Books and Booze–Book Review and the Mexican Melon Ball aka Dragon Piss

“Fantasy is dead.”

“No one reads PNR anymore.”

“Sci-Fi is a dying art.”

“All the ‘most important’ fantasy/PNR authors have crossed genres to Contemporary or Lit Fic.”

These are all criticisms I’ve heard in the last year. Whether it was a tweet, an article, or blog post. It’s an all-to-familiar refrain hummed by the literate elite. With the boom of series sensations like Twilight and Harry Potter, and the dearth of mega-moneymakers since, most YA critics consider the genre completely dead–not just YA, but across the span.

Similarly, I’ve read less and less in blogs–specifically book review blogs–about fantasy novels or PNR/UF. I’ve read next to nothing about Fantasy Romance.

However, the increasing sales of these novels, most notably the bidding war recently waged at San Diego Comic Con over the filming rights to Patrick Rothfuss’s beloved novel, In The Name of the Wind stands as a contradistinction to the claims of the dying nerd culture.


These people look like they’re totally ready to write-off the genre.

I tire of these critics who claim the deaths of cultural icons in order to beef up their own numbers. I mean, HOW MANY PEOPLE SAID “CUPCAKES ARE DEAD?” For fucking real, have they ever had a cupcake? THEY’RE AMAZING. Pie is amazing–also not dead. Same with cookies, donuts, fantasy novels, leggings as pants, vampire books, Italian ice, sex in public places and beards.

There are a few things that were very dead, recently resurrected, that I am voting back into the beyond:

  • culottes–NO
  • The Governor of Wisconsin–NO
  • Candace Cameron–NO! also, WHY IS SHE ON THE VIEW?! JUST TO FUCK WITH ME?
  • flavored body oils–NO. That shit isn’t sanitary! Why are PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK TRYING TO SELL IT TO ME WITH JAMBERRY MANICURES?!

me. all day, every day.

However, in the past few years, a few intrepid readers have sought-out books which take them to places beyond this realm of reality and woe, and into the unknown. A new land of magic and smoke, mages and dragons, smoking parapets and sword-wielding giants. These readers have been richly rewarded. For the first time in decades, these readers have a fresh crop of fantasy authors spinning tales of worlds beyond the stars, which burrow deep into our imagination.

One of my absolute favorite authors in recent years writes in arguably the most forgotten genre, fantasy romance. To be honest, this was never the most popular–or the most successful of sub-genres. PNR, certainly. Urban Fantasy where the MCs get down with the getting down, absolutely. But full-on fantasy romance? A place separated by time and reality? Where magic rules and hearts drive storylines? Not so much.

Grace Draven seems to be as magical as the stories she creates. Her bottomless cauldron of imagination spills forth in each new narrative, potent poultices of soul-searing romance, and adventure the likes of which the reader has never before encountered.

Recently, I was given the honor of reading an ARC of The Brush of Black Wings the sequel to Master of Crows.

While I can’t review The Brush of Black Wings today–at least not fully, I will give you a little tease after I tell you ALL about Master of Crows. 

The Blurb:

What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target.

Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him.

Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love.

 My thoughts:

First thought? I want to wrap Silhara up in my sheets and comfort him. For…a protracted period of time.

Beyond Silhara’s sexy mage-y goodness? I was absolutely gobsmacked by the explosion of creativity that is splashed across each and every page. The world isn’t as different from our own as some fantasy, but it maintains a level of other throughout the story which creates a baseline for possibility while establishing that world’s status quo.

In the beginning of the novel, the reader is given glimpses of the bleak life that Silhara has lived thus far. They see him struggle with a god set on holding dominion over him. They see him wrestle his own demons from his past by the simple act of defiantly eating breakfast. The reader is also shown the gentleness he hides from the world, and the gratitude he feels for those loyal to him. He’s this amazingly powerful mage, striking fear into the hearts of high priest-like mother fuckers (I think Cumbria actually probably did fuck his mother–just my headcanon–watch out, he’s coming for yours next! BOOM! YOUR MOMMA JOKE!), and here Silhara is, smiling and befriending his avox servant, Gurn! (sorry, had to. forgive me?)

And Martise. Wow. Such a genuine believability to her. The way she intenerates Silhara’s personality by just her wit, her mien, and her voice. She has a courage that runs marrow-deep, and a sense of what’s needed. She is gifted not only with magic, but with such life. Martise’s character calls forth echoes of the great heroines of fantasies past: Lavinia, Mordred, Gwendolyn, Wren Ellesedil. She’s never predictable, but she’s always reliable. A wonderful combination.

The adventure. Fantasy is not fantasy without an adventure, and this story is no exception. It is a rollicking tale of far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells! and a Prince!! Wait…

Sometimes I have a Belle explosion in my brain. Because I actually started writing about the author’s use of latin–I stopped myself. YOU’RE WELCOME. Here’s how to use a fork…

But really, in Master of Crows, Grace Draven takes the reader on a ride through the perils of war, the pain of loss, the struggle with choice, and the ability to love–wrapped up in a net of magic with its knots made of grace capable of every human.

also? The sex is really good. I won’t dwell on it. But it’s really good.

Gonna need a cigarette, and I quit 10 years ago.

Master of Crows

 Four and a half “not a god’s” stars.

(half star removed for frequent use of my least-favorite Latin word.–GAH! I did it anyway!)


A little The Brush of Black Wings teaser…

The Brush of Black Wings

I will tell you this. I TORE through this book. I read it so fast I gave myself a godsdamned migraine. It was EVERYTHING. I liked it more than the original, more than Radiance, more than–GASP–A Discovery of Witches. It’s taken my top spot in fantasy romance.

The Brush of Black Wings is a perfect recrudescence for the genre of Fantasy Romance. It tiptoes the reader through the chaos of magic before flipping them into the abyss of the human–or not so human–soul.

It takes place four years after Master of Crows, and things at Neith seem to be settling down. Until SOME AVOX DECIDED HE NEEDED FANCY MUSHROOMS. Because bitch needs chanterelles, NOT, button.

Then? All hell breaks loose…

Real review on release day!

So, what recipe could possibly compliment such a book? easy.

Dragon Piss. AKA, The Mexican Melon Ball.

In the book, Silhara and Co. drink a liquor they lovingly refer to as “Dragon Piss.” It’s strong and green–tequila and midori! Also, the keep is a freaking orange grove, so, ORANGES.

This little gem of a cocktail was inspired by the book, and by my liquor guy, Jeff at Tops in Bklyn. He had the Midori I needed, and a new to me tequila that I forgot to write down. CRAP. This is why it’s good to know your liquor people. They’ll remember.

Dragon Piss

Mexican Melon Ball

Dragon Piss, AKA Mexican Melon Ball

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Keywords: beverage

Ingredients (1 drink)

  • 2 oz Midori it’s a low proof liqueur
  • 1-1.5 oz GOOD tequila
  • 1.5 oz OJ
  • melon balls and orange slices rolled in kosher salt.


shake over ice and serve.

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YAY!!Books and Booze–Book Review and the Mexican Melon Ball

Slippery When Immortal.

I woke with a giddy anticipation of today’s post.

It’s release day for this beauty…
Elizabeth Hunter is on my “perma-read” list. Meaning that anything she writes, I’ll read. If she were to suddenly decide to take up writing limericks for condom wrappers sold exclusively at Whole Fooods, I’d quickly find a use for prophylactics. (In spite of my married, barren state!)


–Elizabeth Hunter did not write that.  I’m sorry, World.

When I first received an ARC of The Scarlet DeepI was wound tighter than a pair of skinny jeans after a trip to the County Fair. (mmm, deep-fried butter…) I couldn’t wait to tear into it. *metaphorically speaking,* I was on my ipad. Also, I realize that that’s not quite the proper use of the word “metaphorically,” but I am owning it.

I promptly decided a few things: one, I was not cooking on that day. Not once. Spending time smearing the paste of the crushed bodies of  heat-tanned legumes on bacteria-enhanced wheat products was about all I was willing to do. There was much delivery sushi that day. And two, I needed more coffee. Like, lots more.

You get me, Lorelei.

What’s the book about?

On the waves of the North Atlantic, a poison spreads, sapping the life from humans and striking madness into immortals.

Patrick Murphy, the immortal leader of Dublin, has been trying to stem the tide of Elixir washing into his territory, but nothing seems to stop the vampire drug. While others in the immortal world work to cure the creeping insanity that Elixir threatens, Murphy has been invited to London to join a summit of leaders hoping to discover who is shipping the drug. If Murphy and his allies can cut off the supply, they might be able to halt the spread long enough for a treatment to be found for the humans and vampires infected.

Anne O’Dea, Murphy’s former lover, retreated from public life over one hundred years ago to help immortals in need… and to heal her own broken heart. Though powerful connections keep her insulated from the violence of vampire politics, even Anne is starting to feel the effects of Elixir on her isolated world. The human blood supply has been tainted, and with Anne’s unique needs, even those closest to her might be in danger. Not just from infection, but Anne’s escalating bloodlust.

When Anne and Murphy are both called to London, they’re forced to confront a connection as immortal as they are. As they search for a traitor among allies, they must also come to terms with their past. Behind the safe facade of politics, old hungers still burn, even as an ancient power threatens the fate of the Elemental World.

Was it everything I hoped?

And more. There comes a time in most vampire novels when the world building and storytelling are put aside for inane minutiae which typically serves to bulk-up word count and make a book seem more highfalutin than it actually manages. I like to call it the “smells like/tastes like game.” Because, it always seems to be inordinately related to how things smell and taste in vampy books.

Such as:

He smells like a combination of a warmed Werther’s Original straight from my Grampappy’s pocket, and my impending orgasm.

Again, no author wrote this exact description, but damn if there aren’t hundreds upon hundreds of them lurking in books. THIS wouldn’t exist if that wasn’t the case. Yes, EH does pen a bit about smell and taste, because they’re essential sensory notions to everyone, especially vampires. However, the narrative doesn’t ever feel fit to be bogged down by grocery aisles worth of taste sensations.

I’m not certain why this is the first thing that popped out in my brain as important, but it did.

On from that, the characters in this installment are ones we’ve met in previous Elemental World books. Murphy, the vamp many of us took as just a sexy, splenetic mob boss with deep pockets and even deeper bitterness; and Anne, the mild-mannered but firm vampire psychologist who helped Brigid move beyond the crippling emotional problems weighing her down. In The Scarlet Deep we are finally taken behind the curtain on their past, and the motivations behind the coldness we witnessed from them in the other books.

The reader is given intimate knowledge of just how intelligent and manipulative Murphy can be when he invites the leader of Belfast, Anne’s sister, to a gathering of important immortals–somewhat in politesse, somewhat mala fide–knowing she’d send Anne in her stead. He is singularly determined to recapture her heart, and will use all avenues at his disposal. The machinations occurring around this development lead me to believe that Elizabeth Hunter could have a bright future in espionage or preschool instruction. (I’m certain the level of societal manipulation is equivalent.)

The story is one that never lets up. The entirety of the two hundred and something pages are so full of story and webbed interminglings of past and future plot lines that the idea of even placing it down for a moment seems interminably long an absence from such a book. However, it never becomes overwhelming. The reader is never confused as to which storyline is which, and it is never unclear whom is the main focus of this installment. The book IS Murphy and Anne, but without their friends and supporting characters, the picture of them would be much less cemented.

And Murphy and Anne. OH, Patrick Murphy and Anne. The way they love. The simple honesty of affection and the heartbreaking threads of distrust which sews this story along its arc, creates a soul-binding romance in which the reader becomes so involved, they could be swept away utterly. Everyone knows what it’s like to have their trust feel misplaced, and the knowledge of that makes the outcome all the more rewarding for it. It answers the question: “Can one ever truly regain trust when it’s broken?”

In the end, they have to fight for it. Fighting not each other, but themselves, and also they have to fight for each other. All in all, I believe that Elizabeth Hunter’s books will become as immortal as the characters within them.


Five “fist to the feels” stars.

Someone hold me….

twist my arm.

And yes, I did get this book as a free ARC. BUTTTTT, it should be known I also BOUGHT IT. I really want to picture authors who send out ARCs, and the reviewer really loves the book, to sit back like this…

So, what recipe could go with such a wonderful book? WELLLLLL, NOT the truffles I originally planned, because, humidity. SO, in the book, Anne requests chocolate and wine. I can DO chocolate and wine. It’s also 93467498567 degrees, so I want to do chocolate and wine on ice cream. Therefore, I give you,

Cabernet Hot Fudge Sauce


IMG_3076 IMG_3078

Cabernet Hot Fudge Sauce

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes cooling time

Keywords: dessert vegan

Ingredients (1 1/3 cups)

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cabernet or other dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp earth balance buttery spread or actual butter


stir all ingredients in a saucepan on medium until smooth,

cook five more minutes,

let cool 10 minutes,

pour into pourable jar

let cool a few more minutes

pour all over some ice cream, your wife, a cracker…

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Orange is the New Blackberry Vinaigrette

Over the last few weeks, I’ve paced myself. I’ve been running (watching) a very slow marathon, because I didn’t want to finish. It was very much like delayed sexual gratification, only, you know, solo (which I guess could be done, but WHY?), and without any sort of peculiar (to me) rope-tying incidents.  I found myself parceling out my viewings as I did with “Daredevil” and every TED talk that I may want to absorb. I spread the episodes out like legs on a prison bunk.

I think you know where I’m going here.



Thirteen episodes of “OMG” no, “really?” and “could that happen?” or “I know Ruby Rose must be the BEST way to discuss sexual identity and gender binaries at the moment, but really, I just want to know who does her brows and does she polish her skin with diamond dust, because, REALLY!”

Sure, watching 13 episodes over a couple of weeks may seem an otiose activity to many, (not people who read B2B, obvie. Because, we have, like, goals and shit. Most which involve combining books and Netflix reading/watching on the elliptical. You multi-tasking scamps, you!) but, to those who do….

I mostly wanted a reason to use that image. Also, my son, when at his teeny-tiny Buddhist class/Tai Chi class he heard the Dalai Lama speak, he thought it was Yoda. Unrelated, but adorable.

“Orange is the New Black” just keeps getting better every season. Part of me gets claustrophobic just watching it, but a part of me can’t help but wonder what I’d do in Piper’s position. (not THAT position, you dirty-minded scamps. I think we can all agree I’d be AWESOME at THAT position, regardless of my sexual orientation. ;))

I’m sure, if I found myself in prison, I’d be the worst inmate ever. I wouldn’t stop crying because, obvie, I WAS FRAMED!! I AM INNOCENT!! I’d hate not having my regular routine, and the lack of family–or dudes–would prove overwhelming.

One may think I’m arbitrarily hyper-sexualizing this show. I’m not. The physical connections in “Orange is the New Black” become essential to each of the characters. They are the corollary of the isolation and denial. The fascinating system of hierarchies, favors, and a-typical gender roles in the show are balanced with humor, humanity, and heart. The show is ever-interesting, and ever fresh.

What recipe could I possibly pair with it? I’m obviously NOT making prison food. But, I can play-on words like whoa.

Orange is the New Blackberry vinaigrette.

It’s tangy, it’s seasonal, it’s yum.

orange is the new blackberry vinaigrette

orange is the new blackberry vinaigrette orange is the new blackberry vinaigrette orange is the new blackberry vinaigrette



Orange is the New Blackberry Vinaigrette

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: appetizer condiment

Ingredients (one jar.)

  • 1/3 cup blackberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise (I use Hampton Creek Just Mayo)
  • 1/2 cup evoo
  • 1/4 cup loose basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey


combine all ingredients and puree in a food processor.

store in an airtight jar.

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Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.
Though Netflix sponsored these posts, all opinions and recipes are my own.

Book Bits: A Review in Preview, The Scarlet Deep by Elizabeth Hunter

Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of reading an ARC of Elizabeth Hunter‘s newest Elemental World Novel, The Scarlet Deep

The full review will be posted–complete with recipe–on its release date, 7/7/15.

However, in anticipation of said review, I want to give B2B readers a bit of a teaser.

First, what’s the story about?

Normally, I’d TOTALLY copy/paste a blurb from GR here. However, I want to tell you in my own, semi-crazy way first, k? ok.

This is a story about how love can reach across seemingly unsurpassable boundaries. Boundaries which we erect for ourselves, and those erected by society.

speaking of erecting…


with seriously fun characters and a seriously sexysmartfunny feel.


Patrick Murphy and Anne O’Dea were quite the thing…over a hundred years ago. Since a falling out, and subsequent break-up, they’ve remained two immortals apart for the following century. However, with Murphy being the head of all of Dublin’s immortal life, and Anne being the sister of the Lady of Belfast, a crisis of possibly Biblical magnitude thrusts them together faster than Me and anything Fassbender. (I also just made that title up, and I am now going to refer to Elizabeth Hunter ONLY as “The Lady of Belfast.” I’m also assuming her family is from Belfast. Too bad for her if she’s County Kilkenny or something.)

This is a tale to determine whether years and insecurities can be overcome by love and instinct. Can trust ever be re-built?

The Scarlet Deep

A work of staggeringly well-written romance, The Scarlet Deep saturates the reader in the soul of the story, and gives them a sexy narrative they can really sink their teeth into. Elizabeth Hunter has once again proven she is a literary tempest; capable of placing pen to paper and and imagining for us a whorl of enchanting stories that keep us in a current of electric excitement from which we hope to never be separated.

Five thunderous stars.

Auralgasms #7

Happy National Audiobook Month!! Also? HAPPY PRIDE!! Oh wait, wrong Pride… In honor of PRIDE, a hopefully positive SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, and the closing of National Audiobook month, I’m featuring my all-time favorite LGBT audiobooks! Honestly, they’re just good as hell books. Gay/straight/asexual matters not. The story or the memoir or the short stories … Read more…