Banana Bread with Macadamia Nuts

We’ve all had banana bread before. But, you’ve never had my banana bread before. Maybe you have, though, and that’s why you’re reading this blog to begin with. Did you meet me at Show Me Your Books KC and try my yummy baked stuff? If so, hello! Get ready for some weirdness.

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Freshly: a meal delivery service

I'm back, bitches! I've had to involuntarily take some time off due to moving and getting settled, but I should be back on track now and have a new blog each week.

Do you want to know the shittiest part about moving? My new kitchen is tiny. I have half as many cabinets and nowhere to put all of my stuff. My counters, stove, and floor were piled with boxes for a couple of weeks while I kept bringing in more boxes and unpacking what I could. But there is no space! I had no room for my various baking dishes, all of my food, or my small appliances. I also only have ONE cabinet under the counter in which I can put pots and pans. One? Seriously? My canning pot lives outside in the storage closet now. I can't see any way that I'll have room to home-can apple butter this year. 

I haven't had room or time to cook anything. And you guys, I fucking hate spending money on fast food. Also, the food is gross. It makes me feel disgusting, groggy, and fat. I also don't want to eat out at a real restaurant every day. So what the fuck is a girl to do? 

Freshly. They send fully cooked, freshly prepared meals in individual servings right to your door. No pots and pans or even plates needed! All you need is a microwave, a knife, and a fork. I know what you're wondering, though... Is it worth it? Maybe...

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Moving Sucks, part two

First of all, yes, I missed another week. Shame, shame! And right after ThrillerFest! Sort of... But, as I warned--I'm in the middle of moving. It should be weird that I hear that Monty Python voice in my head shouting, "Get on with it!" It's not, though.

I bet you're wondering how this is part two, right? Part one was the last time I moved. It was two and a half years ago, right as my debut novel was being released. My timing sucks, doesn't it? Unfortunately, life doesn't always flow how and when we need it to. 

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Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

I got this book last year at ThrillerFest because I heard great things about it. I was not at all disappointed. Final Girls by Riley Sager grabbed me right from the start and didn't let go until the last page. It was riveting from start to finish, with twist after twist that shocked me more each time. I loved it so much, I want to buy his next book, too. Good thing it's here at ThrillerFest in the bookstore!

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Book Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Wicked River by Jenny Milchman is a gripping thriller that holds on tight and won't let you go until it's over. I freaking loved this book! I'd been just dying to read it ever since last summer when Jenny released a preview of the book to her newsletter subscribers. I had thought I would have to wait until ThrillerFest to get it, but I didn't! She went on a book tour that brought her through my neck of the woods and I got a signed copy a couple months or so ago. Yay! You should buy a copy, too. In the ThrillerFest bookstore, it's on the far side of the room, in the back row of the table to the right of the U-shape the tables form.

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Book Review: Appalachian Trail by Tim Wellman

I love dystopian novels. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the future. I love technical things, where math and science fuse with creativity to make a strange "maybe it could happen" novel. For a debut novel, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Appalachian Trail by Tim Wellman was an adventure, full of mystery, suspense, and enough steampunk mechanisms to make an engineer cream their pants. 

In this novel, we find the characters in a dystopian future where all old electronics will never work again. Oil is worth far, far more than gold and there is no centralized government. Bandits roam wild over the wastelands between independent city-states. There are people known as Dark Children who were born during a period of death nearly two decades before. All of them remained small, slender, have gray hair, and purple eyes. They are also all geniuses like the world has never seen. People distrust them and they are all treated like second-class citizens. 

Pip is a dark child and Seb is a professor. Together, they embark on a journey to find more oil and make themselves rich beyond their wildest dreams. Along the road, they meet others who want to share in their adventurous undertaking, while also protecting them from the many perilous places that lie between them and their goal.

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Book Review: The One Man by Andrew Gross

The One Man by Andrew Gross is a gripping historical thriller set during WW2. It is full of suspense, secrets, and sorrow. But then, what novel set in Auschwitz could find a way to not be sorrowful? It is not without hope, though. All the way right up until the end, Gross manages to convey the hope that is coursing through the main characters. And it is unclear how it's over until it's actually over. 

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Book Review: The Girl Who Lived by Paul Dale Anderson

The Girl Who Lived: Megan’s Story by Paul Dale Anderson had me riveted. I was glued to the pages and I could not put it down. I started reading it one morning, read all day, and fell asleep reading it that night. The next morning, I had it finished within an hour. It was superb, fantastic, and well-crafted. I absolutely loved it. 

The story is well written. It's full of suspense. It’s a police procedural, mixed with a serial killer thriller, mixed with an investigative journalism novel. The chapters range in size, from a few pages to quite long. Each perspective shift occurs at chapter changes. Actually, let's talk about perspective...

The book opens in first person, from Megan's point of view. She's in the hospital, trying to convince the shrink that she's now sane so that she can get out and exact her revenge on the men who destroyed her life. She must get out, so that she can finish what she's started. Three of her rapists are still alive and she can’t have that, now, can she?

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Book Review: Mister Tender's Girl by Carter Wilson

Last year at ThrillerFest, I got my hands on an ARC of Carter Wilson's latest novel, Mister Tender's Girl. It just came out in February, so I'm sure you can find it in the bookstore this year. In fact, I know you can since I helped set up the bookstore. Find George R.R. Martin's books. Take a few steps left. Mister Tender's Girl is in the center row on the table. Oh, you're not at ThrillerFest? That's ok. You can buy it here. And you totally should. Let me tell you why...

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Book Review: Never Be Alone by Paige Dearth

Never Be Alone by Paige Dearth is the second book of her's that I've read. It got me hooked. As soon as I finished it, I bought another one--Mean Little People. She has five books so far, and more in the works, of course. Her writing is heartfelt and emotionally invasive--in a good way. Her characters are well developed and her books are long. I love it. She really makes you feel for them in her character-driven novels. Each tale tackles a different aspect of child abuse and shows how it can be possible to overcome such tragedy.

Joon's parents die when she is only eight and she is forced into the foster care system. Her foster mother is incredibly abusive and torments her for four long years, much of which is glossed over only to be revealed later in the book by telling bits of her past to friends. When her foster brother tells her he's going to rape her, she runs away. At twelve years old, she finds herself homeless. The novel covers her next seven years in horrifying detail.

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Book Review: Color Blind by Sheila Sobel

Color Blind deals with some heavy issues, like death, multi-generational family secrets, racism, and teenage angst. It's all set to the backdrop of New Orleans, Louisiana. April's father suddenly died of an unknown heart condition. Her military mother went MIA the year before and was presumed dead. With nowhere else to go, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to NOLA to live with her mother's younger sister--an aunt she'd never met who never wanted to have kids. Their relationship proves to be rather tumultuous. 

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Book Review: One Among Us by Paige Dearth

It's been a whole year since this book came into my possession. For months, it stared at me from my bookshelf. No, really. The cover is of a girl, begging with her eyes for you to help her. It sat sideways because I wanted to read it. I had to read it. Not just because a new friend wrote it and I wanted to support her work, but because I knew how powerful it would be. 

I met Paige Dearth last summer. She was a force all her own and we instantly clicked. We're both real and honest, perhaps to a fault. She's going to tell you like it is and so am I. After chatting with her throughout the week, I knew I'd enjoy her style of writing. 

I also knew her subject matter would make me squeamish. 

Paige writes fictions with MEAN-ing. All of her books are about children who are victims. One Among Us is about a young girl, Maggie, who is abducted from the mall when she is 12. She then spends the next decade being bought and sold as a sex slave, a prostitute, and even an indentured servant of a stripper. 

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Book Review: Bone Music by Christopher Rice

You've heard of Christopher Rice, haven't you? You should have. He's one of the few people out there who was pretty much born with a publishing contract. He's the son of Anne Rice, famed novelist who penned The Vampire Chronicles, you know...Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, and so many more. Christopher has co-written a few books with his mom and he's written more than a handful on his own. My first taste of his writing was in Matchup, an anthology of short stories co-written by ITW authors using their most famous main characters. So, when I saw he was starting a new series, I jumped on board.

It can be daunting, can't it? Finding an author you like and you want to read the whole series, but holy shit--there are already six books/fifteen books/twenty-odd books and how will you ever find the time to read every book this author has ever written? I guess that's why I like trilogies and short series. Serieses? Wow...is that right? My Grammarly isn't popping up on that, so it must be right. It can't be right... I like a shorter series so as to not feel so overwhelmed by the series' length that I never pick up the first book. WTF, I sound like Gollum. "I likeses the short serieses."

Maybe that's why I was so excited when this book was tagged "Burning Girl Series Book One." A new series? Oh, yes. I'm so down you'll wonder how I can get that low. I snagged it on my Kindle and read it in two days, despite being scheduled twelve-hour shifts at work both days. I couldn't put it down. There was no getting lost in Facebook, no watching TV, no cooking. I ate cereal and I read on my phone until I fell asleep. I absolutely loved it. Let me tell you why...

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I'm off to ThrillerFest again

It's Friday, so I owe you a blog post. But what can I talk about? How about the splurge of book reviews I'm about to unload all over you? All next week while I'm in NYC for ThrillerFest XIII, I'll be posting two book reviews of ITW authors I've read each day. Are you excited? I am. 

So, yeah. No recipes this week. No long, ranting post about...anything. This one is short and sweet. Come back Tuesday through Saturday to read about the fantastic books I've been devouring lately. If you find one you like, I've included links for each of them. 

New York Dick Steak

I got the greatest thing ever in my last Butcher Box. My New York Strip steaks. Like usual, they were tender, flavorful, and delicious. Unlike usual, one of them was cut slightly wrong so that it was too narrow in the middle. This left me stunned and for a moment, I just stared at this penis-shaped hunk of steak in my kitchen. Then it dawned on me. "Oh my god, they sent me New York dick steak!" I'm sure the neighbors heard me. Who knows what the hell they thought of that. 

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Upcoming events: Summer of 2018

There's a lot of fun to be had when you gather a bunch of authors together. This year, I'm doubling my fun by attending two different author's conferences. The first is just around the bend and I couldn't be more excited. As a member of the International Thriller Writers, I'll be attending my third consecutive year at ThrillerFest in NYC, from July 10th to the 14th. The second will be in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri--Show Me Your Books KC, September 7th and 8th.

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Baklava

Every year for Ramadan, I make baklava for my husband. I'm not Muslim, but he is since he was born in Palestine. I respect his opinions and beliefs, even if I don't share them. Anyway, he loves my baklava. He even told me that it's better than his mother's. And trust me, he's a total mama's boy, so that's a huge deal.

This year, I decided to share my secrets. Are you ready? I hope so, because here we go.

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How to Cut a Watermelon

Summer is upon us, which means cookouts and watermelons! But how the hell can one easily cut a watermelon? Some people just say fuck it and they put out huge, monster-sized slices of watermelon that are bigger than your face. And while that's cute for photos, it's really just an awful way to eat a watermelon. The juice gets all over your face, maybe in your hair, and it drips on your clothes. No one wants to be sticky, right?

I suppose I could think of worse ways, though. You could melon-ball it, thereby bruising it, ruining it's texture, wasting a whole bunch of it, and making it go bad much faster. You could hack at it with a machete, flinging juice and various-sized chunks around the room. You could face-plant into a watermelon half and eat it without using your hands. Sounds kinda fun, actually, but I don't think anyone wants a watermelon seed in their eye.

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My First and LAST Time at Hy-Vee Market Grille

If you're from the central midwest, you've probably heard of the grocery store chain, Hy-Vee. It's a middle-grade grocery store, not full-on gourmet, but not a discount store, either. They're employee owned and they usually have decent stuff. It's a bit more expensive than Walmart, but they have a higher quality of fruits and vegetables and a larger selection of organic food, which is mostly why I shop there. In the last year or two, they've been adding a restaurant to many of their stores here in Kansas City, which is named Market Grille. We decided to try it, and we were not very happy with our experience.

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