy I’d ever met.

Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author and Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity-award finalist Kristi Belcamino writes dark mysteries about fierce women seeking justice. Newsletters subscribers receive a free gift- a prequel novella unavailable for sale anywhere. Sign up here: https://www.subscribepage.com/KristiBelcamino
She is a crime fiction writer, cops beat reporter, and Italian mama who also bakes a tasty biscotti. In her former life, as an award-winning crime reporter at newspapers in California, she flew over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca and attended barbecues at the morgue.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Book Review - SAY YOU'RE SORRY By Karen Rose

Title:  Say You're Sorry - Book 1 of the Sacramento Series
Author:  Karen Rose
Genre:  Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Release Date:  February 12, 2019

About the Book:

Introducing the first book in the new pulse-pounding Sacramento series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose.

There is a serial killer on the loose, preying on vulnerable women. The only identifiable mark the killer leaves are letters—sometimes one, sometimes two—all carved into the torsos of his victims.  Together they spell “Sydney.” 

When he grabs Daisy Dawson, he believes he has found his next victim. But despite her small stature, she fights back with an expertise that quickly frees her. Before fleeing the scene, Daisy also manages to grab what proves to be crucial evidence: a necklace from around the killer’s neck. 

The necklace is more than a trivial item—it is a link to a cold case that Special Agent Gideon Reynolds has been tracking for seventeen years. With Daisy’s help, Gideon finally has the opportunity to get closer to the truth than ever before. 

But they might not get the chance, as the serial killer has a new target: Gideon and Daisy.
Buy Links: Amazon 

My Review:

Wow! Another great thriller/suspense/romance novel by one of my favorite authors, Karen Rose!  In typical Rose fashion, this one starts out with a spine-tingling, horrifying event that makes you want to sit up straight and not put this book down until the very last page. Yes, that's what it did. And now I am anxiously waiting for more books in this series.

This one wasn't so much of a mystery, but the action and suspense was still awesome! The characters were multi-faceted, showing their strong sides and their weak sides, their vulnerabilities and their strengths. 

The story centers around Daisy and Gideon and a link between the two involving a heart-shaped locket. Even though the main characters were fascinating, many of the other characters worked their way into my heart as well. The Sokolovs melted my heart with the way they brought Gideon and Daisy into their family fold, always being there for them. And Danton and Sammie showed the reader how important a bit of kindness can be and how wonderful it is to "pay it forward". 

The story was a bit drawn out in places, with things being repeated, but I can overlook that because the story was just so dang good!

My Rating: 

About the Author:
Internationally bestselling, RITA-award winning, author Karen Rose was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.”

Her debut suspense novel, DON'T TELL, was released in July, 2003. Since then, she has published fifteen more novels and two novellas. Her eighteenth novel, EVERY DARK CORNER, was released in 2017 and EDGE OF DARKNESS was released in February of 2018.

Karen's books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, London's Sunday Times, and Germany's der Spiegel (#1), and the Irish Times, as well as lists in South Africa (#1) and Australia!

Her novels, I'M WATCHING YOU and SILENT SCREAM, received the Romance Writers of America's RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense for 2005 and 2011. Five of her other books have been RITA finalists. To date, her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

A former high school teacher of chemistry and physics, Karen lives in Florida with her husband of more than twenty years, two dogs, and a cat.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - CHILD OF MINE by Jana Richards

Child of Mine
Jana Richards
Publication date: February 20th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.
Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?
Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?
“We asked you to come here this evening because we have something we want to tell all of you. Lauren and I are getting married.”
The room went deathly quiet. Lauren tightened her grip on his hand. Her face turned pale as she stared at her family’s stunned expressions. Cole put his arm around her waist, afraid she might faint.
He needn’t have worried. She lifted her chin at a defiant angle and turned to face the others.
“Cole and I have decided this child needs the best possible start in life and that means having a mother and a father. We’ve always been friends, so what better way to start a marriage then with friendship?”
Garrett pushed himself to his feet and came forward. “I think it’s a hell of an idea. You two will make wonderful parents.”
He enfolded Lauren in an embrace. Cole heard her murmur her thanks to her brother. “I think you’ll make a wonderful uncle.”
Charlotte was next in line. She kissed Lauren’s cheek. “I’m so happy for you, sweetie. When’s the big day?”
“In a couple of weeks,” Cole said. “As soon as we can arrange everything.”
Lauren’s parents, Robert and Grace, also extended their congratulations. If they had reservations, they kept them to themselves.
Only his mother remained in her seat, staring at them in disbelief. Cole sat next to her. “What do you want to say, Ma?”
“You can’t replace Billy.” She choked out the words.
“I know that.” He’d known he was second best in her eyes all his life. “I wouldn’t even try.”
“But to marry his wife, to raise his child? It’s wrong. They don’t belong to you. You always wanted what belonged to your brother.”
He wanted to shout at her that the baby was his, that it had nothing to do with Billy. And Lauren was his, too. He’d loved her first. His brother had never appreciated what a gem he’d had in her. He’d squandered his marriage the way he’d squandered the love that had been lavished on him all his life, from his parents, from Lauren, and even from him.
Instead he pressed his lips together and said nothing. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and saw that Lauren stood beside him.
“I know this is difficult for you, Ella. I know you’re grieving. But I have to raise my child in the best way I know how. Aside from my brother and sister, Cole is my best friend in the world. He’s a good man, and I know he’ll be a wonderful father. You should be very proud of him.”
His mother stared at Lauren as if she couldn’t believe what she was saying. Her face twisted. “Don’t you miss Billy at all? Don’t you grieve for him? Nobody understands. Nobody.”
He said the word a little sharper then he’d intended, but at least it got her attention. She looked up at him in surprise.
“I’m sorry if it hurts you, but Lauren and I are getting married. We care about one another and we care about the baby. The three of us are going to be a family. I wish you could be happy for us.”
Ella dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. Finally, with a shuddering breath, she turned to look at him.
“For Billy’s baby’s sake, I’ll try.”
Billy’s baby.
The pain was swift and unexpected. If she’d stabbed him through the heart with a dagger it wouldn’t have hurt as much.

Author Bio:
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with an elderly Pug/Terrier named cross Lou. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com


Sunday, February 17, 2019

RAMBLINGS & RECIPES - Chef Michael's Restaurant in Islamorada, Florida

My husband, bless his heart, gets preoccupied with so many other things that he sometimes forgets things like Valentine's Day (sigh). This year, since I didn't want to be disappointed with last minute plans, unable to get in to any decent restaurants and ending up ordering pizza, I took control and made reservations weeks in advance for one of the nicer restaurants in Islamorada... Chef Michael's. I had been wanting to try this place out and I am so glad I was finally able to do so.

Parking is somewhat limited, and we weren't quite sure what to do, but a gentleman with a big smile came out to show us the "special" parking space by the mailbox that no one ever sees. Yay!! 

We were greeted outside by super friendly hostesses who checked our reservation and then took us inside to be seated.  Our waitress, Laura, was fantastic! She immediately arrived at our table to take our drink order... even though it took me awhile to peruse the extensive wine list! I finally settled on a White Zinfadel that was quite nice.

The appetizer of Tempura Lobster Tail was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and served with Coconut and Red Curry Sauce. One order consists of two nice sized pieces, plenty for two people to share.

And then our dinner arrived! I had ordered the Seafood Pasta and it was served in a huge bowl. I decided to not count calories tonight because the pasta was covered in a rich, basil cream sauce, seasoned wonderfully. It had huge sea scallops and even bigger Key West pink shrimp. I even detected more lobster in it as well. There was no way I could eat all of this, especially after devouring some of the amazing bread. The basket contained three different kinds of dinner rolls. One was plain, one was multi-grain with seeds, and the third was olive bread. Instead of a little saucer of olive oil, like many restaurants serve, Chef Michael's provides a little bowl of olive oil mixed with so many herbs (parsley, basil, garlic, cilantro, and I'm not sure what else) that you have to spoon it onto the bread.

Rick had ordered the Hogfish Pontchartrain, which consisted of a nice piece of hogfish, lightly blackened and covered in crawfish and shrimp in a piquant Creole sauce. It was served with grilled vegetables and rice. The vegetables must have been good because Rick actually ate them.

The desserts looked amazing but my stomach was so full from the delicious dinner that I just couldn't eat another bite.  Next time... I'm saving room for the 7-layer carrot cake... or maybe the Creme Brûlée with Tahitian vanilla... or maybe the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cake. So many decisions.

Next time you are in Islamorada, make a reservation to eat at Chef Michael's. You will not regret it!

Chef Michael's is located at Mile Marker 81.6 on the Oceanside, just off the main highway on the "Old Road"

Hogfish Adriatic
By Chef Michael Ledwith

4­ six-ounce portions of fresh hogfish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Adriatic Sauce
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro
1⁄2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1⁄4 cup fresh basil leaf
2 cloves garlic
1⁄2 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons “Fire Cider”
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper

Make the sauce. 
In a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the sauce and puree until smooth.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
If the sauce is too thick, slowly add more olive oil.
Serve the sauce at room temperature. The sauce stays well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Grill the Fish (The fish can be grilled or pan seared.)
Have your grill hot and clean.
Lightly season fish with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat fish with canola oil.
When fish is done, transfer to serving plate, lightly top the fish with Adriatic sauce.
Served with a lemon wedge, steamed seasoned quinoa and grilled asparagus.

Chef Michael’s is located at 81671 Overseas Highway, in Islamorada (halfway between Mile Markers 81 and 82), and is open for dinner daily and brunch on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - THE RUINS by T.H. Hernandez

The Ruins
T.H. Hernandez
(The Union #2)
Publication date: June 16th 2015
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and wracked with guilt, seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor returned to the Union, leaving behind the boy she loved.
Now, she and her friends must find a way to do the impossible – warn the citizens of the Union about an impending rebel attack without alerting the government and risking retaliation against her friends in the Ruins.
When every move Evan makes is thwarted, it soon becomes clear she’s being watched. Faced with a daily fight to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, she returns to the Ruins. But life in the Ruins has its own dangers, and soon she’s fighting a different battle – to stay alive long enough to discover the truth.
Grief, guilt, heartbreak, fear, loss, and abandonment all swirl in my head, creating a vortex of pain and confusion keeping me awake.
Three days ago I was planning a future with the boy I love. Cyrus was going to come back to the Union with me. We were going to figure out a way to warn the citizens here or stop the attack. Together. Now his brother is dead and Cyrus stayed behind, unwilling to abandon the rest of his family.
The scents of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass float on a late summer night breeze. I stare up at the clouds from the chaise lounge on the balcony. A thick marine layer inched its way in from the coast hours ago, blanketing the sky and obscuring the stars I was hoping to see. With the moon hidden and the Union lights off for the night, darkness envelopes me.
Over the soft murmuring of desalinated ocean water burbling through the aqueduct, I hear the door slide open behind me and sit up. My bio-dad, Eddie, walks out and takes the spot beside me.
“Can’t sleep?”
I shift to my right, giving him more room. “No. You?”
He shakes his head, his cinnamon-colored wavy hair sweeping across his shoulders. “My grandmother used to say if you can’t sleep, it means you’re awake in someone else’s dreams.”
That’s a comforting sentiment. Is Cyrus dreaming about me right now? Or is he like me, too afraid of the nightmares to close his eyes?
Eddie presses his lips together and studies me for several long seconds. “Are you ready to tell me where you’ve really been all summer?”
His question catches me off guard. I thought he bought my story, the one I told him when I came back. The one Lisa fed him while I was in the Ruins. Posing as me, she texted my mom and Eddie from my tablet with regular updates on our fake adventures sailing off the southeastern coast. When I first showed up here yesterday afternoon, he didn’t seem to care where I’d been or what I’d been up to, only that I was here at all. I’m definitely not ready to have this conversation with him.
“I don’t know, are you ready to tell me where you were for the first twelve years of my life?”
He shifts his weight on the chaise next to me and sighs. “I don’t know how many times I can apologize.”
“You think another ‘I’m sorry’ is going to fix everything?”
He rubs his palms on his thighs and stands. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you’d like, but you might want to ratchet the anger down a few notches.” He moves toward the door before turning back. “You’re going to have to forgive me some day.”
I raise my head and turn toward his dark silhouette. “Why? You think sending me a ticket and letting me hang out with your new kids makes up for everything?”
“No,” he says quietly, “because hanging on to all that anger and resentment isn’t healthy.” He walks back into the house, sliding the door closed behind him.
With a heavy sigh, I fall on my back and stare back up into the blackness. Seriously? After being nothing to me for three-quarters of my life, where does he get off being all parental right now?

Author Bio:
T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.
She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he's a cat, affectionately referred to as "the puppycat."


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - PIECE BY PIECE by R.H. Tucker

Piece by Piece
R.H. Tucker
(Rumor Has It, #5)
Publication date: February 7th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Everything can change in an instant.
They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but the truth is, sometimes you know exactly what you have. And when it’s gone, you start to fade away, too.
Taylor Hopkins knows this firsthand. For the past couple of years, he’s focused on only three things: college, working out, and girls. School to focus on the future and forget the past. Exercising to zone out and clear his mind. And girls for all of the above. Then Sasha falls into his life …
Sasha Williams loves to cook. Skipping her second year of college to work under a head chef and owner of a restaurant was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. After yet another breakup with a guy still hung up on his ex, she decides a night out is the perfect thing to wash away recent memories, and make sure her focus is on cooking. Of course, it doesn’t help that meeting Taylor, and a subsequent deal between them, turns into something she never thought she’d face.
While trying to break down walls, Taylor and Sasha work to come to terms with a future between them. But can you build a future on a foundation that continues to crumble away?
Piece by Piece is the fifth book in the Rumor Has It series and can be read as a stand-alone.
… It’s what I’ve been working for. Even though I still want to finish school and get my associates degree, I know I want to get my foot in the door with personal training.
Thankfully, Becky walks through the door, nothing but skintight yoga pants, a white sports bra, and grinning widely at me. I don’t date, but if there’s a girl that I’d call a constant in my world, it’s Becky. No fuss, no muss. We keep it clean, with no strings attached.
“Hey, Taylor,” she says with a smile.
“What’s up, Becks?”
Leaning against the counter, her breasts are on full display; she doesn’t have to try very hard to flaunt them. They’re fake, but hell if I care. “How about that raincheck tonight?”
I groan. “Can’t do it tonight, heading out of town.”
Her exaggerated pout makes my eyes find her lips. “You’re no fun.”
“How about tomorrow night? Cal and Ethan are celebrating.”
“Oh.” She perks up with excitement. “Celebrating what?”
“They’re branching out. Cal’s finally opening up his own place.”
Eyeing me carefully, she looks around, dropping her voice. “Oh, are you gonna be joining them?”
“Not sure yet. Cal says it’s an open invitation, so we’ll see I guess.”
Leaning closer, she licks her lips. “You should. I’d love some more one-on-one time with you.”
“Oh, I don’t see that being a problem, no matter where I’m at,” I answer, lifting a brow. “You still have my number?”
“Of course.”
“Hit me up tomorrow, and I’ll tell you where we’ll be at tomorrow night.”
Her eyes linger on me as she walks into the gym, behind frosted glass doors. Micah chuckles behind me.
“Seriously, if there is anyone that you might as well just date, it should be Becky. I actually think she’s starting to like you.”
“You’re crazy.”
“Come on, Micah. She knows the score.”
He shakes his head, shrugging. “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Would you ever think about trying something with her?”
I quirk an eyebrow at him. I know exactly what he’s talking about, but I don’t feel like having an honest conversation right now. “As a matter of fact, Micah,” I pause, making him give me a suspicious look, “there’s a whole lot of things I’d still like to try with her.”
He starts laughing. “And on that note, I’m gonna clean the locker rooms. Freak.”

Author Bio:
RH Tucker lives in Southern California and writes character-driven stories with people who have real heart. At least, he tries to. He also consumes too much caffeine, eats too much pizza, and firmly believes Rocky Road is the best flavor of ice cream.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - THE COUNCIL OF NERETH by T.J. Amberson

The Council of Nereth
T.J. Amberson
Publication date: December 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Six months have passed since the Council of Nereth was formed. The land is at peace. The people are thriving, secure in the knowledge that Raelin, the evil sorceress who once ruled over them, is no more.Like the other members of the Council of Nereth, Edlyn has returned home to live and work, waiting for the time when the council will meet again. Busy serving the people and restoring the manor of her childhood, Edlyn keeps her deepest wishes hidden away in her heart.On Edlyn’s eighteenth birthday, a messenger from the capitol arrives to her home and delivers devastating news: Maddock has gone missing, and the worst is feared. Edlyn rushes back to the capitol to join the other council members in a desperate search for Maddock. Soon, a ghostly attack confirms the terrifying truth that evil forces are upon Nereth once again. With time running short, Edlyn and her companions must find Maddock and save Nereth before it is too late.
“I am afraid there is no time,” the man interrupted. He crossed the threshold and closed the door behind him. “I apologize for the abruptness of my visit, but I must implore you to hurry. My name is Dalton. I am the new Chief Officer. I was sent by Sir Briac to escort you to the capitol without delay.”
For one instant, Edlyn stood in stunned silence. Then her heart thudded in her chest, and she lunged across the room for her still-damp cloak. “Of course. I shall ready myself immediately.”
“Oh, Miss Edlyn.” Lancy wrung her hands. “I do hope that the cause for your summons is nothin’ too serious.”
“It must be of great importance. The council was not scheduled to meet for another month yet.” Edlyn hung her sword over her side. As she donned her boots, she raised her head and addressed Dalton again. “Did Sir Briac say anything to you about why we are being so urgently summoned?”
“It is in regards to Sir Maddock.”
Edlyn froze. “Maddock?”
Dalton removed his hat and pushed his wet, shoulder-length brown hair from his face. “It would seem that Sir Maddock has gone missing.”
“Missing,” was all Edlyn could manage to say, her breathing growing strained.
Dalton replaced his hat. “After the council members parted ways last June, Sir Briac never received any correspondence from Sir Maddock. Concerned for his welfare, Sir Briac led soldiers into the Colleland to ensure that all was well. But Sir Maddock was nowhere to be found. No one seems to know what happened to him, and our ongoing searches have not uncovered even a trace of a clue.”

Author Bio:
TJ Amberson hails from the Pacific Northwest. With a love of writing in several genres, TJ strives to provide well-written, age-appropriate, & original novels for tweens, teens, and new adults.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

RAMBLINGS & RECIPES - To Valentine or Not to Valentine

Bless his heart, my husband is a very sweet, generous man at times. But holidays like Valentine's Day tend to be more of a last-minute obligation to him. 

Once he realizes what day it is, he will rush out to buy me a card or maybe even some flowers... or HIS favorite candy (knowing I am on a diet and probably won't be eating it). 

Hmmm... Bless his heart.

When my kids were little, the day was reserved for supervising the signing of the backs of all the little Valentine cards that they took to school and for baking heart-shaped cookies for the class party. Or topping cupcakes with little candy conversation hearts. Remember those?

There were no romantic dinners with just the two of us on Valentine's Day once we had kids. It was more of a big family event at home.

I would try to make it special for the kids by making heart shaped pancakes. Yes, I'm sure their teachers loved that. Fill them up with sugar and then send them off to school!

I would  also cut their sandwiches with a heart-shaped cookie cutter (which totally embarrassed my son when he was in high school).  And of course for dinner we would have a heart-shaped meatloaf decorated with mashed potatoes. Don't laugh. They loved it!

Now that the kids are all grown and have moved out, I often thought it would be nice to go back to those before-marriage-days when hubby was much more romantic. So this year, I took control and made reservations at one of the most romantic restaurants I could find here in Islamorada. Chef Michael's! 

I'll let you know how it goes next week! The only thing I can tell you is that I won't be ordering meatloaf.

Valentine's Day Meatloaf
(in case you still have kids living at home)

* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1 lb. ground venison
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
* 1/4 cup chopped onion
* 2 eggs
* Salt & Pepper to taste
* Ketchup

Combine the meats (and you can use whatever kind of ground meat you prefer here, whether it's ground turkey, pork, veal or whatever).  Add salt & pepper, bread crumbs and onion and mix thoroughly.  Beat the eggs slightly with a fork and add to mixture.  Mix with your hands until everything is combined and shape the loaf into a heart shape.  Top with ketchup and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 to 55 minutes.

For additional decoration, you can surround the meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway - BLACK BLADE (Reaper Born Trilogy, #2) by H.G. Lynch

Black Blade
H.G. Lynch
(Reaper Born Trilogy, #2)
Publication date: February 8th 2019
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Having moved country, fallen in love, and killed the demon responsible for his father’s death, Ruairidh could do with a break.
Instead, he’s being arrested for his girlfriend’s murder, being stalked by demons, and seeing a Fetch that indicates the death of someone close to him.
This time, Ru isn’t just failing Maths and fighting demons – he’s going to the demon realm to bring back the soul of his loved one, and it’s going to take more than his sword and his wits if he wants to make it back to the living world.
Ruairidh reached out and took my glass from me, setting both glasses down on the coffee table. Then he held out one hand in an elegant request. “May I have this dance?”
“You may.” I slid my hand into his, and he bent low to kiss my knuckles like a proper Victorian gentleman. I giggled as he straightened.
He flashed his cocky grin, and pulled on my hand, yanking me forward, so I stumbled against his chest. “Much better,” he purred, circling his arms around my waist.
Breathless, I splayed my hands on his chest and slid them to his shoulders, so my body was pressed down the length of his. His forest-green eyes burned into mine, so close that they were all I could see. The music was smooth and slow, and I was surprised when Ruairidh began to move to the rhythm, his steps careful and familiar.
“You can waltz?” I asked, startled that this rough-edged man could dance so beautifully.
He winked. “I have many hidden talents.”

Author Bio:
H.G. Lynch is a Paranormal Romance author from Scotland. She is an avid reader, and cat-lover. She spends most of her days writing, while wrestling her cat off her laptop. She loves horse-riding, Star Trek, and snow.
Her books are dark paranormal romances.


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