Beauty of the Beast: Fairy Tale Retellings, Book One by Rachel L. Demeter


Blurb:

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.
Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.
Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Beauty of the Beast is a magical retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast. But unlike other versions, there is no fairy magic where the hero is entranced by a sorceress, or where there is a chance the beast may turn into his former handsome self at the end. Adam is tragically physically disfigured and his formerly happy life destroyed. He feels he himself is a beast and shuts himself in his castle from the outside world for two decades.

We are introduced to Isabel who puts her family's well being over her own by becoming engaged to Raphael in exchange for medical care for her ailing father. Raphael is arrogant, wealthy, and very cruel. Raphael causes Isabel great physical pain and heartache yet I felt a twinge of sorrow for him because of his own upbringing. However, as the story progressed it became obvious he wasn't deserving of any sympathy and was too far gone to save.

By the time Isabel comes into Adam's life, he wants no part of the outside world. She finds a way to escape from the obsessive Raphael but ends up as a prisoner in the castle. Then the questions arise for both of them - if whether beautiful people can become beasts, and can beauty be hidden by physical scars.

I enjoyed this version of Beauty and the Beast immensely because it wasn't just a tale about a beautiful girl and a beast of a man, but rather it was about whether people can find beauty on the inside and overlook physical appearances. 

Beauty of the Beast is a classic Gothic love story, and the author does a wonderful job with imagery. Stories like this remind me of why I love this genre so much. A truly captivating and riveting retelling of a beloved tale, and I look forward to the author's version of the next fairy tale.




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+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques, and Barbecue Wisdom


Blurb:
Pitmaster is the definitive guide to becoming a barbecue aficionado and top-shelf cook from renowned chefs Andy Husbands and Chris Hart.
Barbecue is more than a great way to cook a tasty dinner. For a true pitmaster, barbecue is a way of life.
Pitmaster is the definitive guide to becoming a barbecue aficionado and top-shelf cook, whether you’re new to the grill or a seasoned vet. Recipes begin with basics, like cooking Memphis-style ribs, and expand to smoking whole hogs North Carolina style.
There is no single path to becoming a pitmaster. Barbecue lovers are equally inspired by restaurants with a commitment to regional traditions, competition barbecue champions, families with a multi-generational tradition of roasting whole hogs, and even amateur backyard fanatics.
This definitive collection of barbecue expertise will leave you in no doubt why expert chefs and backyard cooks alike eat, live, and breathe barbecue.
From the All Q'd Up blog:

"The chapters go into styles of barbecue, and delve into the main regions: Backyard Barbecue; North Carolina; Kansas City; Texas; The North; and Competition Barbecue. As far as recipes, this book has the classics from the above regions that are the go-to ones, with nothing extra that doesn’t fit. You’ll find favorites like barbecue rubs, sauces, and sides to the actual meats that define the barbecue regions – Butcher Paper [Beef] Brisket from Texas, and Whole Hog Eastern North Carolina Style."

Read the full review from the All Q'd Up barbecue blog, and try a recipe from the book.



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Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.



+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking--Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka by Uri Scheft


Breaking Breads Blurb:
Named one of the Best Cookbooks of the Year by Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, The Washington Post, and more
 

Israeli baking encompasses the influences of so many regions—Morocco, Yemen, Germany, and Georgia, to name a few—and master baker Uri Scheft seamlessly marries all of these in his incredible baked goods at his Breads Bakery in New York City and Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv. Nutella-filled babkas, potato and shakshuka focaccia, and chocolate rugelach are pulled out of the ovens several times an hour for waiting crowds. In Breaking Breads, Scheft takes the combined influences of his Scandinavian heritage, his European pastry training, and his Israeli and New York City homes to provide sweet and savory baking recipes that cover European, Israeli, and Middle Eastern favorites. Scheft sheds new light on classics like challah, babka, and ciabatta—and provides his creative twists on them as well, showing how bakers can do the same at home—and introduces his take on Middle Eastern daily breads like kubaneh and jachnun. The instructions are detailed and the photos explanatory so that anyone can make Scheft’s Poppy Seed Hamantaschen, Cheese Bourekas, and Jerusalem Bagels, among other recipes. With several key dough recipes and hundreds of Israeli-, Middle Eastern–, Eastern European–, Scandinavian-, and Mediterranean-influenced recipes, this is truly a global baking bible.
Read the full review on the Pastry Sampler blog, and try one of the recipes.

A really great baking book here. From the Pastry Sampler blog:

"Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft gives spirit to old favorites, and is a reflection of the author’s travels. Traditional challah, laminated breads, flatbreads, and stuffed breads are all greatly described and made, and he mixes contemporary ingredients with traditional methods. And it’s not just about yeast breads – we are presented with wonderful treats for afternoon tea or coffee, too, and all the things to serve them with,  a surprising focus on the savory here."



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+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC

More Than a Slave by Anaelle Gadeyne


Book Blurb:
Alexander Anderson has a reputation that would strike fear into the heart of the devil himself. And now, Aria Starbird is his property. Aria has spent only a few months as a lowly slave, but already her happy childhood memories were starting to fade under the weight of her brutal existence. 

When she is sold to Lord Anderson at an auction, she cannot help but be afraid. Lord Anderson is known for his cruelty. He is fiendish and handsome and as wicked as he is wealthy. However, as she gets to know her new master, she realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Over time, she is able to penetrate his tough exterior, and begins to understand the struggle of a man who believes love is a weakness, but whose heart is now yearning for something unknown. 

As the two let down their walls and discover each other’s truths, will Aria be able to tame Alexander's inner-beast? 
This is a story of a girl who is sold off to ease her very poor parent's burden. And while the story had elements that were good, the violence was a little over the top, and seemed wholly unnecessary at times. We are introduced to the heroine being sold off to two different men, and the hero nonchalantly talking about killing four slaves in a week.

It's hard to put your heart into reading a historical romance with really so much violence going on around the slaves. The issue here isn't actual slavery, but the attitude of sadistic violence that all the characters employ. (Spoiler: there is an actual torture dungeon in the house, and the occupants can hear the screams.) The main characters regard torturing someone as a non issue, so much so that it was hard to like anyone. The writing and the dialogue between the characters seemed disjointed in places making it hard to follow along, and the ending fell flat. 

I try to find the good in most books, though, and I was truly amazed that Aria seemed to hold her own even though she was sold by her poor parents into lifetime servitude (although she never really much acted like an actual slave throughout the book) and she had endured so much torture and abuse. That by itself shows her strength.



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Disclosure: this book was provided by the author and any opinions are my own.


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC