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Archive for March, 2012

Talon, come fly with me – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

The male condor spread his huge wings and hopped to the ground. Matica had to jump clear, out of the reach of his huge wings. Instead of flying off, as he normally did, he kept standing, turning around and looking at her. Matica’s eyes nearly popped out of her sockets. He’s so huge, she thought. Standing stock-still and not folding his wings to his body, the bird blinked and waited for what Matica would do. Since nothing happened for the next few minutes, the bird tilted his head and grunted. Matica interpreted it as: what now? His mate screeched from the sky in surprise. Matica couldn’t move. She was frozen stiff with fear and her face was as white as a ghost. The bird looked way bigger on the ground than he had looked on the branch. He folded his wings very slowly to his body now as if he knew he might frighten her, then he made another sound. Matica felt so small and thought: Will he kill me? But no, I’m alive. He can’t kill, just like Dad said. Matica gasped for air and her pink colour came back into her face. She was amazed that this had really happened and she wondered: What should I do now? I think he’s afraid of his own boldness, and so am I. He’s watching me. I should move, do something. After all, I told him to come down…but he’s so big.

Matica and her family moved from Australia to a little remote village called Pucara which is about twenty kilometers away from the Andes in the northern part of Peru. Matica’s parents are missionaries to the Peruvian Indians who spoke little or no English. Through her father Crayn, this has started to change.

Matica has a medical problem that prevents her body from growing to its normal size. When they first moved to Pucara Matica was five but her body looked as if she were only two years old. Even though Crayn had explained this disability to the Indians they still thought she was odd or even possessed by an evil spirit. They were so afraid of her that they refused to let their own children play with her. This left Matica alone and lonely. To solve her lack of friendship, Matica took to the sky, making friends with a pair of Condors.

When I started reading Talon, come fly with me, I knew nothing about the Condors. After reading Talon, come fly with me, I had to appease my curiosity by looking them up on the internet. They are large birds weighting from 20-23 lbs. with body lengths of 50” and wingspans of 9-10 feet. They mate for life and live 50 plus years producing 1-2 eggs every 2 years. They can fly up to 15,000 feet at speeds of 55 miles per hour. And they are on the endangered species.

Matica’s story of befriending these birds, helping them rescue their egg from poachers and then the actual raising was a story that took my breath away. Only a child such as Matica can see the beauty in an animal that everyone else calls ugly. And only a child would have the tolerance to do what had to be done to keep ‘her’ birds surviving. This is a beautiful book for all ages, especially for kids.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Creative Cooking for the Global Kitchen – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Lunch is served. Our first course will be Saffron Soup with seafood, beautifully served in a whisky glass with a side of spicy mayonnaise and a simple rustic garlic bread. Next will be a pan fried, breaded goat cheese cake with fresh lettuce and a nice lemon olive oil vinaigrette, garnished with caramelized walnuts and a cherry tomato. For the first main course, you will have a wonderful cod fish on a bed of beef truffle sauce (yes beef sauce with fish is amazing). For the second course, a nice roasted beef tenderloin with a red pepper coulis, served with snow peas. And finally for dessert, a small tiramisu in a chocolate cup and strawberry mousse.

A meal fit for a queen?! Well the queen didn’t actually have the pleasure of enjoying this delicious meal but the Princess of the Nederland sure did. This is just one meal prepared for celebraties by David Jean Marteau, Executive Chef of the Parkyard Hotels and Catering in Shanghai, China. This award winning chef has been cooking and traveling around the world for over 20 years. From being the sole Executive Chef in charge of the food for ALL of the soccer teams during the 2008 Olympics in China, Chef Marteau has cooked for Halle Berry, Queen Latifa, Jacques Villeneuve, Robert Carlyle, Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and even the U. S. President George Bush (senior) and ex-governor of California Arnold Schwarzzenegger.

Chef Marteau started cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen at the age of 9 and hasn’t stopped. His knack for ‘marrying’ foods that most would never consider is bringing him fame, as with his beef sauce served with cod fish. And now he has blessed us with a cookbook full of simple dishes that will fit just about anyone’s taste.

When I started looking through Chef Marteau’s cookbook Creative Cooking for the Global Kitchen, I couldn’t help but think about my own book Think With Your Taste Buds. This is also what Chef Marteau is trying to teach us to do with our cooking. If it sounds like something that might be good together, try it. You have nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain.

Some of my favorite recipes from Creative Cooking for the Global Kitchen are Risotto With Grilled Chicken. I love Risotto and I love chicken so this fit my taste buds perfectly. Chef Marteau’s Clam Chowder is rich in flavor and oh so creamy. And his Hazelnut Vinaigrette is to die for. I have recently bought a bottle of Hazelnut oil with no idea as to what I would do with it. This recipe solved that lttle problem for me. I’m really anxious to give Chef Marteau’s Broccoli and Shrimp Soup with Almonds a try, as well as his Creamy Bread Soup made with stale bread. This book has opened up more recipe ideas for me to try and as I do with all of my own cookbooks, Chef Marteau offers suggestions for ingredient changes as well as tips. This is a must have cookbook!

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Southern Superstitions – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Tears filled June’s eyes, as she watched the strawberry fields become lakes. They sat on their front porch and looked across what were once their strawberry fields into an immense span of nothing but water as far as the eye could see. Still, Andy refused to leave the farm. “If the river gets too high, we have the tractor and the dump truck. We’ll be able to ride out on one of them, if it gets to the point where we have to leave. God will spare us. Our berry crop may have gone under, but we won’t have to leave our farm. Taking a loss on the strawberries is heartbreaking, but we can claim the loss.” June spoke in a firm voice as though she dared Myrtle to say different as her mother took a seat in the porch rocker. Andy leaned back in the swing and placed an arm around June’s shoulder. “Ed told me the people loaded onto the National Guard truck for evacuation endured a hot, cramped, long, tiring ride, as well as unbearable sights. They were jam-packed into the back of the truck like sardines in a tin can. The truck continuously stopped to load other occupants, making the progress to higher ground slow, to say the least. Homes and businesses were flooded with water up to their roofs in some areas. People could only hope and pray the homes they left behind would not end up the same way.”… “I heard about it on the news,” Myrtle interjected. “A bulletin informed people about the different locations. I told you we’d have bad luck from that black cat. It was bound to happen sooner or later.”

Andy and June have known each other since they were kids attending the same school. June had always had a crush on Andy but never knew he had one on her too. They have finally been brought together due to him being a strawberry inspector/grader and June and her mother Myrtle being strawberry farmers. It became a match truly made in Heaven.

On their way into town to have their strawberries inspected and graded, a black cat crossed in front of them. Myrtle, being the superstitious person she is, declared bad luck wasn’t far behind and she was right when Andy downgraded her strawberries leaving a bad taste for him in her mind. Andy on the other hand, decided he wanted June and the only way to have her would be with her mother’s consent and blessings. To receive these he would have to endear himself to her. This task actually became fairly simple since Myrtle had always been disappointed that June wasn’t the son she had always longed for.

Growing up in the Georgia, I know how stubborn superstitious people can be and no matter what you say they will always cling to their beliefs. Myrtle was like that. She was a God fearing, religious woman who believed that everything happened for a reason known only to God but she also believed that a lot was pure luck – good or bad. In Southern Superstitions June does everything possible to convenience her mother that luck has nothing to do with life, God does. Myrtle, on the other hand, blamed the flooding on the black cat. She also blamed everything else that happened over the years on that same black cat. But when tragedy really struck bringing an unplanned separation of June and Andy, Myrtle finally understood that only God will listen to our prayers and supply us with the ‘luck’ we need to survive.

This is such a beautiful story of love, compassion, life, strength and belief. It takes a strong person to endure what June went through and still keep her faith and belief. May we all have the same trust in God that June had.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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My Enemy My Love – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; A Book and A Dish; Think With Your Taste Buds

“I am sorry to burden you with my troubles,” Beatrice said, catching her breath as she did so in an effort to keep calm. “Nonsense, my dear, what are friends for. You must stay the night with us. There is enough food, I’m sure.” Claire looked at Brigitte as she spoke. “You can help me prepare supper tonight, can’t you?” It was more of a demand than a request. “Of course, Mama.” She looked once more at Beatrice and couldn’t help thinking how badly this awful war was treating her. One of her son’s blinded for life, the other still serving at the front presumably, her daughter heavily pregnant with a bastard child and God knows where, and now her husband arrested for the kind of offence that could well result in his execution. It was little wonder that she was in tears when her once so secure world was rapidly crumbling around her. Not for the first time she decided that the evil Boches had much to answer for, given the misery they were visiting on so many innocent people whose lives they were trampling underfoot. Then she thought of her letter to Friedrich; it was enough to make her want to laugh. “This war is making fools of us all,” she mumbled to herself.

Aubert and Beatrice Guilloux, along with their two sons Antoine and Philippe and daughter Cosette live in the countryside of the French city of Lille. Aubert, with Philippe as his accountant, has a successful tannery business that has allowed him to provide everything needed to make his family happy in all of their desires. Their estate consists of their own home as well as cottages for some of the servants, a stable full of horses and through Aubert’s ability to manage money, rental property for yet another income. Things couldn’t be better…that is until WWI started and the Germans invaded France and took over Lille. Aubert and his family were required to move into one of the cottages giving the house up to the German officers.

Cosette had led a fairly sheltered life where her family supplied her every whim so moving into the cottage did become quite a change for her. Their horses had been taken over by the Germans so her love for riding and jumping had come to a stop. She, nor anyone else in the family, was allowed to go near their old home. All she had left to entertain her were walks to the lake. But these she found were quite dangerous as three German soldiers captured her with the intent of rape. Her rescuer turned out to be a German officer that caught her attention as well as her heart.

My Enemy My Love is another of those books that I almost didn’t read. I enjoy reading some history but have never enjoyed reading anything written about WWI or WWII. It’s always given me a ‘dark’ feeling about life during this time. But, as I’ve stated before, I will read at least the first 50 pages of any book before declining. My Enemy My Love turned out to be another of those books that I just kept going after the first 50 pages. Yes, it still gave me my ‘dark’ feeling but it also showed me the strength people find deep inside themselves when faced with the dangers of war and injustice. I find myself wondering if I could be so brave. Could I risk my own life to help my country? Would I hate ALL of those that brought this pain upon my world or would I look at them as just doing what they are told and must by their own leaders? Could I actually love one of them knowing that if found out I would be considered a traitor even by my own family? Through My Enemy My Love, Author James Walker has given me many mixed emotions and feelings making it difficult to answer any of these questions for myself. This is truly a great book that took not only a strong imagination but an awful lot of research. See, other than the main characters, most of the other characters are real and went through what he epics within this writing.

A message from the Author – The book was dedicated to my wife but perhaps I should have dedicated it to my grandfather who was still suffering from the physical and mental impact that the Great War had on him more than 50 years after it ended. I also have a German great-grandfather , which has influenced my perspective on the two world wars, and a love of French history which made the research a pleasure rather than a pain. My other grandfather, who died before I was born was an ‘old contemptible’ at Mons in August 1914 and a cavalryman to boot, so I have watched the successful war film War Horse recently with some emotion knowing that he was caught up in the madness of sending horses against machine guns!

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com

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Confessions of a Crazy Fox – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; A Book and A Dish and Think With Your Taste Buds

‘I stewed about it until New Year’s Day, 2010, and then I wrote Jimmy a long letter pointing out a lot of the things he and Jeannette had done to hurt me the last decade and if he didn’t put a stop to it, I was going to go ahead and release my story. I had decided not to take the last offer I had, after Jim was diagnosed with cancer, but my sister inspired me to try again. I knew I wouldn’t hear from my brother and posted on Facebook that New Year’s Day that my resolution was to publish my family memoir. It did shock a few family members who couldn’t imagine what I had to write about or why. I figured if Jeannette’s story was the one our extended family had been hearing all these years, perhaps it was finally time to broadcast mine. That shouldn’t really surprise any of them. They all know I write when I’m pissed and believe me, Jeannette pushed me way past that point this last time.’

I never research nor read other reviews before starting a new book and when I was sent a copy of Anna Mullis’ book Confessions of a Crazy Fox, I actually expected it to be a mystery, murder, suspense. What I never expected it to be was the story of her life. My first thoughts were borrrring! And since I will decline a book before I’ll write a bad review, I almost turned this book down. But I always give a book, any book, a chance and at least try to read the first 25-50 pages hoping it will appeal to me and that’s exactly what I did with Confessions of a Crazy Fox.

I read the first couple of chapters as Anna talked about her childhood, she sure had a streak of defiance! I continued reading as she introduced her ‘guardian angel’ that saved her from being bitten by a snake. When I read about her cousin Bobo I actually started feeling that I knew him. Her parents turned out to be the kind we all wish for. Their love for their family, friends and neighbors was something many only dream about. Then tragedy hits, first with the death of her Dad and later her Mother and with each also comes the separation of family. I’ve always said that the 2 things that bring out the worse in a family are weddings and funerals. I’ve decided to add another to that list – money.

Reading about the greed between the siblings actually reminded me of a few incidents within my own life after the death of my own parents. I’m sure we can all relate to this greed at some level, either through our own experiences or through the pains we’ve watched others experience. I personally feel that greed is the #1 cause of family problems throughout the world. And greed isn’t just about money. While reading Confessions of A Crazy Fox I finally realized that greed is nothing but jealousy. Someone gets just a bit more, got a bit more or will get a bit more, bringing on a jealousy called greed.

I’m sure that by now you have realized I read the whole book. Actually I had trouble putting it down. It firmly points out that if you make someone mad enough your sorrow might just come back to haunt you by way of a book telling the whole world just how greedy you really are. In Confessions of a Crazy Fox, Anna Mullins doesn’t just blow the top on her siblings she also includes her own sins throughout her life, and her honesty in admitting her own faults is one of the things that made this book so interesting.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com Stir, Laugh, Repeat

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Bitten – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and A Book and A Dish

“Agent Lauren Westlake. Yes, I know about you Agent Westlake. What are you an agent of I wonder?” posited the woman quizzically. “Right. So yeah, anyways. About the creature?” The woman folded her hands across her lap and sat back. “There are many creatures in this world, Lauren of the Lake Tribes of the West. My question is what are you an agent of? We all represent something in this world. What do you represent?” Lauren looked at the woman strangely, feeling claustrophobic. “I am an agent of the federal government,” she replied mechanically. The woman was not convinced with the answer. “That is to say you are an agent of a rock, Lauren of the Lake Tribes of the West. Would you like me to read your life?” “My life? Lake Tribes of the West? I thought you had information about the creature.” “I have information on a great many things, Agent Westlake. What information do you have for me? Nothing in this life is free. A cycle of reciprocity, surrounded and envelopes us, even if we do not see it.” Lauren gripped the edge of the chair, lifting her body. “I think there has been a misunderstanding. I thought you had something to tell me…” The woman waved the agent down with a quick movement of her hands. “Let me begin then. I am called Hecate. I serve as the guide from this world. Not the only guide mind you, but a guide nonetheless. I am an agent of wisdom and of truth. And you, daughter of the Lake Tribes of the West, what are you an agent of?”

Federal Agent Lauren Westlake had been in Locke, Minnesota for just a few days and she is now conversing with a another crazy woman. The first was Madeline Leftwich who for years sat every night at the train station waiting on her mother to pick her up. Now Madeline is dead and the particulars of her death are what keeps Lauren in her seat as she listens to the puzzling comments coming from Hecate. Madeline, as well as another woman found at the lake, had both been murdered by what appears to be the same ‘person.’ Both were mutilated with patches of skin removed. After catching a glimpse of what Lauren believes to be the murderer, she is convinced it isn’t a person she’s perusing but a monster of some type. From what she saw, it’s large and it’s hairy. Definitely not human.

Dominic McManus has had his own encounter with Hecate. She has given him hope for the future. She has ‘read his life’ and assured him that there will be someone coming that will help him. But Dominic sees his time running out and needs help fast. Could Lauren possibly be the one he’s been waiting on?

While reading Bitten, I felt as if I was reading a possible script for one of the supernatural shows on television involving vampires and werewolves. I also felt that it might even be a script for Criminal Minds. This book would fit both. The questions I kept asking myself as I read were – is this monster a werewolf? – is Dominic the monster? – could it really be just a crazy maniac? And then I would tell myself – if this book were made into a movie I would spend more time hiding my face from the screen as a got the heck scared out of me. Bitten is a true thriller!

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com Stir, Laugh, Repeat

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The Crystal Rose – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat and A Book and A Dish

‘Keith hung up the phone, glaring at the receiver. He turned his head to stare at the wall of the one room apartment where many pictures of his soon-to-be bride looked back. He could see her beautiful face from everywhere in the apartment, except the bathroom, but he had a separate picture in there. “Where are you, Dan?” he asked those faces. “Why don’t you answer my messages?” He reached across the bed and grabbed the box from under his pillow. His chest swelled as he opened the velvet box. The huge cubic zirconia twinkled at him. He could see Sheridan showing off the ring to her friends. How could he make her see they were made for each other, if he couldn’t even get in touch with her? All his difficulties had to be Joel’s fault.’

Sheridan McLaughlin is a marine biologist that has found herself out of work. With the economy, the market for research in her field of expertise is on hold and there appears to be nothing opening up within the near future. On top of that her apartments have just gone condo so unless she decides to buy her unit, which is out of the question since she has no job, she must move. Her only option is to go back ‘home’ to her godfather/uncle Joel and hope she can keep herself afloat by singing and tending bar at his dinner club The Crystal Rose. Could things get worse? If you call trying to change a flat tire with a spare that’s also flat in a rain downpour, then I guess it can get worse.

Russell Madison is a self made millionaire. Everything he touches turns to money making him one of the most sought out bachelor around. He also has the looks to go with his money which makes every woman he even glances at swoon for his attention. That is every woman with the exception of Sheridan McLaughlin. This wouldn’t be a problem if Sheridan didn’t end up owning the majority of The Crystal Rose, which Russell wants for himself. So if it requires him engulfing Sheridan with his charm, he can handle that. So he thinks.

What Sheridan nor Russell could have foreseen was Keith Cainam stepping into their lives to make sure there would never be a relationship between the two of them… business nor personal. Keith had dated Sheridan years before when she worked for Joel at The Crystal Rose. He played in a band that served as the entertainment now and then and his love for her had only grown over the years of their separation. His determination to prove to her how much she means to him and how much he really means to her is his top priority.

So… will Sheridan keep the stone wall she is noted for up preventing both Russell and Keith out? Will Russell keep his wall in tact while it protects him from feeling the pains that was inflicted on him by his mother years ago? And will Keith make Sheridan take a really hard look at him and see his sincerity before she leaves him again?

The Crystal Rose is a beautiful love story of both past and present. The characters are well written and believable. It’s filled with love and just enough suspense to make it a very enjoyable read.

Review Stir, Laugh, Repeat at Amazon.com Stir, Laugh, Repeat

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