Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Newcomer by Robyn Carr

Thunder Point Deputy Sheriff “Mac” McCain has struggled to keep his family together after being abandoned by his wife. It hasn't been easy, but with the help of a family member and his longtime friend Gina, things are moving along on an even keel. Mac has decided he and Gina will get together after the kids are grown. Mac has three and Gina has one, and she doesn't want to wait. In fact she's secretly wanted to explore a deeper relationship with the handsome law enforcement officer nicknamed “Mr. Yummypants.” As their romance grows, Mac's reasons for waiting evaporate, but then their lives are turned upside down when Mac's long-departed ex wife returns to Thunder Point. What will this do to their new-found love? The Newcomer is book two in Robyn Carr's new Thunder Point series, set along Oregon's rocky coast. It takes up where The Wanderer left off with the same delightful cast of characters and a few new surprises. I love Carr's storytelling, her delicious cast of characters and the pacing that keeps me turning pages long after I've decided I need to get some sleep. While I find it hard to replace my love of her Virgin River series, I'm feeling quite comfortable with this new locale and its characters. The drama of everyday life plays out beautifully in Thunder Point.

Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

Four years earlier, logistics expert Felicia Swift had a one-time fling with a Black Ops soldier. Now she's in Fool's Gold, helping her former crew set up the logistics for a bodyguard training school. Following this, she wants out. Felicia wants a normal life with a picket fenced house, a loving non-military husband and the requisite children. Imagine her shock when the low, sexy voice of a local disk jockey is none other than the man to whom she willingly lost her virginity in Thailand. Gideon Boylan pretends to fit in to the small community while keeping his distance. Two years incarceration in a Taliban prison where his comrades were killed has damaged him to the point he cannot do more than stay alive. However, when he sees Felicia, all the hunger returns. He can't offer her anything but a place in his bed, but for now that will suffice. Felicia needs to learn how to be normal in order to fulfill her dream, and Gideon can help her. But can they date and not become involved? Then fate throws a monkey wrench into their plans, and Felicia is the one who can help Gideon. Great story by Fool's Gold author Susan Mallery. While I loved Justice (who is like a brother—a very protective brother—to Felicia), I enjoyed watching Gideon grow. Felicia and Gideon have an exciting chemistry and the banter between them is superb. Two of a Kind is just that, a story about two misfits striving for a semblance of normalcy. How they achieve it is part of the magic of storyteller Mallery. Two thumbs up for this one.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Exquisite Book

Since receiving this lovely book for review, I've been savoring the photos as well as the recipes. Authors and foodies Bill Staley and Haley Mason have created a book that speaks to all the senses. Not only is it beautiful, but the recipes are wonderful and the advice for memorable party planning is as good as it gets. There are seventeen themed menus from Urban Escape to Tropical Getaway and Harvest Dinner with one hundred dishes perfect for parties and everyday meals. Each page is replete with exquisite photos, most of them taken by the authors. You'll learn about timing so everything comes together in perfect order, also about table decorations that showcase your food. (After reading the book I did a major housecleaning, tossing my stained placemats and frayed napkins, then replacing them with Gather lookalikes.) The first dish I tried was the General Tso's Chicken. While it was time-consuming to make, the flavor made up for any deficiency in that area. To be perfectly honest, I prefer wheat-free tamari to coconut aminos, which to me don't have the zingy flavor I expect. Also, I found the arrowroot to be semi-transparent and gloopy, sort of like wallpaper paste, not a pleasing mouth texture. The Sweet and Tangy Venison Meatballs, however, were superb. Just the right amount of zing and sweetness to tame the slightly gamey flavor of the venison. The baked salmon with lemon and capers makes a delectable statement whether for party or family dining. I haven't tried the chocolate chip biscotti, however, the photos alone are enough to set me drooling. What I like most about Gather is the way Bill and Hayley walk the reader through each aspect of the planning and preparation of their menus so you'll know days ahead of the event exactly how to coordinate the logistics for a no-fail party. Each recipe is easy to follow, and there are abundant tips such as adding medjool dates (rather than sugar) to cranberry sauce to take away the bitterness. The menu events were photographed at the homes of friends so there's a fantastic array of glassware, place settings and decorations to inspire even a novice hostess. This book gets two thumbs up for innovative design, superb layout and photos and truly delightful recipes.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I learned about Mark Sisson and The Primal Blueprint from my son who had been turned onto a primal eating style by my daughter. I bought a copy and began reading with interest. Mark Sisson, who also maintains a blog (Mark's Daily Apple), explains in humorous detail how you can reprogram your genes for better health and a longer life by adopting a hunter gatherer lifestyle. He backs up his statements with facts that show why a high fat, grain-free diet is best for optimal health. Readers will learn that by eliminating sugars and grains, an ideal weight can be achieved, inflammation can be reduced and a healthy immune system can be achieved. He offers, in addition, 10 Primal Blueprint lifestyle laws to tone your body, enjoy restful sleep and eliminate disease risk. One aspect of these lifestyle laws is to slow down your cardio workouts: it isn't necessary to push through a hardcore workout when a few minutes a day will accomplish the same thing without the wear and tear on your body. (Mark details his own experience with over-exercising and shows that ideal fitness can be achieved without weekly treks to a gym.) I found the writing style warm and engaging, the information practical and believable. Based on what I learned in Mark's book, I made some lifestyle changes last November and have reaped the benefits with weight loss (28 pounds and still losing), more energy, better sleep (I used to wake up at 2 a.m. and be unable to go back to sleep afterward.) My son also has followed the Primal Blueprint with a nearly 50 pound weight loss. We follow his exercise recommendations and consume grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured chickens, butter and cream, and fresh organic vegetables. Mark talks the talk and walks the walk, and he's convinced this reviewer that the Primal lifestyle is the one to follow for optimal health. Be forewarned, reading this book will whet your appetite for more information. Soon you'll be adding Primal/Paleo recipes to your cooking, reading Mark's Daily Apple for inspiration and scouring the Web for more.