*Scrum*tious.

Ok, I know this is out of order, but today is a book review post, and Friday will be Get Series(ous). Why? I need better pictures of the food made for the post. Which means I’ll have to make it again. le sigh. (snicker)

Before I get to the meat of the post…RUNNING UPDATE!

Ok, I just finished (we’re in a blog time machine) my extra-super-long-run. Like, just this side of a marathon, long. It’s actually the longest distance I run pre-mary. 20 miles. It was a bitch, and I struggled. I felt good, and strong, but my headspace was all effed up. It was like one of those times when one is having sex, and enjoying everything, but they can’t help but remember that they missed that one spot while shaving on the back of their thigh, and DON’T TOUCH THERE. (here…I have boobs…you like boobs! DAMMIT, MEN WHO MARRY 6′ TALL WOMEN ARE LEG MEN! SHIT!) That was how my running headspace was going.

I wanted to just focus on the run and talking to my run partner, but NO. I couldn’t. I kept looking at my Garmin, and could not stop watching my speed. GAH! Here I was, running a score of miles with one of my very best good pals who has run a few sub-3 marathons, and I kept looking at my freaking GPS as though he wasn’t pacing me. He flat out TOLD ME he’d pace me. That we’d set up our splits in 5 sets of 4 miles, and I only had to worry about running.

I was tripping over my own brain.

However, with his excellent pacing, I set out (mostly) what I’d wanted to accomplish. Our average was no greater than 8 min/mi, with some miles significantly faster, including 3 sub 7s. Oddly, our fastest miles were the miles I felt best. Let’s face it, the shin-crushing, side-stitching, mucus-running miles are only the best miles when my head is shoveling out darkness. Thankfully, the pain and endorphins are a pretty good plow.

This.

book cover is link.

Now, you scamps know I love me some LH Cosway and Penny Reid. I was over the moon when I received an ARC of this book. I received it with no expectation of a review, and I already pre-ordered it. Therefore, it was like a pretty little gift in my inbox with a pink bow.

The Blurb:

THE HERMIT

Annie Catrel, social media expert extraordinaire at Davidson & Croft Media and clandestine celebrity blogger, can make anyone shine in the court of public opinion. She is the Socialmedialite, anonymous creator of New York’s Finest and the internet’s darling. Virtual reality is Annie’s forte, but actual reality? Not so much.

THE HOOKER

Ronan Fitzpatrick, aka the best hooker the world of rugby has seen in decades, despises the media—social or otherwise. The press has spun a web of lies depicting him as rugby’s wild and reckless bad boy. Suspended from his team, Ronan has come to Manhattan to escape the drama, lay low, fly under the radar. Only, Ronan isn’t easy to overlook, and he can’t escape the notice of the Socialmedialite…

THE PLAN

When Ronan is sent to Davidson & Croft Media to reshape his public image, he never expects to cross paths with shy but beautiful Annie, nor does he expect his fierce attraction to her. He couldn’t be happier when her boss suggests pairing them together.
What lengths will Annie take to keep her virtual identity concealed? And what happens when the hooker discovers who the hermit really is?

This book reminds me a lot of the confections featured throughout its pages, light, sweet, and too quickly gone.

When the book opens, it is immediately apparent that the tone of it is the quick-witted snarky humor that readers have come to expect from both LH Cosway and Penny Reid. Told in first-person, the story begins fast and that pace is held for the duration of the majority of the text.

What I loved. 

The dialogue, both spoken and internal, was by far my favorite part of the book. Here’s a snippet.

Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m using my hand, but thinking of you. 

How could I not love that, right? The banter between Annie and Ronan, or Annie writing as Socialmedialite, was spot-on hilarious. LH Cosway didn’t shy away from using UK sayings in her parts of the text to water it down for American audiences, and Penny Reid spouted ‘Merica fearlessly. Ok, I don’t know if she was writing this book while flying an American flag behind her head and drinking Coca Cola while humming “The Star Spangled Banner,” but that’s how I picture it happening.

Strike that, I picture her humming this:

I love that the characters were each strong and extremely well-suited to their occupations. In their professional lives, they take no prisoners. They are educated, intelligent, leaders in their field.

I love that two authors who depend quite a bit of the good word of bloggers did not pull any punches when it comes to the sort of banal trivialities that afflict social media and blogging. Because, let’s face it, the internet provides a great deal of anonymity for people hide behind. This, in turn, allows a great many a person to switch off their “good person” button, and become epic steaming shitpiles of douchebaggery.

I love that the “mean girl” trope was used, but not in the completely typical manner. Usually, I sort of hate the “mean girl” trope. It’s overdone, and to be honest, even though those women truly exist in real life, I feel like writing about them over and over again just perpetuates it. I’m way too feminist not to say “Hey, why must it always be the girl who is the asscandle?” This book featured an asshole *couple.* For some reason, that made the manipulative bitch pill easier to swallow.

I 100% realize that hating this specific trope is completely my own feminist hangup.

 

I loved the HEA. Of COURSE I did. *SPOILER ALERT* I won’t call a book a “romance” if there’s no HEA. It’s a romaybenot, or a bummermance, or you know, fiction.

The Hooker and the Hermit has plenty of chest–and other area–tingly bits throughout the text. I dare say this book is a bit more “in the sack” than Penny Reid’s other novels, but about on-par from what I’ve read of LH Cosway. (I’ve read four, and I think I’ll binge this weekend.)

I adored the chemistry between the two MCs. I thought the verbal tug of war was believable without being overly realistic. Because, duh. It’s a fucking romance. No one writes about how that one time your boyfriend once admitted to the fact he touched himself to images of his fourth grade gym teacher.

*that was a thing that happened.

I love that there’s enough rugby players on Ronan’s team from which to choose for sequels.

I love that the entire time I was reading, this is who I had in my head as Ronan:

Stuart Reardon…a real, live, just-look-at-that, rugby player.

This is him again…for comparison. Obviously.

I would not kick him out of my house for wearing boots indoors. I hear they’re good for knocking.

What I maybe didn’t love as much. 

I really hate saying anything remotely negative about this book, because I truly believe you should read it. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and sessssy as hay-ell.

However, just a few, tiny things. GAH! I feel like dreck.

I thought the first 1/3 of the book was unevenly paced. It goes right into the action, great, hook us! Yes! But the romance felt less-genuine, a teeny bit rushed. The chemistry was there, all the fizzle and spark, but I had trouble connecting the two MCs and the reasons for their deeper attraction.

I felt as though the MC, Annie’s excuses and behavior in the final quarter of the book were in opposition to her inner dialogue, especially given how she purported to feel about Ronan. But! It does come to a satisfactory conclusion.

This last bit is again, 100% my own hangup…

The book was set in NYC. I happen to know a bit about NYC. I feel like the setting was very inconsequential, which saddens me, because NYC in and of itself can add so much to a story.

Again, that’s my New Yorker’s bias.

The Hooker and The Hermit 4, ball-kicking stars.

And guess what???

This book has a theme near and dear to my heart. If fact, I would argue it’s actually a bit of a motif–symbolism if you will. Annie loves herself some tea and desserts. The first thing we see of Annie, she’s having a bit at Tom’s Southern Kitchen. Then, we see her eating an eclair in the office, Ronan feeds her dessert, and even has one himself later in the book. Here’s the thing, only when she is dealing with inner turmoil does she turn to the sugary support beam. I don’t get the sense she’s eating her feelings as much as I do she’s using it as a substitute for stability. These things are always the same, even when I’m in upheaval. In the end, when she’s settled, there is no mention of cookies or donuts or eclairs or wine–anything. Just she and Ronan.

The Hooker and the Hermit by LH Cosway and Penny Reid

Obviously, I had to make eclairs for today’s post. It was that, or treacle tart, and eclairs won.

I also could not possibly be expected to make typical eclairs. Yes, I use the same Alton Brown pate a choux recipe everyone else does for the shell. Yes, I use the same epicurious recipe for pastry cream everyone else does. I make ganache exactly the same way everyone else does. HOWEVER, I folded peanut butter into the pastry cream. Because I could.

Peanut Butter Eclairs Peanut Butter Eclairs Peanut Butter Eclairs

This is a process, not a recipe. Use THIS recipe for the eclairs, and pipe them into logs instead of dots. Same cooking time. Make THIS pastry cream and fold in 1/2 cup of Jif Natural PB. NOT the all-natural whole foods pb. This is not the time for that. Ganache is just 1:1 chocolate to heavy cream. I suggest dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Melt them together in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring between, and stir until smooth. Cut open the sides of the FRESH eclair and pipe in the peanut butter pastry cream. Dip in ganache. Either eat immediately or freeze immediately.

What Should You Read Next?–Get Series(ous)

Ok! Quick running update and then? BOOK POST!
So, yesterday was a quick shake-out run, (five miles) and they felt good. The kink in my ass  didn’t hamper me as much as I thought it would, AND I was able to get a bit of yoga in as well. Brigitte is on her way. (Brigitte being the name of my future yoga booty.) I notice a .05% difference in my ass from before the new year to now. Mostly I notice the kink. It’s quite literally, a pain in my ass.  Tonight is a run and CrossFit, so I foresee it either getting much better, or much worse.

It’s ok, I have wine. (Again, I do CrossFit regularly, but Paleo is for quitters!! YAY LEGUMES AND QUINOA AND SUGAR!!)

So, during the holidays, I blogged an entire post about matching up books as gifts with people in your life. Turns out, that was quite popular. So I am going to introduce a new series here on B2B.

What Do I Read Next? A Series For Every Personality.
what do I read next

 

I love series books, trilogies, books with sequels. Yes, there is something wonderful about a book that manages to wrap everything up in ONE neat little package. However, I love lingering. Ok, not at parties, or in class, or after a run–because I’m antisocial–but in a story? I can–and frequently do–linger in these words for years.  There are series of which I’ve read, that I’ve marinated within for so long, that they’re now irretrievably a part of my being. Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes, The Green Mile, Harry Potter. I’ve read and re-read these books so many times I can quote entire pages.

Lately, I’ve been expanding my list to include new series that I love with the same ferocity. I find that my new personal canon is acting as a wonderful internuncial between my then and my now, and my yet to come. Series like The Elemental Mysteries  and Knitting in the City and, of course, the All Souls SeriesIn fact, I am going to a faculty fancy dress party with my very best lovely Professor. (which was supposed to be weeks ago, but SOMEONE just HAD to win an award!;)) We are cosplaying as Natalie and Baojia!! (as I am a pale white girl, and he is a handsome Chinese man, it just WORKS!–We’ll totally pretend he’s straight that night– That, and we fangirl all the fuck over those books.)

Our other option required approximately 150% more dirt than I’m comfortable wearing.

So this weeks’ book series is one that is about as likely to evanesce into the history of your memories as I am likely to successfully give up sugar or John Boehner is likely to give up spray tans.

This series is for the person who enjoys the madcap tv shows like Chuck or Doctor Who. If you find yourself quoting Orphan Black to your friends, and this image (see below) causes spontaneous orgasm? This series is for you.

What series is it?

 

 

Picture is link.

The Blurb:

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it. He wasn’t. He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes. Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

My favorite quote:

“Besides, criminal masterminds are people too. They need groceries and cable like the rest of us.”

The Lives of Tao series currently offers two books, with a third book due out this spring. Wesley Chu does a fantastic job of weaving a complicated plot with biting sarcasm and hilarious antics. He makes the oft-maligned genre of sci-fi extremely accessible to the average reader. He is a mastermind at wrapping multiple ideas around each other without getting held under by slow pacing or too much extraneous information. It’s as though he has been given magical play doh for all of the characters and plot lines, and he can bend and fold each color over another, without it all turning to a monochromatic and indistinct blob. Instead, he ends up with a kaleidoscope of a narrative, that draws your eye to its center and holds you there, desperate to see the next colorful image rolled over.

Highly recommended.

Now? Donuts.

*queen of the segue right hurrr.

I made apple fritters. Yes, there are gajillions of apple fritter recipes out there, but I like mine the best. Of course. So you should make mine, because I can tell, you only want the best.

This sums up how I feel about my fritters.

Oh the angry emails I’m about to get….Good thing this little lady gives zero fucks about what you think about her favorite mom and her mom’s videos, because, apple fritters.

zero.fucks.given.

Here they are!

Perfect Apple Fritters

Perfect Apple Fritters Perfect Apple Fritters

 

 

Perfect Apple Fritters

perfect apple fritters

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Keywords: fry appetizer bread breakfast dessert

Ingredients (8-12 fritters)

  • Oil for frying (canola, peanut, coconut, lard)
  • 1 REALLY BIG honeycrisp, cubed into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

in a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium

add in the apples and cinnamon

add in 1/4 cup sugar

cook 5 minutes, set aside

in a big bowl, whisk together dry ingredients

stir sugar, eggs, and milk in slowly

stir in apple mixture

preheat oil in a skillet about 2″ deep to 325F

drop fritters in 2 tbsp drops

cook for 4 minutes a side, or until each side is golden brown

drain each on a paper towel lined plate

sift powdered sugar over the top when they’re cool.

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How Do You Say “Ladyboner” in Italian?

Warning: highly objectionable language used in post. Just fucking read it anyway.

I’ve said it before, but one of my favorite things that has ever come from blogging is when I receive ARCs. *advanced reader copies

When they show up in my inbox, I get that spine-tingly thing that romance writers use to describe what happens before a male orgasm.

Basically, screeners are my man junk, and opening them? Totally my rubbing one out.

I was lucky enough to get three screeners this week. I’ve only read one as of yet, and it was SO MUCH FUN.

You guys know I love Penny Reid‘s books. They’re the sort of smart and sassy contemporary romance novels that never fall off the cliff of head-shakingly predictable plots. Yes, you get your HEA, but the struggle to get there feels real.

Her books are funny and smartly-written, and this collection of short stories from the knitters is no different.

Here’s the catch! A few things before the meat of the review: One, The book will only be available for download from 12/1-12/15, and I’ll remind you of this. Two, ALL PROCEEDS BENEFIT TOYS FOR TOTS. Children get stuff if you read this book. Ok, they get it if you simply buy it, but buying and not reading is like going to a winery and saying “you know what, I’d better not.” THAT’S JUST STUPID. (unless you’re sober, then keep on keeping on and eat some cheese.)

TO THE REVIEW!

This collection of short stories is like being given a half of a bag of snack chips. On one hand, CHIPS, who doesn’t like em, right? On the other hand, I WANT MORE CHIPS.

I loved seeing a glimpse into my favorite fictional ladies’ lives. They are just as fun and frisky as they appear in their full-length novels. I particularly liked one bit of the Quinn and Janie story, because it is just so…them.

eiffel

Why was this little snapshot so funny to me? Because when I first beginning to pick out a new pair of ladybags, I asked the man to look through the surgeon’s catalog with me. He was a bit taken aback. He looked at me and said “they’re boobs. just pick ones you want to wear. surprise me, even.” (lower case implying deadpan.) I was giving the man CARTE BLANCHE to ogle boobies, and he turned me down. I felt like I needed Diana Ross to go with me to judge.

That being said, that was not even my favorite bit of these shorts. My favorite bit was the final short story. Almost a novelette, it is the story of Fiona and Greg. Up until now in the series, they’ve been relatively cast toward the fringes of the books, only to pop up here and there and offer wisdom.

We finally get to see how they met. You’d think that with it being set in undergrad, it’d read like a NA novel, but it doesn’t. It reads like a richly textured adult contemporary. (this isn’t to say all NAs are one-dimensional) I think that it’s because Fiona and Greg have both gone through quite a bit by the time they reach education’s hallowed halls that they’re bringing more to a relationship than your average college students.

I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, it explains much in just a few pages. Why it is that such a young couple would have kids so young when so many are waiting…What would draw Fiona and Greg to clandestine occupations…and how it is they’re still so devoted to one another thirteen years later.

All in all? Five Stars, but I want more chips. I want a Costco-sized bag of Fiona and Greg.

Buy the book. It’s benefitting Toys for Tots. That is a military organization. So, basically, do it for your country. (or ours, whatever.)

Now? Christmas Cookies. I don’t know what they’re called by you, but these are actually pretty popular around here. The bakery nearest my house calls them “Italian Shortbread Cookies,” which is a pretty good description. Often called “butter cookies,” they’re a delicious, buttery cookie that you sandwich with jam, or do what I did, and make them all festive-like by adding maraschino cherries before baking.  I cannot take credit for this recipe, just alterations. I use Giada’s recipe, and add two tbsp orange zest and one tbsp lemon zest. I also omit the vanilla extract and add 1/2 tsp almond extract. I pipe a few tbsp out a few tbsp apart from one another, roll them into balls, make a thumbprint, and drop a cherry in. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F

ZOMG.

italian shortbread cookies italian shortbread cookies italian shortbread cookies

Leave the Nietzsche, Take the Poet.

Book review day!!! 

 

“All that is rare is for the rare….”Frederick Nietzsche

“You’re really going to quote Nietzsche to me? To me? The sole female in the room…When I first wake up? Before I’ve had coffee? After finding one of my brothers mating with his hand upstairs for the second time in as many days, and I’m the cow??” –Ashley Winston Beauty and the Mustache

We as readers have all been there. We’ve all experienced the chapping of our psyche when we let our mind cast itself into the maelstrom of an unexpectedly gripping work of fiction. Sometimes, the conclusion of the work provides an unguent for the wound it has created, and you feel relief. But during the enjoying of it, the fevered reading of its pages, you’re forced to balkanize your emotions into tight constraints, so that you can get on to the next page without having the words blurred by YOUR FEELINGS ESCAPING THROUGH YOUR EYEHOLES.(Shibari of the feels, anyone?)

Most books, we can anticipate the storm. We are more like “Al Roker predicting a Sharknado,” less  “Al Roker getting knocked on his ass by some rain and wind.”

No. (man up, Roker.)

Yes.

Sometimes, we’re caught off-guard. The first time we find out that Rochester is married. Dr Sheppard being discovered. Cecelia and Robbie. (GAH!! poor Robbie.) I wanted to hate Catherine and Heathcliffe, but I couldn’t.

It’s good to be taken aback by a book. If you read enough romance novels, you eventually hit a critical mass of predictability and eye-rolling.

A gillionaire with a giant….heart meets a down on her luck lady of reasonable attractiveness, sparks fly, panties are ripped, happily ever after is achieved.

Beauty and the Mustache is not that book. It’s Cecelia and Robbie if they were real. It’s waiting in the burned-out husk of a home, missing a hand, a ruined face, and still being loved by one for whom you are the world. It’s that guy who always remembers just how you take your coffee (served shirtless) and knows how wonderful comfortable silence can be.

The Blurb:

There are three things you need to know about Ashley Winston: 1) She has six brothers and they all have beards, 2) She is a reader, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Former beauty queen, Ashley Winston’s preferred coping strategy is escapism. She escaped her Tennessee small town, loathsome father, and six brothers eight years ago. Now she escapes life daily via her Amazon kindle one-click addiction. However, when a family tragedy forces her to return home, Ashley can’t escape the notice of Drew Runous— local Game Warden, bear wrestler, philosopher, and everyone’s favorite guy. Drew’s irksome philosophizing in particular makes Ashley want to run for the skyscrapers, especially since he can’t seem to keep his exasperating opinions— or his soulful poetry, steadfast support, and delightful hands— to himself. Pretty soon the girl who wanted nothing more than the escape of the big city finds she’s lost her heart in small town Tennessee.

We first met Ashley in Neanderthal Marries Human: Knitting in the City I. This is where we learn that she’s a PICU RN in the same hospital as Sandra and Elizabeth. She comes across as a bookish gal with sharp wit and grace under pressure. *you never know when knitting needles are for more than just knitting a fetus coin purse. We see her a bit through Friends Without Benefits, Neanderthal Marries Human, and Love Hacked, but this is HER book. 

01

We get to meet Ashley’s bearded, banjo-loving brothers, and the unexpected *cough*surprises that come with living in a home with six men…six STRAIGHT men. I’ve lived in an apartment with three gay men. That was interesting. One was a drag queen, one my BFF, one was, well…revolving. It was a tidy and clean apartment. This house is sort of like an Augusten Burroughs-style shrink’s masturbatorium on moonshine. Just never go in the bathroom. Ever.

We are also shown  how they’ve grown into great, loving, protective men in the years since Ashley has moved away. Then we meet Drew Runous. *insert lady-growl.* A bearded, philosophizing, poet-penning, banjo-playing, big-hearted–and still manly–ball of hotness. We are witness as they grow together through tragedy and connection.

The romance, though!! If you’ve read Penny’s other books (that I’ve much vaunted.see here, here, and here.) You are pretty sure you’d recognize her stories anywhere. Yes, Neanderthal Marries Human was more “and then this is reality” than “Once upon a time…” but the story is still quite quirky.

This book? It was so deeply romantic and darkly funny that I was never sure which end was up. I was guessing the entire time, and that was GOOD. I never knew if I was expecting Drew and Ashley to turn out to be  Darcy and Miss Bennett or a completelyfictionalizednoteventruetohistory John Smith and Pocahontas.

For those of you who are given to the notion that sweeping, deep romances cannot be also modern, and funny, and heartbreaking, I challenge you: READ Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid. The darkest sadnesses in the novel are counter-weighted by the richness of the highs, and folly of the fraternity.

Buy the book, hell, buy the SERIES. Pack your Depends and kleenex, make yourself a tea and bourbon, and settle in for a wonderful time.

Labor Day Sale

Whippet. Whippet Good.

In honor of John Venn’s 180th birthday, I’ve made a Venn diagram to kick off today’s topic. By now, I know you’ve heard all about the Hachette Publishing/Amazon dispute of the day. Long story short, Amazon wants to charge one price for ebooks, Hachette wants them to charge a different price. I can see both … Read more…