Friday, October 18, 2013

Venice in the Moonlight

Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-13: 978-1492720195

A story of vengeance, forgiveness and love...

After her husband’s untimely demise, Marietta Gatti is banished from the family’s villa by her spiteful mother-in-law. She returns to her hometown of Venice and her only kin—a father she hasn’t spoken to since her forced marriage. Her hope of making amends is crushed when she learns she is too late, for he recently died under suspicious circumstances. Grief-stricken, Marietta retraces her father’s last night only to discover someone may have wanted him dead—and she may be next. When the prime suspect turns out to be the father of the man she is falling in love with, Marietta risks her future happiness and her life to avenge the death of a man she once hated.

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel takes you back to the days of Carnival and Casanova, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.

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Nico shrugged in the French wingback chair they had placed by the fireplace for his portrait. He looked regal in a black silk suit trimmed in gold and a waistcoat of burgundy and gold leaf-patterned brocade. It seemed Raul had excellent taste in men’s fashions.
Marietta rolled her eyes before she settled in a chair behind the easel. “Please keep still while I draw.”
“May I talk?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.” Looking at him was going to be enough distraction. She didn’t need to listen to him also.
He ignored her request. “I have to ask—why Palladino?”
Marietta blew out an exasperated breath. “I can’t sketch you properly if you talk.”
“You could have chosen any man at the Consul’s villa. Casanova himself expressed interest in you, yet you leave with that pig.”
“It’s not what you think.” She compared her drawing to Nico and frowned. His shoulders were no longer in the same position.
“You didn’t have to suffer the man’s dismal lovemaking. What were you thinking?”
“We did not make love,” she replied through clenched teeth.
He continued as if not hearing her. “You’re the first woman in years that he didn’t have to pay, though he would never admit to his need for courtesans. I just don’t understand how you could find him appealing.”
“We did not make love.” She practically shouted it this time. “I’m not attracted to Palladino or any other man for that matter.”
This silenced him, gratefully, but only for a few moments. “Well, in that case, I know of a few courtesans that can accommodate you. I am told they are quite beautiful and skilled.”
Marietta threw down her charcoal and marched over to him. She grabbed his shoulders and repositioned him. “That is not what I meant and you know it.”
He smiled up at her innocently. “I didn’t mean to offend you, but you have refused my charms, so what should I think?”
She glared at him for her own benefit, knowing it would have no effect on the man. “You need to stop talking and moving.”
When he didn’t respond, she said, “That’s better.”
He lasted almost fifteen minutes. “So, what kind of man are you attracted to? Perhaps, I could suggest a few potential lovers.”
“How about one who has fewer conquests than fingers and toes? Or one that values honesty and fidelity over all else? Do you know any like that?”
From the thoughtful look on his face, he took this as an earnest question. “I’m afraid, Kitty, a man like that will be hard to find in Venice, especially this time of year.”
“Well, then, I guess I’ll have to go without.”
“How depressing. What will you do for amusement if you don’t take a lover?”
Marietta rubbed at her temples and decided she deserved more than the coins she’d already been paid. “There’s more to life than pleasuring oneself.”
“Yes, Signore, really.” She placed her stub of charcoal on the easel’s tray and rolled the stiffness from her neck and shoulders. “That is all for today. I have another appointment.” It was a lie, but she felt the need to rest and the bed in the corner was tempting her tired body.

About the Author:
Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, she felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel Cera's Place. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her website She hopes you will enjoy her latest novel, Venice in the Moonlight, as much as others have enjoyed her previous works.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review : Shadow of Death by Miranda Stauffer

Shadow of DeathShadow of Death by Miranda Stauffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As far as I remember, I haven't read a WWII related book in a long time so when the author Miranda asked me to review her book, I was more than happy.

The war always reminds me of the movie 'Schindler's List' & instantly makes me sad. It isn't an easy subject & I always feel that historical stories are far more difficult to handle than regular fiction. I believe Miranda has a done a beautiful job.

Shadow of Death is a WWII saga of betrayal, doubts & love. Derek Lorenz is a young lieutenant, a strong leader but not cruel. All the massacre & destruction starts taking a toll on his sanity. Analaise is partly Jewish, has lost her parents to the war & turned into a resistance fighter. When she lands in Neustadt, she finds an unexpected friendship in Katya & a strong attraction towards Derek. The attraction is mutual but they both know the consequences hence can't act on it. Love can be found in very unusual circumstances & can make you do things you wouldn't generally think of doing but then loyalty & authority is also very strong. This is story of finding love, loyalty & heart in difficult circumstances.

The characters are built well & the story-line is gripping. Some of the scenes are mind-numbing and truly depict the grim situation. The only weak point would be the book's length, I feel it could do with a bit of more editing.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quick savory Oats

I hate waking up early!! No matter how much I try to train myself, I fail miserably. So everyday, I wake up between 6.15 to 6.45, if I'm early I exercise for 25 minutes else I start with preparing lunch. This hardly leaves me with any time for preparing breakfast. Since hubby isn't very keen on breakfast, I make him parathas with ajwain/Carom seeds or jeera (Cumin). For me, I generally make any of the following:

1. Oats porridge with banana/dry fruits/flaxseeds
2. Oats with yogurt/buttermilk
3. Oats Upma
Since porridge is a pretty common thing, I won't go through it. Well, the rest 2 are very common as well but I gotta write something in my blog rite? The measurements are for one person and I make it directly in the box I carry to office.

Oats with yogurt
Ingredients :
Quick Cooking Oats : 4-5 tblspn
Water : Just to cover oats
Rock salt : to taste (u can use the regular salt as well)
Roasted Cumin powder : 1/2 tsp
Paprika : To taste (optional)
Yogurt : Half Cup

Now for the steps:
1. Take Oats, add salt, cover it with water & microwave it for 2 minutes. Make sure to do this sometime before you have to leave so that there's time for it to cool.
2. Leave the pot/box open so it completely cools down.
3. Once cold, add yogurt, cumin powder, paprika (or chopped green chilli) & mix it well. The measurement for yogurt is simply an estimate, you can increase/reduce it as you like.
4. Add more water if you like the thinner consistency.
5. There are numerous options for the spice; try pepper powder, chaat powder, italian herb mix, Oregano, fresh/dry coriander, just a sprig of Basil. I sometimes use a pre mix 'Bombay sandwich masala'.
6. If you do not intend to eat it rightaway, add a bit more water. Oats tends to soak water, so it will be perfect when you eat later(like me )

Quick Oats Upma
There are 2 ways to make Oats upma. The elaborate one takes 5 more minutes than this one & you can add lots of veggies in it. Lets see the quick one, it shouldn't take more than 5 mins.
Quick cooking Oats : 4-5 tblsps (roasted if possible)
Vegetable/Olive oil : 1/2 tsp
Onion : half onion (chopped)/ optional
Tomato : half finely chopped
Green chilli : half finely chopped
Cumin seeds : just a pinch
Salt/ rock salt : to taste
Water, a squeeze of lemon

1. In a microwaveable bowl,  add oil and microwave for half a minute.
2. Now add Cumin seeds, Green chilli and microwave for half a minute.
3. Add onions,  tomato,  oats, salt and microwave without water for a minute.  This helps roasting the oats and releases a nutty aroma.
4. Add water, more than enough to cover the oats. Microwave for 2 more minutes, squeeze a quarter lemon and voilĂ ,  your quick upma is ready.
Possible variations: Add freshly chopped basil/coriander,  Italian herb mix, grate  some ginger before cooking, grate some cheese on top of it.

It is all really very easy and hardly takes 5 minutes.  If you are like me and need something savory & healthy for breakfast,  this works best. Once you start making it more often you can make more variations. I would love to know if you like it.
Do you have any quick breakfast ideas that can help me sleep for 5 more minutes?