Winner of Josh’s Birthday contest

Thanks to all of you who wished Josh a happy birthday. It created some heavy sighing and eyerolling in my direction. Exactly what I was going for! Love you, honey!

Thanks to RowFeeder, all of the Twitter entries were fed directly into a spreadsheet. I added all of the comments from the birthday post, and used Random.org to draw a random integer.

The winner of Josh’s birthday contest is…

Trish, who was the first commenter on Josh’s birthday post.

Congrats, Trish. I have your email address so I’ll arrange to get your prize to you 😉

In the meantime, if you didn’t win, don’t despair. There’s another contest tomorrow!

Brandy Slush

This is a perfect summer drink. Last week I was at a friend’s house for a gathering (girls’ night out type of thing) and she served these as we sat outside (near the pool) and gossiped. She made hers from apricot brandy. I knew I had some peach brandy I’d been looking for a use for, so I decided to come home and make them. They’re delicious. Fruity and cool and sweet.

There are several versions of this recipe on allrecipes.com and they’re all slightly different. I’m going to share my friend Jennifer’s recipe, since that’s the one I made and I know it tastes good. Then I’ll tell you what I’ll do differently next time.

Jennifer’s Apricot Brandy Slushy recipe

Ingredients:

Make 2 cups of really strong tea (3-4 tea bags)

Add…
1 – 12 oz. can of Frozen Orange Juice
1 – 12 oz. can of Frozen Lemonade

After thawed add…
1 1/4 cups of sugar

After sugar is dissolved add…
1 1/2 cups of Apricot Brandy
7 cups of water

Freeze overnight (it’s a lot of liquid so it will take at least overnight. It will freeze to a hard slush consistency because of the alcohol)

To serve: scoop desired amount into a cup then add clear soda (7-up, Sprite, Sierra Mist) to make “slushy”. Serve with a stirring straw.

Okay, so what would I do differently? I’d probably not use flavored brandy at all. This is really sweet and after I made it, I was thinking I could have halved the sugar, but using non-flavored brandy would work as well. I did use peach brandy, but I also added a 1/2 cup of vodka because I wanted it a little stronger. If making it again, I’d use 2 to 2 1/2 cups of brandy and only one cup of sugar. And while I used black tea (Lipton’s tea bags) one recipe suggested using green tea. That might be tasty!

Also note, this makes a small metric ton of slushy, so if you don’t want that much, you could halve the recipe. I’m going to take it to a party tomorrow, so ours won’t go to waste, but next time, I’ll make half a batch.

 

2014 update: I now make this exactly as the recipe above states, except I use 2 cups regular brandy & 1 cup peach rum (you could use peach schnapps or peach brandy, or apricot flavored alcohol too). Doing it this way solved the “too sweet” problem.

Thursday reads: Steampunk!

First, I finished up A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede, which I mentioned here last week. In this case, finishing up means reading book 2, since it was actually a two-book omnibus. I enjoyed book one but I liked book two even more. Though the storylines are all nicely tied up, I liked the characters so much I looked to see if the author had ever written more books in that world, but sadly she had not. Recommended.

Next I read a few samples, and emailed with Jane and Sarah, to see what might catch my attention. One of the samples I read was Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I liked the sample but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $8.99 for it. I’ve put it on my “maybe if the price comes down” list.

I also read the sample of Almost to Die For: A Vampire Princess Novel by Tate Hallaway but it fell in the same category as Leviathan. I liked the sample, but not well enough to pay $8.99 for it.

So I moved on to looking at my existing books because, seriously? I have a load of them. I realized that Amazon had auto-delivered Katherine Allred’s second Alien Affairs book, Close Contact: An Alien Affairs Novel, Book 2, back in June (I’d pre-ordered it) and I should read it. But first I decided to re-read Close Encounters. I read Close Encounters last year when it released and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a futuristic romance fan and I thought the worldbuilding in Close Encounters was superb, as was the development of both the romantic relationship and the heroine (who is really the main focus of the book). I liked it just as well in re-read, and was quite satisfied when I “closed” the book (I read digitally so it’s not quite the same as closing the book). Close Encounters is recommended.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Close Contact: An Alien Affairs Novel, Book 2 nearly as well, and it’s not a book I’d reread. I didn’t dislike it, but I was actively aware of its flaws as I was reading. I found this heroine (also the focus of the book) less easy to warm up to and not as likeable. In fact, I found her a bit silly. Because of that silliness, there were areas of the book that felt overdramatic to me, and I never bought into the romantic relationship as much as I did in the first book. Overall, if I’d picked up Close Contact first, I probably would not have moved on to another book, because while it was fine, it didn’t ring my bells. However, since I have seen what the author can do in Close Encounters, I’ll be looking forward to a third book in this world (which continues to be very well drawn, despite my reservations about this particular book).

In the interest of continuing to read books I have, I decided to move on to Nalini Singh and Meljean Brook. First, I read both of their offerings in Burning Up. I’m a long, longtime fan of Nalini’s work, so I wasn’t surprised to love her novella, Whispers of Sin, in this book. But Meljean’s novella–Here There Be Monsters–is an introduction to her upcoming steampunk, The Iron Duke, and oh my Lord, I loved this novella so much. So much that I was really, incredibly thankful I have Iron Duke because I didn’t want to leave that world. Love. I admit that I didn’t read the other two novellas in this book, but I think it’s worth it just for these two novellas.

So, currently reading? The Iron Duke I’m just over halfway through it. It was hard to work today because I wanted to be reading. Actually, I want to be reading now so it was hard to take the time to write this post. So far, I’m loving it. Meljean Brook is a master at steampunk. This world is…incredible. I want to read faster to find out what happens, but slow down because there’s not another book in the world to read! Final report next week but right now? So recommended!

Happy Birthday to @themisterjoshua Contest!

For those of you not on Twitter and living in my Twitter world, @themisterjoshua is my husband. And today is his birthday. I’m not going to tell you how old he is, but I’ll be 35 next week and he’s 2 years older than me (okay, I only didn’t tell you if you can’t add). I’ve been wanting to hold a contest here on the blog, because I have a small ton of promo items and signed books from RT and RWA that I need to give away. I figured the occasion of Josh’s birthday makes for a good excuse, no?

Maybe you’re wondering about this dude we’re having a contest in honor of. That’s him, on the Magic Carpet ride with Brianna at Disney. He’s a cool dad, very fun (but still stern, he doesn’t leave the parenting to me!). If it’s a choice between Mommy or Daddy doing bedtime, Daddy gets picked hands down because he’ll have her screaming with laughter. He’s Brianna’s biggest fan and supporter. It’s obvious he loves his girl and believes she can do anything she sets her mind to.

He’s also an amazing husband. He thinks he’s not, so he’s always trying harder to be. He spoils me, he’s an excellent partner in life and he makes me laugh. A lot. Even when I’m cranky. He makes me martinis (I’m drinking one he made as I write this), he listens when I talk and he’s fun to go on dates with. It’s easy to see how we became friends and then it turned into something more. I’m very lucky to have him.

And I want to share that good fortune with you. So we’re going to celebrate his birthday with a massive giveaway. Here’s what you can win:

1) Canvas tote bag from RWA.

2) A Carina Press water bottle (really nice one, like we gave out at RWA)

3) A Carina Press portfolio and pen

4) Signed books by these authors.

JR Ward. Yes, I said JR Ward. I have a signed copy of Dark Lover here for giveaway

Skin Game by Ava Gray

Rebels and Lovers by Linnea Sinclair

Fault Line by Barry Eisler

Lessons Learned by Kate Davies.

Those are all signed by the authors!

5) Books (none signed):

The Truth About Lord Stonevill by Sabrina Jeffries

The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey

Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr

The Intrigue Collection (Harlequin anthology)

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson

There you go! Ten books, 5 signed, 5 not, plus some promo items. But wait! There’s more!

6) Carina Press free download of your choice.

7) Mickey Mouse coffee mug (in honor of our Disney trip)

There you go, a massive gift for you to celebrate my husband’s birthday. What do you have to do to win? Two ways to enter:

1) If you’re on Twitter, go wish @themisterjoshua happy birthday and include the hashtag #b-daywish (that’s the exact tag I’ll be tracking) and this link: http://ow.ly/2r2kz

example: Happy birthday @themisterjoshua #b-daywish http://bit.ly/drUuGy (you need to include the hashtag, I’m tracking entries via the hashtag, even though it doesn’t show up as a “proper” hashtag bcuz of the dash. It’s okay, I’m still tracking it!)

But, of course, you should feel free to be more creative with your birthday wishes.

2) If you’re not on Twitter, wish him happy birthday here in the comments.

Contest notes/rules: The contest will run until Saturday, August 21st and I’ll choose and announce a winner on Monday. You’ll need to come back and see if you’re the winner and claim your prize. The contest is open internationally but international winners (those outside the US) must be willing to pay shipping. I’m sorry, but experience tells me shipping for a package of this weight would be around $50 so if you’re not able to help with that, please don’t enter. Please enter only once, either here or on Twitter. Good luck!

But most of all…happy birthday to my husband. I love you!

Don’t count on being a Cinderella story

Last week agent Rachelle Gardner had a guest post from one of her authors. The post is a great one, about what happens when you receive edits–after your book has been contracted. You should read it, it has wonderful things to say. But in the course of the post I read this:

The story had been re-written and revised much already, but I’ll be honest: many of the suggested changes were things I’d secretly feared were needed. I had tried to work them out and finally concluded that it would take far too much work; they were impossible to fix. The story would just have to do. I’d pitched the book, hoping someone would take pity on the little waif and love it in spite of a few flaws.

Blinding Truth Alert: Since the book and I were contracted with an agent (YAY!!), it was now my job—my duty—to fix those impossible flaws. Uh . .

The reason this part caught my eye is because I hear this quite a bit from authors. They’ve gotten feedback, maybe that dreaded contest feedback we talked about last week, feedback from a critique partner, or beta reader. Maybe feedback from an editor they won a critique from, or an editor who rejected their manuscript or suggested revisions. Either way, they’ve gotten this feedback but they decided “it would take far too much work” to fix and they were going to let the book be as is, and hope someone loved it anyway.

It’s clear that this can work out just fine, as it did for the author of this post, but for the most part, don’t count on yours being the Cinderella story, with the HEA coming despite seemingly insurmountable problems or flaws, having your Prince (or Princess) Charming find you and choose you, even if your manuscript looks like a frog (I’m totally mixing my fairy tales, sue me) . In today’s world of publishing, budgets are getting tighter, staff is being streamlined, and editors are being called on to do much, much more than just edit. Often editing doesn’t even take place during the editor’s normal work hours, but at home, in the evenings, and on weekends. In other words, many editors are more and more looking for production-ready manuscripts that don’t need significant changes or revisions. They have to be vehemently passionate about a story to take on one that’s going to mean more hours and weekends at home spent editing.

I think the Blinding Truth Alert in the post should have actually read that it was the author’s job to fix those impossible flaws…before the book was ever contracted. This time, it worked out, but not every author can expect that same happy ending. Publishing is hard work. I think, in some ways, it gets harder for authors–especially aspiring authors or midlist authors–every day. It’s not enough to just write the book. You have to love it and you have to work at getting it published, which includes getting critiques, listening to feedback, and yep, doing what might seem impossible (or undesirable) and fixing even what you might not have previously wanted to fix. Don’t count on Prince(ss) Charming (in the form of an editor or agent) to rescue your manuscript from its warts . Use your magic keyboard to get rid of them yourself, and create your own happy ending.

Disney Day 2: Magic Kingdom

In my continued mission to give Annmarie what she asked for (more pictures of Brianna), I bring you day 2 of our Disney vacation. Don’t worry, I’m only sharing 4 days (the 4 parks) and I’m keeping it down to one a week. But Magic Kingdom is the day that has my very favorite pictures from our trip so this is going to be a really picture-intensive post.

Arriving at Magic Kingdom:

My brother Adam. His first time at Disney!

Magic Carpet ride:

Brianna with Prince Eric and Ariel:

Now for the big part of the day. Brianna went to Bippidy Boppity Boutique and got princessified. It was actually a really great deal. I’d bought the Cinderella dress on eBay before our trip and we snuck it into our backpack that morning, because the whole thing was a surprise for B. We didn’t have reservations (because I like to live dangerously like that) but had no problem getting an appointment for the time period we wanted. So for the price, B got to get changed into her dress, get her hair, nails and makeup done. The price included the tiara ($10) and the Mickey barrette ($10) as well as a bag with her palette of makeup, 2 bottles of nail polish, and face decals. Those things alone were worth around $30-$35 total, so we only paid about $20 for the services themselves. SO worth it. Here’s some of the process:

My goofy girl. the beginning:

Bippidy…Boppidy…

Boo!

Now, they do a “big reveal” where they turn the princess around and let her finally see herself in the mirror. B’s face truly lit up. I didn’t get any pictures but the Disney photographer did. Unfortunately, I’m an idiot and I lost that PhotoPass, even though I KNOW better and knew I needed to take a picture of the number on the back in event of losing it. Argh. So I don’t have pictures of that and I’m sad about it.

Next, we had reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table for a late lunch, right across from the boutique. This was magical for all of us (and the food was surprisingly good). Well worth the expensive price and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

First you get your picture taken with Cinderella

You get to color and wait for the other princesses to come to your table while you start with appetizers

Everyone gets either a wand or a sword (For the boys) and a wishing star or two. During the meal, they do a small “ceremony” with the entire dining room where everyone wishes.

Right behind us during the ceremony is Snow White. I love this picture:

Then, after it was over she came over to the table for pictures:


Sleeping Beauty:

Ariel (there’s another picture of B and Ariel that’s my favorite picture of the trip but I’m saving it for Wednesday):

Belle:

And, finally, Cinderella’s Castle, which really is magical, inside and out:

This day was the only day we experienced any rain, and it was several downpours, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the day because we’d brought ponchos. It did stop me from taking too many more pictures at Magic Kingdom, though.

At the end of the day, we decided to take the monorail from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, just so Adam could experience it. There’s a few pictures from that as well:

Texas Salsa from Author Gail Dayton

Note: I imported all of my posts from Whipped Out but I’ve been trying to go through and grab tutorials and some of the recipes that I didn’t post, so we still have them. This was one of those.

Dec._010

Hi, y’all! Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Joyous [Insert your Holiday of Preference]!

I am a writer. Heart’s Blood (steampunk fantasy romance) will be out in January, but I actually spend more time cooking, taking care of family members and doing laundry than I do writing. (Cleaning? What’s that?) Yeah, I’m a writer, but I’m a wife and daughter and mom and grandmother first.

I’ve been enjoying the Whipped Out blog since it started, partly because it makes me think about cooking and creativity and other stuff. For instance:

Some folks talk about how America is becoming homogenized, and people eat the same things everywhere in the country—which is true. I love learning about and trying new recipes from all over the world, like many of you.

But eating patterns—especially favorites and holiday foods—are still regional, and cultural. I contend that a person’s culture can be determined by what they eat on holidays. For instance, if you eat latkes on Hanukkah, (of sweet potatoes or white) one can be fairly certain that you are Jewish. Those who eat haggis on Hogmanay have got to be Scottish, because who else would eat haggis? (I have tasted haggis, and actually, it’s not that bad. It’s not that great…but it’s not awful. It just sounds awful.)

And of course, if you have tamales on Christmas Eve and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, it’s a sure bet that you are a Texan. Texas is both part of the Old South and on the Mexican border, so we get both in our food culture. Even those with Spanish surnames who have been born and raised in Texas will eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s. They’re not going to pass up any chance for luck.

Being a Texan, I have made tamales from scratch—but they are definitely labor-intensive, so unless I have a big bunch of people available for the labor, I’ll hit up one of the local Mexican restaurants for my couple dozen Christmas Eve tamales, and make the salsa to go with them.

Pace Picante Sauce isn’t bad, if that’s all you can get, but even in the dead of winter, it’s just about as cheap to make your own, and it tastes a LOT better.

I made a batch of salsa last week, and thought of the Whipped Out gang, so I’m going to share the (very adjustable) recipe with y’all. (I only have pictures—of the end product—because I didn’t think of blogging about it till after it was cooking… You can see how full the pot was to start with. Also, notice how the chip isn’t sinking. The big pink-red tomato chunks are the tomatoes out of the can.) This batch made about a gallon of salsa. I had one quart jar, plus 3 quart-sized Tupperware containers full. Very full.

Dec._011

SALSA PICANTE

1. TOMATOES. Start with several pounds of tomatoes. Whatever’s cheapest and as ripe as you can get them. Roma, Beefsteak—anything but cherry (I don’t use them because they’re expensive and it’s hard to get enough, but if you have your own plants and your bowl runneth over, then use ‘em!). They all work. One summer I bought a whole flat of seconds at the fruit stand in Hedley, Texas for $4. They don’t have to be pretty. They can even be a little uber-ripe. If tomatoes are really expensive, you can fill in with cans of diced tomatoes. That works just fine. You will adjust your amounts of other things according to how many tomatoes you have.

In my most recent batch, I used about 4 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes and two big cans of diced. (I should have bought petite diced, because the canned tomatoes were in Big chunks.) This batch filled my Dutch oven to the top before it started cooking.

2. ONIONS. Get about half as many onions as you have tomatoes, by size, not weight. If your pile of tomatoes fills your Dutch oven (before they’re chopped), then you’ll need onions to half fill it.

I used 1 1/2 of those big sweet 1015 onions in my recent batch. (They were Big onions. Smaller onions, I’d probably have used 2 1/2. I had a half onion sitting in my fridge already, waiting to be used, so I used it.)

3. JALAPENO PEPPERS. This is the tricky part. You will want about half as many peppers as you have onions. However. Peppers have varying amounts of heat depending on what season they were grown in, how big they are, and how hot it was. Really. Big fat early spring peppers are usually fairly mild. Little August peppers will turn your eyeballs inside out. Also, the real Heat of the pepper is in the seeds. If you want a milder salsa, buy the bigger peppers and take out all the seeds. If you want it hotter, look for the smaller peppers, and leave the seeds in. Even then, it’s still a guesstimate as to how hot the salsa will be. Because you just can’t tell.

I used two medium-sized jalapenos in my batch, and left in half the seeds. (I like a medium hot salsa—this came out perfect.)

4. CILANTRO. Also known as Chinese parsley, so if Mexican foods are less available where you are, look at the Asian foods. It’s sold by the bunch, like parsley, and has a very strong pungent flavor. Until it’s dried, then it has no flavor at all that I can tell. I like cilantro, but some people don’t, so you can adjust this to your taste. Still, I think a good salsa really needs some cilantro.

I used half the bunch of cilantro in my batch. (It’s Strong! I’m going to use the rest of it in a carne guisada, and in my black-eyed peas.)

5. SPICES. This is one of those “to taste” things. In my Dutch oven sized batch, I used: Oregano (preferably Mexican) – about 1 tablespoon

Salt – maybe a couple of teaspoons. (I didn’t really measure)

Ground cumin – about a teaspoon

Black pepper – just over half a teaspoon

Cayenne pepper – about half a teaspoon

6. VINEGAR. This goes in last, and I think gives the salsa a really tart edge that I like. It also makes it possible to can the salsa with a water bath process. (I usually freeze the extras, but I used to can it.)

This size batch needs at least a cup of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the best with it, but you can use whatever vinegar you have. Larger batches need up to 2 cups.

To make it, you chop the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro fine—I put them in my food processor and zizz them up till they’re chunky, but not too chunky. If you think a tortilla chip will have trouble dipping up a chunk, you might chop it some more. I usually do a couple of tomatoes plus half an onion, or a pepper, or a bunch of cilantro in each food processor batch. Tomato, plus something else. As you chop, dump it into your cookpot. You can go ahead and turn on the heat. It’s going to be cooking a long time. All the juices, everything goes in.

Once everything is chopped, add the spices and the vinegar, and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a fast simmer and let it cook. And cook, and cook. Don’t cover it. It’s going to be juicy enough it won’t stick, but you’ll want to come stir it every so often. Your whole house will smell Amazing.

Cook it down to a nice, thick sludge. It will still be plenty juicy, but thick salsas are best. I have likened properly thickened salsa to the mud pots at Yellowstone Park. Instead of bubbling, they sort of bloop.

When I make this in the summer (when tomatoes are cheap-ish), I usually start it cooking around 9 p.m., because it heats the whole house up so much. Then I cook it until I just can’t stay up any more. I made this winter batch in mid-afternoon, so I got it cooked down just right.

Once it’s thick, it’s ready to eat, put in jars to can, or stick in Tupperware to freeze. And yes, hot-from-the-stove salsa is good to eat just the way it is. Some restaurants serve it hot. It’s good any old way you want to eat it.

Bonus recipe: I make guacamole with my homemade salsa. Just mash up a ripe avocado with a few big spoons of salsa, a little Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little extra garlic/garlic salt, and you have a Very Good guacamole. Yum!

Peanut Butter Bars: Summer Dessert

First, I’m sad to announce that we’ve decided to disband Whipped Out. Apparently, the three of us are too busy to update multiple blogs. Who knew? I’m going to be doing two things: 1) porting all of the recipes from there to here and 2) installing a new theme on this blog and updating the look, so it’s a little more clean. Hopefully I’ll also be able to create an index page for the recipes. So it looks like recipes will be appearing here again (sorry to those of you on diets).

As many of you know, I like to bake. Sadly for me, my family almost never eats what I bake. I’m pretty sure it’s not because the things don’t taste good, but apparently, they like processed cookies and snacks more than homemade. Because of the awful, oppressive heat, I haven’t been doing a lot of baking this summer, but the other day I ran across this recipe for peanut butter bars–a recipe which doesn’t require you to turn on the oven at all–and I knew I had to make it. And I’m glad I did, because it was goooood. SO good. And seriously? Ridiculously easy.

Peanut Butter Bars (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups melted butter (you can use a cup only, if it makes you feel better, the bars will be more crumbly)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate if you’re feeling spunky)

4 Tbsp peanut butter.

Okay, now for the complicated instructions:

1. Mix together melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar and 1 cup peanut butter. Combine well. Press into ungreased 9×13 pan.

2. Melt together chocolate chips and 4 tbsp of peanut butter. If you do it in the microwave, do it on 50% power. Mix well. Pour on top of peanut butter crust.

3. Chill. Cut into squares. Curse me for showing you how easy it is to make these because they taste BETTER than Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Resign yourself to either having huge hips or freezing half this batch. I’m not responsible for the choice you make here.

4. Remind yourself to make a half batch next time.

(Oh, and you should keep these refrigerated, otherwise the chocolate on top gets soft and they get kind of messy.)

These were a hit at my house. My family actually ate like…half a pan of them! I’m going to inflict the rest on the moms at our mom’s night out gathering tonight. Heheheh.

YA reading

I haven’t been doing much reading this past month. Well, not entire books anyway. I’ve been reading a lot of Kindle samples on my iPhone. Love those samples. I always read before bed, but recently I’ve been using that time to read the samples instead of entire books. During my vacation, I had pictures of sitting by the pool and reading one of the many books I’d purchased previously. That didn’t happen. I didn’t read much during my vacation. Maybe a little at night, as I finished up my re-read of the Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series. I didn’t do any reading at all during RWA, or the week after my return (with the exception of the aforementioned sample chapters).

So this week, I became determined that I needed to just start reading again and stop with the reading-based anhedonia (look, my psych roots are showing when I use big words like that 😉 ) so read some more samples (I’m serious, that’s what I did!) and I bought two books based on those samples. Despite the fact that I have a number of unread-purchased books I should be reading. But I won’t disclose that number and you won’t ask. In fact, we’ll pretend I own NO unread books, shall we? Thank you.

First I read Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. (there are some spoilers in this paragraph so you may not want to read it) I thought the sample was pretty good, and it got glowing–GLOWING–reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so it seemed like a safe bet. Um, yeah, I decided during the reading of this book that I’m broken. I didn’t really love it. I thought it was just middle of the road okay. I skimmed some parts in the middle, I felt like parts of the story were underdeveloped and I didn’t even like the heroine’s love interest a little bit and felt no empathy for him. I would have been okay if he’d died, it might have made the book more interesting.  Do you ever have one of those moments during a book where you realize you’re not really enjoying it but you push on, because many, many other people clearly enjoyed it and so there must be some big pay-off at the end that makes the book suddenly magical? That was me during the Lament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book, because I don’t think it was. I’m saying it was a book that didn’t work for me, I didn’t love it and I won’t be picking up the sequel. There are books like that out there for everyone, I suspect. In this author’s case, I’m pretty sure she’ll do just fine without my business because there are people out there who really think her work is wonderful, and I’m glad.

Next, I bought A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede. A Matter of Magic is actually an omnibus re-release of two books: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. I’m only a third of the way into The Magician’s Ward, but I quite enjoyed Mairelon the Magician. It’s a YA alternate-history fantasy set in Regency England. In this case, magic is a huge part of the culture of England, and magician’s not a secret at all but living as part of society. In fact, if you’re a magician, you can be part of Society (capital S) even if you’ve come from the gutters.

Mairelon the Magician is a book that doesn’t take itself, or the story, seriously. There are a number of secondary characters to keep track of, but they add to the book’s plot/conflict. The conflict and plot themselves are not complicated, but they’re well-paced, with no extra “filler” and nothing to slow it down, which kept me turning the pages. And though the story doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is a magic-filled fantasy, it makes itself entirely believable, as if this alternate history just could have happened.

I enjoyed both the primary characters (Kim and Mairelon) as well as the robust cast of secondary characters, and I was glad to have the second book to start reading immediately. It’s by no means the best fantasy or alternate history I’ve ever read, but it’s good entertainment, well-paced and fun. And I haven’t felt the urge to skim, haven’t been bored or felt dissatisfied. Since I’ve been in a reading slump, I call that a win!

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