Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Format: ebook, mass market paperback
Pub Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Length:352 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Victoria Dahl writes powerful books. Sometimes they click with me and sometimes they don't. I have DNF'd as many books as I've loved, so I never know which it will be when I start one. This time, I really liked everything about this book.

Although all Dahl heroines are more than a little bit naughty, this one was different from anything else I've read by this author. She was two people: her public persona reminiscent of the stereotypical librarian, and her private love of thrills and apologetically dirty sex.


Summer Craft: Bleach Pen Shirts for the Boys

We're midway through summer already, and unfortunately stuck inside due to an unusually warm July. Like weeks of triple digits...in the Sierras. We normally get exactly 2 days of 100 degree temps in mid-August. We're not used to this :(

Enter: super crafting mom. I'm combating video-game-itis and couch-potato inclinations by making the boys craft with me. But I'm also lazy, so I tend to go with whatever craft looks like the most bang for the buck/time/mess. Pinterest came to the rescue yet again with pages upon pages of bleach pen ideas. Unfortunately, none of the feminine designs appealed to the boys, so we just made up our own.


TBR Challenge Review: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

Format: Mass Market, ebook
Pub Date: December 2013
Publisher: Avon
Length: 382 pages
FTC: Received at RT14

Miracle of miracles, I had a book in the easily accessible part of my TBR that fit the theme. This book is a RITA finalist for this year, which means it hasn't been languishing in the pile very long at all...which is probably why it's accessible. Ah, well.

Looking at the list of finalists for this year, I was surprised by how many I have read. My reading time has been severely limited this last year, but I've managed to read 9 finalists. That's more than any other year. Woohoo!

I've read Sarah MacLean before, but I admit I've gotten out of the habit of reading historical romances lately. My tastes have been running to Urban Fantasy, romantic suspense, and small town contemporaries, but I decided to give this one a shot anyway.


Review: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane

Format: paperback, ebook
Pub Date: 2011
Publisher: Carina
Length: 296 pages
FTC: Free copy courtesy of the publisher at RT14

 I've read Lauren Dane's erotic romances before, but this is the first paranormal book I've read by her. It's an unusual concept: the title is quite literal. The protagonist is a Vampire Hunter skilled with a blade, but she's also a vessel for a goddess. Basically, the person who cleans up vampire messes (crimes) if the vampires can't take care of it themselves: usually by killing the offending vampire. 

I know lots of people are suffering paranormal fatigue, but I'm not there yet. I tend to lean more towards the Urban Fantasy side than the romance side which probably helps...and this book is definitely one where the romance is a smaller part of the novel. A subplot, even, despite the explicit scenes.

Every UF/Paranormal romance claims to be different. Goddess With a Blade isn't completely original, but it has enough new ideas to seem fresher than the majority of other offerings. The goddess angle is part of it, but this also has echoes of the old hardboiled detective stories...with a twist. It's set in Vegas and the surrounding desert, and instead of dames in trouble, the dame is the one doing the investigating. It has the glamor vs. seediness element you'd expect, but just as you get a handle on the type of book this is, Dane throws you another curveball.


Summer Crafting: Dish Brush Painting

Fireworks painted by my 8 year old.
I've seen this technique featured all over Pinterest for 4th of July fireworks painting. The  instructions can be found here. Basically, you use an old dish brush as a paint brush, but there's a bit more to the technique than it first appears.

If you can't find an old dish brush, or if your dish brush was gross like mine, you can use a new one from the local dollar store. To get it ready for painting, take a dry brush and (bristles down) squish it against a hard surface with the heel of your hand. You want to separate the bristles.

You'll use the same technique to paint, too.

The second trick is to go easy on the paint. Dip your brush, then dab it either on a paper towel or an empty area of your palette. Then, firmly press on the brush until the bristles are flattened and the paint creates an impression. The dry brush technique gives you that wispy look for the fireworks.

Lastly, use different brushes for each color or thoroughly clean the brush between colors. I'd recommend letting the paint at least partially dry between colors.

The fluffy looking fireworks reminded me of colorful dandelions, so I applied the same technique using white paint and black paper. I also used a bit of gold paint in the center of the dish brush and dotted it in the center.

Now I'm wondering what else I can use this technique on...


Recipe: Striped Tea Sandwiches

I finally caved and signed up with the DVD Netflix service. We lost our local DVD store last year (the owner retired--amazingly, the business was financially healthy), and while most people have gone to streaming, our internet is just not up to snuff enough to reliably do that. So onto Netflix I went, determined to find some older movies that our crappy Redbox just doesn't offer.  We made it a film noir night with Out of the Past. Since my viewing buddies are my mom and her 70-something BFF, I made tiny tea sandwiches to go with. These are adapted from The Book of Afternoon Tea.

Striped Tea Sandwiches
3 oz sliced cooked ham
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper
1/2 cup (or more) butter, softened*

4 slices white bread
4 slices soft wheat bread

Finely chop ham. In medium bowl, mix ham, mayo and mustard well

In another bowl, mix cream cheese, chives, salt and pepper. Butter 2 slices each (4 total) white and whole wheat bread on one side only and remaining 2 slices each (4 total) white and whole wheat on both sides. *The butter provides a barrier and prevents the sandwiches from becoming soggy. It also helps "glue" everything together.

Spread half of the ham mixture on buttered sides of 2 whole wheat bread slices. (You are making two giant sandwiches). Cover with white bread that has been buttered on both sides. Spread cream cheese over white bread. Cover with brown bread which has been buttered on both sides. Spread with remaining ham mixture and top with white bread, buttered side down.

Cover sandwiches and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Remove crusts from bread. Cut each sandwich into 6 pieces. Makes 12.


Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Format: print, e
Pub Date: 2012
Publisher: Self published
Length: novella
FTC: Print copy received from the author at RT14 in New Orleans

As a general rule, I avoid self published works. There's just been too much reviewer-bashing and an aversion to professional editing in that community. But I'm familiar enough with both Courtney Milan's professionalism AND her writing to set that aside. And I'm glad I did. I really liked this novella.

The Governess Affair is a prequel to her Brothers Sinister series. It's not very long, but it still manages to convey the story, the emotion, and the set up for the series.

Serena Barton is a problem. Her stoic, silent presence outside the Duke of Clermont's home is threatening the financial well being of the duke, and therefore of his problem-solver, Hugo Marshall.
The Duke's finances are tied to his wife's happiness and the duchess would be very, very unhappy if she hears just why Miss Barton is outside on the bench. Hugo, who has been promised a significant sum to help the duke regain his wife's affections, must find a way to solve the problem and get rid of Miss Barton.

This is a condensed version of a classic Regency set up. The main difference here is not the heroine but the hero. Usually this ends up with the governess and the peer. This time, it's the governess and a problem solver working for the very man who wronged the heroine. It's a sticky situation, one that surprisingly awakens Hugo's rarely used conscience.

Despite the short length, the characters are vividly portrayed and the romance is believable and moving. It's a very good prequel to the series and made me interested enough to immediately buy the next in the series.

My Grade: A

The Blurb:

Hugo Marshall earned the nickname "the Wolf of Clermont" for his ruthless ambition--a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When he's ordered to get rid of a pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at work.

But after everything Miss Serena Barton has been through at the hands of his employer, she is determined to make him pay. She won't let anyone stop her--not even the man that all of London fears. They might call Hugo Marshall the Wolf of Clermont, but even wolves can be brought to heel...


Happy Independence Day!

From the Taylorsville, CA 4th of July Parade. I hope everyone had a safe, happy, and healthy Independence Day!