Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hellie's Reviews: Sophia Nash's THE ONCE AND FUTURE DUCHESS

Sophia Nash’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE DUCHESS, which is part of her series of the Royal Entourage, is really a very hysterical “The Hangover” a la Regency era. I am not a fan of the movie, The Hangover (I think I’m the only one) but I do admire the shenanigans and problems that they all have to deal with the morning after and go, “How the hell did this happen?” Such is this series. The Prince has issued a royal decree that all the participants of this evening must now marry and reform—after all, we can’t have what’s going over in France happen over here in England! The beheadings!

The Duchess of March also happened to be there that night…though her shenanigans were definitely more on the prudent side. However, this doesn’t keep George from issuing a royal command she marry too; and it appears she and George have the perfect candidate in mind. Actually pretty much everyone sees it, even James himself, the Duke of Candover, since he’s in love with Isabelle, but made a promise to her father not to let her marry someone like him. You know, old. And there is a whole bunch of nuanced issues that made up motivations and kept everyone from having a happy ending for a long, long time, like the Duke of March was like the father Candover wished he’d had and he would never disappoint the man’s final and only request, blah, blah, blah. Noble people are so exhausting. It works out, eventually. To keep you from losing despair though there is a lovely subplot with Candover’s friend and an abigail who tricked him into marrying her that fateful night. Hilarious.

I’m not sure if there are any other stories to wrap up in this series, but the series itself has been solid and hilarious and well-characterized. If you haven’t read the Royal Entourage series, I recommend it, especially if you liked The Hangover…and even if you didn’t. Five stars. 

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ramblings and other Tuesday Observations

This is why I don't keep journals. I always get discouraged if I don't write something every day or so, as if I'm slacking. Or if I'm not slacking, then it must be I'm so boring I don't have anything worth writing about anyway, so why did I even start a journal in the first place?

No one should wander out alone in my brain. It's a treacherous place, honestly. Go in groups. Take swords.

I have been reading, even if I don't have any reviews here right now. I may do a review on the Nora Roberts' trilogy I just read, which most everyone else has too. But the reviews of the newest books I've gotten lately, those will probably go to The Romance Dish. I've gotten quite a selection so I hope to have new reviews soon for everyone. So you guys can still be assured I'm still literate. I'm not a complete drooling mass who only googles pictures of Tom Hiddleston all day. (Though admittedly it's probably a close thing.)

Here is my current project at home. Not the quilt (which is still unfinished in the whole quilting phase part of it.) Nope, now it's painting all the time and the Brene Brown class, which is art journaling for the soul and she has an assignment every week so you can't fall too behind. Writing prompts. Always helpful.

It's still in process. It's supposed to be Lancelot and the Lady of Shalott. Again I have cut out the unfortunate aspects of their hands until I can "fix" them. Mostly I work on the faces first...so there's a lot to do here...but so far, I'm liking the faces so far.

What have you all been up to?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Here's How My Restraining Order Happened

This is, of course, a shameless, tawdry, transparent stunt just so I can post Tom Hiddleston's picture on my blog. But I have to say--reading this story (and really it doesn't even matter if it's true--just the thought that it is is enough to sustain me)--all I could think was: "Sweet Jesus, I would have passed out like a fainting goat and when Tom, impeccably mannered that he is, bent down to help me, possibly even give me mouth to mouth--well, that's when the restraining order would happen."

Or somewhere close to that.

It could be a few minutes later as the cops are carrying me off and I'm flailing wildly, screaming, "I kneel! I kneel!"

It's Spring Break...I clearly need a vacation. Where's Tom working now? That guy so totally picked the right part in that movie. Just saying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


It's my birthday, and that's the only thing this post is about.

In celebration of my birthday, several fine and wondrous authors got together and wrote books to come out ON MY BIRTHDAY, so I would not be in desire of any reading materials or happy endings.

Lorraine Heath's WHEN THE DUKE WAS WICKED is about...I'm not sure. Apparently a wicked duke. Lorraine Heath has become one of my autobuys so I don't have to look too close. I know I adored her previous series; and I think this may be the start of a new series. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Monica McCarty's THE RAIDER is another in her series of the Highland Guard, which is like Navy SEAL ops set in early 1300s Scotland. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. It's like having a dose of Braveheart twice a year--just lovely.

Tiffany Clare's newest THE SCANDALOUS DUKE TAKES A BRIDE also comes out on my birthday. I love the color! Red, the color of passion, and definitely the hallmark of a Tiffany Clare novel.

When I'm not nose-deep in a book, I'll be watching THOR 2: THE DARK WORLD, where Loki looks all scrumptious and darling--I forgot what a little git he was in THE AVENGERS, so it's nice to see better "qualities" of him in this movie. Well, as far as Loki is able to allow himself to have good qualities.

The only other thing on the agenda for the birthday is a hair cut...I am entertaining the thought of bangs, longish ones, but definitely something to sweep decently across my brow. I have a lot of hair going on and no style. Which mind you, it's nice to have hair, don't get me wrong.

So what do you wish for my birthday today? :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Knife Skills

Incidentally I posted about this last week on Facebook, so I apologize this is almost exactly the same.*


Last week was the knife skills class. For the first hour, he talked to us and showed us knife cuts that he practiced on various items (and which if we couldn't see him directly, there was a live video and a tv near you). He joked with us about why we were taking the class, since he was sure none of us had ever held a knife before or used one. Yep, we all looked like a bunch of FOOD NETWORK watchers if I ever saw them. He got through all the various cuts; he pointed to the cuts on the poster he held up before and after he did them; he then asked us if there was any cuts we needed repeated or any cuts he hadn't done that we were curious about.

I said, "Well, it's not a cut we need for the class, but it's on your board and it looks very pretty. Can you show us how to do the diamond shaped one?" Rondelle, I believe, but don’t ask me to pronounce it. He just got done showing us the burnoise cuts, which is uniform little squares that the average layman would called “diced.”

He says, Sure, though I don't think I've had to make that cut since culinary school. "Oh,” I say, “it's like me and algebra then. That's okay if you can't."

"No, no, I can do it." He planks some pieces of carrot like he showed us to make fine dice and julienne. He talks as he's demonstrating, saying turn your blade this way and that and he gets a nice pile. "Any questions?" There’s confused silence.

"Um, I'm an English major, so again, math not my strong suit, but didn't you just make a bunch of triangles and not diamonds?" I ask. Was I missing something? I felt like the kid pointing out the emperor was naked; the emperor WAS naked, right?

Another girl in class. "I am a math major and those do look like triangles rather than diamonds."

"Damn, you're right," he says. "I really haven't done this cut since culinary school. I've got it, I've got it." He does another plank; he makes another batch of triangles. We're all staring at him, not saying a WORD. "We'll figure it out in the other room when we practice. I know how to make the cut, I promise."

We figured it out though. When we got to do just practice cutting on carrots (all the food was prepared and cooking), I made a plank, cut a bias line like he did, then stared at a minute, and made a parallel bias line next to it...diamond shape. Voila! Of course, if I’m ever making carrot cut shapes this precise, just shoot me. Dicing the onion had a neat trick, but in the end, I’m relatively certain I’m going back to my old way of slicing the half onion horizontally in thin slices, then turn the group and slice them vertically in thin slices. Lovely dice, really. Much finer (and faster) than doing the “correct” way, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of practice.

Pam and I worked alongside a lovely couple, Kevin and Angie, and all the food turned out wonderful. We made the guacamole first and salsa to "snack" as we waited for the other food to cook, um, yeah, it was so good and we were so hungry, we ate all of the guac and salsa before the fajitas were done...so the fajitas could have done with a little bit of the guac and salsa on them, but we made do. The corn chowder also came out very delish. I notice that when I’m cooking with complete strangers I’m a lot more obsessed with the outcome than if I was doing it for friends. If I burned up my onions when friends were over, I’d toss them out and start again, no big deal…a little burnt bacon, it’ll add flavor. Nope, I hovered over that pot of corn chowder like a Jewish mother over her only son. “Do you think the bacon is rendered enough? It doesn’t look very crisp” and “do the onions look sweated enough? Too crunchy? Yes, I think so too.” Seriously, they weren’t going to give us anything to make that could be easily fucked up, you know? They didn’t even allow us to do anything dangerous, like cut up raw chicken or fry the sopapillas!

Fun class though. If you haven’t tried a cooking class before, I highly recommend, even if you already know how to cook more than ramen and frozen pizza. I will be keeping my eye out for one of the more adventurous classes. Cheesemaking, maybe. That one looked fun.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Spring is Coming!

Not that I could see any evidence of it today. My houseplants are even starting to curl up and give up hope of the sun returning; and I spent fifteen minutes or so removing the ice from my car so I wouldn't have to do it tomorrow morning when I attempted to go to work. In other good news, apparently Tuesday, it's supposed to snow here...3-5" only and then again on Friday, after we've dug out again. Mind you, I could actually live in a state where this sort of snowfall and cold temps would make my complaints look ridiculously whiny, but I stopped thinking Montana would be a cool place to live after the Ruby Ridge event. And probably after Gus died in the Return to Lonesome Dove.

Anyway, I live here in Missouri, and what I would like is some delightfully average weather for a change, with some delightfully average precipitation so we don't go into drought mode and my tomatoes do really great. Really, these are modest wants.

But the groundhog saw his shadow today and you know what that means? It means exactly the same thing if he hadn't: we still have 6 weeks of winter.

So silver lining: 6 more weeks of crappy temperatures in which you're better off inside curled up with a book. There's plenty coming out now and in the next 6 weeks to keep one entertained. I just read ROMANCING THE DUKE (my review is on the Romance Dish) by Tessa Dare and I have pre-ordered Eloisa James and Monica McCarthy and Julie Ann Long and Lorraine Heath.

In the meantime, the Pirates have arranged their own writing challenge so I also have these short four weeks to get some words on the page--so spring should be here before I know it. Though I kinda maintain, it can't come soon enough.

What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blogging with The Romance Dish

In lieu of a blog this week, I'll be blogging tomorrow, January 22 (Lord Byron's birthday if anyone is up on their trivia) at The Romance Dish, doing a book review of THE ROSIE PROJECT. Right now the Kindle version is $1.99...so if you want to take my word on it and snap it up, please do and we can chat about the book tomorrow. If you prefer to wait, well, you'll just be a day late in reading behind the others--don't say I didn't warn you.