OK, this is a tough time of year to keep up with everything. Football, Thanksgiving, football, Christmas, football …….. oh, yeah, making dinner. My days of massive Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are behind me (thanks heavens) and things are more relaxed, but relaxed is still not ‘nothing to do. On top of that, DAYS ARE TOO DAMN SHORT! By 7:30 at night it feels like 10 PM. But it’s getting cold enough that cuddling under blankets with a good book and a good game are the way to pass the time. Of course Thanksgiving weekend is a football orgy as is New Year and the weeks the follow as bowl games kick in and play-offs start for the pros.
I was asked by a non-cooking friend for a simple appetizer and I suggested stuffed endive. You can use almost anything and those leaves look great as ‘boats’ holding various goodies. Since she had a vegetarian in the family (who does not consider eating shrimp wrong??!!!!!) I said use chopped pear (ripe Anjou are best for this) and crumpled goat cheese with or without shredded prosciutto and a light drizzle of aged balsamic. Goat cheese is very versatile with foods like fruit and salty meats. Endive can be stuffed with anything from egg salad to elaborate honeyed nuts, cheese and diced apples or homemade Waldorf salad. The other veggie that works well is English cucumber – those long skinny ones in plastic. You can peel strips, cut 1.5″ chunks and use a melon baller to scoop out the inside and stuff with shrimp salad, a puree of salmon and cream cheese topped with some diced hard boiled eggs or for fancy, black caviar. Hey, you don’t need to do much any more. Lots of good stuff is ready to use at your local market or gourmet store. Skip the cheese and crackers and try something new and simple this year.
Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz) is about as predictable as a metronome, and about as exciting. I won The Mystery Woman in a swap and figured I’d at least try her so-called paranormal historical romance series based on a female detection agency. I would love to say it was great, or even good. It wasn’t. The plot is the same one she’s used time and again with a few new riffs to freshen the stale and well used key elements. A real snooze fest for anyone not a die hard Quick fan – and they are legion.
My grade is C- (2.7*) and it only gets that because despite the stale plot, she still writes well and paces her action. The Mystery Woman is not worth the price of a hardcover, so borrow it or get it really cheap. Better still, buy something more original. Got it free in a book swap and it will move along.
Now if Amanda Quick is plowing the same field again and again, Catherine Coulter is not far behind, but she does get points for getting back in some kind of romantic suspense groove with Bombshell after wandering far afield in her FBI series. Still, it is very predictable, but with some original story elements. This time we have an FBI agent’s sister at an elite music school in Virginia to study composition when she’s assaulted after finding a dead body in her bathtub. Turns out the body is an undercover DEA agent and given the deep denial of them to confirm it, the FBI assumes the undercover operation is till ongoing. The partner is so obvious it’s painful. You have repeated attacks by a violent drug gang that is imitating Dumb and Dumber, two egomaniacal brothers who are – maybe – tied up with the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.
Bombshell is slightly better than average for a romantic suspense novel at C+ (3.2*), but is not worth the hardcover price. Borrow it, or wait for a super cheap remainder. Won in a book swap. Going out to another person.
With the able assistance of mystery author, J. T. Ellison, Catherine Coulter introduces a new central character, Nicholas Drummond. Descended from lower level aristocracy with an American mother mother, Nicholas has always made his way. After a career with MI5 he went to Scotland Yard. His former lover and sill friend Elaine Scott is killed while on assignment in NYC as special security for the display of the Crown Jewels at the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art, not the opera house). Sherlock and Savage get called in and their good friend and Nicholas’ uncle, the former SAC in NYC and now the Met’s special security consultant, Bo Horsely, is Drummond’s uncle – so we have now neatly tied up a relationship with the main background characters.
At the heart of The Final Cut is the legend that the Koh-i-Noor diamond is one of 3 from huge diamond held by a Mogul leader in India as their empire there fades and they return to the mid-east homelands. By uniting the three stones, separated for hundreds of years, the family will once again reign supreme. Having kept the largest part of the diamond in the family, the heir commissions the theft of the other two parts of the original stone – one held by a Russian mobster, the other – the Koh-i-Noor.
The plot is improbable, but no more so than many action thrillers, and the mystery is above the usual romantic suspense level. The Final Cut gets an unlikely B- (3.7*) from me. One of the downsides is Ellison’s style is sufficiently different from Coulter’s I could almost pick out where one was driving a scene, especially Coulter. Not that unusual for collaborations. Is The Final Cut worth $16-$17 asking price? No. Get it at the library or wait for the mmpb or a CHEAP used copy. I bought mine online for $9 with shipping used.
Book 2 of Katie MacAlister’s Time Thief series, The Art of Stealing Time picks up the story of Gregory Faa starts his career as member of the Watch, the supernatural police. And he starts it by breaking ALL the rules, stealing time from an immortal to save the beautiful witch he’s trying to arrest from death at the hands of a crazy lawyer.
Gwenhwyfar ‘Gwen’ Byron Owens is visiting her two moms and planning on getting some rare ingredients she needs for a quintessence she’s been working on for years. Unlike her mother and Mom 2, Gwen is not a witch, she’s an alchemist. And unlike her moms, she isn’t always getting in trouble with the Watch – or worse. But she is always protecting them, which is how she ended up getting tossed off a cliff by an evil lawyer only to have Gregory steal time and manage to save her the second time.
Gregory Faa might be cover model handsome with blond good looks to die for, but Gwen needs to get away from him and get her moms to safety. Unfortunately, they kidnapped a very elderly lady, Mrs Vanilla, who draws a map and insists on going to a Dunkin’ Donuts despite having the police and the Watch after them. She runs thru the store, the Moms and Gwen racing after her and the run into a store room and out into Anwyn, the Welsh Underworld.
Written in her usual screwball, headlong, breezy style, The Art of Stealing Time is an amusing and painless way to spend a few hours. I found it more entertaining than Time Thief, and the setting of Anwyn was a good part of that enjoyment. For paranormal romance, it’s blessedly angst free. Ms MacAlister plays her books with a balance of plot and laughs, this series is for those who like comedy. My rating is C+ to B- (3.5*), and suggested for those who like their laughs with a just a dash of romance. My copy of The Art of Stealing Time came from a book swapping site, and will move along the same way. It’s selling at $7.19 for the print book and $5.99 for the ebook. Go for the ebook, or wait for a used copy. She’s popular and her books usually land in used book store fairly fast.