Sunday, 10 September 2017

No-cook cocoa, nut and date energy bites

First of my occasional recipes!

These are seriously quick to make, about 5 minutes from start to finish. I took the Deliciously Ella Ultimate Energy Bites recipe, and tweaked it because let's face it, who has coconut oil in the store cupboard? Ditto hemp powder... 

You will need a food processor.

Makes between 10 - 20 balls, depending on how big you like them..

– 1 cup of dates, stoned
– 3/4 of a cup of almonds
– 3/4 of a desiccated coconut or walnut or any other nut
– 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
– 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
– 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder
Approx 1 tablespoon of runny honey

Start by placing the almonds, walnuts and chia seeds in your food processor. Blend for 1 minute, until a flour forms and the nuts have crumbled.

Then add the remaining ingredients. Blend for another minute until a sticky dough forms.

Use your hands to roll the mixture into little balls, adding more honey if they are a little crumbly,  and place each in a miniature cupcake holder if you have them.

Store in the fridge for two weeks.

It goes without saying, but I will anyway, these aren't suitable for nut allergy sufferers...


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book Review: When Heaven Strikes by F.E. Feeley Jr





I was scared to read this one at first. The striking image on the front cover hinted at a plot concerning wild weather, but I could have been wrong. It could have been an allegory for the chaos that religious fervour can wreak on innocent lives. What if I was disappointed?

Turns out, it is both, and I wasn’t disappointed. First off, it is books like this one that make me love my job. After an easy-going start, the author draws the reader into the lives of Ted and Anderson, before focussing on the aftermath of a homophobic attack that has totally unexpected results. Both parts of the book are cleverly interwoven, yet easing towards an inevitable and dramatic climax.

As an inveterate storm-watcher, I was waiting for the tornado to hove into view, and it does, but I’m not saying when. Everything I was expecting to happen, didn’t happen. I really hoped the author wouldn’t succumb to the normal romantic tropes, and he doesn’t. I was expecting a book full of rage against the religious machine, but the outcome is more one of forgiveness.

This is such an elegant book. The sex scenes are beautifully choreographed, the progress of Ted and Anderson’s relationship feels totally real. Yes, love does happen at first sight. Then the reader gets sucked in by the secondary characters, the most surprising of which was the fire and brimstone preacher and his son. Again, expectations confounded at every turn.

In fact, this book IS like a tornado, throwing the reader into a spin. I loved that the ending made me cry. That is what books are supposed to do. Entertain you, anger you, make you feel. This book has all the feels, and much, much more. A masterclass in how to craft an MM romance, and support it with a plot that is so much more. A strong contender for my Book Of The Year.

BLURB

Artist Ted Armstrong lives a solitary and eccentric life. The survivor of child abuse disguised as religion, Ted has cut himself off from the world. 

Then Ted meets Anderson Taylor, and it’s like being struck by lightning. 

Anderson is a cardiac surgeon whose passion for his work has consumed him. He fears he’ll never find a partner—until he sets eyes on Ted. It’s happening fast, but both men know what they feel is right. 

Confronted with an angry preacher, a scandal, and an act of God that threatens to destroy everything, their relationship will face its first true test.


Book Review: Cursed by Sid Love writing as Kris Sawyer


I was gifted an ARC of this book for an honest and fair review.

This is an interesting one, a shifter/fantasy MM story with no pounding sex or rock hard abs, despite the misleading cover. In fact, most of the usual shifter tropes are missing, which makes a refreshing change, and yet it is still undeniably a shifter story.

It reads a little unevenly at times, with large leaps to move the story along where more detail and background would have improved the pace. This is a longer story fighting to free itself out of the constraints of a short (15,000 words) tale, and it deserves more embellishment. 

The author has created some well-rounded, likeable characters, and some genuinely scary ones. The tender moments feel real without being sickly sweet, and Clyde and Terry's relationship, although super-fast, is one to root for. The ending felt a little tacked on, probably to satisfied those clamouring for a satisfying ending. This is one area where restraint would have served the book better. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I loved the setting and really cared about Clyde and Terry. This series shows real promise. 

BLURB

Clyde Barrington is a werewolf with a curse on his head. Every night, he shifts from human to wolf and lives the life of a lonely predator, never fully accepted by his pack. When he saves a handsome stranger from a fire, everything changes.

In a world divided by the ancient feud between werewolves and warlocks, Clyde and Terry must learn to trust each other. When wolves start to disappear, their bond is tested by the fear of a pack now balanced on the edge of destruction.

Amidst a web of lies, deceits and betrayals, Clyde must decide where his loyalties lie, and choose between a forbidden love and the ties that bind him to his brothers. Is Terry an enemy to the pack, or the saviour that will lead them out of the darkness?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Book Review: Pregnant For The Alpha by Judith Shale


This book was given as an ARC by the author for an honest and fair review

It is fair to say I had fairly low expectations, given my previous experiences with MPREG books. (One didn't actually have any MPREG in it. The alpha gets the Omega up the duff off-screen and then voila! The kid is in kindergarten...)

This, however, is much better, a neat, standalone story which packs a lot in its 150 or so pages, from Omega Mikey realising he is "on heat" to finding his forever mate and settling down with him. It happens quickly in the shifter world. No disastrous first dates and all that nonsense. One sniff and yep, he's the one! It probably goes without saying that realism goes sailing out the door when picking up a book called Pregnant For The Alpha. After all, we are dealing with MPEG, shifters, plus interspecies mingling that wouldn't exist in real life. It made no sense so you either roll with it and just go with the flow, or give up in the first few pages because it defies the laws of human logic. The clue is actually in the title of the book at the front cover, so really, there's no excuse for that.  

I decided to roll with it. Any book that just bats tropes around like a cat with a mouse and then stomps all over them is gold in my book. The story was well-balanced, with cute, likeable characters. There is also a solid subplot involving Mikey's wish to get his screenplay accepted by a major motion picture company without compromising his artistic vision, and the Alpha fighting off a challenge to his authority. Yes, there were predictable romance markers, the fabulously rich Alpha, the boo-hiss villain, but kudos for not shoehorning in a "boy meets boy, boy loves boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back," scenario, AND for tackling the whole MPREG thing head on. Yes, I wanted to know how Mikey was going to give birth, how they were going to feed the baby. I needed this information, and I wasn't disappointed. So often it is glossed over, but that ain't good enough. If it's MPREG, those issues HAVE to be tackled and worked into the story without any cracks showing. 

I would have liked to see more of the animal side of the shifters, and more feline traits in the humans, but I find this is lacking in most shifter books I've read so far, to be honest. It's as if the human/shifter sides are mutually exclusive, which I find odd. Still, it didn't spoil the story. It just would have enriched it further.

So a quick, fun read, sticky, scorching sex and a satisfying ending. All in all, a great job, despite the fact I was mildly disappointed that the Omega didn't give birth to cute, fluffy Jager (jaguar/tiger) kittens. Now THAT would have been fun. 

BLURB

Someday Mikey will find his alpha. The independent young jaguar shifter hopes that day is far in the future... even if his need for a mate becomes unbearable every time he goes into heat.



When Mikey returns to his hometown, the last thing he expects is to find that fated connection. Especially with the pride alpha, the devastatingly handsome Lukas Waverly.

While Mikey would prefer to take things slow, Lukas has powerful reasons to put a baby in him as soon as possible.

Is Mikey ready to get pregnant for the tiger alpha?

(Pregnant For My Alpha is a 150-page M/M paranormal romance featuring feline shifters and male pregnancy. Standalone with no cliffhangers and guaranteed HEA!)

Book Review: Welcome To Crash by Lina Langley

No doubt the M/M romance fascists will get their panties in a knot over this one, featuring as it does a man caught between two lovers, a scenario in which the ending will always be bittersweet.

Yes, hunties, the main character CHEATS on his boyfriend. Get over it and move on, because this is a wondrous treat, an effortless read that I couldn’t wait to get back to. I read it over the course of three evenings, and was immediately in love with the characters. Damien and Levi’s relationship feels so incredibly real. Levi wants to keep their affair discreet because of their tutor/student relationship. His character felt familiar, a dreadlocked, groomed and decent man who has been chased and seduced by the Pan-like Damien, only to see the boy/man begin to crumble.
Damien is of age but eyebrows would still be raised if people found out. He accepts Levi’s insistence on secrecy but grudgingly. At times he seemed fairly young in attitude and speech, and then I realised that was because he hadn’t quite shed the arrogance of youth, and was unable to see the effect his actions would have on others. I liked him, though, because he was willing to accept that he had faults, and grow with them. His vulnerability and sense of guilt made him human, and who are we to throw the first stone?
Photographer John, wavering between gay and straight, is blown away by 21st Century Damien, although he does not know that Damien is out of time. John is suitably grungy, a tortured, grubby artiste fighting for recognition under the dominating wing of his mentor, a man who should be dead, but somehow isn’t.
This book wasn’t all about the love triangle, but about the circumstances around it. And what circumstances! The way the reader finds out what is happening to Damien, via his attempt to tell Levi about John, the time-bending twist; the horrible realisation that everyone around you thinks you are going insane; it was all wonderfully simple to understand but elegantly told. I really wanted all these characters to succeed in getting what they wanted. In less capable hands, a plot like this would be a hot mess, but without giving spoilers, I can safely say I enjoyed it right to the very last word. Definitely an author for those who are looking for romance with a piquant flavour of realist fantasy.

BLURB

At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality. 

Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.

Book Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth


The author gifted an ARC of this novel for an honest and fair review. Publication date October 2017.
Sci-fi can be a little po-faced at times, or quirky to the point of artifice. It can be difficult to strike the balance between intelligent story-telling and dumbing down the science-y bits for the masses. This author has been on my radar for a while. I’ve read some of his short stories, but never a full-blown novel.
Basically, this is a story split into three parts, threaded together by three generations of the same family. In the first part, we are introduced to the mothership, Dressler (or Lex, in ship-mind form, so the humans can relate to it.) Lex is critically wounded by a fungus that may or may not have been introduced intentionally, entailing a heart-stopping race to save her cargo from destruction before she is destroyed. Her cargo is the seed which will create a new world for humans wanting to escape Earth, which is slowly being torn apart by wars, big business and human fallibility.
Each part of the book is set a few years ahead from the next, so there is a real epic quality, a sense of journey, as humans attempt to start again, having screwed up the planet they were originally put on. Inevitably, the same old problems rear their ugly heads even in this Utopian worldly (called Forever.) This is a potent tale in an era where the problems the characters are coming up against are very familiar. Namely, the refugee crisis, capitalism and politics, power play, and wars that escalate, causing mass devastation. The fate of the dying Earth is very dark indeed.
In contrast, it is wonderful to see the birth and development of Forever, borne out of the asteroid Ariadne, where the seed was planted. And whilst this could easily be a bleak tale of a dystopian future, it isn’t, due to the ingenuity, compassion and generosity of the characters the author has created. The potential villain appears near the end, and is bound to have his day further down the series.
I loved the diversity of the characters, all without the common angst over who they are, or the usual mutterings of those around them. Some are gay, some are straight, some are trans. Get over it. It’s so refreshing to have a character that just happens to be trans, and yes, it is inevitable that their personal circumstances have a bearing on how they act around other people, but it isn’t a big thing. And the gay couple are in a long term, loving relationship. Again, that’s it. Accepted. Move on. We should have more characters in mainstream novels like this, which would go a long way to aid acceptance in the wider world.
Anyway, soapbox time over. This is a great science-fiction novel, and a cracking start to a gripping series. There is also a helpful glossary at the back. I’ve said this before with books. I just wish I had known the glossary was there before reading the whole book first! This would have been helpful to either, a) have it at the front or, b) mention it at the front so I know it’s there. It isn’t as easy to flip back and forth with an e-reader, but anyway, I was grateful for the added information. Not that there are a lot of unfamiliar words, but it does help to enrich and understand the world the author has created.
Finally, there are elements of everything here. An adventure, a rescue, the creation of a new world, machines with organic elements and Artificial Intelligence. The Lex character may or may not have the humans’ best interests at heart. That’s all I’m saying. In a word, this is a great novel, with awesome world-building and a plot that satisfies the sci-fi buff in all of us.

BLURB

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book review: King Of The Storm by B.A. Brock


Don’t be put off by the “Book One,” subtitle. This is a standalone story, told in the first person by Perseus himself.
Oh Perseus! You are a total fox, with an innate ability to stumble into trouble. The Perils of Perseus, perhaps? Lightning bolts from his talented fingers don’t save this young man from getting trashed at various points throughout this great re-imagining of a familiar tale. Yes, it has the obligatory recounting of Perseus fighting Medusa, and conquering the Kraken whilst rescuing Andromeda from the waves. Those tales are essential to the story of Perseus. But here it is expanded, as we follow our favourite demi-god from callow youth to warrior hero and devoted father.
Then the fantasy part kicks in, and this is where the real fun starts. Perseus is also a hard-lovin’, hard-drinkin’ guy, who falls in love with fellow student Antolios, and their love story weaves throughout this well-researched and lovingly-crafted novel. There is a LOT of meaty, succulent M/M sex, great well-rounded characters, and a a faithful adherence to familiar legends, as well as giving Perseus his own demons as he struggles with the responsibilities of being a demi-god.
The LGBT stance is solid throughout, even though Perseus does love Andromeda, and even (gasp!) enjoys sex with her. (FYI, MM romance fascists, this is plausible fantasy, so untie your knickers) but his heart and mind belong to Antolio. Perseus steadfastly refuses to accept his destiny for the sake of love, only to find that Destiny has a habit of rearranging things the way they ought to be.
This book had the ability to catch my breath, break my heart and make me laugh. There was an almost gleeful meddling with the normal romance tropes. This is no ordinary love story. The hero swashbuckles, screws and drinks his way through the pain of continually having to part with his true love, but he is also determined to be a good father and decent husband to Andromeda. It is when the human world and godly world collide, there are bound to be storms overhead. It is a complex story, handled with intelligence, and entertaining as hell.
The modern language (“no shit!” “Seriously?”) sits surprisingly well in the Ancient Greek setting, rendering this novel devoid of the pomposity that is sometimes found in stories of the Ancient Greeks.No doubt some scholars of the Ancient Greek myths will have a conniption at this.
And I say, good, because they are just myths, and we are at liberty to play with them as we please. I would hazard to guess that Zeus himself would be highly amused at the way his son is portrayed; as a sometimes drunken, lecherous, fiery and obstinate Demi-god with just as many problems as humans have, and an equal propensity for  trouble. Rather like his father, I’d imagine.
BLURB

In Epiro, a kingdom in Greece, Perseus is prophesied to be a great demigod hero and king, with a legacy that will shape the world of Gaia. When he was born, his grandfather exiled him, and his mother brought them to Seriphos, where she created an academy for demigod youth. Perseus trains there and waits for the day when he will be able to take the throne of Argos.

Despite potential future glory, Perseus’s fellow students think he is weak. By the time he reaches manhood, he has given up the hope of having any real friends, until Antolios, a son of Apollo, takes an unexpected interest in him. Perseus and Antolios fall in love, but Antolios knows it cannot last and leaves Seriphos.

Perseus, grief stricken and lonely, rebels against the Fates, thinking he can avoid the prophecy and live his own life. But when the gods find him, he is thrust into an epic adventure. With his divine powers, he fights gorgons and sea serpents, and battles against his darker nature. Perseus strives to be his own man… but the gods have other plans.