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May 7, 2016

Review: Felix Jones Adventures Books 1 & 2

review by Claire Rees

Felix Jones and the Book of Words by Julian Roderick

Felix Jones and the Book of Words
Dive into an epic adventure with Felix and his best friend Tom as they meet one of history's famous person, Hitler.

For Felix and Tom it's just a normal day in school, but when an explosion rocks their school they notice their teacher acting strangely and decide to follow him where they see him with a book.
This decision changes the boys’ lives forever because now the Book of words has chosen Felix as his Keeper.

As Felix tries to understand what is happening they are attacked by hideous creatures that are half monk and half Skeleton.

Their teacher tells Felix to keep the Book safe and then makes the boys run away.
They dodge the monks only to be thrown through time back into the 1940s.

The time is dangerous and the monks follow them. Felix uses the book which guides him to a guardian. They now need to find ‘The keeper’ of the book from this era to find out how they travel back home using the book.

Lives are lost along the way and all to protect the keeper and the magic book.

The boys meet some amazing, kind brave, people and also some horrible, evil people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the book.

I loved this story, Felix and Tom are very likeable characters and I really enjoyed accompanying them on their time travel adventure.

Despite the losses of lives they remained brave and managed to protect the book and meet some new guardians closer to home.

I liked the way the author uses real past events and people as part of the storyline too.
I'm looking forward to book two to see what adventures they get up to next and what the book had in store for Felix and Tom. But also to see how Felix’s character develops as he uncovers more of the books secrets and learns how to use it.

I recommend Felix Jones and the Book of Words to Tweens, Young adults and adults alike who enjoy magical adventures across time with dangers around each corner.

Buy Felix Jones and the Book of Words at Amazon

Felix Jones and the Honour of the Keeper by Julian Roderick

Felix and the Honour of the Keeper
I was so happy to receive book two in this series that I started to read it the first day.

Once again we find Felix and his best friend, Tom, getting up to all sorts or trouble. Even taking Felix's sister's hamster, Fluffy, in their time travels.

This was to see if they could take another person along with them in their travels as they meet poppy who is very eager to become a guardian to the keeper.

Felix and Tom are trying to figure out where the magic of the book comes from in orders to stop it, to stop all of the pointless deaths of the guardians.

This time around they meet many amazing people from the past. But the book focuses on Merlin and King Arthur.

Felix, Tom and Poppy get to fight by King Arthur's side against the Bretheren.

I enjoyed the boys’ relationship develop with Poppy and I'm glad they now have a girl in the team.

The lighthearted humor had me chuckling out loud and even faced with the worst of situations the boys’ bravery and smarts shine through. I recommend Felix Jones and the Honour of the Keeper to Tweens who love w good adventure with a little danger thrown in and for young adults, and adults who are young at heart.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I can't wait for Tom, Felix and Poppy's  next great adventure.

Buy Felix Jones and the Honour of the Keeper at Amazon

Claire Rees, reviewer. Claire lives in a small village in the South Wales Valleys, UK with her husband, two kids and five snakes. She has always loved reading books. Her favorite genres are horror, mystery and fantasy, although if the story line is good she'll read anything. Connect with Claire on Facebook.

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May 6, 2016


by Chris

My son is very angry with me. As part of my day job (yes, we authors more often than not have day jobs), I’m spending the next few months in sunny California. It turns out California is quite some distance from my normal residence in New Jersey, which is something I discovered by somewhat foolishly choosing to drive from there to here. You know what’s amazing about driving for twelve hours through the middle of Kansas? Let me know when you find out.
Bouclier Captain America, for superheroes movie
Bouclier Captain America, for superheroes movie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, the point is that I’m away from my family for quite some time, and if that wasn’t bad enough, there are some very important events that I’ll be missing. Chief among these, and of most importance to my twelve-year-old, is the release of Captain America: Civil War. Launching today, as it happens, this is a movie event that he has been waiting for with bated breath since the first trailer was released almost a year ago. He’s just a little obsessed with the universe of Marvel comics, and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens couldn’t distract him from his anxiety over waiting to see this movie.

I’ve had to arrange for us both to see the movie simultaneously, 3,000 miles apart, so neither one of us knows how it goes down before the other. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the theater while he goes with his mother, and I expect a frantic FaceTime call within minutes of the final post-credit scene. This isn’t to say I’m not excited myself, but there’s little in this world to rival a twelve-year-old’s comic book obsession. In fact, it makes me wonder exactly how superheroes became so appealing to the masses. Why are iconic characters like Superman and Batman so indelible in our cultural memory, and where did they come from in the first place?

What Is a Superhero?

The first thing, I suppose, would be to define what makes a superhero in the first place. The most immediate answer in my mind would be, naturally, superpowers. Think Superman, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, or any of the X-Men. These are people who have some sort of ability that transcends those of normal humans. The ability to leap over tall buildings, stop bullets with their mind, or withstand pulverizing attacks, in many cases is what defines these superheroes and makes them stand out from the crowd of normals all around them.

Yet while this definition can apply to a majority of superheroes, there are some that don’t quite fit the bill. What superpowers, exactly, does Batman have? Other than being pretty tough and having a wealth of fancy gadgets, it can’t really be argued that Batman is anything more than a normal person with a strong will. The same could be said for Iron Man, or Ant Man, or even Wonder Woman (to an extent—she does have an element of super strength); none of these characters have any inherent ability. Some of them are rich—hence the gadgets—but can any superhero really possess wealth? Their alter ego certainly can, but is this then what makes a superhero super? Many do truly have a secret identity; Batman’s Bruce Wayne, Spiderman’s Peter Parker, and of course Superman’s Clark Kent.

But some superheroes defy even this convention; in particular, Marvel’s X-Men characters rarely pretend to be anything other than themselves, which frequently leads to the story’s central conflict—as mutants, they are shunned and hunted down by the society around them. And in Marvel’s cinematic series, even Tony Stark reveals himself as Iron Man early on (arguably to his own detriment, as evidenced by the sequels).

If not superpowers or alter egos, is perhaps strong will and determination, then, that make the superhero? It could certainly be said that each of the superheroes I’ve mentioned so far have strongly-held beliefs about good, evil, right and wrong; they (more often than not) fight the good fight, defeat their enemies, and save the world. In some cases they do so even at the risk of appearing as the villain themselves; Batman is frequently the target of police investigations as as vigilante, fighting crime with sometimes illegal and often morally gray methods. Sometimes they have unbreakable moral codes, although others have no qualms maiming or killing their enemies without a second thought. Some are heroes very reluctantly, and seek out desolate wildernesses to avoid human interaction (think Incredible Hulk, or even Wolverine).

Yet some superheroes work in morally dark places, doing whatever they feel like and not particularly caring who they hurt (Deadpool, I’m looking at you). In some instances, we even find ourselves rooting for the villain, because the hero is so ambiguous.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian (poster, ca. 1880)
Robin Hood and Maid Marian (poster, ca. 1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It would seem, then, that defining a superhero—at least on the surface—is not so straightforward as it might seem. So in that sense, what exactly makes a hero?

The Ancient Hero

The dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”. This, of course, applies to both fictional and real people—we often refer to real-life figures as ‘heroes’ of their respective doctrines—a scientific, political or humanitarian hero. Sometimes we have personal heroes—people who inspire us to become greater than ourselves.

Perhaps this is the best definition I can offer; a hero is someone who can inspire, who can lead, and who can cause change in the world. This change doesn’t always have to be down to themselves: perhaps the people they inspire are the ones who truly change the world, but the hero is that first initiator.

But what does this mean for fictional heroes? Are they any less, for failing to be real? Some, of course, have their roots in real people, while others have become so ingrained in myth and legend that it can be difficult to ascertain if they ever truly lived or not. Was Robin Hood real? Certainly Loxley, Nottingham and Sherwood are all very real places, and there were most definitely outlaws in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. What about King Arthur and his knights of the round table? Many of the historical references in his tales can be correlated to true events, but so much romance and exaggeration has been built up around the figure that it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction.

One of the most ancient heroes, of course, is Odysseus, from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey poems. Many of the characteristics of the archetypical hero are present: a strong person, both physically and mentally, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, fighting his way against evil and danger to regain that which he loves the most. Many of the central themes in The Odyssey, such as epic journeys, wandering lost, and being tested spiritually, can be traced throughout the history of literature to the present day. If one were to boil stories down to their bare components, it could be easily argued that every ‘epic’ tale owes its existence to Homer and his original tales.

Beowulf is another example of an ancient hero, often considered to be the first in the English language. Building on the frameworks set out by Homer, Beowulf sees the titular hero travel great distances, defeat terrible monsters and demons, fight temptation and gain great rewards. Beowulf is also a good example of a tragedy, in that—unlike The Odyssey—the main character dies at the end, though it is less of a tragedy than those of the earlier Greeks, or later of Shakespeare.

The Modern Superhero

Movie poster for 1920 film.
Movie poster for 1920 film.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Still, despite these characters being inarguably heroes, they aren’t what we would typically define as ‘superheroes’. Wikipedia references the word ‘superhero’ as dating to at least the 1910s, which despite being now a hundred years ago is definitely within the more modern realm of literature. Many would argue that Superman, or perhaps Batman, is the first true superhero, fitting many of the criteria outlined above—secret identity, supernatural powers, and fighting for the moral good. But were there precedents? Also on Wikipedia, a list of American superhero movies dating back to 1920 shows that five out of the first ten live-action films based on the traditional superhero trope are about a very different masked vigilante: Zorro.

Unlike nearly every superhero portrayal to follow, Zorro actually first appeared in 1919 in a serialized novel, The Curse of Capistrano. This prototypical hero possesses many of the characteristics that we now have come to associate with superheroes: masks, weapons, secret identities, exceptional skills and incorruptible morals. In the original novel (republished as The Mark of Zorro in 1924), the masked Zorro fights against corruption and evil characters who steal from and abuse the poor, while trying to win the affections of the beautiful Lolita Pulido. In many ways, of course, this feels reminiscent of Robin Hood, who fought against the same kind of corruption and for the hand of Maid Marian.

Still, Zorro predates almost any other superhero by nearly twenty years; it wasn’t until 1938 that the world was introduced to Superman, and the world of heroes changed forever. It’s likely that Superman’s success is a combination of luck and timing; comics were becoming increasingly popular as an entertainment medium, having grown out of the humorous illustrations of the 19th century periodicals. With the ever-growing threat of war from Europe in the late 1930s, a character who stood for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ was not only appealing but provides a deep insight into the psyche of American culture at the time. The specifics of the character’s origins are probably incidental; it wouldn’t have mattered if Superman had been a normal person like Zorro or not, as long as he protected his country from the very real forces of evil spreading from Germany.

So began what is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of comics, with many of the iconic superhero characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America originating from this period. Although the popularity of comics waned in the following decades, the characters lived on, translating to the silver screen over the years with varying levels of success. (One could argue that with the popularity of superhero films today, comics are seeing a correlated resurgence in popularity as well.) Classic films such as 1978’s Superman and 1989’s Batman have gone down in history as some of the best superhero adaptations ever created; others, such as 1990’s Captain America, have been long forgotten.

Where Are Literature’s Superheroes?

Superheroes, clearly, adapt well to the visual arts; their over-the-top antics and powers are well-suited to comics and film, where—especially with today’s CGI technology—anything can be visually represented. The suspension of disbelief is far easier in a film or comic, where if you can make something visually appear realistic, it’s likely to go over well.

The same can’t be so easily said for novels. In a medium where the reader has no choice but to imagine the scenarios painted by the writer, the author is presented with much more of a challenge in order to make certain things appear believable. In a comic strip, you can show, often in as little as two or three panels, Superman jumping over a skyscraper. How would that appear in a novel? Superman then jumped over the Empire State Building. The reader suddenly has some difficulty imagining it. Can you go into more depth? Perhaps—With a tense of his inhumanly powerful muscles, Superman kicked off from the ground, leaving cracks in the pavement below him. The wind whipped his hair as he sailed first hundreds, then thousands of feet into the air, soaring effortlessly over the highest spire of the Empire State Building. Yet all of this could be represented in a matter of seconds in comic or film.

The Violent Century
Is there an inherent disconnect between superheroes and literature? Is it impossible to represent larger-than-life heroes in a novel, or a short story? Perhaps not so much as you might think. In writing this article, I came across a fantastic website at Dedicated to discovering and reviewing superhero prose, it highlights a very overshadowed corner of literature. Novels such as The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar and Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne take top spot in their best of categories, and frankly make me want to find and read superhero novels.

Novels make their living, so to speak, by inviting the reader to imagine new people and worlds they had never thought of before. Certain stories are perfect for film, while others couldn’t exist in any form other than lengthy prose. Sometimes the two can be combined, though with difficulty; even with over twelve hours of back-to-back film, Peter Jackson only managed to touch on the depth and intricacies of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Conversely, sometimes the novelization of an original film can add in extra detail that, in some cases, detracts from the story itself.

The lesson herein is probably that each story has a preferred medium, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of other options as well. If a superhero can be portrayed successfully in comics and in film, then why not in a novel as well? The one thing novels are fantastic for is giving insight into the minds and thoughts of the characters. Personally, I’d love to know what Superman thinks about when he’s saving the world from Lex Luthor.

I will continue to enjoy Marvel’s roster of superhero films for as long as they want to churn them out. I’m very excited to see Civil War, and Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch this November has me chomping at the bit. I’ve never been too into comics, although I do enjoy them when I read them.

But the idea of superhero novels is new to me, and presents some exciting possibilities. While I might never find Superman or Batman in a 400-page novel, I can now begin to imagine that there could be certain superhero stories—particularly, in my mind, the reluctant hero type—that would lend themselves better to a long piece of prose than to foreshortened comic panels or a two-hour film. I for one will be looking into the offerings at, and I can’t wait to discover a new world of fiction.

Have you read any superhero novels? What are your favorite forms of media for portraying these kinds of stories? Let me know!

Chris: features writer. Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris' creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgement that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at

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May 5, 2016

Review: An Invincible Summer by Betta Ferrendelli

review by Donna Huber

An Invincible Summer by Betta Ferrendelli was one of the books that came in right around the time when I was diagnosed with a dislocated collarbone. I was so looking forward to reading this book, but with an arm that was immobilized for 6 weeks and then didn't have the strength to even hold a book until after several weeks of physical therapy I didn't get to pick it up until April.

An Invincible Summer
Jaime Monroe pummeled the heavy bag in an Ali-like flutter of powerful punches.
The first time she put on a pair of boxing gloves, she felt like a cartoon character.
Until she hit the bag.
Then her adrenaline began to surge, sweat ran and she felt powerful.
An avid athlete, she excelled in all sports, but boxing was her outlet. It toughened her for long hours as a deputy district attorney in the Domestic Violence Unit of the Denver County District Attorney's Office. At twenty-eight, Jaime was in her third year of the demanding, high-stress job, which she worked with an ardent passion. Boxing sharpened and focused her attention, cleared her mind. It was a stress-management tool she used to turn negative emotion into positive energy.
Tonight, well into an intense workout, sweat darkened her gray T-shirt and clung to her slender back.
An image of Kelly Jo Cox's broken and battered body flashed before and Jaime stepped back from the heavy bag, tasting bile in her throat.
The opening page had me hooked and I couldn't wait to get home each day so I could read. If I could have I would have read it non-stop, unfortunately real life (ie work and sleep) didn't allow for that.

I don't know if it was the shared interest in working out or the fact that Jaime worked with victims of domestic violence, but I instantly connected with her.

Interestingly, this book isn't as dark as the opening scene implies. It also isn't heavily crime fiction or judicial procedural. I would be tempted to classify it as women's fiction. I loved the developing relationships between Jaime and Leigh and Jaime and Ashleigh. The minor characters of Erin and Tia were also great and really added a layer to the main characters.

You know I love character driven stories and An Invincible Summer is definitely all about the characters.

However, I also found the social justice issue at the center of the plot very interesting.

An Invincible Summer is set in the 1990s when great strides were being made for people with mental disabilities. Ashleigh is a twenty-something with an IQ of about 70. I don't think it is stated in the book what her disability is as in the 90s mental retardation was the umbrella term, but from the descriptions I think it is Down's Syndrome. Her mother, Leigh, is Ashleigh's legal guardian and wants to have her sterilized. In addition to her limited IQ, Ashleigh is also predisposed for diabetes as a functional hypoglycemic. Ashleigh is moving out of the group home and into a limited supervised apartment and has taken a job at the mall. This scares her mother. Leigh is afraid she will be taken advantage of and a pregnancy could be detrimental to Ashleigh's health.

The legal question at hand though is whether or not Ashleigh is mentally competent to decide to make her own decision on this matter.

And this is where my first complaint with the book came in. While it was made clear upfront in the story that the court hearing was about deciding Ashleigh's competency, once the case went to before the judge it was clearly focused on whether or not Ashleigh should have the operation and focused on her health and not so much her decision making ability.

It frustrated me, though maybe it was accurate and courts in the 1990s hearing such cases did lose the focus. But it made me question how good of a lawyer Jaime is if she didn't steer the focus through objections and opening/closing remarks. I was glad when Drew brought the real issue back to the forefront - whether or not it should be Ashleigh's choice.

My other complaint was that some of the minor plot threads didn't feel fully wrapped up or tied in a sloppy bow. I'm hoping that this is just the start of a series where we will get to see more of Jaime's life.

Overall though I really loved An Invincible Summer. Betta Ferrendelli is an excellent writer and story teller and I look forward to reading more from her. It would be a great book to toss into your beach bag this summer.

Buy An Invincible Summer at Amazon

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances. Donna is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer.

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (364 pages)
published: September 2015
ISBN13: 9781518615085
genres: legal, suspense, family life
source: publicist

Top image credit:By Michael D Beckwith (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 
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May 4, 2016

Review: Hex On The Beach by Gina LaManna

review by Elisa Hordon

Finally here it is, I get so excited when one of my favourite authors begins a new series. Hex On The Beach is book 1 of The Magic & Mixology Mystery Series by Gina Lamanna. Gina is also the author of the Lacey Luzzi Mysteries and the Misty Newman Mysteries.

Lily Locke has just found out she is a 'Witch', but does she really believe? Would you?

One day Lily was working in marketing and loving the fast paced word that was her life, she thrived on the stress and deadlines, but then it was all gone after the biggest pitch of her life went to hell in a hand basket.

Hex on the BeachLily tries to drown her sorrows behind her favourite bar with hilarious results. When Lily's aunts arrive things get even funnier, considering Lily had no idea she had Aunts. I especially love the quiz Lily has to take, where can I get one of those?

Lily Locke is no fool, but can she really trust these people who claim she is family and then they claim she is a witch and the only one who can help them, this set's the scene for a great story, family drama and a mystery within a bigger mystery.

Considering Lily has no job and no life why not go with it and follow her Aunts, what could go wrong? and this is how Lily finds herself on an island studying to become a 'Mixologist' with a grumpy curmudgeon named Gus, and a family that are totally worth getting to know for the entertainment value alone.

Lily is a wonderful character she is strong, stubborn, sassy and she knows just how to handle even the craziest of people, Lily also has a dash of sweet naivety to her personality that makes for some embarrassingly hilarious moments.

Lily has only been on the island a few days and she has met her aunts, cousins and her grandmother, now she is embroiled in murder and mayhem will soon follow at this rate.

The mysterious Ranger X steps into Lily's path to solve the murder and keep Lily safe, but who is this Mysterious Ranger X and can he really keep Lily safe, solve the mystery and keep his distance all at the same time. Time will tell because the air just explodes with chemistry whenever Ranger X and Lily are near each other but is this the start of a wonderful love story, an interesting friendship or a broken heart, I cannot wait to find out.

Lily's cousins Poppy the vampire with a blood intolerance and Zin the shifter who struggles with shifting add to the story so well I can see the three of them becoming more like sisters over time and when we factor in that Zin is one of 7 siblings we have not met yet I am even more excited to read future books in this series.

Hex on the Beach is well written, I love how Gina changes things up and mixes the supernatural order within Lily's family and I really love the bigger mystery that will flow from book to book connecting everything, while still having a smaller mystery to solve within each book and can Lily stop the bad guys and maybe even win Ranger X over....

I am really looking forward to Witchy Sour Book 2 in the Magic & Mixology Mystery Series due out June 2016.

Buy Hex on the Beach at Amazon

Elisa Hordon, reviewerElisa lives on the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia were she spends her days reading, journaling, painting, cooking and home schooling her daughter. She has always been an avid reader, Elisa loves reading many genres of books except horror; her favourite genres would be mystery, romance and paranormal. Elisa also loves pursuing many creative outlets if she is not relaxing with a book she can be found writing, sketching, painting or cooking. Elisa loves to share her obsession with books especially with her family and friends. Reading and reviewing books is a favourite pastime of Elisa’s.

Book info:
available formats: ebook (247 pages)
published: April 2016 by LaManna Books
genres: cozy mystery, paranormal
source: author

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May 3, 2016

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

review by Susan Roberts

The Secrets of Flight

It is so wonderful to read a book with an older main character. I get so tired of reading books about 20 somethings that reading about 87 year old Mary is a breath of fresh air. And to top that its a wonderful book with two strong main characters. Along with Mary and her secrets, there is 15 year old Elyse who wants to be a writer and who becomes Mary's friend and helper. A very strong bond is built between the two characters as Mary shares the secrets of her life with the teenager. The author did great research into the women pilot's of WWII and more needs to be written about these often forgotten heroic women. There is much more in the novel and in Mary's life than her time as a pilot and with Elyse's help, she is able to reveal it all. This is a wonderful book. Its both a coming of age story of Elyse but also an summation of life story for Mary.

Buy The Secrets of Flight at Amazon

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan grew up in the Detroit area but after deciding that city life wasn't for her she moved to North Carolina after college. She and her husband have several acres of land and they enjoy gardening and canning vegetables in the summer. They travel extensively and just returned from a month in Paris. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. You can connect with Susan on Facebook or Twitter.

Book info:
available formats: ebook & print (368 pages)
published: May 2016 by
ISBN13: 9780062427922
genres: historical fiction
source: LibraryThing

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May 2, 2016

Laura Libricz: Magic Me a Meal! #MondayBlogs

What’s for dinner tonight?

Have a look in the pantry, see what you have, what you’re hungry for, and throw together something delicious. There’s a German idiom for just this situation that goes: schnell ein Essen zaubern! And that more or less means: magic me a meal! Let’s go back to the 17th century, specifically in Franconia, Germany: the absence of mod-cons, the hardship and toil and war, and eating whatever one is offered. How can we make a days-old leg of mutton or an old rabbit and some shriveled root vegetables edible let alone taste good? Magic me a meal!

Before we even think of cooking, we have to get this kitchen warm. Unfortunately, we used all the wood during the night because it was chilly and we have to find more wood. And if the fire went out altogether, we need either some embers from another fire or some dried straw, a flint stone, and a knife to get one going. Lug the firewood, light the fire, sit by until it’s burning. Once the fire is going we need water. The buckets are empty. Lug the water from the well, enough to cook with, and for whatever else we may need water for.

Looking in the cellar, I have carrots, onions, and some parsley root that has been stored in dry sand since September. They have shriveled up but they aren’t rotten. Once they are cooked they’ll taste good. A skinned wild rabbit has been hanging here for two days. It smells a bit gamey but it still looks useable. The cellar has a constant temperature summer and winter. (If I had a thermometer, it would probably be around 8° C or 45° F.) We still have some winter apples. These apples store nicely and are also a bit shriveled. In the garden I can dig up a horseradish root. Some kale is still standing in the garden because the spring hasn’t been that warm yet. Kale can stay out in the garden all winter.

We are lucky enough to have a master who is a traveling merchant, so we have pepper and cinnamon. And salt. We would die without salt. Not only does the body need salt to function, we need salt to preserve food. Last autumn, we dried salted deer meat and carp meat. We used all the grain last week and won’t have any more for another week or more. All we have left is old dried bread and ground acorns. The wine is sour but it actually tastes good in the cooking. The chickens have finally started laying again now that it’s spring so we have eggs. Lots of eggs. And the goat is still giving milk.

The fire is burning nicely atop the open hearth and all the chores are done so we can start cooking without being drawn away. Embers are gathered under a metal tripod and small pots set on top. The large iron pot can be hung from the chain rammed into the stone wall if we needed to cook a big meal but it won’t be necessary today. The smoke from the fire goes out the open flue but our eyes are still stinging and watering. The only outside light comes from a small window on the other side of the kitchen.

Chopping onions really makes our eyes water now. We chop some dried deer meat as well and then heat some fat in the pan, throw the onions and the deer meat into the pan, and let it fry. After it browns, we pour a half a bottle of that sour wine over the top. Zisch! Fumes from the sizzling wine and onions fill the kitchen and our mouths water! We sink the rabbit into the Sud, the stock. The sour wine will hide the gamey taste. Add salt, pepper and some cinnamon. In the garden, we pick sage leaves, just a few, some lavender, and a bit of rosemary that survived the winter. And we just gathered some Bärlauch, or wild garlic. This tasty herb can only be found in April and May, so we need to make the most of it. We can preserve some for later but it tastes best when it’s fresh.

Our main course is simmering away and we can think about side dishes and maybe even a dessert! So, carrots, old bread, ground acorns, eggs, milk, apples, cinnamon. Fresh kale and horseradish. Do we have any honey left? We decide to make a savory porridge out of water, carrots, onions, and ground acorns, salt and pepper. That will fill the belly. There will only be a mouthful of meat per person anyway. We put all of it in a pot and allow the savory porridge to simmer along side the rabbit. And how about a handful of chopped kale fried in fat with a bit of salt and topped with some freshly grated horseradish and a spoonful of rare goat’s cream?

Dessert: just because this is historical doesn’t mean we have to suffer! Old bread, milk, yes we have honey, apples. Let’s make a pudding. We heat the milk and apples and add the honey. The master also knows a beekeeper who is high up in the guild so we can get honey. It seems to disappear rapidly though. (I love honey.) Whisk in two eggs and watch it thicken. Then pour it over the pan filled with dried bread, set the pan on top of the hearth in a warm spot and hope it thickens more. If we had a fire in the oven we could bake it. But the oven is outside and we only stoke that up when we’re baking bread.

The rabbit should be done by now so we thicken the stock by crumbling the old bread into it. After spending the last two hours cooking, we are tasting our dishes more than we have to. The people we are cooking for hover around the kitchen like wolves who have smelled blood. We settle at the table and after a prayer of thanks to those forces we believe in, the room quiets at the task of devouring our delicious meal!

About the Author:

Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.
She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing historical fiction, she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of Höfner musical instruments into the world market.
Her first historical novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven's Pond Trilogy and will be released June 2016. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.
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May 1, 2016

New Books - May 2016

Who needs new books to read? Okay may NEED isn't the right word since we probably have piles of books to read taller than ourselves. Perhaps WANT is a better word and I want several on this list! ~Donna

The Crown
Kiera Cass’s bestselling Selection series has enchanted readers from the very first page. Now the end of the journey is here, in a wonderfully romantic series finale that will sweep you off your feet.

Twenty years have passed since the events of The One, and America and Maxon’s daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Princess Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you... and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

The Selection series has sold more than 3 million copies and captured the hearts of fans around the world. This swoon-worthy final installment is the happily ever after they’ve all been waiting for.

Available May 3
Buy The Crown at Amazon

The Hidden Oracle
How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.

But Apollo has many enemies - gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Available May 3
Buy The Hidden Oracle at Amazon

Sins of Past
Three Novellas from Bestselling Authors

In Dee Henderson's "Missing," a Wyoming sheriff is called to Chicago when his elderly mother goes missing. Paired with a savvy Chicago cop, the two realize her disappearance is no accident, and a race against the clock begins.

Dani Pettrey returns to Alaska with "Shadowed," introducing readers to the parents of her beloved McKenna clan. Adventure, romance, and danger collide when a young fisherman nets the body of an open-water swimming competitor who may actually be a possible Russian defector.

Lynette Eason's "Blackout" delivers the story of a woman once implicated in a robbery gone wrong. The loot has never been found--but her memory of that night has always been unreliable. Can she remember enough to find her way to safety when the true culprit comes after her?

Available May 3
Buy Sins of the Past at Amazon

Traces of Guilt
A riveting cold-case mystery from Dee Henderson

Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job.

Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have. . . .

When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie's determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

Available May 3
Buy Traces of Guilt at Amazon

Just Say Maybe
Award-winning author Tracy March follows up Should’ve Said No (“Wonderfully quirky . . . a pleasure to read!”—Laura Drewry) with this enchanting novel set in Thistle Bend, Colorado, a magical place where old wrongs are righted, and adventure leads to true love.

Real estate lawyer Holly Birdsong’s hike in the Rockies takes an unexpected turn when a smokin’-hot stranger tumbles off his bike and into her path. Turns out he’s purchasing the abandoned Lodge at Wild Rose Ridge, and Holly agrees to take him on as a client—despite her family’s traumatic history with the previous owner, who shamelessly abused the town’s goodwill at every turn. But when their professional relationship turns personal, Holly must reconcile the past with her hopes for the future.

Adding the rustic lodge to his portfolio of adventure properties isn’t just a business decision for Bryce Bennett. The rugged mountains also offer a killer setting for his extreme-sports camps for at-risk teens. What’s not in the blueprints is finding a kindred spirit in his irresistible lawyer, even if she seems apprehensive about getting involved in the deal. Bryce’s plan to ease her mind just might work, as long as no one discovers his secret. Yet he can’t stand hiding the truth from the woman who makes him want to build something permanent: a happily ever after.

Available May 3
Buy Just Say Maybe at Amazon

Royal Wedding Disaster
You are invited to a Genovian Royal Wedding in this second book pulled FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS, a Princess Diaries spin-off series, written and illustrated by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Cabot.

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison still finds it hard to believe that she's a real live PRINCESS OF GENOVIA. Not only does she get to live in an actual palace with her newly discovered family and two fabulous poodles (who all love her and think that she's anything but ordinary!) but she also gets her very own PONY!

Of course, things aren't going exactly like she imagined. Her half-sister Mia is very busy learning how to take over the country while trying to plan a wedding and her father is actually getting remarried himself-to Mia's mother!-and spends most of his time "renovating" the summer palace, although Grandmere says he is just hiding from the wedding preparations. Olivia hardly gets to see either of them.

Fortunately, Grandmere has her own plans for Mia's wedding, and needs Olivia's help to pull them off. Just when Olivia starts to think that things are going to work out after all, the palace is invaded by a host of new cousins and other royals who all seem to be angry at Olivia (although Grandmere says they are just jealous).

As the day of the wedding gets closer and closer, Olivia becomes more and more worried. For such a carefully planned event, it seems like a LOT of things are going wrong... Can Olivia keep this royal wedding from becoming a royal disaster?

Available May 10
Buy Royal Wedding Disaster at Amazon

The Country Road, A Tree
From the best-selling author of  Longbourn,  a stunning new novel that follows an unnamed writer--Samuel Beckett--whose life and extraordinary literary gift are permanently shaped in the forge of war.

When war breaks out in Europe in 1939, a young, unknown writer journeys from his home in neutral Ireland to conflict-ridden Paris and is drawn into the maelstrom. With him we experience the hardships yet stubborn vibrancy at the heart of Europe during the Nazis' rise to power; his friendships with James Joyce and other luminaries; his quietly passionate devotion to the Frenchwoman who will become his lifelong companion; his secret work for the French Resistance and narrow escapes from the Gestapo; his flight from occupied Paris to the countryside; and the rubble of his life after liberation. And through it all we are witness to workings of a uniquely brilliant mind struggling to create a language that will express his experience of this shattered world. Here is a remarkable story of survival and determination, and a portrait of the extremes of human experience alchemized into timeless art.

Available May 17
Buy A Country Road, A Tree at Amazon

Medical Judgment
Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They've stalked her and set a fire at her home. Trying to recover from the traumatic deaths of her husband and infant daughter is tough enough, but she has no idea what will come next. Her late husband's best friend and a recovering alcoholic detective are trying to solve the mystery before it's too late, but both appear to be vying for her affection as well. Sarah finds herself in constant fear as the process plays out.

As the threats on her life continue to escalate, so do the questions: Who is doing this? Why are they after her? And with her only help being unreliable suitors in competition with each other, whom can she really trust?

Available May 17
Buy Medical Judgment at Amazon

Spirits, Rock Stars and a Midnight Chocolate Bar
Pyper Rayne is back in book two of this popular spin off of the Jade Calhoun series. Join her and the rest of the gang as they battle ghosts on a cruise liner to the Caribbean.

Available May 24
Buy Spirits, Rock Stars and a Midnight Chocolate Bar at Amazon

Every Exquisite Thing
Nanette O'Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hardworking student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bugglegum Reaper--a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic--the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion sometimes comes at a high price.

Available March 31
Buy Every Exquisite Thing at Amazon

The Island House
The charms of Nantucket tempt a woman to leave her established life in Kansas City—but with a piece of her heart, and a love interest, in each world, she discovers she must look within to choose the right path.

Every summer since college, twenty-nine-year-old Jenny has traded the familiarity of the Midwest for the allure of Nantucket. Now an established university professor in Kansas City, she finds herself caught between two lifestyles and two very different men. She chooses Nantucket and the glamorous life she associates with it, unaware that the summer will take an unexpected turn, and she will have to let her heart decide what it truly wants.

Available March 31
Buy The Island House at Amazon

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