Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas #Mystery #Adventure #Fantasy – Andrew Joyce, Daniel Kemp, Teagan Riordain Geneviene and Linda G. Hill

We are now over two thirds of the way through the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore with plenty more books that would make great Christmas gifts. I grew up with a father who loved Westerns, even more so if they had John Wayne in them. They are not making as many these days in Hollywood, but don’t worry because Andrew Joyce has a series that would satisfy the cowboy in all of us!

About Redemption

The Winner of the 2013 Editors’ Choice Award for Best Western

Three men come together in the town of Redemption Colorado, each for his own purpose. Huck Finn is a famous lawman not afraid to use his gun to protect the weak. He has come to right a terrible wrong. After his wife’s death, Tom Sawyer does not want to live anymore; he has come to die. The third man, the Laramie Kid, a killer Huck and Tom befriended years earlier has come to kill a man. For these three men Death is a constant companion. For these three men it is their last chance for redemption.

One of the many outstanding reviews for the book:

Andrew Joyce is a fabulous storyteller. After reading his second novel, Molly Lee, I knew I had to read the first. Serendipitously, I was gifted the book and was thoroughly entertained once again.

Action-packed, chock-full of adventure, and easy to read, Redemption is a book that the reader will find difficult to put down.

Huck Finn doesn’t seek notoriety, but from Missouri to Mexico to the Colorado Territory, he finds himself amidst situations that eventually give rise to fame. And even though he doesn’t fancy himself a lawman, destiny has a badge with his name on it that he wears for many years. Grit and an iron will provide him the fortitude necessary to establish order in many a lawless town. But he also has a kind and just heart that intermittently reveals itself without emphasis or fanfare.

Tom Sawyer has an unrelenting itch to sail to China. But when the journey proves longer and more arduous than anticipated, he jumps ship and ends up in Hawaii, where he falls in love and begins to settle down. But as it was for Huck, so it is for Tom; destiny has designated him a different fate. A series of misfortunes compels Tom to go stateside and once again partner with his old pal, Huck.

The two men team up with Jed Bevins, a young and now infamous man they’d met early on. Jed sets out to avenge the deaths of his adopted Pawnee tribe and, over time, garners fame as a gunslinger. However, the notoriety is ill-placed, because his intention is to kill only those who slaughtered his people. And, yes, destiny intervenes for Jed as well; the title “Laramie Kid” sticks and will not be dismissed.

These three men join forces to fight a corruptive and treacherous power in the town of Redemption. As tempers flare and bullets fly, farmers and ranchers find common ground, adding a sensational element to the spectacular showdown.

For those who enjoy a well-written adventure that trumpets the victory of good over evil, Redemption has it all. You won’t be disappointed.

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The other novels in the series – Molly Lee and Resolution and other books by Andrew Joyce

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Now time for another series that would make a perfect gift- starting with the mystery, What Happened in Vienna Jack?, by Daniel Kemp.

About the book

A robbery in London’s Charing Cross Road. The murder of a catholic priest at the end of World War Two. A genocide in Namibia. The discovery of the remains of Hitler’s personal secretary.

Something connects all these things, and former British spy Jack Price knows the answer. He’s willing to die to keep the secret, but the problem is… he’s not the only one who knows.

It’s the lies that are not heard, but kept as secrets, that own us all. Deep in the world of espionage, lies and deception, how far is Jack willing to go to fulfill his mission?

One of the reviews for the book

Truth and lies, lies and truth and which is which? Can the truth be hidden in a lie and a lie be veiled in the truth?Suppose there are secrets too? Just the knowledge that something is hidden, well, reality can become a little blurred and obscure. When Patrick West meets Jack Prior in Daniel Kemp’s “What happened in Vienna Jack?” an investigation into police corruption in Soho leads, indirectly, to what could become a world ending catastrophe.

“What Happened in Vienna Jack?” Is a thriller, a tale of espionage and deceit, a story where a turn of reality can change with the turn of a page. I am constantly amazed by Daniel Kemp’s ability to not only keep control over a vast array of characters but, simultaneously, weave an erudite absorbing narrative that leaves me confounded. It was difficult to harness what I was reading. Daniel Kemp is meticulous in his research and extremely knowledgeable about Europe’s political landscape of 1933-1970.

In November of 1937 a violation, somewhere in Europe and prior to WW2, precipitates the unfolding narrative. Like any violation it is cruel, humiliating…just by reading about it, I felt dirty. The violation involves a prominent Nazi and a member of the British monarchy…see what I mean about secrets? This secret is so controversial (and “controversial” here is a massive understatement) that it is hidden, even to the point of murder, for fear of the secret being divulged. It’s an adroit piece of writing.

When I’ve posted this review I shall be reading “What Happened in Vienna Jack?” again. I think that most lovers of the thriller genre will feel the same. I’m not ready to leave either the characters, or this compulsive, gripping narrative…I’ll linger over every paragraph. And I’m pleased to learn that this book is just part one of a book series. If I haven’t made it clear enough, this book is highly recommended.

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The other books in the series – Once I Was a Soldier and Percy Crow and other books by Daniel Kemp

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Now time to revisit the town created by Teagan Riordain Geneviene in the second book of her series Atonement in Bloom which was released in October this year.

About Atonement in Bloom

“Atonement in Bloom” continues the urban fantasy from the point where “Atonement, Tennessee” ended.The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined. The local population included supernatural beings of the fae variety. Although only she and a few others knew about that.In a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life. In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed. Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee. Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals.Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast.Fae foolery backfires. A friend is abducted.On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.

One of the recent reviews for the book

When pigs fly… Even for Tennessee, the little town of Atonement is different. Of course Esmeralda—Ralda to her friends and, well, everybody except a few flying pigs and misinformed fae—already knew that. Her (now missing) next door neighbor occasionally has giant black wings, the handsome local florist does magic but then makes people forget it, and don’t even get her started on those glowing pigs with wings. But what really has Ralda worried is the house that just appeared, the same one everyone else seems to think has been there forever. Then her worry turns to fury when fae magic takes a decidedly dark turn, disturbing the balance of winter. Flowers appear in the snow, and further manifestations endanger Ralda’s friends. When one of them is attacked and another disappears, Ralda realizes it’s up to her to save Atonement. She just wishes she knew how to do it when all those things that go bump in the night turn out to be real.

I absolutely love the setting. Small towns in the South are already so full of idiosyncratic characters and moody locations that they fit perfectly into a southern gothic setting. In true gothic style, Ralda lives in Sunhold, a huge wreck of a mansion with its own graveyard. Her new neighbor, the owner of the mysteriously appearing house, is properly dapper and charming, but his eyes give him away.

“Then I saw it. I accidentally made eye contact with the man in the purple pinstripe suit. There was intensity in his eyes that did not match the gentle face. I don’t mean evil or anything over the top. However, something was definitely off kilter. I had to wonder if he was mentally stable.”

Add in an antique silver locket, attractive yet mysterious men, supernatural beings, a sheriff who speaks in Shakespeare quotes, and one small cat who seems to know more about the situation than anyone else, and you have it: a seamless southern gothic paranormal mystery genre mashup. Then if you stir in a sense of fun and humor that includes flying pigs and even a grocery store, Hogley Wogley, that echoes the South’s iconic Piggly Wiggly, and you have a recipe for a great addition to the Atonement Tennessee’s story.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a bit of Southern wit and humor with their tales of magical mystery. But Atonement in Bloom is definitely not a standalone. The large number of characters and prior events mean you should treat yourself to the first book, Atonement Tennessee. Although both books’ story arcs are nicely resolved, there are so many questions remaining. What really brought Ralda to Atonement? What are the supernaturals atoning for? Of course, Ralda’s cat Lilith probably knows the answers, but since she’s not talking, the rest of us will have to wait for the next installment of Atonement’s story.

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Also by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

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And last but by no means least today another writere with a second book released in a series, award- winning author Linda G. Hill, and her modern-day Gothic romance series, The Magician’s Blood: A Paranormal Romance- The Great Dagmaru Book Two.

About the Magician’s Blood

Herman Anderson is in love. Thrilled to travel across Canada with her boyfriend as his assistant onstage, she returns to her hometown—the first stop on the Great Dagmaru magic tour. Anticipating a reunion with her brother, instead she finds her family has moved without a trace.

Stephen Dagmar’s career as a stage magician is taking off. With Herman by his side, his only concern is her father’s dislike for him. But as Herman’s father makes a prediction and resolves to come between them, Stephen’s family curse returns to haunt him.

Darkness descends as the reality of the Dagmar’s incubus bloodline surfaces for the first time in over a generation. Can Herman and Stephen’s relationship survive this new trial? Will Herman survive at all?

A sinful tale of beauty and romance, love and determination, The Magician’s Blood will chill you and leave you breathless for more. *18+ Contains explicit scenes.

One of the reviews for the book

Stephen Dagmar is travelling through Canada with Herman his assistant. Herman is excited because one of the stops is her hometown and she can’t wait to see her brother Chad only when she arrived it is to learn that the home has been sold.

She is forced to call her father who hates Stephen to get the information she needs on her mother and brother’s whereabouts. Her mom is in a nursing home and her brother is living with an aunt so she is able to visit them both. Her father George and Stephen hate each other and her father wants Herman to leave him. She finally discovered what her father did for a living which was to dress as a woman and act as the assistant to another magician even though he had more magic in him than the man he worked for.

George has the ability to read minds and see into the person’s future and he is convinced that Herman’s life is in danger if she stays with Stephen. Nina Curry is pregnant with Stephen’s child but she wants him and wants Herman gone. In spite of what George says Herman has no intention of leaving the man she loves and Stephen is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect the woman he loves.

It is finally discovered about the curse that has plagued Stephen’s family and the Curry family for generations, he has demon blood in him and it is an incubus answering the question why woman all throw themselves at him. Herman has a lot to accept living with Stephen, his numerous affairs with just about every woman she meets, his actual gift of real magic including being able to levitate and move from one place to another, but the one thing that bothers her is that Nina is going to be the one to bear Stephen’s first child, a daughter.

Herman like her father has inherited the gift of seeing into someone’s future and she can’t get over the fact that Stephen will betray her with his agent and best friend and past lover, Margaret. When Stephen’s demon presents itself what Herman saw comes to pass but it is not mere sex it is an invasion, a violent invasion. For the first time Herman has seen the demon first hand has she finally had enough?

This is not an easy review to write because there is so much going on that I could easily give away something I shouldn’t so I am trying to be very careful. There is sex, violence,true love and an interfering father determined to break up Herman and Stephen. There are so many secrets and surprises not only about Stephen but about Herman’s family and particularly her father but there is no cliffhanger.

I know that this was supposed to be the second and last book in the series but I am hoping for more I don’t think Herman and Stephen’s story is over yet, but then I am not the author just a reader who loves this series.

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Also by Linda G. Hill

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Thank you for dropping in today and I am sure there was a book or two that might have caught your eye.


Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The Food Column – Carol Taylor – Traditional Christmas Menu

Welcome to CarolCooks2 @ Smorgasbord Magazine and this week it is my Christmas menu for carnivores…lol

Thank you to everyone who made such lovely comments on my vegetarian Christmas menu it was a first for me I cook but apart from devising a menu for home I don’t publish a menu.

This week’s menu is a mix of the traditional with a couple of other dishes thrown in…I always like to make at least one new dish every Christmas some I never make again as they were ok..Just not that memorable…You know what I mean don’t you…

Prawn Cocktail

As far back as I can remember Prawn Cocktail has been a must-have for our Christmas starter…..One year I fancied a change and we had a fantastic fresh seafood platter with Oysters, Langoustines everything you could think of and some Thai dips made by the daughter in Law…The only way to eat Oysters. But we also had to have Prawn Cocktail….I think I would get lynched if I didn’t make it and the sauce has evolved over the years. I now add horseradish for that extra bite. Some add Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce but we like it with just horseradish and I use Salad cream instead of mayonnaise. Sometimes I mix the two it just depends on how I feel on the day. But as with anything it is personal taste so play with the sauce and find how you like it best.


• 500gm of Cooked Prawns, peeled.
• 4 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
• 5 tbsp Salad Cream or mayonnaise
• 2-4 tsp hot Horseradish Sauce.
• Salt and freshly ground Pepper.
• 3 tsp Lime Juice.
• Shredded Iceberg lettuce
Garnish: Tomatoes sliced, Paprika pepper, Extra prawns …I leave the tails on these.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Mix tomato ketchup, salad cream together. Add horseradish sauce, lime juice, salt and black pepper.
  2. At this stage, I taste and adjust the seasoning and add more of whatever I need to…. generally horseradish.
  3. Chill in fridge until ready to serve.

To serve: Put some shredded lettuce in individual serving dishes with cucumber if using. Put a generous serving of the cocktail sauce on top. Sprinkle with Paprika. Garnish the dish with Prawns, A slice of lemon and tomatoes if using.

Crab, Coconut, Chilli and Coriander Soup.

I use fresh crab for this soup as it is readily available and picked here but you could use tinned crab.


• 500 gm crab meat
• 4 cups of crab or fish stock
• 1 large tomato chopped and peeled
• 1 cup of coconut milk
• 1 onion finely chopped
• 1 celery stick chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic crushed
• 1 fresh red chilli , chopped and seeded ( if req) I don’t
• 2 tbsp of olive oil
• Juice of 1 lime
• Salt to taste
• 3 tbsp of fresh chopped coriander
• Lime wedges and hot chilli oil to serve.

Let’s Cook

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat. Stir in the onions and celery and saute for about 5 mins until the onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and the chilli stir to combine well and cook for a further 2 mins.
  3. Add the tomato and half of the coriander and turn up the heat and cook stirring for 3 minutes then add the stock. Bring to a soft rolling boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the crab and the coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 mins.
  5. The soup should be thick but not too thick so add some water if required.
  6. Stir in the lime juice and remaining coriander and season as required with salt.
  7. Serve in hot bowls with the chilli oil and lime wedges on the side.

Beetroot Tartare.


• 160 gm of cooked beetroot.
• 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp of double cream

For Fried Capers:
• 10 capers
• Oil to fry about 3 tbsp.

For the crisp bread:
• 2 very thin slices of stale bread
• 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Make the crisp breads by cutting the bread into squares allow 3 to 4 squares per person.
  2. Heat the grill on its highest setting and put the bread on a tray and drizzle with the oil. Grill on each side for 1-2 mins until crisp and golden being careful not to burn (like I did)
  3. To make the tartare, finely chop half the beetroot and blitz the other half with the olive oil to make a rough paste, and then combine with the chopped beetroot and cream and season to taste.
  4. Rinse the capers and pat dry then heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat add the capers and fry for 30 seconds until they have started to open up then drain on kitchen paper.

To serve: Place a 6-8cm ring on a plate and put in some beetroot mix then remove the ring.
Garnish with capers and the crisp bread.

Pigs in Blankets. – Christmas dinner would not be complete without them would it?

• 8 thin slices smoked bacon
• 16 chipolata sausages
• I tsp Worcestershire Sauce
• 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
• 2 tbsp clear honey.

To prepare

  1. Mix honey, thyme and Worcestershire sauce in small bowl, add sausages and make sure they are coated in the mix. Cut bacon down the middle long ways. Wrap bacon around sausages.
  2. To freeze now put in a container and separate the layers with greaseproof then remove from the freezer on Christmas morning and cook as below
  3. Put sausages on a baking sheet well spaced apart.
  4. Cook on 180 for about 30 minutes until nicely browned and bacon is crispy.

Crispy Roast Potatoes.

I always par boil my potatoes and give them a good shake before putting them into a hot pan with some duck fat and roast…Basting and turning every 30 minutes until nice and golden.

To jazz your roasties up a little add some herb butter, garlic and or rosemary sprigs.

Brussel Sprouts.

Christmas dinner would not be the same without a bowl of Brussel sprouts and there are many ways you can cook these lovely little cabbages and even people who don’t like sprouts …Love them!

My spicy pan fried Brussels come very close or top depending on whether you are bacon or a chilli fan…

I love just plain little Brussels lightly steamed or boiled with my Christmas dinner. Sautéed with bacon they are to die for…

This recipe serves 4 people.

• 1lb of Brussel sprouts trimmed and halved
• 1 tbsp of olive oil
• 1-2 garlic cloves
• 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
• 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
• 6 shallots peeled and quartered
• Chilli flakes and chopped fresh chives to garnish.

Let’s cook!

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and shallots and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the shallots just start to turn golden.
  2. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and add the sprouts. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat then reduce the heat and cover the pan, cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the sprouts are almost tender.
  3. Sprinkle over the balsamic vinegar and let it cook just for a few seconds. Season the sprouts to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.
  4. Garnish with chilli flakes and chopped chives.

A beautiful side dish with your Christmas dinner.

Broccoli with red chilli and anchovies.


• 300 gm tender stem broccoli, trimmed and cut lengthways
• 3 tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 Onion finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic crushed
• 2 anchovy fillets drained and finely chopped
• 1 red chilli finely chopped
• Juice of half a lime
• Parmesan shavings

Let’s Cook

  1. Blanch the broccoli for 3 minutes in boiling water and then drain. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat add the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is golden brown.
  2. Add the garlic, anchovies and red chilli and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the blanched broccoli and fry for 2-3 minutes or until broccoli is tender.
  4. Squeeze over the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper and toss together.
  5. Top with parmesan shavings

Bacon, Chestnut and Cranberry Christmas Stuffing.


• 450g sausage meat
• 2 rashers unsmoked back bacon, cut into strips
• 100g dried cranberries
• 50ml ruby port
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 50g butter
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 140g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs
• 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
• ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
• 140g peeled, cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
• 1 medium egg, beaten

Let’s Cook!

  1. Soak the cranberries in the port for an hour.
  2. Fry the onion and bacon gently in the butter, until the onion is tender and the bacon is cooked.
  3. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so.
    Cool slightly, and then mix with all the remaining ingredients, including the cranberries and port, adding enough egg to bind I find it easiest to use my hands so get those hands in and mix thoroughly.
  4. Next, I do a little tester; in fact, I generally do that with all my stuffing as it is the only way to tell if the seasoning is correct. Fry a knob of stuffing in a little butter, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  5. This stuffing can be baked in a dish or rolled into balls that will be crisp on the outside and moist inside.
  6. Bake in a greased dish at 190C/gas 5/fan 170C for about 40 minutes, until browned and, in the case of sausage meat stuffing, cooked right through.
  7. Alternatively, roll into balls that are about 4cm in diameter. Roast the stuffing balls in hot fat (they can be tucked around the turkey or done in a roasting tin of their own) for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and nicely browned on the outside.

Cranberry Sauce.


• 3 cups or 12oz of cranberries.
• The juice of 2 large Oranges.
• A cup of sugar.
• 1 stick of cinnamon.

Let’s Cook

  1. Put all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan, bring to the boil and turn down so it is still a rolling boil and cook for 10 mins if ( using) frozen berries or 20 minutes if using fresh cranberries as they will take a bit longer to pop.
  2. Allow mixture to cool and put in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Bread Sauce

Freeze the breadcrumbs ready to use (I always) keep a bag of frozen breadcrumbs in the freezer. The sauce can be made the day before and reheated on the day… I have been surprised living here that many people have not heard of bread sauce my mum always made it at Christmas we couldn’t have turkey without bread sauce…


About half loaf of good quality stale white bread either broken into smallish pieces or can blitz into breadcrumbs if you like a smoother sauce.
• I brown Onion peeled and studded with cloves.
• 2 bay leaves.
• Salt & Pepper.
• About half pint milk.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Pour milk into a saucepan and add studded onion. Slowly bring to boil and turn down and let gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. When cool remove Onion and bay leaves. This can be reheated to serve or made the day before and kept covered in the fridge. It is quite a thick consistency so if too thin add some more bread if too thick some more milk.

Roast Turkey with Proper Gravy.

We always have a turkey and this year it will be a home reared one so we are looking forward to that. We had Beef the year before last as we couldn’t get a turkey here which is why we now grow our own Turkeys.

How to Roast a Basic Turkey

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large roasting pan, place thawed turkey, breast side up and tent with a piece of aluminium foil.
  3. Bake turkey using the chart below.
  4. Remove foil during last hour of cook time.
  5. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Here is a link to a calculator Turkey Cooking times

Proper Gravy

  1. When you cook a roast, whether it’s turkey, chicken, beef, or lamb, you should end up with plenty of browned drippings and fat from the roast when it’s finished.
  2. The “drippings” are browned juices and fat. All of the flavour gravy you make from the drippings comes from those browned bits. You need fat as a base for the gravy.
  3. If you have pan juices, but they haven’t browned at the bottom of the pan after the roast is done, you can put the empty pan back in the oven. Set the temp to 450 or 500°F and cook until the juices evaporate and begin to bubble and brown at the bottom of the pan.
  4. In this approach to making gravy, I break up the drippings as well as we can with a whisk, but don’t worry about any browned bits in the gravy itself. If you want, you can pulse the gravy in a blender to make it smoother, but I never bother. The browned bits are the best part!
  5. Remove all but 1/4 cup of fat from pan:
  6. Remove the roast from the pan. Remove excess fat leaving 4 tbsp of fat plus juices and browned drippings in the pan.
  7. Scrape up drippings and place pan on stovetop on medium heat:
  8. Use a metal spatula to scrape up any drippings that are sticking to the pan. Place the pan on the stovetop on medium high heat.
  9. Sprinkle 4 tbsp flour onto the drippings. Quickly stir with a wire whisk so that the flour gets incorporated into the drippings. Let the flour brown a bit if you want, before adding liquid in the next step. (You can also start with a slurry of flour and water if you want.)
  10. Whisk while slowly adding liquid: Slowly add stock or a combination of stock and water to the pan, whisking vigorously to dissolve the flour into liquid.
  11. Allow the gravy to simmer and thicken, and continue to slowly add liquid until you have about 2 cups of gravy. (You’ll probably need to add 3 to 4 cups of liquid.)
  12. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Always taste first before adding more salt! It may not need it.

If it was down to me and there were only two of us for Christmas Dinner then I would have something like this lovely quail with Juniper Sauce.

Juniper Berry Sauce:


• 1 banana shallot peeled and finely chopped.
• 8 juniper berries very lightly crushed.
• 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped.
• 1/2 tsp sugar
• 200 ml white burgundy or a dry white wine.
• 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
• 40 gm butter
• 25 gm flour
• 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves.
• 3oo ml venison stock
• 100 ml double cream
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Let’s Cook!

  1. Put the shallot, garlic, sugar, white wine vinegar, juniper berries, white wine and the fresh thyme in a pan and bring to the boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes this needs to reduce to about 2 tbsp.
  3. In another pan melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Strain your wine reduction through a fine sieve and still whisking…we don’t want a lumpy sauce now do we? Add the wine reduction….keep whisking!
  4. Pick out the juniper berries from the strained mix in your sieve and add to the sauce. Keep whisking and add the stock slowly ….to the sauce a ladle at a time. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Finally, pour in the cream and bring to a very slow simmer. Remove from the heat and season. The sauce can be used immediately or reheated when it is needed.

This is a beautiful sauce over when poured over a luscious piece of beautifully cooked venison or my favourite quail… if you have guests for dinner or just for the two of you for that special occasion.


Christmas Pudding

Christmas Dinner would not be complete without a little bit of Christmas Pudding and I love to see the Christmas Pudding flaming as we pour over the brandy it looks so nice.

For those of you who don’t like Christmas pudding or want a lighter dessert this lovely crème caramel fits the bill perfectly.

Crème Caramel.

For the caramel
• 160g/6oz sugar
• unsalted butter for greasing the ramekins

For the custard
• 4 free-range eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 25g/1oz caster sugar
• 600ml/1 pint full-fat milk
• pouring cream, to serve ( optional)

Let’s Cook!

  1. Pre-heat oven 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Warm the ramekins in the oven, so they are warm when the caramel is poured in.
  3. First make the caramel. Pour the sugar and six tablespoons of water into a clean stainless steel pan.
  4. Dissolve the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat.
  5. When there are no sugar granules left, stop stirring and boil until the sugar turns a dark copper colour.
  6. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn. Quickly pour the caramel into the warmed ramekins.
  7. Set aside to cool and become hard. (Do not put in the fridge because the sugar will absorb moisture and go soft and tacky).
  8. Once hard, butter the sides of the ramekins above the level of the caramel.

For the custard

  1. Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together in a bowl until well mixed.
  2. Pour the milk into a saucepan, gently heat over a low heat until you can still just dip your finger in for a moment, then strain the milk through a fine sieve onto the egg mixture in the bowl.
  3. Whisk together until smooth, and then pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  4. Stand the ramekins in a roasting tin and fill the tin half-way with boiling water from a kettle.
  5. Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the custard has set.
  6. Do not overcook the custard – check around the edges of the dishes, to make sure no bubbles are appearing.
  7. Take the crème caramels out of the oven, remove the ramekins from the tray and set on a cooling rack. When cool, transfer to the fridge overnight so that the caramel is absorbed into the custard.
  8. To serve, loosen the sides of the custard by tipping the ramekin and loosen with a small palette knife round the edges. Place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and turn upside down. Serve with pouring cream or decorate with some fruit…

I hope you find something to like about this menu and that one of these dishes will be your addition to your Christmas menu xxx

The other posts in the Food and Cookery Column can be found in this directory:

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:

Connect to Carol


I am astonished at how many amazing dishes Carol has come up with for our traditional Christmas dinner and I will have to include all of them this year to do honour to all her hard work… Please share.. thank you Sally

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines – Time to get the Party Started – Christmas Funnies.

Time to get the Christmas ornaments, decorations, crackers and funnies out and here is something to get you started.

Thanks for dropping in today… Guest Comedian Debby Gies has been scouting out some festive fun and will be here on Thursday. Please feel free to pass along.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – #thrillers #short stories Luna Saint Claire, Jan Sikes and Kristina Stanley

Some more books on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore that would make great gifts this Christmas, and the first is a psychological thriller The Sleeping Serpent by Luna Saint Claire

About the book

Whether by free will or fate, Luna’s encounter with Nico provokes a storm that shatters her perceptions of identity, duty, morality, and self-worth. The storm didn’t blow in from the outside. She was the storm. Its turbulence within her, forcing her to confront the darkness, uncovers her secrets and her pain.

Luna Saint Claire has a loving husband and an enviable career as a Hollywood costume designer. Still, something is gnawing at her. Bored with her conventional and circumscribed existence, she feels herself becoming invisible. When she meets Nico Romero, a charismatic yoga guru, his attentions awaken her passions and desires. Dangerous, but not in a way that scares her, he makes her feel as if anything is possible. Infatuated, she becomes entangled in Nico’s life as he uses his mesmerizing sexuality to manipulate everyone around him in his pursuit of women, wealth, and celebrity.

Immensely erotic and psychologically captivating, The Sleeping Serpent is the compelling story of a woman’s obsession with a spellbinding guru and the struggle to reclaim her life. At its heart, it is a painfully beautiful exposition of unconditional love that makes us question what we truly want.

“She realized in an instant that being around him awakened her, stirring the sediment that had long ago settled at the bottom of her well. He made her feel a part of him–of something larger, and somehow more alive.”

One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads

Ellen Weisberg‘s review Mar 11, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE SLEEPING SERPENT. The writing was excellent, vivid and detailed and effortlessly evoking empathy for each female character as they rapidly oscillated from intense passion to overt fear. I found the content very realistic and likely to be painfully relatable for anyone who has found themselves helplessly drawn to someone whose wants and needs come first and at all costs to those closest to them.

As an example, I could feel Olivia’s anguish after being abruptly dropped by Nico once she confided her news about the fellowship she had been awarded, and for the moment I was transformed into Olivia and experiencing her torment of being so sexually and emotionally attached to Nico that she was more than willing to give up her life’s dreams and aspirations to avoid losing him. And of course, Nico being Nico was unwilling to give her the option of having both her own life as well as a part of his, and no response to her final text was accompanied by her heart shattering into a thousand pieces.

Similarly, I was easily able to vicariously ride on the same rollercoaster as Sofia and Luna with Nico’s flattering sweetness and sensuality that would suddenly change to angry control and reprimand, sometimes insidiously interwoven with yet more sexual seduction that served to entice the women even further into his dangerous lair.

Luna Saint Claire and Virginia Bowen have created quite the fascinating page turner and eye opener that any woman with a breath and a pulse and who has found themselves under someone’s toxic, hypnotic spell can relate to.;

Read the many reviews for the book and buy:

And on Amazon UK:

Discover more reviews on Goodreads:

Connect to Luna Saint Claire via her website:

A recent review that would make a lovely gift is from award-winning author Jan Sikes with Two Shorts and a Snort

About Two Shorts and a Snort

This book consists of two short stories and one poem from award-winning author, Jan Sikes, in response to a writing challenge from the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB.

How far will one man go to satisfy an obsession? The price could cost him his life.

Is it possible to pray up a baby? Frank and Mary Pyburn are convinced that is what they’ve done.

Friends Instead of Lovers:
Sometimes it’s better to remain friends, instead of giving in to desires and crossing a line.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Sometimes when you’re gifted an Amazon card, you become like a child of the 1950’s who’s just found a $5.00 bill in the street, and you head over to buy as much candy as you can. [Back then with most candies/gum costing less than a nickel, you got a good-sized bag loaded to the brim with this stuff.] This is how I felt getting a $25.00 card.

Usually, I wouldn’t have bought a short book like this, but like an adult kid, I went on a shopping spree for KINDLE books I wound up buying this book, a purchase which wound up not being a disappointment, but a wonderful find.

Being an author of Flash Fiction, I love being able to read stories which cuts to the chase, and gets the message it’s trying to communicate readers without wasting time with a lot of unnecessary verbiage. And author, Jan Sikes, succeeds in doing this quite well with OBSESSED and MAGGIE.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a guy whose got an fixation on having to marry you, and is going to unbelievable lengths in seeing that you’ll say YES to his proposal; then you’re in Nelda Sue’s shoes being confronted with Charlie Riddle being OBESSED with you and you knows precisely how she feels. As I did.

In regards to MAGGIE, anyone who has a child know it’s essentially a God-given gift. But what happens when despite numerous attempts at having one, nothing has resulted. If you can understand how a woman might feel when this happens, then you can step into Mary’s shoes and feel the elation she gets when her husband Jackson finds an abandoned baby and brings it home; if this isn’t a God-given gift for his finding the infant then what is?

For giving her readers these two delightful stories and a bonus poem, I’m glad to give Ms. Sikes, the 5 STARS she’s gotten from this reviewer.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

Also by Jan Sikes.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

And find more reviews and follow Jan on Goodreads:

Connect to Jan via her website:

Now for a real treat… a boxed set from Kristina Stanley at an extremely attractive price for three of her popular novels – Stone Mountain Mystery Bundle.

About the Stone Mountain Series.

A majestic mountain resort in the middle of nowhere, a newly-appointed security officer and malicious killers make this trio of thrillers a roller-coaster ride through ice and snow…

DESCENT – Book 1

When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

Kalin’s boss orders her to investigate. Her boyfriend wants her to stay safe and let the cops do their job. Torn between loyalty to friends and professional duty, Kalin must look within her isolated community to unearth the killer’s identity.

BLAZE – Book 2

Instead of exchanging vows, Kalin Thompson spends her wedding day running from a forest fire near Stone Mountain Resort, and the pregnant friend trapped with her has just gone into labor. Meanwhile, Kalin’s fiancé, Ben Timlin, hangs from the rafters of a burning building, fighting for his life. Can the situation get any hotter?

When the fire is declared as arson, finding the firebug responsible becomes Kalin’s personal mission. In the course of her investigation as Director of Security, she discovers that some people will go to extreme measures to keep her from exposing their secrets.


On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

One of the reviews for the series

Although Kristina Stanley says at the end of the novel that she wrote Avalanche first, this became the third book in the series. Having read and enjoyed the first two Stone Mountain mysteries, I recommend them all and suggest reading them in order. Once again, Kalin Thompson is the main protagonist, but characters from previous books return and previous incidents are cleverly referred adding to the backstory.

From the fast-moving opening when Kalin’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears, the plot twists and turns with enough clues and suspects to keep the reader thinking to the end.

There are multiple suspects when the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, but with Ray as the prime suspect, Kalin must act covertly to clear his name. How she handles her discoveries and her torn feelings about her brother’s guilt drive the main thread of the novel.

The story is tightly plotted, well-structured and, as I noted down while reading, it’s ‘edge of my snowmobile tense’. There are various suspects when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begin investigating from Ray to Kalin via other employees at Stone Mountain Resort. I kept wondering, ‘Who will be next?’, ‘Who is guilty of what?’ and ‘Who do you trust?’. Not only Kalin needed to be wary but others caught up in the events as the threat level escalated.

The suspects were gradually narrowed down, although there were enough remaining as the end drew near. Plus, the accusations against Kalin were ongoing, adding to the tension. Twists kept coming, leading to the final confrontation that I only half-guessed in advance. Key elements were cleverly foreshadowed.

The author’s characterisation is excellent in that everyone has something to distinguish them – even the lift-girl from New Zealand. The reader sees the other characters through Kalin’s eyes and through other characters’ viewpoint. The use of various POVs enhances the story and adds to the subplots, diversions and to the red herrings that I always enjoy in a mystery.

The resort offers an evocative setting and Kristina Stanley’s knowledge of that world rings true without creating unnecessary detail. From my time in Canada and my winters skiing on different hills, Stone Mountain Resort and the intrigues came alive for me.

Avalanche was a fast-paced and easy read, and, as I’ve come to expect from Kristina Stanley, and from Imajin Books, it’s well-edited. A definite recommendation if you want a pacey mystery. But read Descent and Blaze first for maximum enjoyment – not vital but best.

Buy the boxed Set for just $7.32 :

And on Amazon UK for £2.35 :

Buy the novels individually and other books by Kristina Stanley.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Kristina Stanley on Goodreads:

Connect to Kristina via her website/Blog:


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves for Christmas – Alchemist Gift (Alchemist Series Book 1) by Mark D. Giglio

Please welcome Mark D. Giglio to the Cafe and Bookstore with his books. Today I am featuring Alchemist Gift (Alchemist Series Book 1)

About The Alchemist Gift.

★★★★★”Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism” – Red City Review

Time travel to the age of alchemy.

The life of grad student Roland Hughes changes when he cheats on his long-term girlfriend Liz. Soon after, specters of Renaissance men and women pull him back to a time of witchcraft, magic and curses.

Roland pays dearly for his fling, and desperately wishes for another chance. The cosmos hears and delivers him – with the help of the enchanted Alchemist Cabinet – to a new life and time.

But will he redeem himself, or chase the same temptations?

One of the reviews for the book

As essentially a thriller writer-reader, I took a while to get into the flow of the highly descriptive writing style and magical-realism of “Alchemist Gift” and enjoy the journey. Since I love history in general, I grew to appreciate a story set in mainly in Renaissance Italy with connections to the present through his protagonist, Roland; one that entertains and educates.

Transporting Roland back five hundred years to Italy through to his discovery of an alchemist’s cabinet, the author, Mark Giglio, also a professional Renaissance furniture maker, uses his knowledge of and enthusiasm for the time to paint Roland into a turbulent time when nobles squabbled; religions fought for supremacy; superstition ran rampant; disease and famine could claim their victims into the millions; and peasants simply struggled to survive. A rich setting for the interaction of a myriad of characters: the good, the bad and the very ugly.

As the author points out, he is “interested in the ways people connect with each other and ultimately how they are all connected and, how tenuous our existence is”. His story reflects this: it wanders unpredictably from one character to another. What does the future hold for Roland? It’s unpredictable. As it is for every one of us. Enjoy being transported back to the Renaissance. A great read for lovers of magical realism.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

Also by Mark D. Giglio

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Mark on Goodreads:

You can also find other books and Mark’s short stories individually on Smashwords and here is a selection

Discover all the books and buy:

About Mark D. Giglio

Mark Giglio has always been fascinated by the connections people have with each other and the world around them. What we do or what we say is a result of our most recent and our forgotten ancestors. Like our ancestors, we will have that same effect on countless people yet to be born. He has always loved history, the humanities, art, philosophy, anthropology, world religions and the natural world. All of these things have been a fountainhead of inspiration.

He spent the first nine years in upstate New York and the next ten in southern California.   He started his adult life when he joined the USAF and got his discharge after four years. He then went to SDSU and earned a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. At that point, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. Somehow that Great American novel didn’t materialize, not for want of trying.

Life gifted him with a wife and in no time a little boy then another and another. Not able to wait around for those huge royalty checks to roll in, he fell back on his family heritage and became a craftsman. He needed something he could do to make a living, cabinet and furniture making to be specific. He worked for an outfit called California Design Group for a couple of years; then decided to go it alone.

Over the years he kept up his writing with little vignettes or the occasional short story for his own amusement. It wasn’t until he made a specific piece of furniture, The Alchemist Cabinet, that he felt inspired to write seriously. He had entered his art furniture in contests and came away with first and second prize ribbons.

His latest novel is “The Patron’s Wife,”  The novel involves a love triangle.  The setting is on a sprawling plantation in the Ecuadorian highlands and the Amazon jungle below.  He has also been working on the next installment to the Alchemist trilogy, “Curious Journey”, and has a toehold on the last novel.

Mark has three grown sons.  He lives in Escondido, California with his partner, Mary Ellen Cavanaugh-Wilson. His other interests include painting, piano improvisation, and interior design.

Connect to Mark D. Giglio


Thank you for dropping in and it would be great if you could spread the word about Mark’s books.. thanks Sally


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves for Christmas – Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, Liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies by Clifford Browder.

Delighted to welcome a new author to the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore today. Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, Liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies by Clifford Browder.

About Fascinating New Yorkers

A prostitute’s daughter who got to know two ex-kings and a future emperor; a cardinal archbishop known in certain circles as “Franny”; a serial killer who terrorized the city; a pioneer in female erotica who had two husbands and kept a “lie box” to keep her two lives straight – they’re all here in Clifford Browder’s collection of posts from his blog, people who, some remembered today and some forgotten, fulfilled themselves richly or horrendously in the wild and crazy city of New York. Some of these people Browder knew or encountered briefly, and some he got to know through their works. He relates surprising things about J.P. Morgan and his nose, Andy Warhol’s sex life, Nicky (Mr. Untouchable) Barnes, and Polly Adler, Queen of Tarts. Getting to know these New Yorkers, readers will be shocked or angered, puzzled or amused, but never bored.

One of the reviews for the book

The figures in Cliff Browder’s Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, Liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies are as pulsing with energy and as varied as the city itself. Drawn from Browder’s engaging blog, No Place for Normal, these lively sketches of everyone from David Berkowitz to Edna St. Vincent Millay are informed not only by Browder’s assiduous research but by his rich personal experience and perspective.

These little biographies are studies in concision. His depiction of Robert Moses is a masterful distillation of Robert Caro’s wonderful but massive biography The Power Broker. Yet in each of these chapters he incorporates his own personal perspectives and experiences that give these commentaries a deeply human groundedness. Then there’s the writing. His sketches have a sharpness reminiscent of Dos Passos (if anyone reads him anymore). He describes Thomas Dewey “as devoid of charm as a turnip” and demonstrates Boss Tweed’s nimbleness with a single crafty sentence: “When he hobnobbed at the upper end of the social scale, his speech was trimmed and neat; toward the lower end it grew weedy with ain’ts.”

Browder separates his New Yorkers into six categories: Dark Desires, Men of Power, Remarkable Women, Creators, Celebrities, and Bohemia. Yet it is amazing how many of these figures cross boundaries and encounter each other in their rich and turbulent lives. Plus, typical of the city’s international quality, these characters often bound in and out of New York’s boundaries (Helena Rubenstein comes by way of Poland, Australia, and Paris). Ultimately, these New Yorkers transform the ever dynamic city and often introduce new directions in society. “Both Walter Winchell and Sherman Billingsley wielded a new kind of power … Winchell’s power based on fear; Billingsley’s, on exclusiveness, on getting people to want, and want desperately, what he had to offer.”

The book is filled with amusing nuggets of battles, whether they be between Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson over long-held Hollywood jealousies or between the Catholic dioceses running Peoria and New York over Bishop Fulton Sheen’s remains. One of my favorite elements of Fascinating New Yorkers is Browder’s commitment to ending each story as close to present day as possible. Anaïs Nin may have died in 1977 but through Browder’s research and subsequent encounters with her work the reader observes how his perceptions evolve.

The tale of narcissist Taylor Mead (oh, these pages collect into quite the gallery of narcissists) is a fitting summary to this volume: it is another fascinating story, shot through with Browder’s hard-earned wisdom – a wisdom marked by sensitivity, awareness, and rich experiences. Like Browder’s previous book, No Place for Normal: New York, this book manages to be both tremendously revealing and fun. I deeply enjoyed Fascinating New Yorkers.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

A selection of other books by Clifford Browder

Read the reviews and discover all Clifford Browder’s books:

and on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Clifford on Goodreads:

About Clifford Browder

Clifford Browder is a writer living in New York. He has published two biographies, a critical study, and three novels in his Metropolis series of historical fiction set in nineteenth-century New York: The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017); and Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018).

His blog, Nø Place for Normal: New York, is about anything and everything New York. His nonfiction title No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015) is a collection of posts from his blog that won first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016. Another collection of posts from his blog, Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, Liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies is being published by Black Rose Writing in 2018. His poetry has appeared in various journals online and in print.

Browder is fond of slime molds, never kills spiders, and eats garlic to fend off vampires. (So far it seems to be working.) Recently he learned the Charleston; geezers rock.

Connect to Clifford


Thank you for dropping in and it would be great if you could share Clifford’s books around the usual haunts.. thanks Sally



Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – #Collaborations – Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle, John W. Howell and Gwen Plano, Jane Risdon and Christina Jones

Time for more book gift ideas for family and friends this Christmas and I wanted to revisit some of the books that have been co-written including the recently published poetry collection Open a New Door, now in print, by Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle.

About the collection

Open a New Door is a poetic peep into the lives of the poets, Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle, both of whom live in South Africa.

The book is divided into four categories: God bless Africa, God bless my family and friends, God bless me and God bless corporates and work. Each part is sub-divided into the good, the bad and the ugly of the two poets’ experiences, presented in rhyming verse, free-style, haiku and tanka, in each of these categories and include colourful depictions of their thoughts and emotions.

The purpose of this book of poetry is encapsulated in the following tanka and haiku poems:

What drives me to write?
To share my innermost thoughts
The answer is clear
It’s my personal attempt
To make some sense of this world.

Inspiration blossoms
Like the unfurling petals
Of the Desert Rose

One of the recent reviews for the book by Collen Chesebro Book Reviews

Poetry encourages a reader to get in touch with the emotions they feel when reading the written word. “Open a New Door,” does exactly that. The book is divided into four categories: God Bless Africa, God Bless of my Family & Friends, God Bless Me, and God Bless Corporates & Work, which are then sub-divided into the good, the bad and the ugly, of the continent they call home.

The book is liberally sprinkled with photos and even some image poetry, all sharing the thoughts and observations of the two authors. Their writing styles are different but they compliment each other perfectly allowing for smooth reading.

Africa is filled with extremes, ranging from the landscape to the temperatures, to the animals and the people, all impacting the culture of one of the largest continents on earth. The author’s poetry reflects the diversity of the people and how poverty has infiltrated and changed their societal views.

For someone who knows little about the life and culture of Africa, I found my own perceptions changed with each new poem.

One of my favorite poems written by Kim Blades was: “Lessons learned in a rural African village.” Her words tell the story of growing up with all the comforts: food, water, love, and plenty of sunshine. She compares her life to that of an aged beggar who lives at the edge of her village. The man has little food, and the people of the town always give him their leftover bread. He passes on the good deed by sharing his crumbs with the birds. The lesson is that we receive what we give. What a wonderful thought!

Robbie Cheadle shares a poem that also touched my heart but in a different way. It’s called “Disillusionment” and speaks of a world lacking in ethics while making decisions by using plastic integrity. I couldn’t help but draw similarities to what’s happening in my own government right now.

I enjoyed this collection of poems because it exposed me to a different culture and way of thinking. After each poem, the authors share their thoughts revealing what prompted them to write the particular piece, making their prose more intimate and intense.

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Fairies

Head over and buy the collection:

And on Amazon UK:

You can connect to Kim at her blog and Website:

Connect to Robbie via her blog:

A small selection of other books by Robbie Cheadle


Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Robbie on Goodreads:

Now for the paranormal thriller The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth by John W. Howell and Gwen Plano, which I read and reviewed earlier in the year.

About The Contract

The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits for the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.

If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires. A Great summer read.

My review for the book

The Contract is a fusion of fantasy, thriller and romance and is the debut novel of the new collaboration between John. W. Howell and Gwen Plano.

I have read all of John Howell’s books and enjoyed, so I was eager to find out how these two popular writers would rise to the challenge of collaborating.

The concept is intriguing, and the opening chapter sets out this well, with the introduction to two souls, who had little time on earth to enjoy their love of each other. They are tasked by the divine council with preventing a major catastrophe on earth that could threaten mankind, but it will mean that they will be separated and have no memory of their task. Their hosts are two people with the knowledge and skill set to overcome the threat, but they are thousands of miles apart and both in mortal danger.

The writers do a good job of bringing these two characters together; now infused with the souls who have been contracted to neutralise the upcoming disaster. Watched and abetted  by guardian angels, their relationship begins with subterfuge, but quickly becomes attraction, and then love strong enough to take them through to the end of their endeavour.

This love story runs parallel to the fast escalation of violence and intrigue that reveals hidden agendas and treason in high places. The story has a good pace and there is plenty of action to keep the thriller lovers engaged with a number of surprising twists and turns in the plot along the way.

The final confrontation is a fitting climax to the story, bringing together all the players and their roles in the conspiracy, in an action packed battle of good against evil.

I am sure that this writing duo will go from strength to strength following this creative and exciting debut.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

You can connect to John on his website:

Books by John Howell

 Read the reviews and buy the books:

and on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow John on Goodreads:

You can find out more about Gwen on her website:

Also by Gwen Plano

Read some of the reviews for the book:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Gwen on Goodreads:

The next authors with a successful collaboration are Jane Risdon and Christina Jones for their novel Only One Woman.

Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?

One of the recent reviews for the book

An interesting read I wasn’t sure how it would work with two authors, but it is cleverly written like a diary of the two girls Renza and Stella who become involved with Scott the sexy guy from the band. Set in the late sixties there are lots of references to music and magazines and general things of these times. Renza can’t believe her luck when the band move in next door to her. Her life isn’t that exciting and she has to help her Mum a lot with the rest of her large family when all of a sudden she’s popular with the girls at school who want to hang out in her garden to see the boys. After falling for Scott Renza unfortunately has to move to Germany with her Dad as he is in the army. Stella comes into Scott’s life slightly older then Renza who will Scott choose. It was good reading the story through the eyes of both girls in their diary. I won’t give any spoilers to say who Scott ends up with. I wonder if there will be a second book following on so we can see if he made the right decision.

and Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Jane on Goodreads:

Connect to Jane Risdon via her blog:

A small selection of books by Christina Jones.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon US:

Connect to Christina via her blog:

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you have found a few books to take away with you.. to read or to give as gifts. Thanks Sally


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Promotions – The books that have been featured so far..

Welcome to the Christmas promotions and if you did not see the original post then here it is:

Here are the books that have been featured so far in the Christmas promotions in case you missed some. All the active authors in the Cafe and Bookstore will be featured all through this next week… so plenty more to look forward to.

Thank you for dropping in and I hope you might leave with a book or two.. but it would also be great is you could share these authors and their work. Thanks Sally

The Story Reading Ape

My review for Legacy; Book Four Project Renova by Terry Tyler

Thank you for dropping in and it would be amazing if you could share all the authors and their books..Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Christmas book promotions, music, humour and guests.

This week has certainly flown by with a few Mary Poppins moments with umbrellas in the rain and high winds. Just as well I have not got rid of that excess stone I was planning on misplacing before Christmas!

Do not take this as a free pass to do what you like eating wise over the festive season (well okay then . eat what you like)..but I am re-releasing my first book Size Matters in 2019 updated and revised to reflect new research and also my experience in the last 20 years as a nutritional therapist – I am going to do this via the blog by editing and updating each chapter on the blog in the first three months of the year. If you are thinking about getting fitter and eating healthier then you might like to take it one step at a time.

The first part of the book was my journal about how I got to the weight of 330lbs and the second part of the book is the programme that I designed to lose 150lbs. That is the bit that I will be revising and updating.

I have been featuring all the active authors in the Cafe and Bookstore since the middle of November with recent updates or first books in series. I have just scheduled the last one on 17th December… and there will be one more on 18th of December but that one will be my books and I have a couple of e-book giveaways on the day.

I did have an outing this week as the guest of Colleen Chesebro… and we had a lovely conversation about writing from the male perspective and inspirations.. if you have not been a guest of Colleen before.. it is well worth putting yourself forward. A great place to showcase your work and meet new people.

Conversations With Colleen: Meet Author, Sally Cronin

On Thursday the Christmas party season starts with the First Day of Christmas.. If you are still interesting in being a guest there are four spaces left for the 11th and 12th days of Christmas.. Want another chance to promote your books and take part.. here are the details.

I am heading out today with a stand at the local Christmas Fair.. and the first sight of Santa Claus who will be arriving at 4pm. to day courtesy of the Coast Guard and RNLI.. ……….

Time to get on with the posts from the week that you might have missed and as always thank you for popping in and lending your support.  It keeps me motivated.

Paul Andruss has popped in to kick off party week… sharing his emotionally charged story of his most favourite Christmas gift ever….

D.G. Kaye took us to the stunning island of Curacao and shares its history and the best places to stay, eat and swim.

Carol Taylor came back to the food column with a wonderful post this week. A full Vegetarian menu – with starters, mains, sides and desserts.. delicious.

Linda Bethea shares the tale of Willie Tharpe, who invited himself for Christmas, bringing his dogs and thousands of unwanted visitors.

Geoff Le Pard with a special rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…if this does not get you in the mood for the festive season…. then repeat several times.

It is my 40th and I feel the need for speed…..and the music of M People, guest Annette Rochelle Aben and Elton John.

It is the time of year when coughs are quite common.. but it is important to know the difference between one associated with a common cold and one that has become chronic bronchitis.

It is that time of week when we get our syllables in a row or more in a format requested by Colleen Chesebro Poetry Challenge no. 113 – being the first week of the month we get to choose our own prompts… Frost and Laughter.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – #Family #Drama #Historical #Survival – Claire Fullerton, William Luvaas, Jacqui Murray and Terry Tyler

Time for more gift ideas from the Cafe and Bookstore and today novels that I have read and reviewed this year, that I can highly recommend. The first author is Claire Fullerton, and her latest release Mourning Dove.

About Mourning Dove

“An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South.” Kirkus Book Reviews

The heart has a home when it has an ally.

If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.

But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?

One of the recent reviews for the book

Mourning Dove is an epic mid-century recounting of a family, a lifestyle, a simpler but dignified time, providing a reminder that behind the gilded societal walls, hardships exist and life goes on. Claire Fullerton’s development of these dear to her heart characters, makes the reader consider them family members within the opening chapters. Set against the backdrop of a real life Gone With the Wind, Claire’s mother brings about images of Jackie O, Audrey, Bacall, complete with her own resident Warhol. But behind perfection, often hides dysfunction. Is it dysfunction, or is it what we all live through – our best efforts to make it through this often difficult life? In this sense, Millie and Finley take decidedly different paths of working through it all.

A masterful use of description, often providing a bouquet of the very scent being described, the subtle facial tells one can relate to, and the constant feeling of “what if”. This book flows like a gathering avalanche, and never ceases to disappoint. I dreaded the end, as I felt something ominous on the horizon. A must read for those with a deep sentimental side – I’m left with a sense of longing, wistfulness, yearning. Or is it all out melancholy? Yes, that’s it…melancholy.

My thanks to the author for having the strength to pen this novel and bare her soul.

Read some of the 100 other reviews and buy the book :

and Amazon UK:

Also by Claire Fullerton

Read the reviews and buy the books :

and Amazon UK:

Read other reviews and follow Claire on Goodreads:

Connect to Claire via her website:

The next novel that I read earlier in the year is Welcome to Saint Angel by William Luvaas.

Following on from the book release William Luvaas and Lucinda Luvaas, won a prestigious award. The short film adapted from William’s novel Welcome to Saint Angel has just won the “Best Adapted Screenplay” award at the Golden State Film Festival in L.A.  It started out as a book trailer and evolved into a short film. You can watch the film on Vimeo – Welcome to Saint Angel

About Welcome to Saint Angel.

Iconoclastic inventor, Al Sharpe, loves his canyon home in Southern California’s Saint Angel Valley. He builds his teenage daughter a tree house in a giant oak and invents the Sharpe Smoke Scrubber to detoxify wood smoke. When wealthy developer Ches Noonan, a fellow member of the Desert Green Lawn Association, sets out to fill the valley with houses and appropriate its precious water supply to fill swimming pools during California’s worst drought, Al and his quixotic pals rebel. In the Realty Revenge, they halt development through madcap high jinks and the help of local Indians, ancient demon Tahquitz, and mother nature.

Welcome to Saint Angel is a dead-serious comedy about development gone mad and townsfolk’s attempts to protect their rural Arcadia from bulldozers and climate change deniers. Part environmental fiction, part social satire, it speaks to exurban sprawl and the heedless development of fragile natural areas and to the power of communal resistance in the face of calamity.

“A painful, redemptive belly laugh and well worth it.” —Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness

One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads

Jul 03, 2018 Roger Aplon rated it Five Stars

Besides being one of our best storytellers, Bill Luvaas, with the writing of Welcome to Saint Angel, must also be acknowledged as one of our most enlightened, if somewhat excentric, radicals.

From the outset, Welcome . . . bristles with the rollicking, ribald wit reminiscent of Rabelais as well as the caustic social & personal satire of Voltaire. When the desolate little desert hamlet of Saint Angel comes under attack from uncompromising, money-grubbing developers & unprincipled water-snatchers, an uncommon & often mind-boggling array of cast-offs, misfits, ornery & none-too-subtle humanity rise up to attempt to save their terrible paradise: what’s one person’s hell is another’s heaven – I guess & so does Bill Luvaas who teases us with serious arguments against over-development & miss-use of nature’s bounty while at the same time interrupting the ‘lecture’ with quips & currents of lawless madness & random mayhem.

From the likes of the peculiarly complicated character Tinkerspoon, the sometime wacky genius, who can hack any & all computers from the U S Government to the local bank, to the town of Saint Angel itself that speaks the facts that keep the plot alive & moving ever forward, Luvaas packs his pages with nudies, gunfighters, street brawlers, trackers tracking humans over hot & unrelenting desert, a swamp that devours all & any in its proximity & just to keep the romantic reader engrossed, a saga of father-daughter-love lost & found & the nourishing spirit of Tahquitz, a Native Demon, who keeps tabs on the merciless marauders while cheering-on the downtrodden but relentless protectors of Saint Angel. Bill Luvass has done us a favor with the creation of this book – do yourself one & read it!!

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon UK:

Also by William Luvaas

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow William on Goodreads:

Connect to William via his Website:

And another book that I read and enjoyed more recently is Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray. To walk in the footsteps of one of our earliest female ancestors is quite an experience and humbling.

About the book

‘The book’s plot is similar in key ways to … Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear–Kirkus Reviews

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

My recent review for Born in a Treacherous Time.

Firstly, respect to the author for the amount of research needed to create this amazing story of early man born into a world still going through its growing pains. Combined with vividly created characters who you instantly relate to, this is a book you won’t want to put down.

Secondly, I now have a much greater respect for our early ancestors for whom life is brutal, with the earth still spewing lava and ash and changing the landscape continuously. Food and water is scarce; game is eaten when opportunity presents itself, and there is a hierarchy which places man way behind some of the dominant predators of the day. Some of those predators are next generation humans such as man-who-preys and they hover on the horizon menacingly.

Lucy is a female, wise beyond her years and her species, who leaves her clan following a tragedy, to bring new blood to a devastated group. She is an early healer with a knowledge of plants that is invaluable to those she comes to care for, and an ability to track and hunt as well as a man. This does not endear her to other females in the group, but as the story evolves you understand that even in this brutal time, tenderness and friendship are still possible.

This is an amazing world that Jacquie Murray has carved out of an alien landscape.There is danger, adventure, tragedy and sacrifice. There is also humanity between species and the beginnings of an understanding of the symbiotic relationship with non-humans.

I came away with a sense of kinship with Lucy and the rest of the characters. So many of their traits were recognisable even two million years later. It is only recently that they have established that most of us who are Caucasian have a very small percentage of Neanderthal DNA. That makes this story all the more fascinating knowing that there is still a connection to those who lived through this treacherous time.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

and Amazon UK:

Also by Jacqui Murray

Read all the reviews and buy the books:   Amazon Author Page US

And: Amazon UK

 Read more reviews and follow Jacqui on Goodreads:

Connect to Jacqui via her blog: Worddreams,

And last but not least my latest review which was for Terry Tyler and Legacy: Book Four Project Renova Series... I have read and reviewed the previous books in the series and I can recommend that you read all of them

About Legacy

Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels backwards in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him…or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book 4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear…but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future.

My recent review for the book..

A fitting end to an amazing series.

It is difficult not to give away spoilers when you are excited about a book you have just read. Particularly when it is the final book in a series, and all the loose ends have been gathered up into one satisfying bundle.

If you have already read the other books in the series, then you will be as eager as I was to catch up with the previous characters as they dispersed to Denmark or escaped the new outbreak in UK Central. You won’t be disappointed, as their continuing stories are action packed, heartwarming and sometimes downright scary.

The author takes us forward, beyond these characters, to 100 years after the Bat Fever. We discover that many of the residents of the new UK have reverted back to the days of small settlements. They are self-sustaining and make an effort to bring children into a better world, although interestingly the gains made by women for independence have taken more than a few steps backwards.

However, there are still women taking control of their lives and in some cases being responsible for settlements such as Lindisfarne.  However, being human there are still those that have a craving for power at any cost. In the main population hubs and in the North, 100 years after the epidemic the veneer of civilization is very thin with violence a part of everyday life.

What is clear, having read the entire series, is that following an apocalyptic event, the majority of the population are completely unprepared without the infrastructure that provides shelter, food and medicines. They have little or no knowledge of how to sustain themselves and only those with resolve and bravery will survive. Those that do bring a glimmer of hope that mankind will survive and thrive in the aftermath of a devastating event and that is a thread that runs through this final story.

A brilliant end to the series, and I do suggest that you begin with the previous three books Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2 so that you are fully primed before reading Legacy.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

A selection of other books by Terry Tyler

Read the reviews and buy the books:

And Amazon US:

Read more reviews and follow Terry Tyler on Goodreads:

Connect to Terry via her blog:

I hope you have enjoyed this selection of just some of the books that I have read an enjoyed this year.. more to come later in the Christmas promotions. They would all make great gifts.