Release Day Review | Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Hey guys, I'm hoping that the work week is treating you all well!
 Today, I will be posting a review on Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep, which is book number one in her new Black Blade series in the YA genre.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book:
It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .
Lila is a seventeen year old magic user in a fantastical version of our current world. In this world, there are different families with magic-using abilities that they use to control different sectors of the city. Of course, there are two main families fighting for power and after an unfortunate incident in her friend's pawn shop, she finds herself working for one of these families - the Sinclairs - while she has been trying to lay low, living on her own since the death of her mother, a few years back. Soon after ensues plenty of action, drama, light romance and fantastic world-building with MONSTERS (yes, I said monsters).
I loved Cold Burn of Magic. I think it is the best YA I have read in a very long time and I think the reason why is all in our heroine, Lila. She is not angsty like you would find most teenagers in her precarious situation to be. Instead, Lila is courageous and a total bad ass. I love that she is so relatable  (to teens and adults alike) and really thinks about any consequences before placing herself in a less than ideal situation. This book feels on the cusp of New Adult, too, and I am sure it is just her age that is getting in the way of those annoying genre labels.
Either way, this book was a total win for me. I will definitely be looking forward to the release of the next one.

Basic info. about this book:

Name: Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1)
Author: Jennifer Estep
Review Source: Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Publishing Company: Kensington Books
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Genre: YA, fantasy, paranormal
Rating (out of 5): 4.5

Recommend? Yes!

Where it can be purchased: The Book Depository 

&& here is where you can find me on the interwebz:
Vampire Book Club:
Book Depository Affiliate:

Until next time-



Mash-Up Monday #6: | Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady | Early Review & Recipe - "Halloumi" in Charmoula

Hello & welcome to another Mash-Up Monday!
I love working on these because it gives me a chance to really get a feel for a cookbook and see how simple/complicated and thorough the recipes in the book are. For the most part, however, I can usually tell by looking at a recipe and I will mess with the ingredients/ method of preparation a bit to get to where I want to be for the final product. 
When it comes to Seven Spoons, however, I am happy to say that this Halloumi (cheese) in Charmoula recipe was a success - we ate all of it.

If you couldn't tell, this is pan-seared cheese with a whole bunch of Charmoula sauce all over it

I thoroughly enjoyed combing through Seven Spoons and I think you will, too. It's full of every kind of recipe imaginable for all different types of palettes.

For whatever reason, I could not find Halloumi cheese, anywhere. It was such a disaster because I know I have seen it at Whole Foods before. But, it's fine. I grabbed a chunk of Ricotta Salata and some Indian Paneer cheese and there you have it - my replacements.

Basic info. about this book:

Name: Seven Spoons
Author: Tara O' Brady
Review Source: Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Publishing Company: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Genre: Cookbook
Rating (out of 5): 4.5

Recommend? Yes!

Where it can be purchased: The Book Depository

"Halloumi" in Charmoula
Recipe Adapted from Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

Yield: 4-6 Servings

Ingredient List:
  • 1 fresh red chili, chopped (you can remove the seeds if you want to; we kept half the seeds)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (or ground coriander is fine)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground is also fine)
  • 1 tsp smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • grated zest and juice of half a lemon (save the other half for garnish, if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound "halloumi" (or other white, semi-firm cheese - I used Ricotta Salatta and Indian Paneer cheese) cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Make sure that you have all of your ingredients as listed, above.
  • Roast the red chili and garlic together in a saute pan on the stove top for 1-2 minutes, until brown and toasted. You are not using any oil here and are dry roasting these ingredients.
  • Once they are done, remove them from the pan and now add the coriander and cumin to toast. This should only take about 1 minute.
  • Once done, also remove from the pan and chili, garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, parsley and cilantro into a blender and blend until very fine.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the lemon zest and juice with the olive oil and a sprinkle of both salt an pepper.
  • Now add the ingredients that you blended. Set aside - the Charmoula is done!
  • The same way that we dry-roasted the ingredients for the Charmoula, you are going to do for the cheese. Leave it or a minute or two on both sides until they look like my pictures, above^.
  • Once your cheese is seared, dump it into the bowl with the charmoula sauce, coat it on both sides, and set on a plate.
  • You're done!
So, that's it! It was a very simple and easy recipe. I think that the hardest part was just finding the halloumi cheese but we made due with what I was able to purchase at Whole Foods.
Word to the wise: If you want to make this ahead of time, do it! We found that the longer the cheese sat with the sauce, the more delicious it was. We also served it alongside some fried vegetables in a homemade garlic and dill yogurt sauce - it was a fantastic vegetarian meal. Let me know what you decide to cook it with!

Happy Monday!

& Until next time :)

&& here is where you can find me on the interwebz:
Vampire Book Club:
Book Depository Affiliate:


Mash-Up Monday #5 : Tuesday Edition - Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood | Release-Day Review & Recipe

Hello & happy Mash-Up Monday - on a Tuesday!
Today I am mashing up a review and recipe from Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood.

Ladies & Gents, can you believe that I have not done one of these in almost 7 months?! When I was looking back and realized that the last mash-up I did was in September for the Chicken cookbook, well... I was not happy with myself. So, of course, we are remedying this right now.

The first 2 things that caught my attention with Rose Water & Orange Blossoms was (1) the name and (2) the cover. Can we just take a minute to admire the beauty of this cover? And all through the wonderful colors of food. This is a cover well-done!
Maureen Abood is a culinarian food blogger living in Michigan. Her blog is called - you guessed it - Rose Water & Orange Blossoms and is centered on fresh and classic Lebanese recipes. You can check out her blog, here.

The recipes in the book are simple and to the point without losing any flavor or authenticity along the way. I think that Abood did a phenomenal job with creating classic Lebanese recipes that people from any culture or background could follow and enjoy.
Also, we all know how much I love a cookbook overflowing with pictures. Rose Water & Orange Blossoms brings Maureen's dishes to life in the beautifully colorful pictures that are filling up the book. A simple picture is bringing her recipes to life and evoking memories that have been latent in my mind for years of pickling liquid simmering on the stove and fresh baked bread right out of the oven. Again, simple and classic recipes that are - in a way - familiar to all of us.

Basic info. about this book:

Name: Rose Water & Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen
Author: Maureen Abood
Review Source: Provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Publishing Company: Perseus Books Group, Running Press
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Genre: Cookbook
Rating (out of 5): 4

Recommend? Yes

Where it can be purchased: The Book Depository

& now here's the recipe:


Baba Gannouj (Smoky Eggplant Tahini Dip)
Adapted from Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredient List:
  • 2 Firm Eggplants (Abood recommends 8x5-inch/20x 12cm sized eggplants; Mine were a bit smaller – since that was what I could find – so I just adjusted the recipe, accordingly) If you can only find smaller eggplants, then just buy 3 or 4 of them instead of two. Once they're cooked and you remove the seeds, there's not much eggplant "meat" left.
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons Tahini (well-stirred before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • I garlic clove, minced
  • Juice of ½ Lemon
  • Few grinds of Black Pepper (or a good pinch will do)
  • Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
  • Handful of Pomegranate Seeds
  • Poke holes in your eggplant. You don't need to poke it all over; just once on each side to prevent the skin from breaking while cooking. I used a fork for mine.
  • Preheat your gas grill, stove or just turn on your gas burner and place a roasting rack on top (like I did in the picture)
    • If you are using a grill (or makeshift one like me), you want to char the eggplants on all sides for a good 15-20 minutes. If you're scared of burning it for whatever reason (we're just peeling the skin off later, anyways) then char it on all sides and place it in the oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 10-15 minutes. You want it soft to the touch.
    • If you are using your broiler, you want to place your eggplants on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place them in a preheated broiler for 15-20 minutes, turning them once halfway through.When they are done, they should be soft to the touch.
  • Once the eggplants are cooked, let them cool completely. Then, using your hands you can peel the skin right off of the eggplant. Discard the skin.
  • Slice the eggplants in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. My guy and I don't mind the seeds so we discarded the seeds of one and kept the seeds on the other. But feel free to discard all of them. Also, if you purchased eggplants that are smaller, once you discard the seeds you aren't left with much eggplant "meat" leftover. This is why I mentioned buying a third one above in the ingredient list - you're going to need it.
  • Now you can either chop the eggplant (with a knife) or blend it in a food processor or NutriBullet like I did. *If you are using a food processor or other machine to cut up the eggplant, you only need to pulse it 2, maybe 3 times max. You aren't looking for a totally smooth consistency here. A little texture is good.
  • Add the Tahini (mixed well!), salt, garlic*, lemon, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and stir to combine.
  • Transfer to your bowl of choice and make indentations in the mixture to create mini wells for the olive oil.
  • Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the mixture
  • Top with Pomegranate seeds*
  • Eat! I toasted up some of my homemade Olive & Hazelnut Bread but you can use any pita chips you have laying around or bread or even carrots and cucumbers - yum!

*For the garlic, I find it better to simply use a micro-plane because it turns the garlic into a paste that distributes more evenly throughout the dip
*Ever cut open a pomegranate before? Take a look at my pictures! I lightly score the pomegranate into quarters all around and then with my hands, gently pull the quarters apart. This way, you don't cut into any of the seeds and get juice all over the counter/floor/your shirt.

 So, that's it! I hope you enjoyed my mash-up of Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood as much as I enjoyed reading and eating that delicious Baba Gannouj.

Happy Eating!

&& here is where you can find me on the interwebz:
Vampire Book Club:
Book Depository Affiliate:

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