Thursday, April 18, 2019

"Orexi!" by Theo A. Michaels

Feasting at the Modern Greek Table
by Theo A. Michaels

Orexi!: Feasting at the Modern Greek Table by Theo A. Michaels

Orexi! by Theo A. Michaels is currently on tour with Silver Dagger Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

In this enticing collection of more than 80 recipes inspired by the flavours of Greece and Cyprus, MasterChef UK’s Theo Michaels pays homage to his family heritage, championing traditional dishes and sharing his own modern cooking.
Presenting a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, his fresh and delicious food is organized into chapters entitled Meze, Sea, Land, Sun, Fire and Sundowners, evoking the Greek way of life.
You too can eat like a Greek by celebrating simplicity, seasonality, abundance, healthy balance and most importantly, the joy of sociable eating.
Beautiful food sings from these pages: from juicy watermelon, glossy kalamata olives, to fragrant oregano-roasted meats and delicate fish wrapped in vine leaves. Choose a selection of mouth-watering dips and sharing plates to create a Cypriot-style meze; enjoy the freshest fish and seafood, perfectly grilled or fried and served with nothing more than a dusting of salt flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice to season; cook tender yogurt-marinated lamb on skewers over charcoal and wrap it in fluffy homemade pita to experience souvlaki at home; or whip up vibrant vegetable and pulse dishes, from cracked wheat pourgouri to slow-cooked fasolia beans. Finally, make rich Greek desserts the sweet note to end your meal; serve just enough syrup-drenched baklava with a bitter black coffee to satisfy that craving or unwind with an Ouzo Sour or Brandy Sunburn Cocktail.

Recipe Video
Watch Theo cook Skewered Goat’s Cheese, Date & Pancetta Parcels.

[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Michaels, a former contestant on MasterChef UK, debuts with an inspired collection packed with anecdotes and excellent recipes from Greece, with a focus on the food of Cyprus, where his family has roots. The fare is appropriately light and well-suited to sunny climes […] This is a transporting book that beautifully blends flavor and memory.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“Amazing, detailed, well written, delicious! Orexi! is beautifully photographed and printed on high quality paper. The layout and design is easy to use and understand and I love the Greek translations.” ~ Kathy
“This book is filled with mouthwateringly divine dishes. Everything we tried was company-worthy. I adore Greek cookbooks and this one’s my personal favorite to date. Super fresh, super flavorful, good for you, and pretty to boot. Most of the recipes are pretty easy, and if there are a few extra steps, it’s worth it. Everything was absolute perfection.” ~ Jennifer Guerrero
MasterChef UK’s Theo Michaels is clearly cooking from a place of love and understanding of his family’s culture. While adding his unique perspective and modern touches. A beautiful book to have very visible in a kitchen. Sure to be a favorite in many homes.” ~ M.C.V. Egan

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
The book’s title, Orexi!, comes from the Greek Kali Orexi!, meaning good appetite. In this cookbook, you will discover over 80 Greek and Cypriot-inspired recipes from the author’s childhood memories, his work in professional kitchens, and time spent cooking for family and friends. “The Greek diet is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world, largely due to the high content of vegetables, fruit, grains, pulses, seafood, olive oil and also fermented dairy foods like live yogurt and feta cheese.” These ingredients feature heavily in the recipes, which are divided into seven sections: Yogurt & Pita, Meze (appetizers, salads, and dips), Sea (seafood), Land (meat), Sun (salads and vegetables), Fire (barbequed dishes), and Sundowners (drinks and desserts).
The author states that “… the heritage of Greek food is not simply about the ingredients, […] but it’s also the stories that cradle a plate of food, the childhood memory of eating something all together and the conversations around a table.” To this end, at the beginning of each section, he brings us a slice of Greek life, explaining the traditions behind the dishes or childhood memories associated with particular foods. He also introduces each recipe with a brief story detailing the origins of the dish or his inspiration for creating it. The recipes don’t follow the boring, traditional format we’re used to in other cookbooks. These are more conversations with the author, in which he provides tips and tricks learned through experience, as well as humorous asides such as, “tomatoes are very self-conscious and would hate to feel overdressed” and “serve with a green salad and smug expression”.
As a bonus for readers from all parts of the world, both metric and imperial measurements and temperatures are included in the recipes, and ingredients and cooking utensils are listed under both British and US names (e.g., courgette/zucchini, aubergine/eggplant). However, there were a few terms I wasn’t familiar with (e.g., orzo pasta and petit poi which I deduced are risoni and baby peas from the photos). Recipes names are also provided in English and Greek. The book is illustrated throughout with gorgeous full-color photographs of Greek scenery. Plus, each recipe takes up a whole page with the facing page featuring a full-page color photograph of the finished dish. The recipes are followed by a comprehensive Index, including both Greek and English names and British/US ingredients. Unfortunately, there are a few typographical errors throughout the text.
I wanted to cook a moussaka on the weekend but was disappointed to find there isn’t a recipe for it in the book. I only just cooked lamb shanks last week, but I’ll try the Cypriot Lamb Shanks in Sticky Sauce (see excerpt above) next time. My husband’s birthday is coming up next week and, for our dinner party, I’m excited to try out the Skewered Goat's Cheese, Date & Pancetta Parcels (see recipe video above), Spicy Chicken Souvlaki, and slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder Kleftiko, accompanied by Grilled Aubergines & Feta, Charred Courgettes, and Greek Salad.
The author’s personality and humor radiate from the pages. This cookbook is as entertaining to read and look at as it will be to cook from. Mostly it’s about combining fresh ingredients with splashes of ouzo, glugs of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and of course, family. As the author states, “I always find that food never fails to start a conversation and bring people together.” Kali Orexi!

About the Author
Theo A. Michaels was born in London and comes from a large Greek Cypriot family. Theo lived in America for five years, has eaten his way around the world with a backpack, and now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.
After reaching the heats of the semi-finals on Masterchef UK 2014, Theo resigned from his position as a Board Member of a PLC to follow his passion for food.
Theo started by hosting his own sell-out pop up restaurant in Hertfordshire, cooking an 8-course taster menu championing modern Greek cuisine inspired by his family.
When people couldn’t get a table at Theo’s pop-up restaurant (the waiting list still remains at over 700), he worked as a private chef creating exclusive dinner parties for private clients, eventually receiving recognition in The Financial Times and Telegraph.
Theo’s private dining and popup restaurant won the regional Best Lifestyle Service award – you can find out more about his private dining service and read reviews here). Theo is now the full time Executive Chef for Elsewhere Events, creating imaginative dining experiences for Elsewhere’s venues and popup events around the world.
In Theo’s spare time, he has been a guest chef for the Sheraton Grande in Bangkok, a regular judge for the annual Quality Food Awards, and is frequently in the press and other media, including The Food Network, BBC Radio, and usually has one or two other projects up his sleeve.
Theo Michaels is known for cooking elegant village food inspired by the flavors of Cyprus and his travels, but also for creating innovative family friendly food that satisfies the reality of modern life.
Theo has appeared on BBC Breakfast News, Sky TV, The Food Network, is a regular on BBC 3CR Weekend Kitchen show, and is a regular guest chef on ITV’s This Morning. He is called upon by the national press for comment and interview on private dining, food, and drink trends and for recipe inspiration. He’s also regularly spotted cooking at food festivals. Theo’s inspiration for food varies from his roots, his travels, to cooking for his family, and his love of anything cooked over charcoal.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"The Worst Kind of Love" by Jonah Evarts

The Worst Kind of Love
by Jonah Evarts

The Worst Kind of Love by Jonah Evarts

The Worst Kind of Love by Jonah Evarts is currently on tour with Silver Dagger Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well. And make sure you grab your copy for only $0.99!

This is a love story. Just not the kind you're thinking of.
Jaden is dealing with some major heart aches as he enters his first semester of college. All he wants is to forget about his ex, find a new girlfriend, and get semi-decent grades. But life has much more complicated plans for him. During his first day of class, he meets Cole, probably the most attractive male human being on the planet. Jaden is immediately overshadowed, throwing a wrench in his plans to find a girlfriend. It doesn't help that the single girl he is interested in wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
That soon becomes the least of his problems, as old enemies of his mental health, family, and way of thinking begin to overtake his life. Jaden tells a story of friendship, learning, and love as he uncovers truths about himself and life. A journey of endurance and self-growth awaits him as he skates through the roller-coaster that is life with many movie nights and plenty of good food to help him get by.
He isn't trying to have a love story, but he's getting one anyway. With himself.

We reached the parking garage, and I led him through a labyrinth of Prii (the plural of Prius), until we reached my Corvette. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I seem to be complaining a lot about life, but I drive a freaking Corvette. But what you don’t know is that we got the money from life-insurance when my dad died. Now how do you feel? Be ashamed, ye judgmental heathen.
“Woah,” Cole said. “This is yours?”
I nodded, throwing my backpack in the back seat and unlocking the doors. Cole sat down carefully, so as not to ruin the already stained leather and cracked passenger side rearview mirror.
I never said I was a good driver, or a good holder of drinks.
“Where do you wanna go for lunch?” I asked.
Cole wrinkled his brow and rubbed at a non-existent beard. “McDonald’s?”
“Are you kidding me?”
He looked taken aback. “What do you mean? McDonald’s is never a bad choice.”
I opened my mouth to say something then shook my head and just started the car. Inside, I was shaking. You mean to tell me that underneath that rippling muscle and clear skin was a McChicken? I think not.
God, you gave all the good things to one person. Please stop.

We arrived a McDonald’s six minutes later, our backs drenched in sweat, and sunglasses plastered to our faces. We walked into the heavenly coolness of irresistible French fry smells, and I sat down as Cole ordered some food. He joined me in a booth just a couple minutes later.
“So,” he started, fanning his shirt. “Tell me some more about yourself. What kind of stuff do you like to do?”
I wasn’t sure if I should hate that he wanted to get to know me or be genuinely pleased that someone cared.
“I watch movies a lot. I sometimes play basketball. And I listen to tons of music.”
Cole sat up straight at the mention of music. “You make music?”
“What? No, that’s not what I said. Dear God, I’d be arrested for attempted murder if I sang in public.”
“Oh. Well, I make music sometimes. I play guitar and sing.”
Of course.
“Really. I’ll show you some of my stuff in the car.”
A number was called from the counter, and Cole went to get his food. I kicked at his seat when he left.
How? How on my first day, in my first class, had I met a guy so perfect that he would overshadow me in every way everywhere we went? I just wanted a girlfriend, man. God.
Cole came back with a tray full of food, multiple fries and chicken nugget boxes clustered together.
“Jesus, man. What are you eating, Ronald McDonald himself?” I asked.
“Well, no. Half is for you,” he stated matter-of-factly. He proceeded to rip open a box of nuggets and indulge.
“You got me food?”
He didn’t even look up at me. “Of course.”
I almost didn’t want to take any. I felt bad, taking food from a guy I’d just met. But then again, it’s not like he was suffering at the moment. I indulged in the mounds of nuggets with him.
At some point, I checked my phone. You know, millennial stuff. I scrolled through social media and lightly chuckled at something that wasn’t really that funny. I switched apps, and immediately, a picture of Maddie with her best friend popped up. I almost dropped my phone, which I guess wouldn’t have been so bad. I wouldn’t have had to look at her face for another half a second before I was able to close out of the app.
I choked on my food and had to force myself to swallow, then I put my head in my hand and held my breath. It stung. A lot. Seeing her face was hard for me. I shouldn’t have opened the stupid app.
Cole, true to his perfect persona, saw my moment of heartbreak and looked up at me concernedly.
“Hey man, you good?”
I closed my eyes, picturing her face again. “Yeah. I’m fine. Food just got stuck in my throat.”
If I was close with him then, I would have told him the truth. The truth about how my gut had just fallen out of my stomach, and how an aching need to be with her filled my body. I just missed her was all. It was like when I lost my dad.
“You sure?” He asked. I nodded, then opened my eyes and realized we had already decimated all the food he’d bought.
“Yeah. We should get going. I have another class in thirty minutes.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

About the Author
Jonah Evarts
Jonah Evarts is only 18 years old and began writing his debut novel when he was just 15. He lives in Manhattan, Kansas, with two old people who gave birth to him, a twenty-something dude that lives in the basement, and two adorable canines. Growing up as a military child, Jonah lived in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Korea (yes, really), before coming to Kansas. He says that Kansas is boring. He may be correct. Jonah loves movies, music, and the occasional writing of a book. He hopes to combine these three activities in the future and make a career out of it. Support this poor man-child in his attempt to do something with his life.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card or an ebook copy of The Worst Kind of Love by Jonah Evarts.


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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Magickal Mystery Lore" by Sharon Pape

Magickal Mystery Lore
(An Abracadabra Mystery Book 4)
by Sharon Pape

Magickal Mystery Lore (An Abracadabra Mystery Book 4) by Sharon Pape

Magickal Mystery Lore is the fourth book in the Abracadabra Mystery series by Sharon Pape. Also available: Magick and Mayhem (read my blog post), That Olde White Magick, and Magick Run Amok (read my blog post).

An Abracadabra Mystery by Sharon Pape

Magickal Mystery Lore is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

This spells trouble ...
The New Camel Day Fair is a fun-filled event for residents of this upstate New York town. Kailyn Wilde, a modern-day witch of ancient lineage, leaves her potion shop, Abracadabra - and her feline familiar, Sashkatu - to attend with her fortune-telling Aunt Tilly. Joining them is legendary wizard Merlin, who’s discovering new pleasures of time-traveling to the modern world, including curly fries and kettle corn - but the appeal of the Tilt-a-Wheel is beyond his mystical imagination.
The real wild ride begins later, when neighboring sweet shop owner Lolly rushes into Abracadabra with news about a dead body. The victim has one of Lolly’s fudge knives stuck in her back, but in spite of the sticky evidence, Lolly is only one of several suspects with ample motive and opportunity. Meanwhile, Merlin’s research into old family scrolls and electromagnetic ley lines is causing some unusual mix-ups. As the two investigations collide, Kailyn will have to do everything in her power to prevent disaster …

Travis dropped me off at home in the early afternoon and headed back to the Glen to anchor the evening news. All the cats but Sashkatu came to greet me. He was lying on the top ridge of the living room couch, regarding me with an expression that said Well look who’s here.
I walked up to him. “Would your Highness like to accompany me to the shop?” He seemed to be deliberating. I gave him a minute before adding, “The offer expires in fifteen seconds. If you want to go with me, you’d better hustle your bustle.” He got to his feet, stretched, yawned and took his sweet time descending the couch to his personal steps that he took to the floor. He could out-diva the best of them.
When we reached the shop, I went through the connecting door to Tea and Empathy to thank my aunt for helping out with the cats. Her shop was locked and dark. She rarely took off on the weekend. I called and found her at home. Her hello was rattled.
“What’s wrong?”
“We’re fine,” she said sounding anything but fine. “Of course I’d be a lot finer if our wizard friend would lay off the spells.” I heard Merlin protesting in the background that he didn’t know it was a spell.
“It sounds like you could use some help – I’ll be right over.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Tilly said. “I’ve got everything under control.” A loud crash punctuated her words. “On a related matter, I may have to kill Merlin.”
“I’m coming.”
“Hold it,” she said firmly, “You need to open your shop for at least part of the day. I’ve made up my mind. This can wait until you close.” But what if I couldn’t wait until I closed? What new trouble had Merlin wrought? Should I ignore my aunt’s wishes and run over there? Lately she got her back up if she thought I was trying to baby her. Pride was a big deal in my family. I decided I’d do my best to wait.
As it happened, I didn’t have long to dwell on those matters. Customers kept me hopping for the next three hours. It was a good thing I’d left a sign on the shop’s door and a message on the phone that I was away until Saturday afternoon. Most of the people who came in were locals, but there was a smattering of day trippers who were out for a ride and needed a destination.
Every last person who entered my shop wanted to know why Lolly’s place was shuttered and strung with police tape. And they wanted to know when she would reopen. Many a sweet tooth left disappointed.
I closed my shop at four thirty, a compromise between Tilly’s edict and my need to know what was going on at her house. I carried the sleepy Sashkatu home and fed the gang, before calling to let her know I was on my way.
She opened her door for me, her curly red hair limp and her face shiny with perspiration. “Brace yourself,” she warned me as I stepped into the foyer. Brace myself? Was I about to see something that horrific? A moment later her meaning became clear. I was thrown back against the wall by an invisible force that hit my chest with such momentum that it knocked the air out of my lungs. My face was slathered in sticky, foaming moisture. My hands flew out to fend off my attacker and my fingers sank into... fur?
Merlin ran into the foyer yelling, “Off beast – off I say. It took Merlin and Tilly pulling and me pushing to finally remove my assailant.
“What is that?” I was bent over, trying to catch my breath.
“A common mongrel,” Merlin said. “A cur, a mutt – take your pick.”
“A very large one,” Tilly added. “It’s best if we sit down. That way we won’t have as far to fall if he launches himself at us.” She and I took the couch in the family room and Merlin settled into an armchair across from us. They both seemed to be coping better than I was, but then they’d had more time to adjust to the situation. I kept scanning the room for the invisible dog, which made no sense and yet I couldn’t help myself.
Tilly understood what I was doing. “If he’s running at you, you can feel the air he displaces a few seconds before he’s on you. It helps to remember that he’s not vicious, just big and exuberant.” I had no problem with big exuberant dogs. I loved dogs of all sizes, shaggy and short-haired, enthusiastic and reserved. In fact before Sashkatu and I bonded, I’d been summoning a dog to be my familiar. It was that very spell that had plucked Merlin from his time and dropped him into my storeroom, highlighting the difficulty we Wildes were having with our magick.
I looked from Tilly to Merlin. “I need some answers, like why is he here? And why is he invisible?”
“Merlin was deep into reading the family scrolls again,” Tilly said. “He’s determined to figure out what’s playing havoc with our magick. It seemed like a safe enough activity for him to pursue, but I was wrong. Really wrong. He was reading a paragraph aloud, trying to make sense of its meaning, when this mountain of a dog appeared.”
“What Tilly dear is trying to say is that I didn’t realize I was reading a spell. And that spell inadvertently summoned a dog. A huge dog. An enormous dog. A — “
“Yes,” I interrupted, “that much I’m clear on. But why is he invisible?”
“I was trying to send the beast back from whence he came, but instead I somehow rendered him invisible.”
“Have you tried the spell to reverse spells?” I asked.
Tilly sighed. “It seems you can’t reverse spells when they’re layered as in this case,”
“So we have to make him visible before we can reverse the spell that brought him here?”
“Yes,” they said in unison. I felt a sudden rush of air, as if a high powered fan was blowing in my direction. I scooted back against the couch pillows to brace for the attack. A second later he was on me. Slobbery tongue, nails that needed clipping, fur up my nose and in my mouth. By the time he moved on to Tilly, I felt like I’d been tarred and feathered. I told myself things could be worse. He could have been ferocious, hungry for human flesh.
Isenbale, my aunt’s Maine Coon, yowled. I’d forgotten about him in the confusion. I followed the sound and spotted him on the top shelf of the built-ins that framed the fireplace. Tilly had set a bowl of water up there for him, and he appeared none the worse for his unhappy circumstances.
“My poor baby,” Tilly lamented.
“What of me?” Merlin said, disgruntled. “Am I not to be afforded sympathy? I had to carry him to the litter box – twice.”
“You’re the only one tall enough to keep him out of the dog’s reach,” she said.
“Do either of you remember the spell that made him invisible?” I asked.
“I do,” Merlin said. “Send —. Tilly and I yelled for him to stop.
“Please write it down for me,” I said more calmly. “Do not say it aloud.”
“Ah yes, I see your point.” He reached for the pad and pen on the table next to his chair, scribbled the few lines, and handed it to me. I read it silently.
Send this dog back where he’s from.
Spare no time; do not delay.
Keep him safe, let no harm come.
Take him from our sight today.
That was it – the last line of the spell was the culprit. Or rather Merlin was for not properly vetting the words before casting it. My mother and grandmother had drummed into me how important it was not to use words that could mean more than one thing. When I told Tilly that I’d discovered the problem, she was thrilled.  She wanted to go bake something for a celebration. I pointed out it would be easier to accomplish if she waited until the dog was no longer there to trample her. Merlin was understandably less thrilled. He didn’t like being told that he created the problem.
Now I just had to devise a spell to make the dog visible again. After that we should be able to send him back with the reversal spell. It took me more time than I expected and it wasn’t the most elegant of spells. In my defense, it was hard to be creative when I had to keep defending myself from the invisible beast. I repeated the words three times.
There’s a dog within this house
That nobody can see.
Make him visible again,
And safe we all will be.
I didn’t realize I was holding my breath, until it exploded from my lungs the moment the dog appeared before me. Tilly and Merlin had not been exaggerating. He was one of the largest dogs I’d ever seen. He had long white fur that would have benefitted from a bath. His black eyes in all that whiteness reminded me of a snowman. I told him it was great to see him, while fending off another slobbery attack.
I was about to reverse the spell that had brought him there, when Tilly jumped up and insisted on saying a proper goodbye by planting a kiss on his long snout. Merlin said a more formal farewell and apologized for having dog-knapped him in the first place with the ancient incantation.
I recited the reversal spell ten times and as the last word cleared my mouth, he disappeared. None of us dared move until we were positive he’d left and wasn’t merely invisible again. Then Merlin rescued Isenbale from the shelf. Tilly went off to the kitchen to bake away her stress, and Merlin followed her, throwing out suggestions. I went home to collapse on the couch with a pint of Rum Raisin ice cream.

Praise for the Book
“Sharon Pape crafts an enchanting story that is so engaging and easy to enjoy the reader may overlook the skill required to create this captivating read.” ~ Book
“I didn't read any of the previous books in the series but I still managed to follow along with the characters and their interests. The storyline was complex enough to keep me guessing until the end. There are surprises throughout the story too.” ~ Margie
“… magic is used both to advance the plot and for comedic effect. The spells that are shared in the text could easily be used as affirmations in the real world. Pape has created an engaging modern protagonist. I look forward to reading more of Kailyn's adventures.” ~ Coralee Hicks
“This is a delightfully funny witch cozy! […] Come along for the crazy adventure filled ride!” ~ Saundra Wright
“The mystery was very good and it kept me guessing till the end. A very enjoyable and entertaining book. Highly recommended!” ~ Annarella

About the Author
Sharon Pape
Sharon Pape describes her writing career as having two stages. Back in the dark ages, before computers were in every household, she had three paranormal books published. The first one was condensed by Redbook Magazine, the first paperback original they had ever condensed. Around the same time, Redbook published her first short story.
Then life brought her an unexpected challenge that went by the name of breast cancer. When her treatment was over, she became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program and went on to be the program’s coordinator for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Several years later, with the help of her surgical oncologist and two other survivors, she started her own not-for-profit organization to provide information and peer support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.
Once the organization was running smoothly and didn’t require as much of her time, she returned to her first love – writing. During this second stage of her career, she’s been writing cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist and a splash of humor.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three ebook copies of Magickal Mystery Lore by Sharon Pape.


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