Monday, January 30, 2012

Fighting the Devil - Jeannie Walker, Author

Delightful Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 
(Jennie Walker's favorite)

1/cup Canola Oil   or: 1/2 cup (1 stick butter) plus 6 tbsp butter (softened)
3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tsp. vanilla
8-12 drops imitation almond extract (real almond extract can be substitued- 6 drops
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups Oats (quick or uncooked)
1/2 cup raisins (raisin lovers use 1 cup)
Optional:  1/2 tsp salt.

While oven is heating to 350 degrees, mix together canola oil, vanilla, almond extract, beaten eggs and sugar until creamy. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda & salt together. Add creamy ingredients to dry flour mixture-mix well then add oats & raisins and mix well again. Drop rounded dough by tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown or light brown, depending on your preference.  Makes approximately 4 dozen small cookies.

Happy appetite!  Try not to eat too many-they are so delicious they can become habit forming. 
Fighting the Devil – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat, Think With Your Taste Buds and A Book and A Dish
I had to put a gown and mask on.  Lou Ann and Debbie helped me do that and I walked in and I saw Jerry had some tubes, one running up his nose and I believed he had a little…uh…a hospital gown on.  His hands and feet were tied to each side of the bed with some sort of restraint.  Jerry raised his head up and looked at me when I walked in.  He said, “Gamble!”  I said, “Yeah, Jerry!  What in the world are you doing up here?”  He said, “Oh, I’m sick.  They’ve been doing all kinds of tests on me.”  I said, “Well, you’re gonna have to get well so that you can get out.  You gotta get a lot of things going, you know.”  He said, “Gamble, you gotta help me get out of here!  They’re trying to kill me.  I’m gonna die!  I’ve got $35,000 missing.  They took it.  Those two women took it.  They’re trying to kill me.  They fed me …  Lou Ann and Debbie, they’re trying to kill me.  You gotta help me get out of here!  You gotta help me!  Cut me loose!  Gamble, cut me loose!”
This was just one of many pleas from Jerry Sternadel after he had been admitted to Bethania Hospital, not once but for a total of 3 times before dying of arsenic poisoning on June 12, 1990.  Most people ignored his pleas after talking to his wife Lou Ann and his company bookkeeper Debbie Baker.  They assured anyone who asked that Jerry was getting better and would be coming home soon.
Arsenic poisoning creates one of the most horrible deaths as it eats away at the bodily systems until the body shuts down.  Symptoms are severe gastric distress, esophageal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea with blood.  The skin becomes cold and clammy and the blood pressure falls.  If death isn’t immediate, the skin becomes jaundice and is unable to void.  There may be moments of paralysis and if death is delayed by several days, the arsenic will hit the liver and kidney.  Convulsions and coma are final signs and death usually comes from circulatory failure.  This is a horrible way to die!  A bullet to the head would be more humane.
But, this is the death that Lou Ann and Debbie chose for Jerry Sternadel.  Now came the task of proving they were the ones guilty of administering the poison and how.  Jeannie Walker, who is not only the author of Fighting the Devil, but also Jerry’s first wife and mother of Jerry's only children, spent years working with the police and interviewing friends of Jerry.  She even hired a private detectives, all to prove the two women were guilty of murder and have them stand trial.  Will she succeed?
When I read Fighting the Devil, I was amazed at the court systems within Texas at that time.  There was actually a law that would allow a jury to find a defendant guilty of murder but still be able to receive parole and a fine!  Apparently the law was written for those who kill their abusers after years of abuse.  But will it work for someone as cunning as Lou Ann and Debbie?  This book made me aware of the trials the actual victims are put through.  Yes…the victims are actually put on trial as their character is dissected and torn apart.  Then there’s the jury.  Spending time in a locked room with 11 other people trying to decide if someone is guilty or not and then deciding what sentencing they will receive can, I’m sure, get to you and make you actually rush through your decision just to get it over with. 
The actual case of Jerry Sternadel’s death kept me reading even as my anger for the system grew.  I have to admire Jeannie Walker for her determination to find closure for her children and their families.  This case caught the attention of the producers of Oxygen channel’s Snapped series and was aired on February 17, 2005.  The case is still open and justice is still being sought.  I personally hope that for Jerry’s family and friends, closure will soon be found. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tranquillity Initiative - Joan Meijer, Author

Stewed Chicken
(This was my favorite of my grandmother's
recipes and is well known in my family as "Gonny's Chicken.")

One chicken, whole (remove the skin if you want, it will taste less sinful)
1 can black olives if they're small 2 if they're big
2 jars green olives with pimento (without juice or it will be too salty)
1 large chopped onion
10 cloves of garlic whole but peeled
1 8-oz can stewed tomatoes
25 sliced mushrooms
2 green peppers chopped
1 cup water or chicken broth
2 bay leaf
2 t. dried parsley, oregano, and basil
allow everyone to salt and pepper to taste

Put in large pot. Cover.  Cook all ingredients simultaneously over low heat for 2 hours or until chicken is falling off the bone.

My grandmother taught me to cook with a pinch of this and a dash of that. She also taught me lots of whatever's in the icebox cooking. There are never any true amounts in this recipe - It's kind of a refrigerator delight. If you have carrots or other root vegetables throw them in. You can add potatoes or sweet potatoes to the mix. If you don't like peppers don't throw them in. The stewing in the vegetables is what makes this marvelous - and using different vegetables if you have them adds to the flavor. The one I wrote at the top is my personal favorite.

If you want a thicker gravy take the chicken out of the pot. Melt 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch in one tablespoon of cold water, add to broth in the pot and stir over medium low heat until the gravy thickens

Serve with Quinoa or rice and salad. If you eat potatoes it goes really well with mashed potatoes.

Depending on the size of the chicken it serves 4-6 people.

The Tranquillity Initiative – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds

According to his records in the administration office, the young man, dressed in the color-coded coveralls of a porter, was a civilian who had been recruited by an independent contracting company from the Philippines.  In reality, he had been raised in the suburbs of Astrakhan and had traveled to the Philippines to live with a distant cousin in hops that he would be recruited to work in the American action.  Because he was wall-eyed, and darker than most of their local recruits, he appeared unintelligent to the Americans.  They never looked at him twice.  In the far corner of the Quonset hut, near the exit reserved for garbage collection, the young man unobtrusively removed the two red, white and blue Tranquillity bombs from a regulation canvas shoulder bag.  It was a familiar bag, one that he – like the other native workers – used for picking up garbage around the base.  Quickly and skillfully, he transferred the flag-colored bombs to the ragged native carrying case in which he stored a warm jacket and his lunch.  It was a tight fit getting them in, but he managed.  Stealing from the U.S. Air Force was a well-organized activity at this base.  The young man and his friends had been taking bits and pieces of armament for months.  To date, he had been most proud of the small surface-to-air missile he had managed to spirit off the base.  He had believed that a theft of such gigantic proportions would probably remain the high water mark of his life.  He had not counted on the portability of Tranquillity.

When it appears that the war with Astrakham had no end, a group of men inside the high loops of the US Government took it upon themselves to re-up the Tranquillity Bomb.  They all agreed that this would be the best way to end the war as well as show others that the US would prevail no matter what.  The group had no doubts as to the destruction that would be inflicted upon Astrakham if the Tranquillity Bomb was used.  This particular bomb was designed to silently disburse the deadly disease known as Anthrax.  The one thing the group didn’t count on was theft of two of these deadly bombs.

The bombs looked like bowling pins and decorated in red, white and blue were easily smuggled out of the country and into New York City by a group of young people posing as bowlers that carried their own balls as well as their own ‘lucky’ pins wherever they went to compete.  What they didn’t expect was to find the real threat of the bombs.  This came when one was opened in the attempt of removing the explosives, which were non-existing.  When they realized their mistake, it was too late.  Their fate and deaths were sealed.  The only thing left to do now was to take revenge on the US by dropping the 2nd bomb from one of New York’s highest buildings.  This will be payback for the destruction inflicted upon Astrakham.

Senator Richland Powell and CDC doctor Cassandra Williams find themselves in a race for not just their own lives but the lives of millions as they attempt to find who has the second bomb.  In a city the size of New York, their chances are slim.  Powell feels there is a connection between the Anthrax in Astrakham and that in New York but can’t quite prove it.  Cassandra feels the connection too, especially since it was her own grandfather who invited the Tranquillity Bomb.  His interest in Anthrax flowed down to Cassandra as well as her own father, making them two of the most renown experts in the field.  With that, Cassandra knew the two cases were connected.  She just had to prove it and find the other bomb before time runs out and the terrorists have a chance to seek their revenge. 

This book will scare the heck out of you because it’s possible.  It will scare the heck out of you because it’s typical.  It will scare the heck out of you because if it happened the people of the US would most likely receive no warning.  This book has the making of a great movie!  It’s simply so real that you find yourself actually seeing the events as being possible. I really enjoyed this book.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Master Plan - Carol Costa, Author

(a Carol Costa specialty)

2 small packages or 1 large package of Lime Jello
1 10 ounce can of crushed pineapple
1 pint Sour Cream

Prepare Jello according to package directions and chill until partially set
Drain pineapple and stir into jello with the sour cream

Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan and chill several hours before serving.

The Master Plan – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts

Carmen and Cathy both stared at Casey.  Finally Carmen spoke.  “What is going on in that devious mind of yours Casey?”  Casey laughed.  “Forget it.  It probably won’t work.”  “Let us be the judge of that,” Cathy told her.  “Okay.  We pool our money and one of us joins the country club.  Once she’s a member she starts socializing with the rich guys and snags herself a wealthy mate.  She can also bring her two friends to the club for some of the activities and introduce them to her husband’s rich friends.”  “That’s absolutely brilliant” Carmen exclaimed.  “Let’s do it.”  “Wait a minute,” Cathy said.  “Where are we going to
get twenty-five thousand dollars?”  “From your bank,”  Carmen answered.  “We’ll take out a loan and after we marry the rich guys they can pay it off for us.  Only I’m not the one who is going to join the club.  Casey has to do it.”  And that is exactly what the ‘three Cs’ (Carmen, Cathy and Casey) did.  They took out a loan to pay the application fee and Casey became the country club’s newest member.  

It didn’t take long for her to hook up with Anthony (Tony) Hunter while Carmen and Cathy both found catches for themselves.  It also wasn’t long before Tony asked Casey to run off to Vegas with him to be married, which she did.  But all good things must come to an end so after returning home, Casey decided to tell Tony about ‘The Master Plan,’ which is what the 3 Cs had named their plan.  While hoping for his understanding, Casey instead was asked to leave.  Casey gave Tony some time to calm down and then went back to the apartment in hopes of talking to him and making him understand.  What she found when she got to the apartment soon became her worse nightmare.  

Dana Sloan is an investigative reporter who seems to find herself mixed up in more than the usual ‘who’s ripping off the consumer’ investigations.  She seems to somehow stumble into a murder now and then.  In The Master Plan she ends up being involved in three murders with a friend, Judy, and a co-worker, Casey, being involved in two of them.  Her detective boyfriend Al Bruno is handling two of the cases and really doesn’t want Dana involved.  He has his own plans for Dana and they don’t include risking your life to complete an investigation.  His ideas for her are more on the line of her becoming a soccer/PTA mom.  

The biggest conflict in their relationship is when Dana steps into Bruno’s investigations or when Bruno withholds information Dana needs for her investigation and she is now involved in two.  From what Dana has learned, she has come to the conclusion that all three murders are related.  Bruno can’t see it.  He still feels that the wives of his 2 cases just might be guilty and since they don’t know each other, the cases have no connections.  

So… are they related?  Will Dana be able to solve one, two or all three without getting herself killed?  Will Casey and the 3Cs be able to pull off their little plan without being discovered?  These were questions I carried all the way to the end.  I usually have a list of my own suspects but with The Master Plan, I had none.  I was really surprised to find out who killed who and why.  I think you will too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Opulent Tableau of Essence - Compilation by Sharon Hays

Tuna, Noodle, Cheese Casserole
(Compliments of Sharon Hays)

½ box wheat bowtie or other kind pasta
Cook al dente’ since it will be baked later. Rinse, Set aside and prepare other ingredients.

2 cans drained white albacore tuna
1 C frozen peas (You may choose to leave out).
Make roux of ½ stick butter, 3 tbsp. flour, and mix med low heat until mixed well and flour is cooked.  Add 1.5 C skim milk slowly and let mix into the roux until it thickens and whisk so it won’t be lumpy. Add 1 ½ C of mild cheddar, and mix into sauce until cheese melts. Add 2 cans of tuna and mix into sauce. Add peas, (if you choose) and then add the noodles and pepper, etc to taste. ( you can add other seasonings to your own taste) Heat oven to 350 and bake with breadcrumbs on top or crushed potato chips (Really good) for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

(Also compliments of Sharon Hays)
Mix in bowl, 1 box any type cake mix,
1 stick butter (soft)
1 egg.
Press into bottom of 13x9x2 pan.
Blend together 2 eggs,
1 stick butter (soft)
1 brick cream cheese (8 oz.soft)
1tsp vanilla
Add 1 box of powdered sugar. Pour over crust layer and cook at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until top is golden/brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle w/powdered sugar, cool and cut. These are very rich, so cut small.

An Opulent Tableau of Essence - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir,
Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds

(Sharon Hays, 2010)
Reflections from an antique mirror
A face I do not know
When I leaned closer in to see
It was not me, oh no
I examined the stranger closely
She stared right back at me
I gazed into the antique mirror
Our eyes locked decidedly
Could this be the face of a long-lost friend
So familiar, the face in the mirror
This cannot be the face of me
A face that I am not aware
I tried to imagine how time could steal
A face that was once my own, oh my
But when I leaned much closer in
I knew the face was I

"I have to say that I've done this myself more times than I want to admit.  I've looked into the mirror and see not myself as I see myself in my mind's eye, but instead I see a face looking back at me that has developed lines and sags that simply can't be.  I look at that face and  see so many others.  My mother's face is there, my dad's face is there and even my daughter's face.  That just simply can't be me looking back at me. But of course it is.

Author Sharon Hays is known for her mystery books Mysteerie Manor and Mysteerie Manor II as well as her children books The Tumbleweed Family and Adventures of Sadie Ladybug.   Hays has now ventured into the world of art and poetry.
The poem above is one of her own and one of my favorites within her book An Opulent Tableau of Essence.  Her poem A Homage to Veterans Lost and Forgotten is simply beautiful as is Time of Change.  And the art work that she's paired with her poetry is just as beautiful.  A couple of my favorites being Clouded Sunset by Dana Gage and Pale Rider by Kerri Pestana.  But in honesty, I love them all and would love to have them hanging in my own home so I could just sit and stare.
And Hays doesn't stop there.  She actually gives a bio of each  artists included within the book.  Some local within the US  and some as far away as India, Australia and even Uzbekistan.  This is one book that when placed on the coffee table, will be picked up and not just thumbed through but read and enjoyed, time and time again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Dangerous Harbor - R. P. Dahlke, Author

Chile Relleño Casserole:

8 slices of white bread
2 small cans chopped Mild chiles
½ Cup Monterrey Jack Cheese
2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 Cups Milk
6 eggs
¼ tsp. Garlic powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano leaves or ground oregano
½ tsp paprika

Optional: 1 C each frozen corn and/or zucchini sliced thin

Trim crusts off of the 8 slices of firm white bread.
Butter one side and place buttered side down in rectangular casserole dish
Sprinkle 2 cups shredded cheese evenly over bread.

In blender, add 6 eggs, 2 cups milk, salt, paprika, oregano, garlic powder and whiz. Pour over cheese.
Top with more paprika or chili powder or green scallions for color.
Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Bake uncovered @ 325 for one hour or until top is brown and middle is firm.
Can be served warm or cold. 

A Dangerous Harbor – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts

‘Katy leaned over and deftly nudged the weedy raft around so that its reluctant passenger was facing her, and then ever so gently, pushed back the wet strands of black hair.  Dark wings of brow stood out in stark relief on pale olive skin.  It was a girl, maybe all of sixteen, she guessed.  “Where’d you come from?”  She wondered to no one in particular.  As if to answer at least part of her question, the ocean swelled, lifting up the maiden’s bier until Kate was looking into slightly open eyes.  There were o petechiae, the telltale red dots freckling the cornea and typical of strangulation.  “Not strangled, but still…”  A frothy red bubble clinging to the nostril and a few more at her mouth said drowned, but not in the water very long as the limbs were still pliant and the skin wasn’t bloated or damaged by fish or sea birds.’

Detective Katrina Taylor Hunter, of the San Francisco Police Department, was forced to take a sabbatical after shooting her sister’s stalker.  While the investigation was going on, she decided to take sail down to Ensenada, Mexico to clear her head and hopefully return to her position on the force.   After discovering a floater Katy has doubts about the head clearing part of her trip.  Her doubts are confirmed when after spending hours at the Ensenada Police Station she bumps into Gabriel Alexander, a former ‘love of her life’ who is being investigated as a possible connection to the dead girl found by Katy.  And to make matters worse, she meets Chief Inspector Raul Vignaroli.  Her reaction to him is immediate attraction.  One problem…he wears a wedding ring and Katy has no desire to become involved with a married man.  So will she be able to handle being around him after he cons her into helping with the investigation?  Also, how will she handle her feelings for Gabe, the man she loved so deeply in her younger days?

Following Katy as she uncovers what appears to be a sex slave market being run by not only one of the boat captains but also the drug cartel, will keep you on your sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails and guessing.  I had several ideas for who the killer(s) would turn out to be but found myself wrong most of the time.  I have to say that the real killer, whom is not exposed until the end, surprised me.   A Dangerous Harbor has turned out to be just as good as the Lalla Bains books A Dead Red Cadillac and A Dead Red Heart, both written by RP Dahlke.  All three will keep you on the edge.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Shape-Shifters - Louis Bertrand Shalako, Author

Louis' Apple-Nut Bread

2 1/2 cups quinoa flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/3 cups applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural sugar, packed down
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup chopped cranberries
1 baking apple, grated
3 eggs

1.) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2.) Cream butter and sugar together.
3.) Bat in eggs one at a time. Stir in applesauce, grated apple, cranberries and vanilla.
4.) In separate bowl stir together remaining dry ingredients.
5.) Add dry ingredients to wet mixture, stir by hand until well-mixed.
6.) Turn onto an oiled 5 by 7 inch loaf pan.
7.) Bake at 350 F. for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
8.) Cool ten minutes before removing from pan.

For a low cholesterol recipe, substitute 1/3 cup vegetable oil for the eggs. Quinoa flour is very nutitious and gluten-free.
The Shape-Shifters – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts
He withdrew deep into the recesses of his very being and got in touch with his actual, living soul, as he had learned, quite by accident, so many years ago.  He withdrew from conscious thought and into the core of self, where the ego and the subconscious mind peacefully co-exist, at least when they are not at war.  His mind became a warm black pit, swirling with stars, galaxies, and everything in the cosmos, and he subsided into it, floating on a blood-red sea, where he contemplated the three most abstract objects, the red box, the blue sphere and the four-sided yellow-golden pyramid.  His mind focused on the most universal of all abstract forms until he could pick them up and feel the weight of them, touching the hardness, the smooth-polished surfaces… His head started to cave into his body.  Proceeding slowly at first, the transformation accelerated.  His feet withdrew and retracted up and out of his boots and into his pant legs.  His hands disappeared up into his sleeves.  His grimy clothes were seemingly half-empty now, writhing and twisting in and on and of themselves as if taking on a life of their own.  A sock fell to the cold, wet floor beside his boots.  A thin wisp of blue vapor rose up in curlicues and arabesque shapes in the dim light of the single forty-watt bulb.  The clothing squirmed into a new shape on the chair, as the ropes fell limp and slack all around what remained of Jean Gagnon.
Jean Gagnon  is released from prison after being found guilty of robbery.  Throughout his whole imprisonment Jean  declared  his innocence, all to no avail.  Needless to say, his feelings for the system and the people that convicted him  are filled with anger and  resentment.   Now he is a free man and  can start his life anew.  Or  can he?
Janet Herbert  is a widow with two children, Jason almost nine and Ashley 3 1/2.  Her husband Don was killed in a construction cave-in four years earlier, before Ashley was even born.  The town of Scudmore had lost the mill and jobs were almost non-existent so her struggle to keep a roof over kid’s heads and food on the table was becoming almost impossible.  Then she met Jean.
Jeff McCabe, Harry Morden, Slick Wilson and Ted Hiltz  are hunting buddies.  Their hunting  isn’t always legal but it  kept them going.  Then they met Jean.  After finding out that he had been convicted of stealing half a million dollars, they had an  idea.  They would abduct him and do whatever it took to make him tell them where the money was hidden.  This would be  easy to pull off and they would all  be rich enough to get out of Scudmore for good.  What they didn’t bargain for is the fact that Jean is a shape-shifter, and not the only one in town. 
The Shape-Shifters’ will take you on a hilly ride as Jean tries to put his life back together.  He has inherited an old mansion that will cost him a fortune in upkeep, which he doesn’t have.  It seems his only way out will be to sell and move on.  He just didn’t expect Janet to step into his life and totally change his life.  He also didn’t expect the four hunting buddies to take him in at the same time a child had been abducted.  With his history of prison and the  accusations  of  mental  illness, the whole town turns against him. He is accused of taking the child and murdering her.  Jean’s future  looks hopeless. 
The Shape-Shifters is a book that I hope readers will enjoy. I also hope Louis will continue with future stories.  I totally enjoyed this book.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Three Trailers Down - Douglas Chandler Graham, Author

Broccoli Casserole
(Recipe Compliments of Douglas Graham)

2 pkg. frozen chopped broccoli (cooked) or any other veggie you like
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 med. onion, chopped
1 can cream of mshroom soup

Mix all and put into casserole dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers.  Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.  Melt 1 stick of butter and drizzle over dish.  Bake 325 - 350 degrees 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Three Trailers Down – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat & Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts
‘Sammy collapsed on the bed.  The girl was next, with a shot under her exposed chin.  The young man…the magnum hollow point destroyed his brain stem and nervous system.  All three were dead in less than ten seconds.  What Will had to do now was get away without being recognized.  He unhurriedly walked back out the front door, locking it before pulling it firmly closed.  He was sure it would take a couple of days before anyone was interested enough to check or notice that no one from this apartment had been seen for a while.  He opened the trunk of the car and was putting his equipment back in the case, separating the silencer from the pistol.  After putting the case in the canvas backpack, he took off the gloves and threw them in the trunk.  Someone behind him said, “Hi there.”
If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Smoke and Murders, you may have been left wondering what happened to some of its characters.  Well, wonder no more.  Vinyard’s corrupt police Lieutenant Bill Kenny is still up to his tricks.  When his wife Camilla takes up with mob connected restaurant owner Louie Russo, Bill decides to add a bit more corruption to his already full plate and free himself of anything or anyone that doesn’t fit into his plans.  He just didn’t expect State Police Inspector “Bear” McNutt to take notice of his activities and everyone knew what a pain Bear could be.  Especially after what he had done to Adam Brackett.  Remember him?  He was the one Bear insisted had killed his best friend and family in Smoke and Murders.
If you remember, Judge Roy Ragland took in the drifter Harry as a handyman but the Judge’s wife Lillian has her own agenda for Harry but has a loose end or two to take care of first.  Can she turn this orphan into a silk purse?  She sure hoped to and decided the best place to give it a try was the exclusive Bondurant Lodge.  And that is where we meet a few more characters as the stories continue.
Amanda Bondurant, 16 and bored, had just met the man of her life.  He was older but that didn’t matter.  He had a car and he would get her out of this hick town where her life had been so ‘perfectly’ dictated.  She would just leave her family and their money behind and start her new life with Will.  Little did she know, her new love had just completed a paid hit on one of the mob’s most feared men…Sammy The Shark. 
Newberry Suggs decided to settle down on the outskirts of Vinyard so he purchased a trailer park.  Other than the traditional fighting between spouses, the usual drunkenness and the occasional discipline of the kids, Suggs Trailer Village was fairly quiet.  That is until a beautiful young lady driving a Cadillac convertible moved in.  It seemed to Newberry that she was running from someone or something and when people came around asking about her, he knew there was a problem.  But who is this beauty that lives Three Trailers Down?
Three Trailers Down can be read as a standalone book but I really recommend you read both books – Smoke and Murders 1st and then Three Trailers Down, to get the full benefit of the story.  So come on Graham and update us on what has happened to our surviving characters since Three Trailers Down.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tunnel - The Lost Diary - Steven Nedelton, Author

Maple Squash Puree
(A Steven Nedelton Special)

Brilliant orange squash is a vegetable everyone in the family loves, especially when you sweeten the deal with maple syrup. A dab of butter works wonders to make it ultra rich and creamy. You can also make this slow-food style with fresh roasted squash, but frozen works perfectly when time is tight.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

  • 2 12-ounce packages frozen cooked butternut squash or winter squash
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt to taste


Put the frozen squash and water into a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the squash is thawed, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the maple syrup and butter and season with salt.


Mangos, squash, and carrots get their bright orange hue from beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant which actually imparts a yellow-orange color to food.

Tunnel - Lost Diary Tunnel – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts

“He stopped walking for a moment, beginning to wonder what the officer had brought in and where he had hidden it.  Whatever it was, it was not so small that he could have missed it on his way in.  He recalled that the wagon the three men were pushing was on the incoming rail, on the right hand side of the tunnel.  He also figured the wagon could not have been driven any further than the next stationary wagon he could barely see in the distance.  That meant the officer might have hidden his treasure somewhere near it, the contents being too heavy to carry by hand.  He began running toward the next wagon…he was getting close to it when he noticed a grey iron door on right wall. He stopped running and walked over.  It was fairly rusted, flush with the wall, and shaped like the opening of a dog house, three to four feet height and equally wide.  There was a handle on the door and he tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge, going neither up nor down.  He looked around the floor and found a half of a brick next to the wall…
“What are we doing here, boy?  Hunting for State property?” a man’s voice boomed from behind him.

Ben Kalninsh was just a kid when he watched the Soviet soldiers hide their stash in the tunnel that had not been used for several years.  He just knew it had to be guns and he sure wanted one for himself.  What he didn’t expect was to be caught by one of the soldiers who had decided to steal the stash for himself and go AWOL.  And with the help of Ben’s father, he had a plan that would keep him safe while getting himself and his stash of gold out of the country and into America.

Ben had virtually forgotten about his encounter in the tunnel as well as the man he knew as Andris.  Everyone seemed to have forgotten Andris, or so it appeared.  But he was brought to light when Ben’s father and their friend and neighbor were both brutally murdered for what seemed like no apparent reason.  It seems that there was more than gold hidden in the tunnel that day and the Soviets wanted that extra little find which turned out to be a diary.  It also appeared they wouldn’t stop searching and killing until they had their hands on it. Why was that diary more important than gold?

The Lost Diary Tunnel takes you into the world of espionage, betrayal, lies and a lot of agents working both sides of the fence.  What these people will do just to keep the Americans from knowing what’s really in the diary will scare the hell out of you.  At least it did me.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Things That Make Me Nuts - Annette Bergman, Author

Almond Joy Cake
(An Annette Bergman Favorite)

Cake: 1 Chocolate  cake mix
            1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
Foe cake: Mix as directed on cake mix, adding chocolate pudding mix
Bake in a greased and floured cookie sheet according to directions on cake box.

First topping: 1 cup sugar
                        1 cup milk
                       24 large marshmallows
                       14 oz coconut
Bring sugar and milk to a quick boil. Melt marshmallows in hot mixture. Stir in coconut.  Pour over cake.

Second topping:  1 ½ cups sugar
                            1 cup evaporated milk
                            1 stick butter 1 package chocolate chips
                            1 ½ cups nuts (almonds or pecans)
Bring sugar, milk and butter to a quick boil. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted, stir in nuts. Pour over cake.

Things That Make Me NUTS – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and Think With Your Taste Buds – Desserts

Ball Games

‘A lot of Sunday evenings, I plan on watching a movie or maybe a favorite show and it will be delayed by an hour, an hour and a half or more so they can finish a ball game.  I’m not a late night person and I don’t want to stay up until twelve watching a movie that was supposed to come on at nine and is over at eleven.

Sports fans just think about this for a minute.  Let’s say your ball game came on at seven and you turned on the television to find there’s a live Quilting Bee in progress and it won’t be over until the last knot is tied.  There isn’t a half time, but it will be interrupted by frequent breaks that will include potty breaks, coffee breaks, snacks and an occasional interruption from a cell phone.  All quilting will have to stop until the breaks are over, hands must be washed after eating donuts and nothing can continue until the cell phone conversation is over.  Can you just imagine the turmoil that would cause in your living room when you were expecting to watch your favorite teams play?’

Apparently, like Author Annette Bergman, I’m not a sports fan so I can truly relate to this Thing That Makes Me Nuts.  I even hate it when I’m doing something else and have someone watching a game, yelling at me, ‘watch this.  You have to see this play!’  Even if I humor them and watch the replay I have no idea as to what I’m watching nor what’s even going on with what I’m watching.  So yes, I do understand her frustration.

I also understand her other frustrations and believe that if you’re a female, you too can actually say ‘yeah!  That really gets to me too!’  Have you ever wished someone would write a ‘Husband Hand Book for Dummies?’  They do need a few directions now and then and since they won’t ask, maybe a book to read would be the answer. 

Bergman doesn’t stop with just husbands and men, she even goes into the problems we women have when buying a bra.  You can only take 4 into the dressing room at one time so you undress, try them on, redress, go back out and get 4 more repeating the same procedure until you either find one that fits or you just give up.  And why do men have pockets in their pants but most women’s pants don’t?  That’s not all!  She will open your eyes to the actual cost of a gallon of makeup! 

As I read I could hear one voice in my head…Andy Rooney.  I have decided that Annette Bergman is the female version of Andy Rooney.  I’ve laughed as she voiced her feelings on topics that we all face but most of all, I understand and feel the same with EVERY ONE of her feelings.  This is a must read for women and a should read for men.  I know that some of you men can’t relate to a few of the topics but look at it like this.  Things That Make Me NUTS will give you a better insight to the true feelings of women.

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