Type A (Positive) Personality.

One word: Venice.

It even sounds romantic. Italy in general holds a nigh universal appeal as the most romantic country on the planet. Ok, mostly. The piazzas, the slickly fashioned men with swooning women. Gelato. Pasta. Tiramisu. Wine. Risotto. Pizza. Truffles. Grappa. Blood.

wait, blood?

Um…

Um, Yes.

Ok, not like the bloodied hands of Brutus, or the the chill in the blood of a visitor to an ossuary in Milan, not even all the scenes in Italy in The Godfather. 

The drinking kind!!

Um…

Yeah!! Italy is OLD AS OLD GETS!! There’re bound to be many

interesting characters.

THANK G-D, AMIRITE? I am a very pale, introvert bookworm. I can only take so much daylight. I also have more ADHD than an entire elementary school, so I have energetic needs. 

And while I’m normally more of a fan of shifters, the exception to the rule exists a few places, most especially, in anything Elizabeth Hunter writes. AND I AM IN LOVE WITH TENZIN. She has freaking permafangs that don’t retract. She’s ittybitty and can kill an army of dudes. She flies. She is ruled by no one. She’s awkward and intrusive and full of piss and vinegar. Ok, not piss, she’s a vampire. Blood and vinegar. Salt and vinegar blood. She’ll make a new crisp flavor!

Which is why I’m so excited that today is the release day for this beauty:

I am singing the Benzin song I made up. It’s a great song. It is to the tune of “X-Gon Give it to Ya.” It fits. Just sub Tenz and Benz every other line for “X.”

The blurb:

All Ben Vecchio wanted was a quiet summer before his last semester of university. Was that too much to ask?

All Tenzin wanted was a cache of priceless medieval coins that had been missing for several hundred years.

And some company.

Phrases like “never again” don’t mean much when you’ve been a vampire for several thousand years. And promises made in the heat of anger don’t outweigh the lure of gold. Ben Vecchio thought he knew everything there was to know about the immortals of Italy. But when Tenzin tempts him into another adventure finding a cache of rare gold coins missing since the nineteenth century, he’ll discover that familiar places can hold the most delicious secrets. And possibly, the key to his future.

happy dance. Benzin song. Salt and Vinegar blood! or not that last one. I’m a vegan. It’s also almost Lent, so, Fridays are out for Carwyn. What does a Catholic vampire eat during Lent? TOO MANY QUESTIONS, BACK TO BENZIN.

A good, heathen vampire. Because I like my vampires like I like my moonshine–entirely lawless and probably poison.

Once again, Ms Hunter’s ability to spin worlds from the closely packed microfilaments of her abundant imagination stupefies the senses and tickles the tender parts of the reader’s intelligence. Elizabeth Hunter’s world-building is so uncommonly spectacular, it’s apparent she’s become a standard to which other writers must reckon by. She continually outdoes her previous installments, and Imitation and Alchemy maintains and expands on that trend. It’s not a romance, per se, but everything about it is romantic. The setting, the people, the nigh folkloric atmosphere of the prose and intelligence of characters is reminiscent of the great Gothic romances of the past. Only entirely more badass. With 100% more Monty Python references.

I love watching Ben and Tenzin’s comlex relationship construct itself into something more. It’s challenging to all of my expectations of what a possible *or not* HEA might look like for them, and it whets my appetite for the next installment like that first beer at the pub. I love how Tenzin manages to pull Ben into the most insane schemes. I love how Ben doesn’t take a bit of her shit without giving it back. He’s not scared of her, even if he should be. They’re like this:

Ok, bad example. Let’s try again:

Imitation and Alchemy is an astonishing fantasy-filled adventure topped to the brim with intelligence, suspense, and delicious, yet morally questionable decisions.

Five stars.

Imitation and Alchemy by Elizabeth Hunter review.

Amazon • Kobo

For the recipe?

It’s Venice (sometimes) bitch. Gotta be Risi e Bisi. Only better. Cauliflower Risi e Bisi. Not so risi, then. SCREW YOUR EXPECTATIONS! It’s a Venetian dish typically made with rice and peas. Mine uses riced cauliflower for a new flavor exploration and fewer carbs. It’s so good.

delicious cauliflower risi e bisi

 

 

Cauliflower Risi e Bisi

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Keywords: saute gluten-free low-carb paleo vegan vegetarian

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower, chopped into a fine dice.
  • 1 leek, topped, tailed, and chopped
  • 1/2-1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tbsp butter or earth balance spread
  • 1 cup cubed and cooked pancetta or 1 cup chopped and sauteed porcini mushrooms (saute in a bit of oil without salt on HIGH until browned) (about a large fist full, my UK friends. Or a cuppa.)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

DO NOT PRE STEAM YOUR VEG

heat fats on stove on medium high

stir in leeks and cauliflower

cook 5 minutes

lower heat to medium low and add garlic

stir

slowly add stock, a little bit at a time until absorbed

stir in mushrooms or pancetta

salt and pepper to taste

stir in peas and remove from heat.

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2016 Reading Challenge

There are dozens upon dozens of reading challenges on the interwebs right now. They range from the random, “read a book with a blue cover” to the academic, “For Whom The Bell Tolls” to the focused, “read one book that you’ve never heard of.”

Mine is different. Because, of course it is. My 2016 Reading Challenge is…

So, I give you the…

-I don't judge your life-

beverage optional, but encouraged.

Let’s break this down, shall we, scamps? We shall.

Or we could just watch Tom Hiddleston break it down.

FIRST!!

Think Madam Bovary or Maurice. Sure, it looked good, but you had so much other shit to do. 

NEXT!

Too embarrassed to pick up that book because of its cover?! HOGWASH. Do it. It’ll feel good, I promise.

THIRD!

We’ve all done this. “Sure I’ll read X, you know, when I start caring about it.”  Read  X, you may love X.

GUILT-FREE READING.

These are pricey, I know. I’m not telling you don’t seek out the deals, I’m just saying don’t say no. Just once.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE CURIOUS.

She’s one of the most prolific authors who is always a lightning rod for an entire genre, and also serves as whipping boy for dumb-ass critics who’ve never read a decent romance novel in their lives, but because no one is having a great realization about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their grandmother’s maid, they think it’s shit.

rip your own bodice, bitches.

GET ON THE BANDWAGON.

Hell, I’ll even throw in “PBS” and “FX” to the list of available channels. The books are typically at a low price point as well. They’re popular for a reason, so scarper off with one.

KEEPING UP WITH THE WHO GAF.

They’re juicy. You know you want to.

IT’S THE YEAR OF YOU, YES, YOU! NOT THAT ASSCANDLE BEHIND YOU!

Feel weird to buy a self-help book? It’d be weirder to buy a self-love book, and essentially, I’ve told you to buy two of those already, so move up to your whole self, shall you? You shall. For I have decreed it.

This is a FUN challenge, so have fun with it. Live a little. Buy the fuzziest pyjamas you can find, and settle in under your heated throw and get down to business. *I mean reading.

For the food?

A SNACK FOOD, OF COURSE!

Feel free to eat it as a meal, because, I DON’T JUDGE YOUR LIFE.

Chipotle Mango Guacamole

chipotle-mango guacamole

Chipotle-Mango Guacamole

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: appetizer condiment side snack

Ingredients (one bowl)

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 mango
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped cooked black beans
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • palm full chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped

Instructions

basically? mash the avocado and stir with other ingredients.

salt to taste

serve with chips.

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The Internet is for Porn.

Let’s start this out with something we all know.

Does the Chinese internet have porn? I hope so.

ANYWAYS, why am I talking about porn?

Because of a book, of course.

That’s the coolest damned dog, right?

You can probably surmise by the title that this book is a little bit…different, from the contemporary romance and PNR which I usually feature here in my little areola of blogland. (The nipple of blogland belongs to my PSM.) This book is, in a word, hysterical.

Because who doesn’t love a love story that begins at a porn convention? I KNOW I DO. Even though the idea of a porn convention makes me want to take an emergency chemical shower followed by some manner of ritual ablutions that cleanse my soul of the remnants of the experience.

But, hey! It’s cool if you’re into that! I’d just rather not. But, it made for a fantastic premise.

The blurb:

Most people would describe Katherine Berger as a responsible girl with a big heart, a loyal friend who takes care of those close to her, and the possessor of a wicked sense of humor. There was something about her that most people didn’t know. “My name is Kat Berger, and I love porn.”

When twenty-five-year-old Kat is dragged to a porn convention by her best friend, she’s both embarrassed and nervous. The last thing she ever expected was to meet someone who makes her laugh like no other. This is a story about acceptance and friendship, and a love born out of the most unexpected of places.

So what would you do if you met a really hot guy hanging out on a bench at a porn convention? What if he called you out for adjusting your underpants? Personally, calling me out would have me running somewhere dark and quiet to cry into a gin and tonic, but others may laugh!

Kat has much more of an indomitable spirit than yours truly, so she befriends the man with the huge…heart. And she kinda falls for him. He kinda falls for her. But, HE BANGS OTHER LADIES FOR A LIVING.

while she’s:

He’s basically:

Only, without clothing. And with boatloads more women.

Basically,

“who here has slept with Robbie Lingus?”

The story is light and fun, without any real pressure exerted upon the H/H. The biggest, erm, hurdle, is Robbie’s occupation, and how couldn’t it be? He knows more about vagina than Georgia O’Keeffe. (but think of the possibilities. The experience.) It’s honestly utterly believable, in spite of its over the top presentation and subject matter. The characters are ones the reader truly begins to care about, and the pages keep turning in a blur of lubricant and cheek swabs.

Strangely Enough, Lingus by Mariana Zapata? 4 stars. or phallic devices. you pick.

I know what you’re thinking, what recipe could POSSIBLY go along with a pornmance love story with shockingly little sex?

No idea. So I made roasted potato, leek, fennel, and garlic. Sweet Roasted Fennel and Potatoes. Fennel is a great anti-inflammatory, so I suppose it would be good after a long, hard, day at the office?

Sweet Roasted Fennel and Potatoes

 

 

Sweet Roasted Fennel and Potatoes

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Keywords: side entree salad snack vegan vegetarian nut-free soy-free

Ingredients

  • 4 bulbs fresh fennel, sliced 2 cm thick
  • 4 scrubbed idaho potatoes, halved lengthwise, and sliced 2 cm thick
  • 2 leeks, washed and cut 2 cm thick
  • 5 cloves garlic, halved
  • tsp salt
  • tsp black pepper
  • 30 ml EVOO

Instructions

preheat oven 400F/200C

toss together all sliced veg, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.

place in a single layer on two baking sheets

bake for 10 minutes, toss, bake ten more. If golden brown, take out, if not, bake 5 more minutes.

eat.

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2015’s Best Speculative Fiction

To read this blog is to know I ADORE SPECULATIVE FICTION. The mythology, the metaphor, the mayhem. I love it in ALL forms. Books, movies, theatre, tv. If there’s a werewolf or warlock I’m all over it. Give me your dead guys rising, your evil queens, your sexy alpha males with hearts of fucking gold, … Read more…

Top Ten Books of 2015

top ten books of 2015

I was going to do a gift guide, but really, if you read my blog, you probably want to buy all the books for yourself and eat all the fucking cookies, alone, while reading book blogs, books, in your fuzzy slippers, sipping your gin, silently judging those who say “I don’t like reading.” (or loudly, but because you’re home, and they’re somewhere where people who don’t like to read are, {the GOP convention, obvs.}) So, instead…my top (insert arbitrary number here) books of 2015, and almond cookies, because I love you. Really. Check twitter. I’m just drunkenly sober enough to tweet out “I LOVE YOU!!!!” Although, if its deleted before you read it, I got soberer.

Also, this is not some fancy “PEN list” or some other gathering. This is from what I read, and I don’t always read those “must reads.” Sure, a few may end up on other lists, but mother of hell, I do what I want. :)

I’m not judging YOUR life. I’m judging the non-readers, remember? (Unless reading makes you nauseated, or you have dyslexia and it gives you headaches, in which case, check my auralgasms page for some AUDIObook recs. They’re a thing.) Also, if you’re reading this, you’re sexy. Just sayin.

This book floored me. Absolutely floored me. It’s like if Code Name: Verity and Harry Potter had a super intelligent Chinese baby NOT named “Cho Chang.” Yes, it’s middle grade/YA, but holy fucking hell, read it.

Ok, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider just adding Elizabeth Hunter’s “2015 releases” to my list. Two problems–no picture, and that would be creepy. Like, hiding in Elizabeth Hunters bushes, creepy. Not quite hiding in her bush creepy, but I am infectious. Also inappropriate and weird. You’re welcome. This book also features a story by Grace Draven, and the combo will leave you reeling. I seriously stepped back in a cold sweat from Ms Draven’s story. HOW DID SHE THINK THIS SHIT UP?!? “Gaslight Hades” is unlike anything you’ve read this year. And holy wow, Josephine…just, Josephine. My soul sister.

*don’t judge insomniac dramatic readers, we’re just DIFFERENT.

The HAPA, genderfluid ghostbuster with the heart of gold is the protagonist of this tale. The writing is quick and precise, the narrative dreamy and well-constructed. I have no idea how this isn’t on a longlist of some nature, because it should be. I loved it so freaking hard.

Read this today. If you don’t, you’ve failed at 2015. You lose the future. Check your fucking privilege at the door, and read. I know that there is no way I can truly understand the minority position. But, I can learn to empathize.

Five words: well, that was suitably terrifying. Five more, now I’ll read it again.

Oh, you’ve never read Sarah Vowell before? Well that’s a damn shame.

I’m feeling feelings about it. Big feelings.

Sexy Gandalf. Sexy twins. A life with love doesn’t mean a stationary life. Penny Reid’s gift for goof and gab, as well as fucking smart AF prose and wild, wiley romance is PERFECT in this.

 Yes, it’s another romance, but OMG READ THIS ROMANCE. MY WHOLE HEART IS OPEN. MY COAL-BLACK SOUL IS HAPPY. DO YOU KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO ILLUMINATE A COAL-BLACK SOUL?!?!

I’m still trying to recover from this book. Yes, it’s an ontological narrative, which is often a hard pill for American audiences to swallow, but it’s amazing. This may not be the narrative you want, but it’s definitely the one you need.

The Peanut and I devoured each page with a hunger bordering on obsessive. It’s beautiful, it’s enchanting. GO now. get it.

Also, do yourself a favor and get these at your local shop.

Okay, so I guess this is the Top Ten Books of 2015. NOT such an arbitrary number. Don’t say I’m completely non-traditional.

And now? The Recipe.

Almond Cookies, because they’re delicious.

easy almond cookies easy almond cookies easy almond cookies

Easy Almond Cookies

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: bake dessert vegan vegetarian cookie

Ingredients (2 dozen cookies)

  • 1/3 cup almond paste warmed to a little warmer than body temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter or vegan alternative
  • 2 eggs or 6 tbsp aquafabas
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal

Instructions

preheat oven to 350F

whip together butter, paste, and sugar

add in remaining wet ingredients

whip for 1 minute

stir in almond meal

sift in flour

refrigerate for 10 minutes

scoop into 2 tbsp scoops 2″ apart on parchment lined sheets

bake for ten minutes or until JUST golden on the edges.

let cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

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