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Karen Ostertag's blog

Kiss Me, I'm Irish

The Lakes of Killarney, County Kerry, IrelandHappy Leap Day!  If you were born 72 years ago on this day: congratulations, you're finally old enough to vote!  Unfortunately, the romantic possibilities for Leap Day are pretty slim.  A trampoline date?  (Sounds dangerous.)  Kiss a Leap Baby?  (You've only got a 1 in 1461 chance of finding one.)  If you're looking for a kissable holiday, the next one in the calendar has much better odds-- St. Patrick's Day, the one time of the year that everyone can be a little bit Irish for a day.  With the mild winter we've had this year, it may even look as green as Ireland outside by St. Paddy's Day.  If not, pull that green sweater out of your wardrobe and let's go looking for romance!

Worlds without Borders

The First Horn by Richard Schwartz.  Last Year Was Probably a Good Year by Yamamoto Hiroshi.  And Despite All… by Juan De Dios Garduño.  Have you read any of these?  They're all best-selling, award-winning works of speculative fiction.  They're all written by well-established authors writing at the top of their game.  But... I'll bet you haven't read them.  How am I so certain?  Because none of them were written in or translated into English.*

New Romance Fiction for February 2012

In paperback:

Sanctuary Cove by Rochelle Alers (1, Cavanaugh Island) C, O
Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks (4, KGI) C, M
Mad about the Earl by Christina Brooke (2, Ministry of Marriage) H, A
The Night Is Mine by M. L. Buchman (1, The Night Stalkers) C, M
Before She Dies by Mary Burton C, M
Firelight by Kristen Callihan H, S, M
A Town Called Valentine by Emma Cane (1, Valentine Valley) C
Flashfire by Deborah Cooke (7, Dragonfire) C, F, S
Bad Boys in Black Tie by Lori Foster, et al. (Bad Boys Anthologies) C (Pbk-Romance Bad)

New Speculative Fiction for February 2012

New to our shelves:

Darker after Midnight by Lara Adrian (10, Midnight Breed) F, R, H
Hidden by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld) H, F, M
Primordium by Greg Bear (2, Halo: The Forerunner Saga) SF
The Daemon Prism by Carol Berg (3, Collegia Magica) F, M
City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore H, M
Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card (5, Ender: Shadow saga) SF
Lothaire by Kresley Cole (12, Immortals after Dark) F, H, R
The Path to Coldness of Heart by Glen Cook (8, Chronicles of the Dread Empire) F, H
Necropolis by Michael Dempsey SF, M

Hungry for Love

"The sensuality of her cooking did strange things to him. He couldn't stop thinking of the woman in the kitchen who wielded such power and magic. Did she possess the alchemy to distill brutal longing and infuse her food with it? Or did she serve forth undiluted desire disgused as nothing more alarming than a dish of creme caramel? ... When he ate, there was only the food. And there was only the cook."
- Sherry Thomas, Delicious

In my family, food has always meant love.  The cups of cocoa my grandmother shared with me after school, the last cookie she'd save especially for me, were just as much expressions of her love as her hug at the door.  My mother's special birthday dinners, holiday baking, my father's weekend pancakes-- all love, clearly spoken, even when the words themselves felt awkward to say aloud.  "I care about you." "I want to see you happy."  "I love you."

Red Riding Hood Brownies

"Dangerously dark" Black Forest brownies, adapted from Marcel Desaulnier's "Simply the Best Chocolate Brownie" from the Death by Chocolate cookbook by K. Ostertag.

These are not your Grandmother's Black Forest brownies-- these will satisfy even the Big Bad Wolf's chocoholic cravings.

Make sure to leave plenty of time before your trip to Grandmother's, as these brownies require a good hour of cooling before cutting (and, as a note, the "knife test" for doneness will not work; these contain so much chocolate that they will still be molten in the pan when they come out of the oven). 

A good RULE OF THUMB for chopping up the chocolate is to make the pieces about the size of an almond-- this is the perfect size both for even melting and for the chunks inside.  It should go without saying: use good-quality chocolate for this recipe, because there's not a lot of sugar for it to hide behind.

INGREDIENTS:

=dry=
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder (NOT baking soda)

New Romance Fiction for January 2012

In paperback:

Silver Sparks by Starr Ambrose C, M
Devil's Kiss by Zoe Archer (1, Hellraisers) H, S
Scandal at the Cahill Saloon by Carol Arens (4, Harlequin Historicals: Cahill Cowboys) H, W
Dead by Nightfall by Beverly Barton (3, Dead By trilogy) C, M
Changing the Game by Jaci Burton (2, Play by Play) C
Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr (15, Virgin River) C
Recklessly Yours by Allison Chase (3, Her Majesty's Secret Servants) H, M
Daybreak by Ellen Connor (3, Dark Age Dawning) SF, A, F, S
The Price of Temptation by Lecia Cornwall H, M
Love in Play by Zuri Day C, O

New Speculative Fiction for January 2012

New to our shelves:

Salvation's Reach by Dan Abnett (13, Warhammer 40K: Gaunt's Ghosts) SF
Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch H
The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark (1, Callie McFay) F, R, H
New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird by Paula Guran, ed. (3, Recent Monster anthologies) H
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill H
Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James H
The Gravedigger's Ball by Solomon Jones (2, Coletti) H, M
The Third Section by Jasper Kent (3, Danilov quintet) H
Dragon Mound by Richard A. Knaak (1, Knight in Shadow trilogy) F, M

Heavenly Bodies

Happy New Year, everyone!  I wish you all good health and good reads for the coming year.  I've seen a number of "best of 2011" lists circulating on the web this week (if you're interested, click here for a collection of lists), but today, on the cusp of the New Year, I'm more interested in looking forward than looking back.  I don't know about you, but I'm already anticipating a lot of great books and new series slated for 2012.  What new genre trends would YOU like to see in the coming year?

Here's my big prediction: I think paranormal romance is due for a major shake-up.  Shapeshifters are still going strong, but the vampire craze is on the way out.  They're not quite dead yet (if you'll excuse the pun), but it's beginning to feel like all the possible changes have been rung on tall, dark, and toothsome heroes.  Zombies were fun, but they don't really cut it as romantic leads.  (Sure, they'll give you their hearts-- literally-- but then they want to eat your brains, and that makes a "happily ever after" kind of hard.)  I'm certainly ready for something new.

High Fantasy: Getting into The Hobbit

Fantasy buffs have been waiting a long time for this, and now... we have to wait a year longer.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, allow me to enlighten you:

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